Letters to the Editor: Karen Bass’ scholarship problem looks bad. Don’t ignore it.
The article “R.I.P. Old Testament scholarship is on its deathbed,” (March 2, 2013) by Karen Bass is not about scholarship, but about gender. She writes: “Gender differences in academic study of the Bible have been acknowledged for more than two centuries. Scholars have called attention to the presence—sometimes invisibly present—of gender, as expressed through the Bible. But the scholarship hasn’t reached the final stages in its progress” (1).
This is a typical academic-female-hating comment. No one would deny that gender is expressed through the word of God. It is equally true that scholars have called attention to the presence—sometimes invisibly present—of gender, as evidenced through the Bible. Yet, women and men are the recipients of scholarship from different branches of learning and of the same Bible. Gender differences in academic study of the Bible have been acknowledged for more than two centuries.(2) Women were early scholars and the Bible used by them. For example: Miriam Varon studied Hebrew and had access to the Bible because she worked as a translator and as a secretary to Jewish missionaries. She wrote: “I had the opportunity to study the Bible and the Old Testament with my friends, and I was a good student” (3). She and her close friends were the students of the women in the American Academy of Religion. Mary F. Marshall wrote: “I owe much to my friend Miriam Varon, who was my mentor” (4). (Miriam Varon, who died in 1972, was also a missionary.)
In addition to being a mentor, Marshall wrote the first women’s studies article for the New York Times. It was titled “Bible Women.” The New Testament was also written by women. Mary King wrote the first book on the Old Testament and its gender. She also wrote on women and the law. She was one of only three women who wrote books in the field of law at the University of Chicago. Two others wrote books on the Old Testament.
All this has gone largely unnoticed by Ms. Bass and no one has noticed it! If you read the article carefully, it seems Ms. Bass was trying to prove the following: