Wisdom Commentary: Proverbs
Alice Ogden Bellis
Liturgical Press, 2018 , £25.99, ISBN 978-0814681220
Review by Liz Shercliff, Director of Studies, Diocese of Chester
The Wisdom Commentary aims to provide feminist interpretation of every section of the Bible through serious, scholarly engagement with the text from a feminist perspective, focusing on how the text is heard and understood by women and men today. Commentary is provided from a range of religious tradition, diverse age groups and varying cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds and contexts. It is an ongoing and ambitious project, with 58 volumes planned. Some are already in print, including this one on Proverbs.
The title of the series, Wisdom Commentary, reflects the importance to feminist theology of the figure Woman Wisdom in Scripture, and wisdom offered to the whole church by feminist biblical commentary. Authors of this series explain their understanding of feminism and the feminist reading strategies they use in exploring their text. The aim of the series is a better understanding of biblical text, not a rejection of it.
The commentary on Proverbs offers a ‘gender sensitive reading’, alert to the language used and how it affects interpretation of the text. The introduction to the commentary and its methodology is thorough and useful.
The layout of the commentary is familiar and easy to follow, although I did particularly appreciate the way in which ‘Translation Matters’ are highlighted. For example, in the comments on Proverbs 1:2, the writer highlights the fact that the Hebrew word used can be translated as both ‘learning’ and ‘knowledge’, meaning both ‘know and learn’; ‘know a person – both socially and carnally’; and ‘know how to do things on a practical level’, which implies wider significance for the collection of sayings we call Proverbs.
The commentary is supported by a wide range of sources (the list of works cited runs to 8 pages) and cultures – an African womanist comments on Proverbs 31, for example.
The work stands out from other consciously feminist works by commenting on the whole text (indeed, by the end of the project, on the whole Bible) rather than just those that explicitly mention women. It is aims to be faithful to the ancient texts and to explore how they are heard by contemporary men and women.
It is possible to buy a book at a time, or the entire series can be bought for a ‘lock in’ price – a good option for churches, libraries or commentary enthusiasts.
This is certainly a worthwhile venture, and for preachers offers a way of balancing existing commentaries with a more gender sensitive approach.
Save 10% on the RRP when you order this book from chbookshop.co.uk. Add the voucher code PREACHER at the basket to receive the discount:
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