If you’ve ever looked at the “We Believe” statements on church websites, you’ll often come across a line like this:
“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired.”
If you look at some websites for lists of biblical authors, you’ll find that many lists include only men.
This is simply wrong. The Bible was written by both women and men.
First off, our modern ideas of authorship rarely apply to the different books of the Bible. While there are some instances of a single person sitting down and composing an entire book, this was rarely how writing (particularly religious writing) worked in the ancient near east. Instead of thinking of authors, we’d be better served to think of editors and contributors.
Contributors are those who had stories, records, or details that were collected throughout the centuries. Later on editors (or certain schools and sects in both pre- and post-exilic Israelite religion) brought all of these sources together and brought them into a unified collection, what we now call “books.”
We can see the “seams” of these different sources particularly in the history books of the Old Testament. There are references to sources like “The Annals of the Kings of Israel” or “The Book of Wars.” Luke says in his opening paragraph that he gathered sources from many places. For instance, there would be no better contributor to the annunciation stories than Mary herself.
We also know in the Gospels that The Twelve abandoned Jesus at the cross and that only the women stood nearby. We rely on those women’s testimony of what was said at the cross; and of course of the resurrection event itself since they alone went to the tomb early on Easter morning.
Books like Ruth and Esther would be very difficult to compile without firsthand testimony from Ruth and Esther themselves.
Furthermore, we see contributions, such as prayers and songs, that are explicitly by women (a list is below). We can’t say that Bible was written only by men when we know that Mary was the author of the Magnificat or that Hannah composed a prayer after the dedication of her son.
List of Female Contributors/Authors to Scripture
- Miriam Sister to Moses. “Song of Moses and Miriam,” Exodus 15:1-21
- Deborah Ruler of Israel. “Song of Deborah and Barak,” Judges 5
- Ruth and Naomi. First-person contributions to Ruth.
- Hannah Mother of Samuel. “Prayer of Hannah,” 1 Samuel 2:1-10
- Huldah Prophet during time of Josiah. 2 Kings 22:15-20/2 Chronicles 34:23-28
- Esther. First-person contributions to Esther, particularly Esther 4 and 5.
- Mary Mother of Jesus. First-person contributions to the annunciation, Luke 1:26-45. “The Magnificat,” Luke 1:46-55. Probably primarily source for Luke 2 (cf. 2:19; 51b).
- Women at the Cross Perhaps the majority of the crucifixion and resurrection accounts. They were some of the only eyewitnesses around. See Mark 14:50 (“And everyone left him”) and Mark 15:40 (“Some women were watching from a distance”).