Lynn Cohick on the Double Edged Sword of being a Female Bible Scholar

Lynn Cohick on the Double Edged Sword of being a Female Bible Scholar October 19, 2013

Over at CT is an excellent interview with Dr. Lynn Cohick (Wheaton College) about the pros and cons of being a female biblical scholar.

I’ve had the pleasure of  knowing Lynn through the New Covenant Commentary Series for which she wrote the Ephesians volume (a warm-up act for her forthcoming commentary on the same book for the NICNT series) and also in the Story of God Bible Commentary where we both serve as co-editors and Lynn’s Philippians commentary in that series has just been released.  Lynn has also visited Australia twice, so she’s got lots of friends down under. And I once beat her husband Jim in tennis!

Here’s my favourite part of the interview:

When I was a seminary student I didn’t come across many commentaries written by women, so your contribution to this series is especially meaningful for women like me. Although women still face challenges as a minority in evangelical scholarship, are there any benefits of being a female in your field?

I would say it’s almost a double-edged sword. I get invited to speak or to write a chapter in an edited volume, and oftentimes there is a presumption, or it’s even directly stated: “We need a woman.” We need a woman on this panel, or we need a woman speaker because the last three years we’ve had men.

So you become the token female voice.

Exactly. So while it gives me a chance to work, I also wonder if my efforts are judged differently. I wonder if people think, “Lynn has been asked because she’s a woman, so I’m going to presume that her work is not that good, that she wasn’t given this based on her merit or her argument, but just because she’s a woman.

There are still tremendous challenges for women in evangelical scholarship, and I’m just not sure how to go forward because of the tokenism mindset. I want to encourage female scholars, but I would want a young, male New Testament scholar to look up to me as much as a female New Testament scholar would. I want to move beyond thinking that I should just mentor women. I should also mentor men, and I think that would be the next frontier.

It is sad to say that women make up, I think, less than 5% of the presenters at the annual ETS meeting. However, ETS has in this last year started offering scholarships to encourage women to attend, which is a very positive move for the society.

Also, you can watch videos with Lynn Cohick at the Center for Public Christianity.

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  • Henry Bish

    I want to move beyond thinking that I should just mentor women. I
    should also mentor men, and I think that would be the next frontier.

    This kind of sentiment is not good. It comes across as though
    ministry is about ‘me’ and ‘what I can achieve’ and how ‘I can feel
    properly respected’. This should strike the God-fearing man as
    abhorrent, worldly and unbecoming of one who bears the name of
    Christian.

    We are servants of Christ, and obedience to His commands and
    faithfulness to Him is what should be our driving force. But man is
    forever unhappy with this and we must worship our own idols too. Why would
    any godly woman with regard for God’s order of creation want to mentor men?

    I’m increasingly realizing that any laxity towards a full and
    unswerwing obedience to all of God’s commands has unwelcome consequences
    in the long run, that we will later regret. Better to make a
    wholehearted effort to obey now.