While the term “turn” has become a popular way of designating academic trends (cultural turn, corporeal turn), what has come to be known as the “linguistic turn” has had much more profound ramifications for the study of texts and gender, and our understanding of the “external world,” than other so-called turns. Concepts such as discourse, representation, gender, agency, essentialism, and palimpsest have entered the parlance of biblical studies and changed, for many people, the ways in which we read and understand the Bible in the modern world.

However, defining what the “linguistic turn” is, and what exactly is to be included under its purview, is somewhat of a challenge. One reason is that the label itself is a later consolidation of several decades of developments in methods, including semiotics and literary criticism, new historicism, gender theory, and various forms of ideological critique. Another challenge is that the term has become partially synonymous with poststructuralism, which is understandable, given that the canonical poststructuralist thinkers are also part of the “linguistic turn” group. It is nevertheless also imprecise, given that the turn to language cannot be reduced simply to poststructuralism. At the intersection of biblical and gender studies, however, it is with few exceptions the poststructuralist linguistic turn that has come to prevail and, consequently, will be the main focus of this essay.

A significant point of origin for charting the linguistic turn is the work of the semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure and his understanding of language as a system of signs, which arbitrarily link the signified with the signifier. Known as “structural linguistics” or “structuralism” because of its insistence that all of language, and life, is unintelligible without understanding the system of relationships embedded in its structure, this epistemological shift unsettled the presupposed reliability of the relationship between the word and external world. As a methodological framework, Saussure’s structuralism had a tremendous impact beyond the narrow area of linguistics through such seminal thinkers as Roland Barthes, Claude Levi-Strauss, Louis Althusser, and Jacques Lacan, whose work in turn informed a whole generation of critical theorists, including Luce Irigaray, Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Michel Foucault, Clifford Geertz, and Monique Wittig.

The application of linguistic analysis as a means to critically engage various areas of human life and activity meant a shift in our relation to “reality” as well as an expansion in the notion of “text,” and gave special prominence to the concept of discourse. Broadly put, the linguistic turn enabled scholars to regard a text as a representation or mediation of reality and thus examine how it contributes to producing what we perceive to be reality. Reality is always mediated by language, and we are unable to access it in its “pure” prelinguistic form, and consequently we view this reality as discursively constructed. This then has obvious implications for the ideology of representation and the specific point of view of the text as well as the reader. Given that the basic presupposition of the linguistic turn is that reality is only attainable through language, then historical contexts, archaeological remains, or rituals are also always already shaped, understood, and presented, and not merely just “out there” to be discovered.

The Linguistic Turn and Gender: History and Issues.

Feminist and gender-critical analysis would also be reshaped by the epistemological shifts entailed by the linguistic turn, as well as contribute to them. Examples include the work of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva on phallogocentrism, abjection, and the representation of women within the universe of men; Simone de Beauvoir’s inquiries into women’s subjectivity; Genevieve Lloyd’s re-presentation of the man of reason through the history of philosophy; and Denise Riley’s interrogation of the category of woman. From a genealogical point of view, Joan W. Scott’s seminal article on gender as a useful category of historical analysis represents the shift from feminism/woman to gender, a shift that refracted not only the questions but also the way of posing questions. Here a divide developed between what has come to be known as “social constructionist” and “essentialist” forms of feminist analysis. The category of essentialism, for example, was introduced initially to counter arguments based on biological determinism, but is now used to dismiss arguments that do not operate on the basis of discourse. By contrast, social constructionism functions as a catchall category for that which is cultural in origin and functions as the “nurture” area of the so-called nature/nurture divide. A basic controversy that has precipitated from the epistemological shift from women to gender is the contention that such a shift renders impotent any historical reconstructive efforts, or efforts to locate “real women” in history. If all of life is to be located discursively, and not materially, and if texts are not reliable as reflections of some kind of historical reality, then where might we “find” women in the past—and particularly in the ancient past? For biblical scholars who front gender concerns, and particularly for those who are concerned with how biblical literature has been used to support or deny women’s agency in “real life,” this is no small matter.

