Skip to main content

Book Review: Women's Lives in Biblical Times


Since sexual ethics is an area of interest for me, it's critical to gain a solid understanding of gender relations in the Bible. Just how patriarchal were biblical times, and how does the Bible and did ancient Israelites view women? So, after wading through some reviews at RBL, I decided to read Women's Lives in Biblical Times by Jennie Ebeling, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Evansville.

Women's Lives in Biblical Times is an introductory text on the daily lives of women during Iron Age I (the period of the book of Judges). It is designed to be usable as a supplement for undergraduate courses in Hebrew Bible. There are seven main chapters covering seven major events or life stages in a woman's life - birth, childhood, first menstruation, marriage, childbirth, motherhood, and old age and death. Through these episodes the main aspects of women's life was explored (e.g., religious practices, food preparation, basket making).What sets Ebeling's work apart is the way she presents the material. Each chapter begins with a brief fictional narrative of a woman named 'Orah.' These sketches are one to two pages long and are based on Ebelings scholarly research. The rest of the chapter provides the backing behind every detail of her portrayal of Orah's life.

Ebeling reconstructs the life of a typical woman from a variety of sources. Her primary source is archaeology. The biblical text is a secondary source. There are a few reasons for that, but one striking one is that the Bible tells us virtually nothing about the daily lives of ordinary women. To a lesser extent she relies on other ANE texts and archaeological finds, iconography, and ethnography (in this case anthropological research done on 20th century Palestine).

For my purposes, the most significant result is Ebeling's claim in the conclusion that women were not as repressed as often assumed. One major reason is that the Bible was largely written later than Iron Age I and reflects urban culture, not the rural culture of the highlands discussed here, where women's contributions were too big to allow them to be totally marginalized.

On the whole, I found Ebeling's work to be very engaging. Using the fictional account served to make the material more memorable and enjoyable to read. The scholarly discussions moved along at a good clip and never weighed you down with too much data. Life is portrayed as it was (as best we can tell) without demonizing it, whitewashing it, or otherwise distorting it. My only quibble is that I didn't find the ethnographic studies to be helpful. Ebeling doesn't give much weight to it, but I don't see it as being of any more value than the fictional account she has already written. All in all, Women's Lives in Biblical Times is an excellent place to begin if one wants to understand what life was like for the typical woman during the time of the judges. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Aquinas and Conclusion

When we reach Aquinas we come to the pinnacle of orthodoxy when it comes to the Trinity and Christology. Christology was important to Aquinas and he dedicated the first fifty-nine questions of Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae[1] to the topic. In many ways it is refreshing because he does not treat solely the more philosophical questions of who Jesus was that preoccupied theologians from the third century on. He also spent extended time on Jesus earthly ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification which was a major innovation.[2] Of course every possible topic of Trinitarian and ontological speculation is also probed. For the sake of space we will only hit some highlights.

Aquinas is clearly in step with the tradition that can be traced from Nicea, through Augustine and the Lombard, to the heart of the Middle Ages. One thing to briefly note is that even in his densest argumentation, Aquinas was not trying to prove elements of his theology via rational argument as that…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Irenaeus

Starting from Irenaeus, Christology, in some respects, moves on. A big part of this would have been due to the “gnostic” controversies. It became increasingly important to clarify the relationship between Father and Son and to minimize their distinctiveness, while still maintaining Jesus’ full humanity. From this point on, clashes over heresy about the nature of Christ and discussions related to Trinitarian theology dominate Christological discussion to the point that the original emphasis on Jesus’ Messianic identity fades to the background.[1] Maintaining the affirmation that Jesus was both human and divine was critical for Irenaeus and those after him because they saw that as the necessary grounds of salvation.[2]

Of particular interest to Irenaeus was the baptism of Jesus. What happened when he received the Spirit?[3] It was not the means by which the Word entered Jesus. He was not merely human before that point.[4] Rather it was a divinization of the human nature of Jesus, a nat…

End of Summer Review/Update

The school year is now upon us and I'll definitely not be posting the next two months. This summer didn't quite go to plan so I didn't get to do the blogging I was hoping to do. Specifically I was planning on blogging through 2 Thessalonians, but that didn't happen. It may happen late in the fall, but we will see. I may instead decide to pick up a different Pauline letter (perhaps 2 Corinthians). This is my last year of school  and by the fall of next year I should be back on a more regular blogging schedule.

A lack of blogging was not from a lack of productivity (although I'm sure my Pokemon Go playing did cut into my reading time a little bit). I've had a interesting summer learning about Medieval Christianity and specifically focusing on Peter Lombard and Thomas Aqunias. They'll both be featured in my next paper in Exploring the Christian Way which I hope to publish here in late January of 2017. 90% of the reading and 80% of the writing is done for that …