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200 - 300 AD


from a perspective of women in the Church


 

Timeline

before Christ
0-100 AD
100-200
200-300
300-400
400-500
500-600
600-700
700-800
800-900
900-1000
1000-1100
1100-1200
1200-1300
1300-1400
1400-1500
1500-1600
1600-1700
1700-1800
1800-1900
1900-1950
1950-2000
2000-2050

 

During this century, the persecution of Christians flared up again a number of times. The recurring outbreak of the plague was usually blamed on Christians. Emperor Decius decreed in 250 that Christians who did not sacrifice to Roman gods should be tortured or put to death.

The ambivalent attitude towards women by Church leaders at the time can be gauged in the actions of Dionysius, the Bishop of Alexandria (247-265).

In a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, he describes the martyrdom of Apollonia whom he calls: 'elder virgin' [Greek: parthénos presbûtis; Latin: virgo presbytera]. Though this term reminds us of 'presbuteros=priest', historians say it probably meant she served her community as a 'deacon'. She was, in fact, remembered in the liturgical calendar as a deacon.

But in laying down local rules for his diocese, Dionysius forbade women who had their periods to approach the altar, receive holy communion or even enter a church. "Let them pray elsewhere".



from rood screen in Barton Turf Church


 

Women Deacons 200 - 300

Throughout the Middle East, Christian churches were served by women deacons. Some of these were still called 'widows' as indicated in the obscure Ecclesiastical Canons of the Apostles.

Few records have been kept, either in literature or on tomb stones of the activity of women deacons. This is, no doubt, due to the reduced and at times hidden life of Christian communities in those days of persecution. The few names we know come to us through the liturgical calendar of saints.

d. 249
Alexandria
d. 308
Deacon in Syria
3rd century
Roman martyr

Fathers of the Church 200 - 300

Origen justifies the ministry of women deacons by pointing to the example of the first woman deacon, Phoebe. Firmilian describes how women ministered in 'heretical' Christian Churches.

185 - 255
Commentary on Romans 16,1-2, concerning Phoebe
200-258
Bishop of Caesarea

Local Church Synods and councils

While Bishop Dionysius in Egypt forbade Christian women to enter a church and receive communion during their periods, the church order for Syria explicitly taught that menstruating women are not unclean and should take full part in the Eucharist.

247
Alexandria
ca 250 AD  
3rd century
Syria

 


This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

See our Documented Appeal to Pope Francis to Request the Re-instatement of the Ordained Diaconate for Women.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

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