Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Recommendations for Studying the Women in the Scriptures

I have had many requests for book recommendations for studying the Bible and women in the scriptures. I have amassed a fairly impressive library over the years and so I thought I'd go through it and just share with you several of my favorites.

All of these books will help you dig deeper into the scriptures and gain new insights, but they are no replacement for studying the original text yourself. It is much more rewarding to get your own insights about stories instead of reading other people's... make sure you read the scriptures in along with these resources. I know that sounds silly but you'd be surprised how many people spend more time reading commentaries about the scriptures instead of reading the scriptures themselves!

I hope that this list gets you excited about scripture study and that you find something to help deepen your understanding and study. If there are any great books or resources that I have missed please let me know in the comments. I am always looking for good additions to my library!

General Bible Resources

My most used resource when studying the scriptures. For those of us who don't know Hebrew or Greek this is a must-have resource for learning what the original (or alternative) meanings of words are. Using this has done more to increase my understanding of the scriptures than anything else. I use an online version (there are several) and wrote a blog post here about how to use it. 

Josephus was an ancient Jewish historian who wrote the history of his people from the start (Abraham) to the end (after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans). He is a very good resource when you want to get another perspective on a Bible story, or a few extra details. Like any historian he had his biases, but he is a very reliable source. I often look what he has written about a story before I write about it. 

Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Lines

These Rose books are incredible resources for Biblical study. With maps and charts and timeline galore they are really a treasure trove of information for helping you dig deeper into the history of the Bible-- which can be really confusing a times! Their is also a Rose's Guide to the Temple and a Rose's Guide to the Tabernacle, which look awesome. 

The Lost Language of Symbolism: An Essential Guide for Recognizing and Interpreting Symbols of the Gospel by Alonzo L. Gaskill

Super useful guide for understanding general symbolism in the scriptures (and temple). Has great lists that are easy to use as references. This will really open your eyes to many things (colors, numbers, animals, shapes, etc) you glance right over in the scriptures, temple and in daily life that are full of symbolism. 

The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple by Matthew B. Brown

This book is all about temple symbolism in the Old and New Testament as well as in the restoration. It is incredibly helpful for understanding the religious practices mentioned in the Old Testament and in Jesus' ministry. Don't skip the footnotes! They are often jammed backed with way more detail than the main text. This is a valuable book for increasing your scripture study and for helping you better understand the symbolism of the temple. Must read for anyone getting ready to go to the temple! 

Jerusalem, the Eternal City by  David B Galbraith, D Kelly Ogden , Andrew C Skinner

Jerusalem is central to the Old and New Testament, and even the Book of Mormon. This book does a beautiful job of explaining it's history and significance. The authors also write about Jerusalem from an LDS perspective, including future prophesied events and significance. Awesome book for getting your mind wrapped around the crazy history of this city! 

These are three apocryphal books that I think are very helpful, and full of a lot of truth. Like any apocryphal work you need to take it with a grain of salt and discern what is true and what isn't, but I have found these three books to be really helpful. The book of Jubilees has a complete listing of all the women from Eve on down, which is really interesting. All of these books are also online. 

If you haven't ever read this you should. Much of it is inspired and adds to your understanding of the Bible. There are also a few great stories about women, like Susana and Judith that aren't in the Bible. It is all online as well. 

General Women in the Scripture Resources

Women in Scripture by Carol Meyers

This is probably my favorite and most used book about women in the scriptures. It is a encyclopedia of ALL the women (named, unnamed and metaphorical) with entries being written by dozens of different scholars. It is an awesome reference book. My only caveat with it is that it is written from an academic feminist viewpoint, so sometimes the entries are skewed much more liberally than I think is necessary. But if you are aware of the bias you can make your own choices about each woman.

All the Women of the Bible  by Herbert Lockyer

This book was written in the 1960's and was one of the first attempts to list all the women in the bible. It is a very helpful resource and I often enjoy Lockyer's insights about women. Unlike the Women in Scripture book this one is often skewed more conservative sometimes, and is also a little dated. I feel like combining this one with the Women in Scripture books usually gives me or more balanced view of a woman.

All the Women of the Bible by Edith Deen

This was the first book (published in 1955) to undertake a comprehensive list of the women in the bible. Edith Deen was not a scholar, just a woman who loved the bible and started studying the women in. I can relate to her! Some of the women are very sparsely covered by her, but for others she has beautiful insights.

Daughters of God by S. Michael Wilcox

For its size this compilation includes an impressive amount of women from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. His insights are more spiritual than historical in nature and are often given from an LDS perspective. I recently got this book and have enjoyed reading through his thoughts about different women.

