Wednesday 13 July 2022

Bible Book:

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. (v. 36)

Acts 9:36-43 Wednesday 13 July 2022

Psalm 6:1-9


Joppa was a port of some significance, although nearby Caesarea had overtaken it. It was a mainly Jewish town, on the frontier with primarily Gentile territories, just as this part of Acts stands on the border between the mission to Judea and to the Gentiles.

Tabitha was an Aramaic name, which was not as common as its Greek equivalent, Dorcas. Both mean ‘gazelle’. Tabitha was clearly valued and respected among the believers in that place, and is described as ‘a disciple’ – the only time that Acts uses that term of an individual woman, although it is applied to mixed groups. We can see just how deeply she was valued, by the emphasis on (and demonstration of) her acts of kindness, and also by the urgency with which Peter was sent for in the community’s grief. In that climate, burial needed to take place quickly, so it was convenient that Peter was only a few miles away and could be fetched within hours.

It is often noted how strikingly similar this story is, in many ways, to the raising of Jairus’ daughter (itself seen as a parallel to similar performed by Elijah and Elisha – 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37). The similarity is particularly strong in Mark’s version of the story (Mark 5:35-42), where Jesus’ words are given in Aramaic: “Talitha cum”. That verbal parallel between ‘talitha’ and ‘Tabitha’ isn’t found in Luke’s Gospel, of which Acts is probably the second volume, but where expressions of Jesus were preserved in the original Aramaic, it is often thought that they might have held special significance for the community of his followers. So ‘talitha cum’ might have been a well-known, treasured memory of Jesus’ healing words.

The impact of this miracle as a witness to Christ is perhaps why Peter stayed for a while in Joppa. His choice of company might tell us something about that group of disciples; tanners, who treated animal skins to produce leather, were geographically and metaphorically on the margins of urban society. Their workshops would have been smelly places, better suited to the outskirts of town; the smell would probably cling to the tanners themselves; and the contact with animal carcasses made tanners ritually unclean.

To Ponder:

  • Who, in your community, might be described as ‘devoted to good works and acts of charity’? How do you show your appreciation of them?
  • If this story deliberately parallels the raising of Jairus’ daughter, why do you think this is? Is Peter mimicking Jesus, or is Luke drawing a literary parallel? What is the point?
  • Who are the equivalents of the tanners in your community? Would you accept their hospitality if it were offered?


We give you thanks, gracious God, for those whose lives have been marked by good works and acts of charity – those who have made the world a better place, and have left behind them a thoughtful legacy of love and care. We pray for peace and comfort for all who grieve.

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