This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.
Women in the Apostolic Fathers
As an application of this approach, I want to quickly examine conceptions of women which appear in the early Christian writings known as the Apostolic Fathers. To keep this example as brief as possible, consider one instance where a female character appears in the apocalyptic account known as the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 100-150 CE).4 In Vision 2.4.3, Hermas records being told by an angel the following: “And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.” Continue reading
This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.
Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2.4.1-3
|Ἀπεκαλύφθη δέ μοι, ἀδελφοί, κοιμωμένῳ ὑπὸ νεανίσκου εὐειδεστάτου λέγοντός μοι· τὴν πρεσβυτέραν, παρ᾿ ἧς ἔλαβες τὸ βιβλίδιον, τίνα δοκεῖς εἶναι; ἐγώ φημι· τὴν Σίβυλλαν. πλανᾶσαι, φησίν, οὐκ ἔστιν. τίς οὖν ἐστιν; φημί. ἡ ἐκκλησία, φησίν. εἶπον αὐτῷ· διατί οὖν πρεσβυτέρα; ὅτι, φησίν, πάντων πρώτη ἐκτίσθη· διὰ τοῦτο πρεσβυτέρα, καὶ διὰ ταύτην ὁ κόσμος κατηρτίσθη. 2. μετέπειτα δὲ ὅρασιν εἶδον ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ μου. ἦλθεν ἡ πρεσβυτέρα καὶ ἠρώτησέν με εἰ ἤδη τὸ βιβλίον δέδωκα τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις. ἠρνησάμην δεδωκέναι. καλῶς, φησίν, πεποίηκας· ἔχω γὰρ ῥήματα προσθεῖναι. ὅταν οὖν ἀποτελέσω τὰ ῥήματα πάντα, διὰ σοῦ γνωρισθήσεται τοῖς ἐκλεκτοῖς πᾶσιν. 3. γράψεις οὖν δύο βιβλαρίδια καὶ πέμψεις ἓν Κλήμεντι καὶ ἓν Γραπτῇ. πέμψει οὖν Κλήμης εἰς τὰς ἔξω πόλεις, ἐκείνῳ γὰρ ἐπιτέτραπται. Γραπτὴ δὲ νουθετήσει τὰς χήρας καὶ τοὺς ὀρφανούς. σὺ δὲ ἀναγνώσῃ εἰς ταύτην τὴν πόλιν μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων τῶν προϊσταμένων τῆς ἐκκλησίας.
||While I was sleeping, brothers, I received a revelation from a very beautiful young man, who said to me: “The elderly woman from whom you received the little book—who do you think she is?” “The Sibyl,” I replied. “You are wrong,” he said; “it is not she.” “Who then is it?” I asked. “The church,” he said. I said to him, “Why then is she elderly?” “Because,” he said, “she was created first, before anything else. That is why she is elderly, and for her sake the world was created.” 2. And afterward I saw a vision in my house. The elderly woman came and asked if I had already given the book to the presbyters. I said that I had not. “You have done well,” she said. “For I have some words to add. Then, when I complete all the words, they will be made known through you to all those who are chosen. 3. And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.”