In her introduction to Women in a Patriarchal World, Elaine Storkey reminds the reader of the important role that narrative theology has played in “both framing our doctrine and shaping our understanding of faith.” With this reminder she lets the reader know that this (narrative theology) will be the lens from which this collection of stories about women has been written and should be read. After the introduction, the book is separated into Old Testament and New Testament time periods. The author provides excellent examples of the traditional roles of women during those periods and highlights the cultural differences between them. The book is then further organized into stories of twenty-five specific women of the Bible, each one getting their own section, very much like a mini chapter. Each chapter includes scripture references, the biblical narrative with highlights on the woman’s (or women’s) character and life situation, relevance for women today, and then closes with two questions for the reader to ponder and reflect upon personally or within a small group setting.
Storkey offers a mixture of the more popular biblical women’s stories (Rahab, Ruth, Mary the mother of Jesus, the bleeding woman, Martha, and Mary Magdala), and the powerful female narratives that are often overlooked (Zelophehad’s daughters, Abigail, the wise woman of Abel Beth Maakah, Lydia, Priscilla, and Euodia and Syntyche). The narratives are presented chronologically and at times flow seamlessly from one to another. For example, the author first highlights the Hebrew midwives that protect the male, Hebrew babies and then discusses baby Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter.
Storkey is a well-respected researcher, author, philosopher, sociologist, and theologian who is known for her lecturing and broadcasting as well as her writing, particularly in the area of feminist theology. It is with this deep base of knowledge that she can write such potent and timely perspectives on women who, though included in the Bible, are often taught about only from a patriarchal perspective. The author skillfully draws the reader into each woman’s story by weaving scripture and cultural and historical facts together. Then, the author pulls the reader back into the present and offers fresh and timely perspectives from each woman’s narrative that can be seen in the context of life today.
Knowing the reputation that Storkey has within the theological community, I at times wished she had provided footnotes of her resources for further reading, especially since the style of writing and book format seem to be trying to appeal to both beginner and intermediate audiences. Such readers might benefit from additional resources to learn more about egalitarian beliefs, feminist theology, and narrative theology. In addition, I wish she would have incorporated more commentary about these women from the newer perspectives available from christological, egalitarian, and feminist points of view.
Still, the overall scope of this book, as well as its deep approach to introductory topics far outweigh any minor preferences over narrative discussion or lack of cited resources. The interested and ambitious reader will be able to research the author and find additional information about this style of Bible research and commentary. This book would be extremely useful to egalitarians who are just beginning to learn about the viewpoint of biblical equality as well as those trying to find a reputable, academic author to guide them further on their spiritual and scriptural journey. This book could easily be used as a daily or weekly devotional or also as a Bible study where Storkey’s “chapters” are read before or after the corresponding scripture references. Additionally, the discussion questions after each biblical woman’s story would be a great resource for personal growth or small group discussions.
I would recommend this book to beginner and intermediate egalitarian readers, meaning those who are new to egalitarian beliefs or are curious to learn about those beliefs, as well as readers with a basic understanding of egalitarianism. Storkey’s content and writing style help make the content accessible to these audiences by offering well-researched and complex female narratives in a way that is readable for those from many walks of life and faith backgrounds.