30.4.11

Lonely in biblioblog land

Seriously need to work on my Paintshop skills


The Biblioblog top 50 for April has been announced and RevisingReform maintains its position as blog number 40. I have not blogged for a week but the blog has been picked up by 8 new sites as I can see from my Alexa 'linked in'. 

After taking a brief look at the biblioblog 50 community, I have a feeling I might be the only woman, unless some of those male-looking names are female or people are blogging under pseudonyms much as they did in the nineteenth century. 

Can I ask you male bloggers out there to glance at your own blog-rolls. If they are completely dominated by men, perhaps I can recommend some female bibliobloggers you might add to your list. Take a look through and see if any take your fancy (so-to-speak). You might then link and start to interact a little so that the top 50 reflects the contributions of both genders. 

I am certainly no theologian but have gained a lot from reading around the communities I belong to online. It would be great to see some more women alongside the James McGraths, Jim Wests and Mark Goodacres of this world. I also think that SBL is worth keeping an eye on for its latest contributions. 

I guess a lot of the biblioblogs out there have their own particular bent, axe to grind or point-of-view to promote, often alongside adverts for recent books from their authors too. This blog can not boast such achievements but just struggles on in its own particular way. 

If we are in doubt about whether we are contributing something of worth or just talking out loud, perhaps both are occurring but that's got to be okay, in fact, my most recent reading of the Samaritan woman convinces me that Jesus invites us into theological discourse. 

I know that predominant readings of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well lend more of a focus to her sexual impropriety, it is about this that Jesus can tell her everything she ever did but It is also interesting to explore how we read, with the precursor that if we ignore other levels at which the text might be functioning, then we are in danger, more than the Samaritan woman, of only half reading something with symbolic import.


My thinking here continues with this in mind.

Let's enter the scene: hot, mid-day, a well.

Wyckoff (1995, 92) does not believe that the scene is supposed to evoke betrothal scenes but this well scene accords with others in the Old Testament where Abraham's servant finds a bride for Isaac (Gen. 24:10-27), Jacob meets Rachel (Genesis 29:1-12) and Moses meets Zipporah (Exod. 2:16-21). The reader has literary expectations as to the type of scene that will unfold. Might John be presenting Jesus as bridegroom to the wayward bride Samaria so that the betrothal functions on a symbolic level?


The Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at the brightest hour of the day (noon 'the sixth hour'). Having learnt in Genesis that women draw water 'towards evening' (Gen. 24:11), this incongruity further arouses interest in the narrative so that the reader suspects quickly this is no ordinary betrothal scene. In a gospel using light and dark to signify spiritual state, it contrasts with the encounter that Jesus has had with Nicodemus at night (chapter 3), in which he went away in a complementary state of spiritual darkness. In John 4, disclosures will come to light for both characters in terms of their identity and the woman's is a metaphorical transference from a kingdom of darkness to a kingdom of light.

There are a number of theories as to the reason for the woman's noon-day visit. Popular (Kostenberger, 2006, 76; Carson, 1991, 217), is that she is avoiding people because of her shame. Kostenberger's statement (2006, 76) that 'Jesus gradually helps the woman to realize ...who she is in relation to him, that is, a sinner,' is actually unsupported by the text and scholars (Beirne, 2003, 82; Schneiders 1997, 249) notice that Jesus does not actually make a moral judgment. Barrett (1965, 235) considers it improbable that 'John's intention is to show that … the Samaritans are morally inferior to the Jews.'  

Our ideas about intimacy often have sexual connotations and it is interesting that in her disclosure about having five husbands, we regard her immoral, aware as we are of her noon-day visit to the well. Reader-response theories wonder if the text seeks to undo us for the judgements we impose on the text. She might have outlived her husbands in a culture where levirate marriage was the norm.
(Neyrey (2009,37) points our attention to Mark 12:20-23 but I think this is rather weak seeing as the Pharisees are probably testing Jesus with an imaginary, hyperbolic scenario). More convincingly, Schneiders (1997, 249) argues that 'the entire dialogue … has nothing to do with the woman's private moral life.' Schneiders (1997, 247) and Moore (2003, 282) believe there is an allegorical significance to the woman's five husbands being representative of Samaria's colonial past, with the present man representing 'the Samaritans' false worship of the true God,' (Barrett, 1965, 225). Other scholars (Witherington, 1984, 58-59; Thettayil, 2007, 34-35, Neyrey, 2009, 156) are less likely to believe this is the case.
Shneiders believes the Samaritan woman is quite able to decode Jesus' metaphorical language and rejoin with similar language of her own, aware that she represents her people before him and that as a people, they are without a 'husband' in the Hebrew pictorial sense of a Yahweh groom to his people, his bride. Reader-response critical approaches do much to uncover the literary games that the gospel's author might be playing.

