6 Great Studies on Women of the Bible: 2016 Edition

Gail Wallace


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6 Great Studies Women 16

We often get requests for curricula that supports the egalitarian view of women as full and equal partners in marriage and ministry Here are six studies on women in the bible that are written for a lay audience, designed for individual and/or group study, and compatible with a biblical egalitarian view. We also evaluated the quality of the discussion questions and group materials. Please share these resources with those involved in curriculum choices at your church or bible study. (Only #3 is written expressly for a female audience; the others would work with mixed-gender groups.)

1. The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels

The Day I Met Jesus

Those with a creative bent (or anyone tired of more academic studies) will enjoy this book by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth. The authors create an imagined diary entry for each woman, then follow it up with the scripture passage and commentary. The stories include the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute who loved much, the Samaritan woman, the woman with a flow of blood, and the woman whom Jesus loved (Mary of Bethany).

You may not agree with all of the liberties taken in the diaries (for example, we take issue with the label prostitute, since the bible only tells us that the woman in Luke 7 lived a sinful life), but this is still an inspirational read and one that could be used for community outreach as well as discipleship or personal study. Excellent discussion questions are provided at the back of the book. Baker Books, 2015.

2. Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter

Bible Women All Their Words

Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman (yes, EVERY WOMAN) who speaks in the Bible; their words, context, and historical background. Questions at the end of each short chapter encourage reflection about what we can learn from these women and how God speaks through them. Freeman and her research team dig beyond traditional interpretations to provide original and thoughtful insights.

Bible Women can be studied thematically or by the book of the Bible (women in Genesis, women in Exodus, etc.). The lessons run on the shorter side, so combining them in these ways is helpful in the group setting. The book is excellent as a personal daily devotional and would be a great supplement for those facilitating other studies. A great gift for any teacher or pastor! Freeman also has an excellent blog: Bible Women: Ever Upward. Forward Movement, 2014.

3. Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women

Unexpected Love

Julie Coleman walks readers through the stories of nine women who encountered Jesus in the gospels. While the stories are familiar, the thoughtful commentary, engaging questions, and journaling prompts help readers more closely understand Jesus’ heart for women.  The chapters are on the longer side (about 20 pages), making this a great choice for a book club as well as group or individual study.

The lessons include Jesus and Mary at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus and the Hemorrhaging Woman, Jesus and the Sinful Woman, Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman, Jesus and the Adulterous Woman, Jesus and Martha, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, Jesus and Salome, Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

This may be the study on this list that provides the most support for the egalitarian viewpoint. Coleman provides some excellent “lesson enrichment plans” on her website for those who want to go more in-depth. Thomas Nelson, 2013.

4. Named: The Women

Named 2The “Named” series helps small groups explore “how God’s story finds its place in each of us”. The DVD resource pack includes video, audio segments, and a leader’s guide. Summary from the publisher: Despite the cultural stigmas surrounding them, the women mentioned in the Bible were portrayed as wise teachers, faithful followers, loving mothers, and strong leaders. In a time when females had little value in the world, God used these individuals to protect, serve, love, and lead in ways that impacted generations to come.”

Six Old Testament women’s stories are included: Hagar, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Rahab, and Deborah. The videos are brief (2-3 minutes) and engaging; some directly relate to the women in the study while others connect more to a characteristic. They support the content but the study would work fine without them. Each lesson provides context, some reimagining of each woman’s experience, and commentary on the story. Discussion questions are broad but well-written. Beacon Hill Press, 2013. (Note: Other studies in the series include “Unnamed” (three men and three women in the New Testament), studies on Mary and Sarah, “The Despised” (Leah, Gomer, Tamar, Jonah, Balaam, Judas), and many more.

5. Women of the Torah: Matriarchs and Heroes of Israel

women of the torahWomen of the Torah is part of the Ancient-Future Bible Study series by Stephen Binz. It incorporates modern study methods with lectio divina (a contemplative reading of scripture) and is a great choice for mature believers and for small groups that have at least 90 minutes of meeting time. Thirty lessons cover a wide range of women, from the best known (like Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel) to the more obscure (Noah’s wife, Lot’s daughters, Dinah, Zipporah).

