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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