As a new member of the B&H/Lifeway bloggers (free!), I received a complimentary copy of this book to review and was immediately struck by its quality – nice hardcover, thick shiny pages, and a ribbon book marker.
Despite these pleasant features, my delight turned to dismay when I realized that the illustrations from classical paintings are neither acknowledged by title and artist, nor are they at all representative of the 31 women whom they’re supposed to portray. As I said in the longer review on my blog, almost every beautiful painting used as an illustration in this book shows tones from stark white to ruddy skin but does not feature women who look like they’re from countries in Africa or the Middle East. Although my own skin is close to stark, I still resent this too-common misrepresentation of Bible people.
I also take issue with the book’s perspective. According to the Introduction, 31 Women of the Bible offers a “concise summary of each woman’s appearance in Scripture, viewed through the lens of our modern culture.” But, don’t we already see through contemporary cultural lenses and, therefore, automatically do that as we read? What we do not see is why people did what they did in a specific time and place with concerns and conditions unlike our own. I wish the book gave us this type of insight.
A woman’s insight would be welcomed, too, as “The Takeaway” and questions asked are not ones I think about or particularly want to know.
Since I’ve agreed to give a review in exchange from my complimentary copy, I have to do something I don’t normally do – give the book 3 stars. My personal preference is to only review books I can happily give 4 or 5 stars to, so I’m feeling bad about this and don’t want to discourage the author in his work. Besides, I think this book makes an interesting one-month devotional to help readers see how human nature hasn’t changed, nor has our need for God. Each woman portrayed comes with a unique personality and strong character from which we can learn more about ourselves or the women in our lives.
I’d most recommend this book, though, as a 31-week (or more) guide for a Bible discussion group where members are encouraged to read the text, consider the questions prior to meeting, and feel free to add their own. Then, oh, what lively discussions would most likely occur!