When I started writing my Women of the Bible series, it was unusual to find books about little-known women mentioned in the Bible. (I guess that’s why they were “little-known.”) The idea for The Fisherman’s Wife came from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each one mentions in one verse that Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house and that Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. Jesus healed her and she served them. Like many other people, I read this story for years before realizing the clear implication: Simon Peter had a wife.
I immediately realized that I knew nothing about her, not even her name. Nor could I find anything definitive anywhere about who she was, where she came from or what her life was like. From studying Catholic sources of church history I found out only three things: that she and Simon Peter had a daughter, that she often accompanied Simon Peter when he travelled, and that she was crucified with her husband in Rome.
So I started by I asking myself these questions:
– Given how and where Simon Peter grew up, where was his wife most likely from?
– Knowing what I do about Peter from what I read in the scriptures and in other sources, what might it have been like to be married to a man like him?
– What kind of life events might most likely cause chronic and heartbreaking stress for a first-century Jewish woman and her husband?
– What would it feel like to have an unknown rabbi come to my village and take my husband away with him and leaving us to fend for ourselves?
– What would I think when this rabbi unexpectedly came back with my husband, my brother-in-law and a dozen or so of their close friends and wanted to stay with us?
– What would I do when hundreds of people crowded inside and around our house trying to see Jesus and refused to leave?
– What might this rabbi do to convince me that he was the prophesied Messiah?
– What would I say when I met Jesus face to face?
– How would I come to terms with this new rabbi and his teachings?
I soon saw that there were a number of ways to answer these questions. Some were so “usual” as to be trite, even hackneyed, and those answers, I knew, would not tell the story that I felt squirming around in my head.
So I took a chance. I reached for something “UN-usual.”
The squirming stopped.