Religion 221a, F'09
TTh 10:00-11:30
Office hours: By appt. [x1028; amcguire@haverford.edu]


Women and Gender In Early Christianity

Prof. Anne McGuire
Haverford College

Focus for Fall 2009: Eve, Mary, and Mary Magdalene
in Early Christian Traditions

The Morning of the Resurrection (1882)
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)

Images of Eve, Mary, and Mary Magdalene in the History of Art

Syllabus and Course Information

  • Course Description: An examination of the representation of women and gender in the New Testament and other early Christian texts, with attention to their historical and contemporary significance. In this course we'll employ a variety of methods (feminist, literary, historical, socio-cultural, theological) to explore the variety of early Christian views of women and gender. A special focus for Fall 2007 will be the varying representations of 3 female figures who have played important and varied symbolic roles in the history of the Christian tradition: Eve, the 'mother of the living' (Genesis 2-3); Mary, the mother of Jesus; and Mary Magdalene, female disciple and witness.

    Course Requirements:

    1. Careful reading of all assigned texts, weekly Blackboard postings, and participation in class discussion (30%).
      1. This is not a lecture course. All students are expected to come to class ready to participate in discussion.
      2. Half the class will post on Blackboard a 2-3 paragraph analysis of some aspect of the reading for class by 9 p.m. the Monday night before every Tuesday class; the other half will post by 9 p.m. the Wednesday night before Thursday's class, starting the second week of the semester.
      3. These postings should offer close analysis of a particular passage in the primary source readings assigned for class, or they should raise critical questions about secondary sources (the writings of contemporary scholars). Students who have written for class may be asked to share an observation or a question about the material for class discussion. All students are expected to read the postings for both Tuesday and Thursday before class.
    2. Two Essays of 5-6 pages each (40%), due 10/8 and 12/4.
    3. A final research paper of 12-15 pages (30%). Proposals due in class (date tba). Annotated bibliography and outline due; 5-page draft due last week of class.

Required Textbooks:

  • Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose D'Angelo, Women and Christian Origins
  • J. Lynch, Early Christianity: A Brief History
  • Patricia Cox Miller, Women in Early Christianity
  • Bonnie Thurston, Women in the New Testament
  • Karen L. King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.
  • Bible. New Revised Standard Version.
  • Additional Readings will be available at the web site, on reserve, or in class.
 

SYLLABUS OF READINGS

I. Women and Gender in the New Testament: The Gospels and Letters of Paul

Week I: The Cultural and Social Contexts of Early Christianity

T, 9/1 Introduction to the Course: Women and Gender in Early Christianity and in Contemporary Scholarship
Th, 9/3: From Jesus Movement to Constantine: the Cultural and Social Contexts of Early Christianity

Readings for Week of 9/1-3

  • Handout, first class
  • J. Lynch, Early Christianity, chapters on Jesus and the Jewish Context of the Jesus Movement, 1-23
  • Kraemer/D'Angelo, Introduction, Women in Christian Origins (WCO), 3-10
  • First reading of The Gospel of Mark 1-8
  • Recommended: Fiorenza, "Remembering the Past in Creating the Future," Bread Not Stone, Part 1, Part 2

  • Topics for Class Discussion
    • Consider the issues and debates in early Christian studies discussed by Kraemer/D'Angelo. Which of these seem most relevant to the issues you want to see discussed in the course?
    • Examine closely the references to women in the Gospel of Mark. How are these women characterized? What roles do they play? How does their representation and/or characterization in GMark relate to the gospel's characterization of the male disciples of Jesus (the 12 and others.

