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"A powerful work of skillful research and personal insight."-- Publishers Weekly Biblical womanhood--the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers--pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical w "A powerful work of skillful research and personal insight."-- Publishers Weekly Biblical womanhood--the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers--pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn't biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments. This book moves the conversation about biblical womanhood beyond Greek grammar and into the realm of church history--ancient, medieval, and modern--to show that this belief is not divinely ordained but a product of human civilization that continues to creep into the church. Barr's historical insights provide context for contemporary teachings about women's roles in the church and help move the conversation forward. Interweaving her story as a Baptist pastor's wife, Barr sheds light on the #ChurchToo movement and abuse scandals in Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical world, helping readers understand why biblical womanhood is more about human power structures than the message of Christ.


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"A powerful work of skillful research and personal insight."-- Publishers Weekly Biblical womanhood--the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers--pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical w "A powerful work of skillful research and personal insight."-- Publishers Weekly Biblical womanhood--the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers--pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn't biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments. This book moves the conversation about biblical womanhood beyond Greek grammar and into the realm of church history--ancient, medieval, and modern--to show that this belief is not divinely ordained but a product of human civilization that continues to creep into the church. Barr's historical insights provide context for contemporary teachings about women's roles in the church and help move the conversation forward. Interweaving her story as a Baptist pastor's wife, Barr sheds light on the #ChurchToo movement and abuse scandals in Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical world, helping readers understand why biblical womanhood is more about human power structures than the message of Christ.

30 review for The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth

  1. 4 out of 5

    Josh Olds

    The Making of Biblical Womanhood will kill Christian evangelical patriarchy, if we let it. Unfortunately, the very premise of Beth Allison Barr’s incisive work is that we won’t—or, at least, we haven’t—in nearly two thousand years of New Testament church history. Barr goes beyond a theological discussion of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism and instead regales readers with a compelling historical blow-by-blow account of the creation of Christian patriarchy and how it stands counter to the Go The Making of Biblical Womanhood will kill Christian evangelical patriarchy, if we let it. Unfortunately, the very premise of Beth Allison Barr’s incisive work is that we won’t—or, at least, we haven’t—in nearly two thousand years of New Testament church history. Barr goes beyond a theological discussion of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism and instead regales readers with a compelling historical blow-by-blow account of the creation of Christian patriarchy and how it stands counter to the Gospel. Intertwining history, theology, and present-day reality, Barr pulls back the curtain to lay bare the damage that patriarchal thinking has done throughout history. Barr writes with an intimate knowledge of the evangelical patriarchy. She works in academia at a Baptist university. She grew up in a church system of complementarianism. Her husband attended seminary at Southeastern Baptist. Barr has lived and worked within the Southern Baptist Church, the most well-known, palatable home of Christian evangelical conservatism and complementarianism. This personal experience combines with her own faith journey that led her out of those unhealthy beliefs (even as she remains somewhat tethered to the system), makes her uniquely positioned to understand complementarian beliefs and the unhealthy systems that result from it. And, if you are a complementarian, you’re already attacking the book on the basis of its egalitarian theological interpretations. I know you are. And I know that there is little chance of successfully making this argument on theological grounds because it’s so entrenched that many patriarchal systems have made it a make-or-break litmus test for orthodoxy. Saying that women can preach or lead is akin to saying Jesus rots in his tomb. In such a vitriolic debate, it’s difficult to maintain an objective perspective. But if you just could…just for a bit…I think you’d find Barr’s theological arguments compelling. This isn’t the place for a full theological critique, but let me say that although Barr is a historian, she writes with theological passion and precision. On balance, I find her arguments for egalitarianism more convincing than the arguments for complementarianism—which, she notes, we ought just to call patriarchy. The second chapter “What If Biblical Womanhood Doesn’t Come From Paul?” is The Making of Biblical Womanhood’s theological lynchpin. The usual argument is that, to believe that women can lead churches is to disbelieve Paul. Barr boldly leads us into a different reading of Paul: one that interprets him in light of his cultural situation and context. Paul’s purpose isn’t to emphasize male authority or female submission, instead Barr writes that they are a “resistance narrative to Roman patriarchy.” The most prominent example of this contextual reading of Paul comes in the classic “women are to be silent” passage. Barr writes how her church resisted her as a last-minute youth Sunday School substitute. Not because she was unqualified—she was a university professor who taught high school through graduate students—but because she was a woman. Women don’t teach men, even if those “men” are aged thirteen. After discussion, Barr is allowed to act as a “facilitator”—she can go through the sermon questions from the week before—but isn’t allowed to teach. Why not? 1 Cor. 14:33-36. After telling her personal experience, Barr attacks that interpretation with fervor. She dives into the history of Rome to give historical context. She then suggests that Paul isn’t admonishing the believers to adhere to this practice, but is stating what the common practice is before refuting it. Paul does this elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, perhaps taking from Jesus who employed the technique in his Sermon on the Mount. Her conclusion: Far from saying that women should be silent, Paul is telling men that, in the world of Jesus, women are allowed to speak: “‘It is shameful for a woman to speak in church.’ [Paul quotes] What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?” – 1 Cor 14:35-36, RSV With the theological case put to rest—at least, as strongly and convincingly as she can, which, to me seems pretty darn convincing—Barr moves onward toward a history of women in leadership from the medieval age onward. Interweaving these accounts from history with her own story, Barr inexorably shows how little we have progressed—and, indeed, perhaps regressed—from those ancient times. It was particularly eye-opening to see how the Protestant Reformation was, in many ways, a net negative for the inclusion of women in ministry. The closing chapters of The Making of Biblical Womanhood are a clarion call for change. Barr brings the historical discussion into modern focus as she shows what affect patriarchal thinking has on Christian homes and institutions, particularly as it relates to the #ChuchToo movement and the cover-up of sexual abuse within the church. It’s a powerful call that, given Christian patriarchy’s bad fruit, we must seriously consider if it is part of the true vine. For me, there can be no doubt: Jesus presents women as ministry leaders. I am writing this article one week before Christmas—an event in which the central characters are women. Elizabeth and Mary preach the Gospel as Zechariah and Joseph are silent. At Easter, it is the women who preach the Good News to the men. Bookending Jesus’s earthly ministry is incontrovertible proof that women can preach and teach and lead. The Making of Biblical Womanhood deconstructs patriarchal thinking and portrays it as the harmful system it is.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Traci Rhoades

    Huzzah! I cannot tell you how many books I read on theology and church history, knowing I can't recommend them to the majority of my friends. They could understand them but wouldn't take the time to do so. On the other hand, I read books that lean angry or cynical. The tone can feel disrespectful, which may get the point across but can leave my heart-that-aches-for-unity hurting. We can't come together if we alienate one another. Beth (of course your name is Beth), thank you for guiding women in Huzzah! I cannot tell you how many books I read on theology and church history, knowing I can't recommend them to the majority of my friends. They could understand them but wouldn't take the time to do so. On the other hand, I read books that lean angry or cynical. The tone can feel disrespectful, which may get the point across but can leave my heart-that-aches-for-unity hurting. We can't come together if we alienate one another. Beth (of course your name is Beth), thank you for guiding women in a way that we can all read and enjoy. I learned so much from your story, from your professional insight, and from your lengthy list of references. Perhaps the highest compliment I can give, I'd recommend this book to anyone.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Greco

    This is a searing indictment of the church as it pertains to how religious leaders have misused Scripture to subordinate women. Barr's historical expertise coupled with the many examples of women who served as leaders/teachers in the 1st century church expose the misogyny that fuels rigid complementarianism and broken patriarchy. It's a bold book and one that makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, we might move toward creating a church where men and women are truly equal. This is a searing indictment of the church as it pertains to how religious leaders have misused Scripture to subordinate women. Barr's historical expertise coupled with the many examples of women who served as leaders/teachers in the 1st century church expose the misogyny that fuels rigid complementarianism and broken patriarchy. It's a bold book and one that makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, we might move toward creating a church where men and women are truly equal.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Deeter

    My feelings on this read are a little complicated. I'll get the easy stuff out of the way first. 1) She takes a very scholarly approach and that should be respected even if you disagree with her argument. The woman has her shit to-ge-THER. 2) I already was an egalitarian convert (?) but this book, especially the latter half, made me feel sick I was ever patriarchal or a complimentarian. Honestly, like trigger warnings should abound because ew and ouch. I felt this way before, but I feel a reinfo My feelings on this read are a little complicated. I'll get the easy stuff out of the way first. 1) She takes a very scholarly approach and that should be respected even if you disagree with her argument. The woman has her shit to-ge-THER. 2) I already was an egalitarian convert (?) but this book, especially the latter half, made me feel sick I was ever patriarchal or a complimentarian. Honestly, like trigger warnings should abound because ew and ouch. I felt this way before, but I feel a reinforced intolerance towards anyone who says a woman can't or shouldn't be ordained. Now for the meh part... After reading Peter Enns book on the bible I find it to not be very convincing to argue "ah, but the old pasty fundie misogynistic men got it wrong! the bible liberates women!" The whole they're wrong, we're right argument is old because anyone can use it. You can literally justify anything that way. This isn't a reflection on Barr necessarily, just my own grappling with the abyss that is biblical interpretation and the deconstructing soul. BUT!!! Her historical references and overall nerdiness were HIGHLY convincing and I found myself very much strengthened by that thread. Anyway, everyone should read this and no one should support patriarchy or complimentarianism. Vaginas and penises and everything in between are equal in worth and rank. The end.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joel Sam

