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Ordained Women in the Early Church

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.
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This publication will be very welcome to a wide audience that will include interested general readers as well as more advanced students of the history of early Christianity and will make a substantial contribution to the field. -- Robin Jensen, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, author of Face to Face: The Portrait of the Divine in Early Christianity

About the Author

Kevin Madigan is the Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University. Carolyn Osiek is the Charles Fischer Professor of New Testament (retired), Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University.


The richly varied texts introduce us to a remarkable group of women. -- Rev. Dr. John Binns Church Times An invaluable resource for all who are interested in the historical evidence relating to the ordination of women as deacons and presbyters in the early centuries up to roughly the sixth century. -- Mary Coloe Review of Biblical Literature Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek's collection and analysis of the historical documents on the topic is important and relevant to church historians and modern church leaders alike. Review of Biblical Literature Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek... have done the important work of bringing together into one volume all known Greek and Latin references to women deacons and presbyters. -- Andrew Gregory Church of England Newspaper Thanks to this work, most of the pieces of the jig saw of the history of women in the diaconate are laid out before us. Distinctive Diaconate A masterful compilation and translation. -- Phyllis Zagano Theological Studies Madigan and Osiek bring considerable scholarly expertise and experience to this difficult task. -- Bonnie Flessen Currents in Theology and Mission A thorough, well-researched, and lucid documentary history. -- Daniel Keating Henoch Finally, readers have a single compendium in English of the evidence that women did hold church office as deacon, presbyter, and bishop, not simply as spouses of male officeholders and not in heretical sects but in their own right and in the Catholic Church. -- Maureen A. Tilley Catholic Biblical Quarterly No academic library (and particularly seminary library) will want to be without this book. -- Leslie Baynes Religious Studies Review An excellent resource for deeper study of original texts as well as for informed entry into current ecclesial discussions of practice and polity. -- Francine Cardman Journal of Religion It is impossible to come away from this excellent, erudite and evenly argued book without some very uncomfortable questions about how women in the church have from the beginning been fitted into wider society's conception of what is appropriate and expedient. -- Morwenna Ludlow New Blackfriars Madigan and Osiek have produced the best, most comprehensive, and extremely useful documentary history to date regarding the ordination of women in the early church. -- William Tabbernee Catholic Historical Review

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