Over the past year or so, I have been searching the Bible for better understanding on issues of gender and women’s roles. This book, Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup is one of the latest books on the scene. Just released last month, it is a small book but in my opinion a helpful contribution to the discussion.
Overall, I greatly appreciated the author’s humility and graciousness. She approached a hot-button issue in a calm, helpful way. While she is fully convinced of her opinion, she started off by talking about the need to come to this issue with a heart willing to seek and learn. Personally, I felt she spent half the book setting up an introduction, although I do see why she chose to do.
Wendy starts off by pointing out the scarlet thread that is all throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament. The scarlet thread that points to Jesus’ and His atoning work. She then moves into the goodness of God for women from the beginning of time at creation. I love the phrase she used a few times, “Personhood preceded womanhood.” Describing the creation of humans, she reiterates how both men and women are equally created in the image of God. Both genders are image bearers. (She also includes a great section debunking the myth that is in the church, purposefully and subconsciously, that marriage is the ultimate goal of a woman.)
Moving forward a few chapters, the author starts to get into specific “problem passages” related to the gender discussion. Her refrain is “let the Bible interpret the Bible.” In a few instances, she detailed several different interpretations before ending with her personal belief, which I appreciated. I learned some interpretations I had not heard before.
While I did not agree with all of her conclusions, the book was thought-provoking. You do leave the book seeing that yes indeed, the Bible is good for women. I did have a couple critiques, however.
In a few instances, I do believe the author unfairly represented the other side of the gender discussion. She made reference to how the other side is merely proof-texting and coming to the discussion looking for verses that support their already made up minds. This does not do justice to the discussion. While there are indeed people like that, there are also scores of people, men and women alike, who are coming humbly to the topic, searching the Scriptures with prayerful hearts, and still arriving at different conclusions.
Secondly, I found it interesting that even while the author said it is best to be careful taking outside historical context into consideration (she posits that the best historical context is that which is found in the Bible….letting the Bible interpret the Bible) and she said that people on the other side are quick to play the historical context card…she herself pulled from extra-biblical historical context in some of her arguments. Personally, I think that there can be great benefit in learning about historical context, even if some of that context comes from outside the Bible.
The final critique is actually more of just a point of confusion. There were several instances where the author referenced certain things but didn’t go into detail on how she arrived at that conclusion. One such instance was when she referenced Junias. There is much debate as to whether Junias was in fact Junias (a woman) or Junia (a man). Most translations, including the translation the author uses, render it Junia. Rather than using Junias as an example of a woman in the Bible, I wish the author had gotten into that a bit more and explained how she came to that conclusion, especially since that is a conclusion different from the translation she uses.
Overall, I appreciated the book. Again, I probably would have taken her points a bit farther, but at the end I do agree with the conclusion: yes, the Bible is good for women. “Is God then a feminist?…If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist. God created woman in His image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man….By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.” – page 191
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Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Hmmm, sounds like an interesting book. I have some pretty strong opinions on this topic 🙂 but I’d say that yes, God is pro-woman and did create man and woman equal, and we’ve done a very good job of skewing that ever since. I think limiting a study to what the Bible says is very, well, limiting. Historical details can provide a lot of information that helps our understanding of the Bible, as most of it is set in a time and cultures very different than our own. It’s my understanding (from various Biblical and historical reading) that how the Bible treats women, and how Jesus treated women, is actually much better than how women were historically treated at the time. 🙂 Thanks for your review! If you’re interested in this topic, I’d also recommend The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand. It’s a very small book, so it’s a quick read, but there’s a lot in it. 🙂
I completely agree about historical details! Knowing more of what was going on in that time and culture can shed so much light on things. This book definitely leaned complementarian, although I do think that she pushed the envelope toward a more middle ground. From my study so far I am definitely leaning more egalitarian and in general realizing social justice is a much bigger deal to God than a lot of conservative Christians think. I will definitely check out that book you recommended. I am trying to read things on all sides of the spectrum as I am searching this issue out!