How Women Came to Be Silenced in Early Christianity: A Blast From the Past

Time for a blast from the blog’s past.  Here is a question I get asked about a lot by my students: Why did women come to silenced, their voices muted, in the early Christian tradition — especially if, as the evidence suggests, women were even more attracted to this new faith than men in the early years? When I dealt with that issue exactly four years ago on the blog, this is what I said (it came at the end ...

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Why Intentional Changes of the Text Might Matter

In doing the research that led up to my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, I came to see that the variations of our manuscripts were important not only because they could tell us what the original writers said in the books that later became the New Testament, but also because they could tell us about what was influencing the anonymous and otherwise unknown scribes who produced the copies of these books in later times.

As I pointed out in a ...

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ANT: More on Women in Early Christianity

I’m nearly finished reading the page proofs for the second edition of After the New Testament.  Gods willing, I finish tomorrow – a good thing, because I’m heading out of town (well, I’m already out of town; so I’m heading out of town out of town) to do some hiking.  I’ll be able to keep the blog up (let’s hear it for wi-fi!).  But proof reading is outta the question!   Anyway, yesterday I gave the first half of ...

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After the New Testament: Women in Early Christianity

Among other things, I am spending a chunk of each day just now reading the page proofs for the second edition of my anthology After the New Testament.   “Page proofs” are the type-set pages as they are ready to appear in the printed book.   This is the last chance an author has to catch mistakes, typos, and so on.  The new edition of this book is fairly long– over 550 pages – and reading proofs is one of ...

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How Women Came to Be Silenced

I come now to the climax of this thread: how is it that women came to be silenced in the early Christian tradition? Of all my posts in this thread on women in early Christianity, I think this is the most important. Again, I give my reflections on it from my Introduction to the NT:

The first thing to observe is that women may have been disproportionately represented in the earliest Christian communities. This at least was a constant claim made ...

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Male Domination in Antiquity

In this thread I’ve been laying out the view that in Paul’s own churches, women were granted places of prominence, possibly because they had been prominent at times from the very beginning, going back to the ministry of Jesus. But eventually women were silenced – as evidenced in the Pastoral epistles and the interpolation of 1 Cor. 14:35-36 by a later copyist of Paul’s letter. I continue this line of thought again by referring to the discussion of my Introduction ...

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The Non-Pauline Oppression of Women

In my previous post I argued that the view of women in 1 Timothy 2:12-15 does not coincide with Paul’s own teachings, and that it therefore is probably not something that Paul wrote.  (This is a standard view among scholars, that Paul did not write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus; there are compelling reasons for this view, which I could go into if anyone really wants to know….)  But doesn’t Paul say something similar in his undisputed letters, in ...

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Paul, the Pastorals, and Women

Based on what I said in the previous post, Paul’s attitude toward women in the church may seem inconsistent, or at least ambivalent.  Women could participate in his churches as ministers, prophets, and even apostles.  But they were to maintain their social status as women and not appear to be like men.  This apparent ambivalence led to a very interesting historical result.  When the dispute over the role of women in the church later came to a head, both sides ...

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Paul’s View of Women in the Church

In this thread I have been talking about the role of women in the early church, starting with the ministry of Jesus, then in the churches of Paul (the first churches we have any real record of). In this post I continue by reflecting on Paul’s actual *views* of women; this strikes me as a particularly important topic since Paul is frequently condemned as the first Christian misogynist (or at least one of the first bad ones). Is that justified? ...

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Jesus’ Association with Women

In my previous point I talked about the traditions that indicated that Jesus associated with women publicly during his ministry – in an attempt to use established historical criteria to know whether the prominence of women in the earliest Christian communities may have had precedence in the life of Jesus himself. What about the contextual credibility of these traditions?

It is true that women were generally viewed as inferior by men in the ancient world (see below). But there *were* exceptions: ...

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