Women in Early Christian History

shoulders again

Some of the first disciples

Mary of Nazareth, prophet and Theotokos,  (‘God-bearer’)
Luke 1:46-55, John 19:25, Acts 1:14
Mary of Magdala, disciple and apostle,
Luke 8:1-3, John 20:1-18; The Gospel of Mary (apocrypha, 2nd c)
Martha of Bethany, disciple and house church leader,
John 11:1-27
The Samaritan Woman, evangelist,
John 4:4-42
The Canaanite Woman, intercessor,
Mark 7:24-30
The woman who anointed Jesus, prophet,
Mark 14:3-9

Some women of the earliest church

Lydia of Philippi, Acts 16 – house church leader
Prisca, Acts 18; Romans 16:3-5 – missionary
Phoebe, Romans 16:1 – deacon
Philomena of Rome (early 2nd c) – philosopher and teacher
Maximilla and Prisca of Phrygia (late 2nd c) – prophets
Thecla (c 190), apostle – The Acts of Thecla (apocrypha, 2nd c)

The earliest women writers

Perpetua (d 203), Carthaginian (North Africa), Christian martyr and author,
The Diary of Perpetua
Proba (d 366), Roman, Christian poet –
Cento vergilianus de laudibus Christi
Egeria (d c 400), Galician (northwest Spain), liturgical travelogue,
The Travels of Egeria
Eudokia (d c 460), Byzantine, Christian poet,
Martyrdom of St. Cyprian

Some women of the Eastern Church

Macrina the Younger (340-379), theologian, sister (and teacher)
of Saints Basil and Gregory
Syncletica of Alexandria (5th c), desert mother

Some women of the Celtic Church

Genovefa of Paris (419-502), servant of the poor, peacemaker and church-builder
Brigit of Kildare (451-525), missionary and founder of abbeys
Hilda of Whitby (614-680), founding abbess and peacemaker in the church



In the introduction to her ground-breaking book, In Memory of Her (1983), Elizabeth Schlusser-Fiorenza writes,

The Christian gospel cannot be proclaimed if the women disciples and what they have done are not remembered… The Bible is not just a historical collection of writings but also Holy Scripture, gospel, for Christians today… Yet as long as the stories and history of women in the beginnings of early Christianity are not theologically conceptualized as an integral part of the proclamation of the gospel, biblical texts and traditions formulated and codified by men will remain oppressive to women.  (pgs xiv-xv)

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