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Women in a Patriarchal World: Twenty-five empowering stories from the Bible, by Elaine Storkey

04 December 2020

Paula Gooder reflects on encouragement from 25 Bible stories

IT IS often said that there are very few stories about women in the Bible. While, indeed, there may be fewer stories that feature women than those about men, one of the problems that we face when reading the Bible is that those that do exist are often sidelined or overlooked. This excellent book challenges this popular perception by telling stories of women from the Bible (11 from the Old Testament and 14 from the New) and by pointing out in the introduction that these 25 are not even all the stories about women which could be told.

The book reflects on some of the most popular stories about women, such as those of Rahab, Ruth, Mary of Magdala, and Lydia, alongside much less well-known stories, such as those of the daughters of Zelophehad, the wise woman of Abel Beth Maakah, Joanna, and Euodia and Syntyche. Anyone who thinks that there are hardly any stories about women in the Bible should read this simply to widen their repertoire; but there are far better reasons to read this book than that.

Elaine Storkey weaves the biblical stories together with life today, carefully and skilfully. Each chapter retells and reflects on a story and then balances that with a section entitled “Facing our challenges today”. In doing so, she makes it clear that the women living in a patriarchal world are not just those who lived 2000 or more years ago. As she moves between the biblical world and our own, she tackles big questions, such as abortion, prostitution, and living in situations in which it feels that we have no power; peacemaking; leading well as a woman; attitudes towards women; domestic abuse; childlessness and rearing families.

This is a book written by a woman for women. It also grew out of reflections originally written for the Christian women’s magazine Woman Alive. As a result, its style won’t immediately suit everyone; but it is well worth moving past that. This is a book full of wisdom. It is warm, encouraging, strong, and inspiring — just like its author. It is full of hopeful, life-giving stories about women and women’s experiences. It also brings home powerfully the reminder that women still live in a patriarchal world, and such living requires wisdom: the kind of wisdom that brims over in this book.


Dr Paula Gooder is a writer and lecturer in biblical studies, and Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral.


Women in a Patriarchal World: Twenty-five empowering stories from the Bible
Elaine Storkey
SPCK £9.99
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