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Womanist Midrash

4.66  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Womanist Midrash is an in-depth and creative exploration of the well- and lesser-known women of the Hebrew Scriptures. Using her own translations, Gafney offers a midrashic interpretation of the biblical text that is rooted in the African American preaching tradition to tell the stories of a variety of female characters, many of whom are often overlooked and nameless. Gafn ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published July 21st 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press (first published January 1st 2015)
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Average rating 4.66  · 
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Staci Lee
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am afraid to write a review for this book simply because I fear no words I put together will do it justice. On every page, this book blew my mind or melted my heart.

I learned so much from this book. While Gafney is a Hebrew and Bible scholar and incredibly knowledgeable in translation and interpretation, she never makes the reader feel like they can not understand the text as well. Each time she would define and explain the text in Hebrew, it would open my eyes to a whole new world.

While the
Madison Boboltz
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
How to begin?!?!?! Forget ministry... I'm just going to head down the road to Fort Worth, take all of her classes, and become a Hebrew Bible scholar. Well, not really. But it's tempting.

I originally picked this up because I had heard such great things from others who I admire. I am always on board to read commentaries on women in the Hebrew Bible; it was one of my favorite things to explore in undergrad. Furthermore, I looked through my shelves and realized I had no works of theology or biblica
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wilda Gafney is a master. In this technical, but not to technical, overview of the women mentioned in the Torah, as well Israels' royal women--both in the united monarchy, and in Judah and Israel after that. It is truly an incredible work, and Gafney's midrashes are creative and compelling. Gafney's comment on the text brings it to life, and brings it new life. I am truly grateful to have been led and taught by Gafney. What an achievement! ...more
Tyler Jarvis
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Gafney's Womanist Midrash is an informative and insightful look at the women in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Gafney's aim is to acknowledge (by name, as often as possible) the women in, around, and behind the text. This was extremely helpful to me, because I have been trained to read the Scriptures with from an androcentric viewpoint, where the women are included in the text as props for the actions of the dominant men. Dr. Gafney's book aims to humanize those women in the eyes of read ...more
Hannah Evans
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Can’t wait to walk around with a sign taped to my forehead that says, “IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE BIBLE AT ALL, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK I BEG OF YOU”
Nick Richtsmeier
I accepted a long overdue challenge this year to read more theology by women and POC. To be honest, I was nervous. Not because I thought I would find something "wrong" but because I didn't trust myself to be able to integrate wisdom from Christian experiences so different from mine without going to extremes, trying to figure out who is "right" and who is "wrong."

Enter Wilda Gafney.

Her book was such a gift to me, an undeserved one. I felt drawn in by her incredible intellect, her well-researched
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Gafney speak at a conference. At one point she stated, “Sometimes the problem with the interpretation of the text is the text itself.” That statement works reasonably well as a summary statement for this book.

This book is an exercise in discomfort for a white American Christian man raised in the Evangelical tradition. Dr. Gafney does an amazing job of finding those people that are marginalized in the text and giving them a voice. And many of those marg
Jun 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is definitely an academic text and reads like one. I’m so grateful for the research and scholarship to give voice to the women of the Old Testament. One of the take home points beyond reading and speaking aloud women’s names from ancient history is the fact that “it was not until the 1980s that women were invited to participate [in biblical translation] (in part because there were so few women with PhDs in biblical studies who could have done the work.”

What has been missed of women’s stori
A must read for anyone interested in women, in womanism, in the Torah or Bible. I was especially moved by the chapter on Genesis, and would have given this book an unabashed 5 stars if I wasn’t so unfamiliar with the later books of the Tanakh/Old Testament that made the last few chapters difficult for me to interact with.
Marc Schelske
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biblical-studies
I am a life-long student of scripture, raised in a tradition that held scripture in high regard. I’m trained in reading Biblical Hebrew and Greek. I’m a pastor with nearly 25 years full-time vocational experience. It’s easy for me to think that I’ve “seen it all” when it comes to studying the text. Turns out, this perception is largely the result of my own limited perspective and cultural privilege.

Dr. Gafney changed the way that I read scripture, enabling me to see things in the text that I ha
Tristan Sherwin
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely stunning. Textually rich and wonderfully illuminating, Womanist Midrash is required reading for everyone. Dr Gafney has written a resource that I can’t imagine being without.

—Tristan Sherwin, author of Living the Dream?:The Problem with Escapist, Exhibitionist, Empire-Building Christianity
Jay Darcy
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant! Dr. Gafney has given me new ways of seeing and engaging with the Old Testament texts, and introduced me to a much more expansive worldview. I am truly grateful for her work. This is a book I could read 5 times and still discover new insights each time.
Steve Watson
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gafney writes commentary on the women mentioned in the Torah and the royal histories of Israel and Judah. She writes from a womanist frame - explicitly, self-consciously influenced by the the experience of African-American women. And she interprets in the tradition of midrash - imaginative reading between the lines informed by scholarship and faith. The strength of this eye-opening work is the combination of Gafney's womanist lens and her familiarity with and respect for Jewish interpretive trad ...more
Tyler Witzig
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In 2018 Carolyn Custis James wrote a journal article entitled, "Trauma, Resilience and the Church," in which she wrote the following about the #MeToo movement and the church:

