Review: Women’s Bible Commentary (Reviewed by Shannon Coe)

3 out of 5 Stars

Edited by: Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, & Jacqueline E. Lapsley
Publisher: Westminster John Knox
Reading Level: Moderate

The basis of this commentary is to view the representation of women in God’s Word. And there was something here, just under the surface that I couldn’t put my finger on. See, I am no theologian.

Most references given were to other people’s interpretations of a Biblical story and the characters in it, not always a chapter and verse of God’s Word. There was much supposition and many suggestions given when the text didn’t give us all the details. For example, not written and given to us in the story of Samson and Delilah was the possibility for S/M role playing, sex games and a perverted and deviant Samson. But they are offered here as very high probabilities. Whispers of David marrying a wealthy widow named Abigail only for her money are also presented to me as being the details left out, most likely on purpose. Things that never were introduced to my heart by the Holy Spirit are delivered to me, story after story, as real possibilities. Gideon’s story explained with potential of him being a perverted raping warmonger nearly broke my heart. And on and on I read. Suppositions given as if they were the missing details, all trying to form my worldview of how women have been oppressed and abused over the ages and how the trusted Word has left out these details, hinting conspiratorially.

I am sensitive to these things. I know somewhat of what these commentators and interpreters are dealing with. I will gladly stand with those who say women are scorned, perceived as inferior, used and abused, and condemned quickly in religious circles. I have seen it firsthand. I have felt it. I have survived it. And after days and days of reading, I finally figured out what I was sensing in this commentary: pain and brokenness.

And a worldview is given and promoted that reveals a distrust with the lack of detail and background missing in so many stories.

There really is no way to argue against each interpretation offered of the stories. And it is unnecessary. This book is not needed to be read as the Word of God. We already have that. I did find myself studying my Bible more, and may I even say better? If we are to give stars for books that increase our Bible study and help us seek the Lord for His guidance, then this book should receive 5 stars. It did indeed increase my search and study of Scriptures. But if we qualify stars based on effectiveness and worth, I would give less depending on who would read this work. Women hurt by the Pharisee-type movements in religion would not find healing for their mistreatment when reading this book. In fact, their distrust for the Word of God would increase. I would highly recommend healing to happen first. It is not a book for the weary and hurting. Women’s worth and value should be felt securely in Christ before she attempts to read this collection of opinions of the men and women in the Bible. Because it feels dark. Dark and heavy.

I had difficult days when reading these opinions of women and their worth in the Bible. May I say, after all these years of just me and my Bible, I have never for one moment left my time with the Lord feeling anything other than loved, adored, adopted, and redeemed or believing that any woman would be less than loved by our beautiful Savior. I do not feel threatened by order of authority and submission of wills taught in Scripture. Even the Trinity has a Father/Son relationship, one submitting to the other’s will. So the feelings stirred by this “fill-in-the-blanks” commentary cannot be confused with God’s word. People’s explanations and interpretations given may have some historical and cultural merit in some stories, although not to the degree I am satisfied with.

I remind you, I am no theologian. I am a simple woman who lives in a small village and likes to read all things relating to the Holy Scriptures. And yet every one of us, learned or unlearned, comes to the Scriptures with a worldview of their own. I have always believed it was vital to my faith to allow my worldview to be adapted to God’s, in every area whether it be politics, family, finances, charity, sharing the Gospel and so on. I wouldn’t think it right to interject myself in Scriptures, placing my past issues inside and alongside the stories, but rather let the Scriptures interject its truth and change me.

Revealed to me and my interpretation of this ‘collection of interpretations’ are women who have been wounded, not valued, unloved and not esteemed. There is suffering of women throughout history, and definitely in our Bible. But the source of that suffering is sin, always sin. Sinful men and women have made this world what it is. I am not able to find in Scripture what is presented in this collection of interpretations. But what do I know? I am no theologian.

Shannon Coe is wife to a pastor, mother of four valiant sons, homeschooling and writing in West Virginia. She blogs about being in an arranged marriage and how a Providential God gave tranquility, peace, and victory to her life at www.arrangedbygod.com. Come visit her there and read her story.

A free copy of this book was provided by Westminster John Knox. If you plan on purchasing Women’s Bible Commentary, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.