Moses / Jesus / Women: Does the New Testament Offer a Feminist Message?

Moses / Jesus / Women: Does the New Testament Offer a Feminist Message? – Critical Essay

Esther Fuchs

Reading Jesus as a feminist perpetuates anti-Judaic traditions in Christian theology.

In this paper I seek to delineate the general outlines of the role of women in the scriptural narratives of Moses and Jesus. Moses and Jesus will be treated as the protagonists of stories; and the often disjointed, repetitious, and contradictory narratives in both the Hebrew and Greek Bibles will be treated as diegetic or narrative cycles. The issue is not whether the narrative reflects historical reality, but rather how the narrative constructs in our consciousness as readers what is good and appropriate in men and women. In a number of articles I published in the mid 1980s I argued that the subservience of women to men is a construct. It neither reflects historical reality, nor is it an immutable law of human nature.

The differences between the Moses and Jesus mythogynies — namely, the stories or myths about women included in each cycle — are both similar and different. Women appear more frequently in the Jesus cycle, but their function is limited if not marginal to the basic story line. Their appearance and disappearance does not interrupt the story line; they are ciphers more than figures, satellites more than characters.

Most of them are presented with little or no exposition. They usually drop out of the story as soon as their function — mostly to promote and endorse the heroic status of the male leader — is complete. They hover over Jesus in the capacity of helpers, humble followers, cured patients, but rarely as authorized messengers, legitimate disciples, proclaimers, reinterpreters, or narrators. Women appear less frequently in the Moses cycle, but their function is crucial. They enable Moses’ survival in infancy; Zipporah his wife saves his life during an encounter with Yahweh’s angel; and Miriam his sister challenges his leadership. In terms of episodic span both cycles are comparable; few verses are usually assigned to women.

The sagas of Moses and Jesus span several books, in which much detail is offered in the form of speeches, dialogues, vignettes, parables shedding little light on the life story of the male leader. Yet in terms of basic plot lines they share much in common. Both leaders had to prove themselves as authentic spokespersons of a higher truth and as having a special relationship with a divine force. Both leaders suffered setbacks and obstacles, and both, superficially speaking, failed despite their success. Moses was denied entrance to the land of Canaan, and Jesus was executed by the Romans. These leaders’ success was posthumous. In addition, both are described as having been born under special circumstances. In both cases another powerful leader is threatened by the birth of the baby leader. In both cases the mother uses ruse and subterfuge to protect the baby, yet her role is somehow circumscribed. As soon as the danger is over, the mother slips out of the story with little or no effect on the development and p rogress of her son.

The positive even revolutionary attitude of Jesus to women has been a constant theme in feminist literature of the past two decades. A closer look at the presentation of women in the Greek Bible reveals that women appear and disappear as abruptly as they do in the Hebrew Bible. There is no sustained treatment of a female heroine that comes close to the stature of Jesus. There is no textual evidence that bears out the idea that the Christian Gospels are liberating texts for women. This is not to countermand the subtlety and sophistication of recent feminist hermeneutics, but the presentation of Jesus as the liberator of women is hermeneutical. The biblical text does not support it. There is neither speech, nor dialogue, nor even a narrative that deals explicitly with the status of women in Jewish or Gentile society. The implicit messages ferreted out by ingenious theologians and historians of the roots of Christianity are in the eyes of the beholders; and as long as the beholders accept their subjective stanc e, there is no attempt here at purposeful misrepresentation. (All interpretations are subjective, including this one.)

The Birth Stories of Moses and Jesus

Numerous women are involved in the birth story of Moses. These women are active and resourceful. Each has a special role to play in the preservation of the baby Moses. The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, defy the Pharaoh’s command to kill every male infant (Exod 2:16). The text explains the midwives’ motivation as inspired by the fear of God: “But the midwives feared God and they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male infants live” (Exod 2:17). When called to task by the Pharaoh, the midwives justify themselves as follows: “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous; before the midwife comes to them they are delivered” (Exod 2:19). The midwives’ ruse derives from their literal interpretation of the Pharaoh’s command. The Pharaoh’s command invokes the birthstones to pinpoint the perfect opportunity to kill. The midwives use this rhetorical precision to absolve themselves on a technicality. The midwives’ ruse is rewarded: “So God dealt well with the m idwives, and the people increased and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he made them houses” (vv. 20-21). As a result of the midwives’ ruse the Pharaoh revises his original command: “Every son that is born you shall expose on the Nile, but every daughter you shall let live” (Exod 2:22). In other words, Israelite male infants are to be thrown into the river even after birth. The command to kill is no longer made stealthily. It has become public policy.

