“Women’s Bible Commentary”—Book review

womens-bible-commentaryThere are some good things, some bad things, about this best-selling Women’s Bible Commentary (originally published in 1992 and expanded in 1998).

The good

The good things are the cultural facts it summarizes for each book of the Bible. Because it deals specifically with the female characters in the Bible, it has space to contain interesting tidbits you don’t necessarily get in full in other commentaries.

It explains things such as the conditions of women’s legal status for each time period, their position in the family, how religion affected their relationships inside and outside the home, etc.

It’s been of special interest to me since I’m currently studying women and their encounters with Jesus in the gospels.

Here’s a sample paragraph with some interesting insights about the healing of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years from Mark 5:

In contrast to her earlier boldness, she comes forward at Jesus’ word, falling at his feet “in fear and trembling,” to confess her act.

The shift from audacity to timidity in her behavior begs for an explanation. Her earlier “shameful” boldness in approaching Jesus was acceptable from one who was already banished from honorable society; but with her healing she may be reinstated in the religious and social community.

Consequently, her timorous deference reflects her renewed conventional status as a woman in the male world of honor and shame. Jesus confirms her reincorporation by providing her with what she lacked at the opening of the episode, kinship with a male: “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (5:34). Jesus now becomes her kinsman, and her subordinate behavior signals her return to reputable society.

I also found the special sections valuable: “Everyday Life: Women in the Period of the Hebrew Bible” and “Women in the Period of the New Testament.”

The bad

But what I don’t like about this book is the pro-feminist, anti-male attitude I pick up occasionally. Now and again it implies intentions from the biblical authors that I don’t agree with.

For instance, it insinuates from how Luke relays his stories that he is intentionally trying to undermine women. I find no evidence to prove such an opinion.

The commentary also contains summaries on the books of the Apocrypha. While I find those books interesting to read, I don’t approach them with equal value as the sixty-six books contained in the established canon.

Recommend?

Would I recommend you get this commentary? Only if you would approach it very discerningly. I personally find it challenging and healthy to listen to differing views to help me hone my own, as long as I constantly weigh those views against the ones found to be true in God’s written word.

So while this commentary does have value, remember: as with any book other than the Bible, don’t believe everything you read.

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My thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy of this book.

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