Status of Women and Gnosticism in Irenaeus and Tertullian

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This study explores each facet of Elaine Pagels' provocative theory regarding a positive correlation between the active female deities of Gnostic cosmologies and the actual status of women in Gnostic groups in the second and early third centuries. The work expands on earlier studies that noted the presence of many secondary, inferior, or otherwise negative female images in Gnostic thought, and refutes the theory that women in early orthodox Christian groups had low status in relation to women in Gnosticism, primarily by considering the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian. It demonstrates that a comprehensive understanding of their views of women do not allow for the assumption that they distorted the truly negative position of women in some Gnostic groups. Finally, the study provides a balanced contribution to the contemporary debate about gender imagery for God.


"A very useful contribution to the ongoing discussion of the role of women in early Christianity and Gnosticism. . ." - Religious Studies Review

"The study is well-documented, with appeal to a variety of the most recent, and not-so-recent, studies of women in early Christianity and Gnosticism....The book will be of use to students of women in early Christianity." - Oxford Journal of Theological Studies

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