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.
...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!