There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. These women speak a total of 14,056 words collectively — roughly 1.1 percent of the total words in the holy book.
These are the findings of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest who three years ago embarked on an unprecedented project: to count all the words spoken by women in the Bible. With the help of three other women in her church community — as well as highlighters, sticky notes and spreadsheets — Freeman painstakingly dissected the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version.
“I wanted to know what women in the Bible really said,” Freeman told The Huffington Post. “I was stunned to see that nobody had done this before.”
The women met in the basement of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, where Freeman served as rector at the time the project began. They worked to identify each woman who makes a speaking appearance in the Bible, how many words she utters and what her larger role is. Their efforts culminated in a final book, Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter, which was published in September 2014.
Some of the biblical women are prominent and well-known, like Jesus’ mother, Mary, who utters just 191 words. Mary Magdalene says 61 words, while Sarah, the wife of Abraham, says 141. Many of the female characters in the Bible go through what Freeman called “tremendous trauma,” and have largely been silenced over the centuries.
“We have for whatever reason overlooked the witness of women in the Bible for all these thousands of years and all the contributions they’ve made to the faith and to world history,” Freeman said. “We are just finally finding out their stories.”
Freeman is also the author of The Scarlet Cord: Conversations With God’s Chosen Women, which analyzed the stories of 12 women in the Bible.
Greg Carey, a New Testament professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, agreed with Freeman, and said her book performed “a valuable service” by elevating these women’s stories.
“Women’s contributions are scattered pretty thinly through its pages,” Carey told HuffPost. “By bringing these women and their stories into one place, Freeman opens an opportunity for us to see them as a whole.”
Freeman dedicated one chapter to her book to each book of the Bible, and the chapters are further divided into sections for each woman who appears in a given book. In Genesis, for instance, Freeman and her team found that 11 women speak, compared to 50 men.
Reading and analyzing the women’s narratives brought their stories to life, Freeman said, and helped her start to see them as “neighbors” with important wisdom to offer.
“I think they have a lot to share with us about what it means to believe, what it means to have faith,” Freeman reflected, noting the effect the work has had on her team.
“We have been transformed, our little group of four people,” she said. “We have cried over these stories, we have laughed over these stories. Our faith has been increased.”