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Title: The theological struggle for the meaning of 'woman' in the early Christian communities
Author: Gross, Sara
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Feminist historical readings of New Testament texts often overlook the importance of theology in their assessments of early Christian women. This is because theologies make 'truth claims' and feminists prefer to view the restrictions placed on women as the result of socio-cultural factors. However, it is the argument of this dissertation that the early Christian communities were involved in a multi-faceted struggle for the meaning of 'woman' and that this issue was debated theologically in many locations. Rather than avoid questions of theology, it is important for feminist readers to engage in the theological struggle, a struggle that can be viewed as having a loosely defined continuity with the struggle for female identity within the feminist movement itself. Three case studies are presented and in each case it can be shown that female identity was indeed debated on theological grounds in the early church. In the communities behind 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy it is clear that theological discussions were taking place over the issue of the place and role of women in the church/es. In the church at Corinth, debates arose over the meaning of gender in relation to the theological issues of wisdom, Christ's death and return, the presence of angels during worship, the meaning of baptism and the interpretation of Genesis 1.27. It will be shown that the author of 1 Timothy likely had a specific community or communities in mind when writing. By analysing the rhetoric of this text, it becomes clear that theological discussions over the meaning of 'woman' took place amongst the readers over the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and the relationship between childbearing and salvation. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians we find an interesting passage that shows the reader just how entwined theologies of community and gender relations were becoming in the early church. We can conclude that the theological questions behind the debates about female identity were quite different in different locations. It is important to be aware that the New Testament contains evidence of a struggle that offers a paradigm for debates among feminist Christians today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available