Since the death of Jesus, to the modern era, the Christianity has gone through many changes in doctrine, practices, splits, and beliefs. As the church grew from charismatic communities to a global church organization, certain groups lost power while others gained a comparative advantage. No more has the shift in power affected a group more than the role of women in the church. The role of the woman in Christian Churches transformed from their role as leaders in small charismatic communities to supportive roles, to a quiet and almost invisible role to that of silently praying for the men in the background.
After the death, or disappearance of Jesus from historical records, the apostles dispersed across the Mediterranean to spread Jesus’s message. As Jesus’s words spread, small communities in Rome and other major cities began to appear. These communities were extremely tiny, usually only consisting of several dozen members, and there might be several of the small communities in close proximity to one another. The services for these communities usually took place not in a church with an organized structure, but small apartments called “insulae” which is Latin for an apartment building. This fact would become vitally important to the role that women would play in the early Christian church.
The effect of small worship in these tiny apartments and in homes around the Mediterranean gave women great power. During this period, as well as throughout most of history, with a few exceptions, society considered women the homemakers, until the modern era. With the husband away at work, traveling for business, or deferring to his wife when it came to household duties, the wife or lady of the house, was in charge of all the domestic duties, including and especially when company paid a visit. This idea has led some, including Karen Jo Torjessen, author of When Women Were Priest to argue that their domestic duties, in these small apartments as “head of household duties” led them to acquire power, wealth, and influence in the church, thus causing them to become leaders in the church.
As the first century after Jesus’ disappearance, the women’s role began to increase in scope as these charismatic communities continued to grow. For example, Lydia, a well-known and well-connected businesswoman began to help the spread Christianity and was viewed as a leader by many in the church. She was considered such an important lead that she invited Paul to stay with her for a few days, and he accepted the invitation. Lydia had been the first person, male or female, to heed Paul’s words and begin to establish the church in her area due to her connections. These leaderships of women could be found throughout his as shown on several tapestries and murals across the early church’s landscape.
As the second century progressed, however, women’s roles as leaders in the church started to come under attack from their male counterparts. Despite their extremely active role in the...