Women’s pivotal role in shaping Christianity overlooked

Women had a significant impact on the formation of early Christian communities, but (they) have been largely ignored in the history books. Kaisa-Maria Pihlava’s new book brings forgotten female leaders to the forefront.

Women who provided spaces in which early Christian communities could congregate were already being ignored in contemporary writings. In addition, centuries of Christian tradition have overlooked their contribution.

However, according to the book Forgotten Women Leaders by DTh Kaisa-Maria Pihlava, a scholar of early Christianity, offering spaces where the communities could congregate and accepting certain teachers for the gatherings in their homes meant that these women had a practical impact on the evolution of early Christianity.

Women were also authority figures for the members of these congregations.

“Nevertheless, these women received little mention in early Christian writing, as the authors focused on the prominent male leaders and their teachings. This phenomenon has repeated in later research into early Christianity,” states Pihlava.

There are many reasons for this.

“Typically, men have written texts like these from a male perspective for a male audience. The social environment or forms of congregation that shaped and developed early Christianity have been thought of as secular and secondary to the ‘pure doctrine’,” says Pihlava.

Published by the Finnish Exegetical Society, the new book focuses on the ways women were portrayed in early Christian texts. A particular focus of the book is the status of women as authorities which was based on their position as the heads of their households and the economic benefactors of their communities.

Forgotten Women Leaders

Review copies: Marika Pulkkinen, phone +358 50 4489207, marika.pulkkinen@helsinki.fi