Analysis Of Paul Casting From An Unnamed Slave Girl Essay

Analysis Of Paul Casting From An Unnamed Slave Girl Essay

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Often skimmed over, is the story of Paul casting out a spirit from an unnamed slave-girl found in Acts 16. When read using a feminist lens, the seemingly minor text reveals unique power differentials between the girl and the other characters. Every character in the story exploits and uses the girl for a specific purpose, which illuminates the power differentials. The spirit of divination uses her body to speak through, the apostle Paul uses her by casting out her spirit so satisfy his needs, the owners exploit her for her fortunetelling abilities, and Luke, the author of the text, uses her to progress the story.
For purposes of the paper, the girl is named Nia as an alternative to calling her “the slave-girl.” The name, Nia, means, “purpose” in Swahili. She is specifically named that to reflect that she is used for the purposes of the other characters in the text. Nia is possessed with a spirit of divination that enables her to tell fortunes. Fortunetelling is condemned in Scripture, examples are found in, Deuteronomy 18: 9-11, 2 Kings 17:17, and Leviticus 19:3. Although the skill is denounced, it is consulted and utilized; otherwise Scripture would not address the issue multiple times.
As Nia follows Paul and Silas, she cries out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation” (Acts 16: 17). She keeps proclaiming this for many days. Nia seems to have agency in this part of the story because the voice that comes from her mouth is heard, but the voice is quickly quieted and not heard again. The reader needs to consider if the voice is Nia’s, or if it is the spirit of divination using her body to communicate through. The text does not provide a clear answer to the question, however ...


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...ia is used and exploited at every point, yet her voice is heard only once. The absence of her voice is of interest to feminist readers. Silence is a repeated theme in Scripture. For example, Tamar is told not to talk about her rape (2 Samuel 13). The Levite’s Concubine has no voice at all (Judges 19). First Corinthians 14:34 and Timothy 2:12 command women to remain quiet in church. When a female is a victim, her voice is usually taken away as well.
Acts chapter 16 is a convenient way for the author to move the story along. Paul and Silas give glory to God for helping them get out of prison and continue on with their lives. They even receive an apology from the magistrates who put them in jail (Acts 16:39). Nia, the slave girl, who is used throughout the entire story, receives no apology. Nia’s life does not continue on as if nothing happened.

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