on May 22, 2008
I read this book after it was recommended by a very learned individual as being THE book to read on the subject. I must say he was absolutely correct. I don't think it's possible to improve on the thoroughness of this study on the institution of deaconesses. Everything from biblical passages to the writings of the Fathers and a thorough investigation of the various rituals for instituting women is covered in exhaustive detail. In addition to just deaconesses, the orders of virgins and widows are covered as well.
The author draws the conclusion that there is a fundamental and essential difference between deaconesses and the male-deaconate. However, the evidence is presented honestly and allowed to speak for itself. The original texts are given so that questions of exact translation can be addressed. My only complaint is that many Latin passages are not translated into English. If you want to read the final word on the subject, this is the book.
on June 29, 2012
Very helpful. Careful scholarship. The only complaint is that in the last 30-50 pages, there are several blocks of untranslated Latin from which he draws points and deductions. This isn't the meat of the text, and one can still follow the argument. Nonetheless, it is still a tad annoying! But, I imagine that's what you get with a book written primarily for Catholic scholars. On the aspect of bias in his research, I think one can simply say that Martimort is careful and doesn't let his agenda drive him to conclusions. The topic isn't replete with sources, and the ones we have are sparse and at times questionable. You see Martimort's careful analysis in how he treats his sources: A single source clearly outlining deaconesses and/or women deacons in church history does not equate to a widespread practice of this function of women's ministry across the Church at that time. He speaks within the bounds of the sources, which is why this book sits above others on the subject. He presents the facts, and with his liturgical expertise, he helps us understand them. All-in-all, this is a very helpful resource, without academic or ecclesiological agenda. Indispensable for both Protestant and Catholic researchers on the topic.
on April 25, 2014
This book by Aime Martimort, re-released by Ignatius Press, sketches the history of women deacons in the early Catholic Church. It examines the sketchy historical records indicating that women were selected informally as 'deacons' to assist fellow women at baptisms and other services where the presence of men would have been immodest. Many progressive Catholic scholars believe these early deaconesses were ordained in many places with the same rite as male deacons, but that there are no records of this since the same ordination rite was used for both sexes. This book examines the same evidence only to show how it's equally probable that women were never "ordained" in the same sense as men, but merely commissioned for a particular ministry that did not involve any liturgical or preaching functions. This book by a French scholar is not a conservative hatchet job, but a carefully-researched and impartial examination, respecting the opposite viewpoint while disputing it. It is the antidote to people who talk about women deacons as if the word "deacon" unarguably had the same meaning for women in the early Catholic Church as it had for men.
on June 22, 2012
Research into the tradition of women deacons--known in Christendom since Phoebe the deacon (Romans 16:1--has generally focussed on the question of whether they were sacramentally ordained. Both before and after Martimort's study, written in response to a earlier work published by Roger Gryson, scholars have determined that women deacons were actually ordained and are still ordained in some Orthodox Churches. Despite excellent work by Kalsbach (1926), Meyer (1938), Gryson (1972), Fitzgerald (1999) and Zagano (2000), the 2002 International Theological Commission study document on the diaconate depends primarily on Martimort's perspective. A comparison between Gryson and Martimort will find they use the same materials, interpreting them differently. Martimort's book is valuable only in the sense of tracing the history of modern attempts to discredit the ordained women of history.