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The Normal and the Deviant in the Abraham and Sarah Narratives
What would it look like to be queer in the time of Abraham and Sarah? What is normative and what is deviant in their stories? What does this have to do with queer lives today?
In Ancestral Queerness, Gil Rosenberg uses a careful comparative method to develop a cross-cultural queer category (‘Queer’). He applies this category to Abraham and Sarah and argues that, Abraham and Sarah may usefully be regarded as ‘Queer’.
Rosenberg’s comparisons draw on a variety of contemporary queer stories, scholarship, and theories. These include a lesbian mother trying to support her partner and newborn daughter, Australian polyamorous families, Lee Edelman’s figure of the Child, and gay men building families through surrogacy.
These comparisons lead Rosenberg to surprising new interpretations of several key passages in Genesis 11–21. For example, he argues that Abraham wants to hide his marriage to Sarah because their relationship is a queer one, and that Sarah may not actually be wanting a biological child. Rosenberg also highlights the combination of normative and deviant elements in Abraham’s strategies for obtaining an heir, and the role of ethnic and class difference in Abraham’s and Sarah’s efforts to become more normative.
Bold in its conclusions but careful and precise in its method, Ancestral Queerness breaks new ground by developing a queer theory applicable to diverse cultures, revealing the bias in previous scholarship on Abraham and Sarah, and opening up new paths of interpretation in their narratives.
Gil Rosenberg is a PhD of Iliff School of Theology and the Universtity of Denver, and Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Landmark College, Putney, VT.
Identifying Queerness in an Ancient Text: Comparison
The Comparison Begins
Modern and Ancient Norms
Identifying Biblical Norms
Queer, but not Same-Sex
Description: The Wife-Sister Stories
The Passing of Genesis 20
Description: Contemporary Queer Passing
Alice and Soulla9
Married Bisexual and Polyamorous Women
Polyfamilies at School
Comparison of Genesis 12 and 20 with Queer Passing
Hidden and Disguised Relationships
Oppression and Shame
Redescriptions of Biblical and Queer Passing
Why Abraham Passed
The Deviance of Queer Passing
Description: Abraham’s Heirship Strategies
Adoption (Gen. 15.1-7)
Having a Child with a Secondary Wife (Genesis 16)
Heirship Strategies and the Larger Abraham Narrative
Biblical Parallels for Abraham’s Heirship Strategies
Ancient Near Eastern Parallels for Abraham’s Heirship
Scholarly Reception of Abraham’s Strategies
Description: Queer Couplehood Institutions
Comparison: Legitimate Alternatives to a Familial Norm
Redescription: Queering Abraham’s Strategies and Legitimizing
Description: Sarah’s Childlessness
Sarah’s Childlessness in Context
Description: Queer Families and Their (Lack of) Children
Cultural Associations between Queerness and Childlessness
Redescription: Sarah as Childfree
The Meaning of עקרה
Re-reading Sarah’s Childlessness
INVERTED TRAGIC REPRESENTATION
Description: Sarah’s Laughter
The Meaning of Laughter
Description: Inverted Tragic Queer Representation
Dustin Goltz and Representations of Gay Futures
Lee Edelman and the Figure of the Child
Comparison: Inverted Tragic Representation
Redescription: Sarah’s Tragic Laughter
Who Is Isaac’s Father?
Ambiguous Representations, Recipe for Happiness, and Foundational Texts
Description: Hagar’s Narrative
Description: Indian Commercial Gestational Surrogacy
Queer Liberalism and Race
Comparison: Benefits and Inequalities
Increased Normativity and Breeding Relationships
Ethnic and Class Inequalities
Redescription: Inclusion in Normativity Constituted by Ethnic
and Class Difference
Summaries of Supporting Redescriptions
Queerer and Queerer
The Scholar’s Purpose
[T]his study offers several contributions to queer biblical scholarship. First, it provides a cogent analysis of texts that are not usually considered relevant to queer studies because of the traditionally heteronormative assumptions in interpretation.… Second, the study shows how contemporary queer communities can draw support from the biblical narrative, which is often used against them. Third, Rosenberg appropriates and uses a clear methodology of cross-cultural comparison that could have applicability in further studies.
[Rosenberg] seeks to increase the ambiguity of readings and to offer some alternative ways to fill gaps. In these latter aims, Rosenberg succeeds. The book is written in a clear and engaging style, and it provides several interesting readings of both biblical and contemporary narratives, laying the groundwork for future studies. Susan E. Haddox, Review of Biblical Literature.
Rosenberg’s Ancestral Queerness offers a provocative queer reading of the Abraham and Sarah narratives that evaluates their relationship, childless status, and reproductive strategies as non-normative acts. Rosenberg’s work also helps redefines what makes something “queer.” His suggestion that Abraham and Sarah undermine gender normativity by deviating from non-sexual acts broadens the scope of queer biblical scholarship. … Ancestral Queerness is a thought-provoking work that, at the very least, challenges the assumptions about what makes someone queer in both ancient Near Eastern and contemporary contexts. David Schones, The Bible and Critical Theory.