This lecture – Sara Parks, “Fragments: Lost Stories of Ancient Women,” the Chester Beatty Annual Lecture 2023 – was terrific.
In fact, it was terrific in the underlying sense of that word. It presented terribly fascinating stories, that is, fascinating stories that strike terror, in a way, because they demonstrate just how much we don’t know that we don’t know, and how much smart people can be completely blinded by their unquestionable assumptions, to the degree that they automatically engage in circular reasoning because they simply can’t see what’s right in front of them as “plain as day.”
Except, that it isn’t as plain as day, because the light that is in them is darkness, as someone famous and revered once said.
If only we were really all done with that …
So, also a really eye-opening lecture, and not just about a few incredible examples of interpretive history related to the Biblical text, but also with respect to some basic hermeneutical principles. As in, in particular, don’t forget that people were living through all that … so, what seems to be missing, here? Because some people’s pictures we have much less than others. For systematic reasons. Why we need a “hermeneutic of the imagination.”
I almost didn’t go.
It was on zoom and the museum recorded it, so I imagine a link to the recording will eventually go online.
In the meantime, she included at least these online references, that are well worth looking at:
Bernadette Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background Issues, Brown Judaic Studies, 2020 (JSTOR, open access)
Ally Kateusz, “Making Bishop Theodora Male” (but there is more at Dr. Kateusz’s website)
Sara Parks, “The Brooten Phenomenon: Moving Women from the Margins in Second-Temple and New Testament Scholarship,” Bible and Critical Theory, Volume 15, No. 1 (2019)
Image: “Dublin Castle” (Chester Beatty Library), William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons