Renita J. Weems

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Renita J. Weems
Born (1954-06-26) June 26, 1954 (age 68)
OccupationBiblical scholar, ethicist, professor, author, ordained minister
Academic work
DisciplineWomanist Biblical Studies and Ethics
InstitutionsVanderbilt University, Spelman college, American Baptist College
Main interestsWomanism, biblical scholarship, ethics and theology

Renita J. Weems (born June 26, 1954) is an ordained minister, a Hebrew Bible scholar, and an author. in 1989 she received a Ph.D. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible studies from Princeton Theological Seminary making her the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in the field. Her work in womanist biblical interpretation is frequently cited in feminist theology and womanist theology. She is credited with developing theology and ethics as a field.


Weems earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College, and earned her Master's in 1983 and Ph.D. in 1989 [1] from Princeton Theological Seminary.[2] She was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Old Testament Studies.[3] Weems' doctoral dissertation "Sexual Violence as an Image for Divine Retribtution in Prophetic Writings" was a trailblazing effort. Writing in an era when women doctoral students hesitated to take on “women’s issue” topics, and when most male faculty still felt uncertain, if not uncomfortable, advising such topics, Weems chose to study marriage imagery in the Hebrew prophets focusing largely on the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea. Her work offered careful, challenging, and often painful insights into use of this metaphor; moving beyond traditional scholarship, which had all too easily looked only at the “love” side of the marriage metaphor. Drawing on an interdisciplinary methodology of literary criticism, gender criticism, and sociological and ideological analyses Weems was among the first to point to the violence associated with this biblical imagery, violence acceptable within the prophets’ cultural assumptions about marriage, and all too often considered acceptable even in twentieth-century America. Her 1995 volume Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets brought this important work to a wide audience, with powerful hermeneutical reflection on implications for contemporary understandings of God and of marriage.


Weems is the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible.

Weems taught on the faculty the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN (1987-2003). She served as the 2003-2005 William and Camille Cosby Professor of Humanities at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. She was Vice President, Academic Dean, and Professor of Biblical Studies at American Baptist College in Tennessee, ending her time in 2017.

Weems was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1984.[2]


Dr. Weems is featured in “Black Stars: African American Religious Leaders” (2008), a collection of biographies of some of the most important Black Religious Leaders over the last 200 hundred years, including such impressive figures as Adam Clayton Powell, Elijah Muhammad, Sojourner Truth, Howard Thurman, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..

Her 1999 book, Listening for God: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon & Schuster), won the Religious Communicators' Council's prestigious 1999 Wilbur Award for "excellence in communicating spiritual values to the secular media."[4]

She was the first African-American woman to deliver the Lyman Beecher Lecture at Yale University (2008).[5]



  1. ^ "Dr. Renita Weems to Give 2020 O'Connor Lectures". Columbia Theological Seminary. 2020-01-14. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  2. ^ a b "Dr. Renita J. Weems - SheSource Expert - Women's Media Center". Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  3. ^ "Dr. Renita Weems to Give 2020 O'Connor Lectures". Columbia Theological Seminary. 2020-01-14. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  4. ^ Howard, Cam. "Wilbur Awards | Religion Communicators Council". Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  5. ^ "Yale University Divinity School Library: Lyman Beecher Lecture Series". Retrieved 2018-01-01.