Item description for Pentateuch by Alice L. Laffey...
Overview Providing new insights into the major themes of the Pentateuch, Laffey challenges contemporary readers with her probing questions about power, liberation, justice, and connectedness. Her interpretation provides a unique feminist-critical perspective of these biblical texts as she emphasizes respectful interdependence and concern for all humans, animals, plants, and elements.
Publishers Description Alice Laffey's rereading of the major themes of the first five books of the Bible will enable readers to gain a firm grasp of the contents of this major literary corpus. Like other volumes in this series, it will also point the way to a different reading of Scripture, one that raises today's questions-power, liberation, justice, and preeminently connectedness. Laffey highlights neglected resources in the text in order "to approach these texts from the perspective of a respectfully interdependent worldview." In this work we witness a radical expansion and transformation of feminist biblical criticism to incorporate concern for all humans, all animals, all nature in a global, even cosmic way.
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Studio: Fortress Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.03" Height: 0.63" Weight: 0.68 lbs.
Release Date Sep 1, 1998
Publisher Augsburg Fortress Publishers
ISBN 0800628721 ISBN13 9780800628727
Availability 62 units. Availability accurate as of Sep 19, 2017 10:18.
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More About Alice L. Laffey
Alice L. Laffey is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts. Trained in the modern historical-critical study of the Deuteronomistic History, she has expanded her study of the Old Testament to include postmodern feminist and ecological approaches.
Alice L. Laffey was born in 1944.
Alice L. Laffey has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Pentateuch?
A "liberating, freeing, and life-giving" perspective Aug 31, 2007
In the Book, The Pentateuch, A Liberation-Critical Reading, Alice Laffey, uses the liberation-critical methodology to examine key passage within the Pentateuch. According to Laffey, the liberation-critical method sets Scripture free by looking at the Bible from a viewpoint antithetical to the biblical author's culture in which the he wrote. This culture is patriarchal and hierarchical, contrary to God's desire for society. Therefore, it is Laffey's intent in this volume and subsequent series, to give the reader a "liberating, freeing, and life-giving," perspective.
In other words, this perspective does not examine biblical narrative from mankind's (the author's) viewpoint, synonymous with a world ruled by and for men. On the contrary, Laffey explains the narrative from a feminist's presupposition, emphasizing the role women have within the Bible. Additionally, she emphasizes nature's role and the animal kingdom within her selected passages from the Pentateuch. Using her own translation, Laffey covers important topics from this perspective surveying the key passages in a running commentary format in three parts (although she does not present the Scripture sequentially).
Analysis of the Strength
Laffey writes at a popular level. Her commentary style is simple and easy to follow. She clearly makes her points, while reminding her readers to interpret the biblical text within the confines of God's design for society. One example of this historical viewpoint is her explanation of Leah's rape in Genesis chapter 34. On page 99, she informs readers of the benefits for the Deuteronomic rape law. She helps the reader understand the historical context apart from his or her own contemporary misunderstanding or prejudices (which is the goal of her writing). She writes convincingly, even subtle at times (a trait which is also considered a weakness), and in good order. By dividing the book into three parts, she is able to arrange the biblical narrative to illustrate the liberation-critical method by subject matter. Therefore, once a reader becomes accustomed to her writing style, by recognizing the general layout of the book, the reader may effortlessly cover the reading in a short period. To help solidify her perspective, she offers a full range of Scripture illustrating her methodology. Theologically, she provides insight into human's interdependency upon nature. However, more importantly, she illustrates how God holds humankind responsible for the world; humankind should take care of, not abuse, nature. Additionally, her viewpoint reminds the reader of the importance women take place within biblical history. In effect, she is challenging the reader's attitude of the status quo of women. For although the trend has vastly improved over the last 50 years, still too often western culture places an insignificant, or lesser, value on women (more apparent in cultures worldwide). Laffey's text reminds readers women do have value and worth in the sight of God and in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Analysis of the Weaknesses
Her strength of writing at a popular level lends itself to her simplistic writing. However, she may mislead some unwary readers. When she makes dogmatic statements, she offers little or no support. For instance, on page 13, unequivocally stating the Priestly source as responsible for the creation account, she offers a commentary of the creation advocating theistic evolution. The careless reader may not recognize her subtleness in both the acceptance of the Priestly source and of theistic evolution. This approach seems contrary to her careful delineation of the liberation-critical methodology found within the introduction. In this example, Laffey does not afford the reader an explanation for her stance or the opportunity to understand opposing arguments. Instead, Laffey gives herself carte blanch to indoctrinate the reader without any education. Another example of her subtleness is the use of her own translation, which she casually admits to at some point within her book. This too can lead some readers to follow her interpretation without first thinking.
On page 82, she writes her translation of Genesis 3:16, "...in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Notice her translation's subtle use of the conjunctive yet. This is in contrast to the majority of English texts which omit the conjunctive, treating the verse as two different clauses, "in pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband." Her translation is suspect for it fits too well within her hierarchical paradigm. It begs the question of whether she presupposed her own values and beliefs into the text, eisegesis, instead of using good use of exegesis.
One more example illustrates a similar weakness, where Laffey fails again to give any other explanation other than her own commentary. On page 130, writing about God and man's relationship to nature, she subtly writes the plagues in Exodus as "traditionally described as miracles..." Instead, she labels the plagues as unusual natural disasters. Rather than looking at all possibilities for the plagues (miracles, natural events caused by God, etc.) she fails to discuss fully these events. Instead she quickly dismisses the events, valid or not, as irrelevant to her point. Meanwhile, she already made another point; maybe there is some embellishment on the author's account of the actual events.
Lastly, unless a reader is really in tune with the liberation-critical methodology, the reader can quickly lose his or her interest in the book. Any reader, familiar with the biblical narrative Laffey uses, can quickly scan through the Scripture and logical guess where Laffey's points head. Perhaps this is her intention, to keep things simple and clear, to the point. Maybe she over simplifies. For instance on page 126 she writes, "Human person ..." Are not all human beings persons? However consistent in the simplistic nature of her book, the text drags onward, especially when Laffey's points become redundant without saying anything new or substantial.
Contributions of the Book
Many liberal authors have written about the Bible ranging from ethics to Laffey's liberation-critical method in The Pentateuch. For the seminary student, or anyone else interested in different opinions about Scripture, Laffey's book offers a viewpoint not often mentioned in conservative circles, the feminist perspective. Yet, if the preacher is to understand his listeners in a postmodern culture, such writings become valuable. From the skeptic to the sincere at heart, on any given Sunday morning a preacher may stand behind the pulpit to bring God's Word, only to find this wide variety of attitudes.
The Pentateuch allows the preacher or teacher to understand and appreciate (not necessarily agree) these different viewpoints. In fact, because the church is a cross section of society, there just may be people within a particular church who hold a feminist and liberal theological mindset. As such, being sensitive to such viewpoints helps a preacher to meet people where they are, bringing them to a better understanding of their relationship with God.