The Bible is sprinkled with fascinating, sometimes courageous, occasionally dynamic women and you may have never heard of them. Through my new blog series, I will cover a multitude of these women, and their stories, to better familiarize you with the often forgotten ladies of the bible.
Meet Anna, an old widow who lived in the Jerusalem temple, all day and all night. Let me introduce Claudia Proculo also known as the Samaritan Woman at the Well. They are just two of the women aristocrats, philanthropists, servants, mothers, wives or widows, and women who were ill, owned[BD1] homes, owned businesses or were divorced who make appearances in the New Testament. Some preached and taught, some provided financial support to Jesus’s ministry, and some traveled long distances to fulfill their call. Research in the last few decades has revealed a great deal about these women.
It is important to remember that women of the New Testament era were regarded as inferior and ranked with children and those who were enslaved. Perhaps the most revealing evidence of Jewish women’s status comes in a prayer that Jewish men said every morning. “Praised be God that he has not created me gentile; praised be God that he has not created me a woman.” For Jewish women — and other women of the time — the decision to preach and teach in public was radical and[BD2] placed them in the minority of the minority. Yet, with courage and an abundance of fortitude, they persevered. It is time more of us hear their stories.
The reality is that Scripture reflects the low status of women at the time of Jesus’s ministry, with often strange collections of seemingly random details about their lives. Some of the women are not quoted; some are unnamed; some are named, but we have no other information about them. Scholars, however, have begun providing context for their lives, explaining the significance of their work, and interpreting the Bible passages to help us understand the clues contained in them.
Most of us have heard of Mary, Mother of God, and Mary Magdalene, and maybe some unnamed women whom Jesus healed in his ministry, like the Syrophoenician woman. Have you ever heard of a woman prophet who spent so much time at the temple that she is said to have lived there? She was the first to proclaim Jesus the Messiah. Another woman was the first person to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead. Women financially supported Jesus’s ministry and had churches in their homes. Some women worked as missionaries, making believers of Gentiles and Israelites.
These dynamic stories of faithfulness and evangelizing are camouflaged, if not hidden, in the Apocrypha and New Testament. Research in the last few decades has uncovered and decoded these stories, using rigorous scholarly strategies to help us understand the contributions women made during Jesus’ years of ministry and later in sharing the good news of God’s love.
We look forward to telling these stories and hope you will find inspiration in them.