Women's Evangelical Commentary: New Testament

By Deming, Melissa | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Women's Evangelical Commentary: New Testament


Deming, Melissa, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Women's Evangelical Commentary: New Testament. Edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelly. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006, xxxvii + 993 pp., $34.99.

Written "by women for women," the Women's Evangelical Commentary is a one-volume guide through the NT purposed to mobilize women against the societal pressures of feminism and equip them to study and teach the Bible expositionally. Co-editors Dorothy Kelley Patterson, professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rhonda H. Kelley, professor of women's ministry and director of women's programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, have gathered a team of 17 seminary-educated women to produce a "tool to walk a woman through the Bible in woman-to-woman exposition of God's Word" (p. vii). The roster of commentary contributors includes seminary and college professors/instructors, writers, speakers, and local church servants, all of whom have completed seminary training in biblical and/or women's studies.

Similar in style and intention to The Woman's Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), the commentary opens with background information on each book and is followed by methodical exposition of the text. Readers benefit from the commentary's linguistic investigations and contextual word studies. While many of the resources of The Woman's Study Bible have been tapped for the commentary, such as charts, maps, and study notes, the commentary is set apart from contemporary sources in a number of ways. Where passages refer directly to women or issues of femininity, deeper analysis is given. Where interpretation of controversial passages regarding women is varied, exposition of the text is paired with extended excurses on topics such as the context of Gal 3:28, gender-inclusive language, and liberation theology.

As expected, the commentary employs a historical-grammatical hermeneutic. In an introductory chapter titled "Cutting It Straight," contributor Mary Kassian, distinguished professor of women's studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, outlines the commentary's prerequisite commitment to the inerrancy, authority, clarity, and unity of Scripture. The commentary's resonance, however, is found in its overarching adherence to the complementarian position. As such, it functions as a rebuttal to the feminist movement (and its associated interpretative approaches) and its influence on evangelical biblical scholarship. Introductory material positions the biblical exposition against the abuse of Christian liberties, emphasizing God-created femininity and Godordained order of church and home. Answers to the charges of feminist scholarship are found throughout the commentary: in exposition, charts, and devotional sections titled "Heart to Heart," intended for application of scriptural truth. A noteworthy example is found in the treatment of Col 2:4-8, which outlines the basic tenets of feminist theology as opposite to biblical principles. The commentator adds that "women would do well to examine the tenets of modern feminism in light of Scripture. The only way for a Christian to avoid being kidnapped by false teaching is by knowing the Word of God and understanding the doctrines of the faith" (p. 608).

Although not the first commentary prepared by women, the Women's Evangelical Commentary is perhaps the first NT expositional tool authored solely by female scholars devoted to a complementarian understanding of Scripture. Two similar commentaries, The Women's Bible Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998) and The IVP Women's Bible Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002) are two primary examples of resources in the exploding field of feminist scholarship. The Women's Evangelical Commentary seeks to harmonize a natural and plain understanding of the biblical text with the unique contributions of feminine scholarship within a complementarian perspective. …

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