Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History by Diana Lynn Severance is a brand-new release by Christian Focus Publications. It looks at women from the time of Jesus through to the present day. All kinds are mentioned, from queens and noblewomen to commoners and slaves. Women from different denominations with varying views of the Bible all play their part. There are 12 chapters covering 2,000 years of Church history. Pace is good, the style is very readable, and the layout is clear with intriguing text boxes here and there with extra information and little titbits complementing the main text. Each chapter heading shows the era being covered along with a relevant Bible verse.
The early chapters reveal the high opinion Jesus had of women. They are mentioned many times (about one third) in the Gospels and New Testament. With the birth of the Early Church, the status of women rose. Often when a new region was being evangelised, it was the women who first embraced the good news of Jesus, becoming ‘the gateway [for the Gospel] into pagan families’. They lived out the apostles’ teachings, and many pagan husbands – even kings and rulers – were won to Christ through the faithful prayers and godly example of their wives. Women were no longer forced into marriage, becoming the property of their husbands. They were allowed to serve God by remaining single if they wished, and widows (instead of being disgraced by their widowhood) were frequently encouraged to remain single. Single women, and widows in particular, were given responsibilities within the Church of caring for the poor and sick, and sharing the Gospel with and discipling other women.
The Church suffered severe persecution in the early centuries, and a surprising number of its martyrs was female. Some endured horrific deaths for the sake of Christ, and one can only admire these brave, faithful women.
Diana Lynn Severance covers how the Canon of Scripture was put together, also dealing with later books claiming apostolic authority that were actually written in the second century and, therefore, not included in the Bible. Traditions crept into the Church that are not biblical. For example, the Gospels teach that Mary Magdalene was healed of seven demons; they say nothing of the tradition of her having been a prostitute. Mary, Jesus’ mother, came to be exalted and eventually worshipped. Every time the Church drifted into extremes and error, it was because it stopped following the Bible.
It was refreshing to read about the women, as well as the men, of the Reformation who were used in getting the Church back on track with Bible truths.
Throughout history, the pendulum has swung back and forth between truth and error, between Bible and tradition. Whenever the Bible has been upheld, women have had God-given fulfilling roles, family life has been honoured and social injustices such as abortion and slavery have been stopped. Whenever humans think they know best, women are very often downtrodden or frustrated, family life has broken down and social injustices have increased.
Feminine Threads is inspiring; I am part of a wonderful sisterhood that is driven by love for God, has been greatly used in building up the Church, has won husbands to Christ, and, often, just quietly gets on with whatever God has called us to. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
(And I am so much looking forward to one day having a good natter with the women mentioned in the pages of Feminine Threads!)
Christian Focus Publications provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.