New Meme Response: Top 5 Most Influential Female Biblical Scholars (New, Expanded Edition!)

I have been tagged in a very intriguing meme by Mike Kok.  He asks for “the 5 most influential female scholars on [my] scholarship.”  I can’t name just five, so I’ll go with a nice, round biblical number: 7.   Here goes.

1. Anathea Portier-Young (Duke): Dr. Portier-Young was a mentor to me during my masters work at Duke.  I took three classes with her during my four semesters there: Hebrew Prose, Hebrew Poetry, and Hebrew Exegesis of Genesis.  It is because of her courses and her pressing that my Hebrew is at te level it is now.  I also fondly recall the early exploration of my work on divine deception in the Jacob cycle in the Genesis course, and appreciate her not only giving me an outlet to put my thoughts on the topic first into writing but also to engage me on the topic and help me think through it with some clarity.  I cannot underestimate how formative Dr. Portier-Young has been for me.  My methodological and scholarly/research identity were forged in conjunction with her work with me.  And not incidentally at all, she has several volumes forthcoming that will no doubt be of a very high calibre: Theologies of Resistance: Jewish Responses to the Antiochian Persecution (Brill) and The Theology of the Book of Daniel (Cambridge, 2009).  She also has plans for a volume on Genesis in the future, which I eagerly anticipate.

2. Paula Fredriksen (Boston University): I first read Fredriksen’s Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews in undergrad.  The book broadened my horizons and paradigm of NT study in so many ways.  I still go back to this book quite often, and suggest those who have not read it do so.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to read many of her more recent contributions (Ph.D. coursework in HB/OT precluded that), but I do look forward to benefiting from her work for a long time to come.  I have had my eye on her most recent volume, Augustine and the Jews, since I first saw it at SBL last year.  And I agree with Pat McCullough . . . . I very much would like to see Dr. Fredriksen maintain a blog!

3. Phyllis Trible (Wake Forest): I was first exposed to Trible’s work by Dr. Portier-Young (see #1 above), and I am tremendously thankful for that exposure.  Trible is a renowned rhetorical critic, and much of my own methodological identity emerged in conjunction with reading her work.  Two of the most powerful volumes I can recall reading in a long while are her Texts of Terror (in which she has an absolutely superb chapter on the Hagar story) and her God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.  Trible embodies, to me, responsible and compelling biblical scholarship.

4. Danna Nolan Fewell (Drew): I am most familiar with Fewell’s work done in tandem with David Gunn.  Their Gender, Power, and Promise is a well-done volume on the texts of Genesis that rightly emphasize the importance of the female characters in the story.  My work in the ancestral narratives more broadly, and the Jacob cycle more narrowly, has led me to the conclusion that the women depicted therein are strong, confident, empowering women who are the impetus driving the narrative forward.  Where, for instance, would Jacob be were it not for Rebekah?  Fewell also has an essay (“The Genesis of Israelite Identity: A Narrative Speculation on Postexilic Interpretation” in Reading Communities Reading Scripture: Essays in Honor of Daniel Patte . Gary A Phillips and Nicole Wilkerson, eds. Trinity Press International, 2002) which I am working through now.  She hits on many of the points of contact between the Genesis narratives and ancient Israel’s social location postexile that I hope to treat in the final chapter to my dissertation.

5. Adele Berlin (UMD): Berlin is a Jewish biblical scholar who has influenced my work greatly.  Her contributions to her chosen methodology–literary approaches to the text (see her 1993 volume Poetics and the Interpretation of Biblical Narrative)–have informed my own perspective in rich and innumerable ways.  However, I am most familiar with her recent contributions to Psalms study (“Psalms and the Literature of Exile: Psalms 137, 44, 69, and 78” in The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception [ed. Peter W. Flint and Patrick D. Miller, Jr.; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2005] and “Myth and Meaning in Psalm 114” in Diachronic and Synchronic: Reading the Psalms in Real Time – Proceedings of the Baylor Symposium on the Book of Psalms [ed. Burnett, Bellinger, Tucker; New York/London: T&T Clark, 2007]).  These studies not only contribute very much to holistic/metanarrative readings of the Psalter, they also explore the connection between the literary elements of the text and the social circumstances of ancient Israel (largely in relation to the related themes of exodus and exile).  Over the last few years I have become increasingly interested in the socio-literary study of the Hebrew Bible.

6. Diana Lipton (King’s College, London): Lipton’s book Revisions of the Night has served as an absolutely invaluable resource in my work on the Jacob cycle.  She reads the dreams in Genesis as performing a variety of functions, one of which is ‘revising/rewriting’ history and revealing to the reader, after the fact, that God has been at work in what has happened previously.  She thus rightly recognizes (and not many do!) that the ancestral narratives, including the Jacob cycle, is highly theological.  Her unique synthesis of literary and theological approaches to the biblical text is a methodological approach I share, and one I think that has been undervalued.

7. Nancy deClaisse-Walford (Mercer): Dr. deClaisse-Walford’s contributions to recent Psalms scholarship are immense.  Her brief introdcutory volume, Introduction to the Psalms: A Song from Ancient Israel does a wonderful job of communicating that the final shape of the Psalter has meaning.  Her published dissertation, Reading From the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter presents a formidable case on the topic.  She is currently working on the NICOT Psalms commentary with Rolf Jacobsen and Beth LaNeel Tanner.  I am very much looking forward to this volume.  Also, Dr. deClaisse-Walford (a Baylor Ph.D., no less!) has agreed to do an interview here on hesed we ’emet in the coming weeks, so do be on the lookout for that!

EDIT: In reading others’ lists, I have become aware of several others I must list.  Amy-Jill Levine is always a captivating and humorous lecturer, and a very fine scholar.  Her work on the Gospel of Matthew has very much informed my perspective on that book.  Diana Edelman is another; I am most familiar with her writing on Israelite ethnicity/origins.  Mary Douglas‘ work in Purity and Danger is still compelling (as most say, before she revised her position).  And Susan Niditch has been formative for my work on Jacob and tricksters.  I can’t believe she slipped my mind.  Her Underdogs and Tricksters is a great volume on the topic.


2 thoughts on “New Meme Response: Top 5 Most Influential Female Biblical Scholars (New, Expanded Edition!)

  1. Patrick George McCullough says:

    Great list, John. Thanks for joining me in going for 7 🙂 . I think Paula Fredriksen may win this meme for number of bloggers who mention her!

    Fewell actually had some influence on me as an undergrad with the same co-authored book with Gunn. I didn’t agree with every point, but it helped me think outside the box!

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