On Praising the Silent Voices of Women

By on October 26, 2017

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” Virginia Woolf once observed.

A recent movie shown on PBS, To Walk Invisible, showed some of the challenges that women authors have endured. It tells the story of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, who produced classics of literature like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfeld Hall.

However, they weren’t able to get their novels published as women. They had to choose men’s names –Currier, Ellis, and Acton Bell—to submit their works to publishers. Only after they’d been proven to be popular writers did they reveal their genders.

Why, up until recently, were most “classic” authors men?  Part of it had to do with the sparse opportunities for education that most women had. Others had to do with prejudices about women, that they were not capable of being scholarly, dispassionate, or even creative with words.

So some created classics of literature with little or no credit. Women authors having hidden identities is part of ancient history. Sometimes such women wrote masterpieces and the men in their lives took the credit.

However, other parts of the Bible are certainly composed by women who did get credit for their words:  the eloquent statements of Hannah, Mary, Miriam and others. And not surprisingly, even the ideal “Proverbs 31 woman” was first described, not by a man, but by a woman.

Most significant, though, would be the idea that a whole book of the New Testament was written by a woman. People have puzzled for centuries over the mysterious author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which contains sophisticated concepts and explanations that are unique. Though centuries after its writing, some people attributed it to Paul, most modern scholars disagree. In spite of the fact that its ideas were early on accepted as Holy Writ, even some of the first church fathers would have agreed with Origen (3rd century A. D.), who said, “Only God knows the truth as to who actually wrote the epistle.”

Could the reason for its anonymity be that it was written by a woman?  Many modern scholars think it was written by a classically-educated patrician Roman woman named Priscilla. She’s unique among all women of the Bible in that over half the times she is mentioned along with her husband Aquila, her name comes first.  That’s very unusual in any ancient document.

One thing is for sure:  There must be a reason for all the mystery about the author of Hebrews, and, given the “anonymous” role of women writers throughout all but the most recent years, perhaps it was this great woman.

~ By Latayne C. Scott

Latayne C. Scott, PhD, is the award-winning author over two dozen books, the latest of which is a novel based on the premise that Priscilla did indeed write the Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Conspiracy of Breath (TSU Press, 2017.) If Priscilla did write Hebrews and Scott has “ghost written” her autobiography, it would be of the best-selling woman writer of all history, with over 5 billion copies of the Bible in print.

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On Praising the Silent Voices of Women