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This month: Projects

Twenty volumes for one Book

Gerard Dou Elderly Woman Reading the Bible (ca. 1630) Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam (Wikipedia)
28 November 2020

The Bible and Women

In 2006, two well-known scholars and friends, the Austrian Irmtraud Fischer and the Italian Adriana Valerio, came up with a courageous project. Their initiative consisted of the creation of a network of European women engaged in historical-exegetical and theological studies, through which they could share their research, which had been carried out in the academic and ecclesiastical field. Hitherto, women had often been penalized by a lack of circulation that was less due to geography as it was linguistic and cultural. With the participation of the Spanish Mercedes Navarro Puerto, the Swedish Jorunn Økland and the American Christiane de Groote, the international project called The Bible and Women: An Encyclopedia of Exegesis and Cultural History, took shape. In recent years, this project has brought together Catholic, Protestant and Jewish specialists by organizing conferences and workshops throughout Europe. In turn, these encounters have served as preparation for the edition of volumes that have gathered the results of their ongoing timely and passionate discussion.  The publication of the twenty volumes in four languages is due to the commitment of as many publishing houses: Kohlhammer for the German edition; Verbo divino for the Spanish edition; Society of Biblical Literature/Brill-Leiden for the English edition; and, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe for the Italian one. Collectively, these publishers have believed in this pioneering enterprise with an international, interfaith and multidisciplinary character, viewed as a courageous challenge on the human, cultural and religious levels.

What the Encyclopedia proposes is a consideration of the historical-cultural journey of religion as a central factor which has exerted its influence in the political-social sphere with regard to gender relations over the centuries. The object of study is the Bible, the history of its reception in the West, and the way its interpretation has conditioned the relationship between man and woman. Ample space is reserved for the history of exegesis, a field of study in which the presence of women has been lacking due to an underestimation of women as subjects of its reading and interpretation. In addition to reconstructing how the Bible has been interpreted with respect to the status of women, it is central how women have provided their own interpretation. The intention of the project is not so much as to recover another point of view as to reconsider women and men together as subjects of the Traditio, of a continuous process of understanding, codification and transmission of texts, and of the incessant remodeling of the Christian proclamation.

The outline of the The Bible and Women opus is divided into three macro-sections. The first, reserved for biblical exegesis, is divided into volumes on the Old and New Testament. These are dedicated respectively to the Torah, Prophecy and the Writings of the Hebrew Bible, then to the canonical gospels and the Pauline letters. A second section collects apocryphal and pseudoepigraphic Scriptures, studies on rabbinical Judaism and medieval Judaism. The third section is dedicated to the history of exegesis and covers a vast time span. Commencing with the Fathers of the Church it continues with a reconstruction of the contribution of the readers of the Bible in the Early and Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance period, and the complex junction of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. To broaden the perspective even further to the Enlightenment and the Restoration up to the present day, a volume on new trends between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is included too.

Nine volumes have been published by Il Pozzo di Giacobbe and three more are in preparation.The publisher, Crispino Di Girolamo has taken this project on, and has guaranteed to see it through to completion. The publication of the volume titled Scritti apocrifi e scritti di donne tra primo cristianesimo e tardo antico [Apocryphal Writings and Writings of Women Between Early Christianity and Late Antiquity], edited by Silke Petersen, Outi Lehtipuu and myself, is forthcoming. This volume was discussed at the international colloquium organized in Catania in 2014, in collaboration with the Etna research unit. The latter is part of the Futuro in ricerca 2012 project (FIRB) framework, which has worked on gender models and interactions in proto-Christian groups.

This collection of studies conducted on the ancient Christian apocrypha aims to place these long considered heretical and marginalized scriptures -when considering a possible role for women in their process of transmission and reception-, in the history of Christianity. The themes of the first two sections of the volume on Female discipleship and the traditions of Eve in the “recovered texts” of Nag Hammadi include: the figure of Mary in writings from the best known tradition such as the Protovangel of James, and again the female continence, the relationship between gender and slavery, and gender and disability in the Acts of the Apocryphal Apostles. A third part deals with texts which were probably written by women (Perpetua, Proba, Egeria, Eudocia), or in which at least a “female voice” is recognizable. To conclude this path are the tomb inscriptions of two deaconesses, which offer a testimony of new strategies for the reception of the most famous texts of the New Testament.

by Arianna Rotondo

Being Superior General in times of pandemic 

As a consequence of not being able to hold courses and lectures with students in attendance, this has been the year of the webinar. In the field of online training, this educational, informative, and interactive seminar tool held over the Internet is the fastest growing appliance.  The International Union of Superiors General (UISG) is very active on this front, and has organized two for this coming month. On December 2, Essere superiori in tempo di pandemia [Being Superior General in times of pandemic], together with the Union of Superiors General (USG); and on December 16 La stampa e la vita religiosa [The Press and Religious Life]. Embracing this technology to make it a virtue was a necessity because it facilitates a comparison of experiences, and to maintain a sense of community.