The tradition of women raising the eucharistic cup is witnessed from the late 100s to the mid-500s, including evidence from the three oldest surviving iconographic artifacts that depict early Christians in real churches.
Catherine Kroeger, the founding president of CBE, stated, “although women had made forays into the field of biblical interpretation, it was to be Katharine Bushnell who would bring out the heavy artillery.”
In this article, Margaret Mowczko looks at the social dynamic of class, a dynamic that typically trumped gender. She also looks at what the NT says about particular women who were wealthy. Her hope is that this discussion will present a broader, more authentic view, beyond limited stereotypes, of the place and participation of certain women in the first-century church.
It can feel like an especially difficult task to identify places where women shaped history. But it’s only difficult because we’re biased against women’s stories and accomplishments, preferring to study and celebrate the historical influence of men. In other words, it's not that women were absent from history; it's that we haven't learned how to see them.
While some Christians rationalize sexism and patriarchy by appealing to the “plain reading” of Scripture, others instinctively question whether what they see on the pages of Scripture is a faithful and consistent translation of the original text. At stake is something much more costly than a statue; we risk living our lives based on distortions of Scripture, which, in turn, justify a Christianity centered not on Christ but on male rule.
A historical case can be made that Christianity has, all things considered, been good for women. It has not been the mighty agent of gender oppression that it is sometimes made out to be. Still, contemporary Christians can hardly feel smug about the track record of our religious tradition. We live with the uncomfortable awareness that our faith has not been as affirming as it should have been, or as empowering for women as it certainly needs to be from now on.