How to use this Bible study resource
Women in the Bible
When I was young, Bible stories always seemed to be about men - what they did, what they said, what they felt. Women were left out or presented as stereotypes: good women, bad women, or invisible.
I sensed something wrong. Why was the biblical world composed mainly of men?
The answer is, it wasn't. The focus on men was given by people, not God.
Here's an example. Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath, but hardly anyone has heard of Jael and Sisera. The two stories are remarkably similar, but
The first story is world famous; the second is virtually forgotten.
As I read the Bible more carefully, I found stories about women I had never heard of. They are rarely discussed, even though the women characters are fascinating, feisty, beautiful, courageous – at least as interesting as the men!
In a way this made sense, because men were the target audience at the time the Bible stories were put down on paper, so the stories dealt with matters important to men.
stories, on the other hand, were part of the oral tradition, stories
passed down from one generation to the next - from grandmother to mother
to daughter - much like family stories are now. Since they were not
written down, many were
It does not ignore the male characters. They were part of God’s story, as the women were. But it brings the women characters, especially the lesser known ones, into the spotlight, so that there is better coverage of the whole human experience of God.
If you want short biographies of these women, plus the stories of famous men in the Bible, go to Famous Bible Men and Women or use the search box below to find a particular person.
What's in the Bible?
The Bible stories happened thousands of years ago, but they deal with universal themes relevant to anybody, in any time. There are stories of passion, rage, jealousy, loyalty, happiness, and grief; they describe human events such as childbirth, death, battles, and migrations.
There are women from every social level: queens and peasant girls, slaves and princesses, saints and sinners. Taken together, the stories cover all of human experience.
Ancient storytellers filled in the details by adding background information, characterizations, jokes, and actions - as any good entertainer does. The stories cried out for improvisation.
Above all, you will find there are very few straightforward heroes or villains. These are real human beings, warts and all, not as they would like to see themselves.
Over the centuries
people added layer upon layer of interpretation to the bare bones of the stories.
But if you read the stories about Mary with fresh eyes, you'll see a woman who is decisive, forthright, ready to take charge. You'll interpret her story in light of your own experience of life in the modern world.
So as you look at the stories today, be careful that the interpretations of previous generations do not cloud the essential story.
Approach the stories as if you were hearing them for the first time. Look
at the people, particularly the women, in the light of your own experience of life and of God. Draw on the wisdom of past
commentators, but don't let their interpretations dim your present vision.
Don't treat it with such over-zealous care that the life is drained out of it. These are lively stories about robust people searching for God, and we must be just as robust in our search.
Ask questions, argue back,
and don't be content until you have nutted out an answer for yourself. This is the way to God.
Always use this website
with a copy of the Bible beside you. Work from the biblical text itself, not from your own
memory or from secondary sources which may be biased or sentimentalized.
4. What is the social and historical background of the story? Go to the
link called 'XX's World' at the top of each web page; this gives
information on the social and political world a particular woman lived in.
Archaeology can also help, or use the Search Box below.. Given their context,
do the characters in the story behave in a reasonable way?
Modern interpretation of Mary and Gabriel in Luke's Gospel (John Collier)
|Bible Woman - Women of the Old and New Testaments. How to Use this Bible Study Resource|