The Legacy Of Katherine Bushnell: A Hermeneutic For Women Of Faith -- By: Catherine Clark Kroeger
PP 9:4 (Fall 1995) p. 1
The Legacy Of Katherine Bushnell:
A Hermeneutic For Women Of Faith
Founding President of CBE, Dr Kroeger is Adjunct Professor at Gordon- Conwell Theological Seminary and author of I Suffer Not A Woman (Baker, 1992).
Gentle reader, supposing you get out your Bible, and we will have a lesson together, this morning. Turn, please, to I Corinthians 14:31-40. Now the male commentator (notes) two verses in that passage that are of infinitely more importance to him than all the rest in the passage put together. They are the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth. To maintain the dignity of his translation of these two verses, he is quite in the habit of plunging right into the middle of that section, making chaos of everything else, that he may, by sheer masculine force, keep the verses plumb to his ideas of womanly uprightness. Do you agree with me in that assertion? If not, let me illustrate my point.
So Katherine Bushnell begins her exegetical article on I Corinthians 14, published in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Union Signal, September 12, 1889. Later she was to write more irenically:
Supposing women only had translated the Bible, from age to age, is there a likelihood that men would have rested content with the outcome? Therefore, our brothers have no good reason to complain if, while conceding that men have done the best they could alone, we assert that they did not do the best that could have been done. The work would have been of a much higher order had they first helped women to learn the sacred languages (instead of putting obstacles in their way), and then, have given them a place by their side on translation committees.1
Throughout the nineteenth century, women struggled with oppressive interpretations of the Bible that deprived them of their power and dignity. But while Elizabeth Cady Stanton repudiated those portions of Sacred Writ which she found repressive, other women took another tack The most prominent voice declaring the Bible as liberating of women was raised by Katherine Bushnell, a crusader against the forced prostitution of women, and also world evangelist for the WCTU’s Department of Social Purity. Insisting that the Bible fully upheld the rights and integrity of women, Bushnell stated that she and her followers would not yield “one jot or tittle” of the inspired text. Convinced that the Bible’s message about women was one of empowerment and freedom, she developed a hermeneutic designed to challenge the complacency with which supposedly Bible-believing folk countenanced abuses against women. She ...
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