    Beth Allison Barr masterfully synthesizes the stories of women throughout church history to show how the Evangelical idea of "Biblical Womanhood" was born. She mainly focuses on three time periods: the early church, the medieval era (her area of expertise), and the 20th century to the present. Barr's examples of women in ministry in the early church (and modern attempts to minimize, dismiss, or deflect from that work) will not be news to those who have been studying the debate over complementari Beth Allison Barr masterfully synthesizes the stories of women throughout church history to show how the Evangelical idea of "Biblical Womanhood" was born. She mainly focuses on three time periods: the early church, the medieval era (her area of expertise), and the 20th century to the present. Barr's examples of women in ministry in the early church (and modern attempts to minimize, dismiss, or deflect from that work) will not be news to those who have been studying the debate over complementarianism. However, the work of these women in the biblical texts is so marginalized in conservative evangelicalism that Barr's treatment of the texts is vital to the conversation. Barr often gives examples of medieval perceptions of Biblical figures and saints, demonstrating the comfortability of medieval thinkers relative to modern evangelicals regarding women's roles. However, she does not offer sufficient commentary on the veracity of legendary accounts or the validity of conflating Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, for example. Barr's argument is bolstered by her explanation of how the Protestant Reformation created a "cult of domesticity", leading the removal of women from ministry roles and public work and shoehorning them into wifehood and motherhood. Barr's examples of women in ministry post-Reformation (despite consistent efforts to suppress them) show how remarkably new the "orthodox" teaching of complementarity is to church history. By shedding light on how conservative evangelicals created the doctrine of inerrancy and resurrected Arianism in order to suppress the status of women in the church, Barr effectively hammers the final nail in the coffin of 'biblical womanhood'. This book should be required reading for anyone in the evangelical sphere who has been led to believe that complementarianism is biblically faithful and has been the dominant teaching through church history. Patriarchy by any other name is still sin, and Christ's people should not lag behind the world in eradicating it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    3.5* Where this book is good, it is really good. Where it is bad, it is really not that bad. It has lots of info to digest and many points worth considering no matter where you fall on the issue of complementarianism/egalitarianism. Barr is a historian, and she pays the closest and most careful attention to the history of the subject. Barr also has had experiences, and she uses her experiences and other anecdotes to support her case (much like the idea of a counterstory in CRT). As far as eviden 3.5* Where this book is good, it is really good. Where it is bad, it is really not that bad. It has lots of info to digest and many points worth considering no matter where you fall on the issue of complementarianism/egalitarianism. Barr is a historian, and she pays the closest and most careful attention to the history of the subject. Barr also has had experiences, and she uses her experiences and other anecdotes to support her case (much like the idea of a counterstory in CRT). As far as evidence goes, this volume is super strong. But I feel Barr sometimes overstates her conclusions and makes connections that are not necessary (both between thoughts and thinkers). There are multiple points where the reverse of Barr's arguments could often be made back to her (e.g., She says Fundies supported Inerrancy to prop up the patriarchy; a counterargument could easily be made that Barr opposes Inerrancy as a means to undermine the patriarchy, etc.). I believe Barr's historical evidence (as it relates to church practice and bible translation) is compelling. I think Barr's readings of Pauline texts are as good or better than those that have been taught and assumed in Evangelicalism since at least the Conservative Resurgence. And I believe that there has to be attention paid to the fact that there exists ample evidence of abuse in the name of complementarianism/patriarchy--spiritual, emotional, physical, and in the case of the 21st-century repackaging of Arianism, theological. But I also think that Barr undermines her argument in places, both by ceding ground unnecessarily (why hand over the idea of inerrancy when you have taken the text of Pauline letters and offered a compelling counter-reading?), resorting to hyperbole far too often, and lumping complementarian thinkers and other doctrines together much too loosely. I hope that this is a book that garners a wide readership. I hope that this is a volume that church leaders read and consider deeply. I am not convinced that complementarianism=patriarchy=greatest lie the devil ever told, but I am convinced that egalitarians have an argument supported by logic, Scripture, and church history--and that it is an argument well-worth considering.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    Who Should Read this Book – Christian men and women who were taught that women should be submissive to men . What is the Big Take Away from this book – Rather than being rooted in any sort of counter-cultural narrative of scripture, Biblical womanhood (complementarianism) is a recent invention more in line with the patriarchy of the ancient Roman world than anything close to what Jesus desires. And a quote – “Biblical womanhood is Christian patriarchy. The only reason it continues to flourish is Who Should Read this Book – Christian men and women who were taught that women should be submissive to men . What is the Big Take Away from this book – Rather than being rooted in any sort of counter-cultural narrative of scripture, Biblical womanhood (complementarianism) is a recent invention more in line with the patriarchy of the ancient Roman world than anything close to what Jesus desires. And a quote – “Biblical womanhood is Christian patriarchy. The only reason it continues to flourish is because women and men – just like you and me – continue to support it. What if we all stopped supporting it? What if, instead of letting denominational difvides and peripheral theological beliefs continue to separate us, we stood together as people of faith who believe that God has called us to change this world? . . . What if we stopped forgetting our past and remembered that women – just like us – preached their way through the landscape of Christian history? WHat if we remembered that we are surrounded by a cloud of female witnesses and that we will never stand alone. . . What if we realized that God has never stopped calling women to do his work – as preachers, teachers, missionaries, evangelists and authors? What if we realized when we look at the whole of the global world, it simply doesn’t make sense to define occupations by gender? . . . Complementarianism is patriarchy and patriarchy is about power. Neither have ever been about Jesus” (216-218) Beth Allison Barr mixes her own experience with her expertise in medieval history to deliver a brilliant and necessary book. Like many women in the evangelical Christian world, she grew up believing she had a role as a woman that was different from that of a man. Even after receiving high academic honors and securing a teaching position at a university, she still was unable to teach in her own church. How absurd is that? Why would eminently qualified women be able to use their gifts and knowledge to teach in secular spaces, but they cannot share with their fellow Christians. Because patriarchy. Barr traces the history of patriarchy through the ancient world (starting with the Gilgamesh epic!) and early church, on through the medieval church and Reformation and up to present day. At some point in there, quite recently actually, it was rebranded as “complementarianism”, but its just patriarchy. Millions of Christian men and women think it is God’s ideal for both home and church. It is neither. Instead, it stands on a shoddy scriptural basis and though patriarchy never goes away, the form it has now is quite new. What does Barr mean when she writes, “Christian patriarchy mimics the patriarchy of the non-Christian world” (12). One of the oldest stories in existence, the Gilgamesh Epic, includes women just as helpers. This system of male authority and female submission is found here and is the historical practice of the world. Patriarchy’s continuity throughout time should cause Christian proponents of it to question: “Instead of being a point of pride for Christians, shouldn’t the historical continuity of a practice that has caused women to fare much worse than men for thousands of years cause concern? Shouldn’t Christians, who are called to be different from teh world, treat women differently?” (25). That’s the point – Christians should be different. Patriarchy is not what God wanted, its a result of the first sin in Genesis 3. From this point on, the scripture story accepts patriarchy as the reality while also undermining it over and over. Barr demonstrates this by showing how to read Paul differently, and not just differently but better, than the patriarchal view. For example, there is nothing shocking in his day for Paul to tell women to submit. What is shocking is that he tells the husbands to love their wives and begins the whole section (in Ephesians 5) with a call for mutual submission. That’s not reinforcing patriarchy but subverting it. Barr especially excels when telling stories from medieval church history. She shines light on stories that have been erased and are unknown, stories of women preaching and leading the church. In the medieval world women had to transcend their sex to gain authority, becoming seen as less feminine. This shifts during the Reformation, as women are more celebrated for their roles as wives and mothers. In this she makes the stunning point that “Reformation theology might have removed the priest but it replaced him with the husband” (117). In other words, during the medieval era there was more of an emphasis on the spiritual sameness between men and women. Most men, Barr points out, would never be priests so the spiritual headship of a husband didn’t matter. Medieval sermons would lift up women as exemplars of faith, examples for all women. Both men and women had to go to the priest for the sacraments. During the Reformation, sexual difference came to the forefront. Paul’s words were used to reinforce gender submission both in church and in the household. Priesthood of all believers lifted all men above all women as men became priests of a sort within their own household. As she discusses the Reformation, she moves into a discussion of Bible translations in what may be the most stunning, and important, chapter of the book. Barr disproves some commonly held myths, such as that medieval people did not know scripture. Through this, she shows that patriarchy was written into English translations, especially the ESV: “The ESV was a direct response to the gender-inclusive language debate. It was born to secure readings of Scripture that preserved male headship. It was born to fight against liberal feminism and secular culture challenging the Word of God” (132). “Gender-inclusive language is restoring scripture from the influence of certain English Bible translations” (148). Wait, did I say that was the most stunning chapter? It is even more stunning to see how evangelicals, so intent on propping up patriarchy, have even built it into their understanding of God through something called “the eternal subordination of the Son.” This is just a return to the early church heresy Arianism which taught Jesus was a second, lesser deity. Barr writes: “What early Christians were so adamant about teaching, that no hierarchy existed within the Triune God, modern evangelicals seem adamant about forgetting. . . It should also not surprise us that evangelicals resurrected Arianism for the same reason that evangelicals turned to inerrancy: if Jesus is eternally subordinate to God the Father, women’s subordination becomes much easier to justify” (195-196) Boom. This may be a top-ten book of the year for me. Like with Jesus and John Wayne, as I read I both saw things she was describing as familiar and I was also grateful that I was never as immersed in this world as I could have been. But I know plenty of Christians, men and women, who think complementarianism is what God wants. Barr not only shows it does not fit scripture but that its actually more in line with broken human history. Believing women should be subordinate is as counter-cultural as believing violence solves problems. Jesus demonstrated a different way. Of course, plenty of Christians still love violence! I guess that’s the challenge. We have a gospel, a Jesus, a story of scripture, that present a counter culture way of life in regards to EVERYTHING! Yet we keep going back to violence and consumption and racism and materialism and the rest. That cynical point made, I hope people read Barr’s book. If the scripture points alone are not enough, the points on theology (patriarchy supports Arianism), translation (they write it into English Bibles) and church history paint a picture that is as clear as it is distressing: patriarchy is not God’s dream for the world. Its a new idea that corrupts women, men and the church as a whole. One note that stuck out to me from that quote at the beginning – she refers to God as “he” which seemed odd in a book about patriarchy. I didn’t notice it throughout, but the masculine pronoun would seem to reinforce patriarchy, if anything does. I’d be curious if that was intentional.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan (Glitter and Plato)

    Patriarchy and the subjugation of women have become part and parcel of evangelical Christianity in America. Beth Allison Barr analyzes this close relationship through an historical and theological context and reveals that, rather than uphold a centuries-old tradition of womanhood, strict gender roles and complementarianism are actually the result of specific cultural and economic moments in history. Not only through questioning the translation and interpretation of specific biblical passages, but Patriarchy and the subjugation of women have become part and parcel of evangelical Christianity in America. Beth Allison Barr analyzes this close relationship through an historical and theological context and reveals that, rather than uphold a centuries-old tradition of womanhood, strict gender roles and complementarianism are actually the result of specific cultural and economic moments in history. Not only through questioning the translation and interpretation of specific biblical passages, but also through analyzing the writings and lives of specific women throughout church history, Barr illustrates the rich inheritance and influence women have in Christianity. I learned a lot about medieval women and was both fascinated and not surprised by the negative impact the Reformation and Enlightenment had on women (while simultaneously elevating men). In her words, we have a great cloud of female witnesses throughout the history of Christianity, and we would do well to remember these women. (Also I would love an anthology of some of the greatest women preachers, teachers, and writers of various denominations. Perhaps an idea for another book?) I blew through this book in less than 24 hours because I could not put it down. It was everything I needed to read in this moment, and I will certainly be buying a physical copy and will forever reference it. Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and Brazos Press for the eARC in exchange for my review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Persis

