Interview: Genesis Redux with Lyn Bechtel

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Lyn Bechtel is a feminist Hebrew Bible scholar. 

Over the week of 26th – 30th June, Lyn leads a course at Gladstone’s Library entitled ‘Genesis Redux’. The course examines three disturbing stories from the Book of Genesis which represent a theology that is foundational to the theology of Jesus; Deuteronomic theology. These stories are Lot and his Daughters (Genesis. 19), Dinah and Shechem (Genesis. 34) and Tamar and Judah (Genesis. 38).

Before the course, we spoke to Lyn to find out more.

Hi Lyn, can you please give us a little introduction to your course, how you came to put it together and why it’s happening now? 

When these stories are read as if they were written during the 20th or 21st Centuries with modern assumptions and a modern thinking pattern, it produces very different interpretations than those originally intended. In contrast, I am striving for as close an interpretation of these stories as I can come to the original. I am running the course now because every time I look at the stories with ancient thinking patterns and assumptions, I see something new. The interpretation is not fixed or final, but always evolving. 'Now' is always the time to do it. 

How will the sessions be structured? 

We will begin laying out the differences between Deuteronomic theology, which is the one Jesus contends with in the Gospels, and non-deuteronomic theology, which forms the foundation of Jesus's theology. Then, we will look at the various stories with the Hebrew text on the screen. I expect that most people will not have knowledge of Hebrew, but that is not a problem. People will be able to see that a close reading of the Hebrew text can reveal at least some of the clues embedded there. As we go along, we will compare what the Hebrew may have intended to say with what our modern interpretation produces. 

For those with a layman’s knowledge of theology, can you briefly explain what Deuteronomic theology is and how it relates to your work / interpretation?   

Simplistically put, Deuteronomic theology is a theology of control and its basic tenants can be found in all the major religions of the world. It appeals to the human need for control. It has its place, but it is antithetical to the theology of Jesus. Non-deuteronomic theology requires critical and creative thinking, which produces layers and layers of meaning and an ever-evolving meaning. Creative thinking requires a very close reading of the Hebrew text, so that all of the clues embedded in the text can be taken into consideration.  

Do you think your reading of Genesis will help readers who have historically struggled to read the Bible because of its representation of women, reconcile with the text? 

A 'Hebrew Bible feminist interpretation' does not focus solely on women in the Bible, but on non-deuteronomic theology's critical thinking as a tool of interpretation.  However, in this type of interpretation the sexist dimensions of modern interpretation are revealed as opposed to the non-sexist foundations of non-deuteronomic theology. 

Who do you think would benefit from your course? 

Anyone with an open mind, who can embrace change. 

What are you hoping that people will bring to your course and what will they take away? 

In both cases, a mind open to different ways of thinking and to a very different culture from our own. Difference has the potential to change us. Gladstone’s Library has become a good setting for such openness.  

What inspires you? 

My ultimate inspiration is the thinking of non-deuteronomic theology and its ability to change my life continuously. 

‘Genesis Redux’ runs at Gladstone’s Library 26th – 30th June. Residential prices start from £410, non-residential from £290. Discount rates for clergy and students apply. 

For the full programme, please click here.

For more information or to book, please call 01244 532350 or email enquiries@gladlib.org.