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Study of biblical women wins gold

06 February 2015


Louder than words: a 15th-century Italian sculpture depicting Eve handing the forbidden fruit to Adam  

Louder than words: a 15th-century Italian sculpture depicting Eve handing the forbidden fruit to Adam  

FOUR years ago, a small group of women in an Episcopal church in the United States - Trinity, Excelsior, in Minnesota - sat down to study the words spoken by women in the Bible.

They ended up counting all of the 14,000 words voiced by women - out of a total of 1.1 million spoken words recorded in the Bible - and this research has now been turned into an award-winning book, Bible Women: All their words and why they matter. Its author, the Revd Lindsay Hardin Freeman, said that she and the three others in her group - including a teenager and a librarian - were stunned to find out that no one had studied in detail before the voices of women in the Bible. Counting the words spoken was only "incidental" to the project to document those words and learn from them today, she said.

"We went through the entire Bible, word for word, then put their words on spreadsheets, documenting each one. We then looked at each woman: Who was she? What was her context? What were her personality attributes? Friendly? Outspoken? Faithful? Resentful? We found out there were 93 women who spoke.

"It was only at the end of the process that we counted the number of words each woman said, giving us as complete a picture as possible. Some of the most famous women in the Bible said very little, surprisingly, and some of the ones who talked the most are very unfamiliar - Mary, the mother of Jesus, utters 191 words, and Eve just 74. In contrast, Judith in the Book of Judith in the Apocrypha, has the most to say, with 2689 words.

"We didn't count the words of Bible women to do an intellectual exercise. We counted them because we really wanted to know what the women had to say."

The book won the gold medal for Bible study in the Illumination Book Awards last month. It is published by the Forward Movement, in Cincinnati, with funding from Episcopal Church Women.

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