‘You are the gateway of the devil’, a rather hysterical Church Father told women in the third century. They were the cesspool into which men could fall, the daughters of Eve, the seductresses whose advice could never be trusted. Yet contrary to received opinion, this was not the majority view among the most influential Christian thinkers of the first four centuries. Compared to most women living in the Mediterranean at the time, for whom contact with men from outside the family circle was frowned upon, women in early Christian communities enjoyed not just astonishing equality with men, but power and independence too.
Women exerted a profound influence on the formation of early Christianity. So why today have most of us never heard of such female disciples as Junia, ‘outstanding among the apostles’, according to Paul, who gave her his blessing to go and preach independently? Or Emmelia and her daughter Macrina, who