Women of the Bible Emerge from the Background

By Haslam, Gail | The Christian Science Monitor, February 22, 2001 | Go to article overview

Women of the Bible Emerge from the Background


Haslam, Gail, The Christian Science Monitor


This hefty tome, the size of which belies the relative paucity of female characters in the Bible, will sell, if for no other reason than curiosity. Who are these women who slipped through the centuries-old phalanx of mostly male writers and editors? Are they all milkmaids and drawers of water? What stories do they have to tell? What contributions do they make?

The introduction to "Women in Scripture" is careful to point out that of the 205 named women, several share the same name, and often the same woman is referred to in different sections of the Bible. This brings the total down to 162 distinct women.

More sobering is that women's names in Scripture represent between 5.5 and 8 percent of all the names, a stunning reflection of the male-centered focus of the Bible.

Not since Edith Deen's groundbreaking anthology of Biblical women in 1955 has there been such a monumental undertaking as "Women in Scripture," a collaborative work of more than 70 Bible scholars representing the best and most up-to-date feminist biblical scholarship.

Like the woman in Luke searching diligently for her lost coin, these scholars have painstakingly combed every inch of Scripture - both Old and New Testaments as well as the deuterocanonical books (better known as the Apocrypha) - to find and present as near exhaustive a list as can be of female personages in a user- friendly book. For those women seeking assurance that the Bible does indeed speak for them, and for everyone who might want a refreshingly different look at Scripture through the eyes of women, this book is cause enough for rejoicing.

"Women in Scripture" is divided into three sections. The first operates like a dictionary, listing all the named women in Scripture with detailed descriptions of their roles, and in many cases, offering some pleasantly surprising information.

We learn, for example, that Huldah was a female prophet, a contemporary of Jeremiah, who authenticated Moses' law code in Deuteronomy as God's word, destined to became the authoritative core of the Bible. …

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