    There are quite a number of topics that Christians disagree about, but one that generates far more heat than light is the subject of "biblical womanhood." Lines in the sand have been drawn, and people have taken sides. There is more talking past one another than dialogue and reading for the sake of owning one's opponents rather than respectful engagement. So I give a lot of credit to Baylor history professor, Beth Allison Barr, for entering into the fray with her book, "The Making of Biblical Wo There are quite a number of topics that Christians disagree about, but one that generates far more heat than light is the subject of "biblical womanhood." Lines in the sand have been drawn, and people have taken sides. There is more talking past one another than dialogue and reading for the sake of owning one's opponents rather than respectful engagement. So I give a lot of credit to Baylor history professor, Beth Allison Barr, for entering into the fray with her book, "The Making of Biblical Womanhood." As a specialist in medieval and woman's history, Barr approaches this topic as a historian primarily but also as a Christian and Baptist pastor's wife. Thus the book traces the history of how the world and the church have treated women down through the ages. This is to demonstrate: - Although the subordination of women is historical, it may not necessarily be biblical. - Historically the church has not uniformly nor consistently forbade women in leadership. - We may be influenced by our culture more than we realize or want to admit, and we may have imported those ideals and preferences into our views of women and men. We may have called "biblical" that which is secular in origin. The book begins with ancient near East history, looks at Paul's writings on household codes, the life of women in the church during the Medieval period, the Reformation's effect on women, how translation of the Bible has shaped our understanding regarding the place of women in the church, a brief history of women preachers and teachers in the early 20th century, the sanctification of modesty and domesticity, and the recent controversy over tweaking the Trinity to support a particular view of marriage. Quite a bit of ground is covered for a relatively short book, but it's not just a history text. The author weaves the story of her journey out of Christian patriarchy into the chapters. Although, this book has not convinced me to change my position on female ordination (a 2nd tier issue IMO), I learned quite a bit. My knowledge of Medieval history is next to nil so it was fascinating to learn about Margery Kempe and other godly women in that era. It was also interesting to read the stories of female evangelists during the early 20th century in Baptist and black denominations. It was also more than a little disconcerting to read that Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's view of women could have come verbatim from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Incidentally, Barr's take on the Apostle Paul's household codes is very similar to my pastor's view that these were radical compared to the Greco-Roman culture. I do wish the book was a bit longer, though. I would have loved greater exploration of how the Enlightenment influenced gender and the stereotyping of emotion as feminine and rationality as masculine. It would have also been interesting to get a historical perspective that was non-European. Maybe the author will favor us with a 2nd book. However, my main takeaways are the questions that this book has raised about historical and cultural biases and misperceptions that have been baptized as biblical. If we are to be people of the truth, we should be challenged if we are making our cultural preferences transcendent for the global church. We should be willing to learn from those who have gone before us and learn from fellow believers who we may disagree with in some areas. And I think you will learn from "The Making of Biblical Womanhood."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Writers read. We read for pleasure, for learning, and to understand the world. We read new ideas, old ideas, innovative ideas. We read to understand ourselves and others. We read to unplug from our own writing. We read to see different styles of writing, to read analytically and critically. We read to educate ourselves and grow. We read to investigate. We read with a keen eye for different perspectives. We read. Nothing else has shifted my perspective on who God made women to be, like The Making Writers read. We read for pleasure, for learning, and to understand the world. We read new ideas, old ideas, innovative ideas. We read to understand ourselves and others. We read to unplug from our own writing. We read to see different styles of writing, to read analytically and critically. We read to educate ourselves and grow. We read to investigate. We read with a keen eye for different perspectives. We read. Nothing else has shifted my perspective on who God made women to be, like The Making of Biblical Womanhood. I became a believer 36 years ago, at age 18, during the height of the evangelical movement. Evangelical is all I’ve ever known. For a long time, I questioned why women, who were the ones to bear the Son of God and preach that Jesus was risen, were at the same time quieted in churches, quieted in marriages. It never really settled right with me. But, like a good Christian, I accepted what the churches taught about Paul’s direction for women, but “could we have missed Paul’s point (again)?” I also accepted when the church taught that slavery, while we see it in the Word as ancient cultural custom, obviously wasn’t acceptable for our time. But not so with women. And I always wondered, isn’t there something different about how we see women now? But the church said no, women are the same as they’ve always been, subjugated. But it always made me wonder. When I had an opportunity to receive an ARC of this book, I jumped at it, because, writers read. Dr. Beth Allison Barr, a full professor at Baylor University, is a medieval historian, a Baptist, and a pastor’s wife. Her extensive research of the medieval church and post-Reformation era lays the foundation for her conclusions. One thing has never changed, the Word has always shown us to be separated from the world, to not be conformed to the thinking of the world, to be in the world, but not of it. This isn’t new thinking. It’s the same thinking Paul had when he exhorted people who were off track. In typical Paul fashion, he was addressing them in the same method of debating that they were used to hearing in Rome. Remember, he’s the guy who said “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23) He was pointing out the way the Romans lived, and exhorting this body of believers to stand apart, to be separated, and not be conformed to the Roman way of thinking. A message that continues today. And in fact, during Medieval times, women historically held positions as leaders and pastors in the church. So, what happened between then and now? Dr. Barr provides strong evidence to support that biblical womanhood is not actually biblical at all. “As a historian, I knew that women were kept out of leadership roles in my own congregation because Roman patriarchy had seeped back into the early church. Instead of ditching pagan Rome and embracing Jesus, we had done the opposite – ditching the freedom of Christ and embracing the oppression of the ancient world.” It was purely about control to keep women in their “place.” Rather than the church being separate, the church became conformed to the Roman world, which subjugated women. And as the evangelical movement grew, these ideas became doctrine, but they were never actually biblical. “Jesus set women free a long time ago.” Because, Jesus gave women freedom. And this is where we find ourselves now. Highly recommend!! Go, be free, friend! There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Lewis

    I really enjoyed this much needed examination of church history exploring how the idea of biblical womanhood is a modern concept, one that reflects culture way more than it reflects tradition, orthodoxy, and especially scripture. Initially I approach this book a little bored with the topic as it was the first issue I tackled in my deconversion/deconstruction. But the authors expertise and insight was unique and exciting, I was introduced to many ideas and topics I’ve never thought about before wh I really enjoyed this much needed examination of church history exploring how the idea of biblical womanhood is a modern concept, one that reflects culture way more than it reflects tradition, orthodoxy, and especially scripture. Initially I approach this book a little bored with the topic as it was the first issue I tackled in my deconversion/deconstruction. But the authors expertise and insight was unique and exciting, I was introduced to many ideas and topics I’ve never thought about before which piqued my curiosity. My one and only issue is that the evidence provided as to why patriarchy, and especially “christian patriarchy”, is bad seems to fall a short. Advocating for women to be in leadership at an institution that is built on supremacy and hierarchy, invites women to partake in other oppressive systems. The authors affiliation and membership to evangelicalism, IMO, created a blind spot at what exactly she was arguing for women to be included in, and what true liberation for women means. All in all, I really did enjoy this book and I highly recommend it, especially to evangelical and evangelical adjacent people. It was refreshing to have a very blatant call out of how biblical womanhood is oppressive, is damaging, and leads to harm/violence against women. I cannot stress enough how important I believe works like this are in the ways in which they point out how many of the ideas that are pushed on people as biblical, are actually ways that men have sought to gain and maintain power.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Camden Morgante

    A compelling read with a message I thoroughly endorse. After reading this, I am convinced that complementarianism is patriarchy and I can no longer make distinctions between the two. Barr's main premise is that evangelicals think that by holding onto traditional gender roles, they are not conforming to the secular world--that they are "in the world but not of it". Barr's background as a historian of the Medieval time period informs her argument that traditional gender roles are rooted in secular A compelling read with a message I thoroughly endorse. After reading this, I am convinced that complementarianism is patriarchy and I can no longer make distinctions between the two. Barr's main premise is that evangelicals think that by holding onto traditional gender roles, they are not conforming to the secular world--that they are "in the world but not of it". Barr's background as a historian of the Medieval time period informs her argument that traditional gender roles are rooted in secular culture, not theology. The Bible paints a different picture of female church leaders, teachers, and preachers in history than what we hear in contemporary evangelical theology. The book takes a historical rather than theological perspective since its written by a historian. At times, I got bored and skimmed through large sections of Medieval church history, wanting to get to the theological implications of that history. The book is strongest when Barr focuses on how the roles of women have changed and evolved over time and how our theological interpretations and understandings of women's roles have evolved over time. It was less interesting to me when it focused on people throughout history, yet I understand that this is Barr's expertise. Many books have been written about this issue from both sides of theology, and the uniqueness of this author's voice and perspective does lie in her background as a historian. Her exposition of history supports her thesis that the subordination of women is not evangelical, but secular, and was appropriated by evangelicals, who claimed that it was "gospel truth" rather than just historial and cultural. The insistence that patriarchy is biblical maintains the power differential between men and women in the Church. The subjugation of women continues to give complementarians their power. This book has a powerful message with the potential to shatter evangelical's tightly-held beliefs in "biblical womanhood". I hope it succeeds.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Drake Osborn

    Barr argues that an understanding of men and women having differing roles in church or home is not biblical at all, but a historical construct borne out of a continual shape shifting of and defense of patriarchy. This she does without much substantial engagement in key Biblical texts, which means her premise is inherently shakey at best, even while showing great historical chops. While her work draws us towards the continual need for theological retrieval and pre modern exegesis, it ultimately f Barr argues that an understanding of men and women having differing roles in church or home is not biblical at all, but a historical construct borne out of a continual shape shifting of and defense of patriarchy. This she does without much substantial engagement in key Biblical texts, which means her premise is inherently shakey at best, even while showing great historical chops. While her work draws us towards the continual need for theological retrieval and pre modern exegesis, it ultimately fails to address any substantive biblical, philosophical, or theological arguments well. To put it simply, I found the historical examples helpful and grew in understanding of different examples of unhealthy and abusive attitudes towards women in history (as well as some modern ones), but the overall argument of the book stated in the beginning (all complementairianism=patriarchy) was very unconvincing. Also, for a book aimed at Christians, there is little biblical encouragement or upbuilding to be found, apart from any that comes from deconstruction, including no positive egalitarian arguments as to how men and women are meant to relate in the church or in marriage. Longer review to come.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marc Schelske

