Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook

Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook

Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook

Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook

Synopsis

This is a substantially expanded and completely revised edition of a book originally published in 1988 as Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics. The book is a collection of translations of primary texts relevant to women's religion in Western antiquity, from the fourth century BCE to the fifth century CE. The selections are taken from the plethora of ancient religions, including Judaism and Christianity, and are translated from the six major languages of the Greco-Roman world: Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, and Coptic. The texts are grouped thematically in six sections: Observances, Rituals, and Festivals; Researching Real Women: Documents to, from and by Women; Religious Office; New Religious Affiliation and Conversion; Holy, Pious, and Exemplary Women; and The Feminine Divine. Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World provides a unique and invaluable resource for scholars of classical antiquity, early Christianity and Judaism, and women's religion more generally.

Excerpt

When I published the first edition of this sourcebook in 1988, I wanted to assemble in one place, in English translation, major texts and documents pertaining to the studyof women's religious activities in the various religions of Greco-Roman antiquity, including Judaism and Christianity. As I pointed out at the time, there were then numerous sourcebooks on the religions of Greco-Roman antiquity (manydesigned to aid the studyof the New Testament and early Christianity), an anthologyof texts on women's lives in Greek and Roman society, and several on women in Christian sources. A handful of studies surveyed what were then couched as “attitudes” toward women in Judaism and Christianity, and one Christian feminist theologian had assembled a collection of resources for feminist (Christian) theology. No one, however, had assembled the texts relevant to women's religions in Western antiquity. Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics: A Sourcebook of Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman World marshaled an arrayof materials into 135 entries, ranging from Euripides' description of the first ecstatic worshipers of the Greek god Dionysos in his late-fifth-century B. C. E. prize-winning play The Bacchae to Philo of Alexandria's report on monastic Jewish women philosophers in the first century C. E. to epitaphs attesting women deacons and elders in numerous Christian communities, and women leaders in late antique Jewish synagogues.

In 1988, feminist scholarship on women's religions, both in the ancient world and elsewhere, was still verymuch in its infancy. Onlyfive years earlier, I had published a review article on women's religions in the Greco-Roman world, including Christianityand Judaism, in which I was able to offer a reasonablycomprehensive surveyof twentieth-centuryscholarship whose bibliographycontained about 250 entries. Much of that scholarship was pursued within the context of contemporarytheological debates. The evidence for women as leaders in ancient Christian churches was studied for the relevance it might have for debates about the contemporaryordination of women; and the views of ancient male Christian writers from Paul to Tertullian to Jerome and John Chrysostom regarding women . . .

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