On what Christianity offered women

Lynn Cohick describes the different pathways open to Christian women historically.



Lynn Cohick describes the different pathways open to Christian women historically.


Christianity I think appealed to women at this time because Christianity gave a couple of different pathways for women, and also I think allowed women to choose what pathway they wanted.

So typically, most women – and including most Christian women – got married and raised a family. That was fine. And Christianity encouraged men to be faithful to their wives. I mean, in the Gentile world, wives were to be faithful to their husbands, but husbands could also have dalliances with prostitutes. If they owned slaves, they could also have sexual relations with their slaves. In the Christian family, the husband was to keep himself only for his wife. And that I think was probably good news for Christian wives.

But there was also another path that Christian women could take. And that was a path of singleness, where they devoted themselves to prayer and to working in the church. That path was not really available – there wasn’t such a path, really, within paganism. And so this offered Christian women who were religious, and who wanted a life of contemplation – well, Christianity allowed that.

Christians promoted education, and so Christian Gentile women would have been taught – they would have been taught the Bible. And we know of some Christian women, the wealthy women, who learned Hebrew, for example, which was not a common language, and were highly educated. And for example, Jerome, the church father, had a very good friend in the woman Paula. And they talked about Hebrew verbs and nouns, and the Hebrew text, and all kinds of things, theologically speaking. And so women had a chance to use their mind within the Christian framework.

So I think those would be some of the things that appealed to women about Christianity.