Top positive review
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on 19 May 2015
The author is an historian rather than a theologian or a New Testament scholar. Maybe this makes for a fresh look at the material.
Despite the subtitle ‘The forgotten world….’ This is not a series of sensational accounts of women who were originally covered up owning to some conspiracy. This is serious history.
During a holiday in Tunis, I visited Qarṭāj (Carthage – meaning "New City"). The author well describes the site of Perpetua’s martyrdom and it’s just how I remember it. It is false to say that prayers for the departed and for remission from Purgatory were Catholic perversions introduced in the Middle Ages because Perpetua dreamed prayer for her dead brother.
Although men like Antony of Egypt and Basil the Great are credited as the founders of monasticism, it is likely that a woman was behind it. Because young women (sometimes engaged as early as age 12) married men much older than themselves, they were often widows at an early age. One woman lived in community with her teenage daughter. Three of Macrina's brothers — Basil, Gregory, and Peter — would go on to become bishops, and thus the public face of the family..
Jerome's letters in the 4th century give us an insight into a disarmingly modern world of clever, opinionated women debating with each other about books, and especially about the Bible.
The politically correct tell us about the ‘desert fathers AND MOTERS’. But the fathers had the utmost contempt for women.
The book ends with Mary as role model – virgin and mother = an impossible combination.
A bit of a tangent but: By the second century, it seems to have been agreed that each community could have only one bishop, though there might well be more than community in a given place. (So Anglican flying bishops, or a city with both Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops has some precedence.)
The book is quite repetitive in places and could have done with better editing and shorter chapters.