Reading the Bible With Women

The caricature of Rahab and other female characters in Scripture often sidelines their contribution.

Several years ago, I was invited to write the notes for a new women’s study Bible. The project was unexpected and felt unusual to me, because I’d never read a women’s study Bible myself and I was skeptical about the need for one. Why can’t we all just read the same Bible? But after praying about the offer, I felt led to accept—hoping I might be able to offer something of value to women who picked up the Bible. But I had no idea how transformative the project would end up being for me!

In my four decades working in Christian schools, churches, and other ministries—and with three degrees in Bible to my name—no one had ever asked me to read the Bible as a woman and for women. I had never approached the Bible while asking, What are women going to wonder about when they read this? What’s going to bother them? What will capture their attention?

Because my pastors and theology professors were all men, and most of the books I read about the Bible were written by men, I learned to read Scripture generically—ignoring myself as much as possible so I could see the world through their eyes. Some of my professors considered the plight of women or the roles of women, but none of them had embodied experiences which helped them enter the biblical stories of women. This was not their fault, and it did not make their teaching irrelevant, but it did make my understanding of Scripture incomplete.

As I reread the Old and New Testaments, focusing both on the women in the text and the women who would read it, so many biblical stories came to life for me in a whole new way. I was forced to wrestle with difficult passages that seemed hard on women. But as I wrestled with these …

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