The idea of Rachel Held Evans' book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, is simple. For a year, Rachel took the Bible literally, focusing on one specific command (targeted at women) each month. It's not an entirely new idea. A.J. Jacobs did it in The Year of Living Biblically. Yet, from the get-go, Rachel's project has been shrouded in controversy. Her frankness and vocabulary have made some Christians uncomfortable, even causing some to speculate that her inclusion of the word vagina led one Christian bookstore chain to refuse to carry the book. Others have called her book, “A mockery of God and Scripture.”
I, however, call it an honest exploration of Scripture and the most thought-provoking book I've read this year.
Far from making a mockery of Scripture, Rachel approaches her work with not only integrity, but a surprising amount of thorough research. This is evident in her interviews with people from other cultures (Judaism, Amish, Quaker, etc.) as well as her exposition of both controversial books of the Bible like Song of Songs and controversial passages like those pertaining to submission and the silencing of women. Her inclusion of many character sketches of Biblical women also showcases Rachel's Biblical scholarship and her desire to “love the Bible for what it is,” not just for what she wants it to be.
Throughout the book, Rachel's wit and self-deprecating humor is evident. Her willingness not just to laugh at the absurdities of our faith but to explore them challenges her readers to do the same. For example, her willingness to do this in regard to the Proverbs 31 woman left me grabbing my Bible in order to read and further investigate these words - a far cry from the gag response I typically have when people turn this “anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description.”
Additionally, the inclusion of journal entries written by Rachel's husband, Dan, makes this book feel less like one written exclusively for women – something people may mistakenly assume from it's title. In truth, however, A Year of Biblical Womanhood is an honest and rich exploration of faith and in particular, a thought-provoking examination of how we interpret Scripture in the 21st century, a topic important for both women and men.