A Year of Biblical Womanhood

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED: Congrats to April who was the winner!


I have to say, that I was really looking forward to reading Rachel Held Evans new book.  Rachel is a thought leader who is stretching the discussions of our faith.  I was particularly intrigued by what her perspective would be on the issue of biblical womanhood.  That’s a can that very few are brave enough to open.  Rachel does so with a great deal of wit, humor, a splash of sass and yet a deep desire to challenge us to rethink some of the perspectives that have been passed down through our religious traditions.

I can’t aptly describe the anecdotes that made me laugh out loud or or exclaim, “Oh my, I can’t believe she did that!”  You’ll have to read it to enjoy those things.  But here are a few quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“We cause serious collateral damage to the advancement of our sex each time we perpetuate the stereotype that women can’t get along.”

“But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.  Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.”

“One need not be a saint, or even a mother, to become a bearer of God.  One needs only to obey.  The divine resides in all of us, but it is our choice to magnify it or diminish it, to ignore it or to surrender to its lead.”

“That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in his kingdom that Jesus ever delivered.” (referring to Mary Magdalene being the first to see Jesus after his resurrection)

“The Bible does not present us with a single model of biblical womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”

I’m admit, this subject makes me sweat a bit.  The confusion and inconsistency in interpretation of the scripture as it relates to women has been an exhausting topic of conversation for me. I appreciate Rachel’s willingness to run right into the fray and provide some perspective for new thought and conversation.

What is the most confusing part of scripture as it relates to women that you wrestle with?

I have a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood to give away.  I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments on Monday 11/12.


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  • Justin Boulmay November 8, 2012  

    The most confusing passage to me is in 1 Timothy, when it says that women will be saved by faith through childbearing. (I know there’s more to that verse, but I’m quoting from memory at the moment.) I’m not entirely sure what Paul means by that, and even though I’ve read some good possible interpretations, it still confuses me.

    • Dean P. Simmer November 8, 2012  

      I’m with Justin, this one throws me for a loop as well.

    • April November 8, 2012  

      I hope you don’t mind me jumping in here, but my understanding of that passage is that the word “woman” is singular. A woman shall be saved through childbearing…and wasn’t that the case? Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world. 🙂  I don’t personally read that as a mandate then for women to have children or not be saved. If that was the case, that would mess up Paul’s words that we cannot earn our faith. If women had to give birth to be saved, that would be a required work, and I don’t believe God requires me to perform rites and rituals in order to be saved.

      That said, I *am* a mother of two kids, and I believe they “save” me daily as they point me back to my need for a Savior. I am reminded often that I am not patient enough, not compassionate enough, definitely imperfect and I could never bring these kids up to know Jesus but by the grace of God!

      • Justin Boulmay November 8, 2012  

        I didn’t realize the word was singular! That’s interesting. I wonder if it’s the same for 2:12, when it says that women are not permitted to have authority over a man. I know N.T. Wright had written an article on these passages a while back, and now I’m going to have to go back and find it!

        But yeah, I’m definitely glad you jumped in! 🙂

  • Pete November 8, 2012  

    For me it would have to be 1 Timothy 2:12…I struggle with understanding the truth within the Biblical context and applying it now. I wonder if it is a cultural rule (I believe it may be) but explaining why it is not followed today by many churches is difficult.

  • Aarespeaks November 8, 2012  

    Its views on ordination of women or better still whether or not women can be in position of leadership over men

  • Lianne Simon November 8, 2012  

    For me the most confusing part is turning the equity of scripture into concrete actions. I’m not always certain whether a passage is didactic or historical. And we have strong traditions that I don’t think are Biblical. Working out something as straightforward as “Should I vote?” can be difficult.

  • Maggiecolorado November 8, 2012  

     I struggle with women and teaching men.  Some of the best teachers I have had in the church have been women. 

    • Ryan Robinson November 8, 2012  

      Same. I wouldn’t be a Christian if women were not allowed to be leaders in my life.

  • turner_bethany November 8, 2012  

    Love your review. Makes me even more excited for the copy I have coming. Can’t wait for it to get here. 

    • turner_bethany November 8, 2012  

      It came today. So excited to start the book!

  • Tami Terry Martin November 8, 2012  

    The most difficult passage in scripture are a few difficult statements by Paul (I Tim, I Cor) but further that these few isolated verses are given more weight and value than the whole witness of Scripture.

  • Meredith Day November 8, 2012  

    As a woman who is currently studying at Yale Divinity School, these types of issues constantly surround my conversations and readings. Luckily, I attend a school in which women are seen as equal bearers of the Gospel of Christ. I’m grateful for women leaders like Rachel who are willing to engage in the conversation–recognizing that in the midst of difficult passages, the overwhelming truth of Jesus is that ALL are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28) Looking forward to reading this book!

