Book Review: Jesus and the Feminists -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 23:4 (Autumn 2009)
Article: Book Review: Jesus and the Feminists
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer


Book Review: Jesus and the Feminists

By Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger (Crossway Books, 2008)

Reviewed by

Aída Besançon Spencer

AíDA BESANçON SPENCER is Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. as a minister of the word and sacrament. Among many other books, she has written Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry and “2 Corinthians” in Daily Bible Commentary: A Guide for Reflection and Prayer, and co-edited Global Voices on Biblical Equality: Women and Men Serving Together in the Church.

How would feminists answer Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). This is an intriguing question raised by Margaret Köstenberger (adjunct professor of women’s studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). She chronicles feminists (defined as those who believe women have leadership positions “on par with men” [212]) from “radical” feminists (who reject the Bible and Christianity as “unusable because of their male patriarchal bias” [22]), exemplified by Mary Daly, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Daphne Hampson, to “reformist” feminists (who reject “Christian tradition about women” and use the Bible [not seen as inerrant] “as a means to reconstruct a ‘proper’” theology [22]), such as Letty Russell, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and Kathleen Corley, to “evangelical” feminists (who use an inerrant Bible as a means to teach “complete male-female equality” [22-23]), citing scholars many of whom are members of Christians for Biblical Equality. To compare and contrast radical, reformist, and evangelical feminism and to show development in these movements are worthwhile goals. In addition, Appendix 2 has a helpful summary of general interpretation ideals for evangelicals. Throughout the book are summary charts intending to make basic data simple and clear. Köstenberger concludes that Jesus was not a male chauvinist, but he did not obliterate “gender-related positions” in the church and the home, especially as they relate to leadership and authority (214).

Even though Köstenberger claims to supply the reader with the “facts” (16), and to employ a “listening hermeneutic” (119, 220, 229), and not elevate ideology over Scripture (119), claiming to have no “presupposed notions” (183), in reality what she does herself is analyze feminists’ writings about Jesus through the theological framework of gender defined by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) (which she cites, 23, 179). In effect, sh...

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