An Ecological Feminist Reading of the Gospel of Luke

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In the context of environmental destruction, this book takes a call to turn toward Earth as a starting point for an ecological feminist hermeneutics focused in the notion of the “material given”. Like Earth, the pregnant body is a material given, a necessity for human species being Within the Gospel of Luke, the pregnant body is site of a divine necessity underwriting the narrative. A focus on the pregnant body brings into dialogue the Lukan divine necessity and the everyday necessity of the material given. As a particular site of sociality between self and other, the pregnant body represents a gestational paradigm. Within the Lukan narrative a gestational paradigm appears not only in the pregnancy of Mary of Nazareth, but also in her activity of keeping (2: 19, 51). The gestational paradigm exhibited in keeping also informs the narrative tropes of serving, journeying to Jerusalem, compassion, and expectation. In each case, a gestational logic interweaves with and calls into question the ostensibly colonizing logic of divine necessity. In the reign (or kingdom, Gk. Basileia) of God, the interrelationship of these Lukan logics issues in a paradigm of hospitality, having implications for human responses to an ecological call.


“Among biblical scholars, a number of articles have demonstrated that the task of reading biblical texts through the lens of ecofeminism is underway, but no major work has been undertaken in which the development of reading paradigm and the reading of texts are combined. It is at this point of lacuna that Anne Elvey’s study is located… This book is a ground-breaking work not only in its providing an integrated paradigm for an ecofeminist reading of the biblical text but also in its engagement with critical thinkers and in the creative, poetic and prophetic reading of the Gospel of Luke which will catch up its reader into its web of new meaning. Other scholars will be able to bring this paradigm for reading and meaning making to a wide range of biblical texts in ways which, it is hoped, will increase the human community’s attentiveness to the material given of woman and Earth within the intricate web of ecological interconnectedness.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Elaine Wainwright, Professor of Theology, University of Auckland

“Dr. Elvey has not only written a powerful and persuasive work of ecofeminist biblical theology–she has quite single-handedly created a new forcefield for thought. With her multi-dimensionality of method, she has opened a fresh and much needed discursive space in which we humans can rethink our relation to the nonhuman. What so distinguishes her work, indeed marks it as virtually unique, is the way four disciplinary currents converge in her text: poststructuralist philosophy, ecological theology, feminist theory and biblical hermeneutics ... Elvey’s ability to span this abyss comes from the delicate specificity of her feminist biblical hermeneutic. For this she draws upon a wide variety of poststructuralist as well as ecological and religious texts.…Her tour de force–to read the pregnant body, a body discernible in Luke textually and in the natal natures that constitute the materialities of the creation–brings to light both our textual and material indebtedness to the body of the earth.” – Catherine Keller, Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew University

“In this provocative and creative study the author brings together a passion for Earth with feminist hermeneutics as she explores select texts and themes of Gospel of Luke through the metaphor of the pregnant body. Moving her attention from representations of the pregnant body within cultures of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean worlds, to its function as symbol and metaphor in the text, to the logic, time, and paradigm of gestation as these resonate in the text, to the way in which the text itself is pregnant with its “other”, she offers fresh insights and profound ethical challenges. By orienting the reader to the way in which both Earth and pregnant bodies are “material givens,” gifts characterized by an interconnectedness between self and other, she offers an approach by which human beings can turn away from destruction of Earth to co-operation with it for the repair and transformation of the world. This book is not for the beginner; the level of discourse is sophisticated and will most appeal to those already attuned to ecofeminist readings of Scripture. Such a reader will find this book pregnant in possibilities, as it stretches the imagination and impels toward ethical response.” – Barbara E. Reid, Professor of New Testament Studies, Catholic Theological Union

Table of Contents

List of Tables
1. Introduction
2. Ancient Memories: Pregnant Bodies and Earth
3. On Remembering the Material Given: Pregnant Bodies and Earth
4. The Birth of the Mother: A Reading of Luke 2:1–20
5. Keeping, Women, Earth and Death
6. The Outsider Within
7. Compassion and the Other
8. The Lukan Basileia
Index of Ancient Authors and Sources
Index of Modern Authors
Index of Subjects

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