6 Great Studies on Women in the Bible for Groups: 2015 Edition

Gail Wallace

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6 great studies on women in the bible

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Editor’s Note: When you finish this post, also check out 6 Great Studies on Women of the Bible: 2016 Edition!

Kate and I are away at a conference and were not planning to write any new posts this week, but then this email came in:

Hi there, I lead a bible study with the campus ministry I’m involved in at Appalachian State. The girls involved want to study women in the bible, which I think is a great idea. Do you have any recommended resources for a topic like that, or perhaps a resource for studying a specific woman like Ruth? Thanks, A. K.

We’ve had several requests like this recently, so wanted to share our recommendations.  When you search Amazon for “women in the bible group study” you get 200+ hits, and trying to determine what is written from an egalitarian viewpoint can be daunting!  Here’s the criteria I used to put together a short list of studies on women in the bible that would work for most groups:  focus on women in the bible, written for a lay audience, formatted for group study, compatible with an egalitarian view.

Since I’m not at home I didn’t have the luxury of referring to my own bookshelf, so I’m sure I’ve missed something, but here goes.

#1 Best Bargain – Women Leaders in the Bible

This study has six lessons with good content, and about 3 discussion questions  per lesson. Contributors include Carolyn Custis James, Liz Curtis Higgs, and Lizz Riggs. I think one strength of the study is that it gives solid support for women in leadership in an engaging way. From the website description:

Other than a glimpse of exceptional women such as Deborah, Hannah, and Mary, it can be difficult to find examples of strong female leadership in the Bible. But there are many women in the Bible who did extraordinary things for the time and place they lived, and the more we study them the more we can learn from their examples…

BONUS: Purchasing the $7.95 PDF file gives you permission to make up to 1,000 copies for a church or educational setting.

2. Best DVD Option – Twelve Women of the Bible: Life-Changing Stories for Women Today

Each session focuses on one biblical character (Rebekah, Abigail, Hannah, Gomer, Leah, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Martha, The Woman at the Well, Mary the mother of Jesus, and The Syrophoenecian Woman). Video contributors include Lysa Terkeurst, Elisa Morgan, Amena Brown, Jonalyn Fincher, Jeanne Stevens, and Naomi Zacharias.

The strength of this study is the Participant Guide.  In my opinion, Sherry Harney is one of the best curriculum writers out there today, and her excellent guide includes great discussion questions, background information on each character, space to write down thoughts, and a Leader’s Guide.

#3 Another DVD Option – The Storm Inside

This study by Sheila Walsh uses women in the bible as case studies for lessons she wants to teach, but still gives good insights into the lives of Hannah, the woman with the issue of blood, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, and Sarah. When we used this at our church I did find it helpful to supplement the studies with more information on the women themselves.  The Twelve Women study has stronger discussion material, but The Storm Inside has higher quality video. So if the video portion is important for your group you might like this better.

#4 & #5 Best at Drilling Deep – Two by Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn’s books always have deep content and quality discussion questions. Here are two studies that focus on women in the bible:

The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules is an in-depth study on the Book of Ruth. Check out this inspiring description:

The Gospel of Ruth vests every woman’s life with kingdom purposes and frees us to embrace wholeheartedly God’s calling, regardless of our circumstances or season of life. This story of two women who have lost everything contains a profound message: God created women not to live in the shadowy margins of men or of the past, but to emerge as courageous activists for his kingdom.

Lost Women of the Bible: The Women We Thought We Knew is a study I haven’t read yet, but in my opinion you can’t go wrong with anything James writes. The publisher description says:

This fresh look at the women in the Bible unearths surprising new insights and a powerful message that will leave readers feeling challenged, encouraged, and deeply valued. Rediscover and be inspired by Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Tamar, Hannah, Esther, Mary, and others.

