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In Memory of Her

InMemoryReviewing a book like In Memory of Her is a bit like reviewing the bible.

It’s that basic to anyone who wishes to acquire a solid grounded basic understanding of the bible.

I am certainly not reading it for the first time. But I admit that I have never until recently read it cover to cover. It quite simply is a reference book, grabbed first whenever as a student one wishes to get the “feminist” approach to any issue before one.

My copy was dog-eared from years of thumbings as I looked to see what Fiorenza had to say on the subject.

Quite simply, In Memory of Her is the start of an important development in the study of the bible. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, with her impeccable research methodology, set out to begin the recovery of women’s voice in the development of what would become a worldwide religion, Christianity.

Of course, over the years many have followed in her footsteps and today we find a vibrant and important genre of women’s studies in the area of religion, one that is both long in coming and so very important to our full understanding of religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Little more need be said. We all owe her a huge debt for the work she has done with this seminal book and the ones she has since written. Her contribution has been enormous and it continues.

What she points out so well, is that we cannot begin to understand the full import nor magnitude of the teachings of Jesus Christ if we do not understand the explosive concept of his views regarding women and their equality within the community of God. To miss this, as so many do, is to misunderstand fundamentally the message. It is to be quagmired in the continuing human institution of patriarchalism.

Within the Christian community, you will find plenty of dissent. Feminism is particularly vilified by the extreme right, among the Evangelical community. This is a community still mired deeply in patriarchal thinking, where there are few women in positions of ecclesiastical authority, few women teaching and pastoring. The main hierarchy prefers to maintain its stronghold on power through through excerpts poorly understood from Paul and other epistles named for apostles that surely did not write the missives.

Properly understood Paul (as opposed to pseudo-Pauline letters), most correctly gets the equality issue. Although not without lack of understanding on some things, Paul sees that Jesus has completely upset the old notions of male dominance and instituted a way of community that brings all God’s people to the table to offer their gifts of the Spirit.

To those who have but a casual understanding of the bible, Fiorenza will upset your apple cart. To women and girls, she offers invaluable confirming foundations for women to reach for and be grounded in their full equality before God as children of God. One need not be especially “religious” in order to read this book. It is simply a gift to all women and to men as well, helping as it does to restructure our understanding of the relationship of men and women in the Kingdom.

Read it, and refer to it often.

*NOTE: Fiorenza is a scholar and as such, this book is not directed toward the lay population. However, she writes well, and her allegations and arguments are well written, understandable, and well documented. The scholarly format should not put you off one bit.


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