Archives For Gender


Hearing the Stories of the Women of the Bible
in Their Own Contexts

A Review of
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians:
Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life
by Lynn Cohick.

Reviewed by Chase Roden.

Women in the World of the Earliest Christians:
Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life.
Lynn Cohick.

Paperback: Baker, 2010.
Buy now:  [ ]

WOMEN IN THE WORLD OF THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS - CohickThink of the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4 — the one who has had five husbands and who is, at the time of meeting Jesus, living with a man who is not her husband.  What is your mental image of her?  If you’re like many Bible-readers, you may think of her as a “loose woman.”  Some interpreters have even called her an outcast in her community, forced to go to the well by herself because no reputable woman would want to be seen with her.  This characterization is dead wrong, argues Lynn Cohick in Women in the World of the Earliest Christians.

As any responsible Biblical interpreter knows, it is frighteningly easy to read our own culture and values into the Bible, even with extensive practice.  The best way to combat this eisegetical tendency is to learn the true historical background of scripture, and Cohick nobly takes on the task, focusing specifically on painting a picture of the everyday life of women in the time and setting of the early church.  In doing so, she reveals a world vastly different from what most modern readers will expect.

Although the voice of women in antiquity has often been hushed to the faintest whisper, Cohick presents a mix of original research and adept synthesis of current academic work on a wide-ranging variety of topics to dig deep into historical sources to uncover echoes of these women’s stories.  Her sources are wide-ranging and often clever; she works with not only the traditional mainstays of historians such as epigraphs, civic inscriptions, marriage contracts, and contemporary accounts, but also pays close attention to small details in surprising sources, often with great reward.  For instance, when examining Jewish marriage customs, Cohick examines the way that key terms are translated from the Hebrew Bible into Septuagint Greek; specifically, she notes that the Hebrew word mohar, for “bride price” (money or valuables paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family) is translated into Septuagint Greek as pherne or “dowry.”  This detail could easily be passed over, but Cohick notes that it represents a major change of custom from the time and setting of the composition of the Hebrew sources to that of the Septuagint audience.

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A Brief Review of

Why Boys Fail:
Saving Our Sons from an Educational System
That’s Leaving Them Behind
Richard Whitmire.

Hardback:,  2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon.

Most of us relax into “conventional wisdom” about the way the world works until someone comes along and yanks us out of the metaphorical mental easy chair. Author Richard Whitmire has confronted the conventional wisdom that boys have all the advantages in the classroom with a yank meant to jolt educators and parents into re-thinking their assumptions.

Whitmire, an education writer with an solid resume, marshaled an impressive amount of research to support the central thesis of his book: “The world has gotten more verbal, boys haven’t”. Whether it is an early focus on reading or writing or a shift in math instruction from crunching numbers to solving word problems, Whitmire insists that current instructional trends heavily favor female students.

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BOOKS AND CULTURE reviews several
Recent Books on Chastity and Culture


Lies. Jessica Valenti talks about a lot of them in The Purity Myth: lies about statistics, lies about women, lies about sex. In fact, she talks so much about deception that the main truth she wants to advance gets pushed to the closing and opening pages of the book. That truth is that women are “more than the sum of our sexual parts,” a message she desperately wants her readers to take to heart, rejecting the far more common claim that “a woman’s worth lies in her ability—or her refusal—to be sexual.”

How exactly does one instill a healthier sense of worth? Valenti thinks it’s by taking away the shame in sex and “arm[ing] young women with the knowledge that sex should be a collaborative, pleasurable experience that has no bearing on whether they are ethical people.” Except, of course, that “collaborative” and “pleasurable” are obviously deemed good, as opposed to competitive and unpleasant, selfish and painful—modes of experience that would presumably be unethical. And indeed, she’s against both violent and unwanted sex, which is for her defined not just by “no” but the absence of “yes.” Sex isn’t really amoral, then. No, her problem is that sexual morality or the lack thereof still has such bearing on (women’s) worth.

Read the full review:

The Purity Myth:
How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
Jessica Valenti
Hardback: Seal Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A Wild Constraint: The Case for Chastity.
Jenny Taylor
Paperback: Continuum, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


A recent interview with Rene Girard


Despite being 84 years of age, René Girard has lost none of his nerve as a definitively radical thinker. He is working on a new essay about Karl von Clausewitz. The author of great contemporary works such as Violence and the Sacred and The Scapegoat, recently elected among the forty “immortals” of the Académie française, René Girard is, along with Claude Levi-Strauss, our greatest living anthropologist. In this interview with Il Foglio, Girard returns to that which defines “the great anthropological question of our time.”

He himself opens with a question:

“Can there be a realistic anthropology that precedes deconstruction? In other words, is it licit and still possible to affirm a universal truth about humankind? Structuralist and postmodern contemporary anthropology denies this access to the truth. The present school of thought is ‘the castration of meaning.’ But such ways of discussing mankind are dangerous.”

Read the full interview here:


The Rene Girard Reader.
Crossroad Publishing. 1996.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $24] [ Amazon ]


Books and Culture  reviews a recent book on
The Modern Charismatic Movement

Last fall, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opened an investigation into the finances of six of the United States‘ most influential ministries. Lavish spending by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long had caught the attention of the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. Responding to reports that these ministers might be abusing their tax-exempt status, Grassley asked for detailed financial information about their credit card spending, luxury cars, and palatial vacation homes. A few promised to comply with the investigation; most did not.

Despite the controversies surrounding these ministers, there is no doubt that they have played influential roles in shaping the modern American charismatic movement. Their work, and that of a select number of charismatic allies, is the focus of Scott Billingsley’s fascinating book It’s a New Day. Billingsley, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, downplays the scandalous rumors dogging certain charismatic leaders and instead focuses on their contributions to American religion. According to Billingsley, charismatics’ recent mainstream success can be attributed to their promotion of female and African American evangelists, use of technology, exploitation of the megachurch trend, and strong leaders. In particular, he argues that modern charismatic leaders built on the civil rights and feminist movements by “taking socially and theologically liberal ideologies” about race and gender “and adapting them to fit the sensibilities of conservative evangelical audiences.”

Read the full review:


It’s a New Day: Race and Gender
In the Modern Charismatic Movement.

Scott Billingsley.
Univ. of Alabama Press. 2007.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $34] [ Amazon ]


The NY Times Review of Andrew Bacevich’s

The Limits of Power:

 The End of American Exceptionalism.

Andrew J. Bacevich thinks our political system is busted. In The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, he argues that the country’s founding principle — freedom — has become confused with appetite, turning America’s traditional quest for liberty into an obsession with consumption, the never-ending search for more. To accommodate this hunger, pandering politicians have created an informal empire of supply, maintaining it through constant brush-fire wars. Yet the foreign-policy apparatus meant to manage that empire has grown hideously bloated and has led the nation into one disaster after another. The latest is Iraq: in Bacevich’s mind, the crystallization of all that’s gone wrong with the American system.


In the dog days of the George W. Bush era, as the fighting drags on in Afghanistan and Iraq and global food, energy and economic crises mount, this argument has huge intuitive appeal, and indeed Bacevich’s book has climbed the best-seller lists. The nation does seem to be in serious trouble. Figuring out how it got that way is important, and a root-and-branch rethink may be necessary to set things right.  


Read the full review:

The Limits of Power:

The End of American Exceptionalism.
Andrew Bacevich.
Hardcover. Henry Holt. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $18 ] [ Amazon ]