Chapter 4 of Discovering Biblical Equality is a broad overview of women leaders in the Bible. Yesterday I told some friends that I was taking “Women in the Old Testament: Text and Context” for my summer class (and my last Biblical Studies Elective) and my husband joked that he didn’t know how that was possible since there weren’t many women in the Bible.
The Bible does contain more stories about men than it does about women. It was written during patriarchal times and we should expect nothing less. This is also representative of history. But instead of being surprised that there are not more women, we should be struck that there are women at all, much less doing the things these women are doing. This surprise is readily marked by how we try to change some of the stories. I’ve heard (and read in commentaries) that Deborah was only a judge because there were no men ready for the job. That is nowhere in Scripture; it has been made up. From the 1940s-1970s, the majority of English translation tried to change Junia the apostle to Junias the apostle (Junias is a nonexistent male name) because, of course, a woman couldn’t be an apostle. Once it had to be admitted that it was actually Junia, a lot of work has gone into changing her description to just be known to the apostles rather than being one of them. (A quick survey of the first page of google searches confirmed this.) Here’s a link to an academic paper, if you’re interested.
Women are all over the Bible doing a variety of work and if we are going to know Scripture and claim to be faithful to the story Scripture tells, we must tell their stories. They are good for women, yes, but also for men.