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Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives Hardcover – Sep 1987


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A CHALLENGING (IF CONTROVERSIAL) "FEMINIST" INTERPRETATION 25 Jun 2013
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Jane Schaberg is Professor of Religious Studies and Women's Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy. Her support of abortion (she is a member of Catholics for Free Choice) made her hiring controversial there, for conservative Catholics. She states in her Preface to this 1987 book, "What is presented here is a new interpretation of the New Testament Infancy Narratives--new claiming to be old. The hope is that it will send the general reader back to the biblical texts and to the work of other scholars, with lively interest in the basic issue raised."

In the Introduction to her explicitly "feminist work," she states plainly that "My claim is that the texts dealing with the origin of Jesus ... originally were about an illegitimate conception and not about a miraculous virginal conception. It was the intention ... of Matthew and Luke to pass down the tradition they inherited: that Jesus the messiah had been illegitimately conceived during the period when his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph. At the pre-gospel stage, this illegitimate conception had already been understood theologically as due in some unexplained way to the power of the Holy Spirit. Both evangelists worked further with this potentially damaging and potentially liberating material."

She rejects "literalism," suggesting that "the Matthean phrases should be read in a figurative or symbolic, not a literal, sense." "The Lucan annunciation ... borders on deception. It is not fully the story of a woman for women, but a story told by a man's world for a man's world."

She frankly admits, "If the virginal conception of Jesus is not historical and is not the creation of the authors of primitive tradition or the authors of the New Testament Infancy narratives, where does it come from, and why does it appear? I do not know the answers to these questions."

She suggests that "In her Magnificat, Mary preaches as the prophet of the poor. She represents the hope of the poor, but she represents that hope AS A WOMAN who has suffered and been vindicated as a woman." She concludes the illegitimacy tradition "presents us not with a Goddess, but with a woman in need of a Goddess, with a woman we look at, not up at."

Interested readers will probably want to explore her more recent book, Resurrection Of Mary Magdalene: Legands, Apocrypha, And The Christian Testament.
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