Women in Eternity, Women in Zion by Valerie Hudson and Alma Don Sorenson

I can't explain how awesome this book is. It is not necessarily about the women in the scriptures but it is packed full of incredible insights about Eve, women in the gospel, women's place in the creation of Zion and eternity. It will blow your mind and expand your heart in so many ways. Important book to read! 

Old Testament

Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell

If you haven't read this book you really should. She outlines Mother Eve and her important role in God's plan so beautifully-- she is both simple in her explanation and mind blowing all at the same time. My copy is underlined to death. I feel like this is a must read for anyone going to the temple for the first time. She also has anther book called "Eve and the Mortal Journey" which I haven't read, but which is on my list to get.

Did God Have a Wife? by William G. Denver

Awesome book about ancient Israelite life and religious practices. He especially focuses on the prevalent goddess worship, mostly of the goddess Asherah, that was prevalent in most civilizations at this time period. The Old Testament is filled with references to goddess worship and the Israelites were warned time and time again by the prophets to stop it or they would be destroyed (which they were). This book is very helpful in getting your mind wrapped around what the Old Testament writers meant when they talked about "high places" and "idols". It is very scholarly at the start, but towards the middle is more readable.

Forgotten Women of God by Diana Webb

Webb uses apocryphal sources to dig deeper into many of the Old Testament stories. She fleshes out stories in a really incredible way and has some brilliant insights about them. This was one of the first books I read about women in the Old Testament, and in still one of my favorite. It is short and easy to read. Diana Webb is LDS but the book is not written exclusively for an LDS audience.

Women's Rights in the Old Testament Times by James R. Baker

This is my go to book for lots of the more confusing cultural practices in the Old Testament, like dowries, marriage contracts, inheritance laws, etc... He draws extensively from ancient texts to give ideas about what was customary in Old Testament times. Very useful for helping you get a better idea what women's lives would have been like and what their rights would have been.

Women of the Old Testament by Camille Fronk Olson

Beautiful book that goes in-depth (impressively in-depth) for several dozen women in the Old Testament. I really like this book for its helpful charts and timelines and pictures. I find it is especially good at explaining the background and history of stories, and putting a woman in context.

Sarah Laughed by Vanessa L. Ochs

This might just be my favorite book on women in the bible EVER. Ochs is an academic but she has a very personal understanding and experience with the women in the bible (love, love the story she tells in the introduction). She tells each story three times, once as the bible tells, again as a narrative story in her own words, and again when she explains what the story means to her. She also gives ideas for things you can do to learn to "embrace the gift" of each woman's story. Even though I was very familiar with all the women she talks about she helped me see them in a different way. Love this book!

The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible by Thomas A. Wayment

In a side-by-side format this book lists ALL of the changes that Joseph Smith made to the Old Testament in his inspired version. Our modern day LDS scriptures do not include all of the changes he made (not even in the appendix). Several years ago a group of BYU scholars were allowed by the Community of Christ to view Joseph Smith's original manuscript of his translation of the Bible. This is one of the books they published after, showing all the changes that Joseph Smith had made. It is important to know this doesn't not have the full text of the bible in it, it only has the scripture verses that have corrections in them.

Rebekah by Orson Scott Card

This is a fiction book, and not historically accurate, but  it gives you a good feel for the time period and customs of the day. I also think he portrays Rebekah fairly well and many of the main characters. Many of the "extra" things he puts in are pulled from apocryphal sources and you tell that he went to a lot of work to try to create a plausible story. Books like this are nice because they help you fall in love with the characters, and learn to see them as real people.  He also wrote  similar books about Sarah and Rachel and Leah

New Testament

Walking with the Women of the New Testament by Heather Farrell

You know, just have to put a plug in for my own book right? Make sure you get the study guides (here and here) too! 

Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage

Probably one of the best books written on Christ's life and ministry, ever. He doesn't go in depth on the women's stories but he does give you a better understanding of the context of each of their stories in Christ's life and ministry. This would be a good place to start your study of New Testament women.

Women in the New Testament by Camille Fronk Olson

Like her Old Testament book this books is beautifully done and is very helpful for understanding the historical context of the New Testament. She goes very in-depth and gives you a really good basis for understanding what women's lives would have been like. Camille Fronk Olson was the first person who got me excited about the women in the scriptures, and her books will do that for you too. Almost as good as taking a class from her!

Sisters at the Well by Jeni and Richard Holzapfel

A very well done look into the historical background and spiritual significance of most of the women in the New Testament. It is written by a husband and wife team and I like the combination of male and female perspectives on the women's stories. It is very easy to read and very accessible for someone who isn't very familiar with the history of the New Testament.

