J. Lee Grady has long been a champion of women within the Church and his newest book Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead further explores women leaders by looking at the examples found in Scripture. Included in this text are both “famous” biblical women (e.g. Mary, the mother of Jesus) as well as lesser known women such as Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram. Along with the biblical examples, Grady shares stories of historical and modern-day women who are following God fearlessly.
The 22 women profiled in this book are:
Sarah, the Mother of Our Faith (The Courage to Be a Pioneer)
The Five Daughters of Zelophehad (The Courage to Challenge Tradition)
Ruth, the Moabite (The Courage to Forsake the Past)
Achsah, Daughter of Caleb (The Courage to Claim God’s Blessing)
Hannah, Mother of Samuel (The Courage to Believe God)
Esther, Queen of Persia (The Courage to Challenge Injustice)
Miriam, Sister of Moses (The Courage to Lead in a Man’s World)
Deborah, Judge of Israel (The Courage to Fight)
Jehosheba, Daughter of King Joram (The Courage to Protect)
Mary, Mother of Jesus (The Courage to Surrender)
Mary of Bethany (The Courage to Worship)
The Samaritan Woman (The Courage to Forgive)
Mary Magdalene, Witness of Christ’s Resurrection (The Courage to Go First)
Priscilla, Spiritual Daughter of the Apostle Paul (The Courage to Mentor Others)
The Four Daughters of Philip the Evangelist (The Courage to Speak for God)
There is an introduction chapter as well as an appendix. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and a “Message From Your Heavenly Father”. To be perfectly honest, I find other people writing messages from God a bit cheesy.
The book is clearly for lay people; it is not a theological textbook and it is not meant to be. There is very little exegesis, which may draw some readers and deter others. Because of the lack of exegesis, I would not recommend this book to someone who was just beginning to study women’s roles in the Church. This book gives a good overview of the exegesis, but it could not hold up to a theological debate on this issue. The lack of exegesis is also seen in Grady’s biographies of the women – there is a fair amount of speculation through the book. One instance of this is seen on page 72 while discussing Achsah. Grady writes: “…Deep inside, she had the same desire to inherit the Land of Promise and establish God’s righteous rule in the midst of Canaan. Meanwhile, Caleb adored his little girl and wanted only the best for her.” Other examples are seen on page 100 where Queen Esther is described as “a shy girl” and one who “mobilized prayer”. A final example of the speculation is on page 167 discusses Mary of Bethany after her brother’s death. Grady wrote, “Mary was overwhelmed with grief and disappointment. Her faith was as cold as Lazarus’s corpse.” In each of these cases, Grady’s assumptions could have been true. However, there is no biblical proof of any of those states so they are speculation. This is when I wished there was more careful exegesis and wished that Grady was more careful to identify when he was making guesses based on human nature and when his words were clearly based on the text.
Grady draws in stories of historical and modern-day women in addition to the biblical examples. This shows how women around the world are being used by God. I appreciated that he mentioned women in a wide range of professions including a pastor, a stay-at-home-mother, a missionary, a rancher, a Holocaust surviver, a church planter and a philanthropist. Grady repeatedly challenges traditional assumptions of women’s roles and speaks to women in all different circumstances. This book was encouraging to me as I often see women marginalized within the American church. I am grateful that Grady is a champion of women and hope that more people (both men and women) will strive to see both genders working together instead of limiting women to a narrow range of activities and ministries.
Overall, I would recommend this book to others who would like to see examples of women leading in the bible and in churches. While it is not strictly exegetical, I can appreciate that Grady makes a case that is easy to follow and comprehensive. Were someone looking for more exegetical books on this subject, I would recommend Slaves, Women and Homosexuals by William Webb, Good News for Women by Rebecca Groothuis and Women in Ministry by Dan Doriani (Complementarian perspective).