Take & Read: Old Testament

Four new books about the women of Hebrew scripture

Tired of seeing the Bible weaponized against her while she and her comrades advocated for women’s rights, Elizabeth Cady Stanton created The Woman’s Bible, the first commentary written solely by and for women. Stanton’s 19th-century book, which provided commentary on biblical passages that feature women or conspicuously exclude them, is the earliest published example of a feminist approach to the Bible. Feminist biblical interpretation began to flourish in the 20th century, as scholars focused on telling long-neglected stories of named and unnamed women in the Bible and on sharing information about women’s lives in biblical times.

Scholarship about biblical women has come a long way since The Woman’s Bible. Several new books offer readers fresh perspectives and in-depth analyses of women in the Bible. They use intersectional and global feminism as interpretive lenses, consider women not only as characters but also as interpreters, situate biblical women within their Afro-Asiatic cultural contexts, and make ancient Israelite women’s lives relevant to today’s Bible readers.

Kimberly D. Russaw’s Revisiting Ra­hab: Another Look at the Woman of Jericho (Wesley’s Foundery Books) invites readers to reread Rahab’s narrative from the book of Joshua in a way that deprioritizes her occupation as a prostitute or sex worker and focuses instead on the questions her story raises about identity, autonomy, difference, and privilege. In this well-written, clearly orga­nized and widely accessible book, Russaw revisits Rahab by summarizing the history of scholarship about this biblical heroine, placing Rahab’s story in conversation with African American literature, and proposing a new interpretive strategy.