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July 4th, 2012

Were there any women writers of the Bible?

 
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Despite all of our scholarly and historical research, no one can pinpoint exactly who the human authors of most of the books of the Bible were. The writer we have the most biographical information about is St. Paul (ex: The Letter of Paul to the Romans), but otherwise, the ancient writers gave us very little to no information about themselves as authors.

When the books of the Bible were being written 2,000-3,000 years ago, only a very small percentage of people would have been able to read and write. Of those, even fewer women would have been educated. That is not to say that women couldn’t have written parts of the Bible or contributed to its compilation, just that they would have been in the extreme minority.

Even for those books that are attributed to male names (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Peter, Timothy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc) we don’t know precisely who the writers were. It was common in ancient times for literature to circulate anonymously and later be attributed to a public figure to give it more clout. Such was the case with the gospels. They weren’t named until several decades after they were written. Of the four gospels, there has been some recent scholarly speculation that perhaps the Gospel of John – which is especially positive in its portrayal of women – might have had a woman as its primary source. To read more about this theory, check out Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel by Sandra Schneiders, IHM.

 
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The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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