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Women in Early Christianity: Translations from Greek Texts [Paperback]

Patricia Cox Miller

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Book Description

31 Aug 2005
From the fictional Thecla in the second century to the very real Olympias in the early fifth century, the history of women in early Christianity was as complex and rich as the religion itself. This comprehensive sourcebook brings together translations of a variety of ancient Christian texts that elucidate how women were perceived and portrayed in the Greek literature written in the second to the sixth centuries. The texts included in the volume have been generously excerpted, providing the modern reader with an in-depth view of the historical reality of early Christian women's lives as well as a nuanced perspective on the many ways in which women were understood in theological and ecclesiastical frameworks. Few documents written by early Christian women have been preserved; contemporary readers therefore do not have much direct access to these women's own perspectives on their lives and roles as Christians. Nevertheless, there are many kinds of texts that can be used both to reconstruct the history of actual women in early Christianity and to analyze the ancient ideologies and rhetoric that affected how they were perceived. This volume offers many different kinds of texts in order to present as complete a view as possible of early Christian women: documentary sources such as church orders and proceedings, popular narrative sources such as the novelistic apocryphal acts, biographies and lives of saints, and theological treatises on virginity and marriage. What emerges from these texts is a colorful portrayal of the many faces of ancient Christian women in their roles as teachers, prophets, martyrs, widows, deaconesses, ascetics, virgins, wives, and mothers. Whether celebrated as saints or denigrated as harlots, early Christian women were magnets of theological and social thought.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press (31 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813214173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813214177
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.5 x 2.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,630,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Patricia Cox Miller is W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. She is the author or editor of numerous works including The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and History (coedited with Dale Martin).

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From the fictional Thecla in the second century to the very real Olympias in the early fifth century, the history of women in early Christianity was as varied as the religion itself. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource 30 April 2008
By Renn S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Women in Early Christianity is a collection of writings from the Church Fathers, describing the Church's view of women. Miller starts the volume with an excellent introduction giving a broad overview of the historical setting of the Church and a quick description of the overall trends summarizing how women were frequently viewed during Early Christianity. Women in Early Christianity is organized topically, which sections addressing women's roles in the church, virginity, asceticism, domestic life and female imagery throughout the Early Church. Miller offers clear summaries of the included texts, giving the reader the historical facts needed to understand the setting and significance of these documents. Her style is clear and thoughtful, and the book is formatted in such a way that it is easy to see follow the historical development of the roles of women throughout this time period.

Overall, this is a very positive look at women during Early Christianity offering texts praising women and showing their various roles in church leadership. Miller is able to put some of the negative comments about women into their appropriate historical context, showing how the Early Church Fathers were shaped greatly by the culture that they were a part of. Miller appropriately locates these documents within a patriarchal society and encourages the reader to recognize the limitations that we now face in trying to study women in a time period where women were not frequently educated or encouraged to write theologically themselves, therefore limiting the types of sources that we have available to us today. Women in Early Christianity is a brilliant compellation of texts showing both the ways women were demeaned as well as honored within Early Church history. Miller's introductions and comments add much to this text and allow the reader to easily follow the various views of women during this time period and to understand the historical and theological significance of these writings.

Miller's comments on these ancient texts make them easy to understand and the reader place these documents in their appropriate context. This book is easy to navigate around and also includes some wonderful resources. It also serves as a quick reference book for those interested in women in the Early Church.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars from the back of the book 23 Mar 2006
By S. McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
The author has skillfully sifted, sorted, and glossed a richly diverse collection of ancient texts that testify to the history of Christian women in their roles as teachers and prophets, martyrs and ascetics, widows and deaconesses, wives, mothers, sisters, and finally, theological symbols. The texts not only speak for themselves but also, at the author's prompting, convey a fascinating and complex story. This is much more than a sourcebook in the usual, supplementary sense: it is a work of history that stands on its own.

--Virginia Burrus, Drew University
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