NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Feminists and egalitarian proponents often interpret Scripture through a gender lens, but editors of a new commentary offer a conservative woman-to-woman approach to Scripture interpretation. 

"The Women’s Evangelical Commentary New Testament" from LifeWay Christian Resources’ B&H Publishing Group offers verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible for women, by women.  

With the help of more than 15 contributors, editors Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley systematically explain the purpose of the New Testament texts. The commentary is designed for women to use when teaching a class, directing a small-group Bible study or studying Scripture.

“Although the commentators are all women and write from that perspective, the Word of God is not to be interpreted through the ‘gender lens,’” write Patterson and Kelley. “God’s Word is for women and men, but this particular resource, without apology, is prepared primarily for women to use.”

Conservative and scholarly, this resource uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation to accurately exegete Scripture and steers clear of predisposed bias toward 21st century social agendas, say the editors.

“Some Christian women have been influenced by gender issues today. Women often forsake the biblical role of women in the home and church and follow personal desires,” Kelley said. “There also is a trend toward speculation or guessing what might be implied in the Scripture. Careful interpretation of the text will ensure accuracy in understanding the truth of God’s Word as applied in our lives.”

Kelley serves as professor of women’s ministry and director of the women’s ministry and student wives programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where her husband, Chuck Kelley, is president.

The commentary has been prepared with the passion that every woman should and can study God’s Word for herself, said Patterson, who is professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where her husband, Paige Patterson, is president.

“Whether she is doing so only for personal edification or also preparing to teach the Bible to other women; whether she is looking for understanding of one particular passage or working her way through the text of Scripture in a systematic way, this commentary has at its heart the exposition of the New Testament.”

The introduction of the commentary features a section dedicated to teaching women how to study the Bible, with examples given of how to glean insights from Scripture and tools for diagramming verses of Scripture.

Mary Kassian, distinguished professor of women’s studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., contributed an article on hermeneutics to help readers understand the concepts of Scripture interpretation.

“The need for a sound hermeneutic is particularly important for the 21st century Christian woman,” Kassian writes in the commentary’s introduction. “The philosophy of feminism permeates the media and mainstream societal institutions. The current milieu is such that the Bible’s teaching on gender radically counters popular thought. Thus, there is a tremendous pressure on theologians to update and revise historic interpretations of what the Bible has to say about the role relationship between men and women.”

Kassian further details guidelines for sound Scripture, such as considering the context of a passage.

“Interpreters must be careful to examine the immediate context of surrounding verses as well as the [overall] purpose and plan of the book,” she explains.  

Kassian was one of the 15 contributors with formal theological training, which was a prerequisite to be a contributor.

It was essential that contributors of the commentary held a high view of Scripture as being inerrant, Kelley and Patterson said, adding that finding the women contributors was challenging, yet rewarding.

“The greatest challenge we faced was to assemble a team of women who were academically and theologically prepared to do exegesis, or explanation of the text, which called for preparation in both the Greek language and formal New Testament studies," they wrote.

“What began as a challenge has become our greatest reward because the Lord led us to each woman who became part of our team, and we were blessed by finding new friends and by being reminded anew how God is using women in kingdom service,” they added.

The editors contend the commentary is ultimately designed to challenge women to make a systematic journey through the Scripture in search of God’s truth and message.

“Never has there been a time when women were any more diligent in pursuing the study of God’s Word,” Kelley said. “May God grant to the women who use the Women’s Evangelical Commentary renewed commitment of personal time and resources that will unlock the riches of God’s Word. We pray that this resource will enable all women to pursue the high and holy task of serious study of God’s Word.”


© 2007 Southern Baptist Convention,  Baptist Press.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.