Moses and masculinity

Moses and masculinity

A new book from a Uniting Church theologian explores the role notions of masculinity plays in Moses’ story.

Dr Anthony Rees’ latest book, Moses: Man Among Men?, released in May.

Dr Rees is Associate Head of School and Senior Lecturer in  Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at United Theological College.

“Over the last 20 years or so, studies on presentations on masculinity in the Hebrew scriptures have been growing,” Dr Rees said.

“Building on work done commencing in the 1990s by the late David Clines – who had picked up the broader discourse on gender coming out of cultural studies led by Butler and Connell – these works have slowly been building up a critical mass of scholarship in this important area. By and large, these studies have been in the form of papers and chapters, but now that the field is a little more established, book projects like mine have begun to appear.”

“I have followed the rise of masculinities studies closely and felt that my previous work with the book of Numbers made it possible for me to contribute to this emerging field using Moses as my primary subject. So this book is a type of character analysis of Moses, with an emphasis on the issue of masculine performance. In relation to my approach, what I have done is to concentrate on Moses’ relationships with other men.”

“The rationale for that is firstly, that gender is socially constructed, and so is demonstrated through relationship with others. Secondly, that masculinity operates on a type of scale whereby an idealised performance – what we call hegemonic masculinity – trumps other forms, meaning masculinity is a type of contest. That idealised performance is itself culturally determined, so subject to the vagaries of shifting contexts. And thirdly, that contest plays out between men.”

“It makes sense then, that Moses’ relationships with other men would serve as the context for my own exploration. I began with a guiding idea that within all his relationships Moses would be presented as the superior male, and that would be reversed in the presentation of his relationship with YHWH. By and large that’s the way it plays out, the exception being his Father-in-law. But I shouldn’t give too much away!”

Dr Rees told Insights he has a number of other projects already underway.

“I have spent 15 years working on projects related to Numbers and Exodus and so I am currently exploring new parts of the canon,” he said.

“I am presenting some papers in the coming month on the book of Ruth which I hope to develop into a book. That project is concerned with questions about migration and return, marriage and mortality, and so picks up some themes that I have worked on before.”

“Alongside that, I am involved in discussions regarding the use of the Bible in the western music tradition. Before I commenced my theological education I worked as a professional musician, so that project is a way of staying connected to a previous part of my life. I am hopeful we will see some progress on that in the next year or two. Aside from those two major emphases, I am always thinking about the interaction of the scriptural tradition and the events that are taking place in our world. There are always things to be thinking about.”

Moses: Man Among Men is available to order here.


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