Fortress Press

The Power of Equivocation: Complex Readers and Readings of the Hebrew Bible

The Power of Equivocation

Complex Readers and Readings of the Hebrew Bible

Amy Kalmanofsky (Author)

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In The Power of Equivocation Amy Kalmanofsky addresses the Bible's inherent complexity as well as the complexity of those who seek to read the Bible critically, generously, and honestly.

The Bible invites what Kalmanofsky identifies as equivocal readings--readings that do not reach neat conclusions related to ideology or character. Kalmanofsky demonstrates the Bible's complicated artistry through her close readings of six biblical narratives that feature women: she examines culpability in the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife and shows how the Bible presents neither figure as a hero or villain; considers how the Bible's portrayal of Hannah both conforms to and also defies the Bible's patriarchal norms; how the Bible affords the rejected King Saul compassion and respect through a powerful yet unlawful medium from En-Dor; how Queen Esther overpowers men to become the equivocal hero of her eponymous book; how Tamar in Genesis 38, like Hannah, conforms to and challenges the Bible's patriarchal norms and how, like Esther, she is the equivocal hero of her story; and how the Bible presents Bathsheba as a complicated figure, both vulnerable and powerful.

Kalmanofsky draws from the challenges she personally feels as a feminist, as a Jew, and as a scholar to argue that equivocal readers like herself are best equipped to see the Bible's complex artistry. Equivocal feminist-religious readers are suspicious and generous readers who can expose the ways in which biblical texts empower and disempower women and who can provide essential insight about the Bible's theology and ideology.

Through her close readings, Kalmanofsky models what it means to be equivocal readers of an equivocal Bible. The Power of Equivocation is marked by honesty and the celebration of a text that can never be read just one way.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506478715
  • eBook ISBN 9781506478722
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 170
  • Publication Date September 20, 2022


"Complexity, ambiguity, tensions, paradox, multiplicity. The Hebrew Bible is comfortable with all of these, so why aren't we? As a feminist, Jewish interpreter Amy Kalmanofsky helps us see and appreciate the complexities and ambiguities in a number of engaging interpretations of biblical stories of female characters. But she also helps us to be aware of the complexity of us as readers and the multiple roles and identities that impact what we see, or do not see, in the text and in the world. We need this book on equivocal readings of the Hebrew Bible now more than ever, as we, individually and collectively, struggle to regain our footing in a post-pandemic world in which uncertainty and insecurity have become the new normal."

L. Juliana Claassens, Stellenbosch University

"The Power of Equivocation is a thoughtful, generous, and deeply feminist reimagining of what it means to read the Bible. Kalmanofsky takes on the contradictions and moral complexities of biblical narrative and makes them the centerpiece of 'equivocal reading,' an interpretive practice that is at once flexible, critical, and affirming. A book for all biblical readers. An unequivocal success."

Rhiannon Graybill, Rhodes College

"A joy to read for all who welcome questions more than answers. Kalmanofsky has curated rich readings for those who recognize openly that we inevitably bring our complex selves to a beautifully complex text."

Brittany N. Melton, Palm Beach Atlantic University and University of the Free State

"Kalmanofsky's latest work is committed to revealing the intentional ambiguities of biblical storytelling, while also acknowledging the complexities of reading the Hebrew Bible as a scholar, a feminist, and a Jew. She adeptly strikes a balance between the personal and the useful that is often elusive for scholars. Following her through some of the most well-known biblical tales and marveling at her illumination of their many complexities was akin to reading a comprehensive travel guide of your hometown: Who knew there was so much to see in something so familiar?"

Stephen Wilson, Georgetown University