The Role of Women in Early Christianity


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The Role of Women in Early Christianity

  1. 1. The Rise and Fall of Women in the Early Church
  2. 2. Gathered together young and old As Jesus Story is once again told A WOMAN gave birth to Christ I am told But she is not given much credit behold
  3. 3.                                                   But when t he time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman , ... - Galatians 4:4 Attributed to Jacopo Della Quercia around 1371-1438 Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi), The small Cowper Madonna, c. 1505 ,
  4. 4.                                                                                                                       And SHE gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. -Luke 2:7                                                                                                                          Christmas - a reminder...
  5. 5. <ul><li>&quot;This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Matthew 1:18 </li></ul></ul>Sorry, no man involved !
  6. 6. <ul><li>NY Times Best-Seller </li></ul><ul><li>Inaccurate, fictional </li></ul><ul><li>BUT </li></ul><ul><li>raised the issue of women around Jesus, particularly Mary Magdalene </li></ul>
  7. 7. According to Brown, Leonardo da Vinci (1500’s) was a leader of the Priory of Sion and he passed on the “secret” role of Mary Magdalene in various art works. e.g., “The Last Supper” Milan John/Mary ?
  8. 8. Jesus and Women <ul><li>Jesus’ affirmative attitude toward women promoted their full acceptance in the early Christian community. </li></ul><ul><li>“ And many women were there beholding afar off, </li></ul><ul><li>which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him;…” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Matthew 27, 55-56 </li></ul></ul>                
  9. 9. Penitent Magdalene   Sinner <ul><li>“ And many women were there beholding afar off, </li></ul><ul><li>which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him; </li></ul><ul><li>among which was Mary Magdalene , and Mary the Mother of James and </li></ul><ul><li>Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Matthew 27, 55-56 </li></ul></ul>                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Donatello, St. Mary Magdalene (1455), Baptistry, Florence Titian, Penitent Mary Magdalen Segna di Buonaventure, St. Magdalen
  10. 10. Witness to Jesus' Death : Mary Magdalen at the Cross Matthias Gruenewald, Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece
  11. 11. Rembrandt, Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen Edward Burne-Jones, The Morning after the Resurrection
  12. 12. The Resurrection by Burne-Jones Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my father, but Go to my bretheren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he spoke these things unto her. John 20, 17-18 Mary, Apostle to the Apostles
  13. 13. Tabitha (Dorcas) <ul><li>Acts 9:36 </li></ul><ul><li>In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. </li></ul>This icon is part of a mosaic in San Vitale, at Ravenna, early 6th century.
  14. 14. Role of Women in House-Churches: Mary, Rhoda and Apphia <ul><li>Peter released from prison by an angel </li></ul><ul><li>Went to the House-church at the home of Mary , mother of John Mark </li></ul><ul><li>Rhoda answers door </li></ul><ul><li>“ To our beloved Apphia , and Archipus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house:… </li></ul><ul><li>I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints,” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Philemon 2-5 </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Semitic Museum, Harvard University <ul><li>Please give my greetings to the friends at Laodicea and to Nympha and the church which meets at her house (Colossians 4:15) </li></ul><ul><li>My greetings to Prisca and Aquila . . . My greetings also to the church that meets in their house (Romans 16:3,5) </li></ul><ul><li>Men are not listed as being heads of house-churches except Philemon and Aquila, and both are mentioned along with their wives. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Women as Deacons <ul><li>Ordained lay-person who served Lord’s Supper and aided disciples. </li></ul><ul><li>Phoebe, a Deacon in Ephesus (Romans 16:1,2) </li></ul><ul><li>Pliny the Younger (e. 2nd century.) mentions women </li></ul><ul><li>called deacons and ministers </li></ul><ul><li>in Christian communities </li></ul><ul><li>No “deaconess” in Greek </li></ul>2003 Suzanne Schleck
  17. 17. More Evidence on Women’s Role in the Early Church <ul><li>Tombstones: “Mother of the synagogue” or “ Presbitera ” </li></ul><ul><li>1st century fresco in catacomb: 7 women celebrating Eucharist (later copies add beards) </li></ul><ul><li>4th c. catacomb fresco: woman ordained as bishop </li></ul>
  18. 18. The 3rd Century Fresco in the catacomb of Santa Priscilla in Rome depicting an early Christian “communion”.  It provides evidence that many participants were women. 
