Christianity bore a unique position in Roman society by seeing women as equal to men in worth. Today, we are seeing a backlash to what many perceive to be the Christian position of patriarchy. Some have decided that because Christianity won’t get with the times, than it’s time to throw the “baby out with the bathwater”. However, there are many others, like myself, who look at Christian history and see a long tradition of women put in positions of honor equal to men. Paul himself says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus demonstrated that while men and women may have different roles in their service to God, neither one is more valuable than the other.
A prime example of this is Mary, the Mother of God, also known as the Theotokos, or God-bearer in the Eastern tradition. Mary is a model example for all Christians and if you look at her role from a historical perspective, that is absolutely shocking. Think about how it would have seemed for a patriarchal society to encounter Christianity in the early centuries and to find out that they have icons, feasts and a highly honored place for a woman in this budding religion.
I’d like to highlight five other women in early church history who are honored as saints and considered models for our own lives.