A Women's Bible

New resource aims to combat misunderstanding and misuse of the Holy Book

Fuelled by the belief that the Bible does not oppress women, female Protestant and Catholic theologians across the world have united to compile A Women’s Bible, a theological resource that engages with the #MeToo Movement.

“Feminist values and reading the Bible are not incompatible,” states Lauriane Savoy, one of two theology professors in Geneva who conceived Une Bible des Femmes (A Women’s Bible), released last October.

Joined by 18 contributors from various countries and denominations, Savoy and colleague Elisabeth Parmentier hope the writings in A Women’s Bible combat misinterpretation and misuse of the Holy Book.

“The problem is that the Bible has been used to reinforce cultural stereotypes whereas when you look at the biblical text closely, they are much [more] varied than people think,” Parmentier told The Telegraph.

Parmentier’s observations align with British theologian and commentary writer Mary J. Evans, who told Eternity that distorted views of God’s word had caused perpetual damage to women.

“We write articles in biblical dictionaries on women, but not on men, which suggest women are ‘topics.’” – Mary J. Evans

“We need to say sorry,” the Old Testament scholar said about the corporate responsibility of Christian communities and theologians.

“We need to say, ‘we have seen you treated in ways that are so negative and we haven’t done anything about it, and we’ve even reinforced it. Not [necessarily] because of sexual abuse, but because we have treated you in ways that implied you weren’t people. Because we write articles in biblical dictionaries on women, but not on men, which suggest women are ‘topics’ and not that the Bible is for them, too.”

Like Evans’ call to check if your own “filter” warps the way you read Scripture, Savoy and Parmentier want public debate about the Bible to be better informed.

Amid #MeToo debates, they feel biblical texts have been dismissed as sexist and misogynistic by people ignorant of what they actually say. But Savoy, Parmentier and their co-writers challenge the view that the Bible is “completely outdated with no relevance to today’s values of equality.”

“For example, in the chapter in which Apostle Paul said, ‘Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord’, he also said, ‘Husbands, love your wives,’ Parmentier explains about a contentious passage in Ephesians 5.

“That was pretty revolutionary for the time. But the second phrase was cut out by church leaders who wanted to reinforce the patriarchal view of society with domesticated women.”

“[Mary Magdalene] is a fundamental character, but she is described as a prostitute.” – Lauriane Savoy

Like Parmentier’s reference to Ephesians 5, Savoy offered Mary Magdalene as another example of how the focus and emphasis of readers has misrepresented women in the Bible.

“[Mary Magdalene] is a fundamental character, but she is described as a prostitute … and even as Jesus’s lover in recent fiction,” said Savoy, before listing more positive details recorded in the New Testament about Magdalene.

“She stood by Jesus, including as he was dying on the cross, when all of the male disciples were afraid,” says Savoy. “She was the first one to go to his tomb and to discover his resurrection.”

Working at the university in Geneva co-founded by Protestant theologian Jean Calvin, Savoy and Parmentier acknowledge they were inspired by American suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1895, Stanton and 26 other women published The Woman’s Bible. Sharing a similar aim to A Women’s Bible, Stanton’s resource is outdated, according to the Geneva pair.