Book Week: The CEB Women’s Bible

ceb-womensI’ve never owned a “Women’s Bible.”

It’s a residual objection to the gender-targeting Bibles that I saw on bookstore & church shelves when I was a teen: pink floral ridiculousness for girls, blue camo covers for boys. As if I would find the Bible more relevant and engaging because its bookmarks had little beads and butterfly gems on their ribbony ends. It felt gimmicky and binary.

So when Abingdon Press asked for reviewers of The CEB Women’s Bible (Common English Bible 2016), I was intrigued by the opportunity to find out what a Bible published for women is all about. After all, my relationship to pink has changed with age…although I still back away slowly from floral patterns.

The short answer: decor aside, it’s your basic study Bible.

More specifically: this one is a good study Bible.

Regardless of its mechanisms for appealing to women, what I appreciate about The CEB Women’s Bible are the well-executed practicalities that enhance any Bible’s readability:

  • pages that dare to be heavier than the pale film on which so many Bibles are printed;
  • book introductions that are clearly & concisely written with helpful overviews of historic context;
  • indexes that are abundantly useful for both praying & preaching: quick topical references, outlines for the liturgical year, reading schedules, and (let the heavens sing alleluia!) a list of named & unnamed women in the Bible;
  • synopses of sections and highlighted themes throughout the volume that not only orient the reader to content but also support the reader’s reflection on personal, social & theological implications.

I remain unconvinced that certain font types and splashes of maroon (matured from teenage pink) hold any particular appeal to women, as though we all have the same experience of womanhood regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity, reproduction experience, and social location. It’s noteworthy that The CEB Women’s Bible makes an effort to tread carefully & to recognize the diversity of women’s experiences. Historic cultural norms of male/female roles are explicitly named, for example, so that readers can consider and test whether those norms still hold value for the modern day. And I’m relieved to read a Bible that is honest about the violence against women and girls throughout scripture.

Still there are places and passages where I would’ve preferred that the commentators not to tiptoe at all but boldly claim women’s empowerment and directly challenge patriarchal assumptions not only in their historic context but also in the 21st century Church. There are also missed opportunities when the commentary not merely tiptoes but leaps entirely over passages that are problematic in our modern context — including those verses that condemn non-heterosexual intimacy, with only one article in the whole volume written in direct affirmation of an inclusive love ethic. Clearly as a Church we are still contending with gender norms, and The CEB Women’s Bible reflects that struggle.

Publishing a Bible for women still puzzles me.

But publishing a Bible by women editors, a Bible about women’s experiences of God & of their faith communities, a Bible with women’s commentary on the many & varied dynamics of gender throughout scripture — that’s a Bible I can recommend as the Church continues to perceive, unpack and dismantle the patriarchal worldview that shapes our reading of scripture and our theological understandings. Beyond its maroon text boxes and bubbly fonts, The CEB Women’s Bible strives to be a text that asks good questions, encourages thoughtful study & discussion, and highlights the social complexities that are not separate from our faithful living.

I received a free copy of The CEB Women’s Bible
from the publisher with the request to write a review.

Sunday Prayer

You are Sovereign, You are God:
we confess it and give thanks.

The rains water the earth;
The seasons turn faithfully;
The trees sing your praises
and the oceans your mystery.

You are Sovereign, You are God:
we confess it and give thanks.

The Spirit stirs and inspires;
The Word troubles and shouts;
Signs of glory surprise us as much
as the signs of your holy grace.

You are Sovereign, You are God:
we confess it and give thanks.

Through victory and defeat,
In building up and breaking down,
No matter our contentment or dis-ease,
always you find us; always you beckon.

You are Sovereign, You are God:
we confess it and give thanks.

Show favor and forgiveness;
Do not take your love from us;
Be our shelter and our home,
our one & only justification.

You are Sovereign, You are God:
we confess it and give thanks.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Sunday Prayer: Metaphors

Uproot what is evil,
plant what is new within us,
Imaginative Creator, Patient Farmer.

Grow your love in our hearts,
work your laws of grace through our lives,
O Glorious Vine, Essential Root of Life.

Set your words on our tongues,
whisper your hope in our ears,
Sweetest Honey, Thou Good Word.

Be persistent with us, Divine Mystery,
as we seek you through vain metaphors.
Day and night, find us and love us we pray.

cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals

Unguarded

I have been unguarded —
O God, I confess it!
Day by tedious day, night by long night
I strain and struggle as though
your peace is illusory, as though it is
the stuff of dreams and platitudes
and fairytales at bedtime.
But goblins and trolls are cordial
compared to the fear and violence of humanity
warring against itself, and I have not
guarded my own wounds
let alone
reached out to share
blankets of solace, shelters of peace
with sisters and brothers weary
from this storm, drenched
by generations of
vindictiveness and degradation
against personhood, against the beauty of life.
If there is peace to be known,
O my God, I have not understood it.
If there is peace to be found, I confess O God
that I have preferred to sit myself down
and keep company with
lament
who is a more faithful companion
than peace, that elusive heartbreaker.
But lament has no desire
to guard the heart
or to grant a harbor to love
so I find myself fractured and hallucinating
that peace is foolhardy, that the storm is strength
and I guard myself
with the storm
which is
I think
not exactly
what you recommend.
You are welcome, O God, to surpass my understanding.

on Philippians 4:7

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