The best books about sexual violence in the Bible

Joy Schroeder Author Of Dinah's Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation
By Joy Schroeder

Who am I?

Joy Schroeder is a historian devoted to examining the experiences of women in Christianity and Judaism. With concern for female and male victims of violence, Schroeder scrutinizes historical documents to find accounts of harassment, rape, clergy sexual abuse, and other violence. She brings the historical accounts to light while critiquing the cultural patterns that perpetuate violence in our own day. In her work as a pastor and as a professor, she has worked to support victims of harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, and child abuse. Schroeder is a professor of church history at Capital University (Columbus, Ohio), where she teaches at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the department of religion and philosophy. 

I wrote...

Dinah's Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation

By Joy Schroeder,

Book cover of Dinah's Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation

What is my book about?

Dinah’s Lament explores heartbreaking biblical stories of sexual violence that were misinterpreted by Christian interpreters in antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Through the centuries, male interpreters interpreted and retold these scriptural stories in ways that revealed their own cultural assumptions about rape.

All too often, clergymen blamed victims or minimized the reality of the violence the women endured. In sermons and biblical commentaries, interpreters accused the young rape victim Dinah (Genesis 34) of provoking and enjoying a brutal attack by a powerful prince’s son. Some denied that the encounter was actually rape. In the case of an unnamed woman (Judges 19) who suffered collective rape (“gang rape”) and died following the violence, some commentators believed that the attack was God’s fitting punishment for sins she committed. Too often, the female biblical character is voiceless—emblematic of the silencing of victims throughout history. 

The books I picked & why

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Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives

By Phyllis Trible,

Book cover of Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives

Why this book?

Published in 1984, this book is an enduring classic. Filled with sympathy for victims and survivors, it is a groundbreaking, poignant feminist reading of biblical “texts of terror” about violence against women who were raped, enslaved, ritually sacrificed, or forced to become surrogate mothers. This book transformed the way people now read stories of biblical violence. It calls on readers to acknowledge and remember the suffering of victims—in biblical times and in our own. 

Womanist Midrash

By Wilda C. Gafney,

Book cover of Womanist Midrash

Why this book?

Inspired by midrashic approaches of rabbis who use storytelling to fill in the “gaps” in scriptural narratives, Dr. Wilda Gafney combines her expertise as a biblical scholar with her commitment to racial and gender justice. Gafney expresses particular sympathy for enslaved women forced into sexual servitude and surrogate motherhood, especially Rachel and Leah’s servants (“womb-slaves”) Bilhah and Zilpah (Genesis 30).

Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible

By Susanne Scholz,

Book cover of Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible

Why this book?

Susanne Scholz says readers should consider biblical accounts of sexual violence to be “sacred witness” to the horrific reality of rape in the biblical world and in our own world. She proposes that we wrestle with the Bible’s words, including passages that depict God as a violent aggressor, and that we should read scriptural accounts in solidarity with victims, past and present.

The Narrative of Rape in Genesis 34: Interpreting Dinah's Silence

By Caroline Blyth,

Book cover of The Narrative of Rape in Genesis 34: Interpreting Dinah's Silence

Why this book?

The twelve sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob had a sister named Dinah who was abducted and raped by the son of a prince (Genesis 34). Dinah speaks no words in the biblical text. Caroline Blyth gives voice to Dinah by examining the words of modern women from around the globe, comparing Dinah’s experience with that of her modern-day sisters. With a poignant, sensitive reading of the Bible and the testimonies of women living today, Blyth exposes and rejects dangerous myths and stereotypes about sexual violence.

Rape Myths, the Bible, and #Metoo

By Johanna Stiebert,

Book cover of Rape Myths, the Bible, and #Metoo

Why this book?

The #MeToo movement has helped twenty-first-century society begin to reckon with sexual violence, including the harmful myths that blame victims and shield perpetrators from consequences. Stiebert reads ancient biblical stories about rape in conversation with modern accounts. Similarities include the way society fails to acknowledge the reality of violence or to believe victims, especially victims of powerful men.  

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The Bible Explore 164 books about the Bible
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We think you will like Holy Bible, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, and The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England if you like this list.