who is jesus” is a vast and complex subject with multiple dimensions as Christianity is one of the largest religions in the world practiced in different societies and cultures around the world. When we deal with the subject of “Women in Christianity” we need to understand that Christianity as that exists today is a mix of different denominations with Catholics and Protestants being the principle denominations. Further it would be prudent to delve into the history of Christianity to understand the role of women in this religion. In early Christianity there was no separate roles prescribed for men and women and women were not distinguished separately from men. This was despite the fact that the society in West Asia at that time was highly patriarchal in nature.
Women in Christianity: The early Christian prophets
From West Asia, Christianity spread to ancient Greece and Rome which were purely patriarchal societies. In these societies women and children were thought of as assets or possessions held by the head of the family. Men and Women were distinguished separately in this kind of set up and women were generally considered inferior to men. During these times Christians believed that the world will end soon and Christ will come to earth for the second time. There were many women teachers and prophets in Christianity in those days who believed in this proposition and went their way in preaching this doctrine.
Women in Christianity: Development of the patriarchal thought
But the initial belief of the immediate “second coming” of the Christ did not happen. From hereon Christianity slowly started to evolve as a systemized religion with the churches enjoying enormous clout and power. This led to the development of the patriarchal thought in Christianity which abolished and discarded the earlier view that men and women should not be distinguished separately. The havoc of the power of churches continued for the next two thousand years during which women were not only treated as inferior to men but great atrocities were committed against independent women who were branded as witches and hunted down mercilessly.
Women in Christianity: Wave of change in twentieth century
Only in the twentieth century things started changing in Christianity. With the churches losing much of their clout and power in the twentieth century, with democratic governments firmly established in many countries in Europe as well as in America and with religion getting separated from politics things started to change in a dramatic fashion in Christianity that was never thought about in the last two thousand years of the religion. It all started with the early feminist movements and peaked with the second wave of feminism from the period of 1960s. This period saw a profound change in the status of women in Christianity as a religion. Women’s rights came in the forefront.