Study Guide

In Memory of Her

by Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza

In Memory of Her Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins is one of the earliest and best-known books by Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, a professor at Harvard Divinity School. In this very technical and dense study, Schüssler Fiorenza seeks to reclaim early Christian history as women’s history and to reveal biblical traditions as the history of both women and men. These goals help her to answer questions regarding women’s activity in the early Christian movement and to restore the memory of early Christian women’s sufferings, struggles, and power to contemporary readers. She integrates her training in feminist theory, biblical exegesis (specifically of the New Testament), and historical-theological critical methods to achieve her goals. In the process, Schüssler Fiorenza offers a groundbreaking study of Christian origins, or, more specifically, a fuller vision of early Christian communities that includes women as important historical actors. First published in 1983, In Memory of Her has been translated into many languages.

In the first part of the book, Schüssler Fiorenza introduces a specific set of interpretive methods, or her feminist critical hermeneutics (methods of study), and aligns herself with liberation theology. Liberation theologians question the seeming objectivity and value-neutrality of academic scholarship and have consistently stressed that historical, political, and cultural presuppositions, beliefs, and structures influence all scholarly works. They also argue that wherever oppression and domination occurs, one is engaged either for or against the oppressed or marginalized. Accordingly, Schüssler Fiorenza asserts that biblical interpreters and scholars, too, must resist the notion that they offer purely objective analyses and become engaged scholars. Toward this end, Schüssler Fiorenza employs a critical methodology for biblical interpretation that empowers women in their struggles against dominant, oppressive religious structures.

In distinguishing...

(The entire section is 833 words.)

In Memory of Her Bibliography (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Eisen, Ute E. Women Officeholders in Early Christianity: Epigraphical and Literary Studies. Translated by Linda M. Maloney. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2000. Provides evidence for women holding offices of authority in the first several centuries of Christianity.

Kraemer, Ross S. Review of In Memory of Her. Journal of Biblical Literature 104, no. 4 (December, 1985): 722. One of the few reviews available on this difficult and dense book.

O’Connor, June. “Rereading, Reconceiving, and Reconstructing Traditions: Feminist Research in Religion.” Women’s Studies 17, nos. 1/2 (1989): 101. A thoughtful essay that examines In Memory of Her along with Bernadette Brooten’s Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue (1982), Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (1983), Pat Holden’s Women’s Religious Experience (1983), and Theodora Carroll Foster’s Women, Religion, and Development in the Third World (1983).

Parson, Susan Frank, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Feminist Theology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. A critical guide to the field of feminist theology, describing some main features, concerns, and questions raised by international scholars.

Schottroff, Luise. Lydia’s Impatient Sisters: A Feminist Social History of Early Christianity. 2d ed. Translated by Barbara and Martin Rumscheidt. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Argues that women in the early church were fully participating members in the body of Christ and that it was only as the church institutionalized that they were assigned subservient roles.