II: Interpreting Stories about Women in the Gospel of Mark; Gender, Characterization, and Narrative Themes as Categories of Analysis

Text for the week of 9/8-10: The Gospel of Mark

  • T, 9/8 Reimagining the Jesus Movement and Stories about Women in the Gospel of Mark 1-8
  • Gospel of Mark, focus on chapters 1-8
  • Thurston,Women in the New Testament (WNT),1-29
  • Ross Kraemer, "Jewish Women and Christian Origins: Some Caveats," WCO, 35-49
  • E. S. Fiorenza, "The Jesus Movement as a Renewal Movement within Judaism," In Memory of Her, 105-130 [pdf linked here]

    • Topics for Discussion and Postings on Blackboard for Tuesday's class:
    • Consider Fiorenza's reconstruction of the Jesus movement, especially with respect to her understanding of Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom (basiliea). What would it mean for a woman or a man to follow Jesus as a disciple and his proclamation, according to Fiorenza? How similar is Mark's presentation of Kingdom and discipleship to Fiorenza's? How are they different?
    • Consider, for example, stories about such apparent 'insiders' as Jesus' family (Mark 3:31-35) and the disciples (Mark 4 and throughout) in relation to stories about apparent outsiders, such as the women with the flow of blood (Mark 5:25-43) and the Syrophoenician woman(Mark 7:24-30).
    • Analyse one or more of the stories about women in GMark 1-8 in relation to the category of gender. In what ways do these stories reflect, reinforce, challenge, or subvert traditional constructions of male and female difference?

  • Th, 9/10: Stories about Women in the Gospel of Mark 1-16
  • Reread the entire Gospel of Mark; note the difference between the 'original' ending of Mark at 16:8 and the longer ending (16:9-20)
  • Mary Rose D'Angelo, "(Re)Presentations of Women in the Gospels: John and Mark," WCO, 129-149 (Focus on her discussion of GMark
  • Thurston, WNT, 62-78

    • Topics for Discussion and Postings on Blackboard for Tuesday's class:
    • Reread the entire Gospel of Mark closely with careful attention to the gospel's depiction of the disciples of Jesus and of the women who interact with him. Compare the disciples' failure to 'hear' and 'understand' Jesus (Mk 4:10-13, 4:40-41; 6:17-29; 6:47-52; 8:14-21, 8:31-33; 9:30-35; 10:32-37, etc.) with the responses of various women depicted in the text - from the women with the flow of blood and the .Syrophoenician woman to the woman who anoints Jesus at Bethany (14:3-9), and the women at the cross and the empty tomb (15:40-16:8).
    • Consider the stories about women, the disciples, the family of Jesus, and other social groups in GMk in relation to the larger themes emerging in the gospel - e.g., the "good news [gospel] of the Kingdom of God," the identity of Jesus, and various tensions, e.g., between secrecy/hiddenness and openness/revelation; between faith/understanding and unfaith/misunderstanding; and between insiders and outsiders? How are we to read the stories about women in GMk 1-6 in relation to these themes and tensions in the text?
    • Choose one story and develop your own interpretation or retelling of the story to share with the class.

III-IV: Interpreting Stories about Women in the Gospel of Luke-Acts: Luke's Depiction of Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Women in the Early Church

