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When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity Paperback – April 15, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco (April 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060686618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060686611
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Absolutely first rate!" -- --Jouette M. Bassler, associate editor, The HarperCollins Study Bible

"Brilliantly lays bare the historic roots of the church's prejudice against women. A powerful, revealing, insightful book." -- --RT. REV. John S. Spong, Bishop of Newark

"Provacative in argument and engagingly written....Bound to stimulate discussion." -- --Elizabeth A. Clark, co-editor, Women and Religion

From the Publisher

This landmark book reveals not only that women were priests, bishops, and prophets in early Christianity, but also how and why they were then suppressed.

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Customer Reviews

This book provided good information and it was easy to understand.
Elaine Banks
Torjesen has researched in depth and worked to make that research accessible for women and men who read modern English.
R. Camilleri
This lies at the heart of why the Catholic church does not ordain women.
ghmus7

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 101 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Karen Jo Torjesen's book, 'When Women Were Priests' examines the subject of women in the early Christian movement, and particularly the role of women in the leadership positions in the church. Torjesen, a leading expert on women in ancient Christianity, is on faculty at Claremont Graduate School.
As women have attained rights to ordination in various denominations (Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist) and even other religions (the first woman to be ordained a rabbi in the United States took place in 1972), increasingly scholars have come to re-examine the role of women in the early church, and have been arguing with mounting evidence and persuasiveness that this is not a new phenomenon, but rather a recapturing of women's roles that have periodically existed in both Jewish and Christian communities.
The question of the gender of a priest (the requirement by Roman Catholics, as in the Vatican's 1976 Declaration on the Question of Admitting Women to the Priesthood that priests be in the bodily image of Christ, for example) brings into question sexuality and the common perception of women by society. When Barbara Harris was consecrated at the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church (USA) in 1989, Time magazine made a reference to her red nail polish--as if this has anything to do with her qualifications; but of course, it has everything to do with the way people perceive the issue.
Torjesen examines multiple sources of ancient data to show evidence that women were preachers, prophets, pastors and patrons in the early Christian movement. Some of these can be found in the Bible itself.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By "puccinigirl" on July 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I must admit that I expected this to be an exhaustive work providing evidence for when women were priests, as the title suggests. However, while the subject is certainly touched upon, the book focuses much more on the socio-political environment of the developing Christian movement, including the Jesus movement, in relation to women, and how this environment shaped Christianity's general beliefs about women's roles. While I would have liked to see the title developed more throughout the book, it is still certainly a work worth the read. Torjensen's skill of examining the greco-roman cultural (and philosophy) and how it influenced Christianity is quite insightful. While this observation is certainly nothing new, Torjesen conducts a thorough investigation. Her scholarship is quite good and this work is sure to be a classic in feminist theological resources. Her writing style flows well and, rather than facing doom and gloom in the end, one feels a certain inspiration to move forward and reclaim the message of Jesus that was so highly regarded in the early Jesus movement, which is anything but what Christianity has become in (generally) the present-day organized form of the church. If you are interested in understanding more of "why" women have been so oppressed in Christianity, this is an excellent historical source. I highly recommend this work!
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53 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Gidget on July 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Contrary to what another reviewer has said, women were leaders in the early church. Stating this fact is not a revision to be in line with social norms, in fact, it flies in the face of what most mainline Christians seem to want to believe. The reason he has never read about some "movement" in the early church to have women leaders is that no movement was necessary, since women were leaders from the beginning of Christianity until the religion was changed to fit Roman norms. This book only suggests that we change it back to the way it was in the first few centuries. This is not revisionist, it is reconstructionist. If people do not think women should have any voice, power, or leadership under Christianity, then they are practicing the Roman version, not the true egalitarian religion that Christianity started out as. Before Rome institutionalized Christianity, the Christians stood in opposition to the Roman social norms. Then Constantine co-opted the religion and the Romans gradually adapted Christianity to fit their society. The mainline Christianity of today reflects this Hellenization of the original religion. Our society is comfortable with this less-than-healthy corruption of Jesus' teachings because our society suffers some of the same social ills as ancient Rome. This book suggests a restoration of Christianity that is healthier and more true than the Constantinian version. Another, better known book that also deals with this subject matter is In Memory of Her by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. If you find When Women Were Preists to be too unclear or unacademic, Schussler Fiorenza's book should be more satisfying as it is very academic.
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69 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Amy Minette on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
When reading a book about a controversial topic, one expects to find an assortment of outcomes: excitement for the intellect, challenges against tradition, and/or offensive ideas. The anticipation for effects such as these inspires one to take the time to read a book about said controversy. An accomplished book presents a good argument for a side, or perhaps several sides, of an issue through quality organization, respect for the reader's intelligence, and thorough explanations of conclusions made. Accord with the contention presented bears no importance upon the caliber of the treatise itself. Such an exceptional work promotes further intellectual contemplation and discussion about the issue at hand. In her book, Torjesen seduces the reader into believing her publication is such a text. The introduction leads one to believe the work will qualify as an accomplished book; the actual discourse, however, ultimately fails to live up to the expectations formed through the introduction.
Threaded within the introduction to historical findings and theories such as recent evidence of women's prominent roles in Christian churches from the first to thirteenth centuries, the history and current condition of women's ordination marks this text as one with possible insight into this controversy. The book itself attempts to help the reader understand why and how women were pushed out of leadership roles they once held. Torjesen has four major sections, as reflected in the introduction, to her argument that the "...patriarchal norms of the Greco-Roman gender system..." influenced the eventual elimination of prominent roles for women in the church.
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