A new podcast series is set to explore some of the Bible's 'texts of terror' – the stories that portray extreme violence against women, often avoided by preachers.
The #SheToo series from Bible Society is presented by broadcaster and journalist Rosie Dawson. It seeks to shine a fresh light on these stories and look at what they might have to say to 21st century readers.
Among the themes are the story of Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Abraham and Sarah, and Tamar, the daughter of King David who was raped by her half-brother. During the seven-part weekly series, launching tomorrow, Friday February 1, Dawson talks to a variety of feminist scholars from faith and non-faith backgrounds about their academic and personal approach to these texts.
She told Christian Today her interest in the subject had grown from a lecture by Rev Dr Helen Paynter, director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence at Bristol Baptist College and a contributor to the series.
'She said how important it was to talk about these stories now,' Dawson said. 'They are studied in the academy, but not in churches – they aren't read.'
She was particularly intrigued, she said, by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand's treatment of the Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 12). 'It's a redemptive reading, though that didn't make what happened alright. Jephthah's daughter reclaims a space for herself and goes out to spend time with her women friends before she's sacrificed.'
According to Bible Society #SheToo ultimately asks the question, 'Can giving voice to these ancient victims open up the means whereby the stories of today's victims can be heard and validated?'
Head of communications Rachel Rounds said: 'Passages which contain rape and violence against women in the Bible are undeniably difficult but that doesn't mean they should be ignored. Indeed, the Bible doesn't allow us to do that. We want to encourage people to reflect on these passages by broadcasting the contributions of a range of feminist scholars.
'Listeners won't agree with everything that's said but we hope that the #SheToo series will help people gain a greater overall understanding of Scripture.'
#SheToo can be found here.