I first came across F. Scott Spencer’s work when I was a salesman for Hendrickson Publishers and he published with us Journeying through Acts. I read his work again more recently as he was one of the contributors to a volume on multiple views on hermeneutics (Spencer taking the “Literary/Postmodern View”). Even when I had read his chapter, I wasn’t quite sure what this view was all about, but he takes up such a view again in his recent book from Eerdmans: Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of Purpose and Persistence in Luke’s Gospel (2012). Spencer’s not the first person to write a book on women in Luke – Barbara Reid has been very influential in this discussion with her book Choosing the Better Part. Also, there is a feminist companion to Luke (ed. A.J. Levine). Indeed, this isn’t even Spencer’s first book on women in the Gospels. In 2004, he wrote Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth: The Women in Jesus’ Life (Continuum). But this new book is not a rehashing of his 2004 volume. It has a persistent focus on Luke and his gospel.
How is this book different than other texts within the ambit of feminist biblical interpretation? While Spencer has a lot of respect for what he calls “FBI” agents (its an acronym, get it? Spencer gets this from the informal way Harvard students of Fiorenza refer to themselves), his desire is to study the gospel of Luke both in terms of faithfulness to the lives and plight of women in the world, and working from a hermeneutic of trust in God as he reads Holy Scripture. Spencer has no assumption that Luke was a bona fide feminist. Neither does he understand Luke to have an agenda where he wants to suppress and stifle the voices of women. Rather, he urges that a responsible study will reveal “the creative agency and capable activity of women in Luke’s Gospel” (x).After an introductory chapter, he gives attention to 6 key episodes: Luke 15:8-10, Luke 1-2, Luke 8:1-3; Luke 10:38-42, Luke 4:25-26, and Luke 18:1-8.
If Spencer is anything, he is good at reading all the fine print of the text and thinking through what Luke actually writes. Sometimes you will encounter a strange or weak argument, but his project and the majority of his discussion are worthwhile. One bonus – Spencer is the king of puns. His cleverness keeps the text moving and helps the reader to stay engaged.