#6 Most Fun – A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”

This book by Rachel Held Evans is not specifically on women in the bible, but women are discussed throughout, and the vignettes about a woman in the bible at the end of each chapter are excellent. You would be hard-pressed to find a study that will have your group laughing one minute and in serious discussion the next the way this one will. (See our complete book review.) Some of the women included are the “Proverbs 31 woman”, Mary of Nazareth, Tamar, Esther, and Ruth. From the publisher’s description:

With just the right mixture of humor and insight, compassion and incredulity, A Year of Biblical Womanhood is an exercise in scriptural exploration and spiritual contemplation. What does God truly expect of women, and is there really a prescription for biblical womanhood? Come along with Evans as she looks for answers in the rich heritage of biblical heroines, models of grace, and all-around women of valor.

Discussion questions are not included, but you can download an excellent study guide for free on the book website.

I was encouraged that I could put this list of studies written from an egalitarian perspective together so quickly. It was not that long ago that materials like this were hard to come by. But I know there are more out there.

Is there a study on women of the bible that you think should be on this list?

Editor’s Note: When you finish this post, also check out 6 Great Studies on Women of the Bible: 2016 Edition!

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22 Comments

  • Do you know of any resources that are for individual study? Thanks!

    • Sophia most of these could be used for individual study. The Gospel of Ruth would be a good one to start with!

  • These studies sound very interesting. But, it struck me that it is limiting to think of them in terms of what women can learn about themselves, how God views women, etc. This is because the women in the Bible are a picture and a shadow of the church, Christ’s body, His bride. Therefore, all of us, men and women should see ourselves in these women.

    So often I think that men look to the men of the Bible to define themselves and women to the women of the Bible to define themselves. While in some ways this can be appropriate, in many ways it misses the point. All those men in the Bible (Adam, Abraham, Joseph, David, etc.) are pictures of Christ, not necessarily me as a man. And, all those women in the Bible (Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth, the Mary’s, etc.) are pictures of, not just women, but the church and Christ’s bride, which includes men and women. As a man, it is just recently that I have come to realize this. In many ways, I should be looking to the women of the Bible to truly see what God is saying about me in the context of His eternal purpose.

    • Steve, you make a great point. For me personally, studying the women in the bible brings a deeper connection to God as I find I can relate to their experiences and emotions much easier than to the stories of men these days. Our lived experience provides us with different reference points for connecting to the stories of the bible, and so there are some we will each relate to more than others. But yes, just as women are expected to learn from the men in the bible, men should be able to learn from the women.

      I would differ with you strongly on the idea that “all those men in the bible are pictures of Christ…and all those women in the bible are pictures of….the church and Christ’s bride”. I don’t see that correlation at all, frankly. In the book Re-reading the Women of the Bible Fymer-Kensky notes that often women take the “savior” role in the bible, providing the rescue needed by the men. Some examples would be the women in Exodus who make sure Moses lives to adulthood, Deborah, Rahab, and Abigail (as this post explains well – http://seedbed.com/feed/abigail-old-testament-type-christ/).

    • No need for apologies! Will take a look at the study guide 🙂

    • Hi Kathryn! This list is for studying about women characters in the bible. Full Rights is great for studying the issue of biblical equality specifically. Have you considered developing a group study version?

  • Please refer The Joy of Gospel by Pope Francis, giving the importance women in Christian church, Chapter2, paragraph 103 and104.
    In the Church, functions “do not favor the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”. Indeed a woman, Mary , is important than the bishops.

    • I will take a look at that! I do appreciate that Catholic theology places women’s subordination after “the fall” and not before as in complementarian theology. Thanks for sharing!

  • I have written one I’d love to add to this list! It has been featured on Christians for Biblical Equality’s website, on the encounters Jesus had with women in the gospels. It’s titled “Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women.” (Thomas Nelson, 2013) I also have a website that offers free downloads for leader’s materials, including lesson plans and discussion prompts: unexpectedlove.org.

    Writing this book was life-changing for me, as in my research I discovered Jesus’ heart for women through his words and actions.

    • Julie, thanks for posting the link! Someone recommended your book on the FB page and I’m excited to take a look.

      • Good recommendation! I’ve bought that for my grandchildren, as it seems to be the best option for infants/preschoolers and doesn’t reinforce gender essentialism. I need to check out the curriculum!

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