The IVP Women's Bible Commentary: An Indispensable Resource for All Who Want to View Scripture through Different Eyes

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The IVP Women's Bible Commentary: An indispensable resource for all who want to view Scripture through different eyes Editor's Note: The following is a companion review to The IVP Women's Bible Commentary, reviewed by Michelle Lee and Joanne Jung, published in JETS 47/1 (March 2004): 161-64. The IVP Women's Bible Commentary: An indispensable resource for all who want to view Scripture through different eyes. Edited by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002, xxvii + 874 pp., $30.00.

At first blush, the title inspires caution. For some people, a Bible commentary specifically designed for women may evoke intimations of powder-puff scholarship or hints of devotional fluff. However, considered from within the current evangelical subcultural context, the production of such a commentary warrants legitimacy.

This quest for the personal relevance of Scripture has prompted the appearance of a plethora of new Bibles and commentaries. In this effervescent publishing climate, it was inevitable that a commentary targeted for women would appear. If nothing else, the consideration that women constitute the majority of church constituencies would have provided the incentive to serve their distinctive needs. Fortunately the initiative for producing the present work was assumed by a reputable publishing house, and the editorial responsibility was entrusted to two competent and responsible scholars. Committed to less experienced hands, the project could have had considerably less positive results. As it is, the commentary stands as a valuable and informative reference work, well suited to serve a large readership and, in particular, the one it was primarily designed to reach.

In terms of appearance, this work is comparable in size to other one-volume Bible commentaries, exceeding 900 pages with the prefatory materials. The actual text of the commentary is divided in two vertical columns per page. For each book of the OT and the NT, there is an introduction that covers matters of historical context, date, occasion and purpose, an outline of the contents of the biblical document, the text of the commentary proper, and a bibliography that lists at least half a dozen publications, most of them contemporary.

The authors of the commentaries were obviously given some latitude for the organization of their contributions, since the format of the explanatory sections is not uniform. Most of them chose to follow the order available in the biblical text by providing comments sequentially. Thus, the book of Psalms receives complete coverage with an explanation for each of its 150 units. For some books, the commentary is limited to selected passages. For instance, the author who covered Numbers isolated eight sections of the book that pertain to women's concerns and limited her comments mostly to those passages. Occasionally, a book is treated thematically. Thus, the commentary on the Gospel of John is organized according to the motif of Jesus' conversations with individuals. The benefits of initiative and diversity may have been intended to compensate for the loss of methodological consistency.

A significant feature of this volume is the inclusion in the text of 77 supplementary articles on a variety of topics ranging from the theological (such as inspiration, the Trinity, atonement, covenant, and sin) to ethical and social concerns (like polygamy, violence, and homosexuality), all the way to very down-to-earth matters (such as sibling rivalry, clothing, and menopause). All those articles could be gathered together in a separate book that would make for fascinating reading. They are actually interspersed through the commentary according to topical relevance, such as the article entitled "God's Call to Social Justice" that appears in the middle of the commentary on Amos.

Among those articles, two stand out by reason of their relative length. The first, on "The Inspiration and the Interpretation of Scripture," appropriately appears at the beginning of the book and constitutes one of its most doctrinally provocative parts. …