The term “patriarchy” denotes the social-science concept of male dominance. This concept was formulated by nineteenth-century anthropologists using classical literature, especially legal texts, in their attempts to understand the history of the family. Biblical scholars interested in Israelite family structures soon took up the term. By the early twentieth century, sociologists (notably Weber) extended the concept of patriarchy to include society-wide male domination. This too entered scholarship on the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel. However, the validity and appropriateness of this concept to designate both families and society have recently been challenged in several disciplines: in classical scholarship, by using sources other than legal texts; in research on the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel, also by using multiple sources; and in the work of third-wave feminists, both social theorists and feminist archaeologists. Taken together, these challenges provide compelling reasons for abandoning the patriarchy model as an adequate or accurate descriptor of ancient Israel.

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