Text for week of 9/15-17: The Gospel of Luke

  • The Gospel of Luke - focus on passages listed below, esp. Lk 1-3, 7:36-8:3; 10:38-42, 11;27-28, and 23:49-24:12.
  • D'Angelo, "(Re)Presentations of Women in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke-Acts," WCO, 171-191 (focus on analysis of Luke
  • Judith Hallett, "Women's Lives in the Ancient Mediterranean," Women & Christian Origins (WCO), 13-34
  • Lynch, Early Christianity, The Greek and Roman Context of Early Christianity, 24-36
  • Synoptic Comparison of the Empty Tomb and Resurrection Appearances
  • Mary Rose D'Angelo, "Reconstructing 'Real' Women from Gospel Literature: The Case of Mary Magdalene," WCO, 105-28
  • Recommended for further reading: Commentaries on Luke in The Women's Bible Commentary and Searching the Scriptures. Vol. II (r).
    • Topics for T, 9/15: Women in the Gospel of Luke, First Reading; Focus on Luke's depiction of Mary the Mother of Jesus:
      • Read the Gospel of Luke 1-10 with careful attention to women who play a role in the narrative and women who appear in the sayings/parables of Jesus. Compare with GMark. Consider, for example: Elizabeth, Mary, Anna (Lk 1-3); the woman who anoints Jesus (Lk 7:36-50); Mary Magdalene and others from Galilee (8:1-3); Jesus' saying on his mother and brothers (8:19-21) Jairus' daughter and the hemorrhaging woman (8:40-56); and Mary and Martha (10:38-42).
      • Compare closely the context and features of Mark's story of the anointing woman (Mark 14:3-9) with Luke's story of the woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.
  • Topics for Th, 9/17: Interpreting Stories about Women in the Gospel of Luke: Focus on Mary Magdalen and the Women at the Empty Tomb
    • Continue your reading and analysis of stories and sayings about women in Luke, with particular attention to the relation between the structure and themes of Luke (the role of the Holy Spirit; prophecy; repentance and forgiveness) and its stories about women. Consider: 1) stories about women (esp. the woman bent over inn 13:10-17 and women at the crucifixion and the empty tomb in 23:49-24:12) and 2) women/gender in sayings of Jesus: Jesus' saying on what is blessed (11:27-28); on division in households (12:49-53); the parable of the lost coin (15:8-10); the parable of the widow and judge (18:1-8); on marriage and resurrection (21:27-40); the daughters of Jerusalem (23:27-31).
    • Choose one story and offer a reinterpretation of the story within its literary, historical, or theological contexts in Luke.
    • Use the PDF documents on the crucifixion, empty tomb and resurrection narratives in the 4 gospels to analyse more clearly what Luke does with this material. What do you make of the differences in Luke's version of these stories. Be especially attentive to the differences between their respective references to Mary Magdalen (Luke 8 and 24 and parallels).

  • T, 9/22 and Th 9/24: Women in Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters of Paul

    Texts for Week of 9/22-24:

    • Acts of the Apostles,
    • Paul's Letters to the Galatians & 1 Corinthians [quick reading]; Romans 16 [close reading for evidence of women]
    • Lynch, Early Christiantiy, The Jesus Movement in the First Century, 37-50
  • Topics for T, 9/22 Women in Acts of the Apostles
    • Continue your reading and analysis of stories and sayings about women in Acts of the Apostles, with particular attention to the relation between the structure and themes of the Gospel of Luke (the role of the Holy Spirit; prophecy; repentance and forgiveness) as well as newly emerging themes in the Acts of the Apostles. Pay particular attention to the relative absence of named women in Acts' accounts of the early church in Jerusalem and in the early missionary movement. Also note the stories about named women, including the couples: Ananias and Sapphira, Prisca and Aquila, and also such women as the prophesying daughters of Philip. What has happened to Mary Magdalene and other 'prominent' women of GLuke?
    • Choose one story and offer a reinterpretation of the story within its literary, historical, or theological contexts in Acts.
  • Topics for Th, 9/24 Introduction to Women in the Pauline Communities
    • Read Gal. and 1 Cor. quickly to get a sense of issues relating to women, gender, and sexuality (Focus on Gal. 3:28, 4:21-31; 1 Cor 7 and 11)
    • Read Romans 16 for evidence of women in the Pauline communities

    Weeks V-VI, 9/29, 10/6, 10/8: Women and Gender in the Communities and Letters of Paul