Shiphrah and Puah are indirectly responsible for the survival of Moses. Yet it is Yochebed his mother who is directly credited with his initial survival. First she hides the infant for as long as she can. Then she goes through the motions of obeying the Pharaoh’s command; she puts the child in the river. She rescues the baby in a watertight basket and places the basket among the reeds on the banks of the river. The first key actors in Moses’ survival, the midwives and his mother, are named; his sister and the Pharaoh’s daughter are not. The nameless sister stands at a distance to watch over her baby brother. Shortly afterwards, the Pharaoh’s daughter comes down to the Nile with her entourage. She sees the child, hears his cry, and is moved to compassion for him. At this point the sister steps forward from her hiding place. A crying baby, no doubt hungry, needs to be fed: “Shall I go summon for you from among the Hebrew women a woman able to nurse that she may nurse the child for you?” (Exod 2:7). Pharaoh’s d aughter accepts the offer unblinkingly.

The birth narrative of Jesus in the book of Matthew is preceded by a detailed male-dominated genealogy (Matt 1:1-17). The dominant character in the birth story (Matt 1:18-25) is Joseph. The divine message concerning the birth of a special son is delivered to Joseph rather than to Mary. Furthermore, the divine messenger authorizes the father to name the son: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). In the next few verses, Mary appears as a direct and indirect object. Joseph “took his wife”; “he had no marital relations with her” (vv. 24-25). The mother is credited briefly with having conceived the child, and even this fact is enclosed within a subordinate clause: “And he had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son” (Matt 1:25). Furthermore, Joseph is credited with naming the son: “He named him Jesus” (v. 25). It will be remembered that in Exodus 2 it is the Pharaoh’s daughter who is credited with naming Moses (“Moshe — ki min hamayim meshitihu”: for I have pulled him out of the water).

Chapter 2 of Matthew parallels in some important ways the story of Moses’ infancy. Where in Exodus the Pharaoh is the powerful monarch who threatens the child’s life, in Matthew it is King Herod who is disturbed by the general commotion regarding the birth of a Messiah. Like the Pharaoh, Herod hopes to do away with his potential rival stealthily, by exploiting the Magi who come to pay homage to the child (Matt 2:8). Jesus is spared thanks to the male Magi and to his father. The Magi leave Bethlehem by another way (v. 12), and Joseph takes his family and flees to Egypt: “He got up and took the child and his mother by night and withdrew to Egypt remaining there until Herod’s death” (Matt 2:14-15). Like the Pharaoh who orders the death of all Israelite sons, King Herod vents his anger by sending men “to kill all the children in Bethlehem and its environs who were two years old or less” (Matt 2:16). Upon the death of the tyrant, Joseph “took the child and his mother and came into the country of Israel” (Matt 2:2 0). Joseph displays cautiousness and foresight in withdrawing into Galilean territory, avoiding Judea where Archelaus, replaced his father Herod (Matt 2:22).

