Readings in Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition

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An accessible, introductory text first published by Fortress Press in , Her Story: Women in Christian History has sold over 30, copies of the first edition and has ably helped readers recover the oft-ignored or submerged stories of women in the Christian tradition, from biblical times to now. Barbara MacHaffie, who wrote the brief history and compiled a lively antho An accessible, introductory text first published by Fortress Press in , Her Story: Women in Christian History has sold over 30, copies of the first edition and has ably helped readers recover the oft-ignored or submerged stories of women in the Christian tradition, from biblical times to now.

Barbara MacHaffie, who wrote the brief history and compiled a lively anthology of companion primary readings, has revised and updated the text and readings. In this new edition, history and primary readings are combined and augmented with helpful pedagogical tools. This new textbook, which offers sympathetic coverage of all Christian traditions, is supported by a dedicated companion Web site that includes chapter summaries, questions for discussion and Web links that vividly bring the stories of women to life in portraits, artifacts, and other primary materials.

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Other Editions 1. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Her Story , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. No late antique Judith epic exists, but the conceptual paradigms established by the likes of Prudentius cf.

This form, not exactly a defined genre, stands at the crossing point of theological and literary discourses. Time and again, the attempt was undertaken to transfer biblical material and theological knowledge into the vernacular. We can watch each generation going back to the Scripture and meeting the challenges it presents from a current point of view.

This means that there was no tradition formed in its own right in the literary realm but that every text confronted the biblical material afresh. Its authority was, perhaps paradoxically, strengthened by virtue of its availability to the medieval recipient only in Latin, hence translated, form. Since it retained the prefaces of Jerome, the Vulgate constantly reminded the reader of the process of translation and of the status of the biblical text as not only a testimony of divine inspiration but also of ecclesiastical approval.

Jerome became translation personified and the whole chain of transmission was sanctified. Derivation, amplification, and further intermediaries did not weaken the text but added further authorizations to it. The first commentary to encompass the full Book of Judith was that of Hrabanus Maurus in the s. Its dedication to the Empress Judith explains the motivation for the exception to the rule of not writing single commentaries on borderline books like Judith.

This cemented the adaptability of Judith as personification, and he then concentrated on an ecclesiological reading of Judith as prefiguration of the Church.


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Hrabanus was influential as well in what he did not comment upon. Missing are the status of Judith as a widow, for example, and the characterization of her actions as viriliter manly; Jdt The decision to appear seductive through self-adornment — precisely the fact that became so crucial in the Renaissance — was explained away by giving only ecclesiastical interpretations of the jewelry.

If it is to be integrated in a continuous narrative, it has to be rewritten rather heavily. Peter Comestor located the story in the times of Cambyses by declaring that this Persian ruler sixth century b. What does not fit in with this time frame was cut out and replaced with details from secular antique historiography; the rearranged story runs to only a quarter of the length of the Vulgate version. Only the adversative sed indicates that there might be dramatic potential behind this figure on the margins of history.

It also provided the basis for most of the vernacular retellings of the Bible which proved much more influential than straight translations. Most of the surviving sets of manuscripts of the full German Bible were for affluent owners with limited Latin; their illuminations furnish us with a contemporary understanding of the story cf. In the late medieval workshops, vernacular Bibles were produced alongside secular narratives and other stories of popular culture. This inclusion of the vernacular Book of Judith and shorter retellings of the Judith story among the mainstream narratives continued unchanged through early print runs.

Meanwhile, all pre-Lutheran vernacular printed Bibles reproduced the same translation of the fourteenth century with a small stock of topical woodcuts that cemented the iconography and made it recognizable. Nassichuk, Chap. The vast reservoir of late medieval German verse writing, for example by the Meistersingers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries cf. Schmitz, Chap. While there were some theological qualms about the canonicity of the Book of Judith and therefore about the status of its heroine, the popular perception fed by vernacular retellings and visual representations took the book and the woman simply as part of the Bible.


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Beyond that, each country had some additional sources of influence and a local literary and iconographic tradition that fashioned different facets of the story and the woman. The contemporary environment was often a factor. A prime early example is that of Anglo-Saxon England, where literary treatments of Judith around the year derived new urgency from the Viking raids of the time.

Cooper, Chap. The first recorded example of Judith imagery is a no longer extant fresco of ca.

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Their patron was the same Paulinus to whom Jerome wrote his famous letter summarizing the books of the Bible, in which he emphasized the linkages between the Jewish and Christian texts. The nature of these depictions is not known, except that they had identifying inscriptions. We are better informed about the didactic intent of Paulinus, whose own description of his paintings at the site survives: to inspire pilgrims to prayer, to the renunciation of carnal pleasures, and to the spiritual emulation of his painted exemplars.

It cannot be overstressed that his Judith is not a solo character or an independent entity. Rather, her significance resides in her selection for participation in a larger theological scheme, typological and moral. The pattern thus established would hold in Roman Catholic church decoration and discourse for well over a thousand years. The biblical illuminations of the Book of Judith were dominated by a single vignette of the beheading of Holofernes, which often opens the text, set within the conveniently tent-shaped A for Artaxerxes, the first word.

