Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin
This review was originally published in Spiritual Uprising Magazine's May 2014 issue and is reprinted with permission. I encourage you to check out Spiritual Uprising at www.up-ministries.org/spiritual-uprising-magazine.html
I started reading Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin as part of my Providence Circle. The goal was that we would read the book chapter by chapter and then get together to discuss. While we haven’t been able to meet as often as we would like, I have read the book on my own.
I think that this book has great insight. For those Christians who are bothered by the seemingly male-dominated quality of Christian history, reading a book about twelve women in the New Testament and learning about their role in the Apostolic era is eye-opening.
Turpin’s writing is good. You can tell in reading her work how much she has studied the Apostolic era—the research she has done into ancient Christian tradition (most of which have been forgotten by all but the academics in the Church) is phenomenal. Most Christians know little about Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, or Tabitha. Most of us have never even heard of Prisca or Lydia. Turpin tells the stories of these women with devotion and full belief.
My primary critique of this book comes from her lack of citations. She will say something and cite it in tradition, but usually never mentions which text to find the story in. She puts complete faith in obscure texts that the Church has never claimed to be true or infallible. Like many Catholics, she tries to get rid of the discomfort of mystery by giving credence to unsubstantiated traditions. Yet, her work allows the reader to connect with scripture in a whole new way. In addition, while some of the traditions she cites might be suspect or have been completely cast off by most Christians (the stories of Mary’s childhood, for example), she also uses finds from modern archaeology to help her tell the story—and that works beautifully.
Turpin’s book is not only educational, but spiritual. She includes great discussion questions that are useful both for a group reading and a personal reading. Each chapter ends with a prayer, making it a great choice for spiritual reading.
In the end, while I would caution readers new to the study of Biblical History to not take everything Turpin says as fact, I would definitely recommend this book as a great read for a group or personal spiritual reading.