The Life of a Female Biblical Scholar

Christianity Today has a fascinating short interview with Lynn Cohick, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Among other things, Cohick reflects upon what it is like to be a female biblical scholar. Here’s an excerpt:

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.

Read the rest here.

(HT: Mike Bird)


  • Henry Bish

    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.

    This kind of sentiment is not good. It comes across as though ministry is about ‘me’ and ‘what I can achieve’ and how ‘I can feel properly respected’. This should strike the God-fearing man as abhorrent, worldly and unbecoming of one who bears the name of Christian.

    We are servants of Christ, and obedience to His commands and faithfulness to Him is what should be our driving force. But man is forever unhappy with this and we must worship own idols too. Why would any godly woman with regard for God’s order of creation want to mentor men?

    I’m increasingly realizing that any laxity towards a full and unswerwing obedience to all of God’s commands has unwelcome consequences in the long run, that we will later regret. Better to make a wholehearted effort to obey now.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      “Why would any godly woman with regard for God’s order of creation want to mentor men?” Why indeed? After all, if their husbands and fathers provide for them and lavish them with gifts, shouldn’t they in term remain content with their standing in the world?

      If you’re cutting off 51% of the population from the capacity to contribute to dialogue, why not stop there? Why lot let the wealthiest male leaders take control, since they’ve already proven themselves through their financial success? Why not return to an oligarchic “good old boys”, not altogether different from the Vatican cabal that Evangelicals so love to denigrate? Or perhaps, at least in some parts of the country (and in some denominations) we’re there already? At least the RCC still has managed through its monastic tradition to cultivate a reputation for scholarship; Evangelicalism does not have this same reputation. When many from outside this circle already believe that “Evangelical scholarship” is an oxymoron, are you really likely to win hearts and minds when, as Don Johnson acknowledged, you’re restricting half of the body of Christ–especially when that same half enjoys the same leadership freedoms as men in almost all other walks of life?

    • Ann Hildey


      I agree and appreciate your comments especially the need to take the focus off of our own self-interest. I couldn’t wait to read what a female NT Scholar had to say and found myself disappointed and confused with her ‘goals’

      With Lauren’s comments I was led to remember how we are in the world but not of the world; how we are to render that which belongs to Caesar to Caesar and unto God what belongs to Him. Dialogue and politics are not in view here (in the mentoring quote)

      With respect to Don’s comments – I take issue with the idea that I am restricted- having a different role doesn’t restrict me. What I find restricting is the idea that in order to be respected I must fit into this male patterned box and if I don’t fit or the box is not made available to me then my worth is somehow devalued. I am comfortable in my own box contributing every bit as much as my male counterparts but in a different way. If that is not respected – or if it is devalued as it were, I would lean more to the one holding those thoughts as the bigot. If the world says I must be man like in all ways to be important instead of viewing my -different- role as just as important then I say that is the world’s issue, not mine. In that role there are some things I should not do. It is a worldly idea that this makes me less valued.

      The other comments gave me food for thought….I don’t agree that this being a chosen profession is the line in the sand BUT thanks to those comments I have to really think about it, it’s given me a pause…

      • Don Johnson

        My comment stands as I stated it. Using a few debated verses, some in the body of Christ place restrictions on what all women can do in terms of ministry. That you may not feel restricted by these restrictions just means you were not planning to minister in those supposedly restricted-to-males-only ways. This does not mean I am bigoted, just the reverse, as I try to see the world thru other’s eyes and speak up for those denied a place to speak.

        • Ann Hildey

          Ah yes, but I would minister in those ways if I were a male. More so, I think assuming that I was not planning to minister in those ways is a bit of a stretch being that you probably don’t know the history of one’s plans. I would not assume that women don’t have the same desires and I would liken that to men who also desire for ministry they were not called to; that is we all have desires though not always right before God and yet His grace -and I would add His purpose/order is sufficient still.
          However…that you are not bigoted is dully noted and I understand your position better now. It’s possible there are no bigots here just different positions.

  • buddyglass

    “Why would any godly woman with regard for God’s order of creation want to mentor men?”

    Because it would represent her being treated as an equal in terms of her chosen profession.

  • Daryl Little

    Hey! I agree with Don and Buddy! (Never thought I’d see the day)

    But probably not for the reasons they’d wish.

    Her mentorship of men and women would be (of course) in her profession and area of expertise. That’s how mentorship works.
    But she’s wanting to mentor scholars and students, I don’t read her wanting to be a pastor/elder and wanted to be the spiritual leader of the church,

    That’s a very different thing I think.

  • Brett Cody

    Is there a distinction between mentorship and discipleship? Should there be a difference? Is discipleship different than an accountability partner?

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.