The Bible Passes the Bechdel Test. But It Also Goes Beyond It.

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After a data-driven study of women’s conversations in Scripture, here’s what I found.

Recently, a friend asked on Twitter if the Bible passes the Bechdel-Wallace test. Although this question has been asked on the internet before, my friend’s tweet made me wonder if I could use my Bible programming skills to do a deeper data-drive analysis than what I found online. (One of the best iterations comes from a blogger priest named Paidiske.)

If you’re not familiar with it, the Bechdel test “is a measure of the representation of women” in movies and books. It’s based on a comic by Alison Bechdel that suggests a work must contain a scene that meets three specific criteria: (1) at least two named women who (2) talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.

The films in the Star Wars franchise can serve as an example of the test’s usefulness. The first Star Wars movie was praised for presenting a strong female character in Princess Leia. However, the only other named female character in the movie is Aunt Beru, but she and Leia never meet or talk, so the film fails the Bechdel test. By contrast, The Force Awakens (episode VII) includes a scene in which Rey and Maz Kanata discuss Rey’s destiny, which passes all three elements of the Bechdel test.

The Bible certainly doesn’t need to pass the Bechdel test in order to be God’s Word. That would probably be a bad example of presentism. But the test can still be a useful way of reexamining the biblical stories and seeing God’s care for all image bearers.

Part of my interest in this question comes from the fact that I like playing with Bible data. But the deeper reason is that I am married to an incredible woman whose depths I have only just begun to see over the last 15 years, and I am father to an indescribably …

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