Saturday, January 22, 2011

Put a Dorcas in the Window

From the BBC: 10 Christian names you don't really hear.  Dorcas is one of the names listed on this irreverent list of odd or out of favor first names.  I actually have a vaguely-related and distant ancestor named Dorcas Bent.  I suppose it's better than Bent Dorcas.

Names can be cruel!

After first writing this post I was going to bin it, but in looking up Dorcas on Wikkelypeedia a few days later I learned a few interesting things which mesh with our interests here at LoS.  First of all, Dorcas is the Greek version of her name, in Aramaic she'd be known as Tabitha, which today sounds a lot better than the former, methinks.

Tabitha aka Dorcas was a woman from Joppa whose story is found in the Book of Acts 9:36–42.

"Tabitha/Dorcas is one of the few women whose name was remembered and preserved in New Testament writings, which makes this passage most interesting, and may indicate her importance in the early church. Another point of interest is the fact that she is clearly named as a disciple, which may indicate a broader usage of that term by the early church than is generally accepted today. It may also indicate that she was a church leader in the community of Joppa."

Dorcas was a notable seamstress, perhaps a widow who went about distributing clothes to the poor; today, Dorcas Societies still have this mission.

In Acts, Peter raises her from the dead, Lazarus style.  This could be taken literally, or metaphorically; some have speculated these "resurrections" indicate some kind of death-rebirth ritual practiced by early disciples.  A symbolic death and rebirth is a ritual element dating back to the Eleusinian Mysteries, at least.  The descent into the underworld is a mytheme ubiquitous in ancient spiritual literature, from Sumeria to Greece and the New Testament:  Jesus himself, Lazarus, Dorcas....

And yet, Dorcas Societies notwithsanding, she is relatively little known today.  But take heart, pilgrims.  You can light a candle to Dorcas in a few days; in some traditions her feast day rolls around on the January 27.

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