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Title page for ETD etd-08092017-001024

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Dickerson, Febbie Claudina
URN etd-08092017-001024
Title The Parable of the Widow and Judge (Luke 18:2-5): Talking Back to African American Stereotypes
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Amy-Jill Levine Committee Chair
Barbara E. Reid Committee Member
Herbert R. Marbury Committee Member
stacey.floyd-thomas@vanderbilt.edu Committee Member
  • Luke and Women
  • Gospel of Luke
  • Parables
  • Parable of the Widow and Judge
Date of Defense 2017-07-10
Availability restricted
Most readers classify the widow in the “Parable of the Widow and the Judge (Luke 18.2-5)” as a righteous victim of a corrupt legal system; they similarly regard the judge as unrighteous and immoral. The message of the parable then becomes, as Luke’s contextualization (18.1, 6-8) insists, one of encouraging constant prayer. Such readings ignore the morally ambivalent characterizations of both the widow and judge as well as suppress the parable’s challenges to stereotypes of widows and powerful men. The widow’s demand may be for vengeance rather than justice; the line between the two desires is often indeterminable. Likewise, the judge may be wise in his resistance to the widow’s demand rather than her subjugator; his decision in her favor may exacerbate a wish for revenge rather than heal an unjust situation.

Combining historical-critical research with both a womanist hermeneutic and cultural criticism, I interrogate the parable for its unsettled content concerning gender roles, morality, and public protest. Analyzing how the parable challenges conventional images of widows and judges in Jesus’ context (as best as that setting can be reconstructed), I, then, place those challenges into conversation with stereotypes of African American women (Mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire) and African American men (“Cool Black Male,” the Master-Pastor, Foolish Judge). This exercise allows me to recover the parable both as an ancient text of provocation and as a resource for readers today concerned with stereotype, sexism, racism, and the way our legal system functions.

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