Swarthmore College Offers ‘Queering the Bible’ Course with ‘Trans Readings of Scripture’

Queering the Bible

An elite liberal arts college is offering a class called “Queering the Bible” for the 2018 fall semester, in which it promises to “destabilize long held assumptions” about what the Bible says about gender.

According to the course description published in the Swarthmore College Catalog, the course will survey “queer and trans* readings of biblical texts,” while introducing students to “the complexity of constructions of sex, gender, and identity in one of the most influential literary works produced in ancient times.”

The one-credit course, taught by Dr. Gwynn Kessler, who has a PhD in Rabbinics from Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, promises to employ “the methods of queer and trans* theoretical approaches” to Bible reading, by which it will destabilize “long held assumptions about what the bible—and religion—says about gender and sexuality.”

Dr. Kessler says that her work “is situated within, and suffused with, postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical approaches.”

On announcing the hiring of Dr. Kessler in 2009, Swarthmore said she would teach courses “on GLBTQ Jews and Judaism” and “a seminar on biblical and rabbinic constructions of God’s gender.”

Kessler’s marriage to Tamara Ruth Cohen in 2004 merited an announcement in the New York Times section on weddings and celebrations.

Along with “Queering the Bible,” Swarthmore’s religion department also offers “Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology,” a course that “examines feminist and queer writings about God, explores the tensions between feminist and queer theology, and seeks to stretch the limits of gendering-and sexing-the divine.”

“If we can point out places in traditional writings where God is nurturing, forgiving, and loving,” the course description asks, “does that mean that God is feminine, or female?”

The Quaker-founded Swarthmore College, located outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, consistently receives top rankings across many indicators of excellence, according to the ever-attentive writers at The College Fix.

According to U.S. News and World Report, tuition and fees at Swarthmore run to $50,822 per year and only 13 percent of applicants are accepted.

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