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Scripture and Ancient writings not cited in the extracts below this section.
“Many women have received power through the grace of God and have performed many deeds of manly valor.” Clement of Alexandria
The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host. Psalm 68:11
Sorting out the Marys – “This is an informal post sent to [Tabor] by e-mail from Wendy Pond one of [his] readers. [Tabor] asked her for her permission to pass it on. This matter of sorting out the Marys in the three anointing scenes in our gospels (Mark/Matt; Luke, and John) is a complex one.”
Deborah is one of the major judges (charismatic military leaders, not juridical figures) in the story of how Israel takes the land of Canaan. She is the only female judge, the only one to be called a prophet, and … from. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/deborah-bible
Judges 2 – 16 Then the Lord raised up judges,[c] who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges%202&version=NIV
Judges 4 – 4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges%204&version=NIV
- Yael plays an important role in the story of Israel’s wars with the Canaanites, described in the Book of Judges. In the narrative about the military heroine Deborah, Yael kills Sisera, the Canaanite general of King Jabin, after he escapes from the battle with Deborah’s general, Barak. From https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jael-bible
- See also – https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jael-wife-of-heber-kenite-midrash-and-aggadah
Thecla’s anonymity is all the more remarkable because women were so prominent in the formation of the church. The Gospels mention women who accompanied Jesus and the 12 apostles from town to town and supported them financially—Joanna, Mary Magdala, Susanna “and many others” (Luke 8:3). We know that Jesus considered himself “at home” in the home of Mary and her sister Martha (Luke 10:38–41; John 11:1–3, 12:2). After Jesus’ death, women evidently traveled as missionaries with their husbands or brothers (Romans 16:3, 7, 15); in Romans 16:7, Paul calls Junia an apostle, and he greets Euodia and Syntyche as “coworkers” (Philippians 4:2–3)—a term (in Greek, sunergos) that he usually reserved for apostles. Paul also makes it clear that women were expected to “prophesy” in the churches (1 Corinthians 11:5–10).
Tabitha (Acts 9:36–43) and Lydia (Acts 16:11–15, 40)
Tabitha was called a disciple, the only woman to receive this title in the Biblical corpus. She also acted as a patroness to the numerous widows who mourned her passing while plaintively displaying the clothing she had made “while she was with them.” Their grief was especially poignant since Tabitha’s loss may have put the widows in significant economic danger. While Tabitha’s resuscitation did demonstrate Peter’s authority, it also highlighted the indispensable leadership role that Tabitha played within her community.
Lydia’s characterization bears marked similarities to Eumachia. Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth, a luxury commodity that was sold mainly on the international market. The term “dealer” here designates someone who bought and sold (not manufactured) goods. Lydia and her household were baptized at her request, suggesting that she could make decisions for those under her authority without the oversight of a husband or male guardian. Lydia asked Paul to accept her hospitality in language that was quite forceful (Acts 16:15). However, there is no suggestion that this type of assertive behavior would have been considered unwomanly or shameful. On the contrary, Acts holds Lydia up as a moral exemplar for disciples of the risen Christ.
Finally, Esther instructed all the Jews to join her in fasting for three days and three nights. At the end of those three days, she would then approach the king with her request.
Anna is mentioned in the Bible as a prophetess and one of the people mentioned as connected to Jesus’ childhood. She was the daughter of Penuel from the tribe of Asher. Her name, is translated as “favor” or “grace.”
All we know of her is found in three verses in the New Testament book of Luke. .
“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” – Luke 2:36-38
Ruth ignores both of these cultural norms to follow Naomi. In addition, Ruth lived in a time and culture where younger people were expected to obey their elders, yet Ruth, refused to obey Naomi when she told her to go back home to her own people. Later, she boldly told Boaz, an older gentleman, what to he was to do (Ruth 3:9)!
Paul begins his list in Ephesians 4:11 with apostles. Apostles were people sent initially by Jesus (Mark 6:7; Gal. 1:1), and later by the church (Acts 13:1-3), to pioneer a new work which facilitated the spread of the gospel. In the New Testament, several people, apart from the Twelve, are mentioned as being apostles. One of these is a woman—Junia.
Junia and Andronicus (who may have been husband and wife) were members of the church in Rome; they may even have been the founders of the church there. Paul sends greetings to them in Romans 16:7 and speaks warmly of them, mentioning that he is relatives of them (or fellow Jews), and that they had become Christians before he did. Andronicus and Junia had suffered persecution because of their faith and at some point had been fellow prisoners with Paul. Paul also states that Andronicus and Junia were “outstanding among the apostles”.
Unfortunately, Junia’s impact as a precedent for female church leadership has been slight because many people have failed to realise that she was a woman. This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that, in the 13th century, a New Testament copyist masculinised her name to (the equivalent of) Junias. This alteration to scripture was then adopted by many English translations, until recently. However, in all the Greek manuscripts before the 13th century, Junia’s name is feminine and several early church theologians, such as Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome, referred to her as being both female and an apostle. Junia was one of the first female apostles, but many more apostolic women, throughout the church’s history, have pioneered new works which have facilitated the spread of the gospel. [More about Junia here.]
For 4,000 years Lilith has wandered the earth, figuring in the mythic imaginations of writers, artists and poets. Her dark origins lie in Babylonian demonology, where amulets and incantations were used to counter the sinister powers of this winged spirit who preyed on pregnant women and infants. Lilith next migrated to the world of the ancient Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites and Greeks. She makes a solitary appearance in the Bible, as a wilderness demon shunned by the prophet Isaiah. In the Middle Ages she reappears in Jewish sources as the dreadful first wife of Adam. https://www.baslibrary.org/bible-review/17/5/6
The Book of Judith—considered canonical by Roman Catholics, Apocrypha Literature by Protestants, and non-canon by Jews—tells the story of the ignominious defeat of the Assyrians, an army bent on world domination, by the hand of a Hebrew woman (Judith 13:14).
As a subscriber to the Biblical Archaeology Society Library, you are able to enjoy this remarkable collection of scholarly articles.
- “Lilith: Seductress, Heroine or Murderer?”
By Janet Howe Gaines
- “How Mary Magdalene Became a Whore”
By Jane Schaberg
- “First Lady Jezebel”
By Mary Joan Winn Leith
- “Forgotten Heroines of the Exodus”
By Tikva Frymer-Kensky
- “Esther Not Judith”
By Sidnie White Crawford
- “Rachel and Leah”
By Samuel Dresner
- “Thecla: The Apostle Who Defied Women’s Destiny”
By David R. Cartlidge
The Mothers of Israel – The patriarchal narratives from a feminist perspective