Final Study Questions
Women in the Biblical World
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.
Be succinct -- information is much more important than volume.
The exam is open book and open notes.
b) You may not choose a question on which you are writing your
paper or for which you gave one of the primary presentations.
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?
"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
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.
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
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?