By Eryl W. Davies
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The answer is plain: the gospel invites us, as readers, to assume the mantle of discipleship and challenges us to remain faithful even as the original disciples of Jesus had failed to live up to their calling. As readers of Mark’s gospel, we are drawn into the narrative not only by what the text spells out but also by what it withholds. We are invited to fi ll in the ‘gaps’ in the text and to infer what is not explicitly stated. As we have seen, by ‘gaps’ or ‘indeterminacies’ Wolfgang Iser meant a lack of continuity between different parts of a text; in the linear process of reading there is a movement from one literary unit to another and it is up to the reader to bridge the ‘gap’ between the units.
But perhaps the strongest opposition to the traditional approach came from those who were concerned with the issue of hermeneutics, for it was argued that to confi ne the significance of the text to the intention of the original author courted the risk of shutting up the meaning of the Bible in the past and turning it into an artefact of purely antiquarian interest, of little relevance for contemporary Western culture. Given such misgivings, it was perhaps inevitable that the attention of biblical scholars should begin to turn to the text itself rather than the author who had composed it.
Such scholars readily conceded that if the biblical text were taken simply at face value it may well be concluded that women did not play a particularly prominent part in history, and that they were generally regarded as subservient to their male counterparts; however, they argued that this was only because their role had been deliberately downplayed and marginalized by the biblical authors and by later redactors. The task of feminist biblical scholarship, as they saw it, was to embark on a systematic study of the neglected duties and functions of women in both ancient Israelite society and in the life of the Early Church, thus ensuring that their contribution was not completely obliterated from the biblical record.
Biblical Criticism: A Guide for the Perplexed by Eryl W. Davies