  19. 19. Lydia, a Seller of Purple <ul><li>Acts 16:11-15,40 </li></ul><ul><li>Home in Philippi in Macedonia </li></ul><ul><li>(Europe) </li></ul><ul><li>Converted by Paul </li></ul><ul><li>No husband </li></ul><ul><li>Not a widow </li></ul><ul><li>Successful merchant: fabrics </li></ul><ul><li>Home subsequently house-church </li></ul><ul><li>where she likely served as presbyter </li></ul><ul><li>1st European convert </li></ul>
  20. 20. Priscilla/Prisca <ul><li>Wife of Aquila. Always listed together, more often with her name first </li></ul><ul><li>Fled Italy when Emperor Claudius expelled Jews </li></ul><ul><li>Tent-makers (like Paul) </li></ul><ul><li>Traveling companions of Paul, “co-workers,” to Ephesus and Syria </li></ul><ul><li>“ Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Romans 16:3; </li></ul></ul>Acts 18:1,2,18,26; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19
  21. 21. <ul><li>Galatians 3:28 </li></ul><ul><li>“ There is neither Jew nor Greek,…there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” </li></ul>Paul on Women Saint Paul writing his Epistles. Valentin de Boulogne 1600
  22. 22. <ul><li>Yet as a former Pharisee he adhered to the Jewish view of women </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li> 1 Cor. 11:7 </li></ul>The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt, 1634
  23. 23. Suppression of Women in the Church <ul><li>According to Elaine Pagels, soon the question of women in Christianity became “explosively controversial.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One of the reasons may have been a backlash against Gnostics’ high regard for Mary Magdalene and women in general. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Soon a rigid patriarchal system, scorned by Jesus, asserted itself. </li></ul>Greek Icon of 3 Church Fathers Greece, 14th Century
  24. 24. The Diminishment of Women by Early Church Leaders The Diminishment of Women by Early Church Leaders
  25. 25. Tertullian 160-225. “ You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law.”
  26. 26. “ What is seen with the eyes of the creator is masculine, and not feminine, for God does not stoop to look upon what is feminine and of the flesh.” Origen (180-254)
  27. 27. “ Should you reflect about what is contained in beautiful eyes . . . You will see that bodily beauty is only a white-washed tomb, for inside it is full of filth”. John Chrysostom (374-407)
  28. 28. Bernini, Statue of St. Augustine Augustine of Hippo,354 - 430 “ Flesh stands for woman, because she was made out of a rib.” Augustine & Monica by Gozzoli
  29. 29. <ul><li>By 200, little evidence of women taking church </li></ul><ul><li>roles as prophet, priest, bishop. </li></ul><ul><li>Men and women sat separately </li></ul><ul><li>By 300, the idea of female leadership in </li></ul><ul><li>church was a heresy </li></ul><ul><li>Jesus’ revolutionary treatment of women </li></ul><ul><li>was forgotten. </li></ul>“ Saint Mary Magdalene approaching the Sepulchre&quot; Gian Girolamo Savoldo, ca. 1530
  30. 30. From that Time on Women were Eve or Mary Temptress or Saints EVE leaving the Garden of Eden as depicted by Masaccio (Active approx. 1401-1428)
  31. 31. Temptress
  32. 32. Temptation of St Anthony Bosch, Hieronymus, ca.1500 Altarpiece Women are seen as the bearers of temptation Temptress
  33. 33. Constantine and Helena
  34. 34. Our Lady of the Sign ( Bogomater’ znamenie ) (Iaroslavl, early 13 th century)
  35. 35. Bernini, Gianlorenzo Ecstasy of St. Teresa 1647-52 Marble height c. 11' 6&quot; (3.5m) Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
  36. 36. The Reformation, Women and MARTIN LUTHER Katharina von Bora was a German Catholic nun who became the wife of Martin Luther <ul><ul><li>“ Women are created for no other purpose than to serve men and be their helpers. If women grow weary or even die while bearing children, that doesn't harm anything. Let them bear children to death; they are created for that.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Yet Luther loved his wife Katie dearly . </li></ul></ul>