Lynn Cohick’s new book, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life
, will become the standard for all study of the social location of women in the earliest Christian churches. This is an exceptional book and it will replace Ben Witherington’s (now) twenty-some year old study.
We’ve got lots of exegesis of biblical texts but we don’t have enough social description of what women did in the ancient world so that we can approach the exegesis through the lens of living realities. This is exactly what Lynn’s book provides for anyone who will take the time to read it.
Here’s Lynn’s central question: What was the daily life of an ordinary women in the Mediterranean world really like? But her approach to answering this question is not just to believe and reconstruct every ancient text and situation, but instead she puts each piece of evidence to its rhetorical test: What was the author trying to say when speaking about women? By putting the evidence to this rhetorical test, Lynn challenges a number of common conclusions and pushes the conversation forward.
This book is serious but clearly written in very accessible prose; it can be used by college classes. She covers these topics: daughters, marriage and matron ideals, wives and marriage, motherhood, religious activities among Gentiles and Jews and Christians, work, slaves and prostitutes and benefactors. It’s all here. This is a must-read.
Next to Lynn Cohick’s book I will now put Philip B. Payne’s new book, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters
. Philip Payne, whom I met when he was fresh out of his dissertation at Cambridge (on the parables of Jesus) and who was teaching at Trinity and then left to do missionary work in Japan, then became famous to all of us who are Mac users because he developed Linguist’s Software, and it was the font package I used for years and years. But Phil is also a very good NT scholar and this topic — exegesis of specific texts about women in the NT — has been his speciality.
Two points need to be made: first, every Pauline text that deals with women is subjected to careful scrutiny, and this means this book is a must-read for anyone doing serious study or preaching about these texts. Second, Phil’s contention is that Paul consistently champions equality in Christ for both men and women. Simply put, this is the most technically proficient study ever published on women in the Pauline texts.