Once again the mother is reduced to a passive object acted upon by her husband. She is taken and moved about from one place to another. She is excluded from the privileged context in which Joseph and the divine messenger share divinely transmitted knowledge. It is not known whether Mary is at all aware of the danger to her son’s life. Unlike Yocheved in Exodus, she neither knows nor takes action on behalf of her son. The Lucan version of Jesus’ birth portrays a more active mother and pays attention to what she does or does not know. Much in the tradition of Hebrew annunciation type-scenes, it is Mary who receives the divine message regarding the birth of a son. The angel Gabriel informs Mary that she is to bear a son and to name him Jesus. This son will be “great,” hailed as the “son of the most high,” and he will “reign as king over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32-33). A more faithful woman may not have protested as Mary goes on to do: “But Mary said to the angel: ‘How can this be, since I have no re lations with a man?'” (v. 35). Gabriel must resort to repetition, to explication (“the holy spirit will come upon you”), to proof by analogy (“your relative Elizabeth, even in her old age has also conceived a son”), and exhortation (“nothing is impossible for God”) before Mary accepts the message she should have welcomed in the first place. Belatedly, Mary seems to accept what the story presents as self evident: “Then Mary said: ‘The Lord’s handmaid am I! Let it be with me as you say!'” (v. 38).

But it is not until Mary hears Elizabeth’s greetings and blessings (Luke 1:39-45) that she breaks into a joyous song, which would have been the appropriate response to Gabriel’s announcement. The song attributed to Mary is a generic thanksgiving psalm (Luke 2:46-55), mostly about the vindication of the oppressed. There is little in it that refers to the specific promise delivered by Gabriel. Mary is thus slow to recognize her special status as the mother of the future Messiah, and is not particularly adept at expressing her gratitude.

Mary is mentioned subsequently as Joseph’s fiancee “who was pregnant” in Luke 2:5. When she delivers the child she “wrapped him in cloth bands and lay him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the lodge” (v. 7). Mary, however, remains outside the field of privileged knowledge shared by the angel of the Lord and the shepherds guarding the flocks (Luke 2:8-12). The narrator does tell us, however, that “Mary treasured all these things and pondered over them” (v. 19). We are not told exactly what Mary thought about “these things.”

Mary is said to be “surprised” by Simeon’s blessing of the circumcised baby (Luke 2:33) and “startled” to have found her child among the teachers in Jerusalem: “And his mother said to him: ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been terribly worried and have been searching for you'” (Luke 2:49). Mary and Joseph fail to understand Jesus’ response. Again we are told that “His mother cherished all these things within her” (v. 51). But the narrator fails to explain what things she cherishes and why. In other words, what is focal to the story is not Mary and her understanding of her son, but the signals transmitted by the narrator to the reader concerning the special child. In fact, by excluding the woman from the privileged field of knowledge a stronger bond emerges between reader and narrator on this account, a bond of tacit consent.

Time and time again it is the mother who fails to recognize her son’s special power. If Matthew’s Mary is exceedingly passive, Luke’s Mary is inordinately obtuse. Though she is told by an angel, esteemed people like Simeon and Anna, and her own relative Elizabeth that her son is unique, she continues to treat him like an ordinary child. And though she cherishes and “ponders,” the text stops short of granting her insight into her son’s special abilities. Luke’s Mary is much more active than Matthew’s. She moves about from place to place with and without Joseph. But in a profound way she is excluded from the heart of Luke’s message. She is an enabler, a peripheral necessary figure, not a participant, certainly not a heroine in the structural or semantic sense.

Moses and Jesus as Male Heroes

The inability to recognize the hero’s uniqueness characterizes Miriam, Moses’ sister. Numbers 12 describes her in conjunction with her brother, Aaron, as having “spoken up against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married” (Num 12:1). The verb “to speak” is in the singular feminine. This suggests that Miriam did most of the speaking. Verse 2 suggests that the real issue is power and the authority of leadership: “They said: ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?” Miriam and Aaron consider themselves God’s messengers on a par with Moses. While Moses, whose silence is presented as a sign of great humility, does not respond to his siblings’ challenge, God does. God convenes Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, comes down in a pillar of cloud, and explains the uniqueness of Moses. “With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord” (Num 12:8). In other words, Miriam and Aaron are secondary prophets because their encounters wit h God are mediated.

