Women in biblical studies

A while ago, there was a flurry of interest in why there are so few women biblibloggers (see my contributions, which link to others) and I suggested that part of  it is the way the church operates – that while women are present in the church in significant numbers, their voices are still under-represented. As I was going through my Endnote library, it occurred to me that there weren’t all that many women in my bibliography. Having done a lot of reading in psychological literature for my work on eyewitness testimony, I got the impression that this wasn’t so in psychology so I decided to see whether my feeling was justified. It was.

Of the roughly 400 authors represented in the biblical studies part of my Endnote library, 15 or 4% are women. Of the roughly 300 authors represented in the psychological part, 70  or 23% are women. It seems as though the proportion of women bibliobloggers is a reasonable mirror of the proportion of women who write in the area of biblical studies.

I have material dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century in both biblical studies and memory, although eyewitness testimony research only really got going in the early 1970s, whereas Gospel of  Thomas research got going about a decade earlier, which will bias the results somewhat. The reason that I have around 300 authors in the psych area (only a minor part of my research) and 400 in bib studs is that the majority of psychological literature has two or more authors while the majority of biblical studies material has only one. There are at over 550 bib studs items and only 162 psych ones.

So, for those of you who are interested, the women authors included in the biblical studies part of my Endnote library are:

  • Barbara (Ehlers) Aland
  • Kamila Blessing
  • Madeline Boucher
  • April DeConick
  • Majella Franzmann
  • Morna Hooker
  • Karen King
  • Eta Linnemann
  • Betsey Fordyce Miller
  • Elaine Pagels
  • Pheme Perkins
  • Ann Nyland
  • Susan Nidritch
  • Luise Schottroff
  • Mary Ann Tolbert

I am well aware that this is not an exhaustive or carefully controlled study and that I am working in a “fringe” area of biblical studies, which may not be an accurate reflection of the more mainstream. Given the difference in proportions between the two fields, though, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that biblical studies has lagged a long way behind psychology in enabling women to exercise their gifts as scholars.

SBL Auckland

I’m looking forward to going to Auckland for this year’s SBL International Conference. As well as presenting my own paper, I’m looking forward to hearing quite a number of others, to being able to catch up with friends and colleagues whom I don’t see very often and to find out a bit more about Maori culture. The conference begins with a Powhiri (welcome ceremony) at the Marae at Auckland University and I am booked on the Tamaki Hikoi guided tour which introduces Maori culture. When I was in Christchurch last year on my way home from Texas, I was able to get a tiny taste of Maori culture and am really interested to hear more. It is particularly interesting that there are significant similarities between Maori art and the art of the Canadian First Nations people in British Columbia.

I have found the research that I’ve been doing for my paper really fascinating, if slightly “off topic” for my thesis. The topic is “Eyewitness Testimony in Psychological Research: Some Consequences for Richard Bauckham’s Work.” The work I’m referring to is, of course, his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006). If you’re interested, you can read the abstract on the SBL conference website.  I didn’t realise just how huge the corpus of psychological eyewitness/memory literature is until I started reading.  You could read until the cows come home and still not be on top of every aspect!

It’s interesting that there is so little cross-pollination between the disciplines.  There are books on memory in oral traditions, on memory and retelling of stories, how culture affects memory, things that psychologists take for granted about eyewitness accounts (or autobiographical/recollective memory) that just don’t appear in the literature of biblical studies.

I know – so many books to read, so little time, but still…