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Womanist Midrash How to begin??? Forget ministry I'm just going to head down the road to Fort Worth take all of her classes and become a Hebrew Bible scholar Well not really But it's tempting I originally picked this up because I had heard such great things from others who I admire I am always on board to read commentaries on women in the Hebrew Bible; it was one of my favorite things to explore in undergrad Further I looked through my shelves and realized I had no works of theology or biblical scholarship written by women of color I had a few books about Christian life and faith and some on race relations but none that veered toward the academic side of study So glad to have changed that now Gafney's scholarship is INCREDIBLE Her writing and teaching is MASTERFUL I'm sure she could put to shame anyone who challenged her knowledge and competence of scripture or her ability and her CALLING to teachpreach it SHAME I tell you I am just blown away Okay onto the actual book Goodness she does not shy away Yes Abraham is the father of our faith but he also sex trafficked his own sisterwife impregnated a woman against her will allowed for her abuse and then sent her and her son into the wilderness not great Yes Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery but he also calls for slaughter and genocide even though God does not demand it AND he he denies the daughters of Zelophehad their inheritance granted to them BY GOD RUDE Do not even get me STARTED on David Yes he is one of the few characters in the Old Testament who understood the importance of monotheism but that's pretty much the only good thing he's got going for him in my opinion I pray there is a special place in heaven for the women in his life who had to endure him These important figures in our faith were heroes in some ways and horrific villains in other ways They have two or three redeeming ualities or moments sure Patriarchy on the other hand has no redeeming ualities There is no right way If the most important characters in scripture whom God spoke with and commanded directly could not lead or rule over women without also subjecting them to grave injustice what makes anyone think patriarchy as a model for relationships and authority in the church bears good fruit? In fact it bears a lot of bad fruit Scripture shows History shows The MeToo movement shows Let's leave patriarchy behind and love God and one another Amen? Amen We can not go back and hold Abraham Moses David and others accountable for the crimes they committed against women but we can and should and must do so today Gafney also points out how patriarchy is in many ways responsible for pitting women against one another and and leads women to become perpetrators of crimes against one another This is womanist midrash not merely feminist Gafney points out how women in scripture betrayedabuseddisenfranchised other women and she reminds us how we have continued to do so throughout history She brings to light modern and ongoing conflicts which continue to reflect patterns of cruelty and exclusion between people and women of different racesnationsethnicities This book is not easy to read It is disturbing to me that consent which figures so essentially in our conversations about sex today seemingly had little or no importance to characters in the Hebrew Bible Does this mean consent did not matter to God? It is awful to read women listed out with animals as though they are simply property Did God not care enough to correct this misconception when bestowing the law to Moses? Or is this how God viewed women as well? The section on forced impregnation was also especially troubling Are women no than wombs? What provides readers hope and comfort is the voice Gafney grants to characters some named and some just imagined We know women were present even if they were not named We know they played essential roles even if they were not given a voice Midrash is a means through which to give them names stories and voices It grants us permission to use our sanctified imagination It reminds us that women matter and it's important to consider stories of scripture from their perspective In doing so we may praise them for their resilience curiosity cleverness their grit and grace We may critiue them for the part they play in perpetuating injustice We may be in solidarity with them and they may be in solidarity with us We may mourn those who did not survive the crimes committed against them We may be encouraged by those who did survive We may remember their names We may remember they too are children of God Okay this accidentally turned into a book report I'm done now Can’t wait to walk around with a sign taped to my forehead that says “IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE BIBLE AT ALL PLEASE READ THIS BOOK I BEG OF YOU” Wilda Gafney is a master In this technical but not to technical overview of the women mentioned in the Torah as well Israels' royal women both in the united monarchy and in Judah and Israel after that It is truly an incredible work and Gafney's midrashes are creative and compelling Gafney's comment on the text brings it to life and brings it new life I am truly grateful to have been led and taught by Gafney What an achievement Dr Gafney's Womanist Midrash is an