Joseph Smith's Complete Translation of the New Testament by Thomas A. Wayment

Like its Old Testament counterpart, this book is very easy to use and helpful in discovering what additions or corrections to the Bible Joseph Smith made in his Inspired Version. It is always amazing to me to see that so many of his corrections were things that have to do with women!

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

This is a fiction book about the Roman solider who killed Christ, but it gives you such a beautiful (and I think accurate) picture of how life would have been in Rome and in Judea. The author does a great job of mingling fictitious characters with real historical people and events. Don't take everything as truth in this, but read it for the picture it will paint in your mind of the time and its history. Its a great read! 

Book of Mormon

Women of the Book of Mormon by Heather Moore

I think this might be the only book on women in the Book of Mormon out there. It is a short book but Moore does a good job of examining many of the stories of the women in The Book of Mormon and fleshing them out. She focuses on the main ones we all know (Sariah, Abish, etc..) but also deals with a few of the lesser known ones (the 24 daughters of the Lamanites, Morianton's Maid Servant, etc...). It is hard to give historical background for the Book of Mormon but she does a great job of writing about these women in the context of their stories and giving spiritual insights.

Women in the Book of Mormon Study Guide by Heather Farrell

Some day soon I hope to write a book on the women in The Book of Mormon, but until then you can study them on your own with this study guide. Similar to the ones I made for the New Testament, it has ALL the women in the Book of Mormon listed with journaling pages and study prompts. 

In Search of Lehi's Trail by Lynn H. Hilton

I actually haven't read this book (hope too) but I went to a fireside once by the author's daughter and the information was fascinating. It is really helpful in helping to understand the story of Lehi and his family, especially what the women would have experienced. It looks like he has another similar book too. 

Book of Mormon Study guide: Diagrams, Doodles, & Insights by Shannon Foster

I haven't used these (there are two) but they look amazing. They aren't focused on the women in the Book of Mormon but any in-depth study of the Book of Mormon is going to help you see and understand the women better! 

  • To be honest I haven't found very many scholarly books about the Book of Mormon that I love. I have though found this web page from FAIR to be very helpful. It goes through book by book and lists articles and resources for different chapters of the Book of Mormon. It is really a treasure trove. 
  • Mormon Interpreter also usually has some very interesting and useful articles on The Book of Mormon as well. You can visit their website here

I have other resources for Doctrine and Covenants that I will add later, but hopefully this gets you started with your study!

I will put a link to this list on the sidebar of my blog and will update it periodically as I find new resources. If there are any really good ones I have left out PLEASE leave me a comment. You think I'd get bored about reading and studying about the women in the scriptures, but I don't! If anything the more I learn the more I love it.

Happy Scripture Studying!


  1. Great resources! Especially yours :-) I just read Matriarchs of the Messiah by Joanne Skousen, which has a very similar cover to yours. It focuses on ten women in Christ's lineage (plus Mary Magdalene and the speculation that she is the same woman as Martha's sister). Narrating their stories and drawing out lessons for today, it is a nice resource with some new scriptural insights. It would benefit from listing Matthew's genealogy and pointing out that only half of these women are actually named in that list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary--and that Matthew's specific reason for naming them to his Jewish audience was to demonstrate that despite the elements of sexual impropriety and marital irregularity in their history, they were chosen of God for a divine purpose (and thus, so was Mary). The author engages in speculative fiction at the beginning of each women's story that is not supported by scholarship (for instance, Jeff Chadwick's Stone Manger would have illuminated archaeological details about the nativity story that did not include a wood shop, hay, and so on). Another recent resource by my friend Lynne Wilson is Christ's Emancipation of Women in the New Testament

    1. Ooh, thank your for the suggestions! I'm really interested in that book about Christ's genealogy (beyond just the ones mentioned by matthew). I've been piecing something similar together and would be interested in seeing what she has to say. So thanks!

  2. I have recently found your website and so grateful for the treasure trove. I have learned so much. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and studies with us.

  3. I really enjoy your blog! Thank you for all your words of wisdom and thank you even more for sparking my determination to delve deeper into the scriptures from the women's point of view! Your encouragement to look for the unseen women in the scriptures really changed the way I study the scriptures. Thank you!
    Might I add 2 more books to your suggested reading list:
    Women in Sacred History by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This may be the very first book written exclusively on women in the scriptures. It was published in 1874. It doesn't go into much detail, but is still worth reading, I think.
    The second book is Women of the Bible - A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda. This book is easy to read and it covers some women that don't normally make the cut, like Michal and princess Tamar.

  4. After a relief society lesson I gave a few months back someone in my ward recommended your blog to me! I love it! I've been working my way through some of these book recommendations and they've given me so many insights. I especially loved Women in Eternity, Women of Zion. Such a needed book. I talk about it to anyone that will listen ;) Thanks so much for what you do!