Elizabeth Clark has provided the most cogent analysis of implications of the linguistic turn for biblical scholars and historians of early Christianity. Not only has she written a full introduction to the linguistic turn and the discipline of history (Clark, 2004), but she also has shown in her work in the field of early Christianity how the theoretical insights from the linguistic turn may be profitable; as such, her work deserves serious consideration. Clark identifies two major challenges to feminist historians by literary theorists: (1) that there is an unsurmountable chasm between the poststructuralist critique of objectivity and the disciplinary standards of history, and that representation risks severing the peoples of the past from the description of them in the texts; and (2) that the fracturing of categories makes it impossible to speak of women, and the decentering of the male subject problematizes the notion of a female subject (Clark, 1998, p. 416).

One group of problems afforded by the linguistic turn relates to the issue of representation and reality, the other to the question of subjectivity. Clark notes that while feminist historians are hesitant to take the full consequence of the epistemological shift, they are nevertheless reluctant to return to earlier views on representation and reality, and thus explore ways of combining the emphasis on language’s role in the shaping of reality with “more traditional historical concerns for the extratextual world” (Clark, 1998, p. 417). Thus, Clark proposes a “third way” of negotiating the linguistic turn wherein feminist and gender-critical scholars might add discursive analysis to their methodological toolbox.

A seminal issue of the Scandinavian journal Studia Theologica illustrates how these issues come to the fore. Edited by Halvor Moxnes, this 1989 collection of essays was the result of a 1988 Nordic conference named “Feminist Reconstruction of Early Christian History: Methodological and Hermeneutical Questions.” Moxnes notes in his introduction that this gathering was the first of its kind, and the nature of the participants revealed that feminist biblical scholarship was not “an established area of study” at the theological faculties of the Nordic universities. Apart from being an attempt at building a feminist network, the conference also engaged in dialogue with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s feminist theological reconstruction of Christian origins. Schüssler Fiorenza argues for a feminist reconstruction of Christian origins rather than a male-oriented or “male-stream” reading, and endeavors to highlight as central historical actors those whom the androcentric text marginalizes or excludes. Interestingly, Schüssler Fiorenza notes that theory that eschews any historical reconstruction reinforces the androcentric text’s rhetorical world. Instead, she argues, it is necessary to develop a theory and method of interpretation that integrates both sociohistorical and literary criticism. She outlines four points that show the difference between postmodernism and feminist criticism, which she sees as pertinent to reconstructing Christian origins: (1) the realization that scientific theories and totalizing articulations of the world are not objectively true opens up possibilities of empowerment; (2) it is possible to give a truer account of the world; (3) there is no abandonment of women as subjects—women must be constituted as historical subjects; and (4) there is no rejection of the humanistic values of the Enlightenment. All of this means, then, that the agenda for feminist and gender-critical interpreters should be one of hermeneutics of suspicion, or a reading against the grain in order to grant agency to those the text has overwritten.

Here we find positions that express anxiety about the first set of problems and positions that attempt to address the middle way articulated by Clark but dismiss or overlook the issues raised in the second set of problems. Linguistic turn approaches enabled scholars to push further in answering questions and addressing issues that had already been raised, rather than a revolution of Copernican dimensions. For example, Lone Fatum’s article in the issue of Studia Theologica discussed above serves as a response to Schüssler Fiorenza’s influential feminist theological reconstruction efforts. She accuses the feminist reconstruction project of wanting to “achieve two different results through one analytical process, namely exposing the suppression of women by the biblical material and, at the same time, seeking the affirmation of women by the biblical material” (Fatum, 1989, p. 61). Fatum points out that to the feminist reconstructionists it seemed that certain texts were above and beyond criticism, such as Galatians 3:28. If a feminist reconstruction is necessary, then it must occur on the other side of a deconstruction process that reveals the androcentrism and patriarchal values in the New Testament texts. In terms of questions of subjectivity, Fatum insists that the feminist confrontation with the objective interpreter is not only critically justified and “of great hermeneutical importance” but that it does not lend legitimacy to feminist subjectivity “as an aim in itself” (p. 64). Because the women in the texts are not granted subject status by the texts, then any attempt at breaking that silence will be on the conditions and with the voices of present day Christian feminists.

