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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Also known as…

Recently I read about one of Peter’s first encounters with Jesus when Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone)” (John 1:42 NKJV). As I thought about this, I recalled some Old Testament figures who also had their names changed: Abram and Sarai (Abraham and Sarah), Jacob, who became Israel, and Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6-7).

As a Memory Checker, there are several New Testament personalities known by two different names, or by nicknames. I can think of six counting Peter. How about you?

I’ll give you my list in a later post and you can let me know of any I missed.

One such individual will be the focus of the next few posts. Found in the book of Acts, she is known by a Hebrew (or Aramaic) and a Greek name. Hers is a story of faithful service cut short by an untimely death, and the miracle which led to the conversion of many in her home city. Her name? Tabitha—or Dorcas.

Thanks for stopping by. It’s always nice to have the company of friends during a long and interesting journey!

Named prophetesses in the Bible

A recent Memory Checker asked how many named prophetesses are found in the Bible.

Here is the list:

Miriam (Exodus 15:20)
Deborah (Judges 4:4)
Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-28)
Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14)
Anna (Luke 2:36)

There are two references to unnamed prophetesses:
Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3)
Philip’s four virgin daughters (Acts 21:8-9)

References in prophecy:
Joel 2:28 (also quoted in Acts 2:17)

Self-proclaimed:
Jezebel (Revelation 2:20)

There are many opinions and speculations concerning the duties and activities of prophetesses, but the references listed above are all the Bible has to say on the matter.

Anna the Prophetess: A Life in Three Verses

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 NKJV

Several years ago my husband and I found ourselves in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, surrounded not only by the history of the Bible, but also immersed in the culture of the land.

During a day tour of some well-known biblical sites, our group listened as the minister explained the significance of the particular location. Distracted by the sounds of happy people walking down a nearby road, we all turned to look. “It’s a wedding procession,” our guide explained as the celebrants continued on their way.

Meet Anna
It occurs to me now that what we witnessed was probably very like a day in the life of Anna so many hundreds of years ago. I can imagine her, very young, perhaps 13 or so, dressed in her elaborately embroidered wedding clothes and adorned with jewels, gifts from her future husband. She may have been only 12 when the marriage was arranged, her father, Phanuel, accepting the customary dowry as a sort of compensation to him for the loss of an “asset.” Then the yearlong betrothal period began, the future union assured.

Anna’s roots
Phanuel came from the somewhat insignificant tribe of Asher, his family likely a part of a small devout group of exiled Israelites who returned after their Assyrian captivity. It is possible that Anna, from a very young age, was taught to anticipate the arrival of the promised Deliverer of Israel.

From wife to widow
What were those early years of marriage like for Anna? I wonder. Children were a blessing from God, and the more the better, especially if they were sons. There is no record of children for Anna, and being barren would have been a source of great grief. But that was only the beginning.

Seven years after that joyous wedding procession, Anna found herself suddenly widowed and vulnerable. Her options were few: return to her father’s home or enter into a levirate marriage. The Scriptures make no mention of either in Anna’s life, so quite probably she eventually sank into a life of poverty.

A lifetime later
By the time we meet Anna in Scripture she is old—at least 84 and possibly even past 100. She has  found sanctuary and fulfillment within the temple precincts, probably living in a small cubical adjacent to the Court of the Women. Luke says she “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” And with good reason.

Eyewitness to a dangerous world
Anna’s world had been fraught with conquest and violence. In her lifetime she had witnessed the Roman general Pompey arriving with his legions in Jerusalem. She lived through the bloody Jewish rebellion as Rome tried to divide their territory. She survived horrifying events as Herod mounted a siege attack on Jerusalem in 37 B.C. to quash all resistance to him as “King of the Jews,” and the resulting slaughter of its inhabitants, even those seeking refuge in the temple.

It must have been distressing to watch political maneuverings during temple proceedings among the religious leaders of the day. Year after year she endured, and year after year she faithfully served God, praying and fasting and clinging to the hope of redemption in Jerusalem.

Prophetess, mentor or both?
Anna is called a prophetess. Did she have a special gift of being able to foretell specific future events? She certainly looked for the Messiah and spoke often about that hope.