    Just finished “The Making off Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr. If you want to save time, just go get this book. Read it together with “Jesus & John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Taken together, they are a one-two punch taking down Christian patriarchy. They both are well-researched, historically substantiated, and Biblically astute. They are both written by people who lo Just finished “The Making off Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth” by Beth Allison Barr. If you want to save time, just go get this book. Read it together with “Jesus & John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Taken together, they are a one-two punch taking down Christian patriarchy. They both are well-researched, historically substantiated, and Biblically astute. They are both written by people who love Christianity and thus not only function as historical expose but also as prophetic call for Christians to more faithfully live out their faith in Jesus. Get them. Read them. Share them. Go. At the heart of so many of the failures of modern Christianity, we find a similar seed: collective ignorance of our past. Most Christians know little to nothing about theological history, assuming that the framing of the Christian message they hear each week in church is precisely what they would have heard if they’d been able to sit under the teaching of Peter, Paul, or John in a 1st-century house church. Some think they know church history, but in fact, learned it via a structured presentation meant to show how “our special thing” is just the final and inevitable conclusion of God’s work in the history of the church. (I grew up with this kind of presentation as a Seventh-Day Adventist. Church history was a central part of substantiating the unique doctrines of this denomination, so we learned it as children. Only as an adult, when feeding my interest in theological history, did I discover that the history I was taught was not the whole story.) This historical illiteracy has two significant problems. First, when we don’t know what happened in the past, we assume the past was very much like our time, just less convenient. Same concerns, same vision of culture, same expectation of roles, but without light switches and the internet. When we read old documents (like Scripture!) with this assumption, we can’t help but misread. We assume the authors were answering our questions rather than their own. Second, when we don’t understand the theological discussions of the past, we leave space for teachers and preachers today to fill in the missing meaning. Many good church people assume that their pastor understands the text accurately because of their training. When a pastor makes a claim like, “If you don’t accept the literal historicity of the Genesis creation account and the flood, you may as well throw the whole Bible into the trash,” most Christians don’t know that there are many, many orthodox Christian thinkers over the past two thousand years who disagree. Many present the Christian message as monolithic with phrases like, “the early church believed...” or “the Bible clearly says,” when history is unapologetic about the plurality of readings and interpretations that have existed in dialogue for nearly two thousand years. Barr, a historian who focuses on Medieval Christianity, cuts to the heart of these issues. Today a particular notion of the God-ordained role of women is being taught. Major theological influencers within Evangelicalism (such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and the whole Gospel Coalition crew) say their view on this matter is THE historical Christian view because it is THE literal scriptural view that goes back to the very origin of the church. Because many of us don’t know our history, we assume these guys must be right. They are not. They are profoundly wrong. With very accessible prose, Barr walks through the historical development of the idea of “Biblical womanhood.” She shows (perhaps to our surprise) that the modern view of “Biblical Womanhood” is a relatively recent development, drawing on several historical threads. Rather than being rooted in Christian doctrine, it is simply a spiritualized version of historical patriarchy, starting with Greco-Roman patriarchy, but always drawing in elements from the then current cultural conversation. She even demonstrates how the Protestant Reformation had the tools necessary to provide freedom and equality to women, but instead of applying the “priesthood of all believers” to women, constrained that authority to men only, a direct betrayal of its core theological premises. But this historical evolution has always had an opposing voice, rooted in the teaching of Jesus and an understanding of the Gospel’s work of setting the oppressed free. The early church, and even the western church in the Middle Ages, was attractive to women precisely because it was a place they were valued as human beings, endowed with spiritual gifts, and able to lead, in contrast to the secular culture of the time. Barr points out how, at critical historical points, men banded together against the movement of women’s autonomy in order to maintain their shared authority, justifying it as the will of God. It’s ironic to realize that those Christian leaders today who claim that the movement toward the autonomy and liberation of women results from the dangerous encroachment of secular culture into the church have it precisely backward. Jesus’ message brought freedom, and historically it has been patriarchy that has crept from culture into the church. That battle has been fought over and over again and is raging today. (An interesting side note: Barr brings clear receipts that show how the ESV, one of the current most popular English translations of the Bible, was explicitly envisioned to counteract gender-inclusive and egalitarian readings of scripture. While I knew from my own study that it was a heavily slanted translation, I did not realize that it is not even a translation at all, but simply a theological revision of the 1971 RSV.) I think it’s also important to note that Barr also makes the connection that patriarchy walks hand in hand with racism (racial hierarchy.) While this book is not about individual or systemic racism, she notes how patriarchy of necessity defines people according to worth and dignity, which always means that it generates hierarchies of race and gender. (I’d agree and add that it also adds hierarchies of class, ability, and sexuality as well.) Her historical study demonstrates how these kinds of discrimination evolve, taking on different forms precisely so that those who benefit can avoid the spotlight of individual culpability and take shelter in the “this is just how it is” quality of systemic injustice. Barr ends the book with a clear and simple statement: “Biblical womanhood is Christian patriarchy,” and she leaves no margin for the kinder-gentler version either. “Complementarianism is patriarchy. Patriarchy is about power. Neither have ever been about Jesus.” Followers of Jesus are called to join Jesus in his mission. Jesus defined his mission for us in Luke 4:18. Whatever else we envision as the impact of the Gospel, this must guide. If our message and action don’t bring good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed, then we are off track. History shows that Christians have often participated in the oppression, marginalization, and silencing of women, but when we do so, we are betrayaing of our Lord and his mission.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard Propes

