Who Was Dorcas?
Dorcas, also called Tabitha, is a woman described in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. She is significant because of her charitable nature, the fact that she was a disciple of Christ, and also because, through Peter’s faith, she is raised from the dead. Dorcas may be used as an example of the truly charitable woman in daily living, and for pursuing a lifestyle consistent with strong Christian values.
The only mention of this woman in the Bible is in Acts 9:36-42. Just a few verses are dedicated to her, but they tell the reader quite a bit about her. First, she is especially noted for helping the poor, and when she dies, widows are depicted as showing all the clothes that she made for them, as they weep and mourn her death.
Peter prays at Dorcas’ bedside and calls to her to get up. She is revived and becomes living testimony of presence of God. In the New International Version of the Bible, the verses about her end with “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”
There is great significance in this small passage, since Dorcas is one of the only women in the Bible who is specifically called a disciple of Christ. Many women are termed Christ’s followers, but this woman is one of the only ones who is viewed as actively spreading the word of Christ, though in a quiet way, through her charitable deeds. Some sects of Christianity may interpret the story in various ways to argue for the role of women in their churches. This role may be given greater or less importance depending upon interpretation.
Dorcas/Tabitha is known for performing traditional women’s work, such as the making of clothing as a charitable gesture. This may be used to argue that women should follow Christ by pursuing traditionally feminine roles. Alternately, some Christian feminists argue that her being called a disciple grants permission for women to seek greater leadership roles in their churches, since there is scriptural basis for these roles. How the story is interpreted depends much on the particular sect of Christianity from which a person comes.
The name of this disciple should not be confused with its modern homonym, dorkis. This is usually an insulting term, meant to imply stupidity. Actually both the names attributed to this woman were once frequently chosen as girls’ names, especially before the mid 20th century. The former has fallen out of favor, particularly with the rise in popularity of “dorkis” as an insult. The latter name is still considered a good name for girls.
Names are funny things. I wonder how our ancestors would feel to know that a name like Dorcas, such a good character in the Bible for those who believe in it, would now be synonymous with calling someone an idiot. They would be disappointed, I imagine, but it's just the way language develops.
I had not realized before that Tabitha was a biblical name; I suppose I always thought of this woman by the Dorcas name, one which admittedly I have never thought was very pretty. I guess this shows, though, how important even the minor characters in the Bible can be for teaching different lessons- especially when it comes to modern interpretation.
Post your comments