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Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second through Fifth Centuries

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From facing wild beasts in the arena to governing the Roman Empire, Christian women--as preachers and philosophers, martyrs and empresses, virgins and mothers--influenced the shape of the church in its formative centuries. This book provides in a single volume a nearly complete compendium of extant evidence about Christian women in the second through fifth centuries. It hi From facing wild beasts in the arena to governing the Roman Empire, Christian women--as preachers and philosophers, martyrs and empresses, virgins and mothers--influenced the shape of the church in its formative centuries. This book provides in a single volume a nearly complete compendium of extant evidence about Christian women in the second through fifth centuries. It highlights the social and theological contributions they made to shaping early Christian beliefs and practices, integrating their influence into the history of the patristic church and showing how their achievements can be edifying for contemporary Christians.


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From facing wild beasts in the arena to governing the Roman Empire, Christian women--as preachers and philosophers, martyrs and empresses, virgins and mothers--influenced the shape of the church in its formative centuries. This book provides in a single volume a nearly complete compendium of extant evidence about Christian women in the second through fifth centuries. It hi From facing wild beasts in the arena to governing the Roman Empire, Christian women--as preachers and philosophers, martyrs and empresses, virgins and mothers--influenced the shape of the church in its formative centuries. This book provides in a single volume a nearly complete compendium of extant evidence about Christian women in the second through fifth centuries. It highlights the social and theological contributions they made to shaping early Christian beliefs and practices, integrating their influence into the history of the patristic church and showing how their achievements can be edifying for contemporary Christians.

30 review for Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second through Fifth Centuries

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This book challenges the idea that women in the early church were systematically silenced and subjugated. On the contrary, they proved themselves to have commitment to Christ, as shown by some of the early martyrs. Some, like Monica and Macrina had wisdom to be philosophers, teachers and interpreters of Scripture. Many women of high station, such as the Empress Helena and the friends of St. Jerome had devotion enough to make pilgrimages, found religious houses and help the poor. A few even took This book challenges the idea that women in the early church were systematically silenced and subjugated. On the contrary, they proved themselves to have commitment to Christ, as shown by some of the early martyrs. Some, like Monica and Macrina had wisdom to be philosophers, teachers and interpreters of Scripture. Many women of high station, such as the Empress Helena and the friends of St. Jerome had devotion enough to make pilgrimages, found religious houses and help the poor. A few even took part in theological controversies and fought in defense of orthodoxy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is a nerdy book analyzing texts but it is inspiring and I loved learning more about these women.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Whitehead

    Wow—such stunning historical detail in this academic work. Not only do you learn about the lives and legacies of the women highlighted, but you also learn a lot about their cultural context. I was impressed with the two women who authored this book and the clear effort they put into telling these stories. *This review is based on a free digital copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert D. Cornwall

