An appreciation for the voices of biblical women that contrast long-held beliefs about their role and value, this book provides a framework for women to use their life experiences, intellect, and faith to question and interpret biblical texts. The book challenges traditional interpretations of the stories of selected biblical women by asking difficult questions, such as Where are the stories of women? Why are many of them labeled prostitutes, virgins, or mothers? and What has been written or left unwritten about these women in the Bible? The stories of many women—some familiar and some not—shepherd readers toward biblical literacy through a greater understanding of the biblical author’s intent, the geographical location of the story, and the culture of the time. Backed by extensive research and told in accessible and engaging prose, it provides a window into the lives of biblical women who have had their stories told about them but have not told their own story.
As believers, it is important to examine why we believe the things we believe. Do we study the Bible to understand an ancient people writing about their experience of the creation and their relationship with their creator, a people heavily influenced by the civilizations surrounding them? Do we read the Bible to learn about a prescientific people trying to make sense of the world around them? Do we interpret the Bible to apply a set of Bronze Age rules to a 21st century people? I have heard people question Muslim women who wear hijab and burqas. A burqa covers the body from head to toe with a small mesh at the eyes to see through. Why, they ask, do you continue to accept a style of dress that was dictated in the seventh century C.E.? Yet many Christian women accept an interpretation of their scriptures done by male biblical writers through the centuries—interpretations which may not be relevant to the twenty-first century and may, in fact, represent the interpreter’s bias against women and not what is best for women. Why do we believe what we believe? The simple answer is the stories have been handed down to us through interpretations that leave out some of the most interesting and vital information about biblical women.
For the most part, women in the Bible do not tell their own stories. The stories of the women in the Bible are told about them and are often interpreted in very derogatory ways. Many of these voiceless women do not have names. We do not know how the women in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures felt about the circumstances of their lives. For example, how did Bathsheba feel when her first child died? We are told about David but not Bathsheba, but women know how she must have felt! What was it like for the young widow, Ruth, to leave all she had ever known and go to a new country with her mother-in-law? How brave and desperate the hemorrhaging woman who touched the fringe of Jesus’ tunic must have been. How horrible her life must have been to take the terrible risk she did.
Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti is a passionate advocate for women’s rights, inclusive language and biblical literacy. She holds a B.A. in Religion from Chapman University, an M.A. in Religion from Liberty University and a Doctor of Ministry in International Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She has taught Women and Religion and Women’s History classes for Chapman University and is past co-convener of the Women’s Caucus of the American Academy of Religion. She is a regular contributor to the Words of Faith column in the Desert Sun News. Dr. Trimble-Familetti lives in Indio and Big Bear City, California with her husband of thirty years.