Each lesson includes instructions for Lectio (reading with a listening ear), followed by reflection, a prayer of response, a time of resting in God, and application questions. The materials are excellent and can be divided into study plans of 5/10/15 weeks. Instructions are included for personal or small group use. Brazos Press, 2011.

6. Women of the Gospels: Friends and Disciples of Jesus

Women of the Gospels

Another book in the Ancient-Future Bible Study series by Binz with 30 lessons, including both named women (Mary, Elizabeth, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene) and unnamed women (Widow of Nain, the Women of Jerusalem, the Crippled Woman, the Canaanite Woman, and many more). Like Women of the Torah, the study incorporates reading, mediation, prayer, contemplation, and application; and is especially appropriate for the mature believer.

Binz is great at providing interesting context and not shying away from difficult questions. Instructions are included for individual or small group use – small groups need at least 90 minutes to allow for full participation. Brazos Press, 2011

Related Post: 6 Great Studies on Women of the Bible (2015 edition)

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  • Please look at my book Bold Girls Speak: Girls of the Bible come Alive. This is a series of five stories about OT and five NT girls, and I really mean girls, not women called girls. I aimed towards the reading age of 10-14, but the content is interesting to any older group, especially including the questions I prepared at the end of each chapter for mature groups. The stories very factually situated with much research and empowering to women and girls. Published by Wipf and Stock, included in the CBE catalog.

    • Mary, I should have thought to consider your book. Coincidentally, I’m on vacation this week and finally reading The New Perspective on Mary and Martha. It’s fantastic! I am enthralled and underlining constantly. Thanks for this important contribution.

  • I am beginning a mentoring relationship with a high school senior (girl) who is wavering in her faith right now, and is more and more frustrated by many church’s views on women. I’d like to give her a glimpse of God’s heart, while also talking specifically about women. Would you recommend either Women of the Gospels (Binz) or Unexpected Love (Coleman) more for a situation like this? Thanks!!!

    • Kirsten, we hear this so much 🙁 I don’t have a lot of experience working with high school students, but of the ones on this list I think Women of the Gospels would work well. There is some flexibility in the lessons so you could choose those application activities that would fit the level of spiritual development. Honestly, though, if I were in your shoes I would probably choose “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” from the 2015 list for high school/college level. It is informative, engaging, and entertaining. Or even or “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James because it addresses the issues around women in the church today. Hope that helps!

  • Just Wives? Stories of Power & Survival in the Old Testament and Today by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld.
    It was on a list of optional books for a required report in my Old Testament Survey class in seminary. The chapter on Hosea’s wife brought me to tears. Very thought provoking from a strong feminist viewpoint.

    • Great suggestion. I have that on my shelf but didn’t include it since it is more academic. Maybe we should do another post for that genre? I would add Back to the Well by Gench to a list like that.

  • I am honored to be listed among these other wonderful authors! I so appreciate your kind comments. Thank you for your good work across all denominations–God bless!

  • YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I stopped going to women’s bible studies a long time ago because they were so fluffy and obnoxious. Excited for material that will actually make me think!

    • Dalaina, I’ve done the same thing! I’m thinking of hosting one of these, though. They are pretty great!

  • I feel so honored, Gail, to have my books chosen for your egalitarian selection: Women of the Torah and Women of the Gospels. Thank you for recommending the books and for all that you do for Christ’s church.

    • Thank you, Stephen! I have been so blessed by those two studies and am anxious to try one out with our adult ed class at church 🙂 Blessings!

  • I might be picking up 2-6 for my own study needs, Gail. Thanks for the list.

    • I think you would like Stephen Binz’ materials. I need to add a note saying they are written for a mixed gender audience. Thanks, Tim!

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