    P.S. Here is an interview a friend of mine at Yale did with Rachel last month that I find helpful. http://sojo.net/magazine/2012/11/being-deborah

  • Ahayworthunc November 8, 2012  

    I’ve been seeing quotes from this book for the past couple weeks. I’d really like to check it out. 

  • Eric S Weiss November 8, 2012  

    I have a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood to give away.  I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments on Monday 11/12.

    Is this an acceptable comment for the give-away: “antidotes” should be “anecdotes.” 🙂

  • Desley Noneofyerbiz November 8, 2012  

    I think it’s all confusing and difficult to package neatly into either a Complementarian or an Egalitarian framework. It’s true that the trajectory of Scripture seems to point toward a fixed position of female, domesticated subservience to men; but then I read books in the Old Testament which detail how God ordained women to be in positions of leadership in all spheres, spiritual, civil, and social. Complementarians insist that God did this only in the absence of godly men, but these same Complementarians then preach out of the other sides of their mouths about the absoluteness of Calvinism. It leads me to wonder, if God could raise up children for Abraham out of stones (Mt 3:9),  could God not have risen up godly men to assume those leadership roles so women wouldn’t have to?… And then there is the prophetess Huldah, who was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah!

    I don’t know… the apostle Paul seems to root  the “separate spheres” doctrine in creation order, but Jesus Himself contradicted Paul’s admonitions by allowing women to “sit as His feet” and leave their homes and families (Luke 8:3) to travel along with Him and His disciples.  

    I have reached the conclusion that the confusion is meant to be there to throw us off of our game. It’s up to Jesus to define the role one takes in fulfilling the great commission. Hence why relationship with Jesus Christ is an integral part of living the Christian life.

  • Amy Nabors (@amykiane) November 8, 2012  

    For me it’s the passage in Timothy as well along with the story of Deborah in the old testament. 

    • Jenni Catron November 8, 2012  

      Deborah is one of my favorites!

  • Laurie Cutter November 8, 2012  

    I’ve been reading Rachel’s blog for awhile and would love to win her book!  She’s always thought-provoking.  Also, we needed a female to do what AJ Jacobs did in his Year of Living Biblically…

  • heather November 8, 2012  

    This excerpt seems very intriguing and thought provoking!  I like the thought that Jesus ushers in a new era.

  • Liz Driscoll November 8, 2012  

    As a seminary-trained woman in church leadership, I wrestled deeply with the call that I felt from God, the gifts He had given me, and the limitations that many within the church, the Bible – and most vociferously, people at my seminary! – seemed to put on me. 

    I was really helped by two things:  1) We know from historical evidence (Christian catacombs, burial records and Roman indictments of the church) that the early church had women in significant leadership roles.  In fact, the biggest rap against the early church by the Romans was that it was led by women and slaves.  In the Roman mind, how could you take a movement with this kind of leadership seriously? Women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, Priscilla, Junia, etc.  Thus, I believe that verses that seem to restict women need to be read in context of the early church – where women exercised significant leadership.  2) The household codes in Ephesians and Colossians (children, women, slaves) are almost verbatim from Roman Texts which describe the rules of society.  In our day, we have rejected the slavery portion as being cultural – maybe the woman part cultural too.

    All that to say – while there are still confusing texts (but aren’t there for many issues?) – I reached a place where I felt confident to pursue my calling with God’s grace.  This does not make my life more simple – I have a demanding career and 3 kids that I try to juggle.  But I believe God is glorified by my using my gifts vocationally in His service.  

    I am saddened that the church lags behind culture in affirming women in all positions of leadership.  And I wonder if some of the Complementarian dogma on these issues is more cultural than biblically conditioned.

    My two cents.  Thanks Jenni.     

  • jennybek November 8, 2012  

    I’ve read so many reviews and really want this book. I’ve had it on my wishlist for a while. Can’t wait to read it. I’m very intrigued.

  • Quotationmarks1 November 8, 2012  

    Mine is a more general question.  With the Israelites, God created an entirely new society.  He set them apart in their diet, morality, and sacrifices- their very bodies were surgically marked as different!  I can’t help but wonder, then- why did he not reaffirm women with these laws?

    Instead I see laws where women don’t count as witnesses, can be killed for cheating on their husband, must marry the brother of their husband if he dies, etc.  Doesn’t this seems like a good “chance” for God to reinforce women’s equality?

    • April November 8, 2012  

      I know you aren’t asking me, but I love your question. It is one I have asked many times too. One pastor told me that the beauty of the Holy Spirit being given at Pentecost was that it did not discriminate on who received it based on their outward appearances. Just as Joel prophesied – the Spirit was poured out on men and women, young and old, servants and masters. To me that is the ultimate affirmation that God intended the members of the body to be made up of both men and women – and those women were even prophets! Cool stuff!

      • Quotationmarks1 November 8, 2012  

        Thanks for your reply, April! I love talking through these issues.  I think that the Pentecost is a great example. I just can’t help wondering why God started things unequally in the first place!

