Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion: The Power of the Hysterical Woman / Edition 1

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A study of how women figured in public reaction to the church from New Testament times to the second century CE. MacDonald shows the conviction of pagan writers that female initiative was central to Christianity's development, and the belief that women inclined toward excesses in religion. Concern in the New Testament and early Christian texts about the respectability of women is seen in a new light when one appreciates that outsiders focused on early church women and their activities as a reflection of the group as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This sensitively written and subtly argues book sheds new light on the position of women in early Christianity by investigating the stereotypes of Christian women purveyed in pagan and early Christian texts through the lens of social-scientific models of gender relations." University of Toronto Quarterly

"Recommended both for the educated reader and the scholar of Christian origins." Sara C. Winter, Religious Studies Review

"This book will be of particular interest to early-Christian scholars working on women and/or on Christianity and pagan culture as well as to scholars studying women and religion." Susan A. Calef, Journal of Religion

"...MacDonald...has raised a very important question in the study of early Christianity, one that should continue to be pursued." Carolyn Osiek, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"MacDonald has helped us to understand new dimensions of these tensions, and she has done so in a balanced and nuanced way that one can only admire." Peter Richardson, Studies in Relgion

"MacDonald writes a provocative inquiry into the interaction between women in earliest Christianity and the restraints and opportunities afforded them in Greco-Roman society. The volume is marked by informed and carefully applied social and anthropological contructs which bear on an analysis of religions in the first centuries C.E. Original lines of investigations are pursued, and some intriguing conclusions are offered to the reader. This book is a welcome addition to the academic study of religion and to New Testament scholarship in particular. It is cleanly edited, with helpful bibliography and serviceable index." Rollin A. Ramsarin, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Those interested in women's studies will, of course, welcome this book, but any student of the early Church will learn from it. ...this is a good book for scholars and lay people alike." Stephen Benko, The Catholic Historical Review

Virginia Burrus
[It focuses] on sites of intersection and dialogue between pagan and Christian perspectives....Among [the book's] strengths is an attunement (albeit without a highly developed theoretical perspective) to the significance of gendered representations in the negotiation of cultural rivalries, together with its attention to the roles of married as well as celibate Christian women.
Society of Biblical Literature
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521567282
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 292
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: 1. Defining the task; 2. Women's studies in early Christianity and cultural anthropology; 3. Honour and shame; 4. Public, male/ private, female; 5. A social-scientific concept of power; Part I. Pagan Reaction to Early Christian Women in the Second Century CE: 1. Pliny; 2. Marcus Cornelius Fronto; 3. Lucius Apuleius; 4. Lucian of Samosata; 5. Galen of Pergamum; 6. Celsus; 7. Conclusion; Part II. Celibacy, Women, and Early Church Responses to Public Opinion: 1. Paul's teaching on marriage as a 'conversionist' response to the world; 2. Paul's focus on women holy in body and spirit in 1 Corinthians 7; 3. A focus on women in light of the values of honor and shame; 4. 1 Timothy 5.3-16 - second-century celibate women under public scrutiny; 5. When the private becomes public - contacts between 1 Timothy 5.3-16 and the Acts of Paul and Thecla; Part III. Marriage, Women, and Early Church Responses to Public Opinion: 1. 1 Corinthians 7.12-16 - the evangelising potential of household relations; 2. 1 Peter 3.1-16 - recovering the lives of the quiet evangelists; 3. Justin's woman married to an unchaste husband - religious sensiblities and life with a pagan husband; 4. Married life and the social reality of women in the communities of Ignatius of Antioch; 5. From Ephesians 5.21-33 to Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp 5.1-2 - the evolution of authority structures governing the lives of married women; 6. The church-bride and married women as mediators between the church and the world; 7. Conclusion; General conclusion.

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