Five Female Scholars Who Changed the Way I Read the Bible

Although I haven’t had much to contribute to the ongoing discussion of female bibliobloggers (see Tim Ricchuiti’s invaluable listing of the various posts here), I’ve followed the responses to Mike Koke’s related meme on influential female scholars with extreme interest.  Unlike Jim West, who seems to equate femininity with left-handedness, I’ve found that female scholars often possess insights not immediately apparent to me—perhaps because of genetic or experiential differences, perhaps for other reasons.  In any case, it can be valuable for all of us to take a few moments to consider the gifts of people markedly different than ourselves, and how they’ve helped us get outside of our own biological, cultural, and intellectual boxes.  With this in mind, here are five women who have especially impacted my study of the Bible:

Prof. Collins’ generous service as one of my advisers during my time at Yale merits her inclusion on this personal list.  However, not only did she successfully steer a nervous, uncertain kid through his first stage of graduate studies, but her work on the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of Mark (most recently her Hermeneia commentary on the latter book) has demonstrated the continuing viability of the historical-critical method, even in the postmodern era.

Prof. Frederiksen’s engaging work on the historical Jesus, and more recently the complex relationship between Jews and Christians, needs no introduction.  I’m looking forward to diving into her most recent book, Augustine and the Jews, in all my spare time.  😉

Prof. Kovacs possesses a remarkable set of skills to which many other scholars should aspire: equal interest and proficiency in the frequently divided fields of biblical studies and patristics.  Her commentary on the reception history of the Book of Revelation, written with Christopher Rowland, is an excellent resource; her forthcoming study of Clement of Alexandria will surely prove to be the same.

I first encountered Prof. Pagels’ work as an undergraduate, when I read The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief as part of a course on early Christian literature.  These and other influential writings provided an invaluable introduction to the remarkable ideological diversity of the early Christian world, and its modern implications.

It was in a course taught by Prof. Swancutt, appropriately entitled “Early Christian Identities,” when I first realized the tremendous value of sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of the first Christian communities.  Plus, like Prof. Collins, she’s always willing to provide guidance and advice to students in need!

5 Responses to “Five Female Scholars Who Changed the Way I Read the Bible”

  1. September 9, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Excellent list, Matthew. We have some good overlap between us. Are you looking into apocalyptic thought/literature at all in your research?

    “. . . demonstrated the continuing viability of the historical-critical method, even in the postmodern era.”


    • September 10, 2009 at 7:04 pm


      We’ve definitely got some good overlap… I love your choice of Margaret Mitchell (another great scholar in both biblical studies and patristics).

      As for apocalypticism, it was one of my primary research interests when I started my masters degree, but then it fell by the wayside a bit. One of the new PhD students in our department is obsessed with the Enochic literature, though, so he could force me back into it. 😉

  2. September 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for this, Matthew. I really need to start reading some female scholars. I’m somewhat ashamed of myself for avoiding them.

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September 2009


© 2006-2009, Matthew Burgess. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use of the original content of this website is strictly prohibited. Quotations or citations should include a link to this website. The views and opinions given here are my own and do not represent those of the University of Virginia (or anyone else, for that matter).

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