Forget what you think you know about women in the early church.
In this learned yet accessible book, Susan E. Hylen introduces first-century primary sources to illuminate readers’ understanding of New Testament women. Perfect for clergy, spiritual reading groups, and all curious minds, Finding Phoebe combines incisive scholarship and instructional sensibility to encourage readers to develop their own informed interpretations of Scripture.
Contrary to popular conceptions of “biblical womanhood” as passive and silent, women often served as leaders and prophets in their communities. Women owned one-third of all property during the period, granting them access to civic power through patronage. Many women worked outside the home and were educated according to the needs of their professions. Through careful examination of “modesty” and “silence” in the Greco-Roman world, Hylen reveals the centrality of these virtues to both men and women practicing self-control in service of communal good.
Hylen’s work will challenge readers to free their minds of modern preconceptions and consider New Testament women on their own terms. This practical book includes historical context, scriptural evidence, and questions for discussion.
Table of Contents
Introduction Part 1: Wealth and Property 1. Property Ownership 2. Property Management 3. Marriage 4. Occupations Part 2: Social Influence and Status 5. Patronage 6. Social Influence 7. Education Part 3: Virtues of Women 8. Modesty 9. Industry 10. Loyalty 11. Marital Harmony Part 4: Speech and Silence 12. Everyday Speech 13. Prayer and Prophecy 14. Silence 15. Speech and Silence Conclusion Notes For Further Reading Indexes
Susan E. Hylen is professor of New Testament at Emory University and a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Her previous books include Women in the New Testament World and A Modest Apostle: Thecla and the History of Women in the Early Church.
Review of Biblical Literature “The book is clear and accessible throughout, written in an informal, inviting style. . . . [Hylen’s] approach is straightforward, smart, and to the point: she gives readers the primary texts, clarifies the issues that need to be considered, asks directed but also open-ended questions, and leaves it there.”
“Accessible and engaging, Finding Phoebe is an educator’s dream. Hylen personalizes ancient women through close and imaginative readings of historical texts, including significant portions of the New Testament. She both models this method and gives students all the resources they need to do it on their own. By challenging the assumption that ‘women weren’t able to do much,’ Finding Phoebe has the potential to dislodge a stale debate over women in society and the church then and now.” —Rev. Dr. Amy Peeler, Wheaton College
“A welcome correction to stereotyping of ancient Mediterranean women as passive and helpless, this is a very readable portrayal of what we know about women leaders with social power, both in the world around them and for the people of the New Testament. Hylen draws on multiple real examples from inscriptions and ancient texts to place familiar biblical texts in proper context and navigates the conflicting images and seemingly contrary evidence about women of the New Testament world.” —Dr. Carolyn Osiek, Brite Divinity School
“It may well seem to some that Phoebe, who is praised by Paul in Romans 16:1–2, appears out of thin air. More thorough investigation reveals, however, that she was not a solitary female figure—neither in Romans 16, nor in other Pauline letters, nor in the New Testament and its fascinating world. In her instructive, insightful, innovative, and interactive volume Finding Phoebe, Susan E. Hylen helps nonspecialists understand Phoebe—and other women of her time and ilk—more fully by exploring the complex, variegated socio-historical milieu in which they lived and moved and had their being. . . . This volume will inform, if not transform, the way you perceive women in the New Testament and its environs in general and in Paul and his letters in particular.” —Dr. Todd Still, Baylor University
“Prepare to question some of your basic assumptions! In this delightfully engaging book, Hylen leads us on an active learning journey that involves visiting both new evidence and old in order to reconsider our cherished (but perhaps outdated or misguided) certitudes about New Testament women. . . . Ever the careful, keen, logical New Testament scholar who neither over- nor understates the case, in this book Hylen also displays her teaching prowess. Each chapter leads with some noteworthy aspect of Phoebe, then draws us into imagining life on the ground in the first-century world (using a fictional Roman family to flesh out the main ideas in a concrete way), and then applies what has just been discussed to exercises centered on New Testament texts (so, yes, there is homework, but of the best sort!). Hylen knows what questions we the readers have, especially those of us for whom the New Testament is Scripture. . . . I will certainly recommend this book both for individual and group study. I was so interested that I read it all in one sitting because each chapter is just the right length to make you want to read the next one promptly!” —Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University
“Paul’s respect and admiration for Phoebe, named in Romans 16, is evident. But with only two short verses describing her, what can be said about this woman? Hylen’s Finding Phoebe is a rich and readable examination of historical examples of women functioning as patrons, benefactors, property owners, industrial workers, and those who wielded robust social involvement and power. The carefully crafted study questions based on primary sources are a great way for students to discover the various roles women played in antiquity. By the end of Hylen’s study, readers will have a much more informed account of who Phoebe was and the cooperative role she played in Paul’s mission.” —Dr. Joshua W. Jipp, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Beth Jarvis in The Englewood Review of Books “We still want one fail-safe way to understand women’s roles and leadership in the church. . . . Reading this book with a group of church elders or a Sunday school class or lay leaders could make this conversation easier. . . . I would also recommend this book for the seminarian struggling to find a bridge between her classroom and the church. She will find her sisters in this book and, in doing so, will find some courage.”
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