Advocacy readings

The belief that every reader of the Bible has a commitment, even when pretending or trying to be neutral, has led to an attempt to discover what the commitments of respected scholars of the past actually were. It has been easy to show that many were very much the product of their class, time, and political persuasion. Certain scholars have been particularly skillful in uncovering the hidden bias of much traditional "objective" scholarship - indeed, there is now a genre of writing known as "metacommen-tary" that seeks to do this. Outstanding exponents are David Clines at Sheffield (see Clines 1995), and Yvonne Sherwood at Glasgow (see Sherwood 2000).

But linked with this acute perception of the failings of past (and some present) scholars there is often a sense that, since everyone is bound to have a bias - a commitment - the important thing is to make it a good and wholesome one. A commitment to human liberation is widely regarded as just such a wholesome commitment, whether it be to political liberation for those oppressed by unjust societal structures, or to the liberation of women from social oppression by men and the systems men have created. Feminists and liberation theologians have sought to replace the conservative or "liberal" readings of the Bible common in the past with readings based on a liberation perspective. A case in point would be Gustavo GutiƩrrez's study of the book of Job (GutiƩrrez 1987), and much of the work being done by Christopher Rowland (Rowland and Corner 1990). Especially in the USA, feminist readings of both the Old and the New Testament now abound. There is a whole series of feminist Companions to the Bible published by the Sheffield Academic Press (an important source of innovative publishing in biblical studies), edited by the Israeli scholar Athalya Brenner, who teaches in both Israel and the Netherlands.

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