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Their respective roles were regarded as complementary, and both were necessary for the maintenance of society" (Joy, n.d.).
There is a sense of evolution in the position of the Jewish woman in the sense that in time they came to be given certain rights to be part of the society and not only as part of the family environment. However, even so "as the roles of women came to be socially constructed, women's human contributions appeared to be of less significance" (Joy, n.d.). Therefore, it is rather hard to consider the Jewish woman as being equal to the man, particularly because the nature of their relation was one based on environments of manifestations which could not be compared.
Nonetheless, although women were considered to be of limited use in the traditional way of perceiving life and they were seen as equal only through the perspective of the role they played in the establishment of the connection with God, there are many heroines in ancient Jewish times who have been credited for saving the Jewish people in different situations.
On the one hand, there were the feminine presences which are representative for the Bible and for the Old Testament. In this sense, "Jewish women disciples, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, had accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of their private means" (King, 2008) However, they are often seen in a negative light as some critics have questioned the morality of these feminine persons. Thus, an example in this sense is "Mary Magdalene, a woman infamous in Western Christianity as an adulterous and repentant whore. Discoveries of new texts from the dry sands of Egypt, along with sharpened critical insight, have now proven that this portrait of Mary is entirely inaccurate. She was indeed an influential figure, but as a prominent disciple and leader of one wings of the early Christian movement that promoted women's leadership" (King, 2008) Her existence can be seen in any way as being representative for the Jewish religion due to her origins, as well as for the Christian faith, as a result of her actions during her life.
Aside from the religious figures which are representatives especially for the early period of Christianity, there are also stories about certain figures which are legendary for the history of women in the Jewish culture. One of the most significant figures in this sense is Miriam, the sister of Moses. According to biblical sources, during the Egyptian slavery, the Jewish people were held in despair as they struggled to face up to the cruelty of the regime. Although men came to be reluctant to procreate due to the fact that the Egyptian soldiers were constantly killing Jewish children, Miriam supported the mission of survival of the people and called for the people to keep their families and the ritual of birth intact in order to reach the Promise Land. Moreover, "According to tradition, because of Miriam's righteousness, a well followed the people through the desert throughout their wanderings, and that well remained with them until the day of Miriam's death" (Judaism 101, 2002). Although the discussions on the role she had in directing the People towards the Promise Land are not based on practical evidence, it is important to consider even such accounts as they point out the fact that, indeed, women were regarded in the early Jewish tradition as having a spiritual contribution rather than a practical one.
Despite this view, it is rather hard to ascertain whether these legendary aspects of the capabilities of women can be accounted as proof of the possibility of women to be leaders. In this sense, taking into account the fact that they were not given the chance to take part in the public life, there was no environment for them to act as leaders. Moreover, the social order did not allow them to exercise such a position as their roles were confined to the family life and to the enrichment of the life of her husband and fulfilling the perfect union in front of God. Therefore, there can be little talk of a possible emancipation of the Jewish woman in the early times of the Christian faith.
By comparison, the issue of the woman in early Christian faith is somewhat different. Nonetheless, there are mixed opinions as well. On the issue of the family life, the marriage was one of the most important aspects. In this sense, it was considered to be the fulfillment of a biblical assignment as written in the Book of Genesis. Thus, "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2: 24) This command must be seen from the perspective offered by the previous ideas of the creation of the man and woman. Therefore, it can be argued that in a way, the issue of marriage resembles to a certain extent to the Jewish consideration. More precisely, the union between a man and a woman is seen as the divine command from God and as the only spiritual environment in which the Earth can be ruled by man. Therefore, from this perspective as well, the woman is seen as a complementary item in the relationship with God.
Unlike the Jewish women however, the role of Christian women in the society existed to a much greater extent and to a much larger success. Indeed, the role as family members and caterers for the education of children and the well being of the household was a prerequisite for the early Christianity woman; nonetheless, they had the possibility to develop other means of expression as well. In this sense "there is strong evidence that during the first century and a half of Christianity women were active in various ministries of the early community though not on the same scale as men. (...) Women taught, preached, presided at the table ministry, and supervised the house churches where these latter services took place. (...) in Acts 2:17, Luke remarks that both sons and daughters will prophesy, and he also mentions the four prophetess daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul's statement on the gift of prophecy can be assumed to address both men and women" (Joy, n.d.)
It can be said that the role of women in the early Christian life was tailored according to the biblical notions of equality in all aspects of life. This is one of the reasons for which the early writings regarding women are considered to be essential for pointing out the equality between sexes. More precisely, "yhe epistles of Paul name women as co-worker (Prisca, Romans 16:3); as sister (Appia, a leader of a house church; Philemon 2); as deaconess (Phoebe, Romans 16:1); and apostle (Junia, Romans 16: 6-8). In Acts 2:17, Luke remarks that both sons and daughters will prophesy, and he also mentions the four prophetess daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9)" (Joy, n.d.). However, the contacts that came to be established with other religions soon changed this aspect.
The Hellenic civilization is considered to be one of the most flourishing moments in the history of the world. It marked a time of political, economic, and social evolution and development. At the same time however, in terms of the relation between the man and the woman, these aspects are considered to have known a moment of involution (Berstein and Milza, 1994) Taking into account the fact that the religious life of the Hellenic states was based upon the existence of gods and goddesses, they were unaware of any biblical writings and the possible equality between the man and the woman which was preached in the texts.
It can be said that the influence of the Hellenic civilization of the Christian faith has left an important mark in the situation of the woman. More precisely, "women were exhorted to be submissive to their husbands, and basically were confined to the private rather than the public sphere. Yet, the issue of women's leadership roles remained a controversial issue for the next two centuries (...) This is not to say, however, that women completely disappeared from the early Church, despite growing attempts to deprive them of ministry. Many, by "denying their sex" and remaining virgins - an act regarded as one of becoming spiritually a male - chose to be ascetics, anchorites and martyrs" (Joy, n.d.). Therefore, while the Jewish woman evolved as time passed, the Christian woman regressed especially as the historical context allowed it to enter in contact with other religions and civilizations which clearly influenced the way in which women were treated in the society and in the private life.
The fact that the Christian faith did not remain an…[continue]
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