    "Biblical Womanhood" is not, in fact, biblical. This is the key message that flows throughout Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr's informative and engaging "The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth," due to be released by Baker Academic & Brazos Press in April 2021. If you know me, you won't be surprised that I embrace this key message. It's a key message that acknowledges historical truths, truths of which Barr is well aware, and yet it's als "Biblical Womanhood" is not, in fact, biblical. This is the key message that flows throughout Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr's informative and engaging "The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth," due to be released by Baker Academic & Brazos Press in April 2021. If you know me, you won't be surprised that I embrace this key message. It's a key message that acknowledges historical truths, truths of which Barr is well aware, and yet it's also a key message that faces passionate rejection to this day by many within conservative evangelical circles. The simple truth is that "Biblical Womanhood," or the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers, is less about biblical adherence and far more about the ways that human civilization creeps its way into church teachings and church polity and church practice. To read "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" is to take a journey through not only biblical history, but also Beth Allison Barr's own journey. She weaves together beautifully historical truths and personal testimony, taking us through precise historical moments that perpetuated the continuation of biblical womanhood while also giving us glimpses, at times quite painful ones, of her own journey within evangelical complementarianism and the moments that finally made it all fall apart for her. I certainly do not understand what it feels like to be a woman in ministry. However, as a person with a disability who has served in ministry I do have some understanding of the societal blinders that cause the gifts of many to be rejected or minimized. Because of a body that seldom acts like I wish it would act, I have a very clear understanding of what it feels like to have my ability questioned. Over and over and over again. I suppose I'm glad that, somehow, I grew up differently. It's weird, really. I grew up a Jehovah's Witness, a denomination that certainly did not embrace women in leadership roles. Yet, I also grew up with spina bifida, a disability that caused me to have well over 50 surgeries before I was 18-years-old and to be told repeatedly that I could never survive and never thrive. Quite honestly, I survived because of the skill and the strength and the passion and the tenderness of women. While I certainly had males who treated me, much of my childhood was spent around female nurses and aides who believed in me when no one else did. I thrived because they refused to allow me not to thrive. Once I was away from the Jehovah's Witnesses, though I should say kicked out for the first of what would be two experiences with churches telling me to leave, I began to realize there was a different kind of God I'd never experienced. By my early 20's, I joined a small interfaith church led by a former nun who would mentor me and whose church would eventually ordain me. It was the first of several experiences of women in ministry that made me study and learn and seek to understand. Just this past year, as I entered a hospital for what would be my third amputation, I recall the steady presence of Rev. Anastassia, an incredible minister whose presence stays with me even as she has departed for a pastoral position on the East Coast. "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" made me shout. It made me ache. Like Barr, I understand what it's like to stay someplace because it's familiar and safe and family and the alternative is scary. I also understand what it's like to kick myself for doing so. "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" is extraordinarily researched, yet it's equally as remarkable in its transparency and vulnerability and absolute presence. Barr refuses to hide behind her choices, acknowledging all those little difficult places in her journey that helped her finally reach this point of say "No more." She shares the journey of her life, her college days and her marital journey including a journey with her husband that is best experienced through her own words but is quite revealing and memorable. There are very few writers, Kate Bowler perhaps being one of the best, who can so expertly weave together such precise and comprehensive research along with rich, emotionally resonant personal testimony. The beauty and the power of "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" is that it does both in abundance. "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" goes beyond the exploration of Greek grammar into the realms of ancient, medieval, and modern history to explore the cultural influences that created and continue to foster biblical womanhood. She weaves in stories from her own experiences as a Baptist pastor's wife and, appropriately so, explores the #ChurchToo movement and the abuse controversies that have plagued Southern Baptist circles and the broader evangelical movement. Beth Allison Barr theologically smashes the patriarchy, yet she does so in a way that is far from malicious and, in fact, is quite loving. She's simultaneously someone you'd love to sit down to have coffee with, yet you're acutely aware she's so intelligent that you'd probably not understand a good majority of what she's saying. Until it clicks. And it will. It will because even in her writing she works to make things accessible and understandable. You can feel it in her teaching, as well. She knows what she knows, but she truly wants you to understand it. It's really quite extraordinary. In all likelihood, "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" is my final book in what has been an active year of reading. It is a book I was excited to read and it's a book that not only lived up to my expectations but surpassed them. From beginning to end, I found myself engaged and informed, emotionally involved and even a little entertained. At times, I set the book aside so I could chew on her words for a bit. Likewise, at times I set the book aside so I could look things up and understand even more. I already embraced women in ministry and leadership prior to reading "The Making of Biblical Womanhood," but Barr helped me develop a stronger academic and theological argument to support my beliefs and to inform others. She also challenged me to become an even better and more outspoken Christian, a Christian who not only believes in ministry and leadership for women and others but someone who actively engages and empowers those with gifts who are often left on the sideline by the Church. There's so much that I loved about "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" and I look forward to sharing it with my circle and following Barr's teachings and writings for years to come.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    The Making of Biblical Womanhood bridges a gap in works about women’s place in the evangelical church. Beth Allison Barr concisely outlines the history of women in the church in Western/European/American history, and raises the question: is complementarianism/Christian patriarchy biblical, or capitulation to culture? One of my favorite things about being a Christian is the endless rediscovery of just how countercultural my religion is. Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus depends on people trustin The Making of Biblical Womanhood bridges a gap in works about women’s place in the evangelical church. Beth Allison Barr concisely outlines the history of women in the church in Western/European/American history, and raises the question: is complementarianism/Christian patriarchy biblical, or capitulation to culture? One of my favorite things about being a Christian is the endless rediscovery of just how countercultural my religion is. Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus depends on people trusting the word of a young woman (who do you think told Luke the story?). The resurrection was first reported to the disciples by women whose word was not viable in court. Married Jewish couples would not even speak to each other in public for propriety’s sake, yet Jesus frequently spoke with women in public, even alone. Barr applies this countercultural method of Christianity to complementarianism, which many card-carrying members have called Christian patriarchy. The “biblical womanhood” that Barr attacks here is not simply being female and living a godly life. Instead, it’s the argument that patriarchy is biblical, that subjugation of women is divinely ordained, and that sexual roles (wife/mother) are the only appropriate routes for women to take. Barr argues that patriarchal mandates are read into Scripture rather than read out of Scripture. History (not to say orthodox theology) simply doesn’t support the complementarianism of Piper, Grudem, and their compatriots. Barr is a medieval historian, and makes copious references to medieval history in each chapter. Her view, stretching past the Reformation (where church history begins and ends for too many Protestants) to the medieval era, provides a helpful corrective. I would love to see a similar book from an antiquities scholar, too. Along the way, she banishes a few myths about the medieval era, and pushes Christine de Pizan way up in my reading priorities. I really appreciated how Barr connects the Protestant banishment of monasticism to the development of patriarchy. Monasteries, for centuries, have given Catholic and Orthodox women a chance to live spiritual lives in many different ways--scholarly, missional, contemplative, active--without having to marry and bear children. Virginity is prized, not because of purity culture, but because of its identification with Christ. The Protestant church has been missing something valuable all this time: a third space, outside parish ministry and the family as such, for unwed Christians to live in an intentional, deeply spiritual community. I’ve heard of a few places that do this in different ways, but they’re centered on ephemeral experiences like retreats, conferences, and education, and encourage romantic relationships. Imagine being a single Christian artist, not having to starve because you work in a community that supports you, as your work supports them. Imagine being a single Christian who doesn’t fit a “normal” vocation, and your service, which others might consider demeaning, is your ora et labora. Imagine being a social, single Christian who could consistently find a wealth of conversation partners without having to schedule coffee dates or juggle roommate preferences. I’m way off topic here, and I’m married, but still--dream a little here. Things can be better than they are. I just really like this book. I’m really excited for the conversations I’ll have stemming from it. It’s already enriching my life and faith, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Of course, it’s not perfect. Barr doesn’t offer a well-defined alternative vision for the church. Yet, that’s where the conversation should begin. “What if we’re wrong?” she asks at the beginning. And where do we go from here? “Patriarchy exists in the Bible because the Bible was written in a patriarchal world. Historically speaking, there is nothing surprising about biblical stories and passages riddled with patriarchal attitudes and actions. What is surprising is how many biblical passages and stories undermine, rather than support, patriarchy.” (36) “Doesn’t the world of Galatians 3 seem more like the world of Jesus? Patriarchy may be a part of Christian history, but that doesn’t make it Christian. It just shows us the historical (and very human) roots of biblical womanhood.” (37) “Gender-inclusive language is restoring Scripture from the influence of certain English Bible translations.” (148) “It should also not surprise us that evangelicals resurrected Arianism for the same reason that evangelicals turned to inerrancy: if Jesus is eternally subordinate to God the Father, women’s subordination becomes much easier to justify. Arianism, like inerrancy, proved the perfect weapon against women’s equality, the perfect prop for Christian patriarchy. Except it is still heresy. Arianism repackaged.” (195-196) “Evangelicals believe that biblical womanhood is the only option because we have been taught that it is tied to our trust in the reliability of God’s Word as well as embedded in the Godhead itself.” (197) “What if our Sunday school and Bible study curriculum correctly reflected Junia as an apostle, Priscilla as a coworker, and women like Hildegard of Bingen as preachers? What if we recognized women’s leadership in the same way Paul did throughout his letters--even entrusting the Letter to the Romans to the deacon Phoebe? What if we listened to women in our evangelical churches the way Jesus listened to women?” (214)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    For countless women, complementarian theology is what we know (especially for those of us raised in complementarian environments). Our entire lives, we’ve learned about male/female roles, authority/submission, headship and homemaking. We’ve seen the theology carried out within our churches from the completely male-led leadership (including pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, tithe collectors, scripture readers, homegroup leaders, etc). And we’ve seen the theology exhibited in the home: ma For countless women, complementarian theology is what we know (especially for those of us raised in complementarian environments). Our entire lives, we’ve learned about male/female roles, authority/submission, headship and homemaking. We’ve seen the theology carried out within our churches from the completely male-led leadership (including pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, tithe collectors, scripture readers, homegroup leaders, etc). And we’ve seen the theology exhibited in the home: male (husband/father) headship, making all of the decisions, “leading” the family, and the submissive wife (quiet, servant-hearted, homemaker, child-rearer). These views, this theology, seems antiquated. But countless men and women continue to believe male headship, female submission is God’s design. In this incredible book, Beth Allison Barr presents a personal and well-researched argument that Christian patriarchy is in fact, sin. Christian and pagan patriarchy is one in the same, existing to silence women and elevate powerful men (which is one of the things Christianity dismantles). “Shouldn’t the historical continuity of a practice that has caused women to fare much worse than men for thousands of years cause concern?” she questions. “Shouldn’t Christians, who are called to be different from the world, treat women differently? What if patriarchy isn’t divinely ordained but the result of human sin?” Barr begins the book with her personal story. Raised in complementarian churches for most of her life, she also accepted much of the theology and practice as “God’s design.” As a historian she began questioning some of the teaching and ideology of her complementarian church, but she was scared to voice questions or concern because of her husband’s paid position as a youth minister. Little things began to add up, making it harder and harder to go along with the deeply-rooted patriarchal views of their church. The elder’s abhorrence for women serving or teaching in any type of capacity (even the youth group) led to a reckoning with this warped theology and the history of modern churches subjugating women. Barr takes us back to the beginning, introducing us to the many women mentioned in Paul’s letters that *male* translators, writers, preachers, etc., attempted to erase from any historical importance later on. But these women in the early church served in various leadership roles, from apostles to deacons, servants, ministers, and missionaries. The early church, in fact, was not a bleak place for women to shut up like the pagan culture dictated. The early church provided women a seat at the table. Paul writes “there is neither male or female,” dismantling the hierarchy that existed in the Roman culture. Barr addresses the Pauline verses complementarian churches cling to today in defense of women’s subordination, making the compelling argument Paul is actually quoting from well-known pagan writers and turning it on its head. From the early church through the Middle Ages, women were preaching, teaching, evangelizing, singing, performing miracles. Many women were choosing singleness and celibacy, embracing the call to ministry over any obligation to marry and bear children. Barr writes there’s no lack of women leading in church history, rather an erasure of their existence. Countless women have been forgotten and covered up “or retold to recast women as less significant than they really were.” Though the Reformation brought with it many good things, including easier access to the English Bible, it also “ushered in a ‘renewed patriarchalism’ that place married women firmly under the headship of their husbands.” The Reformation brought with it an elevation of marriage and child-rearing. Women were relegated to the home, housework, and childcare, while the men began taking over every role within the church and outside of it. Women were exhorted to be gentle, quiet, submissive, obedient to their husbands. Men were the heads, the protectors and providers. “As the role of wife expanded, the opportunities for women outside of marriage shrank,” she writes. “The family became not only the center of a woman’s world but her primary identity as a good Christian.” And it’s not much different today. Modern complementarian churches continue to silence women, preaching God’s design is male authority and female submission. Men are called to be pastors, leaders, heads of households, women are called to quietly serve their husbands and families. Not only have women been scrubbed from history but they’ve been scrubbed from church responsibility and ministry opportunities. Marriage continues to be exalted as one of highest ends, motherhood one of the greatest callings. Complementarian theology not only teaches the role of pastor exists only for men, but every other position of leadership within the church, creating completely male-dominated churches that push women to the margins. Barr argues that complementarianism/patriarchy can often lead to abuse, whether it’s dismissal, or actual cover-up and culpability. From purity culture, to issues of modesty, to militant masculinity, and white supremacy, complementarianism has caused immense harm to those on the outer edges. This book calls it out and also shows another way, a way for more inclusivity, a way for the re-valuing of women.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jacinda Gardner

    “Biblical womanhood" is the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers. It's a concept familiar to most North American evangelical Christians. But “biblical womanhood” isn’t biblical. Full stop. That’s what Beth Allison Barr, Baylor University historian and Baptist pastor’s wife, aims to prove in her book: The Making of Biblical Womanhood. Barr takes us through church history—ancient, medieval, and modern—as step by step what we know as “bib “Biblical womanhood" is the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers. It's a concept familiar to most North American evangelical Christians. But “biblical womanhood” isn’t biblical. Full stop. That’s what Beth Allison Barr, Baylor University historian and Baptist pastor’s wife, aims to prove in her book: The Making of Biblical Womanhood. Barr takes us through church history—ancient, medieval, and modern—as step by step what we know as “biblical womanhood” is shaped. She demonstrates how Complementarianism (a theological view that men and women have different but complementary roles in marriage, family life, and religious leadership), rather than being divinely ordained, is just thinly veiled (or sometimes blatant) patriarchy. She asserts that these concepts are products of the culture seeping into the church and distorting God’s unified vision for humanity. Barr skillfully and kindly unravels the gender role messages that many churches spout as “God’s Will." She demonstrates that contrary to evangelical beliefs, Christians throughout history have not agreed what is God’s Will for women in ministry. Woven among historical insights and research, Barr shares her very personal stories as a Baptist pastor’s wife, who was pulled in opposing directions: what her scholarship clearly showed and what her church was teaching. She also shares the many ways that patriarchy in the church has led to harm and sheds a light on the #ChurchToo movement. Reading this produced two warring emotions in me: fury and hope. On the one hand, reading about how men have systemically oppressed women in the church throughout history was not fun. It reminded me of my very present day, very personal experiences with sexism in the evangelical church. Simultaneously, reading about the many, many rebellious women of our past was inspiring and encouraging. These women stretched their morsels of power and found ways to share God’s Word even when all odds were against them. I am not a new student to this subject. I have read other books touching on similar points such as Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, and Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Yet, this book had so much more to teach me, especially in the realm of church history. It was not the easiest read. For the research and wealth of information, I’d give this 4.5 stars. But for the reading experience it’s more like a 3. It’s just a bit dense & then, to counteract that, a little repetitive at times. However, it was much more digestible than a lot of typical academic history books. Barr weaves in her personal anecdotes with ease, giving us a lifeline to hang onto through the denser historical accounts. Who would enjoy this book? I’d say if you’re interested in studying church history and women in the church, then definitely pick this up. I may recommend a book that’s slightly more digestible if this if your first time engaging with these topics. However, I will say that Barr is well-researched and very convincing. Though, be reminded that this isn’t a theological essay. It’s a careful collection and examination of history. Evangelicals looking to dip their toes into a more (dare I say) feminist perspective, you will be in good hands here. Barr is still an evangelical and still loves the Baptist faith and church. In fact, Christians who are more progressive or liberal may wish Barr had taken a firmer stance on some theological issues. Instead, she writes her conclusions as both a historian and a longtime Baptist (even when these things are in tension). Ultimately, she guides her readers toward a more complete understanding of church history. Book Review on Blog Bookstagram

