Final Study Questions

Women in the Biblical World
Fall 1998

You should respond to two of the following essay questions. You may choose any two, but with a couple of limitations:
a) You may not choose two questions from the same group.
b) You may not choose a question on which you are writing your paper or for which you gave one of the primary presentations.
Be succinct -- information is much more important than volume. The exam is open book and open notes.

Group 1:

What problem in the Biblical narrative helped give rise to the story of Lilith? How would a feminist or womanist reading of the Lilith story differ from a traditional patriarchal one? Which reading of the story (if either) do you think underlies the original version of the tradition, and why? How does the character of the snake fit into these traditions?

One of the roles of women in religion in the ancient world was that of hierodule, or "sacred prostitute." In what context can this be anything but an oxymoron? What role did the hierodule play in mediating sacred reality? How did the Yahwistic prophetic tradition respond and why?

Group 2:

"The Kenosis of the Father" (from Sexism and God-Talk, by Rosemary Radford-Reuther), is obviously based (loosely) on the biblical creation and incarnation accounts, but has even closer parallels to a group of Gnostic myths of creation (based on the same biblical traditions). What are the primary issues that Radford-Reuther is trying to address by retelling this story in the way that she has (you do not need to know the Gnostic versions to answer this)? Why does she even bother with a biblical story if she thinks it is fundamentally flawed? Do you think that she is trying to revise, or attack traditional Christianity?

What do we know about the social location and roles of women in earliest Christianity? How does it compare to those roles in the Greco-Roman world generally and in Judaism in particular? Was it the same in all communities or did it remain consistent through the first Christian centuries? Explain.

Group 3:

What do we know about the divine consort, the "feminine divine" or "the Goddess" in the religions of the ancient world and antiquity? Can any of these be found in ancient Israeli Religion? What about in later Judaism and Christianity? Why or why not? Give examples where appropriate and outline the social/theological issues.

What is the feminist critique of religion (esp. Christianity)? How does the sexual nature of God impact on this issue? Discuss the major directions taken by feminist theologians in an effort to reform religion(s). In what ways do feminist or womanist scholars differ with each other?


Last Modified Dec. 10, 1998
by Alan Humm