Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

This book surprised me, but in a good way.

First, the title is really long. It’s officially A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master.”

The long title isn’t what surprised me; I just had to say it in here somewhere and it’s too long to work casually into a sentence.

The surprise: I really, really enjoyed it. I expected that I wouldn’t like it or that I might like it a little, but that’s not what happened at all. I expected the author, Rachel Held Evans, to have an agenda and to reach conclusions that being a “Biblical woman” meant living the Proverbs 31 life without a fault and doing things like cooking all of your family’s food from scratch, with organic ingredients from your own garden; making your own laundry detergent and soap; having a June Cleaver attitude all the time, come what may. These were my expectations, I think, because there are some people out there that do those things in the name of being a Biblical wife or mother and as a result that’s where my thoughts automatically went.

I also thought that if the above wasn’t true, then Evans was going to make fun of the early Biblical standards for women. That expectation came from my earlier reading of A.J. Jacobs “Year of Living Biblically.” The two projects are similar — Evans even mentions Jacobs book in hers. But Evans seems to got have gotten more out of her year on a personal, spiritual level.

In part, the book read like a graduate school research paper, complete with an identifiable thesis and research methods of just how this social experiment would go.

Evans’ thesis:

“Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman?”

I wanted to know that too.

To find the answer, Evans explores the ins and outs of what the Bible says about women, from the early law to the Proverbs 31 woman to the letters of Paul telling women to be silent in the church. She is very thorough in her research and goes outside of her own faith and books to include insight from a Jewish wife and to experience silence in a monastery.

She’s not boring. She laughs at herself and isn’t afraid to look silly doing this, which makes the book entertaining in addition to thought-provoking.

Her conclusion:

<spoiler alert>

“The Bible does not present us with a single model for 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.”

While I concur with her conclusion, the most moving part wasn’t the end but the process. It usually is, right? It’s not where you end up that matters most but the journey getting there.

I love that Evans explores this subject and pulls back the veil on issues that Christian women wrestle with in how we relate to our husbands, children, careers, in the church, and even other women.

I’ll leave you with a favorite prayer, the prayer to St. Teresa of Avila, which is quoted by Evans in the chapter on grace:

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.


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