informative and insightful look at the women in the texts of the Hebrew Bible Dr Gafney's aim is to acknowledge by name as often as possible the women in around and behind the text This was extremely helpful to me because I have been trained to read the Scriptures with from an androcentric viewpoint where the women are included in the text as props for the actions of the dominant men Dr Gafney's book aims to humanize those women in the eyes of readersBecause this is a self acknowledged Midrash Dr Gafney makes interpretive choices Not all of her sanctified imagining a term used repeatedly throughout the book can be fully supported by the text but she goes to great pains to ensure that those interpretive choices are well grounded within the text of the Hebrew Bible ancient interpretive traditions and the culture of the timeI think this book is a very important book for ministers to read because it causes us to uestion our received interpretations of many biblical passages I consider myself to have a fairly open mind when it comes to biblical interpretation and yet Dr Gafney's womanist perspective provides commentary and insights that I as a straight white man in ministry have never before considered and I find myself now uestioning how I could not have ever considered some of these thingsThis book is a reminder that the Western androcentric approach to scripture does not have a monopoly on biblical interpretation and that serious students of scripture should engage with many other perspectives to try and get a complete picture of what is going on in the biblical narratives I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dr Gafney speak at a conference At one point she stated “Sometimes the problem with the interpretation of the text is the text itself” That statement works reasonably well as a summary statement for this book This book is an exercise in discomfort for a white American Christian man raised in the Evangelical tradition Dr Gafney does an amazing job of finding those people that are marginalized in the text and giving them a voice And many of those marginalized voices continue to be silenced or at least overlookedignored in traditional Evangelical interpretationsI am accustomed to authors explaining away and minimizing some of the particularly troubling sections of the Bible Gafney does no such thing In fact if there is a critiue to be had here it is that while conservative theologians always give the text the benefit of the doubt Gafney seems to do the opposite There were a couple of occasions where I certainly didn’t believe her argument was air tight and I think conservatives would be prone to dismiss her as accepting the worst possible readingHaving said that part of the high value in this book is confronting the presuppositions our own experiences cause us to bring to the text Her experiences as a black woman are far different from mine as a white man and she naturally notices things in the text that I am simply blind to It is incredibly valuable to wrestle with many of the issues she brings to light The issues she addresses in this book are not easy to dismiss or explain awayEarly in the book she asks the uestion “Is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob truly the God of Hagar Sarah Keturah Rebekah Leah Rachel Bilhah and Zilpah?” This uestion cuts to the heart of the book There are many “minor” characters that are glossed over in the text Gafney names them gives them a voice asks what they would have thought about the God of Abraham given the way they were treated by God's peopleMany of her insights I found incredibly poignant and even heart breaking Others I simply found incredibly interesting This was certainly my first experience reading anything positive into the character of Jezebel For instance she points out that Jezebel was a foreign woman married to an Israelite monarch who manages to maintain fidelity to her religion of origin Gafney writes “It is probable that Jezebel’s religious devotion is embarrassing for the biblical editors Her faith was a nonnegotiable in spite of living in a foreign land and being married to someone with a different intolerant religion On the other hand the Israelites seem to have never met another deity that they wouldn’t try out for a while” Some of the most striking sections of the book are where Gafney gives voice to a perspective that is new to me and something I had honestly never considered before But it would be dismissive to suggest that this book is simply interesting because it comes from a perspective that differs from my own It certainly is that but it is far than that While Gafney certainly aims to fill in gaps left in the text with her own perspective she remains thoroughly engaged with the text itself Gafney is a scholar and she is thorough in her handling of the Hebrew text While she writes in a way that is accessible it is also not a book for beginners I highly recommend it I accepted a long overdue challenge this year to read theology by women and POC To be honest I was nervous Not because I thought I would find something wrong but because I didn't trust myself to be able to integrate wisdom from Christian experiences so different from mine without going to extremes trying to figure out who is right and who is wrongEnter Wilda GafneyHer book was such a gift