In this paper I examine three female prophets: Deborah (Judg 4–5), Huldah (2 Kgs 22 and 2 Chr 34), and Innibana (ARM 26 205). The focus is on how female prophets are constructed in these texts and contexts. For the scholar of the ancient Near East, Huldah looks like a familiar character, with the twist that her authority is constructed differently from that of non-biblical ancient Near Eastern prophets. Deborah’s combination of judge and prophet is even more noticeable in that regard. The construction of Deborah as a woman within Israelite society in that text is rather ambiguous. As I will argue, this ambiguity is characteristic of Second Temple construction of female prophecy.
This paper explores the ambiguous connection between women and prophecy in ancient Greece. The issue of the genealogy of the prophetic seat of Delphi – the most authoritative oracle of ancient Greece – is first dealt with in relation to Aeschylus’ Eumenides (458 B. C. E.), where the gift of prophecy is said to have been first endowed to Gaia, Mother Earth, to be passed on from mother to daughter until it is given to Apollo, the god of prophecy. Starting from this testimony, the role of Gaia is used in the paper as a key to understanding the motherly symbols associated with prophecy. The paper further explores how the powerful prophetic voice and role of the Pythia is “normalized” in the context of fifth century Athens, where women were not allowed to be public speakers or agents and where the dominant male voice constructed any public feminine voice as inappropriate or deviant. In this respect, the paper points out how in the Athenian representation of the Pythia, the authoritative heir of Gaia is reduced to a reconciling woman acting as a devout supporter of men and their authority.
This article discusses rabbinic references to Miriam’s prophetic speaking and the question of her value as a female prophet. The focus is on specific passages in the Babylonian Talmud Sotah and Exodus Rabbah and their portrait of Miriam as a female prophet. Other rabbinic texts add some further aspects to this picture. In contrast to the biblical accounts in Exod 2 and 15, the rabbinic texts transfer Miriam’s prophecy to her childhood and focus on Moses alone. Furthermore, Miriam’s prophecy is restricted to family affairs and the birth of children, in particular Moses’s birth. She is elaborately depicted as a motherly and caring midwife. Rabbinic interpretations of Num 12 criticize her speech as improper for a woman. Thus, Miriam’s image as a female prophet in rabbinic texts remains ambivalent, estimating her role as a prophet and, at the same time, criticizing her as a woman and restricting her to the “female” sphere of family and care.
In this article I analyze disbelief of the divine messages transmitted by female figures in the Jewish texts Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, Jubilees, and the Sibylline Oracles. After a careful reading of these passages I turn to the portrayal of the figure of Cassandra in ancient Greek literature. While Cassandra’s prophecies are truthful, she is not believed and instead is accused of being mentally ill. Significantly, Cassandra does not appear randomly in ancient Greek texts; her depiction invites the public to ask questions concerning truth and persuasion. This article considers the treatment of Cassandra as a possible model for understanding the characterizations of women prophets as unreliable in ancient Jewish texts. Finally I argue that whereas in Greek texts both men and women appear as unreliable prophets, in the Jewish texts unreliability appears to be a female characteristic.