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Frymer-Kensky, Tikva

FRYMER-KENSKY, Tikva

PERSONAL:

Married; children: two. Education: City College of New York, A.B., 1965; Yale University, M.A., 1967, Ph.D., 1977. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Swift Hall 302-C, 102 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

Educator. Yale University, assistant, 1968-69; Mt. Vernon College, lecturer, 1969-71; Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, assistant professor, 1971-82; Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA, director of biblical studies, 1988-95; Divinity School of the University of Chicago; professor of Hebrew Bible, 1995—.

MEMBER:

American Journalism Review, Society of Biblical Literature.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Annenberg research grant; Wayne State University research grant; fellowships include Phi Beta Kappa Sibley, Danforth, and Woodrow Wilson.

WRITINGS:

In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth, Free Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman's Spiritual Companion, Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Victor H. Matthews and Bernard M. Levinson) Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, Sheffield Academic Press (Sheffield, England), 1998.

(Editor, with David Novak, Peter Ochs, David Fox Sandmel, and Michael A. Signer) Christianity in Jewish Terms, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 2000.

Reading the Women of the Bible, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2002.

TRANSLATOR

From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven: Meditations on the Soul of Israel, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1996.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

A commentary on Ruth and a book on biblical theology.

SIDELIGHTS:

Tikva Frymer-Kensky is a professor of Hebrew Bible and the history of Judaism in the University of Chicago Divinity School. She specializes in Assyriology and Sumerology, biblical studies, Jewish studies, and women and religion.

In In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth, Frymer-Kensky considers the fact that the cultures of the early Middle East were polytheistic and that they worshiped goddesses as well as gods. By the biblical period, however, this had shifted to a monotheistic religion with an emphasis on one male god. Frymer-Kensky examines this evolution, considering the roles the goddesses played in culture; how these roles shifted as religion changed; and how the first monotheists worked with their religious and cultural heritage during the period when the Hebrew Bible was formed. She also asks whether religious experience, particularly for women, would be different if the deity were female. In the Whole Earth Review, Drorah O'Donnell Setel wrote that the book "presents issues and information previously available only to scholars in the field." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "authoritative, intriguing," and Michael S. Moore wrote in Interpretation that the book was "conceived over years of painstaking research and molded by the intense scrutiny only critical academic dialogue can provide." While writing Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman's Spiritual Companion, Frymer-Kensky drew in sixteen years of study to create a compendium of prayers, birth incantations, and biblical interpretations. The pieces include ancient Sumerian and Akkadian prayers, as well as meditations drawn from more recent Jewish and Christian traditions. The meditations are arranged to follow through the stages of pregnancy to labor and birth to provide a guidebook for mothers-to-be.

Christianity in Jewish Terms is a collection of essays that provide a Jewish view of Christianity in the post-Holocaust world. Throughout history, anti-Semitism was sometimes encouraged or practiced by Christians, but this book examines aspects of Christianity that renounce this prejudice, and which seek to view Judaism as an equal spiritual path. The essays discuss God, scripture, commandments, worship, suffering, embodiment, redemption, sin, repentance, and the image of God. In Commonweal, Luke Timothy Johnson wrote, "The contributors are worthy and in some cases … renowned, and the essays are, for the most part, substantial." He also noted, "This collection of essays symbolizes a new stage in the long and usually rancorous conversation between Judaism and Christianity." In Choice, S. H. Webb called the essays "honest, lively, and original." A reviewer in First Things commented, "This book represents the very best in contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue."

In Reading the Women of the Bible, Frymer-Kensky examines biblical stories about women, asking why a text from a deeply patriarchal and male-centered society has so many stories about women. She does not consider the well-known and much-discussed women of the Bible, but instead focuses on four groups of women: the victors, the victims, the virgins, and those with prophetic gifts. She notes that unlike other ancient Near Eastern literature, the Bible does not present women as inherently inferior in character, although it does present them as subordinate to men. Frymer-Kensky argues that this view of women as subordinate but not inferior became the model for Jews' understanding of their subjugation by other nations.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

America, February 17, 1996, Emilie Griffin, review of Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman's Spiritual Companion, p. 37.

Catholic Biblical Quarterly, October, 1999, Barbara Green, review of Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, p. 820.

Choice, March, 2001, S. H. Webb, review of Christianity in Jewish Terms, p. 1288.

Commonweal, April 20, 2001, Luke Timothy Johnson, "Turning Tables," p. 32.

Cross Currents, fall, 2002, Peter Heinegg, review of Christianity in Jewish Terms, p. 421.

First Things, January, 2001, review of Christianity in Jewish Terms, p. 55.

Interpretation, April, 1993, Michael S. Moore, review of In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth, p. 178.

Library Journal, January, 1996, Henry Carrigan, Jr., review of Motherprayer, 106; October 1, 2002, Carolyn M. Craft, review of Reading the Women of the Bible, p. 100.

National Review, March 1, 1993, Paula Fredriksen, review of In the Wake of the Goddesses, p. 54.

Publishers Weekly, January 13, 1992, review of In the Wake of the Goddesses, p. 44; October 2, 1995, review of Motherprayer, p. 71; August 12, 1996, review of From Jerusalem to the Edge of Heaven: Meditations on the Soul of Israel, p. 78.

Theology Today, January, 2002, Ellen T. Charry, review of Christianity in Jewish Terms, p. 650.

Whole Earth Review, summer, 1992, Drorah O'Donnell Setel, review of In the Wake of the Goddesses, p. 79.*

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