A Year of Biblical Womanhood {Or Accepting that Patriarchal Gender Roles are Part of The Matrix}

What does “biblical” womanhood mean?


For some reason, many people are horrified that anyone would write a book that might possibly come to the conclusion that perhaps June Cleaver, as wonderful as she was, is in fact not the standard for biblical womanhood.


I’ve even heard tell that (gasp) she might actually be fictional.


But the truth is, that’s not what Rachel Held Evans latest book is about.  Not exactly. People have made assumptions, have pointed their patriarchal fingers and slung works like “mockery”. They’ve jumped to conclusions and assigned reasonings and agendas to Rachel that I don’t think are fair or accurate.


A Year Of Biblical Womanhood isn’t about feminism, at least not in my opinion.


It’s about genuinely studying women of valor from the Bible. It’s about examining our roots, our history, our traditions (yes, even to our religion’s Jewish beginnings).  It’s about tearing down what we’ve been told to think about gender roles and using the Bible as our source for finding answers to the hard questions.


Rachel’s debunking the traditional understanding of the Proverbs 31 woman by learning what the poem means to Orthodox Jews is ground and bondage breaking. Her revealing the truth of Junia the female apostle who so often undergoes a sex-change in modern translations is eye-opening.  Her realization that cooking for her family is meditative and that there is power in silence and contemplative prayer is soul stirring.


This isn’t angry feminism. This is an honest attempt at truth seeking – even when the answers aren’t where you expected to find them. This isn’t judging or condemning, it’s the opposite – freeing for all.


However, it is about being open-minded – a concept that some take offense at. There’s a misunderstanding that being “open” means being willing to seek truth outside of the Bible and the Christian God. But that’s couldn’t be further from what Rachel is doing. This is about being willing to be open to the truth found within the Bible instead of glossing over the parts that don’t perfectly fit our current doctrines. Because, like Rachel says:


You find whatever you seek in the Bible.


Want to find support for war? It’s there. Want to find support for bigamy? There. Looking for viable evidence for gender oppression? Yep, it’s there. Searching for gender equality? Yep, it’s there, too. But sadly, so often that last point is blurred, hurried past.


At the end of the day, no matter how “just biblical” many patriarchal congregations are trying to be, they’re still picking and choosing. They’re blowing one New Testament command off as “cultural” but enforcing others that are just as much so.


And, if we’re being honest, it just doesn’t make sense. Why forbid a woman to teach, but not enforce covering her head when praying? Both have bona fide New Testament support.


This is exactly why we need to go so much deeper than reducing “biblical womanhood” to bullet points. Because the argument doesn’t hold up under careful scrutiny. We’ve over complicated almost every aspect of Christianity and gender roles are no exception.


As Rachel says:

“The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth.”


There is no such thing as Biblical Womanhood. And the very thought terrifies some people. Like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix sitting in front of the young monk and being coaxed to accept the reality that “There is NO spoon”.


It’s as if we’ve taken away peoples hand rails while they’re on a suspension bridge staring down at an endless cavern. What do you hold on to, where do you find your sense of security now?


Well, it’s quite simple, really. Jesus didn’t leave us without parameters for biblical man or womanhood. On one side of the narrow bridge is the first greatest commandment and on the other side is the second greatest.


Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment.A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”


No matter how elaborate you want to make your outline for biblical womanhood, biblical living, these are the only two headings available. Why bullet point yourself to death under such freeing and loving main points?


That is why there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For we are all one in Christ Jesus. We are all equal in the grace of Christ.


I highly recommend reading Rachel Held Evans new book A Year Of biblical womanhood. It’s not mockery, it’s not sacrilegious, it’s a heart-felt and serious attempt to find God’s truth.


But please, for the love of Biblical Womanhood, don’t take my word for it. And don’t condemn it before your read it (as many seem to have done). Find a copy and read it for yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?




  1. Well done, Jess. Thank you. I’m waiting for my copy now.

  2. Amen. The Bible has been used to pinpoint so many topics – slavery, politics, gender roles- that it really ceases to have the life-altering effect it should have on some people. It scares the crap out of some people to think that godly womanhood is not laid out perfectly in the Bible (or name some other aspect of Christian living) that they refuse to acknowledge blatant discrepancies when they are presented.

    We are free in Christ – and that is scary but at the same time so much better than any other option we have!

  3. I have TOTALLY been wanting to read this! Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  4. It’s on my list :) And I APPLAUD YOU for challenging Christians to actually read a book before offering their opinion on it.

  5. On my Kindle wishlist! I’ll be glad to read this book. Its just sad that it offends some that we dig deeper into God’s word, and TAKE GOD AT HIS WORD for ourselves.
    Thank you for the endorsement of the book. I first wanted to read it to see why everybody’s panties were in a wad, but now I want to see how I can be all that I can be

  6. Haven’t read the book yet, but I am looking forward to it. I once saw Oprah interview a group of Hassidic Jewish women. What was so interesting to me was how their view of women transformed my opinion of some of those “Biblical Womanhood” kind of scriptures. What I now think is that this whole idea of the “Biblical woman” isn’t Biblical at all, but more of a Western Civilization image of women. And that most of us in the western world have no idea about the cultural realities of Biblical times.

  7. It’s on my list too! thanks for the review!

  8. love it. I’ve been struggling with Biblical Man/Womanhood and am looking forward to reading Rachel’s book.


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