Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by @rachelheldevans

Rachel Held Evans, like many of us I suppose,  has grown up receiving lots of mixed messages about the appropriate role of women in the home, the church and society – often with the claim that it was “God’s perfect will” that all women everywhere do this or that. Though it turns out different people have a different understanding of what the this or that are.  “Biblical Womanhood” was big on the agenda.
And so begins Rachel’s exploration of what “a woman’s place” is.  Is there a single formula for how to be a woman put forward in the bible?  So what does “biblical womanhood” look like, literally?  And A Year of Biblical Womanhood is born.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master"

Rachel sets out her Ten Commandments for the year, and then adds actions that she explores further each month.  Interwoven with the chapters are the stories of biblical women – maybe not stories we are used to hearing.

Rachel takes time and effort to find out context of oft quoted passages about what women should and shouldn’t do, and explores other passages, not so often quoted that add illumination.  But she does also follow through on the supposed “golden rules” to see how living them out goes.

This is an honest, intelligent, reflective and amusing book.  It speaks much sense as it broadens what was actually being said in the bible, and explores how women in different communities are living as “Women of valour” (The Proverbs 31 woman), in their place and community.

For me the project and the good common sense of it are summed up in two paragraphs on p294:

“The Bible isn’t an answer book. It isn’t a self-help manual.  It isn’t a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulations that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives.
The Bible is a sacred collection of letters and laws, poetry and proverbs, philosophy and prophecies, written and assembled over thousands of years in cultures and contexts very different to our own, that tells the complex, ever-unfolding story of God’s interaction with humanity.”

In the bible, as in life, there are many different women, with many different gifts, that God uses.  The “woman of faith” is not one-size-fits-all.  “It is not our roles that define us, but our character” (p295)
A delightful book that should be read by all women wanting to live their lives God’s way – and their menfolk.

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