From the standpoint of linguistic turn approaches, one of the things that were problematic in both Schüssler Fiorenza and Fatum was the static notion of “woman,” as Jorunn Økland has shown. While it was more obvious that Schüssler Fiorenza subscribed to such a position, in Fatum’s work it was more in the background, yet assumed as a subject position and a point of view in reading of the Corinthian situation (Økland, 2004, pp. 18–19). Økland uses Irigaray to introduce the concept of phallogocentrism, which is an ideological position that regards the male as norm and subsumes the female under its categorizations and places it in relation to the male through likeness, opposition, or complementarity. Thus “woman” within phallogocentric discourse functions as “an empty category with changing content” (p. 17). This argument is undergirded by reference to Denise Riley, who, as mentioned above, argued that “woman” is historically and discursively constructed, and thus must always be analyzed in its particularity. Økland then uses the work of Joan Scott to show how feminist interpreters are forced to simultaneously accept and refuse static and dichotomized notions of gender. These two moves underpin Økland’s analysis of the production of sanctuary space in 1 Corinthians.

This particular moment in the history of feminist and gender-critical biblical scholarship draws out broader contested issues facing discussions of method: subjectivity or agency, representation or discourse, and, somewhere in between the two, the politics of identity. These issues will serve as signposts through the next two sections, which outline the linguistic turn and gender in the study of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, respectively.

Linguistic Turn, Gender, and the Study of the Hebrew Bible.

While the example from the above discussion is from the discipline of New Testament studies, the developments regarding the linguistic turn and gender in the study of the Hebrew Bible have proceeded similarly, most notably in turning around the question of historical presence and subject status of women. On the other hand, the Hebrew Bible has, due to its scope and variety in material, ambivalences, and editions (and undoubtedly a host of other reasons), proven to be exceptionally fertile soil for all kinds of readings that deploy, in more direct measures, the various theorists of the linguistic turn.

One particular feature of the Hebrew Bible that has been extremely important in feminism and gender studies is the excessive violence against women in these texts. This has led some feminists, such as Mary Daly, to dismiss the text as patriarchal and oppressive and to search elsewhere for spirituality for women. Other scholars, such as Phyllis Trible, have set out to reclaim the biblical text. In her seminal article from 1973, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” Trible endeavors to recover “a depatriarchalizing principle at work in the Hebrew Bible,” which she defines as “a hermeneutic operating within Scripture itself” (Trible, 1973, p. 49). This principle she identifies in Song of Songs as well as Genesis 2–3 and is consonant with what she understands to be the “intentionality of biblical faith,” which is not to perpetuate patriarchy but “to function as salvation for both women and men” (p. 31).

Of course, such a proposal is not universally accepted, even by female scholars. As a reaction to this earlier work from a perspective formed by the linguistic turn, we may look at Yvonne Sherwood’s study on Hosea, which uses both reader-based theories and text-based theories (semiotics and deconstruction) to analyze the first three chapters of Hosea and their interpretations. The final chapter stages a reading from a woman’s point of view and argues, by way of deconstruction, how objectification is a struggle in process: the woman is in the course of the text transformed from subject to object, increasingly restricted by the language and structure of the text, carefully displaying the mechanisms of objectification (Sherwood, 1996, p. 310), but also how the mechanisms hold the seeds of their own deconstruction, and reveals a covert desire for male objectification (p. 311). For Sherwood, the problem with depatriarchalizing readings such as the one advanced by Trible is that the principle is seen as being at the level of the text and consequently it is ascribed to authorial intent. Sherwood sees this as an effort to salvage the text at the expense of the woman in it (pp. 274–275).

