Thesis: Jesus was not a feminist, but an inclusivist with pro-women aspects. A resulting feminist hermeneutic is then valid and needed.
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza presents arguments for a feminist hermeneutic that can easily be overlooked in the church and in scholarship because of our engrained patriarchal schemas. She makes many valid points. However, her feminist reading of Jesus should be seen as a valid subset of historical-critical interpretations, not as exclusively labeling Jesus a “feminist.” We can glean many important aspects from her presentation. She rightly sees value in the biblical text, albeit androcentric in its composition. Therefore, she does not go down the same road of Mary Daly saying that the andro-centrism “is the message and not just the container for it.”  She recognizes the revelatory importance of the biblical texts for the feminist position and thus wants to move from their andro-centrism “to their social-historical contexts” (29). By doing so she “[presupposes] the methods and results of historical-critical exegesis” (152). It is her subsequent reading and appropriation which are unique, though still valid, “the difference between a social-historical and a feminist-historical reading [is] not…in the interpretation of historical texts but in the perspective brought to such a reading” (142). Finally, her emphasis that a feminist hermeneutic is not just for the liberation of women but for the entire church (31) is to be appreciated.
Rather than seeing Jesus as exclusively through a feminist lens, it is more appropriate to see him as an inclusivist with pro-women aspects, to which Schussler Fiorenza would agree. These pro-women aspects she describes as “critical feminist [impulses] that came to the fore in the vision and ministry of Jesus…[which] presented an alternative to the dominant patriarchal structures” (107). She rightly stresses that Jesus was indeed inclusive regarding the people who would not have belonged to the people of God; tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes, among others. This is exemplified by Jesus’ associations with these people in table fellowship (121-129). Likewise, Jesus’ inclusivity can be seen in the parables (131). While the Jesus movement was certainly pro-woman (even including leadership roles (138-139)), it “offered an alternative interpretation of the Torah that opened up access to God for everyone [even expanding to the Gentiles] who was a member of the elect people of Israel, especially for those who because of their societal situation had little chance to experience God’s power in Temple and Torah” (141).
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 28. (In-text citations from this point on).