Swarthmore College’s Religion Course Catalog Includes Study in ‘Queering the Bible’

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SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A private liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia is drawing concerns over a “Queering the Bible” class included in its course catalog that is meant to provide “queer and trans readings of biblical texts.”

Swarthmore College, founded in 1864 by Quakers, provides a description of the course on its website, along with other upcoming religious-themed classes such as “Christian Mysticism,” “Islamic Law and Society” and “From Vodun to Voodoo: African Religions in the Old and New Worlds.”

“This course surveys queer and trans readings of biblical texts,” the outline reads. “It introduces students to the complexity of constructions of sex, gender, and identity in one of the most influential literary works produced in ancient times.”

“By reading the Bible with the methods of queer and trans theoretical approaches, this class destabilizes long held assumptions about what the Bible—and religion—says about gender and sexuality,” the course description asserts.

The study will be offered this fall and taught by Swarthmore Associate Professor of Religion Gwynn Kessler. According to the college website, Kessler’s research work focuses on Jewish interpretations of Scripture, specifically “rabbinic theology and rabbinic constructions of gender and identity” with “postmodern, feminist, and queer theoretical approaches.”


Kessler is the author of several publications, including “Imagining the Fetus: The Unborn in Myth, Religion, and Culture,” “Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible” and “Let’s Cross That Body When We Get To It: Gender and Ethnicity in Rabbinic Literature.”

Christian News Network reached out to Kessler for comment, but a response was not received as of press time. The College Fix, which first reported on the matter, likewise attempted to obtain additional information from Kessler, but the professor did not respond.

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In addition to Kessler’s “Queering the Bible” course, Swarthmore also lists among its religion courses—although it does not appear that it is being currently offered—a study called “Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology.”

“The God of the Bible and later Jewish and Christian literature is distinctively masculine, definitely male. Or is He?” the description of the course reads. “If we can point out places in traditional writings where God is nurturing, forgiving, and loving, does that mean that God is feminine, or female? This course examines feminist and queer writings about God, explores the tensions between feminist and queer theology, and seeks to stretch the limits of gendering-and sexing-the divine.”

Public reaction to Swarthmore’s “Queering God” and “Queering the Bible” courses has been largely in opposition of such teachings.

“This college is wrong to be offering such a damaging course. They are harming young minds unnecessarily,” one commenter wrote.

“This is about sanitizing and neutralizing the prohibitions on homosexual acts that Scripture unequivocally condemns. … Guilty conscience? No problem, we’ll simply alter the verses to suit ourselves,” another stated.

Leviticus 18:22, part of what is referred to as the Torah, reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.”

Jude 1:7, written by a man believed to be one of Christ’s earthly brothers, also outlines, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

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