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The Hidden History of Women's Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West Hardcover – November 30, 2007

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The Hidden History of Women's Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West + When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Here is a truly groundbreaking book, essential reading for anyone interested in the complex story of how the ministry of women has been valued (and devalued) within the Christian church. Gary Macy convincingly demonstrates that in the early church women were ordained into various roles, but in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a new definition of ordination was rigorously applied, which served to exclude them. This study is of crucial importance not only for an understanding of the development of medieval Christianity but also for the material it brings to contemporary debate on the ordination of women." --Alistair Minnis, Yale University


"The Hidden History provides a revelatory synthesis of the evidence for women's ordination in the late antique and early medieval church in addition to tracing the process of its occlusion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. With admirable clarity and compelling detail, Macy reveals fundamental changes in western understandings of ordination and suggestively explores their ecclesiological implications. This book is essential reading for medieval ecclesiastical historians, illuminating a profound transformation in the western church and its clergy." --Maureen C. Miller, author of The Bishop's Palace: Architecture and Authority in Medieval Italy


"In a clear narrative, supported by massive scholarly evidence, Macy had revealed a lost component of first millennium Christianity that should serve as an inspiration for the churches of the third millennium." --Jo Ann Kay McNamara, author of Sisters in Arms


"This is an important book that brings together and makes sense of a series of recent findings about the history of women's ordination. ...The book is beautifully produced and will change how we teach and think about the medieval church." --Church History


"Highly recommended." --Choice


"Macy's excellent Hidden History is both a scholar's book and a comfortable read that is hard to put down." --Catholic Historical Review


"Careful scholarship based on solid historical method and backed up by 97 pages of dense Latin citations and documents drawn from a bibliography consisting of five pages of primary sources and thirteen pages of secondary material make this book definitive on the question of women's ordination in the early middle ages. ...[P]ainstakingly written and worthy of equally painstaking study." --Catholic Books Review


"Exceptional in its thoroughness and thoughtfulness both in addressing the state of the question in the medieval period and in challenging Rome's tradition-based theological position." --Anglican Theological Review


About the Author


Gary Macy is John Nobili, S.J. Professor of Theology in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195189701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195189704
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on March 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Those who read the New Testament carefully, will notice that some texts are more women-friendly than others. For instance, the apostle Paul mentions female prophets, travels together with a deaconess, greets a woman overseer and even mentions a female apostle (yes, really). It's also obvious that these office holders aren't celibate. From this, I draw the conclusion that primitive Christianity, while certainly not "feminist" in the modern sense, nevertheless had more gender equality than the later Church. I also draw the conclusion that the much maligned Paul was actually one of the proponents of this gender equality.

But when did the Church became patriarchal? Most would argue that it happened around AD 100, with the emergence of a monarchic episcopate. Only men could become bishops. And, of course, all popes were men!

The author of this book, Gary Macy, gives a more surprising answer. In his opinion, women weren't excluded from church offices until the High Middle Ages. The decisive change took place during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, with the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) as the end point of the transformation. If Macy is right, the "dark" Early Middle Ages were actually a better period for women than the High Middle Ages, a period that has been rehabilitated by many historians as a forerunner to the Renaissance. Or, at least, it was a better period for those women influential or fortunate enough to become part of the structures of the Church.

Macy admits that the question of "women's ordination" is a tricky one. The definition of what constitutes a valid ordination has changed several times. So have ideas about who is to decide whether an ordination is valid or not.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must read for anyone on either side of the contentious issue of the ordination of women. This is an extremely well-written and well-documented story of the ordination of women in the Catholic Church into the 13th Century -- and it's an easy read as well.

Macy separates the historical issues from the theological issues and then does a marvelous job of revealing that the definition of "ordination" used in the early church was different from the definition of "ordination" used since the 13th Century.

Additionally, he pinpoints the 100 years in which the definition of "ordination" changed, and presents some convincing evidence to show why the definition changed, as well as the devastating effect it had on not only the diaconate and priestly ministry of women, but also other minsitries of women.

Don't miss it.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Martha Barnette on March 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this important volume, Gary Macy makes a clear, compelling case for the long and hidden history of women's ordination. How refreshing to find a book that's at once scholarly, meticulously researched, convincingly argued AND highly readable. And how fortunate for all of us that Macy presents this history in a way that is accessible to lay persons as well as academics. Reading this book is like taking a course with your favorite, most engaging history teacher ever. Highly recommended!
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Frederick J. Parrella on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this time of radical transition more than forty years after Vatican II, nothing could be more salutary for the Church than Gary Macy's judicious historical study of women's ordination in the Medieval West. Clearly and succinctly written, his history reads more like a masterful medieval mystery rather than ponderous scholarship. Any one, scholar or popular reader, will be nourished by this important work. It is a vade mecum for persons interested in the ordination issue; it also serves as a lucid lens into the whole history of the church's self-understanding in the first two millennia.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really provides a good overview of the existing scholarship on the subject, the history of both the roles of women as ecclesiastical leaders and the systematic efforts of the church to both change the role of women and erase history that contradicted that new doctrine. My only complaint is that it takes a long time to get to the author's thesis that women held much higher offices and ecclesiastical authority than the extant history or the traditional historical analysis would imply.
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lee T. Mace on April 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a non-clergy or professor, I found this book to be a revealing history of woman not only in the church by in society in the twenty first century. Many of the current ideas about the role of woman in society can be traced to the activities described in this well written and easy to read book. It should be required reading by anyone interested in the role of woman then and now, the power of the political church at the time and how the effects of that power continued to have on modern society.
I would highly recommend this book to all not just college professors and their students
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