Religious Studies | Topics in Gender & Western Religion
R364 | 22958 | Brakke

Topic: Women & Gender in Ancient Christianity

What roles did women play in the Christian churches of the first
five hundred years?  How did early Christians understand the
significance of gender, especially femininity, in their thought and
practice?  This course will explore these questions by studying the
evidence for women’s participation in ancient Christian groups, the
ways in which women were portrayed in early Christian literature,
and the functions of gender (femininity and, to a lesser extent,
masculinity) in Christian discourse.  We will include some
consideration of women and gender in ancient Judaism, “paganism,”
and ancient society in general.  Approximately the first half of the
semester will be devoted to writings in the New Testament, but then
we will turn to the early church, including Gnosticism, accounts of
female martyrs and holy women, and patristic writings on Eve, women,
and gender roles.  There are no official prerequisites, but previous
study of the New Testament or early Christianity—especially R220
(Introduction to the New Testament) or R327 (Christianity, 50-450)—
is strongly encouraged.  Likely requirements: attendance, midterm
and final exams, two papers (4-6 pages).  Textbooks: Wayne Meeks.
ed., The HarperCollins Study Bible; Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose
D’Angelo, Women and Christian Origins; Ross Kraemer, Women’s
Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook; Elizabeth Clark,
Women in the Early Church.