Or was she a mentor? Matthew Henry’s Commentary comments on Luke 2:36: “Perhaps no more is meant than that she was one who had understanding in the scriptures above other women, and made it her business to instruct the younger women in the things of God.” (From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database, 2003, Biblesoft, Inc.) Whatever the case, her dedication was rewarded in an unexpected event.

Blessings and thanksgiving
On a very special day a young mother named Mary brought her firstborn son to Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice of purification. Anna must have witnessed or even assisted in such activities often over the years, but this occasion was much different. Simeon, a just man waiting for the consolation of Israel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit offered a special blessing over this tiny infant whom he cradled in his arms.

Overhearing Simeon’s words, Anna knew that she had just seen the child destined to become the light of the gentiles and the glory of Israel. Luke says, “And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (2:38).

A life in three verses
Though Anna’s life is reduced to only three verses in the whole of the Bible, those three verses provide an inspiring portrait and model of a truly godly woman—one who didn’t flag in her dedication to God, her service to others or in her unwavering hope for the future

By way of explanation

WomenfromtheBook Blog: Introduction, Part 2

Today I’ll explain my approach for future postings, and include some research basics.

Good research depends on the quality and integrity of the sources consulted, and not all sources are equal. Of course, a primary source tops the list, and for me that is the Bible. Everything I incorporate from secondary sources will serve only to add further texture and dimension to what the Bible provides.

As for research basics, here are a few I consider most important:
• Cross-check sources to verify information.
• Provide links when possible; otherwise furnish citations where appropriate.
• Keep research files in case of questions or fact-checking.

Before I close, let me ask how many women you were able to recall after yesterday’s Memory Checker? 10? 20? All 188? I’m keeping my list for future reference—seeds for blogs to come.

Memory Checker: List at least four prophetesses who are named in the Bible.

And speaking of prophetesses, we’ll meet one in the next post. Until then, thanks for stopping by. Fellow travelers are always welcome!

A New Blog is Born

WomenfromtheBook Blog: An Introduction

Welcome to my new blog, one dedicated to researching women from the Bible. This topic has been a decades-long interest for me. I hope it might become one for you, too, as I share my journey of discovery.

A new beginning
Several years ago I began breaking in a new Bible. I have adopted the habit of marking my Bible with color-coding for various topics: red for commandments; blue for fulfilled prophecy, purple for promises, and so on. This time I added a new color—pink—for women. I didn’t just highlight specific women, like Eve, Rachel, Leah, or Tabitha; I also marked terms for categories of women, like prophetess or widow.

My ongoing goal has been to read the Bible through in one year. So the new Bible gave me the perfect opportunity to begin a year of reading and to mark a clean copy of the Bible at the same time. It’s amazing now when I flip through its pages to note all the pink, and still I find some that I have overlooked.

A caveat
One caveat to reading through the Bible by schedule is that meeting the daily reading requirement can easily become an end in itself. I have found myself simply reading over many details and personages in order to get to the end of the day’s assignment. Now I’m trying to train myself to keep a careful eye out for women as I read. I have a Bible reading notebook, and frequently note a name or question to remind me to look for further details.

Avoid a dead end
I’ve learned several lessons along the way and I’ll share an obvious one: the farther one goes back in history, the fewer the resources that are available; and the fewer the resources, the more speculation fills in the blanks. I plan to avoid speculating unless I clearly identify it as such.

Here is a case in point. I participated in a women’s conference some time ago, my general topic being women from the Bible. As an ice-breaker I gave all the attendees a handout and asked them to write down the names of several Bible women they found interesting, with the promise that we would come back to it later in the session. Ultimately I asked them to refer to their list, choose one name, and find out all they could about their person, answering questions of who, what, where, when, and why. I have no way of knowing if any followed through, but I’m hopeful.

Most of those attending picked predictable women like Martha, Mary, Ruth, and Esther. One, however, chose Eve. I mention this because some Bible personalities lead to a dead-end when it comes to historical or cultural research. There is plenty of material about Eve with regard to doctrine or as an object lesson, but it is impossible to research her further than what the Bible itself reveals.

Next time
In the next blog I’ll explain my approach for future posts and include some research basics as well.

Memory Tester: Wikipedia states there are 188 named women in the Bible. List as many as you can from memory.

Until next time, thank you for visiting WomenfromtheBook Blog.

PS Please check the About and Resources tabs for more information.

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