A Little Help: Milestone Women in Biblical Studies

What women would you include in a list of major figures in the study of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament? In particular, who are among the movers and shakers: critical scholars whose work must be taken into consideration by anyone approaching their subject matter?

I invite you to be as subjective and idiosyncratic as you like in your proposals. Nobody has to defend their choices, though by all means describe your reasons as you like.

I ask because I am drafting up some reading lists to use as a resource for designing some courses and for revising courses I already teach. I don’t want to limit myself to the women scholars toward whom I already habitually gravitate.

For obvious cultural reasons, we tend to tick off the major turning points in biblical studies according to men’s names: Wellhausen, Gunkel, Noth, von Rad, Muilenburg. From that point, it has been easier (relatively speaking!) for women’s work to be published and to receive regard. As much as possible, I would like to get names from a broad range of periods and approaches.

Taking the study of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as a whole—old names and new, from every aspect of critical biblical study—what women would you include in a list provisionally titled, “Women biblical scholars with whose work you really must be in conversation, if I am to take seriously your treatment of texts”?

17 Responses

  1. Names that pop instantly to mind: J. Cheryl Exum (the only Sheffielder whom M.V. Fox seems to take seriously), Adele Berlin (work on parallelism), Tikva Frymer-Kensky (OK, so more of an Assyriologist, but did groundbreaking comparative work) and Phyllis Trible (feminist literary approaches).

    And of course, the two major female biblical scholars with whom I have worked: Cynthia Miller (linguist) and Julie Duncan.

  2. alright, I’m no help since my knowledge of OT scholars comes from you, so you already know those folks, but I’m making a request that you publish the list when you get it compliled, or at least e-mail it to me… it’s the kind of thing I would like to squirrel away for future endeavors.

  3. Carol Newsom
    Renita weems
    Gale Yee
    Yvonne Sherwood
    Katherine Sakenfeld
    Margaret ODell
    Kwok pui LAN
    Mary Shields
    Kathleen OConnor
    Sent from iPhone, so no explanations. Excuse spelling.

  4. Kathleen Kenton
    Just visited tell es sultan
    Kenyon I mean

  5. Carol myers

  6. Probably Y. Amit for the book of Judges.

  7. Just a few: Kathleen Kenyon, Carol Meyers, Mary Douglas, Carol Newsom, Erica Reiner & Martha Roth (more assyriology than biblical studies though)

  8. Even though she was an archaeologist, not a text critic, how can we leave our Kathleen Kenyon and her work at Jericho. I believe this was the first serious suggestion that the invasion story in Judges was a myth.

  9. You all are making me so very happy. :^) I see names I know but which would not have popped readily to mind, and a few I don’t know and look forward to researching.

    And, Amanda: my students should feel free to rattle off their favorites.

    I will post results in some coherent form after the thread has ended.

    Keep ’em coming!

    • For the last few years, Nyasha Junior ran the woman’s breakfast at SBL. She’s young but she’s been very helpful to other woman in biblical studies. Her article on “womanist biblical interpretation” (I forgot where its published) taught me a lot in just a few pages. Brooke, I think you mentioned in another blog that Nyasha Junior is a friend of yours, so maybe you know that article that I’m thinking of.

      • Also, Brooke, I really appreciate this post that gets Bible bloggers (a white male dominated field) addressing this issue. On John Anderson’s blog, I posted an informal list of recent (2005 to the present) hires at research universities. After a completed the list, I noticed that its almost exclusively white males. The list included Chicago, Princeton Seminary, Yale, Harvard, Temple University, Emory (2 hires), and U of Minnasota. I really hope I am missing lots of other research universities because, despite what I’e heard among other grad students, the women and other minorities are not getting all the jobs.

      • Hi Jill,
        I’ll be at the library tomorrow, so I’ll look at the Nyasha’s article then. Thanks! I found the bibliography for it on her faculty page at U Dayton:

        She is a good friend, I’m happy to say. Nyasha is about nine kinds of awesome with a generous side helping of awesome.

        That’s a nice observation (below) about the white male biblioblogging base and the visibility of women’s scholarship. I’ll go search on John’s blog, but if you see this, maybe you could reply to this comment with a link to that comment (did that make sense?). If I find it quickly, I’ll dash back here and post it. Though “informal,” such a list is a lot closer to quantitative data than the usual run of anecdotal evidence in circulation (which I usually hear stated as, “it’s a nightmare for everyone right now but more so for white men,” and which happens to resonate with my own anecdotal experience as a white male degreed job-seeker).

  10. Phyllis Bird should be added to the list.

  11. Here’s my comment from John’s blog (cut and pasted):

    Thanks John for your helpful comments. Someone in a previous blog discussion observed that it is a lot harder to get out of a PhD program (with an academic job) than it is to get into one (even the “Princeton, et. al.” grads from what I’ve heard) Other grad students have told me that we should be just as strategic about getting out as we are getting in. But often that is unfortuately not the case. When considering a program, I was told to ask them about their placement record. If they say 90% of our grads have teaching jobs, ask how many have tenure track positions. The number will drop from what I’ve heard. Also, I was advised to notice at what type of schools they place their students. Basically, if you want to end up at a research university, go to school that has a record of placing students at a research university. If you prefer a seminary or small liberal arts college, go to a school that places students in those types of jobs.
    Since then, I’ve been trying to keep track of who got the top research university jobs in terms of where they went:

    Yale Div: Joel Badin (Harvard)
    U of Chicago: Jeffery Stackrett (Brandais)
    U of Chicago (2nd search): ????
    Harvard Div: Andrew Teeter (Notre Dame)
    Temple University: ???
    Princeton University: Simion Chavel? (Hebrew U)
    Emory: Jacob Wright (somewhere in Germany)
    Emory (2nd search): Joel LeMon (Emory)
    Vanderbelt: ???
    U of Minnasota (sp): Alex Jassen (NYU)

    For seminay jobs:
    Fuller: Christopher Hays (Emory)
    Princeton Seminary: Jeremy Hutton (Harvard)
    Howard Div School: ???
    Union NY: Esther Hamori (NYU)
    Union-PSCE: Samuel Adams (Yale)
    SMU: ???
    Illif Theology School: Amy Erikson (Princeton Seminary)

    I don’t know about about liberal arts colleges because I haven’t followed their hirings since I’m not hoping for that type of position, although I know Alan at U of Pacific went to Brandais (based on his blog). If anyone can fill in the gaps or correct mistakes in my records, please share.

  12. Hi Brooke! Lovin this blog business… You are a rock star. (and I even see myself referred to on the list of employed grads!)
    Here is my list…
    Claudia Camp
    Susan Niditch
    Marjo CA Korpel
    Diana Edelman
    Kathleen O’Connor
    Carol Newsom (of course)
    Kirsten Nielsen
    Christl Maier (her new book on Zion is pretty damn good)
    Question too, are you thinking of women who write about issues particular to women’s issues or just scholars who happen to be women?

  13. Jill,

    If you’re looking for women getting good tenure-track jobs, keep an eye on Emory. Recent placements include:

    Bea Wallins – HUC-Los Angeles
    Ingrid Lilly – W. Kentucky Univ.
    Katie Heffelfinger – Trinity College, Dublin

    and there are a number of other good female scholars in the pipeline there.


  14. […] Milestone Women in Biblical Studies Posted on June 19, 2009 by anummabrooke A short while back, I asked who you would include in a list of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholars who are women. In […]

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