Volume 1, Issue 2
Spring 2020 — The Bible: Transgender and Genderqueer Perspectives
Guest Editor: Caroline Blyth
KEYWORDS: Gender; transgender; postcolonial; hermeneutics; LGBTQ; queer biblical studies
This paper revolves around issues of anachronism and identity in moving toward a transgender hermeneutic of interpretation. Putting Joan W. Scott’s work on gender as a category of historical analysis in conversation with María Lugones’ and Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèwùmí’s discussions of gender and coloniality, the paper proposes the terminology of “gendered category” in order to resist colonialist assumptions inherent within the term “gender” and allow for more possibilities of analysis. With that grounding, the paper turns to an interpretation of the Jacob narratives in Genesis 25 and 27, arguing that the status of firstborn son (bəkōr) in the ancient Near East can be productively understood as a gendered category. It does not argue that Jacob is transgender in the sense of the modern identity marker, but rather that Jacob’s navigation and crossing of the gendered categories of his day carries certain compelling parallels to the ways in which transgender people today experience their identity across prescribed categories.
KEYWORDS: Tamar; Genesis 38; transphobia; transgender gaze; queer interpretation
While queer interpretation of the Hebrew Bible has begun to flourish, readings which focus particularly on trans and gender-diverse experiences remain lacking. In this article, I offer a trans reading of Gen 38, the Judah and Tamar narrative, drawing the text into dialogue with a trans hermeneutic. This allows me to reflect on trans and gender-diverse experiences while also shedding new light on the biblical narrative. In the course of this reading, I focus on three narrative aspects which I believe are particularly relevant to trans and gender-diverse lives: Tamar’s precarity, her engagement in sex work, and the complexity of her motives for doing so. This reading is intended to counter transphobic uses of the Bible, contributing to a growing body of trans affirmative biblical studies and providing some new answers to questions about the text.
KEYWORDS: Genderqueer; agender; non-binary; theophanies; Exodus; Acts; burning bush; Pentecost; God; imago Dei; personhood; fire imagery
The Bible is not an obvious source of affirmation for non-binary or agender identities. Commentaries on gender in the Bible focus on narratives in which gender is foregrounded by the text, and queering these narratives requires negotiation around binary categories of gender. This article proposes that biblical narratives which portray God through gender-neutral images may speak especially to non-binary and agender identities. This premise can be demonstrated by applying a genderqueer hermeneutic to two biblical fire theophanies: Moses’ encounter at the burning bush (Exod 3) and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). Exodus 3 and Acts 2 describe encounters with the divine in which divine selfhood is revealed in gender-neutral or ungendered terms. The deeply personal nature of divine self-disclosure within these encounters is underpinned by expressions of selfhood which exist outside binary categories of gender—indeed, beyond gendered categories altogether. Far from being irrelevant to the discussion of gender, gender-neutral images in the Bible offer a method of “re-imaging” divine selfhood in ways which affirm genderqueer expressions of the self.
KEYWORDS: Gospel of Thomas, gender, transgender, queering Jesus, reader response
This article adopts a trans-centered approach to reading the Gospel of Thomas, in particular key statements found in Gos. Thom. 22 and 114. Treatments of gender in the gospel are discussed from the author’s position as a queer woman of transgender experience, informed by postcolonial, feminist, and gender-critical theory and practice. Literary and historical comparisons with Philo of Alexandria and the apostle Paul are explored to uncover Thomas’s worldview, which is seen to be darkly critical of the material world, while being hopeful for spiritual transformation. Though the Gospel of Thomas participates in the prevalent masculinist ideology of most literature of the day, many of its sayings may garner a new or nuanced meaning when read through a transgender lens, including especially the demand for replacement of the outer person with the inner person (Gos. Thom. 22), and potential salvation through erasure of conventional gender difference in the making of an ungendered Living Spirit resembling Jesus (Gos. Thom. 114).
KEYWORDS: Jael; Judges 4–5; non-binary; gender ambiguity; queer theory
In this article I suggest that the non-binary identity of Jael (Judg 4–5) has been erased or overlooked due to dominant discourses of heteronormativity and binary gender. This biblical narrative depicts Jael performing roles and behaviours which have been identified as masculine (violent, warrior, killer) and feminine (mother, seductress, nurturing). Moreover, Jael’s name appears in the Hebrew masculine form, alongside Jael’s feminine label of “woman/wife.” Despite such evidence of gender ambiguity, interpretations of Judg 4–5 tend to identify Jael unproblematically as a woman, thereby ignoring this character’s non-binary potential. This article contributes an original reading of Jael by interpreting the text from a non-binary perspective, employing queer methodologies. Inviting the reader to look beyond hetero-binarized expectations, my investigation reveals Jael as a gender ambiguous character.