The Rise and Fall of Women in the Early Church. Paul and Junia Romans 16.7. Women in Early NT Period. Jesus’ affirmative attitude toward women promoted their full acceptance in the early Christian community. Met w/ men, prayed w/ men, served w/ men as missionaries
Paul and Junia Romans 16.7
The Resurrection by Burne-Jones
This icon is part of a mosaic in San Vitale, at Ravenna, early 6th century.
House-church at home of Mary, mother of John Mark
(How does this story recall that of Jesus’s empty tomb)
(Men are not listed as being heads of house-churches except Philemon and Aquila, and both are mentioned along with their wives.)
2003 Suzanne Schleck
Original Quilt by Maria Elkins
Acts 18:1,2,18,26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19
1 Corinthians 7:3,4
1 Corinthians 11:11,12
Saint Paul writing his Epistles. Valentin de Boulogne 1600
1 Cor. 11:5-7
1 Cor. 14:33-45
The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt, 1634
(Pseudonymous authorship common
during ancient times)
Alternate Christian sects in early Christian Movement later branded heretical:
Pope Gelasius I (492-96): epistle to bishops of Italy condemning practice of female priesthood:
“We have heard to our annoyance that divine affairs have come to such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars, and to take part in all matters imputed to the offices of the male sex, to which they do not belong.”
“Sacred to her good memory Leta the Presbyter lived 40 years, 8 months, 9 days, for whom her husband set up this tomb. She preceded him in peace on the day before the Ides of May.”
3rd century fresco “Fractio Panis” – the breaking of bread - in the Greek Chapel in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla. The figure seated to the right is breaking the bread. Formerly assumed to be male, Dorothy Irvin in a 1980 article argued that the celebrantat this Eucharist is female.
Greek Icon of 3 Church Fathers
Greece, 14th Century
"When a widow is to be appointed, she is not to be ordained, . . . Hands are not imposed on her, because she does not offer the oblation and she does not conduct the liturgy. Ordination is for the clergy because of the liturgy; but a widow is appointed for prayer, and prayer is the duty of all" (The Apostolic Tradition)
"For it is not to teach that you women . . . are appointed. . . . For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us"
"Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity."
"[T]he so-called ‘presbyteresses’ or ‘presidentesses’ are not to be ordained in the Church“
Thus Jesus’s revolutionary treatment of women was obliterated by the prevailing misogyny of Greco-Roman culture.
“Saint Mary Magdalene approaching
Gian Girolamo Savoldo, ca. 1530
Schüssler-Fiorenza, Elizabeth. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. 2nd Ed. London: SCM Press, 1995