Miriam is called a prophet in Exodus 15, and she is reported to sing in public and praise God for his victory over the Pharaoh. What makes clear that Miriam is nevertheless a minor leader in comparison to Moses is her inability to recognize her brother’s special power, his difference. For this she is stricken with leprosy (Num 12:10). In response to Aaron’s intercession on behalf of his sister (vv. 11-12), Moses asks God to heal her (v. 14). But God refuses to heal her right away: “But Yahweh said to Moses: ‘If her father spat in her face, would she not bear the shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of camp for seven days, and then let her be readmitted” (Num 12:14). Miriam’s inability or refusal to recognize the difference and separateness of Moses is punished severely. Soon after this incident she is silenced for good. Never raising a question again, she is reported in Numbers 20:1 to have died in the desert.

While women are empowered in their roles as mothers, nurturers, and protectors of sons, they are excoriated in roles laying claim to leadership or authority. This rule applies on the whole to the story of Jesus as well. Nowhere in the Gospels are women permitted to challenge or compete with the male hero (or any other male character, for that matter). Nowhere are they summoned to serve as messengers on a par with male disciples. Illness and physical or mental defects are often associated with women in the Jesus story. Because many of the anonymous women on Jesus’ journey to recognition are afflicted, illness emerges as a generic feminine characteristic in the Greek Bible. The function of the afflicted woman is to demonstrate the hero’s superiority. As soon as this function is fulfilled, she slips out of the narrative. A case in point is Simon’s mother-in-law, reported to be laid up with fever. According to Mark 1:29-34 (Matt 8:14-17; Luke 4:38-41), the ailing woman is cured as soon as the hero touches her. T he object of his actions, she responds by serving her healer and his male followers: “He went to her, took her by her hand, and helped her up. The fever left her, and she waited on them” (Mark 1:31). Jesus here is the subject of three active verbs, while the woman is the subject of one. That verb implies subordination (“waited on them”). More commonly, the result of Jesus’ healings of afflicted women is public recognition of his supernatural powers. This is the most obvious analogy between the cure of the hemorrhaging woman, and Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43; Matt 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56). Gripped by fear and shame the hemorrhaging woman whose blood flow stops at once, “prostrated herself and told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:34). Her story, we assume, is told publicly as the throng presses on them both. Similarly, there is a large crowd outside Jairus’s house. And like the hemorrhaging woman who prostrates herself, Jairus’s daughter is lying in bed — in a typically female supine position. Declaring the daug hter asleep rather than dead, it is by word rather than by touch that she is healed: “The child immediately got up and continued walking about” (Mark 5:42).

Physical prostration at Jesus’ feet, lying in a supine position before him, has its analogues in a spiritual prostration at which women seem especially adept. The Canaanite woman from Tyre begs Jesus for a cure for her possessed daughter (Mark 7:24-30; Matt 15:21-28). Although he compares her and her daughter to dogs. While it appears that she argues with him, she accepts the comparison with great humility and gratitude. In return, the hero promises a cure: “Go home, the disorder has gone from your daughter’s mind” (Mark 7:29). I find little here to support the theory concerning Jesus’ revolutionary attitude to women. Both his praise of their passivity and neediness and his use of their gratitude promotes a degree of slavishness rather than independence. While the healed women prove the hero’s superiority by the fact of their miraculous recovery, destitute women function as promoters by receiving verbal praise. The poor widow who offers two copper coins is praised as follows: “This poor widow gave more than all those who are contributing to the treasury” (Mark 12:43; Luke 21:1-4). Similarly, the woman of Bethany who pours expensive perfume over the hero’s head receives praise (Mark 14:3-9; Matt 26: 6-13; John 12:1-8).

Women have been said to play a major role in the story of Jesus’ passion — his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection (Mark 14:16:8). A closer look, however, reveals that in this context too women continue to function as foils, marginal to the central plot. The priest’s maidservant poses a threat to Peter’s life by identifying him as Jesus’ follower (Mark 14:66-72; Matt 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:15-18). Just as the high priest condemns Jesus to death, his anonymous maidservant attempts to destroy Peter. She is, however, unsuccessful. Peter escapes by denying his association with Jesus. The point of the story, of course, is to demonstrate the truth value of Jesus’ prediction concerning Peter’s eventual rejection of him.

