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A "Balanced" Reading of the Rape of Dinah: Some Exegetical and Methodological Observations

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This article explores some of the central methodological issues connected with ideological readings of the Bible through reflecting upon the contrary interpretations of Genesis 34 offered, on the one hand, by Danna Fewell and David Gunn (which, they claim, is made from the standpoint of a "feminist" ideology) and, on the other hand, by Meir Sternberg (whose reading is charged by Fewell and Gunn with being "androcentric"). After assessing the exegetical disagreements between them, it is argued that both readings are deficient in being over-narrowly focused upon the question of the reader's feelings towards the characters of the story. A new interpretation is therefore offered, which sees the story as primarily concerned with exploring the issues of "crime and punishment." In the light of these exegetical studies it is argued that Fewell and Gunn's claim that all reading is necessarily ideological is undermined by their actual exegetical practice, which oscillates between (i) an objective, reader-independent style of exegesis which makes useful contributions to the understanding of Genesis 34 but offers nothing distinctively ideological; and (ii) a form of ideological "reading" which does not undermine but simply talks at cross-purposes to the doctrine of "foolproof composition" that Fewell and Gunn are attempting to refute. Their "reader-oriented" argument fails because it does not appreciate how the effects that a reader's own ideological presuppositions have upon his or her interpretations may be corrected by a sound exegetical methodology.


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