Further scenes were rarely added until the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when richly illuminated vernacular Bibles became more common cf. The subsequent emergence of Judith in Gothic sculpture and glass — with the dense cluster of symbolic associations already noted — is therefore not surprising.

Two prime examples from thirteenth-century France are to be found at Chartres and in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. In the portal of the north transept of Chartres Cathedral, Judith stands opposite the Queen of Sheba in an arrangement of Old Testament figures supporting the church. In the Sainte-Chapelle, the Judith cycle is part of an extensive program of Bible windows. But a full cycle like this, with episodes from the military history of the first chapters, is rather the exception to the rule of her imageryin the Middle Ages, which generally concentrated on the crucial moment of beheading, variously interpreted and configured.

Innovations abound, instigated by humanism and transformations in political, social and cultural arenas. It is well known that by the late fifteenth century, two of the traits with which she defeated Holofernes, her beauty and her deceit, began to assume new carnality and sensuality.

Wherever typological programs continued to flourish, the holy widow of Bethulia could be found among the Old Testament company, both in major Marian shrines such as Siena Cathedral mosaic pavement panel, s and more modest sites like Santa Maria della Pace in Rome fresco by Peruzzi, The new points of view about depicting Judith were thus added to the already complex base of earlier Christian thinking. The medieval preference for the scene in the tent prevailed and was given even more prominence, among both Protestants and Catholics, while the potential for psychological resonance was expanded by an everenlarging repertory of narrative possibilities, from Donatello on.

It was, of course, Caravaggio who famously jolted the convention into terrifying new life by portraying the beheading in progress, with Holofernes awakening from his inebriation into screaming consciousness.


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  • An interesting example of the latter, unaccountably ignored in the Judith literature, is the early seventeenth-century painting cycle at the chateau of Ancy-le-Franc in Burgundy, by Nicolas de Hoey. They are found in virtually all media, products of every national tradition, not only in painting, sculpture, and prints, but also domestic artifacts, such as needlework, ceramics, and other tableware.

    There are many other manifestations. Their contexts and expressive contents range across categories: sacred and profane, private and public, erotic and patriotic. Judith with her sword naturally figured Justice, but her symbolic applications extended far beyond this one virtue.

    Garbed in clothing and ornaments suffused with references to Athena and the Amazons rather than in the nondescript cloaks of medieval personifications, the Judiths of Italian artists from Donatello to Artemisia Gentileschi are literally enveloped in the authoritative mantle of classical female heroism cf. Apostolos-Cappadona, Chap.

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    The medieval tradition of pairing Judith conceptually with powerful classical women, such as Queen Tomyris, was thus visually updated by early modern artists in both explicit and allusive ways. It established precedents for the encompassing of allegorical abstraction in psychologically nuanced characterization and with it the elaboration of the potential for political appropriation.

    His sculpture has been much studied in both categories, with the civic dimensions generally paramount, thanks to its original ownership by the Medici, upon whose exile it was co-opted by the Florentine Republic in Blake McHam, Chap. Cummings, Chap. In each case, the assassin, whether Protestant or Catholic, was hailed by his proponents as a new Judith. Crum, Chap.

    Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition - Barbara J. MacHaffie - Google книги

    While Judith, together with David, was a potent public figure, the majority of her imagery in Renaissance Florence consisted of sculptures, paintings, and furniture, such as cassoni marriage chests made for private settings the interiors of patrician palaces. This adaptability to circumstances and to even conflicting purposes is one ramification of the inherent moral ambivalence of the figure of Judith, who could be and was shaped into whatever persona was required. The patristic tradition of celebrating Judith for her temperance, fasting, prudence, prayer, and, above all, chastity continued to be promoted in behavior manuals and sermons, especially in the sections addressed to widows.

    In this category it was her return to a reclusive life of ascetic piety and her spurning of suitors that were held up for approbation. Judith thus reinforced gender-based conventions, rooted in the presumed moral deficiencies of the female sex in general, to which she offered a corrective. We see this when she was paired, in literature and the visual arts, with Eve and Delilah. Holofernes thus joined Adam and Samson, male victims of female cunning. The development of this trope in German literature can be traced in the ways that erotic metaphorical language was used already in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to include Judith among the cunning women — one result being the emergence in Reformation drama of a new comic side to the story with a lovesick Holofernes and a camp of boisterous mercenaries cf.

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    In this new edition, history and primary readings are combined and augmented with helpful pedagogical tools. This new textbook, which offers sympathetic coverage of all Christian traditions, is supported by a dedicated companion website that includes chapter summaries, questions for discussion and web links that vividly bring the stories of women to life in portraits, artifacts, and other primary materials. For Study Guide and more see the Her Story website. Handy, Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary. DeBerg, University of Northern Iowa.

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