Episode 14: Daughters in My Kingdom Chapter 1 – Women in Early Christianity

Join Alyssa, Jana Riess and Jared Anderson as they kick off the first podcast in the Daughters in My Kingdom series. This monthly series is devoted to exploring a scholarly, uncorrelated history of women in the church. It mirrors the chapter structure of the LDS Church’s recent publication by the same name. In this episode, they trace the surprising history of women in early Christianity. They discuss the textual and historical evidence for women as spiritual leaders in the Old Testament, how Christ’s theology subverted the gender norms of his day, and the women who held the top positions of power in the early Pauline communities. They also explain how women gradually became oppressed and stripped of their high-profile roles in subsequent orthodox Christian cultures.

Image credit: A 9th century Christian mosaic from the Chapel of Zeno of Verona in Rome. The mosaic portrays four female figures: the women saints Prudentiana and Praxedis, the virgin Mary, and “a fourth woman whose hair is veiled and whose head is surrounded by a square halo—an artistic technique indicating that the person was still living at the time the mosaic was made. … A carefully lettered inscription identifies the face on the far left as Theodora Episcopa, which means Bishop Theodora. The masculine form for bishop is episcopus; the feminine form is episcopa. … But the a on Theodora has been partially effaced by scratches across the glass tile of the mosaic, leading to the disturbing conclusion that attempts were made to deface the feminine ending, perhaps even in antiquity” (Karen Jo Torjesen, When Women Were Priests 9-10).

Podcast Prologue Credit: Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart Ehrman

Related links:

Daughters in My Kingdom Chapter One: A Restoration of an Ancient Pattern

Deborah’s representation in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual

Jana’s Twible

Junia is Not Alone by Scot McKnight

Women and Christian Origins by Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose D’Angelo

Notable Extra-Canonical Biblical Texts:

 

Read 5 comments

  1. Really loved this episode. I wonder if either Jana or Jared could answer a question of mine. I know that the in the Greco-Roman world there were very rigid ideas about gender roles and particularly the traits of masculinity. The pater familias was effectively king in his household and held ultimate authority over all subordinates (wives, children, servants, slaves), and all decisions about finances, education, marriage, inheritance.

    I wonder if that sort of cultural construct was a primary influence in the centuries C.E. as the early Christian church moved out of the Levant and into the central Roman Empire and Rome itself. Do you think Roman social structure, highly male-oriented and hierarchical, motivated the gradual disenfranchisement of women and even the rise of the episcopal hierarchies of bishops, etc.?

    Along those lines, if the Church had moved more into Egypt or other areas of the Mediterranean, or if the groups who did end up in those areas managed to become the orthodox version of Christianity rather than the Roman version, do you think Christianity today would look substantially different?

  2. The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. These professions state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was subsequently resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins.’

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