chapter  18
13 Pages

Listening for the voices of two disabled girls in early Christian literature

Introduction In early Christian literature there are not that many stories about children with disabilities. The few we encounter are mostly in connection with healing narratives relating the miracles of Jesus and other leading figures of the early Church, such as apostles, martyrs and saints. According to Susan Holman, the sick child was a liminal entity in Antiquity, hence, ‘they rarely appear in the ancient text until they either die or experience a “miraculous” healing judged worthy of male narrative’.1 This article is an attempt to listen for the voices of two unnamed girls that we meet in early Christian healing narratives, the Syrophoenician girl in the gospel of Mark (Mark 7:24-30) and Peter’s daughter in the Act of Peter (Cod. Berol. 8502.4). These two girls are multiply disadvantaged, due to age, gender and disability and in the stories they are silent. Yet, these stories may teach us something about children’s experiences in Antiquity, and I will also discuss the possibility of hearing their voices.