Yesterday, saw the release of a book I’ve been looking forward to for a while now: The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How The Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allsion Barr. I bought and read this book yesterday as soon as it was released and I highly recommend it!
Barr masterfully draws on her training as an historian to expose many of the problematic narratives surrounding women in the church and challenges many of the usual reasons provided for barring women from ministry and leadership in various denominations. She focuses heavily on the late medieval/early modern period, but also brings in enough early church history and Biblical linguistic analysis, as well as 18th-21st century history and rationales to satisfy anyone looking for how these issues shift and develop over time and how we can begin to address them.
One additional strength to my mind is an analysis of the Pauline epistles that will help folks better understand why certain translation choices and interpretations of Paul have arisen over the years and why they miss the mark and do untold damage as a result. Another huge strength is when she tackles modern English Bible translations–this is a topic I often find folks shying away from, so I love how she faces it head-on, and draws on older texts to show why choices around things like gender-inclusive language are NOT, in fact, merely a concession to feminist critique and modern trends but instead restore the text to its original meaning in a lot of cases, and to choices made in translations like the Latin Vulgate that far predate the modern English translations. Barr even provides some key passages she’ll immediately go to in order to check what the theology of the translators was. (Minor spoiler: if you like the ESV you might want to reconsider as Barr masterfully tears into the ESV and highlights a history many younger readers might not be aware of).
One final note: Barr, as an historian, notices something that even I, as a lay person who came from outside the Christian church, have noticed–and that is namely that many folks, even pastors and seminarians, are woefully under-informed about church and theological history. And that lack of information, or even sheer misinformation, allows a lot of heresies from the first few centuries of the Common Era as well as a lot of twisting of passages into meanings that support extremely problematic and often intensely contradictory doctrines, to flourish in the 21st century church. This book is largely accessible and an important history for folks to be aware of.
You can get the book wherever books are sold.
You can find the book on Amazon here:
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