Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (Oxford Paperbacks)
Ross Shepard Kraemer
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this pathbreaking volume, Ross Shepard Kraemer provides the first comprehensive look at women's religions in Greco-Roman antiquity. She vividly recreates the religious lives of early Christian, Jewish, and pagan women, with many fascinating examples: Greek women's devotion to goddesses, rites of Roman matrons, Jewish women in rabbinic and diaspora communities, Christian women's struggles to exercise authority and autonomy, and women's roles as leaders in the full spectrum of Greco-Roman religions. In every case, Kraemer reveals the connections between the social constraints under which women lived, and their religious beliefs and practices.
The relationship among female autonomy, sexuality, and religion emerges as a persistent theme. Analyzing the monastic Jewish Therapeutae and various Christian communities, Kraemer demonstrates the paradoxical liberation which women achieved by rejection of sexuality, the body, and the female. In the epilogue, Kraemer pursues the disturbing implications such findings have for contemporary women.
Based on an astonishing variety of primary sources, Her Share of the Blessings is an insightful work that goes beyond the limitations of previous scholarship to provide a more accurate portrait of women in the Greco-Roman world.
situation may have prevailed in France, for only seventeen years later three bishops of Gaul wrote to two priests named Lovocatus and Catinernus criticizing them for allowing women to hold the chalice of the Eucharist and for distributing it during a service 69 In support of his position, Gelasius invoked the canons of various church councils that prohibited women from liturgical office,70 including (although he does not specify) Canon 11 of the fourth-century Council of Laodicea (in Asia Minor),
inextricably bound up with the proper veneration of the household gods.1 The classic illustration of this parallel may be found in the duties of the Vestal Virgins.2 Just as ordinary Romans tended the flames of their hearths to ensure the prosperity of their households, so these elite Roman priestesses 50 R ites of Roman Matro ns 51 guarded the flames of the hearth in the house of Vesta to ensure the prosperity of Rome as a whole. Vestals who allowed the flames to be extinguished were
uninterested in the legitimation and perpetuation of the Roman social order. There is at least one example of goddess worship by Roman women, though, which may not only have played a major role in the campaign for the proper socialization and regulation of elite Roman women, but may also have addressed some of the needs of Roman women in ways that others did not: the worship of the Mater (Mother) Matuta. As with the cults of Fortuna and Venus, literary testimony to the festival of the Matralia in
detect what happened to the Israelite custom of sacrificing to the Queen of Heaven. But it is surely noteworthy that in Jewish sources, ultimately the Sabbath is represented as a heavenly Queen, who descends once a week into the homes of pious Jews and is greeted with the lighting of candles and the offering of a fragrant Sabbath challah. Then, too, we must wonder whether the notion of the Sabbath as a bride is not itself a remnant of fertility concerns, transformed into a metaphor more aptly
with the divine in the mystical bridal chamber. This interpretation allows us to understand why Philo could write so favorably about the Therapeutrides when, in general, his writings display disparaging attitudes toward women characteristic of the androcentric culture in which he lived.58 Interestingly, Philo's depictions of Jewish women in Alexandrian life and his personal attitudes toward women do not conflict with his portrayal of the Therapeutrides. For example, to the extent that Philo