It’s no secret that women are vastly underrepresented in Scripture. And since the women mentioned by name are so few, I take notice any time one enters the scene. Most recently, I came upon the story of Tabitha (Dorcas), whom Peter raised from the dead.
Although there’s very little said about Tabitha, what IS there implies that she was a beloved member of her community, with a ministry for the poor. After her death, those who knew her show Peter the clothing that she made during her life. The grief is palpable in this simple act. Everything about this encounter asserts one thing: Tabitha mattered.
She mattered so much, in fact, that Peter saw it fitting to bring her back from the dead. We don’t hear about her again, but one can assume she continued to do good in God’s name in her “second life.”
I was excited to attend my Bible study class after this reading, hoping to gain more insight into Tabitha, her role in the early church, and by extension, the role of women in the early church. But when we popped in the Jeff Cavins’ DVD for Acts Chapter 9, I was dismayed that he didn’t have one word to say about Tabitha. It was as if she wasn’t even there.
And this is the filter through which girls and women must receive their Bible education: through priests and “scholars” who consider the rare mentions of women in Biblical stories to be inconsequential to the big picture. It is rather inconvenient, after all. Think about how much harder it would be to get women to be content with cleaning the Church and teaching CCD if we were fully aware of what is clear in the rare instances where women appear in the Bible: That to Jesus, and to the early Church, women mattered. And we still matter today, no matter who tries to tell us differently.