Two new Accordance titles, published a century apart, offer perspectives on the Bible from a woman’s point of view that will be of interest to all.
Women’s Bible Commentary (Third Edition)
This is a modern classic of biblical scholarship, written by some of the top feminist scholars in the field today. This 20th anniversary edition features brand-new or thoroughly revised essays to reflect newer thinking in feminist interpretation and hermeneutics.
The concluding page of commentary on Proverbs does a great job of showcasing the strengths of this volume.
Most women regard the “woman of substance” as a mixed blessing. Aspects of her depiction reinforce the values and customs of a patriarchal culture. The poet objectifies her, describing her as something to be found and purchased. She has a “price” higher than that of other expensive items, perhaps a reference to the value of her dowry or a bride-price paid by the groom to the bride’s family (31:10). And she is desirable for the “loot”—the imported delicacies, real estate, money, and status—she brings her husband (31:11–12). Moreover, she embodies not one woman but the desired aspects of many. The idealized portrait assumes, among other things, that the woman is heterosexual, married, and a mother. It is no wonder, then, that while some women say they know a “woman of substance,” far more consider her a “superwoman” — another unrealistic and dehumanizing depiction of women created to entice and promote the values of men.
Yet coupled with Proverbs 1–9 and its praise of personified wisdom, this celebration of a woman and her everyday enterprises — her so-called “women’s work” — envelops a book intended for men about living wisely in the everyday. Her attributes, commitments, and skills are its frame. What is more, because the woman is identified with wisdom and “fear of YHWH,” “women’s work” is set apart and named as the beginning, indeed the standard, of faithfulness. Whether bartering in the [p. 242] marketplaces, weaving, trading, feeding and clothing others, planting vineyards, mixing wine, or burning the midnight oil, the labor of women is here elevated, theologically legitimated, and claimed as the preferable means of moral and theological instruction of the whole community. It is nothing less than “God talk.”
Proverbs thus leaves us with another captivating and complex portrait of wisdom as a woman — one that would be reclaimed, repainted, and renamed by sages for generations to come.
Christine Roy Yoder, Proverbs, Women’s Bible Commentary; ed. Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley; 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 241-242.
Two closing essays look beyond the New Testament itself and provide much-needed correctives to traditional and very limited understandings of women and women’s roles within the Church during the first few centuries of the Common Era. Indeed,
Interpreting all the available evidence from Christian tradition throughout the Mediterranean world in which women are prophets, apostles, leaders, ascetics, martyrs, and scholars uncovers rich and varied pictures of women and men…
Deirdre Good, Beyond the Canon, Women’s Bible Commentary; ed. Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley; 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 639.
Women’s Bible Commentary
The Woman’s Bible of 1895 and 1898
Written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of 26 other suffragists, this book rejected many old cultural and religious teachings about women, starting with traditional understandings of Genesis 1 and 2. While never accepted by Bible scholars, the two-part commentary became an instant best-seller, much to the dismay of other leading suffragists. Its influence, however, continues to this day.
The closing paragraphs on the book of Proverbs do a good job of showcasing the style of this volume by authors other than Stanton.
Solomon’s idea of a wise woman, a good mother, a prudent wife, a saving housekeeper and a successful merchant, will be found in the foregoing texts, which every woman who reads should have printed, framed and hung up at her family altar. As Solomon had a thousand women in his household, he had great opportunity for the study of the characteristics of the sex, though one would naturally suppose that wise women, even in his day, preferred a larger sphere of action than within his palace walls. Solomon’s opinion of the sex in general is plainly expressed in the foregoing texts.
Solomon is supposed to have written his Song when he was young, Proverbs in middle life, and Ecclesiastes when he was old. He gave admirable rules for wisdom and virtue to all classes, to men, to women and to children, but failed to practice the lessons which he taught.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Part II. Joshua to Revelation, The Woman’s Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1898), paragraph 1891.
In an appendix, Stanton, who wrote the opening chapters of this controversial volume, and many other sections, concludes by reiterating her chief complaints about Christianity.
The real difficulty in woman’s case is that the whole foundation of the Christian religion rests on her temptation and man’s fall, hence the necessity of a Redeemer and a plan of salvation. As the chief cause of this dire calamity, woman’s degradation and subordination were made a necessity. If, however, we accept the Darwinian theory, that the race has been a gradual growth from the lower to a higher form of life, and that the story of the fall is a myth, we can exonerate the snake, emancipate the woman, and reconstruct a more rational religion for the nineteenth century, and thus escape all the perplexities of the Jewish mythology as of no more importance than those of the Greek, Persian and Egyptian.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Part II. Joshua to Revelation, The Woman’s Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1898), paragraph 2756.
The Woman’s Bible