"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Female Deacons and Priests?

One of the questions that has aroused great controversy in our time has been the ordination of women. Many continue to press for this or to assert that history "shows" that women were actually ordained. Most of the evidence for such claims is controverted, and much of it transparently tendentious, but some of it (at least for the diaconate in the East) is credible according to such scholars as John McGuckin. Now a new book comes along to push the debate forward: Kevin Magidan and Carolyn Osiek, eds., Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History (John Hopkins University Press, 2011), 240pp,

About this book the publisher claims:
In a time when the ordination of women is an ongoing and passionate debate, the study of women's ministry in the early church is a timely and significant one. There is much evidence from documents, doctrine, and artifacts that supports the acceptance of women as presbyters and deacons in the early church. While this evidence has been published previously, it has never before appeared in one complete English-language collection.

With this book, church historians Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek present fully translated literary, epigraphical, and canonical references to women in early church offices. Through these documents, Madigan and Osiek seek to understand who these women were and how they related to and were received by, the church through the sixth century. They chart women's participation in church office and their eventual exclusion from its leadership roles.

The editors introduce each document with a detailed headnote that contextualizes the text and discusses specific issues of interpretation and meaning. They also provide bibliographical notes and cross-reference original texts. Madigan and Osiek assemble relevant material from both Western and Eastern Christendom.
Chapter 3 ("Women Deacons in the East: Literary Texts, Literary Allusions, Inscriptions") precedes Ch. 4 ("Women Deacons in the East: Canons and Comments on Church Practices") and Ch. 5 ("Women Deacons in the East: Later Texts").  Ch. 8 ("Women Presybters") has a sub-section on the East.

We will see about having this book expertly reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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