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Biblical Archaeology Review 46:4, Fall 2020

Epistles: How Many?

Biblical Archaeology Review

How many women are called disciples in the New Testament?

Answer: One

Tabitha (Dorcas) is called a disciple in Acts 9:36, which makes her the only woman with that title in the New Testament. Tabitha lived in Joppa (modern Tel Aviv-Yafo) and was known for her “good works” and “acts of charity” (Acts 9:36). When she dies, the disciples urge the apostle Peter to come. He comes and prays for her to be restored to life, and she is (Acts 9:37-42).

In the New Testament, the Greek term “disciples” (mathētai) refers both generally to the whole community of Jesus’s followers (e.g., Acts 6:2, Acts 6:7) and sometimes specifically to the Twelve Apostles (e.g., Matthew 10:1). Although Tabitha is the only woman called a disciple in the New Testament, there certainly were others. For example, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are listed as being with Jesus during his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). They are not specifically called disciples, even though they clearly were.

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