  19. 5 out of 5

    Walter Harrington

    This is one of the first books that I have anticipated it's release, and Barr did not disappoint. In this book, Barr tells her story and her reasoning for coming out of the complementarian mindset, driven by her historical research. Barr holds a Ph.D. in Medieval History from UNC, and she has specialized in the lives and roles that medieval female Christians played in society. Though she had been immersed in this literature, teaching at the college level, for many years she remained in a complem This is one of the first books that I have anticipated it's release, and Barr did not disappoint. In this book, Barr tells her story and her reasoning for coming out of the complementarian mindset, driven by her historical research. Barr holds a Ph.D. in Medieval History from UNC, and she has specialized in the lives and roles that medieval female Christians played in society. Though she had been immersed in this literature, teaching at the college level, for many years she remained in a complementarian southern baptist church where her husband was the youth minister, even when she started questioning the teaching about the roles women were supposed to play in the church. Eventually, their position on women would get her husband fired from his position. It was this firing that leads Barr to write this book. Her story is intertwined with her historical research as she makes the case against complementarianism. Her basic thesis is that "biblical womanhood" is simply another name for Christian patriarchy, and that patriarchy is not sanctioned by the bible, but rather it has been brought in from the culture around us. In almost every society before the present (and many would argue the present as well), patriarchy has been the norm. Thus, contrary to influential leaders' cries that "gender-inclusive" bible translations are a capitulation to the feminist culture we live in today, it is actually biblical manhood and womanhood that capitulated to the culture. Barr demonstrates that instead of Paul upholding the Roman culture of the man being the pater familias, his household codes are actually written to subvert this patriarchal ideal. Women held leadership roles in the early church, and even though patriarchy had been brought back into early Christianity, medieval women, especially those who were single and "rose above" their femininity, had greater power to participate in the kingdom. Barr then demonstrates how the protestant reformation, with its positive theological reforms, actually limited the roles of women and confined them to marriage with the elevation of the status of wife and mother. Ironically, this elevation actually took away power from women, as the highest ideal now was not serving Christ in a celibate life, but being a wife under the submission of her husband. Barr then traces how modern complementarianism seems to be a direct outworking of the cult of domesticity in the 1800s that emphasized four virtues that all proper white women should aspire to: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. The rhetoric from this cultural movement finds echoes and direct parallels in the modern complementarian movement. Finally, Barr notes how the modern culture of complementarianism has been shown to foster a domain of abuse, both physical and spiritual, with its emphasis on strict masculine authority. In essence, one of Barr's points throughout the book is that we have forgotten our history and tried to write the influential and powerful roles that women have played in the kingdom in years past. Even just over the past 200 years within evangelicalism, there is a long line of women preaching and teaching that modern complementarians seem to have forgotten or ignored. I enjoyed this book, though I thought it would have more exegesis from scripture. But that was my own mistake, as Barr's argument and development come from history. She does speak to scriptural passages and shows how women have used them throughout the past two millennia to show their authority to preach and teach, but her emphasis is on what women have actually done in history. And I believe she does a good job at highlighting this forgotten history. I would recommend this as a resource in studying women's roles as it fills in a part of the discussion that is often overlooked.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Cernicky

    Beth Allison Barr is a Professor and Phd at the University of North Caroline Chapel hill who specialization in Medieval Women’s History. She grew up in the Southern Baptist church, married a pastor, did all the good church girl things, until she began to question and was promptly tossed out by her church family of 14 years. This book is clearly the work of a history, with cited notes and references approximately 1/3 as long as the text.  Two things that I love about this book is that one, it is n Beth Allison Barr is a Professor and Phd at the University of North Caroline Chapel hill who specialization in Medieval Women’s History. She grew up in the Southern Baptist church, married a pastor, did all the good church girl things, until she began to question and was promptly tossed out by her church family of 14 years. This book is clearly the work of a history, with cited notes and references approximately 1/3 as long as the text.  Two things that I love about this book is that one, it is not written by a woman in response to be scorned, but rather a woman who uses her professional skills to speak a truth the church was not willing to hear. Second, she brilliantly defines, contextualizes, proves, and builds her claim using the scope of history and biblical text rather than write purely from her emotional experience, but does intertwine and acknowledge how it frames her thoughts.  She fleshes out actual evidence that proves what I already have known in my spirit about Jesus and God; that he loves and believes in women just as much as he believes in men. That the church has long been “using biblical texts that does not reflect biblical truth” and that ignoring historical context creates deep, deep harm which we see not only in the church but in every aspect of life. "Staring at that little table, I realized that most people in our church knew only the theological views that the leaders were telling them." I love that this book, although it shines a light on how churches have created and allowed a cultural of sexual assault to thrive through silencing and subordinating women, does not cancel churches or the Bible or blame Christianity or God.  It is not meant to be a take down of the church, but rather an expose on toxic masculinity that has infiltrated society and inserted itself into the Bible since the beginning against the intentions of Jesus and even (gasp) Paul. "Roots of this gender hierarchy had more to do with politics and economics than with divine order." She deep dives into complimentariansim vs. egalitarianism, the post Reformation ideals of elevated status and holiness of marriage, the rise of purity culture, translation controversies, the evolution of leadership in the church, sexual assault culture in churches, racism, and the encounters of Jesus and women and what that shows those looking for truth in scripture instead of an interpretation that suits men look for ways to secure their power. I am so incredibly glad this text exists. It gives voice to what I’ve seen and known to be inbred into the vary bones of the ideology that was passed to me. It validates my own experience of harm from sexual misconduct of a church leader and how that staff turned their eyes other way for the sake using his talent for their purpose rather than accountability of the darkness they knowingly let reside in power. It confirms that men in power who believe it is their right to take advantage of women and girls “under their authority” at many many churches, not just mine. And that this toxic theology embedded in shaping girls brought up in the church then form women complicit in dangerous silence and subservience because it is “biblical.” Jesus set women free. He gave the most important message in all of history to woman to give to men. He sees me as equal to another believer even though we have different sex organs, and does not confine me to certain roles because of mine. I am so grateful and relieved to see evidence that affirms that the God I believed in looks more than love than a patriarch, and the things that other people claim He believes so obviously serve themselves rather than the truth "Peppiatt concludes that the problem with female leadership is not actually the biblical texts; it is the "relentless and dominant narrative of male bias' in translations."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marie Griffith

    I can’t write about The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr without telling part of my story. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the name of Jesus. My family and I attended a Baptist church off and on until I was around 10 years old. I knew the Bible stories and I went to Vacation Bible School most summers. Very early in my marriage, I was told by a well-meaning church leader that I showed too much leadership when I hired som I can’t write about The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth by Beth Allison Barr without telling part of my story. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the name of Jesus. My family and I attended a Baptist church off and on until I was around 10 years old. I knew the Bible stories and I went to Vacation Bible School most summers. Very early in my marriage, I was told by a well-meaning church leader that I showed too much leadership when I hired someone to pressure wash my and my husband’s home, and that if I wanted my husband to lead I needed to stop. I tried desperately to squelch my natural tendency to take care of things. After all, husbands lead, wives follow. Husbands rule, wives submit. Our pastors said it, my Bible studies said it, and all the other resources I read confirmed it. I didn’t know it then, but that is patriarchy. The counsel, that belief, the mindset; it’s patriarchy. Some call it complementarianism. It would take me years of submission, wrestling, doubting, and crying out to God before I asked Him to let me read the Bible without presuppositions. “God let me read the Bible like it’s brand new to me. Without my Baptist lens. Holy Spirit, teach me.” God did it. And He showed Beth Allison Barr the truth, too. What Beth Allison Barr does so brilliantly in her book is weave together her story, the story of the evangelical church, and the stories of women in the medieval church and the reformation to make this point: “Patriarchy may be a part of Christian history, but that doesn’t make it Christian. It just shows us the historical (and very human) roots of biblical womanhood.” Biblical womanhood is a modern cultural construct, not based on the Bible. Barr writes about the same disconnect I experienced – the disconnect between what her church was telling her, what women have always done in history, and how Jesus treated women. Barr gives us a fascinating overview of the history of patriarchy beginning with The Epic of Gilgamesh. She keeps the reader reading with stories of her students at Baylor University. She tells medieval history in the way she teaches it to her students, and made me want to learn more. It was through her own study she came to know the truth about patriarchy. She gets right into the Pauline texts in chapter 2 and asks these questions, “What if we have been reading Paul wrong? What if evangelicals have been understanding Paul through the lens of modern culture instead of the way Paul intended to be understood?” Her explanation of Bible translations and how the ones we use most came to be was enlightening. I was shocked to read how easy it is for a group of men to write a new Bible translation. Barr continues to make her point by giving us insight into the Reformation. She states in a Gravity Leadership podcast that “Reformation theology should have set women free. Instead the reformers carried the gender hierarchy of the early modern world to the Bible.” She proves her point about patriarchy in the book. This system is dangerous. It’s wrong and it doesn’t look like Jesus at all. No matter where you land on the issue, it will serve you well to read The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr. I’ll end this review as she ended her book and how she ends her classes: Go, be free!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    Biblical (adjective) 1. of, relating to, being in accordance with the Bible 2. suggestive of the Bible or Bible times (Merriam-Webster) If you are a Christian woman who was ever made to feel that the most godly occupation for you was to be a stay at home wife and mother, or that you should be ashamed for pursuing higher education, a career or leadership in a church or ministry, please read this book. I was someone who was shown where the Bible “clearly” stated (in English) that women were to be Biblical (adjective) 1. of, relating to, being in accordance with the Bible 2. suggestive of the Bible or Bible times (Merriam-Webster) If you are a Christian woman who was ever made to feel that the most godly occupation for you was to be a stay at home wife and mother, or that you should be ashamed for pursuing higher education, a career or leadership in a church or ministry, please read this book. I was someone who was shown where the Bible “clearly” stated (in English) that women were to be under male headship, and that egalitarianism was unbiblical and “liberal” while complementarianism was God’s best. In my late 20s, through my own study of the Bible, biblical scholarship and church history, I’d become less convinced of complementarianism’s validity and am now thoroughly unconvinced. In this book, Dr. Barr makes it clear that the notions associated with “biblical womanhood” are far from biblical in origin. As a professor who specializes in medieval women’s history, she writes with the research integrity of an academic but with the language of a lay audience. Her research is supplemented by her own experiences as a pastor’s wife and youth leader in the Baptist denomination. While the book as a whole is excellent, the strongest parts focus on the politics of English Bible translation, the legacy of medieval Christian women, and the negative impacts of the Protestant Reformation on women in church leadership. As a medieval history and lit nerd, I appreciated the attention given to women whose works I have studied, such as Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich. A critique would be that the book skews heavily on the experiences of white Protestants and the influence of medieval western Europeans. Chapter 7 does include some excellent examples of evangelical Black women in leadership from the 20th century. However, I understand that medieval European history is Barr’s area of focus, so it makes sense that she draws on what she thoroughly has studied. And indeed, white evangelical Protestants are the ones who came up with these oppressive ideologies in the first place and are the ones who perpetuate them still in the larger Protestant denominations. It would be nice though to have compared this with what medieval church history looked in Africa or the Middle East. Did regions besides Europe face similar issues in manuscript translation? What did the role of medieval women in non-European churches look like? While these questions may have been outside the scope of the book, at the very least a bibliography for further reading would have been welcome. Christians need not be afraid of studying the history of our religion, the translation of our Holy Scriptures or the languages in which they were originally written. “Complementarianism” needs to be exposed for what it is--secular patriarchy disguised in spiritual language. It is the result of sin; it is not God’s best for humanity. I particularly recommend this to men and women in church leadership and ministry….emphasis on the men. Unfortunately, I doubt many (white) men I know will ever pick this book, or others like it, up--and that makes me incredibly sad. I would truly love to engage in a meaningful discussion of Barr’s arguments with brothers in Christ.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Women are people too