The question of subjectivity has also been an issue in studies of the Hebrew Bible, as is indicated by the efforts of Sherwood, and scholars have used various theoretical approaches to bring out what are thought to be submerged subjectivities in the texts and their histories of interpretation. The work of Athalya Brenner (2005), for example, “fleshes out” the biographies of female characters in the Hebrew Bible who did not die and are able to live on—not only in Brenner’s text, but also in the traditions that lie in between. Brenner uses the Talmud, the Mishnah, present day politics, and feminist scholarship to reconstruct the submerged subjectivities of figures like Dinah, Huldah, and Zipporah, granting them the voice that the texts of the Hebrew Bible has denied them. Similarly, Julie Kelso uses Luce Irigaray’s work to analyze how the production of the coherent imaginary world of Chronicles relies on the exclusion and repression of the maternal body. Kelso, however, also argues that Irigaray enables a mode of reading differently, reading and listening to the silences in order to “write ourselves into the symbolic” (Kelso, 2007, p. 97). Erin Runions makes use of postcolonial theory (Homi Bhabha), psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Žižek), and Marxism (Louis Althusser) to engage and develop Žižek’s understanding of interpellation, that is, the subjectification process in Althusser’s work. By using Bhabha to unsettle the fixed and determined nature of Žižek’s interpellated subject, Runions demonstrates how the text plays with readers, and how taking the shifts in the text seriously, rather than glossing them over as textual deviants or corruptions, obstructs any attempt to approach and depart from the text with a fixed sense of gendered subjectivity.

Such a reading is enabled by close attention to the shifting signifiers of the text and the text’s practice of slippery repetition with respect to gender and tense, which was also a significant feature in Sherwood’s reading of Hosea.

Negotiating what seems to be the chasm between suppressed voices and subjectivities, the work of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin has proven to be quite fruitful, especially for Hebrew Bible scholars. Although Bakhtin did not deploy gender as a category of analysis, his work still has turned out to possess possibilities for gender-critical approaches, a feature he has in common with Derrida and Foucault. Barbara Green (2000) has demonstrated how Bakhtin may be appropriated and developed by feminists to present a reading that is attentive to questions of gender. While many facets of Bakhtin have been taken up in biblical studies (chronotope, the carnivalesque, grotesque), it could be said that his notion of monologic and dialogic language has the most potential for countering dominant readings and patriarchal/androcentric texts. Scholars who use Bakhtin form a bit of a subgroup due to specialized language and terms, which are not as fluid and malleable as the broader theoretical concepts of agency, space, and subversion. However, Carleen Mandolfo’s study of Lamentations and Bakhtin succeeds in showing how fruitful the encounter is, as through a dialogic reading she enables the Daughter of Zion to emerge from the text (Mandolfo, 2007).

Narratology is another area that falls under linguistic turn approaches as they have been used in studies of the Hebrew Bible, most notably through the work of the literary scholar Mieke Bal. One of Bal’s analytical techniques is that of narrative subjectivity, or examining who speaks, who sees, and who acts; how direct speech is distributed; and how readers through these effects are urged to comprehend the events in the text. A particularly cogent combination of gender theory, critical narratology (especially Bal’s work), psychoanalysis and economics is represented by David Jobling’s study on 1 Samuel (Jobling, 1998).

Some of the most thought-provoking and transgressive work that the linguistic turn has enabled in studies of the Hebrew Bible does not adopt any one approach in an exclusive manner. Such scholarship stands at the intersection where the identities of biblical characters and modern readers might be constructed and negotiated in the same space. There scholars might explore the relation between biblical bodies, cultural criticism, and politics of identity in order to challenge the concept of the “biblical” in culture (for a North American example, see Beal and Gunn, 1997).

Linguistic Turn, Gender, and the Study of the New Testament and Early Christianity.

Since the late twentieth century, the linguistic turn has had a similarly complex methodological impact on the study of the New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christian literature. While the agenda set by scholars such as Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza was predominantly that of theological and historical reconstruction, others focused on literary strategies and narrative representation in the New Testament and early Christian literature. Within the field of New Testament studies as related to lenses that focus on gender as a category of analysis, the influence of the linguistic turn is intertwined with the contributions of second-wave feminism. Both methodological trajectories acknowledge the ideological nature of interpretive acts, and both claim to represent departures from those hermeneutical strategies and methods whose practitioners claim neutrality and/or an apolitical stance.

