I made the mistake of mentioning that I was getting old.
My older son shouted out a bit of Bible trivia: “Methuselah was the oldest guy in the Bible! He was 969 years old!” His younger brother was impressed.
His sister wasn’t. Instead she asked, “Who’s the oldest woman in the Bible?”
Hmmm. I was tempted but managed to dismiss in my mind the joke response, “Mrs. Thuselah.”
I had never thought of that question before and I wanted to think for a moment, but she asked more insistently, “Daddy, who’s the oldest woman in the Bible?”
Uh… Well, the Bible doesn’t say, but I’m going to guess that it was… uh… maybe… Eve?
Unconvinced (as she should be!), she asked, “How come the Bible only talks about men and not women?”
My son answered before I could respond, “Because men are more important than women.” Then seeing my unhappy stare, he quickly added, “Just kidding.”
I was about to explain the nature of patriarchy in Biblical times, but instead, I simply offered, “That’s not true. Lydia is in the Bible.”
In my writing and speaking, I have tried to do my best to use inclusive language and even to mix which name goes first. During weddings, for example, I will alternate the use of “Laura and Bob” with “Bob and Laura.” It’s a small gesture, but one that I hope engenders a sense of mutuality and partnership.
But there are still some conventions that I (and those who are getting married) can’t quite seem to get over. The bride is “given away,” but never the groom; the vows of the bride always follow those given by the groom; and I still say, “You may now kiss the bride,” rather than “You may now kiss the groom.” I think in future weddings I officiate, I will say, “You may now kiss each other as wife and husband” or, “You may now kiss each other as husband and wife.” I guess I’ll have to alternate that as well!
“Daddy, who is the oldest woman in the Bible?”
I don’t know. But I wish I did.
Then, remembering and switching topics as quickly as only children can, she let me off the hook. “Daddy, you’re not old. You’ll always be young to me.”
So who is the oldest woman in the Bible? It doesn’t say, but we can reasonably assume that the unnamed wives of the earliest men lived similarly long. (So perhaps Mrs. Methuselah isn't such a bad answer.) What we do know is that the oldest recorded age for a woman is Sarah who died at the age of 127.