The ongoing disputes over gender roles in our society is seemingly at a fever pitch, and shows no real signs of abating. Even in the church there is confusion and a genuine need for clarity on the matter of biblical manhood and womanhood. Thankfully, there are a growing number of ministries and resources to offer precise, relevant answers on the matter. One new resource to take note of is this work by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger.
As husband and wife, the authors have teamed up to write this book because they are convinced “it is vital to wrestle with our identity as men and women for the sake of healthy marriages, families, and churches but, more importantly, for the true expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our world” (p. 14). Working out of a complementarian framework, the authors demonstrate from numerous biblical texts the fact that men and women are equal in value, dignity, and worth, yet different in role and function. The authors believe this goal of biblical manhood and womanhood is knowable, attainable, and necessary.
The authors both teach at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Andreas as senior research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Margaret as adjunct professor of women’s studies). They also speak a great deal in this work about their own marriage as well as the details of parenting four children. The authors’ previous publications on this subject (including Andreas’s book God, Marriage, and Family, 2nd ed. [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010] and Margaret’s published dissertation Jesus and the Feminists [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008]) lead the reader to expect that this will be a well-researched project, and this is certainly the case. Offering a “gradual unfolding of God’s plan through Scripture” (p. 17) on this topic, the authors offer a thorough and helpful resource to the church at large.
The authors develop the biblical pattern of manhood and womanhood beginning with the OT. Starting in Genesis 1–3 (ch. 1) they treat these foundational chapters in relation to both original design of manhood and womanhood as well as the specific and negative consequences that resulted from the Fall. Data is then culled from the remainder of the OT in order to demonstrate the predominant pattern of male leadership as it relates to the patriarchs, judges, kings, priests, and prophets (ch. 2). The next several chapters deal with the information to be found on this subject in the Gospels (ch. 3), Acts (ch. 4), Paul’s letters (chs. 5–6), and the remainder of the NT (ch. 7). Throughout these chapters the authors demonstrate the fact that the pattern of Scripture shows forth men as leaders in the home as well as in the church (which is in keeping with the OT pattern of men serving as priests and kings). Women serve in a complementary fashion, submitting to and sustaining the leading role of the husband—and, while not serving as elders, ministering in the church in a variety of meaningful ways.
The final chapter deals with a number of points of application, seeking to demonstrate specific ways that both men and women serve in the home and church (ch. 8). The book ends with three appendices, dealing with a survey of women’s history, the importance of hermeneutics, and special issues in interpreting gender passages.
The greatest contribution of this work is the sheer scope of passages covered in both the OT and NT. Often in these discussions there are a handful of texts selected for analysis, but the authors here do a tremendous job of showing not only excellent exegetical details, but also historical background and biblical-theological connections that must be made for proper interpretation. The trajectory of OT to NT is noted clearly, and a pattern of biblical manhood and womanhood emerges.
Another strength is the accessibility of this book. The language is friendly toward the average church reader, and the exegetical work is not rushed. The authors take their time making their points, show how it comes together from a number of angles, and offer crucial and relevant implications that emerge for us today.
While the authors cover these issues in great detail, two matters could receive additional attention. First, in regard to the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3, scant attention is given to divorce when discussing the phrase “husband of one wife” (p. 221). At the very least, attention could be drawn to Andreas Köstenberger’s work God, Marriage, and Family, where an entire chapter was dedicated to the topic, but here there are only two paragraphs and no footnotes. This is not the main thrust of the work, of course, but in terms of a model for biblical manhood a bit more could be said here in terms of nurturing faithfulness in marriage. Also, more could be said on the matter of singleness (pp. 273–74). Again, one cannot add drastically to a book that is already full of valuable information, but this is a key need to touch upon in the final chapter. The church is seeing the number of singles increase in our midst, and we must minister to them well and teach them what biblical manhood and womanhood looks like. It must be acknowledged, however, that not every topic can be grappled with in adequate detail, and my remarks here should not signify undue criticism to what is an outstanding work.
Biblical manhood and womanhood is a burgeoning area academically and practically, and the authors have here contributed to this matter on both fronts. In a time of confusion regarding gender, leadership, and family relations, this book pierces through the fog of uncertainty with the light of biblical-theological precision. While appropriate for college and seminary classrooms, this work should be read by pastors, and utilized in Sunday School and small group settings, as it really is quite readable, albeit somewhat daunting in length. May this work equip scores of Christian disciples to understand the fine details, as well as the overarching biblical metanarrative, both of which give rise to a complementarian perspective on manhood and womanhood.