    Readings for weeks of 9/29-10/8

    • Galatians; 1 Corinthians, focus on chapters 5-7, 11, 14-15; Romans 16
    • A Chronology of Paul's Life and Letters
    • Genesis 1-3; Language of Genesis 1-3; focus on Genesis 1:26-27
    • M. MacDonald, WCO, "Reading Real Women through the Letters of Paul," 199-218
    • E. Castelli, "Paul on Women and Gender," WCO, 221-233
    • Topics for T, 9/29 "There is No Male and Female; For You Are All One in Christ" (Gal. 3:28)
      • What is the central message of Paul's "gospel" according to Galatians? What is the relation between Paul's theological claims about covenant inheritance and his statements about women? Consider especially Gal. 3:28-29 and 4:21-31.
      • What is the significance of differences based on ethnicity (Jews and Greeks), social class (slave and free), and gender (male and female), according to the Paul of 1 Corinthians? Compare and contrast with the persepctives of Gal. 3:28-29.
      • Examine Romans 16 for evidence of women at work in the Pauline mission. Evaluate MacDonald's arguments on the roles of "real woman" in Pauline churches.
    • Th, 10/1 No Class - Mary Magdalene Lecture at Marquette University, "Mary Magdalene as Disciple, Witness, Icon"
      • Those scheduled to post on Thursday, 10/1 should post for this week under 9/29 on the Discussion Board
    • Topics for T, 10/6 and Th 10/8 Sexuality and Gender Issues in Corinth: Marriage and the "Body" in Pauline Christianity
      • How does Paul's argument about the relation between the individual and communal "Body" in 1 Corinthians affect his position on sexual matters in Corinth? How does his view of the impending End (eschaton) have on his views of marriage, sexuality, and the community?
      • Analyse the uses of Genesis 1-3 in the language and arguments of Gal. 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 11. What evidence do you see of ancient constructions of gender in the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and the argument of 1 Corinthians 11?
      • Compare Gal. 3:28 with the similar formula in 1 Corinthians 12. What do you make of the differences of wording and context?
    • Th, 10/8, Paper #1 Due by 4 p.m. in Gest, second floor. Guidelines for Essay 1

    FALL BREAK, 10/10-10/18

    Week VII, 10/20 & 10/22: Women and Gender in the Pauline and Post-Pauline Communities

    • Readings for 10/20 & 10/22
    • Review Pauline readings from before Break, esp. Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 7, 11
    • Colossians and Ephesians, special focus on Col. 3:18-4:1, Ephesians 5:21-33 (the household codes)
    • 1 Timothy (focus on references to women, esp. Eve in 1 Tim 2:8-15); See also 2 Tim and Titus, especially for references to widows and wives
    • Patricia Cox Miller, Women in Early Christianity, "Women's Roles in the Church," 15-39; 49-68, 251-286 -- Many of these sources are quite a bit later; read quickly for references to the letters of Paul and the larger Pauline corpus to see how these letters were interpreted to shape and restrict the roles of women in the early Church
    • Genesis and Gender: Pay attention especially to the different interpretations of the notion of the Human Being (ha-adham, anthropos) created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and the account of the creation of the earth creature and its division into man and woman (Hebrew ish and ishsha; Greek aner and gyne).
    • MacDonald, "Early Interpreters of Paul on Women and Gender," WCO, 236-251
    • Topics for T, 10/20 (Contd.) Sexuality and Gender Issues in Pauline Christianity: Authentic Paul and the Pauline Corpus
      • How does Paul's argument about the relation between the individual and communal "Body" in 1 Corinthians affect his position on sexual matters in Corinth? How does his view of the impending End (eschaton) have on his views of marriage, sexuality, and the community?
      • Analyse the uses of Genesis 1-3 in the language and arguments of Gal. 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 11. What evidence do you see of ancient constructions of gender in the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 and the argument of 1 Corinthians 11?
      • Compare Gal. 3:28 with the similar formula in 1 Corinthians 12. What do you make of the differences of wording and context
    • Topics for T, 10/20 and Th, 10/22 The Legacy of Pauline Tradition: The Household Codes and Pastoral Letters
      • Analyse the construction of social relations in the household codes of Colossians and Ephesians. Compare with what we know of social roles, especially those associated with class and gender in the Pauline communities.
      • Compare and contrast the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 in 1 Timothy with that of Gal. and 1 Corinthians (and see also Romans 5). What do you make of the similarities and differences in general, and between 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2.

