Discovering Biblical Equality

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Book Review: “Discovering Biblical Equality” Third Edition edited by Ronald W . Pierce, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Christa L. McKirland

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical Theological, Cultural, & Practical Perspectives is a massive tome defending the equality of women in the church and home from a Christian standpoint.

The book is organized around 31 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are broken up into four parts: Looking to Scripture: The Biblical Texts; Thinking it Through: Theological and Logical Perspectives; Addressing the Issues: Interpretive and Cultural Perspectives; Living it Out: Practical Applications. There are highlights in each section, and each essays has its own strengths. Linda Belville’s “Women Leaders in the Bible” goes through many names readers might be familiar with, but also dives into details about some of the specifics, such as the background info we can see in the text for the importance of Huldah (p. 73) and some surprising examples readers might be unfamiliar with (74-75). The discussion of both marriage and singleness with regards to mutuality in Ronald W. Pierce and Elizabeth A. Kay’s chapter (“Mutuality in Marriage and Singleness: 1 Corinthians 7:1-40) is refreshing because so often the discussion centers entirely around marriage. The so-called “clobber passages” of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 each get their own passage, as do many other related passages.

Kevin Giles’s chapter on “The Trinity Argument for Women’s Subordination” shows the lengths to which some have gone to try to ground women’s inequality. Jeffrey D. Miller’s chapter on gender accurate Bible translation was fascinating and shows how the issues that are often dismissed regarding translation issues can have real, spiritual implications. Mimi Haddad’s chapter on global perspectives and why gender equality matters helps demonstrate the real-life applications of theology.

The book is the third edition of this collection. I own the second edition, which I read some years ago. I compared the table of contents for the two editions, and there is in the third edition a significant overhaul of the included essays. There are 31 chapters in the new edition vs. 29 in the previous one. Several chapters have been entirely replaced, and several new topics are introduced in the third edition. For example a chapter on “Gender Equality and Homosexuality” by William J. Webb in the second edition appears to have been replaced by “Biblical Equality and Same-Sex Marriage” by Ronald W. Pierce in this third edition. The third edition also addresses race and gender, a topic that I don’t recall or see a chapter dedicated to in the second edition. In other words, readers interested in knowing whether it’s worth re-purchasing should rest assured that it very much is. This new edition has a huge amount of new content. I cannot comment on whether essays that appear in each are revised in any way from the original.

The chapter on “Biblical Equality and Same-Sex Marriage” is written by Piece, who is non-affirming in his stance on same-sex marriage. The thrust of the chapter seems to be that one can be a fully committed egalitarian while not affirming same-sex marriage. Such a topic is certainly of interest to the many people who are caught in the middle on these issues. For my part, I’d have liked to see another chapter from an affirming perspective, though I wonder if it wasn’t included because that’s a less controversial pairing. The chapter on race and gender is fascinating and shows how these topics often intersect and overlap.

Discovering Biblical Equality is unquestionably the standard text for those wishing to explore the basics of egalitarian theology on a scholarly level that remains accessible. Every chapter has something to add to the discussion. The depth and breadth of some of the chapters is truly remarkable. I recommend it extremely highly as among the best books on the topic.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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