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Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible Paperback – May 10, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Writers as diverse as Louise Erdrich, Cynthia Ozick, Fay Weldon, and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison take on the Bible with generally fascinating results. The editors' task was to bring the oft-neglected feminine perspective (that is, the perspective of both the original, biblical players and contemporary women writers) to the fore. The result of this effort runs the gamut, from theologian Phyllis Trible's scholarly essay on Jezebel and the prophet Elijiah, to Patricia J. Williams' very personal account of the adoption of her son in the context of the story of pharaoh's daughter claiming the baby Moses. As to be expected, there is unevenness here, both in the choice of subject matter and in the quality of the writing, but overall, the selections are thought provoking and even disturbing, in the best sense of that word. The most interesting lesson, perhaps, especially for those not familiar with the scriptures, is how sparingly women are described in the Bible. Their absence, as Rachel M. Brownstein notes in her essay, invites "projection, identification, embroidery." These 27 essays provide just that and in the process give women much to ponder. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

A group of really smart women give astute readings of the Bible that, for the most part, subscribe to neither religious nor feminist orthodoxies. Happily, what Daphne Merkin, in her irreverent and surprising reading of The Song of Songs, calls the ``contemporary jargon- infused orthodox-feminist, reader'' is virtually absent here. The 28 contributors to this volume are Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic, and they offer varied (and sometimes provocatively conflicting) insights into characters and events in the Old Testament. They are most successful when, in the best tradition of biblical interpretation, they fill in the gaps in the sometimes spare narrative, closely questioning the motives and morals of the actors (male and female, human and divine) and uncovering the messages embedded in the text. The pieces range from the personal (e.g., Rebecca Goldstein's urgent childhood quest to know why Lot's wife looked back), to the rigorously analytical (e.g., Ilana Pardes's structuralist paralleling of the sibling strife between Rachel and Leah with that between Jacob and Esau), to the political (e.g., Patricia J. Williams links Pharaoh's daughter saving the baby Moses, and thus thwarting the attempted genocide of the Jews, with contemporary questions of race, family, government intrusion into reproductive issues). Bchmann, a doctoral candidate in English literature (Univ. of California, Berkeley), refrains from the modern impulse to condemn Isaiah's portrait of God as ``savage and extravagant''; Lore Segal accepts the contradictions of a God who often changes his mind (``how else could one God encompass everything?''). Among the few less convincing entries are attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of biblical bad girl Delilah (by Fay Weldon, who seems to have little use for the Bible altogether) and Putnam senior editor Spiegel's evaluation of Queen Esther and her predecessor, Vashti, as feminist role models. A rewarding anthology by women who take the Bible seriously and on its own terms, as a literary, ethical, and spiritual expression. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (May 10, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449910172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449910177
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Throughout history, religion has been man's domain: written by and for him alone. Christianity and Judaism are just two more example of male-centered religious theory. Right? Maybe. But "Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible" is a startling wake-up call, and it is a powerful voice for those who feel that women (as well as the feminist movement) can find their own places within the Bible. The combination of essays provided here are strongly convincing in the argument that they present: women are important figures in the Bible, and it was written with them in mind, too. An important factor in the book is that its essays are written by women with a wide diversity of religious backgrounds, from many sects of Protestanism, to Catholicism, to Judaism. This is a powerful message of unity for women, and for religion. Many of the essays shine as personal examples of the Bible touching women's lives. Patricia J. William's personal essay was especially moving, because she tied in her own life experience with a Bible story; specifically, that of the adoption of Moses. If women can relate the Bible and the Christian and Jewish religions to their own lives, is this not important evidence in itself that they are not excluded in these theories' teachings and reachings? The only problem with this book is its tendency to make wild interpretations of Christianity and Judaism, and sometimes it is questionable whether more than the one author writing the essay could ever see a feminist message in a particular passage or story. However, this does not take away from the book's resounding message, that women should not be discouraged from claiming Christianity and Judaism as their own as men have done since its conception. "Out of the Garden" is an important book to add to any feminist theology collection, or to read in order to find out just how the Christianity of men can be looked at from the perspective of many different women.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Rose on January 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was chosen as a selection for our church book club, and was looked forward to as the mother of one of our members had loved it.

Out of ten members, only one or two could even finish it. We did not think that the quality of the essays was very good, which surprised us. We are a pretty literate group, and read a wide range of books, but this struck the great majority of us as something that might be better read by a college class on religion or womens' studies, but not something for the casual reader.
Just too dry and academic in feel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Norman on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The essays collect here showed me, a man, the feminine perspective... enlightening, to say the least.

Some of them addressed things I had never even put thought into... others showed me familiar ideas from a different viewpoint. one or two I actually disliked, but I am a harsh critic. Two of them, Job as a clown, and 'Our View of a Good God', i consider to be GOLD, and worth the cost only for those two...

i highly recommend this book, for yourself, or as a gift for a friend...
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I'm having trouble getting through this book. Actually, I'm not sure I will ever finish it. I'm having trouble relating to anything in it.
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