    This book is a must read. Beth Allison Barr addresses patriarchy in the church from a historical, personal and theological approach, highlighting both the history of women preachers as well as the damage done to women in the name of Jesus through "Christian" patriarchy. Patriarchy is defined as "a society that promotes male authority and female submission" (page 13). Regarding pagan patriarchy versus Christian patriarchy on page 17, she writes, "Both systems place power in the hands of men and t This book is a must read. Beth Allison Barr addresses patriarchy in the church from a historical, personal and theological approach, highlighting both the history of women preachers as well as the damage done to women in the name of Jesus through "Christian" patriarchy. Patriarchy is defined as "a society that promotes male authority and female submission" (page 13). Regarding pagan patriarchy versus Christian patriarchy on page 17, she writes, "Both systems place power in the hands of men and take power away from women. Both systems teach men that women rank lower than they do. Both systems teach women that their voices are worth less than the voices of men." From page 212: "Ideas matter. Ideas that depict women as less than men influence men to treat women as less than men. Ideas that objectify women result in women being treated like objects (sex objects, mostly)." I agree with her that there's most definitely a link between complementarianism and abuse (page 206). Complementarianism teaches men to believe their gender entitles them to power and authority over women, that men are entitled to women's submission, that men's voices are more valuable than women's voices. Women are seen as having less personal autonomy than men, less spiritual authority than men, less decision making power than men. And where an entire people group is just a little less than, objectification and abuse are the natural next steps. It was fascinating to read how the history of women preaching has been obscured, though not surprising. Scot McKnight's "Junia Is Not Alone," reveals the same historical pattern of the patriarchal suppression of women's ministry and voices. I wonder if many of our churches today would be places that Jesus would come overturn the tables and drive people out because of the silencing of his daughters who are equally called and gifted by the Holy Spirit to lead, teach and preach. Women, after all, are people too. From the introduction on page 7: "Ironically, complementarian theology claims it is defending a plain and natural interpretation of the Bible while really defending an interpretation that has been corrupted by our sinful human drive to dominate others and build hierarchies of power and oppression. I can’t think of anything less Christlike than hierarchies like these." I cannot agree with this more. Jesus himself condemned hierarchal, supposedly benevolent relationships among his disciples, which included women and men, when he said that “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22:25‭-‬26 NIV) I love this quote from the conclusion: "Complementarianism is patriarchy, and patriarchy is about power. Neither have ever been about Jesus. I don’t remember when I started it, but for a long time now, I have been dismissing my students from class with this phrase: Go, be free! I think that is a fitting way to end this book as well."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Levi Pierpont

    Well, by now, you know I'm pretty fed up with White Evangelicalism in the United States. Evangelicals such as my father, who is a Baptist pastor, are so quick to counter any argument they disagree with by saying, "the plain words of the text..." and they truly believe any disagreement with the "truths" they have "gathered from the plain meaning of the text" is an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. And if you know an Evangelical, you know they practically believe The Inerrancy Of Scripture Was Well, by now, you know I'm pretty fed up with White Evangelicalism in the United States. Evangelicals such as my father, who is a Baptist pastor, are so quick to counter any argument they disagree with by saying, "the plain words of the text..." and they truly believe any disagreement with the "truths" they have "gathered from the plain meaning of the text" is an attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. And if you know an Evangelical, you know they practically believe The Inerrancy Of Scripture Was Born Of A Virgin, Lived A Sinless Life, And Died On The Cross And Went To Heaven So That They Could, Too. Jesus who? (Before you call me a blasphemer, look in the mirror.) I often say that for Evangelicals to see women as truly equal with men and able to discern truths of Scripture apart from and even for the benefit of men (ie in preaching to mixed groups), would be to pull out a block of wood far too low in the Jenga tower to hold up all the systems of oppression they have weaved into the very practice of their religion. Accept women as pastors, and you would be suggesting a woman could lead a group of both women and men. Sooner or later, couples would realize the harmony that comes with submitting equally to one another, and making decisions as a team. Once that happened, there would be no practical reason to explain why two women or two men couldn't have a perfectly functional marriage. And if you really think marriage is not gender-bound, then who is to say that trans people are not confined to the gender most commonly associated with their sex? And once LGBTQ people are accepted in the Evangelical church, and we've started to see FOX News as the repugnant filth that it is, we'd be a lot more likely to realize our inhibitions toward critical race theory stem from our own discomfort with raising up Black voices and experiences and admitting how deeply the talons of White supremacy have sunk themselves into the very flesh of the country. It truly is a slippery slope. Acknowledge one person is loved, accepted, and valued by G-d, and pretty soon, it just makes sense to acknowledge everyone is loved, accepted, and valued by G-d. This is not only against the tenets of modern Evangelicalism, it is deeply unAmerican and anti-capitalist. And that just won't do for any self-respecting, John Wayne-loving*, Blue Lives Matter flag-waving, Bible-thumping, White Evangelical. But. If one book had the power to convince a person to DARE wiggle that one wooden block out of the lower reaches of the Jenga tower, this is that book. And I hope your tower comes tumbling down. *For further reading, I recommend Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    What happens when a historian walks out of the patriarchy? What happens when stories are told? What happens when a narrative of oppression begins to unravel? What happens when the other stories are told? Something like this book. In The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr attacks the historical narratives the Christian patriarchy tells to validates its existence. That it is biblical. That it is the way to be holy. That it is essential to the Gospel. While there are exegetical claims What happens when a historian walks out of the patriarchy? What happens when stories are told? What happens when a narrative of oppression begins to unravel? What happens when the other stories are told? Something like this book. In The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr attacks the historical narratives the Christian patriarchy tells to validates its existence. That it is biblical. That it is the way to be holy. That it is essential to the Gospel. While there are exegetical claims made and challenged in this work, Barr gives the reader a gift. She does not squander precious pages to myopic arguments that change nothing without a changed context for the reader. She reveals a different story. A story that has always existed. A story of of the shapeshifting of the patriarchy to specific contexts and cultures. A story of how that patriarchy has been baptized into the Gospel rather than be transformed by it. Barr deals with Paul, with Bible translations, with medieval women, and post-reformation transformations of female piety. Her argument isn't a rescuing or baptizing of any of the past as a model for "biblical womanhood." Rather, historically, the concept of biblical womanhood is not a static point. The current definitions by CBMW are modern constructions, contextualized through a historical process, and not part of the Gospel. Faithful women have existed within the Church from the beginning. There were female apostles and deacons. Female evangelists. But through the adoption of cultural values within Christianity, the church slowly shifted the roles allowed to women, or at least what was required of women to receive those roles. Soon, women had to exceed their sex, become like a man, to preach, to have authority, to be taken seriously. Yet these women existed. They persisted. Their expressions have varied through cultural allowances. But the wholesale refusal to allow holy women to preach, have authority, or piety beyond motherhood and domestic duties is not biblical. And it is far from a constant in history. But what is historical, according to Barr, is the Christian adoption of the Aristotelian concept of woman as deformed man. That adoption is at the root of the Christian patriarchy. It is time, argues Barr, that this concept and the patriarchy built upon it be taken down. It is time to let women free. It is time to let them live into the Spirit-enabled capacities given to them by God. Barr's work is powerful and challenging. Her expertise as a historian is juxtaposed by her experience within complementarian circles. Her vulnerability of her story is set next to careful scholarship. There is perhaps no better way of putting it than to say that this work is a vital part of the conversation surrounding the Christian patriarchy. I recommend it without reservation. Disclaimer: I received an electronic ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    If you are a woman, a woman of faith, or a woman not from European American culture this is a must-read. While I'm a history major so all things history make my heart happy this book really makes my heart sing. FINALLY, someone points out clearly throughout the ages WHY the church does NOT reflect Christ Jesus' view and treatment of woman along with WHY I struggle so much with the current preaching and subjugation of woman within Christianity. While she does go through catholic views up until th If you are a woman, a woman of faith, or a woman not from European American culture this is a must-read. While I'm a history major so all things history make my heart happy this book really makes my heart sing. FINALLY, someone points out clearly throughout the ages WHY the church does NOT reflect Christ Jesus' view and treatment of woman along with WHY I struggle so much with the current preaching and subjugation of woman within Christianity. While she does go through catholic views up until the Reformation and brings in Pope John Paul III she does not really focus again on what happens for them. She also does not bring up what is happening in Jewish culture through this all this. I'm curious how they read the Genius verses and how the Messianic Jews interpret the Pauline verses that have been so twisted. For me, this is one more step in the correct direction to truly address Patriarchy and what USA feminism tried to accomplish. Read Feminist Jesus then this book and hopefully, there will be another author with more practical implementation options for us that can help us all navigate the dire fall out from bringing up our thoughts, calling, and desires to be FREE in Christ as He intended for us to be and made possible at the cross. Finally, answers/validation of the frustrations I have with mainstream Christianity, a woman's role in the church, marriage counseling, many Christian authors and preachers. Those checks in my spirit were right and no longer should I stuff them instead I intend to strengthen my listening to them. The heresy she points out in the last chapters-Wow. So sneaky but yet another reason WHY we need to know our history!! Woman's history, doctrinal history, and how the Bible came to be...dry? No, FIND the story, find the shoes to put yourself into, and maybe a good dictionary like the Oxford English dictionary. Takeaways: be mindful of who wrote the books, or translated the work and why! Know your heretical doctrines and why they are considered heresy. Keep fighting the system: Educate yourself, apply the knowledge, obtain your own finances, and full fill the calling/s God places on your heart NOT what anyone else tells you should be your calling. Write woman correctly back into History (not through a European/European American Male lense) and write woman back into the bible (through the lens of Jesus Christ not to keep your power and money). So much more in this book. It's easy to read even though full of history. You can clearly see she's a very dedicated teacher who keeps things interesting and makes you think. I'd love to take one of her classes and talk shop afterward. I know have so many texts I want to read and Middle ages ladies I want to learn more about. (yes, I gabbled this book up and normally non-fiction not on audio takes me a bit to get through). Happy Changing the world one strong lady step at a time. :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fritz Klug