    Christianity, like most religions, has been dominated by men, even if a majority of adherents are women. While this is true, there have always been women who have made a mark on the expansion and development of the faith. The question is, how do we bring signs of this influence to light? Where should we look? Lynn Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes have done an excellent job bringing the stories of important women who left their mark on the Christian faith. They take the position here to focus on women Christianity, like most religions, has been dominated by men, even if a majority of adherents are women. While this is true, there have always been women who have made a mark on the expansion and development of the faith. The question is, how do we bring signs of this influence to light? Where should we look? Lynn Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes have done an excellent job bringing the stories of important women who left their mark on the Christian faith. They take the position here to focus on women who were active agents, and they focus on women who one would consider orthodox. Thus, one will not find discussion of Gnostic texts or even of the Montanists. What they want to do is look "at women of various regions, backgrounds, situations, and temperaments from the earliest centuries of Christianity and remembering the many ways they assumed authority, exercised power, and shaped not only their legacy but also the legacy of Christianity" (p. xxv). They admit that this book is an act of advocacy for the place of women in Christian life and leadership. They territory they trod has been covered in previous efforts, but they take a particular tact, one that stays centered on voices that one might consider mainstream. The authors begin with the story Thecla, who appears as a companion of Paul and in their words "protomartyr and virgin of the church." I have known aout this story, but they bring much more detail about its early influence, beginning in the second century. So, that is our starting place. From there we move to the stories of Perpetua and Felicitas, women who were mothers and martyrs in third century North Africa. They stand out because they stood up to their family systems, gave up their babies, and faced the arena with strength and courage. I was surprised to not read more here about the connection that some have made with Montanism, a second century charismatic movement that featured women prophets (and Perpetua and Felicitas have visions) and were present in North Africa. As they note, Tertullian did affirm the orthodoxy of the message, even if the form it took stood apart from the mainstream of the church. The opening chapters deal with martyrdom, which are followed by an interesting chapter on catacomb art. They helpfully note the role of catacombs in Roman life and in the church. They explore the presence of pictures of women seemingly in liturgical acts. The question is, are these Christian women? That can't be answered in full. With this conversation serving as transition, we move more fully into that moment when the church moves from facing martyrdom to embracing asceticism as the culture moves from pagan to Christian. The remaining five chapters explore the role of women, starting with Constantine's mother, Helena, in the development of Christianity in the post toleration era. We see Helena travel to Palestine, where she plants churches and seeks pilgrimage sites. We then move on to the stories of women who took pilgrimage to the Holy Land, like Egeria, whose account of her pilgrimage encouraged others, especially women to take a journey to the Holy Land. There are stories of Macrina, the sister of Gregory of Nyssa and Basil of Caesarea, a leader in ascetic movement and a theologian in her own rite. There are stores of Paula, Marcella, and Melanias, also ascetics and scholars, this time connected with Jerome. They too had connections to the Holy Land. Finally, they introduce us to two politically powerful women, the empresses Pulcheria and Eudocia, both of whom played important roles in the theological debates of the fifth century. Pulcheria, sister of the emperor, was an opponent of Nestorius and backer of Cyril of Alexandria. In the end she was able to bring Leo I into the conversation leading to the Chalcedonian definition. Eudocia was the emperor's wife, and a learned theologian as well. She was closer to Nestorius, and ended up in Palestine, writing theology. Both women played important roles in setting the stage for the future in ways that the emperor did not. None of the women were priests. None were front stage theologians. Yet they left their mark on theologians such as Augustine, Gregory and Basil, and Jerome. They inspired Christians stand firm in the face of martyrdom. They stand as witnesses to the church of today. This is an excellent book. It's scholarly. It goes into great detail. While I understand the decision to focus on mainstream theology, I still wonder why so little is said about Montanism (New Prophecy) in relationship to Perpetua and Felicitas. That aside, this is an excellent book that should be widely read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This is a fascinating, accessible and informative and book. It covers the history of the early church with particulyreference to women. It gives insight into the early church and the cultural, social, religious and political environment within which the church grew. I read it in preparation for an essay for my university course and it was very helpful for that but would also recommend it for anyone interested in church history and/or women’s issues. An excellent book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Most of us know little or nothing about Christian women in the early centuries of the church. I am one of them. This would not appeal outside of academia, but it covers a wide range of important, influential women...martyrs, ascetics, scholars, even empresses. It took a month or so to get through it, chapter by chapter. I learned a great deal and appreciate the effort of these women scholars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura Clawson

    Very dry and informational writing on what is a very important and pivotal aspect of life in the early church.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zach Hollifield

    A must read for anyone interested in early Christianity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    This is the best book I have read about Christian women in the patristic world. Wait a minute... But seriously. It was good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Edney

    Everyone drop whatever you’re reading and pick this masterpiece up PRONTO

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Can all academic books be this readable and engaging please???

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin Henry

    Definitely an academic book. I enjoyed learning about the women of early Christianity. Their lived experience was so different from mine!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Deron

    The title was somewhat daunting for a reader, such as myself, so far removed from academia. (No, there isn’t a test.) However, being a lifelong Christian and father of four girls, I picked it up. As a layperson, I’m hardly qualified to comment on the subject matter, but I was quite surprised that I wasn’t the least bit familiar with any of these women’s stories or their influence. I found them fascinating! It was “lighter” than I expected and very well written. Starting the book, I didn’t know w The title was somewhat daunting for a reader, such as myself, so far removed from academia. (No, there isn’t a test.) However, being a lifelong Christian and father of four girls, I picked it up. As a layperson, I’m hardly qualified to comment on the subject matter, but I was quite surprised that I wasn’t the least bit familiar with any of these women’s stories or their influence. I found them fascinating! It was “lighter” than I expected and very well written. Starting the book, I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much! Highly recommended! Just keep a dictionary close by. I’m looking forward to the documentary.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Gustafson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bill Brown

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Vojta

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Bowler

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lori Neff

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Vosburg

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mason

  22. 5 out of 5

    J.W.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tim Chambers

  24. 4 out of 5

    K J

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Estes

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hudi Mansell

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  28. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Akash Ahuja

  30. 5 out of 5

    Evan Musgraves

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