Women In Early Christian Society

Women In Early Christian Society

Christianity has reservations and gender roles till date especially with regards to ministry and marriage. It gave authoritative position to men in society, marriage and governance. This preference made the role of women submissive and excluded them from leadership in churches especially from those positions which required ordination. Till date many denominations of the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestants believe that only men can be ordained and declared as deacons or clergy.


Many progressive Christians feel otherwise and take an egalitarian or feminist view stating that the overreaching message of this religion was equality to men and women in ministry and marriage. Some Protestant churches have now ordained women in leadership positions.

Irrespective of these theological differences, most Christians treat women with respect and dignity believing that women were created alongside men. Women have been honored and elevated by preaching in the Bible. Christianity sets moral standards with respect to treatment, attitudes, compassion, dignity, grace, liberation and affirmation towards women which was practiced by Jesus. Despite social norms then, he supported, reached out and helped women publicly. Martha’s sister, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet for his teachings. Even on his way to crucifixion, he stopped and expressed his concern towards women in Jerusalem. The first person to see Jesus after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene, who was instructed to tell others of it although the testimony of women then was not regarded valid. Women opened their homes for spreading the message of Jesus and were later made leaders due to their crucial roles.

Women were given important positions in the early churches but little mention is made in the New Testament. The early churches were ‘Man’s church’ since most information contained in the New Testament was interpreted by them.

During Patristic Age, offices of ministers and teachers were solely meant for men. By 185 to 254 AD, women granted prophecy could not speak in any assembly. In early centuries, some churches in East allowed women limited participation in ecclesiastical offices as deaconesses.

In Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches, ministries and priesthood were meant just for men. With the advent of Christian Monasticism, influential roles came to women. From 5th century, convents provided passage for escaping marriage, acquiring literacy, and learning, child-rearing and active role in religion to women. In the later ages, women saints developed theological ideas and discussion in the church and were declared ‘Doctors of Roman Catholic Church’.

Protestant Reformation closed down convents for women thus closing doors of religious roles to Protestant women until 20th century barring some exceptional cases.

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Women In Early Christian Society

Wikipedia: Gender Roles In Christianity