‘Being a vessel for God’

New Bible study written by diocesan communicator highlights women prophets

By Gabrielle Nolan

Most Christians are familiar with the male prophets of the Bible, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, or Malachi. But how many know about their female counterparts?

Daughter, Hear My Call: A Study of Women Prophets in the Bible by Emily Booker aims to highlight the stories of these remarkable women found in sacred Scripture.

The Bible study, which Ms. Booker self-published in February, is sold at The Paraclete, 417 Erin Drive on the campus of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and through Amazon.

Ms. Booker has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Tennessee Tech University and a master of liberal arts degree in community studies from East Tennessee State University. She currently serves the Diocese of Knoxville’s communications office as a digital media producer.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing,” she shared. “I have a background in journalism, and I’ve always written on the side. So, I have a lot of writing background, but this is my first book.”

A convert from Protestantism, Ms. Booker was raised Presbyterian and joined the Catholic Church in 2012. She is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.

“The Eucharist is definitely what drew me to the Church, belief in the Eucharist and that reality,” she said. “I take a lot of comfort in the fact that there’s this lineage of tradition that we can trace back to Christ. … I’ve always had a deep faith in Christ, though. I was raised in a really strong faith. Jesus has always been really close to me.”

In 2020, Ms. Booker began leading a weekly women’s young adult Bible study group at the cathedral.

“There were a lot of new people at the time, there was a big time of transition, and we were trying to decide what to study,” she said. “We were having difficulty because a lot of the Bible studies we had available didn’t really suit the needs of what the group wanted. We didn’t want to do a video series because we liked being able to get together and discuss the content as we went. A lot of the other books weren’t very focused on actually studying the Bible, and we wanted to learn a lot more about the Bible.”

Ms. Booker decided to do her own research and condense notes from various books into a Bible study she could present to her group.

“So, I kind of had a layout, a format that later became this book, from that Bible study,” she explained.

The Bible study proved successful as it began to spread among other young women.

“One of the girls from that study went to Texas for grad school, and she borrowed that study and led it there. And one of her girls went to grad school somewhere else, and also wanted to lead it, and that’s when she reached out to me and was like, you know we’re sharing this around and … it’s kind of gaining traction being passed around, so maybe you should flesh it out more. Because it was just my notes for me and her. She was like, maybe you should flesh it out more and publish it, so that’s how this past year I started fleshing it out and went toward publishing it,” Ms. Booker said.

The book invites readers into the stories of Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, Esther, Judith, Anna, and Philip the Evangelist’s four daughters.

Each chapter includes a verse from Scripture, historical context for the female prophet, recommended Scripture readings, a reflection, discussion questions, and a prayer.

Ms. Booker chose the various women prophets for her book after conducting research from both Jewish tradition and the Bible. She relied on several books during the formation of her study, including The Female Prophets of the Bible by Debra Moody Bass and Women Prophets of the Old Testament by Kieran Larkin.

Women Prophets of the Old Testament had a list and talked about how in the Jewish culture there are some women they consider prophets that are explicitly named prophets in the Bible, like Sarah,” she said. “So, I had that list from what Jewish tradition has as some of their prophets that aren’t explicitly named prophets, and then there are also people who are explicitly named prophets, like Anna. So, I had a list of all those women.”

“There are a few that I didn’t include in the book, like Isaiah’s wife, just because I didn’t feel comfortable enough that I had enough background, or it wasn’t as interesting to the group when we just kind of had to pare it down for 12 weeks for our study,” Ms. Booker continued. “So, we chose the women from either a theme listed in Jewish tradition in regards to the Old Testament women, or explicitly named as a prophet in the Bible.”

The Bible study is not an overtly Catholic one, though it makes references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and includes the Book of Judith, which is not in cluded in Protestant canon.

“[The study] has sold well with some Protestant groups because I shared it with my friends, and I have Protestant friends, too,” Ms. Booker said. “Any Christian, I think, could pick it up and use it, and it’s been very well-received from some Protestant circles, and I know some women’s groups at Protestant churches that are going to do it, which I think is very interesting. I didn’t see that. And it’s also interesting because they are going to have to look up the difference between Catholic and Protestant canon when they get to the Book of Judith. … I just think that’s really interesting, and I’m really excited to hear back from them, what they think, because they’ve never been exposed to the story of Judith. … It was something that I wasn’t exposed to until I was Catholic.”

