Religion 221a, F'12
TTh 10:00-11:30, Gest 101
Office hours: By appt. [x1028;]

Women and Gender In Early Christianity

Prof. Anne McGuire
Haverford College

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

Syllabus and Course Information

Required Textbooks:

  • Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose D'Angelo, Women and Christian Origins
  • Patricia Cox Miller, Women in Early Christianity
  • Karen L. King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.
  • Carolinne White, Lives of Roman Christian Women.
  • Bible. New Revised Standard Version.
  • Additional Readings will be available at the web site or in class.


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, 9/4 & Th 9/6 Introduction to the Course: Women and Gender in Early Christianity and in Contemporary Scholarship; Interpretations of Genesis; The Cultural and Social Contexts of Early Christianity

Readings for Week of 9/4-6

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

Text for the week of 9/11-13: The Gospel of Mark

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 9/18-20: The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles

  • 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 Th, 9/20: 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).
    • 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?

  • Weeks IV-VI, 10/25-10/27: Women and Gender in the Communities and Letters of Paul

    T, 9/25 and Th 9/27: Women in Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters of Paul

    Texts for Week of 9/25-27:

    • Paul's Letters to the Galatians & 1 Corinthians (focus on chapters 5-7, 11, 14-15); Romans 16 [close reading for evidence of women]
    • 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, 221-23
  • Topics for Th, 9/25 Women and Gender in the Pauline Communities; "There is No Male and Female; For You Are All One in Christ" (Gal. 3:28)
    • Read Gal. and 1 Cor. with close attention to the issues relating to women, gender, and sexuality (Focus on Gal. 3:28, 4:21-31; 1 Cor 7 and 11)
    • 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.
  • Week VII, 10/2 & 10/4: Women and Gender in the Pauline and Post-Pauline Communities

    Week VII, 10/9-10/11: The Acts of Paul and Thecla: The Ascetic Paul and the Idealization of Female Virginity

    FALL BREAK, 10/12-10/22

    Week IX, 10/23- 10/25: Women and Gender in the Gospel of John; Logos and Sophia; The Mary's of the Gospels of John

    Topics for T, 10/23 and Th, 10/25 Women and Gender in the Gospels of John; Logos and Sophia; "Mary" in the Gospels of John

    Week X-XII, 10/30- 11/8: 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, 11/6: Women and Gender in The Gospel of Thomas and The Hypostasis of the Archons; Interpretations and Retellings of Genesis 1-3

  • Topics for Discussion, 11/6

  • Th, 11/8: The Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip
  • T, 11/13 Female Images of the Divine: Wisdom, Thunder, and the Valentinian Conception of the Divine

    Topics for Discussion, Th 11/8

    Week XIII, 11/13-12/ "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

    Th, 11/15 The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas

    T, 11/27 "Patristic" Writings On Female Comportment and Virginity

    Th, 11/29 The Ideal of Spiritual Marriage and the Virginal Life: Athanasius, Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa

    T, 12/4 The Lives of Melania the Elder and Marcella

    Th, 12/6 Jerome on Virginity: The Life of Paula the Elder and The Letter to Eustochium

    F, 12/7, Paper #2 Due by 4 email attachment. Guidelines for Essay 2

    T, 12/11 Women in Desert Asceticism

    Th, 12/13 Report on Research Projects

    Return to Anne McGuire's Home Page

    Return to Dept. of Religion Home Page

    This page is maintained by, Last updated 10/22/12