Martha Ann KIRK, Women of Bible Lands: A Pilgrimage to Compassion and Wisdom. Collegeville: A Michael Glazier Book; Liturgical Press, 2004. pp. 352. $16.95 pb. ISBN 0-8146-5156-9.
Reviewed by Carol J. DEMPSEY, University of Portland, Portland, OR 97203

Different from most books written about biblical women, this study is a travelogue that introduces readers to persons, places, and traditions, many of which are either well known or obscure. Following an introduction, the text is composed of two parts and includes fourteen chapters. An appendix focusing on Abigail's story (pp. 328-34) draws the study to a close, with the final pages featuring various indices, a bibliography, and a suggested prayer service.

In Part One, Kirk begins her travelogue with a presentation of the lands to be explored, a discussion on the trials, tribulations, and challenges of a pilgrim, and a comment on God's compassion and justice. Among the most prominent women featured in this section are Paula and Egeria, both of whom were women of ascetics who lived extraordinary lives of curiosity and goodness, coupled by an ever-deepening spirituality.

Part Two follows a geographical order. In this section, Kirk considers a variety of material that includes an extensive timeline spanning from 1900 BCE to 1967 AD. Topics discussed in this part deal with the biblical female images of God, the old city of Jerusalem, and the women who were prominent in this locale: Tamar at Jaffe Gate; Anne, Jesus' Grandmother inside St. Stephen's Gate; Mary Magdalene and the Chapel of Mary Magdalene; the tomb of Huldah, among others. Following a tour of Jerusalem, Kirk next takes readers to Israel and Palestine where one encounters Rachel's tomb, the cave of Paula and Jerome, Lot's daughters, Deborah, Hosea's unfaithful wife, women who were victims of war at Masada, Judith at Megiddo, and Ruth and Naomi at Tel Dan.

After visiting the landscape and prominent places of Israel and Palestine, Kirk takes readers to Sinai, Egypt, and Tunisia. As she has done in previous chapters, Kirk now draws attention to the importance of certain cities and geographical locations while focusing on various prominent women who were well known in these regions. Such women include the Hebrew midwives, Miriam, Pharaoh's daughter, Potipher's wife, as well as women in Early Christianity, inclusive of Saints Perpetua, Felicitas, and Monica—the mother of Augustine.

The next remaining five chapters of Part Two take readers to Iran, Iraq, Jordan (chapter 11), Lebanon and Syria (chapter 12), Greece and the Mediterranean Islands (chapter 13), and finally to Turkey (chapter 14). In each of these chapters, Kirk documents the lives and stories of the women who lived in these areas, and includes those figures less known in history. Kirk closes her travelogue with an appendix that focuses on Abigail, a woman whom she views as the personification of wisdom who has prepared a feast for all to enjoy.

Kirk's study is an informative catalogue that makes available the profile of countless women who lived in biblical times. Her approach is novel, and her material is a real treasure and contribution to biblical literature, especially for those interested in gender and women's studies. Although the volume is creative in design and presentation, at times I found it a bit tedious and repetitive in format. The travels were wonderful, but the journey became a bit tiresome toward the end. I recommend this well-researched and documented work to students, scholars, and general readers.

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