Women and early Christianity 1. Averil Cameron 2. Anderson 1. Jesus – for or against? 2. Paul – for or against? 3. Beliefs supporting women in early Church 4. Beliefs subordinating women in early Church Averil Cameron-Early Christian Discourse • Her background – currently a Fellow at Oxford – late antiquity and Byzantine History including church history and intellectual history • Her Big Question: How did ‘concept of women’ in early Christianity affect women’s lives? • “Women [in early Christianity] continued to be seen both as being particularly desirous and as the objects of men’s desire, and the denial of their sexuality as offering the best hopes of rendering them harmless in both guises.” (165) Averil Cameron-Early Christian Discourse • Sources and methodology: – Primary Sources: mainly New Testament as well as the early Christian fathers – Secondary Sources: literary criticism and biblical scholarship – Methodology: “The area of textuality…is of fundamental importance in understanding the development both of early Christian thought and practice.” (154) Averil Cameron-Early Christian Discourse • Her theoretical framework: feminist theologian examining power of ideas through rhetorical devices • Her argument: “Women continued to be seen both as being particularly desirous and as the objects of men’s desire, and the denial of their sexuality as offering the best hopes of redering them harmless in both guises.” (165) Averil Cameron-Early Christian Discourse • Her evidence to support her assertions: • On forbidden sexuality: “Forbidden sexuality…is inextricably identified with the idea of women, who are seen as the bearers of temptation for unwary monks and hermits.” (155) • On polarities of gender: “the developed doctrine of the Incarnation rests on the notion of the tension between splitting and union, in Platonic language the problem of the one and the many…. The Platonic language in which Christian theology was couched…was at least as important as any social factor in formulating early Christian attitudes to virginity and to women.” (163164) Averil Cameron-Early Christian Discourse • Her evidence to support her assertions: • On woman (Mary) as the saviour of men: “For the men who wrote the stories [miracle stories and Marian legends], it was highly congenial to sanitise the dangerous female element into a saving maternal figure, not only motherly but also safely virginal” (161) • On male writers’ view of woman: “The overall presentation of woman in early Christian texts is therefore a negative one, which is also a textual strategy. [It is] a rhetoric of power.” Anderson • Jesus – for or against? – How was Jesus’ relationship with women portrayed in the Gospels? – Is there a difference between his words and his deeds? • Paul – for or against? – Is he consistent in his views of women? – Is there a difference between his words and his deeds? Anderson • Women in early Christian power circles (71) – Who are the Gnostics? – What was the role of women in their sects? – How did the mainstream Church respond? • Is there a gender difference in martyrdom? (71) • After the persecutions, what role did women take in early Christianity that was “not the norm”? (72) • What role did women’s religious communities play in the Church? Were they supported or denied? (75) • What did these communities offer women? (76) Anderson – subordinating women • How did leaders such as Benedict and Caesarius modify women’s communities to accommodate their “weaker” nature? (77) • Which chief sources were used to support subordination and how? (77) • Now reassess Paul and the Church Fathers – good thing or bad thing for women? (78) • Try to put the Judeo back into Judeo-Christian views here. What do Hebrew traditions do for women and the image of their bodies? (80) Anderson-subordinating women? • The Church Fathers and marriage. What was subordinating and what was not? (82) • What about control of women’s bodies; where do the Church Fathers differ from previous views held by “Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Celts and Germans” (82) • Exam type question: According to Anderson, “by the ninth century, Christianity had both empowered and subordinated European women.” How? Which periods promote women’s role and which periods restricted their roles?