Given the complexity of the issues in this area, referencing several signal moments, rather than sweeping linear narratives, where we might detect the influence of the linguistic turn through the themes and questions raised in several important anthologies and special journal issues assists in charting and navigating this history of scholarship. Most notably, the 1980s saw an interest in a turn to gendered discourse at the same time as historical reconstruction efforts that fronted women were under discussion. For example, the journal Semeia, dedicated to cutting-edge biblical scholarship that emphasized theoretical contributions and interdisciplinary exploration, published the first of several issues devoted to feminist interpretation in 1983, and featured signal essays from Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Janice Capel Anderson, Cheryl Exum, Sharon H. Ringe, Toni Craven, William A. Walker, and Mary Ann Tolbert. Within this collection, second-wave feminist reconstruction efforts were in dialogue with literary approaches indebted to the linguistic turn, a conversation that continued in subsequent Semeia volumes devoted to the intersection of gender and critical theory in biblical interpretation. Such endeavors proved to be thoroughly interdisciplinary in nature, a feature that would define the linguistic turn’s influence in New Testament studies, and particularly its “textualization” of oral traditions, rituals, anthropological observation, and so on.

During the 1990s, linguistic turn approaches shifted more clearly in the direction of addressing issues of representation and textual analyses of the discursive formations of texts, that is, examining the interaction between language and power as it is enacted in particular biblical texts. A seminal example of this shift is Elizabeth Castelli’s Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power (1991), which was one of the first studies of the New Testament to make sustained use of Michel Foucault’s observations on power relationships to analyze Paul’s patriarchal rhetoric of imitation in 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and 1 Corinthians. Similarly, the publication of the Bible and Culture Collective’s Postmodern Bible (1995), along with monographs from Dale Martin (1995), Stephen Moore (1996), and Daniel Boyarin (1994), continued deepening the relationship between critical theoretical approaches and the study of the New Testament. Martin explores the debates in 1 Corinthians related to the body in Greco-Roman thought, and discusses how the ideological construct of the body is useful for articulating issues of power and status, contagion and pollution. Moore appraises male bodies and masculine perfectibility in the New Testament, reading the biblical texts and their commentaries alongside personal narratives and various medical textbooks. Boyarin reads Paul from a Jewish perspective, and deconstructs the binary opposition between flesh and spirit in Galatians through the study of gender and ethnicity in Paul. While Moore is greatly influenced by Michel Foucault, Boyarin is more indebted to Derrida, and Martin to rhetorical criticism. However, they all focus on the gendered body, which represents one of the privileged topoi of the linguistic turn. Tina Pippin’s work on apocalyptic literature (1999) also models this kind of analysis, which in addition to the multidisciplinary readings of biblical apocalyptic texts is also an early example of how reception history—in this case, of apocalyptic imagery—can play a vital role in the interpretive enterprise.

The above-mentioned publications mark the first generations of the linguistic turn as it relates to gender in New Testament studies. Like in earlier forms of scholarship, the focus remains on the text itself. However, instead of focusing on the production process of the text, which was so important to historical-critical research, attention shifted to how the text produced or constructed agents, symbols, and ideologies, as well as their afterlives. Instead of regarding the texts as transparent sources for reconstructions of antiquity, focus had moved to how the texts represented and produced reality and its effects. Furthermore, the shift to focusing on the production of patriarchal power, phallic symbolism, and masculinity meant widening the agenda of feminism and women’s studies and deploying the broader and more constructivist concept of gender and the workings of gender relations in the texts.

As explored in the Hebrew Bible section of this entry, the linguistic turn also had an impact on understandings of the readers in the study of the New Testament and early Christian literature. Herein the textualization of the biblical characters may also be noted at the level of the interpreter herself or himself. The person carrying out the analysis inserts herself in the text, as a text. This can range from deployments of what has become a usual litany of self and privilege (white, Western, middle class, male) at the beginning of the study to long narratives of self, interwoven with analysis, such as the style of Moore (in the New Testament) or Brenner (in the Hebrew Bible).