    Week VIII, 10/27-10/29: The Acts of Paul and Thecla: The Ascetic Paul and the Idealization of Female Virginity

    For T, 10/27 and Th, 10/29: The Acts of Paul and Thecla

    • The Acts of Paul and Thecla, in Patricia Cox Miller, Women in Early Christainity, 155-180
    • Margaret MacDonald, Rereading Paul: Early Interpreters of Paul on Women and Gender, Women and Christian Origins, 236-253
    • Lynch, Early Christianity, "Roman Society and the Christians," 79-90
    • Miller, Women in Early Christianity, on Martyrs and Asceticism, 40-46; skim sections on Virginity and Asceticism for now, 69-250
    • Review Francine Cardman, "Women, Ministry, and Church Order," WCO, esp. 301-02
    • Nancy A. Carter, "The Acts of Thecla: A Pauline Tradition Linked to Women
    • Thecla Links

    Week IX, 11/3- 11/5: Women and Gender in the Gospel of John; Logos and Sophia; The Mary's of the Gospels of John

    Topics for T, 11/3 and Th, 11/5 Women and Gender in the Gospels of John; Logos and Sophia; "Mary" in the Gospels of John

    • For Tuesday, 11/3
    • Gospel of John, Read the entire Gospel of John closely with careful attention to: 1) the conception of Jesus' preexistence as Logos of God and 2) the women who play an important role in the story: Focus on: Mary at the wedding in Cana (2:1-12); the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42); Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (11:1-53); the woman who anoints Jesus (12:1-8; here: Mary of Bethany; compare with Mk 14:3-9 and Lk 7:36-50); Mary at the cross (19:25-27); Mary Magdalene at the cross and outside the empty tomb (19:25, 20:1-18).
    • WISDOM Literature: Proverbs 8 (look for passages on personified Wisdom), Wisdom of Solomon (skim for images of Wisdom personified; select 1-3 passages that correlate to ideas about the Logos in Gospel of John 1)
    • E. Schuessler Fiorenza, "The Gospel of John," In Memory of Her, 323-334.
    • D'Angelo, WCO, 129-137, 145-146
    • Topics for Th, 11/5
      • Focus on the connections between Wisdom in Jewish Wisdom literature (Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon) with Hebrew texts
      • What do you make of the differences between John's presentation of Jesus' ministry, teaching, and interactions with women in comparison to the Synoptic Gospels?
      • What is the significance of John's account of the women at the cross, empty tomb, and the resurrection appearances.
      • Analyse closely John's depiction of Mary Magdalene. Compare with those in the Synoptic gospels, especially with the accounts of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. What are the most significant implications of GJohn's more detailed account of the resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene?

    Week X-XII, 11/10- 12/3: Mary Magdalene and Female Imagery in Non-Canonical Gospels: The Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip; Female Images for the Divine: Sophia, Thunder, the Divine Mother and Father

    T, 11/10: Women and Gender in The Gospel of Thomas and The Hypostasis of the Archons; Interpretations and Retellings of Genesis 1-3

  • Topics for Discussion, 11/10
    • Compare and contrast the representation of Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Thomas with the NT Gospels.
    • What is the relation between creation and salvation in GThomas? Consider, for example, the text's references to Adam and other imagery drawn from Genesis 1-3. How do the figures of Adam and Eve fit into the religious worldview of GThomas?
    • What is the relation between gender and salvation in the Gospel of Thomas? Analyse the tension between Gospel of Thomas 22 and 114, as well as other references to male and female.
    • The Hypostasis of the Archons from Nag Hammadi offers a radical retelling of Genesis from the perspective that the Creator God is not the true God. Notice the sharp distinction between Ialdabaoth vs. Incorruptiblity and the Divine Spirit, and think about the implications of this revisioning of the God who gives the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge (gnosis). How does this text's reinterpretation of Genesis affect its representation of Eve and her daughter Norea? What impact is this likely to have had on the roles of women in the communities that read this text?
      • How do the various manifestations of the divine in HypArch relate to the Jewish and early Christian conceptions of Sophia and Logos?
      • What is the significance of Norea's epithet as "The VIRGIN whom the Forces could not Defile"?