Perhaps there is a theological discussion taking place between this woman and Jesus that both of them understand. 

Perhaps not...

...and if that is the case, this story still motivates us to wrestle publicly with the biblical text by perhaps blogging our way through it. If the woman is to teach us anything, it is that her contrast to Nicodemus is certainly obvious. He is a man—with a name. She is a an insignificant, unnamed woman. He is a named, male ruler among God’s chosen people. She is probably twice marginalised, by her own people and then outcast again as a Samaritan. He comes at night to guard his reputation. She comes at noon due to her marginalisation. But her transformation as someone with a valid testimony is corroborated by Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 for those who will come to belief in him through the testimony of others. Brown (1979, 189) claims that hers is a 'quasi-apostolic role.' By the end of the pericope, earlier sectarianism has been transformed into a universalism in Jesus' identity as Saviour for the whole world. This salvation which is from the Jews is for the Samaritans too. The Samaritan woman comes to know the transformation of herself and her community dialoguing with him and then them in turn.

What might be transformative, is that the Samaritan woman began as a stranger. By the end of the pericope, she comes to this less than perfect faith, a questioning and an uncertain faith. Despite this, Jesus still uses her to be the vehicle through which an entire town come to know for themselves that Jesus is the 'Saviour of the World'. Future female bibliobloggers might equally impact other women (and men) ruminating on their faith and studying his Word, there is a lot to be gained by talking this through in both off-line and on-line communities.

Come on, girls!

6 comments:

Doug Chaplin said...

Half of Matt and Madeleine at #5
One contributor (Amanda Mac) at #19

That's not many. April DeConick used to feature, I think, but doesn't seem to be blogging much now.

The list is also heavily American.

Rod said...

Hey Rach,

I have been following your blog for a while. Thank you for this post!

I have re-posted:

http://politicaljesus.com/2011/04/30/rach-on-the-loneliness-of-women-bibliobloggers/

You may also want to check out any women bibliobloggers we have from PJ's list:

http://politicaljesus.com/linksblog-roll/

You may also want to check out the campaign I have started to invite more women bibliobloggers. I am at a lost at how to proceed further.

here is the post (the same 1 at 3 different sites):

http://simuliustusetpeccator.com/2011/04/04/a-call-for-women-bloggers-the-bibliobloggers/

If you have any suggestions, please let me know via email or comment on Political Jesus.

Thanks for your blog!

cdntheologianscholar said...

Part of the problem is that many of the female bibliobloggers who are out there don't rank high enough on Alexa to be a part of the top 50.
The other problem is that you have to sign up to be a part of the Top 50, so if a woman hasn't signed up, they don't include her. I think this is a rather silly system, the top 50 should be the top 50 regardless of who signs up. (e.g., Rachel Held Evans would rank in the top 10 if they actually included her in the ranking).

Rach said...

...thanks Doug - found some!

Cdn - you're right and yes, RHE would rank highly.

Rod - I will follow the links through - thanks for the shout-out.

Kristen said...

To comment on the Samaritan woman herself, it's very interesting that Jesus breaks the propriety of the day by speaking to a woman, and to a Samaritan. It's also very interesting that he deals with her much as he does with the respected, scholarly Nicodemus: that is, he dialogs with her as a person who has valid points worthy of discussion. He doesn't tell her that discussion of theology in the mouth of a woman is disgraceful, which is what the original audience would probably have expected. He doesn't tell her to be quiet and just draw the water as he had asked, and leave these types of questions to her betters. He doesn't refuse to speak to her because speaking to a woman and a Samaritan would bring shame upon himself.

In fact, given that the disciples almost certainly had something with them to draw water with, and he let them go off and leave him there without it, he was deliberately setting himself up to be the one in need, asking a favor of another. When the one who came was a woman and a Samaritan, he treated her with the same dignity and respect he would give a respected male Jewish scholar.

Amazing.

Rach said...

Indeed Kristen, I think that it is so inspiring. I use this pericope as an opener for a women's course as we look at Jesus' encounters with women in the gospel of John. I have not got as far as I would like in developing the course but comments like yours give me the impetus to keep plugging away. It is called SIT with Jesus - there is a badge to the left of my site and a webpage but it is early beginnings.

Thanks for your contribution.

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.