Saturday, October 22, 2016
I have to begin by saying that I am not generally a fan of "specialty" bibles; women's Bibles, men's Bibles, teen bibles, recovery Bibles, even Precious Moments Bibles. Often these seem to be simply a repackaging of some translation or another with a pretty cover or some cosmetic additions intended to appeal to a particular niche in the Bible-buying market. So it was with only moderate expectations that I began my exploration of the CEB Women's Bible.
I am pleased to report that my expectations have been far surpassed. The Common English Bible translation itself is solid in its scholarship as well as being accessible and highly readable. To this foundation, the editorial board and contributors of the Women's Bible have brought a wealth of additional information and commentary that truly fulfills what the promotional material offers, that this is a Bible that "celebrates the fact that people engage scripture from their own perspectives."
The editorial board and all of the contributors to the Women's Bible are women. They come from a variety of denominational and theological backgrounds, and bring their unique voices and perspectives to the many resources in this bible which are introduced in the Preface. These include an introduction to each of the books in the Bible as well as reflections in every chapter. These are thoughtful writings that help the writer engage with the text and that could be useful, as the writers suggest, in a variety of worship and study settings. The Bible also includes sidebar articles throughout the book. These articles are wide-ranging and cover topics of interest to women.Another feature of the Women's Bible are the character sketches of over one hundred women in scripture, named and unnamed, and every single woman in the bible is indexed with a reference to where she appears.
I decided to test-drive the Women's Bible by reading selections from both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, I chose the Book of Esther. In addition to a very readable translation of the story, I found a thoughtful introduction to the story and its context, ten reflections on various aspects of the text, portraits of Esther, Vashti and Zeresh, and sidebar articles exploring how such things as appearance, race, eunuchs, and the confluence of race and religion impact not only the writing of scripture, but our reading of it as well.
In the New Testament I chose to read Luke's story about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-41). In this short lection, the Women's Bible provides a reflection on how responses to a shared experience can differ, a portrait of Martha, and a sidebar on sisterhood. Again, resources that added to my reading and reflection on the text.
I found the layout as well as the content of each of these elements added to my reading in both of these instances, and I could see how they could easily be used in a group study, worship or private reading of this Bible. The women of the Bible, named and unnamed, are all indexed by where they appear, and the sidebar articles are indexed both alphabetically and canonically, making it easy to locate both women and topics in the text.
In addition to all of these riches, the CEB Women's Bible includes a section of discussion and reflection questions arranged according to the three-year lectionary cycle. I checked out the questions on the readings for this coming Sunday (Luke 19:1-10) and found food for thought there as well.
The volume concludes with three different bible reading plans and sixteen color maps, all of which are indexed by the places named in the Bible.
In summary, I would recommend the CEB Women's Bible as a useful, well-designed and accessible resource for anyone who is interested in a deeper reading of the text, and especially from a context and perspective that includes and highlights the voices of the women who inhabit, infuse and enrich the scriptures.
I received a hardcover review copy of the CEB Women's Bible from the publisher and was not compensated for this review.