Moving beyond discussions of patriarchy and prescribed "women's roles" in the Roman world - discussions that have relied too much on elite literary sources, in her view - Katherine Bain explores what inscriptional data from Asia Minor can tell us about the actual socioeconomic status of women in the first and second centuries C.E. Her findings suggest that outside of the prescriptive lenses of the upper classes, women were described, in honorary and funerary inscriptions, in terms that mirrored the socioeconomic status of men, suggesting that women's leadership in social associations - and by implication in Jewish and Christian congregations as well - was even more frequent than has been imagined.
In this engaging work, Katherine Bain explores the socio-economic and religious status of women in Asia Minor in the first two centuries C.E. This is an excellent and greatly needed contribution not only to the study of women's history but especially also to the ongoing re-vision of early Christian beginnings. The book will be an invaluable resource for the study of the social world of early Christianity. I highly recommend it.
-Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza,
Harvard Divinity School
Using literary and epigraphic sources, Bain's book helps us to understand the role of women in religion, closely investigating gender, economics, and status in an area of the ancient Mediterranean world in which many of the earliest Christian texts were produced. Bains analysis covers not only wealthy patronesses; she also delves into the lives of slave women. By bringing to the fore the economic issues in the study of ancient women and religion, Bain contributes to conversations in multiple fields: New Testament and early Christian studies, of course, but also Roman history and women's studies.
-Laura S. Nasrallah,
Harvard Divinity School
History may be messy, but Bain manages - in paradoxical, but exemplary fashion - to clarify the roles of women through the ambiguities and tensions of ancient materials from Asia Minor. Presenting sometimes startling juxtapositions between inscriptions and epistles, monuments and narratives, Bain reframes the study of household, patronage, and slavery. By applying a kyriarchal analytic to a rich and diverse set of resources, this study questions and qualifies established truisms about womens leadership, in and out of religious groups. This is a must-read, not just for those interested in the letters of Paul or Ignatius, but for anyone concerned about the roles of women or economic status, in the past or the present.
-Joseph A. Marchal,
Ball State University