Their Enduring Lessons

T J Wray’s book (Dr Tina Wray) Good Girls Bad Girls of the New Testament : Their Enduring Lessons is a companion book to Good Girls Bad Girls: the Enduring Lessons of Twelve Women of the Old Testament. Dr Wray is Associate Professor of Religious and Theological Studies at Salve Regina University, Newport Rhode Island.

The book is divided into two parts. Part I comprises Sisters, Sinners and Supporters which includes Martha and Mary of Bethany, Bernice and Drusilla, granddaughters of Herod the Great, the Adulterous woman of John’s Gospel, the woman with a twelve year haemorrhage, Mary Magdalene and Tabitha.  Part II sheds light on the lives of Mothers, Murderers and Missionaries such as Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, Mary of Nazareth, Herodias and the beheading of John the Baptist, the wife of Pontius Pilate, Prisca a missionary to Paul, and the Samaritan woman at the well.

Wray brings to life the women of her stories even if unnamed. Because many were unnamed, she contends, that they are ‘often more forgettable and overlooked, particularly in the patriarchal culture that has for centuries dominated Jewish and religious institutions’. The lives of women of the first centuries in Roman-occupied Judea were subject to ‘strict social and religious rules and patriarchy was the norm’.

Each story of the book has a formulaic structure. At the beginning there is an extract from the sources in scripture which sets the scene for her analysis of the biblical text of the story. For example the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. She suggests that Jesus’ encounter with the woman are in fact a series of lessons which serve as a a model of Christian behaviour toward others. By way of explanation, she draws on externals texts, the work of scholars and comparisons with what happens in today’s society. For example there is some discussion on the importance of chance meetings with strangers and the great conversations that can result such as on a plane on a long haul journey. She does this to make the story more relatable to her students. It also makes for good reading and makes the scripture more meaningful by placing the story in historical context as well so that students of today who may be unfamiliar with the characters spoken about in scripture and unfamiliar with the context, can understand the impact of what the story is attempting to convey. For instance the fact that Jews and Samaritans were sworn enemies.

At the end of the analysis, Wray reviews the enduring lessons that each story has for us. In the case of the Samaritan woman at the well, not only is it that the woman finally comprehends what Jesus is saying to her which changes her life forever as she hurries away to tell everyone about the ‘wise Rabbi from the Galilee’ but how the story of Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman ‘challenges the prevailing social norms of the day relating to gender, ethnicity and religion’.

This original article was written by Moira Coombs