Christian Women in the Patristic World

Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second through Fifth Centuries

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About

From facing wild beasts in the arena to governing the Roman Empire, Christian women--as preachers and philosophers, martyrs and empresses, virgins and mothers--influenced the shape of the church in its formative centuries.

Christian Women in the Patristic World provides in a single volume a nearly complete compendium of extant evidence about Christian women in the second through fifth centuries. Through a careful examination of literary and material evidence, the book highlights the social and theological contributions women made to shaping early Christian beliefs and practices, integrating their influence into the history of the patristic church and showing how their achievements can be edifying for contemporary Christians.

Contents
Introduction
1. Thecla: Christian Female Protomartyr and Virgin of the Church
2. Perpetua and Felicitas: Mothers and Martyrs
3. Christian Women in Catacomb Art
4. From Pagan to Christian, Martyr to Ascetic
5. Helena Augusta, "Mother of the Empire"
6. Egeria's Itinerary and Christian Pilgrimage
7. Macrina the Ascetic Entrepreneur and the "Unlearned" Wisdom of Monica
8. Paula, Marcella, and the Melanias: Ascetics, Scholars, and Compatriots in Controversy
9. Aelia Pulcheria, "Protectress of the Empire," and Empress Eudocia, a Theological Poet
Conclusion: Responsibly Remembering
Indexes


Endorsements

"I constantly encourage students and pastors to tell more stories about women in the early church from the pulpit, in classes, and in casual conversations. The common response, which opens a window onto a bleak landscape in their knowledge and in the church's history with women, is this question: 'Where can I find those stories?' Christian Women in the Patristic World is now the answer, as it populates that bleak landscape with dynamic women. This is a book for every pastor's and teacher's bookshelf because it not only tells stories about women but also shows how the early church, which has often been maligned for its reputation when it comes to women, was more formed by women than many know."

Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"This engaging volume, accessible to students and general readers alike, highlights the theological contributions of women in the second through the fifth centuries CE. Informed by a thorough knowledge of the ancient historical context, the authors offer a nuanced discussion of the fascinating material. This book sheds new light on aspects of women's influence in early Christian communities, with a specific focus on their roles in theological debate and development."

Margaret MacDonald, dean of arts, Saint Mary's University

"Poet Mourid Al Barghouti has famously said, 'If you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, "secondly."' If we start with Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa and not with Macrina, their sister, who influenced and guided them, we end up with a truncated understanding of Cappadocian theology. If we start with Augustine the bishop and not with Monica's influence on her son, we will scarcely understand the Theologian of the Heart. In this book, Cohick and Hughes begin where good history ought to begin: with 'firstly.' They bring to the fore the often overlooked protomartyrs, theologians, teachers, ascetics, and politicians of the early church--the dispossessed women whose stories animated the imagination of Christians for centuries and whose influence, authority, and legacy has been preserved in the literary and material record. This is an exceptional book."

George Kalantzis, professor of theology and director of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies, Wheaton College

"This engaging and readable study of early Christian women is especially appealing because of its attention to a selection of fascinating characters. By adopting this kind of biographical approach, while still supporting their stories with excellent scholarly analysis and helpful historical context, Cohick and Hughes make their subjects--and their times and places--come alive."

Robin Jensen, Luce Chancellor's Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship, Vanderbilt University

"Lynn Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes bring a welcome gift to patristic scholarship and to the classroom with this volume. Skillfully weaving together the most recent and cogent scholarship on women in early Christianity, they successfully show the critical and integrative contributions of early Christian women to the complex development of Christian theology, literature, liturgy, and monasticism. Theologically nuanced, historically informed, contextually careful, and delightfully written, this book will both enlighten and challenge readers, scholars, and students alike."

Helen Rhee, professor of church history, Westmont College

"This sophisticated and wide-ranging study will be of great interest to anyone concerned with the status and roles of women in the early Christian world. Abundantly illustrated and sensitive to the many problems of interpretation posed by sources, it takes us on an exhilarating ride from the second to the fifth century. Cohick and Hughes model the practice of 'responsible remembrance' that they encourage in their readers."

David G. Hunter, Cottrill-Rolfes Chair of Catholic Studies, University of Kentucky


The Authors

  1. Lynn H. Cohick

    Lynn H. Cohick

    Lynn H. Cohick (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. She is the author of several books, including Women in the World of the Earliest Christians and commentaries on Philippians and...

    Continue reading about Lynn H. Cohick

  2. Amy Brown Hughes

    Amy Brown Hughes

    Amy Brown Hughes (PhD, Wheaton College) is assistant professor of theology at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

    Continue reading about Amy Brown Hughes

Reviews

A Jesus Creed 2017 Book of the Year (Honorable Mention)

"This book opens the door to a room full of women who deserve a place at the table with the men whose stories have been told. There is here good historical sketch, solid theological awareness, and an eye on the influence each woman can have in the church today. What a delightful read."

Scot McKnight,

Jesus Creed blog


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