• Dirk Büchner University of Durban-Westville


The story of Tamar and Judah in Gen 38 is a well-told drama that is a rich source of . ancient near-eastern cultural practices. Many related ideas are found in the story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz as told in the book of Ruth. These two stories are subversive of the Bible's patriarchal system as it defines the social position of widows without children. The status of widows is highlighted as a status defined for them by their culture, and which may be challenged. The result of the widows' subversive behaviour is. of course, offspring. Moreover, these male (1) children find themselves in the ancestral list of David and eventually of Jesus in Matthew 1. Notable too is that Matthew mentions both Ruth and Tamar by name on a list normally reservedfor males, so their subversion has a long-term effect. Much of the cultural material in the two Bible stories are very similar to traditional African culture and the status of women in these cultures. This makes the stories an excellent teaching resource in an African context. In this article I will summarise the response I have had from male and female African students who have interacted with these stories. Initially, therefore, I will not be giving my own viewpoint, but the views of African readers and writers. From this information I want to make a few comments about where we are as regards patriarchy and feminism. Also I wish to stimulate some discussion about feminism and the Bible within the African context. Some welcome feminism as a liberating perspective. but others perceive it as another ideological notion imposed on African church and culture by non-African interpreters of the Bible.