#SheToo podcast series

Join us for #SheToo, a seven-part podcast series exploring some of the texts that include violence against women in the Bible. These 'texts of terror' have, at times, been used to oppress women or have just been ignored. But what happens if we take a closer look?

We talk to six theologians from both faith and non-faith backgrounds about their academic and personal approaches to these texts, and what they might have to say to 21st century readers. Can giving voice to these ancient victims open up the means whereby the stories of today’s victims can be heard and validated?

Listen below, in Apple Podcasts or subscribe using a podcast app of your choice via RSS.


The #SheToo podcast series is presented by Rosie Dawson, a religion journalist and broadcaster. Rosie left the BBC in 2018 to pursue a freelance career and other interests – which include a life-long passion for theology.

Episode 1. Sexual violence in the Bible: read with care

Every reader comes to the Bible with their own history and set of assumptions. In this introductory episode, Rev Dr Helen Paynter tells Rosie Dawson which principles and commitments inform her engagement with Biblical texts about sexual abuse and violence.


After a career in medicine Revd Dr Helen Paynter (@HelenEPaynter) trained as a Baptist minister. She wrote her PhD on aspects of humour in the book of Kings. She is now Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence at Bristol Baptist college. Her book God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Honestly Wrestling with the Old Testament will be published by the Bible Reading Fellowship in May 2019.

Episode 2. Hagar (Genesis 16 and 21)

The story of Hagar is the most well-known of the passages under consideration in this series. Hagar is the slave of Abraham and Sarah who is required to bear Abraham a son, Ishmael, as a solution to the couple’s childlessness. Usually this story is read as part of the wider story about how Abraham came to be the father of two nations, through his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Here Dr Katie Edwards seeks to read the story from the perspective of Hagar.


Dr Katie Edwards (@KatieBEdwards) is Assistant Director of the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies and Senior Lecturer in The Bible in Contemporary Culture and Society. Her research focusses on the function impact and influence of the Bible in contemporary culture. Her Lent talk ‘The Silence of the Lamb’ for BBC Radio 4 won the Jerusalem Trust’s festivals award 2018. Katie is a dog lover. She has a Jack Russell with a chewing problem and a Chorkie with a bad attitude. 

Episode 3. Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11)

The story of Jephthah’s daughter is the tragic tale of rash promises and unintended consequences. The warrior Jephthah makes a vow to sacrifice the first person to come out of his house to greet him if the Lord gives him victory over the Ammonites. It doesn’t occur to him that that person might be his only child, his daughter. Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand finds plenty to weep about in this story – but she also finds a story of female empowerment.


Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand presents regularly on BBC Radio’s ‘Pause for Thought’ and ‘Something Understood.’ She is the founder of JDOV Talks and author of The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales, an illustrated volume of folk stories for all faiths and ages.

Episode 4. The Levite’s Concubine (Judges 19)

The story of the Levite’s concubine is brutal beyond words. The victim has no name and does not get to speak. She is betrayed by her husband and handed over to a mob to be raped and murdered. War and the trafficking and rape of many more women follows. What place has such a terrible story in the Bible? Dr Mary Evans believes that the narrator, intending his original readers to be as shocked as we are, wants to demonstrate what happens when a nation ignores God.


Dr Mary Evans was for many years a lecturer in Old Testament, mostly in the UK at London School of Theology but after early retirement spent three years at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. Writing, speaking, church, family, friends and fulfilling the responsibilities of her role as Board Chair for the Langham Partnership, now fill much of her time.

Episode 5. The rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13)

In a world which – then as now – frequently divides women into Madonnas or whores, Tamar is the ‘perfect’ rape victim; virginal, beautiful, obedient. Her rape takes place within the Royal Household of King David. Tamar, David’s daughter, is raped by her half-brother Amnon. For the writer the rape is set in the larger context of the falling apart of the Royal family. Dr Johanna Stiebert wants to attend to the voice of Tamar as she resists her abuse and expresses its devastating consequences for her.


Dr Johanna Stiebert (@joistie20) is a German-New Zealander and Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Leeds. Her current research interests focus on how biblical texts intersect with contemporary conversations about gender and sexuality. She likes to combine work and travel and has taught in Botswana, the USA, Kerala and New Zealand. Recent research projects focused on engaging the Bible to combat gender-based injustice have taken her to Ghana, Lesotho and Botswana in the past year. 

Episode 6. The punishment of Jezebel (Revelation 2.19-24)

This passage contains not a story about sexual violence, but a metaphor of it. The writer of Revelation uses the imagery of sexual violence to speak of the punishment that awaits the prophetess Jezebel who is accused of leading the church into idolatry. Dr Meredith Warren tells Rosie Dawson why she believes the language used in this passage is damaging for the one in four women in churches who have suffered sexual abuse.


Dr Meredith J C Warren (@DrMJCWarren) is Director of the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies and Lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies at the University of Sheffield. She researches embodied religious experience in the New Testament, in particular Revelation and the Gospel of John. Her second book, Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature will be published by Society of Biblical Literature Press in 2019.

Episode 7. Preaching #SheToo

We’ve heard some strong stuff. Perhaps you knew these stories already but had you heard them preached about in Church? Is it really appropriate to do so? Rev Dr Helen Paynter thinks it is. In this final podcast she talks to Rosie Dawson about the need for Christians to find the resources in the Bible that can help them in their quest for sexual justice.


After a career in medicine Revd Dr Helen Paynter (@HelenEPaynter) trained as a Baptist minister. She wrote her PhD on aspects of humour in the book of Kings. She is now Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence at Bristol Baptist college. Her book God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Honestly Wrestling with the Old Testament will be published by the Bible Reading Fellowship in May 2019.


Bible Society is not aligned to any single denomination and does not necessarily endorse every position taken here – but this podcast is offered to help listeners engage with themes in parts of the Bible that are too important to ignore.

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