For the last 18 years I’ve loved my Woman’s Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers) to pieces. Quite literally. I’ve already shared how the front section of my Bible literally fell apart in my hands while teaching.
Despite its worn (well-loved) appearance, I’ve stubbornly refused to buy a replacement. My Bible and I share too much history – from the personal inscription from its editor to the hundreds of sermon notes crammed in the margins.
But for the first time in nearly two decades, I’ve finally found a study Bible that would make me switch – the newly-released Study Bible for Women (Holman Bible Publishers).
A study Bible for women by women
Like my current Bible, the new Study Bible for Women is edited by the same scholarly editorial board, Dorothy Patterson and Rhonda Kelley. In the editors’ trademark teaching style, notes and material are written by women for women.
The Study Bible for Women contains the expected excurses on biblical womanhood, bringing the Bible’s teaching on parenting, marriage, teaching children, worry, fear, holiness in sexuality to the reader’s attention.
But what sets the Study Bible for Women apart from its predecessor is the more natural way those insights into biblical womanhood are gathered from the biblical text. For instance, in the book of Isaiah, the editors draw points of application regarding the importance of women to the moral fabric of a nation. And from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the editors look at the beatitudes sketching what the heart of a “blessed” woman might look like. Cues for application are taken from the text itself and not overlaid or read into it.
But unlike its cousin, the Study Bible for Women has a more academic feel.
For example, the intro to Ecclesiastes outlines the author’s reliance on Gen. 1-11 in explaining the text. The Bible also includes study material on whether Mark 16:9-20 should be read as authoritative since two of the oldest manuscripts do not contain these concluding verses.
Other tools include doctrinal explanations called “threads for specialized study” explore theological topics and their context in the Scriptures. The reader will explore terms such as image of God, the church, redemption in the Old Testament, divorce, sin, and forgiveness.
Particularly helpful are the in-text maps and detailed charts such as the list in Romans explaining Paul’s theological language (sin, sanctification, justification, etc.,) and a 3-page chart on Jewish sects in the New Testament.
Chronological time lines in the introduction to each book order the book’s events and provide a clear picture of the whole story of the Bible. In-depth word studies explain key terms in the biblical text along with their theological significance.
Beyond academics, the Study Bible for Women offers stellar application tools. The study notes and commentary fairly balance hermeneutical concerns and personal application.
Like most study Bibles, introductory material to each book includes historical/cultural background, but the Study Bible for Women also answers the following two questions for each book: “How do you read this book?” and “Why should women read this book?”
At the end of each book, a personal point of application is offered tying in the book’s overarching message with modern relevance. And character profiles include life lessons from biblical women that modern women can incorporate as timeless life principles.
But particularly helpful are the in-text discussions on “hard questions” that offer interpretative helps for specific passages. The questions are hard-hitting, many of which I’ve had women ask me while teaching or I’ve wondered myself.
The reader will be asked to consider questions like: “Why would God test Abraham?” in Gen. 22 when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son; “Does the Bible contradict itself?” when considering James proclamation that faith without works is dead (James 2:14); and “Does God’s wrath contradict his love?” from John’s apocalyptic vision of the opening of the seven scrolls in Rev. 6. Whatever your position on any of these answers, it’s obvious that the biblical text is driving the points of application for the editors, and not the other way around.
The only weakness of this Bible is the margin size. Seriously. I’m a note taker, and to truly chase an idea I need white space in the margins of a book! But maybe with all the insightful study notes and word studies, I wouldn’t really need to jot anything down. It seems to be already there!
Beyond that small criticism, the Study Bible for Women is a Bible I would wholeheartedly recommend for both its emphasis on the biblical text, as well as its helpful application tools. It’s a gem that will help you truly treasure God’s Word.