More recently, New Testament scholars who make use of linguistic turn approaches to analyze and address gender concerns have contributed to expanding the field through interacting with postcolonial criticism and queer theory (as with Runions in the Hebrew Bible). For example, Joseph Marchal (2008) has offered a feminist study of the language of power, transculturalism, and empire in Pauline interpretation and Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Drawing on cultural studies, Marchal not only shows the limitations of earlier interpretive strategies for dealing with such complex issues but also offers ways of negotiating them. Caroline Vander Stichele and Todd Penner (2009) have proposed an analysis of early Christian discourse that moves outside the boundaries of the New Testament canon, as well as the incorporation of intersectionality, race-critical, and queer approaches, to articulate a gender-critical companion to the primary source texts. This work also makes use of an ideological-critical lens to engage the politics of the guild and of the interpretative process itself.

Emerging Questions.

Approaches indebted to the linguistic turn have enabled new vocabularies, new frameworks, and new discussions in biblical scholarship and gender through three key, interrelated factors: ambivalence/polyvalence, representation, and agency.

Various influences within the linguistic turn have precipitated a focus on the ambivalence or polyvalence of the biblical texts, as well as how the absence of a singular meaning, or the basic instability of meaning-making as a process, has been suppressed in traditional analyses. Thus, maintaining the instability of meaning has meant a flourishing of multiple voices and interpretations that draw on a range of theories and practices to generate ever new combinations. In terms of gender, this has meant an extension of the agenda of feminism, which sought to make women more visible in the biblical texts and as interpreters of those texts. But the emphasis on the reader has also entailed a proliferation of readers, and a recognition of the reality that readers may feel freer to engage with the texts from particular individual and contingent standpoints, instead of having to conform to universal, traditional, and/or institutional values.

Representation has also generated a wide range of possibilities for biblical interpretation in a linguistic turn. Because the meaning of the text is no longer tied to a specific historical approach, such interpretation has also opened up for analyses the reception history of the texts in arts and popular culture, as well as the history of effects in the use of the Bible in missionary and other colonizing endeavors. For gender-critical approaches this has meant not only dissolving the links between historical figures and biblical women and men but also questioning the ideology of the representations and their role in the overall power mechanisms of the text. The linguistic turn has opened up ways of analyzing and tracing the biblical understandings of women and men, which then can be used to understand the operations and effects of gender in contemporary societies.

Finally, whereas feminism was concerned with restoring agency to women in the texts, the linguistic turn has also sought to make visible not only the other marginalized people in the texts (for example slaves, disabled bodies, prostitutes, LGBTI) but also the readers. For example, Averen Ipsen (2009) reads passages from the Bible with sex workers to bring out different interpretations of figures such as Rahab, the Whore of Babylon, Solomon and the two prostitutes, and the anointing women in the Gospels. Along similar lines, Musa Dube has examined how African women read, understood, and, above all, used the biblical texts in their own contexts—and more recently with emphasis on the AIDS/HIV epidemic.

There is no denying that the approaches comprising the linguistic turn have challenged biblical studies in a profound manner and reconfigured our views of biblical texts. Historical-critical approaches that focused on the production of the text, as well as social-scientific supplementary approaches, have tended to view the texts from antiquity as reliable sources for reconstructing and understanding antiquity. The linguistic turn has shifted the line of questioning, focusing on the production of meaning and (the effects of) representation. This has carried gender into newer fields of study, such as autobiography and postcolonialism, intersectional studies, queer and disability studies, ecological and affect studies, and so on.

Nevertheless, there are also caveats. Returning to some of the initial discussions in this essay, the consolidation of various standpoints into “the linguistic turn” warrants consideration. Theoretical developments preceding the linguistic turn, including psychoanalytical, feminist, and Marxist approaches, as well as liberation theology, contributed significantly to its articulation. It could be said that in a somewhat cannibalistic way, the linguistic turn has swallowed these approaches, digested them, and regurgitated them as critical or high theory, gender theory, and postcolonial theory. On the one hand the shift from feminism to gender theory has produced greater awareness of how gender is constructed, extending analysis to include the constructions of masculinity and nonbinary understandings of gender, but on the other it has failed to examine the assumptions of the theories deployed. For biblical scholarship, various engagements of historical-critical discourse with newer theoretical approaches such as postcolonialism might criticize “the masters” of traditional scholarship on the one hand but on the other hand also might reify the likes of Derrida, Foucault, and Bakhtin into new tools for the old toolbox (see Penner and Vander Stichele, 2005).