  • Th, 11/12 and T, 11/17: The Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip
    • Review references to Mary Magdalene in the New Testament Gospels: GMk 15:40-16:1, [16:19]; Mt 27:55-61, 28:1; Lk. 8:1-3; 24:9-11; Jn 19:25-20:18.
    • Karen King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala
    • [Read the entire book due by the end of Thanksgiving break; focus particularly on the text and on King's discussion of the historical contexts]
    • See also The Gospel of Mary [Magdalene] for an online translation
    • Relevant Excerpts from The Da Vinci Code
      • Note particularly the use of The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Mary in Teabing's account

      Topics for Discussion on GMary, Th, 11/12:

      • Analyse Mary's role as a recipient of revelation in The Gospel of Mary. Compare and contrast with her role as a witness of the resurrection in the New Testament texts.
      • Compare references to the "Virgin" and virginity in GPhilip with Norea as Virgin in HypArch. How does each text conceptualize the state and power of virginity?
      • Compare the varying representations of Mary Magdalene in the New Testament, the "Gnostic Gospels," and in contemporary culture. Consider, for example, visual representations of Mary: Gallery of Images: Images of Mary Magdalene and representations of Mary Magdalen in contemporary culture (poetry, music, film, literature - e.g., iThe Last Temptation of Christ , Jesus Christ Superstar; Godspell, The DaVinci Code, etc.
      • What does it mean to become "a complete human being" in the Gospel of Mary? Compare with GThomas 114.
      • How do the GMary and GPhilip illustrate the spirituality of Mary and the other disciples?

    Th, 11/19 The Gospel of Philip and Valentinian Conceptions of Gender and Salvation

    The Gospel of Philip

    Topics for Discussion of GPhilip, Th 11/19

    • Analyse the conception of salvation as a restoration of unity in the Gospel of Philip. Analyse GPhil's use of Genesis 1-3 in establishing its paradigms of creation and salvation.
    • How does Mary Magdalen figure in this gospel? Compare and contrast with the NT gospels, GThomas, and the Gospel of Mary
    • There has been much debate about the meaning of the "Bridal Chamber" in GPhilip. It has been argued that the "Bridal Chamber" refers to:the divine realm of male-female syzygies [pairs]; the state of salvific union; a ritual of salvific and spiritual union or completion; a ritual of sacred sexual intercourse; marriage; the spiritual culmination of all the sacraments/rituals the GPhilip refers to; all of the above. How do you interpret the imagery of the "Bridal Chamber" in GPhilip?

    Readings, T 11/24: Female Images of the Divine: Sophia and Thunder

    11/24 -- Due in class: A one-paragraph proposal for your final research project, with bibliography of primary sources and 3-5 secondary sources (articles and/or books).


    Thanksgiving Break

    Week XIII, 12/1-3 "Mother of the Living" or "Devil's Gateway": Genesis 1-3 as a Site of Contention in 2nd-3rd Century Christianity; Images of Eve, Virginity, and the Female Martyr

    T, 12/1 Tertullian and the "Church Fathers" on Genesis 1-3

      • Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, esp. Introduction
          • Patricia Cox Miller, Timeline, Women in Early Christianity, 326-27
      • Elizabeth A. Clark, " Ideology, History, and the Construction of 'Woman in Late Antique Christianity "
      • Miller, 287-306
      • Lynch, Early Christianty, "Christian Intellectuals," 91-104; "Proto-Orthodox Christian Communities in the Third Century," 105-120
      • Compare the representations of Genesis 1-3, Eve, and their implications for conceptions of "woman" in Tertullian, in passages from the New Testament (esp. 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy) that we've read; GPhiip; Thunder, HypArch; Tertullian; and the "Patristic" writers discussed in Clark's essay
      • Compare and contrast the representations of EVE in HypArch with those found in the Pauline literature and in Tertullian

    Th, 12/3: The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, translation online at the Medieval Sourcebook

    Week XIV, 12/8-12/10: The Legacy of Women and Gender in Early Christianity: Images of Eve, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and other early Christian women in Contemporary culture

    Preparation for T, 12/8: No new readings - Bring in (or send electronically to me for posting on Blackboard) at last one representation of Eve, Mary Magdalene, or Mary in Contemporary Culture to Share with the Class

    Preparation for Th, 12/10: No new readings - Prepare a very short summary and presentation on your final project

    • Each of you will have the opportunity to present on your final projects for the course. Come prepared to help one another refine and advance your approaches to the material.
      • Due in class: 5-page draft, annotated bibliography, and outline of final paper

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