In a recent JBL article, David J. A. Clines reviews twenty-two Hebrew Bible texts that allegedly include female god-language. His review concludes: “There is not a single instance of female language about the deity in the Hebrew Bible.” Three major methodological difficulties undermine this unqualified conclusion: the selective choice of conversation partners, together with an inattention to the history of feminist biblical scholarship; the author’s decision to exclude metaphor theory from the scope of his article; and, finally, his paradoxical failure to define at the outset what “female” language means in reference to the deity. The article’s significant methodological deficiencies make its conclusions inevitable and, in effect, yield a literalist reading. Given the importance of the topic to the discipline, the present response provides a more hermeneutically self-aware analysis of the methodological and theoretical issues. This study demonstrates that feminist scholarship has an intellectual history essential to exegetical studies of such texts, and that metaphor theory is essential to any discussion of gendered language for the deity in the Hebrew Bible.

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