Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 22:2 (Spring 2005) p. 107
A Feminist Companion to John. 2 vols., edited by Amy-Jill Levine. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003. Pp. xiv + 246. Pp. xiii + 226.
The two volumes on John reviewed here are part of the Feminist Companion series, which covers the entire New Testament and for the most part features original material. The collections include essays by established as well as previously unpublished scholars. The editor is professor of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt University. The authors are predominantly female (twelve out of sixteen). After a helpful introductory essay by the editor, volume 1 commences with a piece entitled, “ ‘You Just Don’t Understand’ (Or Do You?): Jesus, Women, and Conversation in the Fourth Gospel” by F. Scott Spencer, an attempt at applying Deborah Tannen’s work on gender communication to John’s Gospel. Spencer finds that the conversational patterns in the Fourth Gospel support Tannen’s findings and concludes that Jesus was possibly rude to women, a hierarchical male.
The second essay, “The Divine Trickster: A Tale of Two Weddings in John” by Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean, views the portrayal of Jesus in John’s Gospel from the vantage point of the “untricked trickster” in keeping with, and yet transcending, the Old Testament portrayal of Jacob. As the editor notes, Berenson’s feminist-liberationist perspective requires her not to stop with the study of literary connections and cross-cultural motifs but to proceed to explore, “and sometimes condemn,” the implications of these connections (6).
The next set of articles deals with Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. In a piece entitled, “Are There Impurities in the Living Water That the Johannine Jesus Dispenses?” Stephen D. Moore deconstructs traditional readings of John 4, concluding that the Samaritan woman is the “more enlightened of the pair” (Levine’s paraphrase, 10; cf. 95) and argues that Jesus’, rather than the woman’s, desire is central to the narrative. According to Moore, this encompasses not only Jesus’ literal thirst but extends also to His desire to be desired by the woman.
The following essay, “What’s Wrong with this Picture? John 4, Cultural Stereotypes of Women, and Public and Private Space,” by Jerome H. Neyrey, engages in a reader-response analysis of John 4 employing the tools of social science and cultural anthropology. Neyrey’s analysis is subjected to a (not always sympathetic) critique, even by the editor (8). Neyrey argues that the narrative subverts gender expecta...
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