Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Chene Heady, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David E. Magill, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kimberly J. Stern, Ph.D.


Feminists have long been troubled by the underrepresentation, the underinterpretation, and the underauthorization of women in the Bible. And yet scriptures continue to influence Western literature, arguably perpetuating limited narratives and archetypes for women. Some contemporary women writers reject the Bible as inspiration, but others are drawn to it, exposing its limitations, protesting its injustices, or reimagining its possibilities. For revisionist feminist theologians, scriptures are worth reconsidering; despite their problems, the texts hold promise. The three retellings we will consider occupy the full spectrum of revisionist feminist theology. Anita Diamant's The Red Tent resists the Bible, suspiciously surveying the male­crafted narrative and supplanting it with Dinah's "true" story. The novel features strong women and upends several interrelated, biblically-based binaries. Yet in reversing these dichotomies, the novel maintains dualistic, essentialist thinking, ironically upholding one of the foundational logics of scriptures. On the other hand, Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, an evangelical romance, intentionally sustains the thinking of the Bible. Consequently, the novel's retelling of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer replicates models commonly associated with scriptures and church tradition, mimicking the ideal of male leadership and the dangers of women's sexuality. Yet the novel's augmentations to the Bible offer progressive exemplars for egalitarian marriage and women's leadership. The novel's conflictedness about gender mirrors the Bible's - but the repositioning of a woman at the center of the text and the domestication of God show that even faithful retellings can subvert. The third text bridges the gap between suspicion and reverence. Katherine Paterson's fairy tale The King's Equal repurposes several biblical narratives to support not only a strong heroine, but also a post-gender hermeneutic. Even so, the story is set in a world in which - except the heroine - men do all the talking. This and other sources of ambivalence in the tale raise questions about the tensions between Christianity and feminism. In short, in varying degrees, all three texts are marked by conflicts that show the challenges of excising the patriarchy of the original text and especially its subsequent interpretation. However, the problems of these texts raise interesting questions and point to sources of possibility for overcoming gender dualism, androcentrism, a male god, and male control. Authorized by veins of the multi vocal Bible, these retellings create a greater imaginative space for reconsidering scriptures; they gradually and at times unwittingly push us away from those elements that have limited women and toward those that liberate.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.