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Reconceiving Infertility:
Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness
Candida R. Moss & Joel S. Baden

Hardcover | 2015 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691164830
328 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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In the Book of Genesis, the first words God speaks to humanity are "Be fruitful and multiply." From ancient times to today, these words have been understood as a divine command to procreate. Fertility is viewed as a sign of blessedness and moral uprightness, while infertility is associated with sin and moral failing. Reconceiving Infertility explores traditional interpretations such as these, providing a more complete picture of how procreation and childlessness are depicted in the Bible.

Closely examining texts and themes from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Candida Moss and Joel Baden offer vital new perspectives on infertility and the social experiences of the infertile in the biblical tradition. They begin with perhaps the most famous stories of infertility in the Bible—those of the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel—and show how the divine injunction in Genesis is both a blessing and a curse. Moss and Baden go on to discuss the metaphorical treatments of Israel as a "barren mother," the conception of Jesus, Paul's writings on family and reproduction, and more. They reveal how biblical views on procreation and infertility, and the ancient contexts from which they emerged, were more diverse than we think.

Reconceiving Infertility demonstrates that the Bible speaks in many voices about infertility, and lays a biblical foundation for a more supportive religious environment for those suffering from infertility today.

Candida R. Moss is professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions, among other books. Joel S. Baden is professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School. His books include The Composition of the Pentateuch.


"This book brings to light biblical ideas that challenge 'modern natural assumption about infertility.' Required reading for those interested in biblical and/or disability studies."--Choice

"[A] provocative and palliative book."--Amy-Jill Levine, Irish Theological Quarterly

"The last 90 pages of this elegantly produced book include a wealth of scholarly material as well as the usual subject index. In other words, the text not only draws upon a range of resources perhaps not expected by the title, presented with organization and clarity, making the content accessible to a wide range of readers."--Ann Loades, Theology

"Reconceiving Infertility is a valuable contribution to a variety of emerging and established conversations in biblical studies, including those on gender, disability studies, family structures, and childhood."--Laurel Koepf Taylor, Catholic Bible Quarterly

"A great contribution."--Bible Today


"Reconceiving Infertility shows why Candida Moss and Joel Baden are among the most respected and insightful interpreters of the Bible today. They rightly emphasize the diversity of biblical views of family values and offer an excellent reminder that the biblical texts do not privilege any one view of the ideal woman, childless or not."--Hector Avalos, Iowa State University

"In Reconceiving Infertility, Moss and Baden challenge everything we think we know about how infertility and procreation are portrayed in the Bible. Their fresh reading leads to startling and exciting conclusions about the role that those who are childless, whether by choice or circumstance, might play in the life of the church and the coming of the kingdom."--Ellen Painter Dollar, author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: The Matriarchs as Models 21
Chapter 2: The Blessing and the Curse 70
Chapter 3: Mother Zion and the Eschaton 103
Chapter 4: The Son of God and the Conception of the New Age 140
Chapter 5: Chastity, Marriage, and Gender in the Christian Family 171
Chapter 6: Barrenness and the Eschaton 200
Conclusion 229
Notes 239
Bibliography 291
Primary Source Index 313
Subject Index 325

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