The CEB Women's Bible

October 1st, 2016

“Why should I add another Bible to my shelf?” This good-natured question has emerged often these past months as folks have learned that I served as an editor for the new CEB Women’s Bible. It’s certainly a fair question—and one that the other editors and I asked ourselves as we began to formulate and clarify a vision for the project back in the fall of 2014. Beyond the novelty of employing only women’s voices in the compilation of devotional and study tools, what was the unique gift we could offer through this work?

Our conversation coalesced around a foundational affirmation: the variety of human voices, experiences, identities, and perspectives in the world is a God-given gift. That gift is reflected in the biblical text itself and in those of us who engage the text today. Therefore, The CEB Women’s Bible both expects and celebrates that people of every gender engage scripture from their own perspectives—based on their own particularity of history and identity. Rather than provide monolithic or ready-made answers for what it looks like to be a Christ-follower or a “Christian woman,” we want to invite folks into a dynamic conversation with scripture and, ultimately, with God. The hope is that people will accept the invitation to enter into the “conversation” with their whole selves, to feel what they feel and think what they think, to wrestle and receive, to be challenged and comforted, to find their own voices through honest engagement with other voices that speak in and about the text.

Within this larger frame, it was clear from the beginning that a particular gift of the project is to offer a resource that provides biblical reflection and scholarship by women for women. All eighty editors and commentators for this resource are women. We represent at least a dozen different denominations and faith communities. Nearly half of us are biblical scholars who train women and men for Christian ministry. We love the Bible, the details of the text and its interpretation. Nearly half of us are pastors and church leaders who seek to equip our congregations with the knowledge and love of scripture. A few of us are novelists who tell stories about human experience, of life together in relationship and community. All are deeply committed to the power of God’s living word. There is a beautiful variety of writing style, theological perspective, and approaches to the text represented by our contributors. No “one size fits all” here!

In addition to an introduction for each book of the Bible, The CEB Women’s Bible also includes one or two reflections for each chapter of every biblical book. These writings can be used in personal devotions or as conversation starters for small-group Bible study. Sidebar articles explore more than two hundred themes of particular relevance to women’s experience in relationship with scripture. Some are theological in nature (Holy Spirit, suffering, worship), while others explore social issues (aging, discrimination, immigrants, reproduction) and personal relationships (divorce, family, friendship). Portraits include character sketches of over one hundred named and unnamed women in the Bible. These profiles range from powerful women such as Esther, who inspire us to make a difference in the world, to overlooked women such as Noah’s wife, often invisible but crucial to the larger story. Still other portraits invite us to see a biblical story through the eyes of one of its central figures, such as Jephthah’s daughter or Mary Magdalene. Each profile encourages us to see both biblical and modern women with greater appreciation for their particular gifts and challenges of faith. Finally, an appendix includes study questions on select biblical narratives, as well as an index of all the women in the Bible—those whose names are familiar and all who remain unnamed.

And perhaps this is one of the most profound gifts of this new Bible: as we notice women in scripture who had until now been invisible to us, we train our hearts to notice all of God’s people today. And as we seek guidance for our lives, examine our choices, and pour out our yearnings before God, this Bible invites us to ask what it means for us to be faithful in our time. The Bible is our story; it’s your story. There’s a part of that story only you can tell. We invite you to add your voice—your thoughts, opinions, insights, prayers—to the voices of women who have spoken the good news throughout the centuries and are helping the Bible speak today.

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli is the senior pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, and one the editors of The CEB Women’s Bible.

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