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This book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It traverses a range of genres and examines literature written by a variety of confessionally diverse writers. By considering literature intended for assorted audiences, the book showcases the diverse contexts in which the Bible's women were deployed, and illuminates the transferability of biblical appreciation across apparent religious divisions. The book has been split into two sections. Part One considers women and feminine archetypes of the Old Testament, and the chapters gathered in Part Two address the New Testament. This structure reflects the division of Scripture in early modern Bibles and speaks to the contemporary method of reading the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In spite of this division, the chapters regularly make cross references between the two Testaments highlighting how, in line with the conventions of early modern exegesis, they were understood to exist in a reciprocal relationship. Within each section, the chapters are broadly organised according to the sequential appearance of the women/feminine archetypes in the Bible. The biblical women studied extend from Eve in Genesis to the Whore of Babylon in Revelation. The chapters vary between those that examine dominant trends in appropriation to those that consider appropriations of a particular interest group or individual.

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Discovering biblical women in early modern literary culture, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

The essays collected in this volume consider how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. By ‘biblical women’ we mean those women whose stories appear in the Old and New Testaments, as well as archetypes of femininity, such as those described in Book of Proverbs or Book of Revelation. 1 The literature within which these biblical

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
Early modern reproach of Zipporah and Michal
Michele Osherow

Early modern readings of biblical women are as full of variety and contradiction as the Bible itself. Margaret Fell, Aemilia Lanyer, Rachel Speght, John Aylmer and many others use biblical examples to great effect to promote women’s abilities to speak, preach and rule. And yet, biblical heroines are subject to as much early modern critique as they are to

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Reading Old Testament women in early modern England, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

, invoked Esther as a radical model. Lanyer’s opening praise of a series of Old Testament women used to bring down the ‘pride and arrogancie of men’ also reads as a catalogue of biblical women’s discourse: Deborah is praised for ‘discreet counsel’, Esther for ‘divine prayers’ and Judith for ‘rare wisdom’ ( 1993 : 49). Even the Book of Proverbs, which

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
The Book of Proverbs in action
Danielle Clarke

the catalogue of exemplary biblical women; thus Moffett urges readers of 11:16 (‘a gracious woman retaineth honour’) to ‘ see examples in Hester and Abigail ’ ( 1592 : 95). They are largely articulated in relation to Proverbs 31, where Lemuel, using the words taught to him by his mother Bathsheba, gives an encomium to the good wife. It is particularly interesting in the

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Dympna Callaghan

they reflect in miniature many of this volume’s key themes, especially the inextricable connection between misogyny and exegesis in early modern England and between the various confessional certainties about women’s virtues and vices and women’s own attempts to interpret biblical women. Biblical Women in Early Modern Literary Culture, 1550–1700 explores the multiple

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
Exegesis and political controversy in the 1550s
Adrian Streete

‘although much contemporary criticism argues that such spiritual equality without concomitant spiritual power is not only illusory but coercive, it is not clear that Protestant women of the sixteenth century actually experienced it as such’ ( 1995 : 822). When we turn in particular to the radicals’ discussions of female biblical rule, or to biblical women who hold some kind of political

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
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Reading New Testament women in early modern England, 1550–1700
Victoria Brownlee and Laura Gallagher

of Phoebe’s narrative and asserts that, ultimately, she ‘was a Diaconess to minister to the sick, and not a Praedicantess to preach, or have Peters keys jingling at her girdle’ ( 1651 : 60). It seems that, as is the case so often with early modern male readings of biblical women, the Bible prescribes a role for women that is at odds with early modern expectations of female

in Biblical women in early modern literary culture 1550–1700
Jonathan Stavsky

Contexts and analogues ‘Susanna and the Elders’ is the oldest known story to feature a falsely accused, tried, and exonerated heroine. P. A. van Stempvoort and Danny Praet argue that it inspired the account of Mary and Joseph's trial in the Protevangelium , as well as other details from the same Apocryphal gospel. 11 The Latin version of the ordeal in Pseudo-Matthew strengthens the link between these biblical women by adapting quite a few phrases from Daniel 13. 12

in Enacting the Bible in medieval and early modern drama
Exceptional women of power
Carol Blessing

. Holinshed, Shakespeare’s most likely source, however, condemns the comparison of Joan with Deborah and other Biblical women, as he brands Pussell ‘a damnable sorcerer suborned by satan’ (III, p. 172). 12 The English defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 further reinforced Elizabeth as the military Deborah leading her people to victory, celebrated in Oliver Pigge’s 1589

in Goddesses and Queens