    Beth Allison Barr’s “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” is a detailed and approachable study of an idea that has plagued American Christianity: Biblical Patriarchy. While many may not know what the exact term “Biblical Womanhood” means, we are familiar with its basic teaching: God has ordained men/husbands to be leaders and women/wives to support them, raise children and tend to the household. This means women should have no leadership roles and, in Barr’s case, not even be able to teach Sunday S Beth Allison Barr’s “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” is a detailed and approachable study of an idea that has plagued American Christianity: Biblical Patriarchy. While many may not know what the exact term “Biblical Womanhood” means, we are familiar with its basic teaching: God has ordained men/husbands to be leaders and women/wives to support them, raise children and tend to the household. This means women should have no leadership roles and, in Barr’s case, not even be able to teach Sunday School to adolescent male students. While secular society has battled against patriarchy in the past century, many evangelical leaders have dug in to keep it. They say: these roles are clearly outlined in the Bible! But as Barr points out throughout her book, they don’t know the full history. In eight chapters, Barr explores the actual role of women in scripture and history and how it is different from the version of history many churches teach. The first part of the book looks at what the Gospels say about the roles of men and women, looking beyond the *sola scriptura* of modern English translations to the actual cultural context that Apostles lived in. Barr then surveys the history of Christian women in Ancient Rome, the Middle Ages and the Reformation to refute the justification that Biblical Womanhood has always been there. Interwoven with the history is Barr’s personal story: growing up in a Baptist church, involvement with a church at which her husband was a pastor, and her awakening that the Biblical Womanhood “theology” is actually putting a perverted Biblical bow on patriarchy. Barr details her own journey and the repercussions raising issues detailed in the book had: her husband losing his job and their family losing a community. Barr’s personal experiences are important to give the context in which this book was written as well as the effects the ideology can have. “The Making of Biblical Womanhood” is an excellent introduction to the ideas and history has infected many of our churches and cultural understanding of what a Christianity actually teaches. Barr illustrates throughout that “the subjugation of women is indeed a historical constant—but that doesn’t make it divinely ordained” and that “as Christians we are called to be different from the world. Yet in our treatment of women, we often look just like everyone else.” This is an important book for any Christian who’s grappled with the question of Biblical Womanhood, those, like me, who didn’t know how to talk about these issues and, hopefully most of all, for those who’ve left the Church at large because of it. The ideas and women Barr presents may not be taught in many Sunday schools or seminaries, but are vital to bring us to the full feast of becoming new humans in Christ.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Green

    This book was intense. But it left me uncomfortable. Sure, sure, maybe it was supposed to do that. But it wasn't the good kind of uncomfortable. I agree with this author up to a point. Men and women were created equally in the image of God, mutual workers and helpers in the work that God has placed before us all. I believe that it is biblical for women to be deacons. I believe that women should be able to teach a class to teenagers, college students, and even speak among pastors. I believe that This book was intense. But it left me uncomfortable. Sure, sure, maybe it was supposed to do that. But it wasn't the good kind of uncomfortable. I agree with this author up to a point. Men and women were created equally in the image of God, mutual workers and helpers in the work that God has placed before us all. I believe that it is biblical for women to be deacons. I believe that women should be able to teach a class to teenagers, college students, and even speak among pastors. I believe that women have equal calling in missions and sharing the gospel. However, I still do not believe that women should be allowed to preach from the pulpit. I know, I know. But the reason I say this is because there are boundaries. I cannot deny what Paul said in Scripture, and I cannot deny that Paul DID make an argument from creation with this denial of women to preach from the pulpit. This one single denial doesn't make men and women any less equal. I admit that I could be wrong. But I would rather hold to these convictions and be proven wrong in the end, than deny those convictions and be incredibly uncomfortable (again, not the good kind) forever. Now that I've expressed where I didn't feel good about this book, let me give some positives. I'll reiterate that there is a lot that I agreed with alongside the bunch that I disagreed with. I agreed with her calling out of what complimentarianism has become. I think that her writing, while somewhat more academic, was accessible to the average person, a decently easy read, and, since I listened to the audio book, whoever chose the reader did a good job. I listened to this all in one morning and finished at lunch time. So it's not an extremely long book. In all, I'm looking into potentially more theologically sound books on this topic. This is a good read, and informational. It is sort of sound up to a point, where then, I believe, that the author jumps into the other end of the spectrum. She calls herself a Christian, and a feminist, which I personally do not believe the two can or should be mixed because of a multitude of ungodly things that feminism has stood for and fought for. So ... I honestly dont know if I can recommend this book. If you are going to read it simply to gain information and understanding - yes. I can recommend. If you are going to read it in order to have your eyes opened to something you did not know about until recently - partial yes. I can recommend, but it may also leave a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, like it did for me. At the end of the day, it's your choice on reading this or not.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ben Vore

    Much like Kristin Kobes du Mez's "Jesus and John Wayne," "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" brings historical perspective to modern evangelicalism to argue that "Biblical womanhood" -- specifically, the complementarian belief that, as Barr defines it, "women are divinely created as helpers and men are divinely created as leaders" -- is more cultural than gospel, and has led to a continuation of patriarchy, subjugation, and oppression that is counter to Jesus's teachings (and even the writings of Much like Kristin Kobes du Mez's "Jesus and John Wayne," "The Making of Biblical Womanhood" brings historical perspective to modern evangelicalism to argue that "Biblical womanhood" -- specifically, the complementarian belief that, as Barr defines it, "women are divinely created as helpers and men are divinely created as leaders" -- is more cultural than gospel, and has led to a continuation of patriarchy, subjugation, and oppression that is counter to Jesus's teachings (and even the writings of Paul, he who is most often trotted out to support female submission, in what I found to be the book's most interesting chapter). What makes Barr's book different than du Mez's -- and why I tore through it in a day -- is that Barr frames her study with a personal narrative: Her anguish and theological searching following her husband's firing from their Baptist church because he challenged church doctrine about women in ministry. While there is thorough history here (I would enjoy being a student in her class), covering influential women in the medieval church and the challenges of faithful Biblical translation down through the centuries, there is also a clear, urgent call to activism. Paired with du Mez's book, which chronicles the corruption of male evangelical leaders like Paige Patterson and Bill Gothard (both mentioned in Barr's book too) who have been complicit with abuse toward women, The Making of Biblical Womanhood refuses to separate theological positions from the fruit they bear. ("Ideas matter," Barr states. "It's not any surprise that Paige Patterson ... shares the same understanding of women's roles as the Baptist churches involved in the sexual abuse of hundreds of women.") After declaring that "complementarianism is patriarchy, and patriarchy is about power. Neither have ever been about Jesus," Barr ends with this admonition: "Jesus set women free a long time ago. Isn't it finally time for evangelical Christians to do the same? Go, be free!" Why would I recommend this to my complementarian friends, who will surely disagree with Barr? Because I want them to understand the reality of "Biblical womanhood" as a source of oppression, rather than liberation, to many women. The same Paul who wrote verses cited by complementarians also tells us "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." As Barr writes of the medieval figure Margery Kempe, "She could teach the Word of God, even as an ordinary woman, because, she argued, Jesus endorsed it."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kara Angus

    In the acknowledgement section of her book, Dr. Beth Allison Barr thanks friends and colleagues who helped her “heal and gain perspective without growing bitter”. This book will likely be the catalyst for similar healthy healing for many women and men who have painfully moved in spaces where the air snapped and sparked with headship, female submission, obsession with male authority, and power struggles. I am one of these women who still moves in these complementarian spaces but believes strongly In the acknowledgement section of her book, Dr. Beth Allison Barr thanks friends and colleagues who helped her “heal and gain perspective without growing bitter”. This book will likely be the catalyst for similar healthy healing for many women and men who have painfully moved in spaces where the air snapped and sparked with headship, female submission, obsession with male authority, and power struggles. I am one of these women who still moves in these complementarian spaces but believes strongly in mutuality in marriage and church leadership. I had always felt relatively confident that I could defend my position until I interacted with people who said “well you just can’t argue with years of church history. Women just aren’t present in history as leaders, preachers and teachers”. Dr. Barr very soundly proves that in fact women were always present as preachers and teachers throughout scripture, into the Medieval times and reformation periods of history- they were simply glossed over and ignored by writers of the day. All of my nagging feelings of doubt (due to a lack of information) were put to rest by Dr. Barr’s scholarly presentation of multiple women who were thought leaders, preachers and teachers throughout the years. She intersperses history lessons with her own powerful story which is told in a rich, conversational engaging manner. There are eight chapters in this book and truly, I think she could write a book on each chapter! While she is a historian not a theologian, she does a beautiful job of addressing the theology aspects of this system as well. I would encourage you to read this book if you have been taught that you have to be a complementarian to be orthodox (but you suspect you might actually be a Christian egalitarian), you have struggled with the apostle Paul’s teaching about women, wondered about your spiritual gifts and calling, or heard that history excluded women from ministry. This will be a book you should read if you are questioning if “biblical womanhood” is truly biblical. If you have sensed a quiet doubt of “this is not right”, this book might help you find a way to articulate those nagging feelings . It is a fantastic resource for someone who is already egalitarian/believes in mutuality. If you love Jesus and want to serve Him with your gifts, this book is for you! It is engaging, fascinating, transformative, and so hard to put down. Dr. Barr loves the Bible. She loves Jesus. She loves women and teaching them how they can “Go, be free!”

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