I know August of 2012 is some time away but when I saw this title featured at yesterday’s sales conference I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. The study of church history is woefully neglected by Christians today. Beyond that they knowledge of what women have contributed is deplorable. Baker Academic is proud to present a volume to begin to remedy that neglect. It is called Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters and it’s edited by Marion Ann Taylor and Agnes Choi. The handbook features articles by 130 top scholars. Some of the interpreters included in the volume are: Elizabeth Rice Achtemeier, Saint Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine Mumford Booth, Anne Bradstreet, Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, Egeria, Elizabeth I, Hildegard, Julian of Norwich, Thérèse of Lisieux, Marcella, Henrietta C. Mears, Florence Nightingale, Phoebe Palmer, Faltonia Betitia Proba, Pandita Ramabai, Christina Georgina Rossetti, Dorothy Leigh Sayers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, St. Teresa of Avila, Sojourner Truth, and Susanna Wesley.

Here’s a description of a typical entry:

“Each of the one hundred and eighty entries contains a short biography of a female interpreter of the Bible, including, where possible, factual details about her birth, family, education, and formative influences. Such information provides the context for her interpretive work. Her work is then analyzed, focusing on her approach and methods of biblical interpretation and highlighting key themes and providing examples. Attention is given to evidence of gendered exegesis, especially when a woman’s experiences shaped her interpretation or when she addressed traditionally problematic passages (e.g., Gen. 1–3; 1 Cor. 11 and 14 and 1 Tim. 2) or discussed female biblical figures. Entries include comments on the interpreter’s significance and legacy and include a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The entries vary in length and the length generally reflects the person’s significance as an interpreter of the Bible.” (8)

Some periods of time will not be represented. Taylor explains:

“The availability of women’s writings on the Bible has of course changed over time. In the first 1200 years of the Christian era, few records remain of women’s interpretive work; no women interpreters from the first, second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth centuries are included in this collection. In the post-Reformation period, women’s writings on the Bible increased; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for example, hundreds of women published their writings on Scripture. Some published books that were more academic than popular, including commentaries on Scripture; others published dozens of popular books on the Bible. There are many reasons for the increase in women’s writings, including such factors as women’s increased literacy and education and access to the Bible and the publishing world. In addition more recent writings are more easily found and accessed.” (6)

There is an understandable explosion of women interpreters in the modern day so three criteria were used for who was included from the post nineteenth-century era. “[T]he woman had to be deceased, her work had to be representative, and her primary publications had to predate the globalization of the profession of biblical studies and the significant expansion in the involvement of women and ethnic minorities in professional biblical studies in the 1970s and 80s.” (6)

I’m very excited about this volume and hope it enjoys a wide readership. I’ll do a reminder post as we get closer to August. Don’t kid yourself–it will get here sooner than you expect.

Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters will be a hardcover with 592 pages and sell for $44.99.