Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women
The author, a professor of ancient history at the University of Manchester, offers up a mix of Bible stories, cultural history of the early Christian era, and educated guesses on the lives of women ranging from Mary, mother of Jesus, to Helena, Constantine’s mother. Cooper’s take on what that might have been presented a challenging mix for me. She supports the idea that women played a far greater role in those days, because both Jesus and Paul (and Luke) were unusually open to their inclusion and also because the church wasn’t yet institutionalized in a way that excluded women. At the same time, she spends time on, for instance, a convoluted rationalization for why Paul told women to be silent in church – something that she then far more convincingly suggests was simply added by a curmudgeonly later transcriber. All in all, Band of Angels is a friendly and easy-to-read journey into the world of ancient Christian women, and makes a compelling case for why women and women’s sensibilities were at the heart of early Christianity.