“So, I’ve just been really pleased by how well-received it’s been. I know some women ministers who are Presbyterian who are leading Bible studies and are going to do this in the future, they’ve said. I’m really excited to hear back what their perception of it is,” she added.

Ms. Booker shared that the positive feedback she has received on her book makes her think maybe she was “meant to write it or put it out at this point in time.”

“I think there is a desire for that type of material, that type of study,” she said, noting that her original women’s group wanted to know more about different women in the Bible, as well as understand the Old Testament and salvation history better.

“This study was trying to combine those, and that’s why it goes chronologically because we kind of wanted to understand where are the people of Israel developing as we go. … We tried to tie that in through the specific women as well,” she explained.

As Ms. Booker was compiling her Bible study, she was learning along the way.

“The [prophet] I learned the most about, the one I was most surprised by because I didn’t know anything about her at all, was Huldah, who helped Josiah. They had found the lost law when the temple was being restored. So, she helped King Josiah rediscover the law of Moses after the temple had been desecrated, and Josiah was restoring the temple,” she said.

“Huldah was, as a prophet, able to clarify this is the law of Moses, this is what we should do now that we have it again. Josiah and some of the others were worried, like, if we haven’t been following the law of Moses, is God going to punish us, but we didn’t even know what some of this said because it had been lost for some generations. And so she’s kind of able to guide them during that really big time of restoration,” she noted.

“I found that really fascinating that she was kind of like a Biblical scholar, you know a scroll scholar, Torah scholar” Ms. Booker continued. “The king, he asked for her; he was like, go find Huldah and see what she says about it, so she obviously had a reputation as an intellectual or as a prophet, someone that they could trust to discern that situation.”

Personally, Ms. Booker’s favorite female prophet is Hannah.

“I’ve always had a fondness for Hannah,” she said. “I think her lament and then her Magnificat are both beautiful expressions of faith, and so I’m always really fond of her story. I love studying her and talking about her, especially when you read those passages of her prayers and when you compare it to Mary’s Magnificat.”

For the women (and men) who read the Bible study, Ms. Booker hopes that it brings them to a closer understanding of the Bible.

“I didn’t want to put a lot of my opinions into it,” she said. “I wanted to just help have it be a guide to help you study the Bible either on your own or as a group; I wanted it to be able to work both ways to just explore, especially the Old Testament, that we might not always be as well-educated on.”

“I think the stories can speak for themselves, or the Holy Spirit can speak through those stories,” Ms. Booker continued. “I just wanted it to be a guide of here’s some context to help you read the Bible and some stories that might encourage you or you can relate to these women. That’s my hope, that it just helps people know these women better and know the Bible better.”

Ms. Booker thinks that to understand the Bible is “to be very rooted in the truth.”

“We’ve been given the Bible. Scripture and tradition are what our faith is based on. It’s how we know God, how God has told us to know Him,” she said. “You don’t have to rely on what someone else tells you God is or how the Church is. You can go to the Bible and be like, here’s the sacred Word that has been passed down for generations, and the Church has approved it.”

“I think it’s good to be understanding of the very basics of our faith, but there’s also so much in the Bible you can never fully know it, so you can always return,” Ms. Booker continued. “So, I think you need to know the Bible to know the basics of the faith, but you also need to return to the Bible because you can always learn new things, and where you are personally God can tell you something different each time.”

In her Bible study, Ms. Booker asks readers if there are still prophets today, noting that baptized Christians have a role in Jesus Christ’s ministry as priest, prophet, and king.

Ms. Booker believes that some “might shy away from the term prophet.”

“I think sometimes we have the misconception of the term prophet, that it means someone that has like this gift of foretelling the future, and it’s a very specific idea,” she said. “That can be a prophecy, that’s a part of prophecy, but sometimes prophecy is telling truth in the present, speaking for God. That’s what a prophet is, being a vessel for God. And there are lots of different ways to do that. That’s part of this study, too, is the different ways God uses different women. … But we all have a gift of being a vessel for God in some way, and so it’s being open to however God wants to use you is the way you’re being a prophet. Being able to share His message with someone else is, you’re a messenger for God, whatever message He has to use through you and wherever, whenever He wants to use you.”

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