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Women in Christian Traditions

Women in Christian Traditions

Rebecca Moore
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Women in Christian Traditions
    Book Description:

    Women in Christian Traditionsoffers a concise and accessible examination of the roles women have played in the construction and practice of Christian traditions, revealing the enormous debt that this major world religion owes to its female followers. It recovers forgotten and obscured moments in church history to help us to realize a richer and fuller understanding of Christianity.

    This text provides an overview of the complete sweep of Christian history through the lens of feminist scholarship. Yet it also departs from some of the assumptions of that scholarship, raising questions that challenge our thinking about how women have shaped beliefs and practices during two thousand years of church history. Did the emphasis on virginity in the early church empower Christian women? Did the emphasis on marriage during the Reformations of the sixteenth century improve their status? These questions and others have important implications for women in Christianity in particular, and for women in religion in general, since they go to the heart of the human condition.

    This work examines themes, movements, and events in their historical contexts and locates churchwomen within the broader developments that have been pivotal in the evolution of Christianity. From the earliest disciples to the latest theologians, from the missionaries to the martyrs, women have been instrumental in keeping the faith alive.Women in Christian Traditionsshows how they did so.

    Instructor's Guide

    Additional Resources

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1788-7
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Why Study Women in Christian Traditions?
    (pp. 1-17)

    Any book that offers itself as a history of a subject that scores—if not hundreds—of books have already considered must negotiate two seemingly contradictory challenges. First, it must differentiate itself from previous works. Second, it must recognize, respect, and incorporate what they have taught us. These tasks are even more important when the subject itself is somewhat controversial or misunderstood, as is the case with women’s contributions to the development of a major world religion such as Christianity. Thus, this volume approaches the topic of women in Christian traditions by respecting the past but also facing the future....

  5. 1 In the Beginning … Eve
    (pp. 19-26)

    If we read the first three chapters of Genesis in the Bible without reading the later accumulation of interpretation into it, we find a story told by nomadic peoples undoubtedly intended to explain the origins of their world and the place of men and women in it. When we read it through two thousand years of Christian and Jewish interpretive history, however, we find that the simple etiology has acquired multiple layers of meaning that the original storytellers probably did not anticipate.

    The story of the Garden of Eden is important to Christian theology for two reasons. First, it establishes...

  6. 2 The Women Disciples in the Kingdom of God
    (pp. 27-45)

    Christianity began as a movement within first-century Palestinian Judaism to bring about the kingdom of God. Led by an itinerant charismatic preacher, Jesus of Nazareth, the movement adopted an egalitarian organization that included Torah-observant women and men, as well as those living on the fringes of respectable society. Women served at the core of the movement. The oldest gospel, Mark, states that a number of women “used to follow [Jesus] and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” (15:41). Jesus’s female disciples not only financed...

  7. 3 Women and the Conversion of an Empire
    (pp. 47-65)

    Women were crucial to the spread of Christianity in its earliest centuries. Inscriptions, iconography, and material culture testify to the continuing and influential presence of Christian, Jewish, and pagan women throughout the Greco-Roman world. Texts written by Christian women, as by any female writers in antiquity, are extremely scarce, however. Notable exceptions include the diary of Vibia Perpetua, who was martyred in Carthage around 203;¹ the journal of Egeria, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land between 381 and 384;² and thecento(in Latin, patchwork) of Faltonia Betitia Proba, written in the mid-fourth century, which used verses of...

  8. 4 Saints, Seers, and Scholars in the Middle Ages
    (pp. 67-85)

    Christianity spread outward from Palestine, beginning as a renewal movement within Judaism and becoming a separate Gentile religion within a few hundred years. By the end of the first century, Christianity had penetrated to Rome, the capital of the empire, and to the Arabian Peninsula (see Gal. 1:17). A century later, Christian communities existed throughout the Mediterranean: across North Africa, through Asia Minor, and along the southern edge of what is now Europe. Scriptures originally written in Greek were translated into Latin, Syriac (a form of Aramaic), and Coptic, the language of ancient Egypt. By the end of the third...

  9. 5 Women Reformed, Women Resistant
    (pp. 87-105)

    The dramatic social, cultural, economic, political, and religious changes that occurred in sixteenth-century Europe had their origins in developments of the late medieval period. The invention of the printing press made books and other reading materials readily accessible to large audiences. Women produced texts and read them—by the hundreds of thousands. The upsurge in humanism, which turned scholars to the classical texts of antiquity as sources of knowledge and inspiration, created an interest in original sources, including the Bible. Christian humanists such as Saint Thomas More (1478–1535) taught their daughters the classical languages so that they might enter...

  10. 6 Spirit-Filled Women in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 107-127)

    The Reformation’s turn to the authority of scripture in the sixteenth century and the Enlightenment’s turn to the authority of reason in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries found a parallel move in the nineteenth century: a turn to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Each of these shifts dramatically altered the religious landscape, not only of Europe but of the rest of the world. Moreover, each move had the potential to erode the foundations of patriarchal Christianity, though in different ways. The reliance upon scripture rather than tradition—the teachings of the church that had been handed down for centuries...

  11. 7 Churchwomen on the Margins and in the Mainstream
    (pp. 129-152)

    Women in the twentieth century became more visible and vocal in the public sphere than ever before. Increased communications, coupled with information distribution, demonstrated the extent to which women were involved in every aspect of society. This expansion of access to the media and to the public sphere meant that women leaders faced the kind of scrutiny previously reserved for male politicians, priests, and celebrities. And like these individuals, women also sometimes exhibited feet of clay. The Nobel laureate Mother Teresa (1910–1997), whose noteworthy mission to the poor of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, India, will undoubtedly earn her sainthood in...

  12. Conclusion: The Church of Martha and Mary
    (pp. 153-156)

    “Consider those great lives, burning with charity.” Thus wrote Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941), one of the leading Christian mystics of the twentieth century. She believed that the female saints of the past should serve as the inspiration for current practices: “They represent, each in their own intensely distinctive way, the classic norm of women’s ministry.”¹ Underhill argued against the ordination of women, claiming that the church did not need any more officials. Rather, it needed “people in whom … Martha and Mary combine.” Referring to the two sisters described in the Gospel of Luke, Underhill meant women whose outward actions...

    (pp. 157-158)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 159-180)
    (pp. 181-194)
    (pp. 195-196)
    (pp. 197-206)
    (pp. 207-208)
    (pp. 209-209)