Ruth A. Tucker. Dynamic Women of the Bible: What We Can Learn From Their Surprising Stories, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 336 pp. $13.24 (Amazon)
I am usually wary when it comes to books that profile biblical characters. They have the tendency to either focus on obscure facts or create idols. While John MacArthur’s biblical character profiles have been helpful, many others contain such poor exegesis, that they stand as little better than a meager attempt at biography. However, I had high hopes when I picked up Dynamic Women of the Bible. My hopes were in author Ruth Tucker’s prestige and skill as church historian. I found her book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, to be particularly helpful. She is a skillful writer and has a knack for allowing history to speak for itself while presenting historical fact in a not so wooden style.
Dynamic Women of the Bible was written because of the author’s conviction that stories are important. And in the Bible, Tucker sees “an assortment of colorful women” that is unlike anywhere else in history or literature. The familiarity and fascination that we find in the stories of the women of the Bible is unparalleled.
This volume chronicles nearly all major women of the Bible. From Eve to Priscilla, Tucker tells the stories of the most captivating women in the Bible. And what we see is that their stories are much like our own. Far from idolizing these women, Tucker accurately paints their portraits with every crack, wrinkle, and deficiency.
With earthy and sometimes brutal honesty, Tucker shows how the women of the Bible experienced the same struggles, problems, sins, and joys that women today experience. They are “approachable and authentic” (xiii). The Christian woman struggling with sin or self-image would be helped by Tucker’s honest portrayal of the women of the Bible. Their beauty is seen in their redeemed brokenness.
Tucker seems to be concerned and committed to the original context when she says, “How we might wish the Bible came with footnotes expanding the stories and points of view of these female characters…The purpose of the writers, rather than to simply present biography, is to relate events or perhaps put forward beliefs and laws of behavior and worship. So we’re frustrated when we discover their profiles are so puny” (xii). She further warns, “I seek to avoid making these women over into my own image, but I do recognize my own subjectivity. We all must take care not to fall into this temptation…No matter how hard we try, we simply cannot remake [Rahab] into a virtuous massage therapist” (xvi).
Tucker is incredibly open and honest in the introduction. She confesses that though she longs to be multicultural, when the reader opens this book, “a white middle-class woman is writing every line” (xvii).
I honestly don’t mind healthy biblically rooted speculation. Where the Bible is silent, it can be fun to speculate so long as we are guided by biblical principles and themes. Tucker basically tells each woman’s story in her own words. Each account is a mixture of biblical truth and speculation. She uses a lot of “Can you imagine what it must have been like?” questions and statements to help relate each woman’s situation to modern women.
In fact, Tucker is consistent to confidently assert what the Bible says without going any further. Her speculation is innocent and although it could be dangerous, particularly in the group setting in which she wants this book read, the mature Christian can benefit through meditations on these biblical women. Those who read Dynamic Women of the Bible would do well to heed Tucker’s advice: “Wisdom warns us to say very little about [Eve] that could ever be confused with fact” (11). This is an excellent guiding principle to speculate about things on which the Bible is silent.
Tucker expectedly writes Dynamic Women of the Bible with historical style and perspective. The book feels much like From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya in that it is written as a biography, but with creativity and energy.
By way of criticism, readers may find the style a tad dry, especially if they are reading it from beginning to end. I would recommend jumping around a bit. The book warrants this kind of reading, and there is no flow other than the chronological ordering of the women and when they appear in history. Plus, it is highly annoying that the Scriptural references are included in the end notes. This is the first book I’ve ever read that did not include Bible references on the same page they appear. In a book of this nature with a lot of biblical references, this decision was a swing and miss.
A more serious disappointment is the lack of gospel-centeredness. Tucker greatly fails to show Christ from all of Scripture. And though her primary goal was to look at the immediate context and highlight the lives of particular women, she missed a great opportunity to show how these small stories fit into the larger story of redemption and how Christ is the fulfillment of every woman’s story and longings.
Though definitely not perfect, and worthy of proceeding with caution due to (admittedly) subjective speculations, Dynamic Women of the Bible is a book from which many women can learn and draw inspiration and identification from women who are much like them.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.