  • Jordan Taylor November 8, 2012  

    I’ve always been confused about women leaders, in church or otherwise. I don’t understand how people think one can lead “better” over another. Now granted, I do feel there are some jobs men can do better than women (and vice versa) but I have never understood the idea that women can’t lead. As a college student at  a Christian college, I want to be able to lead things and see other women lead things without being scrutinized for it. I’m thankful Lipscomb is starting to see that and has more women professors, leaders, and campus ministers.

  • Toni Maisano November 8, 2012  

    1 Timothy 2:11-15 is definitely the most confusing passage to me.  Telling women that they will be “saved through childbearing” because Eve sinned first seems like a deviation from everything else I read in scripture about faith and salvation.  

  • April November 8, 2012  

    I would absolutely love a copy of this book!!

  • Sheila Blackman November 8, 2012  

    I got into an argument with my spouse at/in church a few weeks ago when the weekly bulletin stated the church was looking for nominations for deacons… a position, as defined (by our church) in 1 Timothy 3, must be filled by men. I get frustrated knowing that according to the literal reading of those passages, my young sons are “more qualified” for that position than I am. 

  • EvanandAlexandria Faulkenbury November 8, 2012  

    Coincidentally, I find the most confusing part of scripture relating to women to be the same as the comment before me. I’ve heard many sermons preached about women being saved through childbearing and no two have been alike. Needless to say, such variety in interpretation has done little to help me understand the passage!

  • EvanandAlexandria Faulkenbury November 8, 2012  


  • RevDrum November 8, 2012  

    I think often it is in the moments where we “sweat” that we grow and learn.looking forward to reading this.

  • abrokendove November 8, 2012  

    I did not grow up as a Christian, but came to believe in Jesus Christ while I was in high school after suffering a lot of abuse in my family. I met my husband a few years later who grew up in a conservative Lutheran family where many of his male family members were pastors or church leaders. In this denomination, they do not allow women to be ordained and the leadership of women within the church is reserved for mostly children’s or women’s ministries. Now that we live in Seattle and I am attending a seminary to get a Masters in Counseling and another in Theology & Culture, I am experiencing for the first time in my life differing theologies, including the acceptance of women in leadership. While I want so badly to accept this and I find the interpretations of these difficult texts to be liberating for a woman like me that has experienced a lot of silencing from family and the church throughout my life, it is causing so many struggles and fights with my husband. So, essentially, any verse in Scripture regarding women is confusing, challenging, and just plain hard. I want to believe that Jesus wants to empower me and women all over the world from being oppressed, and my husband would agree with that, accept in the case of leadership in the church or in the home. I would love to read Rachel’s new book with my husband to explore what she has to say and what the Bible really has to say about biblical womanhood with the hope that we can come to some sort of understanding with each other. 

    Thank you for your review! 

  • Becca November 8, 2012  

    I would love to win a copy! I am a college student and I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on books. Evolving in monkey town was such a great book and I can’t wait to read this one!

  • Alex Faulkenbury November 8, 2012  

    sorry, posted before I finished writing! Coincidentally, I find the most confusing part of scripture relating to women to be the same as the comment before me. I’ve heard many sermons preached about women being saved through childbearing and no two have been alike. Needless to say, such variety in interpretation has done little to help me understand the passage!

  • Ktucke01 November 8, 2012  

    This is very cool stuff! I would love to read the book! I have so many ideas relating to this, and women’s roles in general. I think that many people fail to see the actual dilemma that women undergo at times, but it can also be a subconscious struggle. I appreciate Rachel for tackling this tangibly.

  • Brenda Branson November 8, 2012  

    I’m so thankful for the courage of Rachel and others who face outrageous and cruel treatment from people who consider themselves better equipped to understand scripture, who dismiss anyone’s thoughts that don’t line up with theirs. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  • Kati Sorenson November 8, 2012  

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of this book and am wishing I owned a copy! My views on women’s roles in the church have been evolving over the last few years, and it seems confusing (not the bible but how we look at it) that we place more emphasis on the verse that says women should submit to their husbands than we do on the verse that says we should all submit to one another. Just interesting.

  • Karen Davis November 8, 2012  

    I have a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I think Rachel’s book sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Lynn Bell November 10, 2012  

    I spend a lot of time studying and thinking about how Jesus spoke to and about women and am constantly amazed at his inclusiveness, as well as the way he gave both men and women personal responsibility for radical discipleship (in and outside the home). The book of Acts seems to follow this track. Yet, once I get to Paul’s later letters, I feel that things changed for Christian women, and there’s so much more talk about staying quiet and at home. It doesn’t feel consistent to me, and I can’t easily explain it away.

  • April November 14, 2012  

    Oh yay!!! I am so excited!!! Thank you!!

  • Unapartera November 21, 2012  

    For me the most difficult part of scripture is persistent violence against women and the patriarchal attitude that such violence is acceptable and normal!