Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Familial Expectations in Ignatius (Part I)

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Ancient Greek HouseWhile the Apostolic Fathers by-and-large eschew the household codes which are so prevalent in Pauline and post-Pauline literature, Ignatius’s Epistle to Polycarp and Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians each contain a section reminiscent  of Greco-Roman household duties. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Christ and the Church in 2 Clement

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ChristologyThe section of Second Clement which most clearly references women has been called “undoubtedly the most complex part of the whole of the text of 2 Clement.”[1] Not only is the text itself not entirely certain at points, but the author’s argument proves rather hard to follow. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Paranetic Women in 1 Clement (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

1 Clement 12.1-8[1]

Διὰ πίστιν καὶ φιλοξενίαν ἐσώθη Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη…. 3. ἡ οὖν φιλόξενος Ῥαὰβ εἰσδεξαμένη αὐτοὺς ἔκρυψεν εἰς τὸ ὑπερῷον ὑπὸ τὴν λινοκαλάμην…. 7. καὶ προσέθεντο αὐτῇ δοῦναι σημεῖον, ὅπως ἐκκρεμάσῃ ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτῆς κόκκινον, πρόδηλον ποιοῦντες ὅτι διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου λύτρωσις ἔσται πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐλπίζουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν. 8. ὁρᾶτε, ἀγαπητοί, ὅτι οὐ μόνον πίστις, ἀλλὰ καὶ προφητεία ἐν τῇ γυναικὶ γέγονεν. Because of her faith and hospitality Rahab the prostitute was saved from danger…. 3. And so, the hospitable Rahab brought them inside and hid them in the upper room under a pile of thatching straw…. 7. And they proceeded to give her a sign, that she should hang a piece of scarlet from her house–making it clear that it is through the blood of the Lord that redemption will come to all who believe and hope in God. 8. You see, loved ones, not only was faith found in the woman, but prophecy as well.

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Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Paranetic Women in 1 Clement (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Saint Clement of RomeWomen’s voices are not directly heard in First Clement, although a number of women do appear as characters in Clement’s exhortations to the Corinthian church. While Trevett argues that Clement singled out the “uppity women” of Corinth, this seems unlikely for a couple of reasons.[1] First, Clement was highly familiar with Paul’s writings, especially those to Rome and Corinth.[2] Yet nowhere does he invoke the authority of Paul concerning ordered and submissive women in the church, instead generally discussing the order of all.[3] Second, Clement felt free to utilize biblical women as models for concord and order among the entire community, not just among women. These paranetic women include Lot’s Wife, Rahab, Judith, and Esther. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Introductions (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch

While many Apostolic Fathers remain shrouded by history, Ignatius of Antioch has long been viewed as a vibrant and important character of the early Church. Written on the road to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius’s seven authentic Epistles were written to churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and to Smyrnaean bishop Polycarp.[1] The precise dating of Ignatius’s writing remains a mystery, although many scholars suggest his composition and death to have occurred between 108 and 117 CE.[2] The specific purposes of these letters vary somewhat due to the fact that they are written to different churches. Spanning each of his letters, however, are Ignatius’s calls Christians to eschew Gnostic logic and Jewish exegesis, and to combat heresy and disorder through church order and obedience to the bishop.[3] Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Introductions (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Apostolic Fathers IconBefore engaging pericopes from the Apostolic Fathers regarding women, we first briefly introduce the writings from which this evidence comes. Given the length and scope of this paper, these introductions are necessarily brief (and insufficient for a comprehensive examination of the Apostolic Fathers), standing as starting points for contextualizing and engaging these writings. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Context

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

Portrait of a Young Woman

“Portrait of a Young Woman”

In order to properly understand conceptions of women in the Apostolic Fathers, one must consider not only the writings themselves but also the general context of the first and second centuries, including Greco-Roman and earlier Christian evidence.[1] Of course, this attempt at contextualization becomes immediately problematized by the fact that, there was no “typical woman” or single female perspective in the ancient world, for a cacophony of social, political, economic, and religious factors defies the painting of a unified picture or situation of women.[2] Speaking generally, however, some shards of evidence may be pieced together. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Method

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Model of Ancient RomeA number of methodological presuppositions stand behind this study. Perhaps most central are the framing concerns of engaging ancient sources within their specific socio-cultural contexts and historical discourses, letting each particular writing and writer speak for themselves whenever possible, and considering the ethics at work in ancient writings.[1] With regard to textual investigation and interpretation, three further points should be made. Continue reading

Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Introduction

Apostolic FathersIn the formative years between the time of the Apostles of Jesus and the Apologists of Christianity stand a number of texts which reflect the labor of early Church leaders as they attempted to outline acceptable ethics and what it meant to be the Christian Church. Long neglected, in recent decades scholars have turned to these writings—collectively called the Apostolic Fathers[1]—with increased vigor and the recognition that these sources offer valuable insights into the post-New Testament era. As Paul Foster explains, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are especially useful for investigating “the initial stages of the transformation of a collection of individual communities loosely linked by their common belief in Jesus as God’s Messiah to an organization with a structured hierarchy and empire-wide links.”[2]

A plethora of studies on the Apostolic Fathers have appeared in recent years, many of which address questions of church order and the construction of authority in these writings.[3] One realm which has received comparatively little attention, however, are the conceptions of women in the Apostolic Fathers. Studies of women in early Christianity have seen a tremendous growth since Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s publication of In Memory of Her in 1983.[4] However, studies of women in the New Testament,[5] ordained women in early Christianity,[6] and women in second through fifth century sources[7] have received far more attention than women in the Apostolic Fathers, which have been substantially considered in only Christine Trevett’s Christian Women and the Time of the Apostolic Fathers.[8] Continue reading

Women and the Church? Reflections from Romans

In addition to writing here, I also serve as Managing Editor at Conciliar Post, a website dedicated to faithful and serious thinking about important topics. One of the many things I enjoy about Conciliar Post are the monthly Round Table discussions, where several writers offer answers to a question about a contemporary cultural or theological issue. January’s Round Table was about the role of women in the Christian Church. After reading my contribution (below), I would encourage you to visit this discussion on Conciliar Post.

Women in the ChurchQ: What is the appropriate place and role of women in the Christian Church?

In answer to this question (or rather, as the beginning of an answer which extends beyond the brief remarks offered here), I want to take a historical and textual approach to the earliest Christian communities as referenced in Romans 16. When discussing the role of women in the Church, many Christians seem to take a perspective of “There isn’t biblical evidence for female pastors; therefore there shouldn’t be female pastors”, effectively ending their discussions of the subject there. Evidence for this view, in my opinion, seems tenuous at times, as I hope to demonstrate below. Continue reading