The group of women who witness Jesus’ crucifixion from afar and visit the empty tomb are mentioned by name (Mark 16:1-8; Matt 28-1-8; Luke 24: 1-12; John 20:1-10). Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James and Salome are at first stumped by the heavy rock blocking the tomb: “They were saying to each other: ‘Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?'” (Mark 16:3). Not only are the women physically unable to push away the rock, they are terrified when they discover the rock has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. “Then they went into the tomb, where they saw a young man wearing a white robe sitting at the right-hand side, and they were afraid” (Mark 16:5). The women are described as terror-stricken upon hearing of Jesus’ resurrection. In response to the news they flee: “Then they went out and ran from the tomb, beside themselves with trembling and awe (Mark 16:8). Much as the disciples betray Jesus, so do the women who are said to have been his followers (“who had all followed him and w aited on him when he was in Galilee” [Mark 15:41]). Although they are asked by the divine messenger to tell Peter and the disciples that Jesus has been resurrected, they say nothing: “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).

Moses and Jesus as Rescuers of Distressed Women

Both Jesus and Moses are shown to help women in distress. It is a full-fledged trope in the Gospels, notably in the Gospel of John, which contains a number of stories of Jesus’ exoneration of morally defective women. One of them is the adulterous woman (although the account is a contested part of John’s gospel, the point remains). According to John (7:53-8:11), Jesus is asked by the scribes and Pharisees to judge a woman caught in adultery. Jesus bends down and writes on the ground with his finger, refusing to spring the trap set for him. Finally, he addresses the crowd and the woman, speaking to both about sin. Jesus challenges conventional wisdom by suggesting that the male would-be judges are also not free of sin: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

Another woman whose marital status is dubious is helped out in a slightly different manner. The Samaritan woman is not helped out of a judicial mess but rather out of a theological confusion concerning the place of worship (John 4:20-26). The third instance of female rescue is included in John 11:1-44. Jesus responds to Mary and Martha’s plea regarding their sick brother Lazarus, although he arrives at Bethany four days after Lazarus’s death (John 11:18). Jesus, Mary, and Martha travel to Lazarus’s tomb where Jesus calls Lazarus from death back into life (John 11:14).

The story of Moses includes two asymmetrical instances of female rescue. On the whole, the help he offers is less spectacular and more practical. In Exodus 2:16-18, he is shown to help Reuel’s daughters water their flock. Although the text is not explicit about their marital status, we may assume that Reuel’s daughters are unmarried. Zelophehad’s five daughters in Numbers 27 are also unmarried. The assisted women are mentioned by name. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah address Moses fearlessly and articulately: “Our father died in the desert and he was not among the gathering that gathered themselves against YHWH in the gathering of Korah. But he died for his own sin and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be removed from among his family because he has no sons? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers” (Num 27:3-4). The daughters’ reference to Korah implies that Zelophehad sided with the faction that supported Moses and Aaron’s authority, over against Korah the Levite who contes ted their position. Challenging conventional inheritance laws, Moses sides with the daughters, setting a legal precedent: “Rightly the daughters of Zelophehad do speak. You shall give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers” (Num 27:7). Eventually the law permitting daughters to inherit their fathers’ land is restricted. Heiresses to real estate have to marry inside their parental tribe (Num 36:5-9). According to Numbers 36:10-12, Zelophehad’s daughters conform to the rules and insure the patrilineal continuity of their father by marrying their cousins.

Like Zelophehad’s daughters, who plead their case on behalf of their dead father, Mary and Martha intercede with Jesus on behalf of their dead brother. In both cases, the hero helps a dead man — in one case, to perpetuate the patrilineal continuity, and in the other case to resurrect the deceased. It is therefore not inappropriate to ask: When the male hero helps women in need, whose interests are being served? Does the assistance bring about a radical change in the patriarchal scheme of things? We can hardly attribute feminist motives to either Moses or Jesus. The case may be made that Moses does promulgate a meaningful law on behalf of brotherless daughters and their rights to inherit, whereas Jesus does not use the case of Mary and Martha to bring about any meaningful change in law or lore. In the final analysis, the narratives about the assisted women enhance the heroic status of the male protagonist.

