I m in love with Judas 1 Names and Taboos within the Scholarly Arena of Religion and Biblical Studies by Michele

Stopera Freyhauf Names provoke opinions, responses, and even controversy. Lady Gaga s song Judas is a perfect example of this.2 Before this song was released, the title Judas stirred controversy throughout the nation just because of its name. If one takes the time to read the lyrics, you find a human struggle summed up with the phrase, Jesus is my virtue but Judas is the demon I cling to. 3 To look beyond the name, a deep theological fight that is relevant to every one of us emerges; struggling between what you know is right but being drawn to what you know is wrong. Within this song lays a fundamental dichotomy of betrayal and forgiveness that is overlooked because of a name, Judas, or what Mary Elizabeth Williams calls a Christian taboo. 4 The word taboo can be proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable 5 or to ostracize (a person, group, etc.). 6 It seems strange to apply this word to female scholars in the field of Religion and Biblical Studies; but it fits. Scholarship that is identifiably authored as female brings about scrutiny and opinions of inferior quality or lack of creditability; after all what does a woman know? 7 Woman and scholarship, especially in the male-dominated fields of Religion, Biblical Studies, and Archaeology, are in fact taboo; unaccepted, improper, ignored, and shunned. This issue was first brought to my attention at a Women s Luncheon at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature ( SBL ) in 2008. Carol Meyers, a professor of Religion at Duke University, was being honored for her mentorship to women in the field of biblical studies. Amy-Jill Levine, an earlier recipient of this award, introduced Meyers. During Levine s introductory speech I heard an unbelievable story of personal struggle for creditability within this male-dominated discipline; a struggle due, not to the quality of her scholarship, but because her name was identifiably female. She disclosed publishing under the initials A.J. at the recommendation of advisors in the field thus shielding her gender. She also co-authored works with notable Old Testament Scholars like James Charlesworth

Lady Gaga, Judas, http://www.ladygaga.com/lyrics/default.aspx?tid=23592564 (accessed July 26, 2011) Lady Gaga, "Judas," Born This Way, comps. Nadir Khayat and Stefani Germanotta, 2011, CD. 3 Lady Gaga, Judas, http://www.ladygaga.com/lyrics/default.aspx?tid=23592564 (accessed July 26, 2011) 4 Mary Elizabeth Williams, Lady Gaga's Religion-Baiting Controversy, April 12, 2011, http://www.salon.com/entertainment/tv/feature/2011/04/12/lady_gaga_judas_video_controversy (accessed July 26, 2011). In Eryn Sun s article, the theme of betrayal and forgiveness is attributed to a statement Lady Gaga made. See Eryn Sun, Lady Gaga's 'Judas' Anything but a Religious Statement?, May 7, 2011, http://www.christianpost.com/news/lady-gagas-judas-anything-but-a-religious-statement-50133/ (accessed July 26, 2011). 5 taboo. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/taboo (accessed: July 26, 2011). 6 taboo. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/taboo (accessed: July 26, 2011). 7 This line was said by the Egyptologist, Dr. Allen Henderson, played by Stephen Dunham in Stephen Sommers and Lloyd Fonvtelle, The Mummy, directed by Stephen Sommers, 1999.
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and Jacob Neusner, to further gain creditability.8 Within this speech she recalled the surprise of people who contacted her only to find a female voice on the other end of the phone line. She even talked about retractions in speech offers after her gender was discovered. Levine was considered taboo in her field of study and unfortunately her experience was not an isolated one. Meyers had a similar experience. Meyers also published under her initials, C. L. She also published with her husband and was often noted as a contributor.9 Thinking this was an issue in 1887 not 1987, these stories really caught me off-guard. Considering a woman scholar to be taboo in the field of Religion and Biblical Studies was not on my radar. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much indication that this mindset will change. In a 2009 SBL Society Report, only 23% of their members are women, which equates to a huge gender gap in this field.10 Membership consist mostly of graduate students and Ph.D s.11 SBL has committees available, not just for mentoring and networking for woman, but for the advancement of women within this field. Even with these efforts, I do not foresee the gender gap closing anytime soon; in fact, it could certainly widen. In my opinion, two major reasons exist for this continued gap. The first is at the institutional level; the availability of Ph.D. programs and unavailability of institutional funding. In a 2009 study, the total women earning Ph.D. s was estimated at 47%. Of those, only 29% were awarded in the field Religion/Religious Studies.12 Here men are still significantly outpacing women in this field. The second reason is based upon Religion and Biblical Studies being a patriarchal-focused field of study; women in this area are still considered to be taboo. Many times the feminist voice is translated into nothing more than an angry female ranting against the patriarchs who validate the second-class treatment of woman, lacking any backing of scholarship to support their opinion; I disagree. Female scholars are equally as educated as their male counterparts and examine the text using the same exegetical tools. Certainly the outcome, as well as the hermeneutic, may differ based upon the individual scholar, exclusive gender. With the unavailability of programs, diminished funding, and still very prevalent patriarchal focus that this field has, female scholarship was and will continue to be taboo. To discount the contribution and quality of scholarship based upon a name is not only short-sided but foolish. The bottom line is that gender does not make or break a scholar; poor scholarship does. Poor scholarship is not dependent on whether or not you have a Y
James H. Charlesworth, with James Mueller, assisted by Amy-Jill Levine, Randall Chesnutt, and M. J. H. Charlesworth. The New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: A Guide to Publications, with Excursuses on Apocalypses. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1987. See Biography of Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/facultypages/levine.php (accessed July 27, 2011). 9 CV of Carol Meyers, Duke University Center for Jewish Studies, http://fds.duke.edu/db?pubs-110-393-16990--1-0 (accessed July 26, 2011). 10 "Society Report," Society of Biblical Literature, November 2009, www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/sr2009.pdf (accessed July 26, 2011). 11 It is interesting that ordained male clergy are not normally a member of this organization, which would further diminish this number and widen the gap. 12 "Source: Survey of Earned Doctorates," July 31, 2011, kieranhealy.org/files/misc/phil-by-discipline.pdf

chromosome. Women have made and continue to make significant contributions impacting the field of Biblical and Religious Studies. It is time for this taboo to be removed. Upon graduating with my Undergraduate Degree from Ursuline College, my Mentor, Dr. Natalie Kertes Weaver, gave me a book, The Women s Bible,13 with the words inscribed, seek out your foremothers in your journey. Little did I know that my foremothers were not only pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but were women from my mother s generation; women like Amy-Jill Levine and Carol Meyers.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Woman's Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective (New York: Dover Publications, 2002).

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