Taming Texts of Terror

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Reading (against) the Gender Grain of 1 Timothy

Some years ago Elsa Tamez, a biblical scholar and social activist from Costa Rica, made the comment that Latin American biblical scholars would have to face up to the fact that there were biblical texts that resisted being read liberatively. One of the great contributions of Latin American biblical scholarship has been its resolute commitment to reading the Bible as a liberatory text (see Vaage, 1997, Hanks, 2000). While not questioning this contribution or orientation, Tamez was worried that she and her colleagues were sidestepping significant hermeneutical issues by not taking seriously those texts that seemed to have an anti-liberation ideological agenda (or grain). Her comment arose from seeing my little book on Contextual Bible Study (West, 1993) in which I try to come to grips with the text of 1 Timothy from a gendered perspective. She herself, told me, was working on 1 Timothy for the very same reason. What do those of us who are committed to God's project of liberation for women do with texts like 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and what hermeneutical questions does this generate?

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