"Women of the Word" by Jen Wilkin is an in depth how-to book on bible study. This is not a book for beginners. This is a book for those that are ready to really get in there on their bible study. Wilkin is easy to relate to (for women anyway, can't speak for men). She breaks down the process of both reading and understanding the bible the way it was meant to be read. She will get you really into the meaning behind the words. It is a lengthy book, however, so it isn't for the lazy. I would highly recommend it for anyone preparing to lead a study or considering making teaching their occupation. Or of course, anyone really wanting to get to know their bible. The writing is excellent. She makes it easy to understand. If the point of one book is to be able to read the other, you don't want the first to be difficult as well, right? Though the book is aimed at women, the methods used expand across all sexes. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Beyond the Page.
Biblical Interpretation for the Average Jill (or Joe!)
February 4, 2015
Many Christians do not read the Bible regularly, not because they lack a desire to commune with God or hear His voice, but because they find Bible reading to be frustrating. Some find it too difficult to understand thinking that relating with God through His word should be far easier. Others are completely unaware that there are actual rules and principles to abide by to read the Bible correctly. Christians are often times told to read their Bibles, but aren't given any help in regard to navigating such a large and, at points, complex book. Sure, there are parts of the Bible which are immediately accessible to any believer who will take the time to prayerfully read (John's Gospel, for instance). But a Christian does need instruction when it comes to reading the whole counsel of God's word if they want to read it correctly and meaningfully.
This is just what Jen Wilkin has provided in her book, Women of the Word. In this work Wilkin seeks to provide a basic 'How to' in regard to reading the whole counsel of God's word. The principles she sets forth are simple and easy to understand. God has clearly given Wilkin a wonderful ability to clearly and simply communicate ideas and principles usually considered academic.
One of the most encouraging features of this book was Wilkin's honesty about the amount of time and energy that is required to achieve biblical literacy. This seems to be the issue that precipitated the writing of this book: to help Christians (and women in particular) get serious about biblical literacy. She says:
"When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible."
Unfortunately we live in a Christian culture that believes that grace and effort are mutually exclusive. But Wilkin exhorts Christians (and women in particular) to regain the vision of biblical literacy.
Many in the Christian church approach the Bible as if it were a super spiritual riddle that can only be deciphered in a purely supernatural way. Wilkin helpfully demonstrates that this is a mistaken approach. The Bible, while having a spiritual message, was written and can only be understood correctly with the use of our minds. Wilkin puts great emphasis on reading the Bible in its literary, historical, cultural, and canonical contexts.
I first came across this book when looking for resources for the leader of the Ladies small group at our church. I was stoked to find such an accessible, realistic, and ultimately helpful book for the women in our church to study.
Words like "hermeneutics" and "exegesis" are words that create disinterest immediately in the minds of well meaning Christians who just want accessible instruction on reading the Bible meaningfully unless those words are creatively explained and illustrated. Wilkin has provided us in this work such a work that provides all the meat of such a study without throwing the reader in over their heads.
This is not to say that Wilkin is only focused on the technical, cognitive aspects to reading the Bible. Wilkin's purpose in writing a book on how to read the Bible is not merely to make Christians more intelligent, but to give Christians principles for reading the Bible with a view to knowing God and all that He has done for us in Christ. Thus,
"A Bible-worshipper loves an object. A God-worshipper loves a person. We can love the Bible with our minds, but we cannot love it with our hearts any more than we can love a car or a cappuccino. An object cannot receive or reciprocate love. Only a person can do that. So if you have read this book in an effort to love the Bible more, I want to applaud you and caution you at the same time. Please do learn to love God with your mind through the faithful study of his Word, but please don't attach your affections to anything less than the person of God himself. Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is a means to love God more, and to live differently because we have learned to behold him better."
The one frustrating thing about this book is that it was marketed specifically to women. This was frustrating for the same reason that Bruce Ware's book, Big Truths for Young Hearts, was marketed for children. Both books can serve a much greater purpose. Wilkin's book should have been titled, 'Laymeneutics' or 'Bible Reading for the Average Jill (or Joe!).' I would happily take a group of men through this book regardless of the title just as I would take any aged believer through 'Big Truths for Young Hearts' to reintroduce them to the basics of systematic theology.
This book is far too helpful to be targeted to one gender. The principles, insights, tips, and arguments are presented in such a compelling way that the targeted audience needs to be significantly broadened. In fact, I would urge every pastor to get a copy of Women of the Word to sharpen your own ability to communicate these important principles in a more clear and simple manner.
I highly recommend this book by Jen Wilkin. I hope that this book is widely read by men, women, and children. The principles and exhortations laid forth in this book are worthy of the attention of all of God's children. There is no greater pursuit than the pursuit of a relational knowledge of God through an ever deepening accurate understanding of who He is and what He has done to save and transform sinners through His Son as revealed in His word. If you feel that you need help in reading the Bible with a greater deal of clarity (who doesn't!), get this book.
*I received a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review*serious about biblical literacy. She says:
I cant recall the last time I devoured a book in one evening, but thats what happened with Women of the Word. Im sure the reason is Jen Wilkins laser focus on the topics that (after my family) are most important to me knowing the Bible and teaching the Bible. I found the book to be immediately relevant and useful, not only in my teaching ministry, but also in my personal study.
Be advised that Jen Wilkin is not putting forth something that is earth-shatteringly new. If she were, you shouldnt read the book, because, truly, the only way to know, understand, and apply the Bible is to, well . . . read it. This is what makes Women of the Word intensely practical: Jen Wilkin acknowledges that studying the Bible takes time, that it is possible the reader will not understand it immediately, and that it requires significant effort. She also makes an airtight case for the fact that reading and studying the Bible is worth all the effort one expends!
Most people come to the Bible with two wrong assumptions: (1)Its all about me; (2)I want God to speak to my heart. Women of the Word argues for a one hundred eighty degree change of focus: (1)Let the Bible speak of God; (2)Let the mind transform the heart.
After a thorough argument for Biblical literacy, Jen Wilkin sets forth a very helpful guideline for achieving that very thing.
1. Study with Purpose View all of Scripture in light of the big-picture redemptive story arc that transcends all the small stories.
2. Study with Perspective Understand the author, his context, his audience, his purpose, and his style/genre.
3. Study with Patience Allow yourself to sit in the uncomfortable seat of I dont know, before consulting commentaries.
4. Study with Process Ask yourself three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What is God saying to me about change?
5. Study with Prayer Always. Pray about purpose; pray about perspective; pray for patience; make prayer part of the process. Always.
The author proceeds to demonstrate this approach with a study of James 1, and then concludes with an entire chapter of helpful guidelines for teachers. I found this to be the most valuable section of the book (and the reason I stayed up past my bedtime!), because it felt like sitting down with someone who loves to teach and hearing her heart.
I am very excited about applying the concepts of this book, and, specifically, have been challenged to hold off on the commentaries, make better use of cross references, and to start providing printed pages of the text to my class so we can mark them up together. Goal for the near future: writing weekly homework questions to guide my students reading assignment.
Women of the Word will continue to serve as a reference for me, and I recommend it to teachers and learners who want to sharpen their ability to hear God speak to them from His Word.
Disclosure: I received this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.
Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
November 5, 2014
I wish I would have had this book as a learning tool thirty years ago when I first became a believer. Great tool for those who teach and also for those who want to study God's word in a comprehensive way.