Haber’s Touch of Mark 5.24-34

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I have chosen a selection by Susan Haber regarding Mark 5.24-34 for examination for two reasons. First, it may be relating to my exegesis assignment and second, it is a favorite passage of mine.

Often times, when I explore the feminist side of biblical interpretation, I am left with the sense that it was written by a woman angry with me and just me. The ones which I have read, and I admit that it is not an extensive collection, seems to want to rewrite the biblical narrative to either do away with nearly all of the good masculine qualities or to turn some of the narratives on their head so as to avoid the historical truth of the situation. Yet, as I have expressed before, if a scholar or theological interpreter is able to use sound biblical studies to interpret a passage, whether I find it contrary to my usual position, I will more often than not lend an hear to it. Susan Haber, a self-proclaimed feminist, is writing to correct what she sees as two extremes in feminist interpretation of the healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman by presenting what she considers to be sound biblical scholarship with a feminist interpretive flair.

I believe that all interpretations should cease until one can deal with biblical studies, often times, I sense that interpretations are nothing more than what we want the text to say. Haber takes on Marla Selvidge’s interpretation, which reading it through Haber’s lens, seems to dismiss the actual Jewish law and customs for what we think they are, resting on the assumption that the patriarchal system was inherently evil. Jesus, then, was the ultimate gender neutralizer. Haber shows that to dismiss Jesus’ continued obedience to the ritual purity laws is to miss the point of the story and to stand outside of the historical reality. She then takes on both Levine and D’Angelo who dismiss the cultural womanhood issues which again, is outside the historical reality of Mark’s story. Instead, Haber draws a middle ground and insists that everything is important – the woman, the illness and the method of touching Jesus. In her course of study, she examines Leviticus in the Hebrew as well as a small amount of period interpretation, but throughout her assessment, she maintains a high standard of biblical studies. Only once she has laid her foundation does she prepare to interpret the passage, and does so with a feminist vision in sight.

For me, Haber’s grounding of her feminist vision in biblical studies builds the case for her interpretation. She is not being moderate or liberal or even conservative in her interpretation, but simply scholarly. This is where I believe the best interpretations are made, when they can be removed, as far as possible, from the individual’s biases and made off of real scholarship, which may or may not be to one’s liking.

Haber, Susan. “A woman’s touch: feminist encounters with the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5.24-34.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26.2 (2003): 171-192. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO. Web. 15 Mar. 2011.


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