I Tertius -- By: Jeff David Miller
PP 31:2 (Spring 2017) p. 2
Genesis 29:25 is one of the Bible’s more startling verses: “When morning came, there was Leah!” (NIV). Have you ever wondered how Jacob could not know—for the better part of a day and all of a night—that he had married Leah instead of Rachel? Surely several factors were at work, and just as surely one factor was Leah’s veil. This unusual event prompts my thinking: Much like the literal veiling of Leah caused her to be obscured and overlooked, the figurative veiling of many other biblical women sometimes hides them from our view.
In some cases, a Bible woman is overlooked simply because she is a minor character (such as Zilpah in Genesis 29-46 and Rhoda in Acts 12). In other cases, a woman who is indeed a major character is veiled by minimizing her role in the text. Examples include viewing Deborah as weak without Barak or Priscilla as legitimized by Aquila. As I ponder examples of the virtual veiling of Bible women, I recall the overlooked slave girl who gives wise counsel to the wife of Naaman regarding his “leprosy,” resulting in a healing encounter with the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 5:2-4). I think also of Acts 16. Here Lydia plays a prominent role and is therefore well known. In contrast, however, the women with Lydia (v. 13), Timothy’s mother (v. 1), and the slave woman of Philippi (vv. 16-19), all found elsewhere in Acts 16, are often overlooked.
This veiling is sometimes done by the author. For example, Matthew 8, Mark 1, and Luke 4 mention Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, but we learn neither her name nor the name of her daughter (Simon’s wife). Other times, such veiling is the fault of translators. The case of Junia, called an apostle in Romans 16:7, is familiar to most readers of Priscilla Papers and is a prime example. In various other texts, it may be preachers, teachers, or commentators who veil biblical women.
Many millions of Christians are only vaguely aware of the numerous women who occupy the pages of their Bibles. We must reverse this reality. We can all contribute to discovering and making known the women of the Bible story. Those of us who preach or teach, those of us who lead, those of us who write, whe...
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