Frauen Friday: Elsa Tamez

We’ve had a bit of a rocky start to our “weekly” Frauen Friday series, but I’ll get there. I’ve got the next couple of weeks planned out and I’m really looking forward to the weeks to come! I will be getting back to my language roots with next week’s featured scholar who works in Jewish Studies and has written two important books for understanding Biblical Hebrew.

If I might take a short excursion, I want to point out that though the past couple of weeks have featured scholars who have focused on feminist interpretation, the point of this series is not necessarily to focus on only feminist theologians. It just so happens that the first three women I featured were ones I’ve encountered recently while working on my own specific gender-related questions. Thus I highlighted Gaventa’s article from Galatians concerning its good news for women, though she has written on a wide variety of Pauline issues. All that to say, if you’re not particularly interested in feminist theology (though my hope is this blog might change that!) fear not, I will be casting a wider net in the future and intend to highlight scholars working in all areas of concentration.

But this Friday it’s all about Elsa: today’s featured scholar is Dr. Elsa Tamez, biblical scholar and theologian. Here’s a short bio from Wipf and Stock Publishers (it’s a little outdated, but it’s the only one I could find):

“Elsa Tamez is a Methodist and Liberation Theologian. She was born in Mexico in 1950. Prof. Tamez received her Doctor’s Degree in Theology from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. She received her Licentiate in Theology in 1979 from the Latin American Biblical Seminary, and a Licentiate in Literature and Linguistics at the National University of Costa Rica in 1986. She is a faculty member of the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica and a member of the team of researchers of the Ecumenical Department of Investigation (DEI) in Costa Rica. She is married with two children.

Among her most known publications in English are: The Bible of the Oppressed (1980), The Scandalous Message of James (1989), The Amnesty of Grace (1993), and When the Horizons Close: Rereading Ecclesiastes (2000). Her latest publication is Jesús and Courageous Women (2001). She has received several awards for her contribution to Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics.” (from WSP)

Tamez has written on both liberation theology and feminist theology, and she has done a number of re-readings from both the OT and NT. I first encountered her work last semester as I was working on my cruciform feminism paper for my Paul class; she contributed an article to Celebrating Romans: Template for Pauline Theology (a 2004 publication featuring articles on Romans from various interpretive approaches) on “Justification as Good News for Women: A Re-Reading of Romans 1-8.” Here she argues,

“[t]he actualization of God’s justice in a patriarchal society consists in the egalitarian proposal of justification by faith rather than by fulfilling the demands of traditional patriarchal culture.  It is a free gift, bestowed by grace, in a society which knows nothing of grace but rather uses merit alone to determine whether or not a person has value.  The logic of merit is the natural way our hierarchical, patriarchal society functions.  It is society’s way of judging, the ‘justice’ proper to it,” (181).

Tamez notes that God’s justice is not for women alone,

“[s]ince the justice of God is for all people… men also can acknowledge this justice and be guided by a logic contrary to the violence generated by patriarchal society.  Justification is a gift meant for all, not just for women.  The justice of God is a firm guarantee that the sinful logic of misogynist patriarchal structures is overthrown by divine grace,” (182).

She concludes,

“[t]he good news for justified men and women who embrace faith as new way of life, just like the faith of Jesus Christ, is a new awareness of being free women and men, and the realization that in faith it is possible to transform society where sin reigns in the structures opposed to woman.  By faith we affirm that, although we live in a world riddled with sinfulness and impregnated with sexism, this reality does not dominate those who are guided by the logic of grace…” (187)

Whether you agree or disagree with Tamez’s approach, I think her work is worth interacting with and I personally appreciate her perspective for what we have in common and how we differ. We are both women but we come from different parts of the world and have likely had very different experiences as women. I look forward to getting to know her work better as I continue studying how cruciformity and feminism might co-exist.

I would also recommend Struggles for Power in Early Christianity: A Study of the First Letter to Timothy.  I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but her section on chapter two of 1 Timothy offers an interesting perspective on the issue of the women teaching in Ephesus as a struggle between the wealthy and the powerful and draws a connection from her own life experience in Latin American culture. I plan to read the rest of the book once I can get a copy.

For further reading, see the lists below:



4 thoughts on “Frauen Friday: Elsa Tamez

  1. Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t heard of her before (surprise!) which seems to sadly be the case all too often. This is why this series is great. It is shedding a lot of light on the wonderful contributions of scholars who are often overlooked or ignored because of gender bias. Both The Bible of the Oppressed and Power Struggles in Early Christianity sound quite interesting!


  2. Great post Jessica! I have already added these books to my amazon wishlist =). This series is so important for getting the word out there on female scholars that we all need to be reading!


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