"These disturbing current events have shed new light on biblical stories I’ve heard all my life. #MeToo stories have been in our Bible, right in front of us, all along. But we tend to skip over them or sanitize what’s actually happening and ignore the frightening realities presented on the pages of our Bibles. We’ve all don
Rev. Linda
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A text for a Spring 2018 course at Brite Divinity School--a fascinating resource on the women in the Hebrew Bible, named and unnamed. I particularly enjoyed Dr. Gafney's use of what she terms "sanctified imagination", where she enters the text as preacher/interpreter to tell the story behind the story in midrashs throughout the book. This will be an excellent resource for future exegesis of Torah passages ---- From the publisher: Womanist Midrash is an in- depth and creative exploration of the w ...more
Melissa Cook
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I could, I'd rate this even higher. To say this book changed my life would not be an overstatement. Gafney's exposition was a gift. It was a challenging, provocative, difficult, beautiful, powerful, and altogether necessary read. Necessary doesn't convey the depth of need, really. I see it as vital to understanding Scripture, God, and ourselves. Her work illumines passages long darkened by patriarchal, uncontested interpretation. She approaches Scripture with a rawness born out of incredible ...more
James Scott
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this book deeply challenging and fascinating. Rev. Dr Gafney expounds on the Scriptures from a womanist perspective, and offers an introduction to a Midrash approach that's all too often lacking in spaces dominated by white men.

Gafney does not shy away from the more uncomfortable passages of Scripture that are often ignored or glossed over by other writers. She also exposes assumptions often made by teachers and translators in various passages, and she lays bare what is actually in the t
Maria Longley
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fa, 2018, non-fiction
I've been working my way through this list of women named, or sometimes just implied, in the Torah and the books concerning the throne. I had no idea there were so many women mentioned by name even when we don't hear that much about them. The idea of "sanctified imagination" is a very helpful one too. Professor Gafney is a Hebrew scholar and has translated many of the texts in this book. She also provides a fascinating appendix on the translation issues facing anyone doing translation plus some ...more
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it
I don't know what I expected, but this was a heavy read. It's painful to be confronted with all the gruesome examples of misogyny preserved in the text of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, especially because of how those texts have been used to justify present-day subjugation of women in the Church. However, I think it's important to be honest about this aspect of our legacy and not sugarcoat the actions of Biblical characters for the sake of our own comfort. Gafney is clearly a dedicated scholar ...more
Joey Feldmann
Apr 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
There is so much here that it is almost too much. I learned of characters I had never noticed before. I was led to re-think some of the Biblical characters I did. And I read SOOOOO much about the matriarchs of Israel. But was almost too much.

I say almost, because I own this book. It will go on my shelf and now be a resource to me. It is one I will use.

If you just want a quick read about Biblical characters, this book is not for you. It will cause you to pause, to ponder. It will give you more in
Tamika Rybinski
Jun 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have had this book on my list since it first came out. I finally got my hands on a copy and was able to knock it out on the long holiday weekend.

I appreciate the amount of knowledge, time and research put into this. I learned so much. It was another book that makes me feel the need to learn Biblical languages so I can know what I am seeing/reading in the Bible. This book shows the many subtle things that are missed based on the translation, my western upbringing and not acknowledging the cult
Brian Cubbage
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book helpful and illuminating. Wil Gafney wrestles powerfully and honestly with the text of the Hebrew Bible, merging careful, scrupulous Hebrew scholarship, close reading, and the theological concerns of womanism. The result is a book that rarely tries to enlist the Bible into the service of a specific thesis, and is honest about the ways in which the canonical texts both provide resources for inclusive ways of thinking about God and human community and also foreclose the role of w ...more
Etta Madden
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Am really liking the way Gafney's work sends me back to my writing about Shaker founder, Mother Ann Lee, in the 1990s. I called Lee's interpretation of scripture and preaching "spiritual literacy" in my book, Bodies of Life: Shaker Literature and Literacies. But Gafney pushes me beyond my work on the Shakers from years ago to rethink "traditional" interpretations of sacred texts. Her reading of Genesis (which I've finished thus far) is enlightening, to state it lightly. I've not been so intellec ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This book deals with women in the Hebrew Bible from a womanist theological perspective. Parts of it are absolutely fascinating as she brings to life little known stories that are particularly important to us as women of faith. But there are times when her scholarly approach is a bit intense, especially around issues of translation. I realize that those issues are important but they are less interesting to an average reader.
Sarah Chadwick
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s a long time since a book prompted my to break out a highlighter/pencil to mark meaningful or marvellous passages, but the pen came out even in the introduction. I loved the Torah portion, and heavily re-examined my relationship with my namesake as a result. The Women of the Throne portion was more work to get through because of my unfamiliarity with the characters and the more limited information she had to go on. Nevertheless, highly recommended.
Breanna Randall
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to take a journey through some of the Old Testament's most difficult and challenging texts regarding/involving the lives of women, Gafney is an excellent guide. She writes as a scholar, and she writes with confidence. She does not shy away from the painful nature of these texts. This was not always an easy read, but it was still incredibly helpful. I am grateful for this book and the perspectives it offered me. ...more
Courtney Cantrell
Reviewing this book is a challenge I don't feel equal to. Gafney's brilliant and learnèd perspectives on Hebrew scripture, culture, and history will be working on my mind and heart for many years to come. The womanist approach humbles me in the best way, and I look forward to listening further. I recommend to anyone who thinks of themselves as a "biblical scholar" and to anyone who thinks they need to be teaching others the Bible. ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can’t think of another book I’ve read recently that has taught me more. I feel like I’ve learned a new language. I am so thankful for the information and perspectives offered in this book and the added dimension it provides to my thinking around the Scriptures and traditions that I was raised in.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. If you haven't read, or didn't grow up with, the Hebrew Bible (aka Christian Old Testament), this book probably won't mean much to you. If you have (or did), this book will shatter your thinking in the best possible ways. ...more
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The Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to Women of the Torah and of the Throne, a commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel; and co-editor of The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. The first two volume ...more

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