to me an undeserved one I felt drawn in by her incredible intellect her well researched view on the text and her comprehensive and yet human take on the under told stories of the women of the Hebrew Bible Old TestamentWilda is famous for saying that she won't let a passage go until it gives her a blessing no matter how ugly that may be You can FEEL that in her writing She educated me on the rich concept of Midrash How have I been studying the Bible my whole life and am JUST NOW learning this oh yeah white guys She was clear when she was taking direct material from the text and when the Spirit informed imagination of her teaching was taking holdI learned SO muchThe book in and of itself is heart breaking It systematically shows the hundreds of stories that aren't told and dozens of others that are told in a dramatically one sided way The segment on Moses' wives is particularly good She breaks down the implicit rape culture built into the text and the slaveholders bias that showers so many pages of the OT I was reminded in an incredibly deep way that to love the Bible is to love something exemplifying deep beauty and deep brokenness There's no way to cross stitch these truths awayI'll be forever changed by this book A must read for anyone interested in women in womanism in the Torah or Bible I was especially moved by the chapter on Genesis and would have given this book an unabashed 5 stars if I wasn’t so unfamiliar with the later books of the TanakhOld Testament that made the last few chapters difficult for me to interact with Womanist Midrash is an in depth and creative exploration of the well and lesser known women of the Hebrew Scriptures Using her own translations Gafney offers a midrashic interpretation of the biblical text that is rooted in the African American preaching tradition to tell the stories of a variety of female characters many of whom are often overlooked and nameless Gafney employs a solid understanding of womanist and feminist approaches to biblical interpretation and the sociohistorical culture of the ancient Near East This uniue and imaginative work that is grounded in serious scholarship will expand conversations about feminist and womanist biblical interpretation I am a life long student of scripture raised in a tradition that held scripture in high regard I’m trained in reading Biblical Hebrew and Greek I’m a pastor with nearly 25 years full time vocational experience It’s easy for me to think that I’ve “seen it all” when it comes to studying the text Turns out this perception is largely the result of my own limited perspective and cultural privilege Dr Gafney changed the way that I read scripture enabling me to see things in the text that I had overlooked or been unable to see previously The chapter on Hagar is simply stunning and deeply impacted how I read Abraham Sarah and even how I think of Islam The appendix on the art of translation is a helpful and challenging piece for anyone in a position to preach or teach others about what scripture says Womanist Midrash is in my view essential reading for anyone like me who is tasked with teaching about scripture and who has been largely formed by the received tradition of western theology made up as it is of primarily white European men Dr Gafney offers a gracious corrective to the natural limitations of the perspective so many of us have inherited Gafney writes commentary on the women mentioned in the Torah and the royal histories of Israel and Judah She writes from a womanist frame explicitly self consciously influenced by the the experience of African American women And she interprets in the tradition of midrash imaginative reading between the lines informed by scholarship and faith The strength of this eye opening work is the combination of Gafney's womanist lens and her familiarity with and respect for Jewish interpretive tradition While the book is consistently fascinating and helpful Gafney's reading of the David narratives through the story's women those dominated by David is was for me the most stunning part We think we know Abigail Bathsheba Tamar and others but by centering these women's stories and centering an imaginative empathy for marginalized women Gafney helps me see of their depth brilliance and pathos I'm then left with the challenge of the text's patriarchy and its conclusion that David is a man after God's own heart Are God's standards this low? Shall I openly dispute not just this editor's conclusion but the whole tradition that centers the Davidic line through its Messianic fulfillment according to my faith in Jesus? Is it instructive to me that Jesus makes very little mention of David himself to the point of either disinterest or a reframing of that narrative's heroic center in his tradition? Or can I both scorn David's violence sexism and his proclivity toward rape and disempowerment and abandonment of women while also treasuring his devotion and within the limits of his considerable cultural blindness inclination toward repentance? Womanist Midrash helps us see much of the Scriptures anew surfacing some of the tensions a 21st century reader feels in the gut and inviting a reengagement with the text's themes and impact I so appreciate this direction in scholarship and Bible reading and application

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