Finally, many of the theorists whose ideas are enthusiastically employed in approaches indebted to the linguistic turn are male, and do not have an explicit gender-critical perspective. How can we avoid reproducing an even more clandestine masculine ideology by not questioning the assumptions—historical, economic and ideological—that govern not only the emergence of these theories but also their astounding success in an epistemological paradigm shift? How is seeking agency and identity from dialogic spaces, the instability of language and meaning, and discerning counter-discourses, cracks, fissures, and tensions different from, or more sophisticated than, seeking agency and identity in the cracks and fissures in the patriarchal biblical texts? As Lone Fatum warns, in respect to the New Testament texts, that in order to be “saved,” women must count as male by being asexual and nonfemale; Stephen Moore has referred to this conundrum as a “soteriological sexchange.” In unhesitatingly and uncritically embracing theoretical tools that could—in theory—be just as androcentric as what we are combating, have we committed ourselves to a theoretical sex-change? Or perhaps the question is whether, in our rush to commit theoretical acts of interpretation, we could in the process also be committing ourselves to a theoretical sex change.




  • Beal, Timothy K., and David M. Gunn, eds. Reading Bibles, Writing Bodies: Identity and the Book. London: Routledge, 1997.
  • Boyarin, Daniel. A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity. Contraversions 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Brenner, Athalya. I Am…: Biblical Women Tell Their Own Stories. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.
  • Castelli, Elizabeth A. Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power. Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1991.
  • Clark, Elizabeth A. “Holy Women, Holy Words: Early Christian Women, Social History, and the ‘Linguistic Turn.’” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6, no. 3 (1998): 413–430.
  • Clark, Elizabeth A. History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • Fatum, Lone. “Women, Symbolic Universe, and Structures of Silence: Challenges and Possibilities in Androcentric Texts.” Studia Theologica: Nordic Journal of Theology 43, no. 1 (1989): 61–80.
  • Green, Barbara. Mikhail Bakhtin and Biblical Scholarship: An Introduction. Semeia Studies 38. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.
  • Ipsen, Avaren. Sex Working and the Bible. Bible World. London: Equinox, 2009.
  • Jobling, David. 1 Samuel. Berit Olam. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1998.
  • Kelso, Julie. O Mother, Where Art Thou? An Irigarayan Reading of the Book of Chronicles. Bible World. London: Equinox, 2007.
  • Mandolfo, Carleen R. Daughter Zion Talks Back to the Prophets: A Dialogic Theology of the Book of Lamentations. Semeia Studies 58. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.
  • Marchal, Joseph A. The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul. Paul in Critical Contexts. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008.
  • Martin, Dale B. The Corinthian Body. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Moore, Stephen D. God’s Gym: Divine Male Bodies of the Bible. London: Routledge, 1996.
  • Økland, Jorunn. Women in Their Place: Paul and the Corinthian Discourse of Gender and Sanctuary Space. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 269. London: T&T Clark, 2004.
  • Pippin, Tina. Apocalyptic Bodies: The Biblical End of the World in Text and Image. London: Routledge, 1999.
  • Runions, Erin. Changing Subjects: Gender, Nation and Future in Micah. Playing the Texts 7. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.
  • Sherwood, Yvonne. The Prostitute and the Prophet: Hosea’s Marriage in Literary-Theoretical Perspective. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 212; Gender, Culture Theory 2. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
  • Trible, Phyllis. “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 41, no. 1 (1973): 30–48.
  • Vander Stichele, Caroline, and Todd Penner, eds. Her Master’s Tools? Feminist and Postcolonial Engagements of Historical-Critical Discourse. Global Perspectives in Biblical Scholarship 9. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005.
  • Vander Stichele, Caroline, and Todd Penner. Contextualizing Gender in early Christian Discourse: Thinking beyond Thecla. London: T&T Clark, 2009.

Christina Petterson