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Learning about our Biblical Sisters

As Benedictine Sisters, we have a deep commitment to Lectio Divina, a way of praying with scripture. It offers us a chance to encounter the stories of the Bible in ways that speak to our lives today. Last week, we dove deep into scripture as part of our annual community retreat and reconnected with our sisters in faith: the women of the Bible.

Led by Professor Pauline Viviano (pictured below), the three day retreat took place in St. Joseph's Chapel. The title of the retreat was "Ignored No Longer: Women's Voices in the Interpretation of the Bible." We learned about the history and modern methods of biblical interpretation. We also heard about the cultures of the Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman world. Later, we explored the stories of specific women in the bible and heard what leading feminist biblical scholars are saying today.

For example, we looked at the story of Adam and Eve and were reminded by Professor Viviano that there are two biblical narratives about creation. In one creation account God is transcendent, powerful and organized. In another God is immanent, earth-connected, and open to learning. Also, in the first creation account we find humans declared "good" and appointed as God's stewards of the earth, but in the second story we find humans as fragile and created out of earth's soil. The question arises: who is God and who are we? We discover these big questions at the beginning of the scriptures and, ultimately, we look for the answers in the rest of the scriptures.

As humans, we interpret what we read. Eve has often been interpreted through a patriarchal lens and when this happens, by extension, all women become painted with the same brush as Eve. For example, Professor Viviano noted that in Scripture that Eve is called "helper," a reference that some have interpreted to express not only her inferiority to Adam, but more generally women's inferiority to men. However, Professor Viviano reminded us that the only other similar reference in Scripture is that of God as helper! Far from being inferior, Eve is actually being described in similar language as that of the divine. We are reminded that Eve, and all women, are made "in the image and likeness of God" (Genesis 1:27).

By looking at biblical interpretations through a new lens such as that of feminist theology or womanist theology, it helps us to change our views, not only of Eve, but of women across the globe. It helps us to see women more clearly as God did in Genesis 1: that women are, indeed, "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

Through examples like that of Eve and other biblical women, we learned more about our women ancestors in faith and, in turn, we were prompted to reflect on our own roles in God's salvation story.

For our annual community retreat, our community gathered in St. Joseph Chapel to learn more about biblical interpretation and open our hearts to the stories of women in Scripture.

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