Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Store Now - Women in the World of the Earliest Christians

Three cheers for Lynn Cohick and Baker Academic for what looks to be a very promising study of Women in the World of the Earliest Christians.

The endorsements are impressive and make it hard for me to wait to read this book.

"This is an important book for all students of the New Testament, however novice or advanced. Cohick's historical sensibilities and sympathetic reading of the whole range of available evidence overturn a number of caricatures that have for decades plagued claims about women (and men) in the world of the early church. Her presentation of the life of the ordinary Roman woman from Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources is a model of careful exploration and nuanced reconstruction. It deserves to be read attentively and consulted often."--Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Dr. Cohick offers a richly detailed and finely nuanced invitation into the lives of women in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The study profits from her integrated examination of literary, epigraphic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence. She exposes gender bias and ideology in literary evidence without discarding what reliable evidence these texts offer for the reconstruction of women's 'real life' experience. She remains attentive throughout not only to issues of gender but also to issues of status, class, and ethnicity and to the bearing these have on the levels of self-direction, involvement, and influence enjoyed by women in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This book challenges some oft-heard generalizations about women, women's roles, and women's influence, replacing these with the more complicated and varied realities of women's experience in the ancient world."--David A. deSilva, Trustees' Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek, Ashland Theological Seminary

"Many preconceptions exist about the role of women in the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds at the time of Jesus. Women in the World of the Earliest Christians is a wonderful tour of the real terrain, providing a solid array of general principles and specific examples. By taking us through the world of women at that time, Cohick offers a solid glimpse of first-century culture--a wonderful window into the world of the New Testament that is well worth the read."--Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Cohick opens the book with the "earliest known female Latin writing sample." What is that sample? An invitation to a birthday party! I'm already intrigued. This is an indicator of what Cohick is seeking to discover--the everyday life of women in the first century whether Jewish or Christian. But her goals are broader than what is typically offered from this kind of study. She says, "Thus, this book is not a 'background' to women in the New Testament, for that implies a two-dimensional staging onto which certain literary women walk, say their lines, and exit stage right. I assume, rather, that women were dynamic participants in their environments, shaping and being shaped by it." (25) The time frame she examines is from the time of Alexander the Great's conquests (330s BC) to the turn of the first century with some consideration given to later centuries. Another goal is to "correct misconceptions about women's lives that have crept into our modern imagination" as in the "xenophobic claims that Jewish leaders of the day were misogynists (usually claimed as a foil for the portrait of Jesus as bucking Jewish culture)." (24)

This is an important study from which I suspect I will learn much and recommend highly. I know that's saying a lot from only having skimmed the book. But three considerations allow me to be so confident: 1) Lynn Cohick's previous writings that I know, 2) the endorsements from scholars whose opinion I trust and, 3) it's from Baker Academic. What else do you need?

The book is paperback with 350 pages and sells for $26.99. Put it at the top of your Christmas list!

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