The heroes’ concern for women in need results in both cases in genuine and far-reaching expressions of gratitude. Mary shows her gratefulness by anointing Jesus’ feet with precious oil and by wiping them off with her hair. This is perhaps the most extreme dramatization of female prostration. “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair” (John 12:3). There is no comparable gesture in the Moses cycle on the part of any woman. Zipporah, Reuel’s daughter, is given to him in marriage, but there is no description of female prostration.

According to John 20:1-18, Mary Magdalene is the first to witness the empty tomb. She consequently reports the missing body to Peter and the beloved disciple, who go to the tomb to look. The beloved disciple is reported to have seen and believed. Mary Magdalene by contrast does not understand. When she finally sees the risen Jesus, she does not recognize him. He asks her: “Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15). Mary at first assumes that the speaker is the gardener, then realizes that he is the resurrected Jesus (John 20:16). Having repudiated her embrace, Jesus instructs her to report what she has witnessed. She heeds this command.

Mary Magdalene is analogous in some respects to Zipporah. Both develop from the lowly status of a woman in need to the status of helper and mate. Zipporah appears for the first time in Exodus 2:16-22. She is one of Reuel’s seven daughters who come down to water the flock. When some shepherds drive them off from the well, Moses comes to their rescue and waters their flock. As they return home, their father chides them for having failed to invite the man who helped them: “And Moses was content to dwell with the man; and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bore a son and he called his name Gershom; for he said, ‘I have been a stranger (ger) in a strange land'” (Exod 2:21-22). Exodus 4:20 presents Zipporah as a nameless object, a passive wife who follows in her husband’s footsteps: “And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt….” But a few verses later the silent, passive wife emerges as a heroine in her own right. “And it came to pass on the way , at the lodging place, that YHWH met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: ‘Surely a bridegroom of blood you are to me'” (Exod 4:24-25).

The condensed verses describing Zipporah’s intervention on behalf of Moses are enigmatic. Various commentators have debated not only what she did to avert disaster but also the symbolic meaning of her actions. Buber suggests that Zipporah performs circumcision on her son to replace the Midianite custom of adolescent circumcision. Buber believes that Zipporah’s touching the person of Moses is a symbolic act signifying identification with him akin to the setting of hands on a sacrificial animal. Buber also offers an explanation for the enigmatic formula attributed to Zipporah. He suggests that for Zipporah Moses has become a bridegroom through the shedding of blood. But after Zipporah’s spectacular rescue, as soon as she fulfils her function, she disappears from the text. The intermittent appearance of the female helpmate applies both to the Hebrew and to the Greek Bible.

Mythogynously, in terms of plot structure, the stories of Zipporah and Mary Magdalene are analogous. Zipporah saves Moses’ life, while Mary Magdalene proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. But as gyniconologies, or portraits, the two differ from each other. While Zipporah acts independently of Moses, taking initiative and defining the moment, Mary is ordered repeatedly by Jesus to take action on his behalf. Whereas the Mosaic saga offers us little detail on the women it includes, the Jesus saga deprives them of perspicacity and initiative. Most of the narrative detail in the Jesus cycle describes the lessons women learn from Jesus. Positionally, they are inevitably his inferiors. The Mosaic saga — its laconic nature notwithstanding — offers us portraits of women who determine and direct the hero’s actions and challenge his authority. It is therefore inaccurate to distinguish Moses and Jesus, or the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Bible, along the lines of male-female power relationships. There is little evidence to sup port the theological claims regarding the moral superiority of the Greek Bible. More than helping identify textual facts, such claims perpetuate anti-Judaic traditions that have permeated Christian theology for centuries. It is up to feminist hermeneutics to challenge this tradition.

ESTHER FUCHS is Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature at the University of Arizona, Tucson. She is the author of Israeli Mythogynies: Women in Contemporary Hebrew Fiction (State University of New York Press, 1987) and a forthcoming book entitled Sexual Politics in the Biblical Narrative: Reading the Hebrew Bible Like a Woman (Sheffield Academic Press), as well as the editor of Women and the Holocaust: Narrative and Representation (University Press of America, 1999).

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