In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS275 conceptions, affecting the understanding of passion and control. Dr. Shaw describes exceUently the Platonist belief that passions could be used to the soul's good; a belief crucial to the Christian moral canon, and to the coUaborative model of body and soul.Yet less integrated theories persisted, even in Christian circles, and played their part in maintaining tensions and exaggerations within ascetic society. The theorization of gluttony was also partial. For Cassian, it is true, "gluttony and sexual lust are further distinguished [from other 'evU thoughts'] because they exist naturally in human beings, they both require an external object of desire, and they are both consummated in a bodily act" (p. 146). Thus they fit tidily together in Dr. Shaw's analysis. But not everyone saw gluttony as "the mother of aU vice" (p. 129). Pride, to some, could seem equaUy important, equaUy characteristic of the Fall: the root of embodiment and aU its pain; the price of disobedience. None of that can detract, however, from the freshness and verve of the book. Dr. Shaw is lucid, erudite, and provoking of thought; and The Burden of the Flesh will qualify inescapably much that we have too lazily taken for granted. Philip Rousseau The Catholic University ofAmerica Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion. The Power of the Hysterical Woman. By Margaret Y. MacDonald. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1996. Pp. xiv, 276. $54.95 hardback; $1995 paperback.) Feminist books have been appearing recendy in great numbers, and they vary in quality. Those that deal with Christian history are mostly respectable scholarly books, and many of them rank among enduring academic achievements. This one can be caUed a "feminist" book only because its topic is early Christian women; otherwise it is a serious historical-exegetical study. The author, who is teaching in the reUgious studies department of the University of Ottawa (Canada), has previously pubUshed an essay on the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline churches and several articles in scholarly journals on early Christian women. She must have received the inspiration for the present book from these earUer studies, which she successfully incorporated in her new book. Nothing is wrong with this procedure; on the contrary, it gives the reader the assurance that the book is based on long, careful research. The book consists of three major components. First, there is a lengthy review of cultural-anthropologists' and sociologists' works pertaining to the author's topic. This part is a very interesting and informative review of what crosscultural studies can do to make us better understand women's place in ancient societies. The concepts of "honor" (associated with males) and "shame" (= reputation , associated with females) are discussed in detaU. Then we are told that to clearly understand women's situation we must be aware of the concepts of 276BOOK REVIEWS "public" (male) and "private" (female) "power" and "authority"—all of which is explained thoroughly. But when we come to the statement that to understand women's lives more attention should be given to "chronological, geographical, and even architectural variation" (p. 37), one begins to wonder just how far this scholarly hairsplitting should go. Do we have to define first what the meaning of "is" is before we can talk about early Christian women? The second major topic of the book is the pagans' reaction to early Christian women. This topic (pagan reaction to Christianity) has been adequately researched by many scholars, and Mrs. MacDonald knows them aU and duly quotes them. But ancient society was not as aware of the blessings of diversity ("divided we stand, united we faU") as some in modern America are, and references specificaUy to women are rare; most ancient authors deal with Christianity as a strange phenomenon and not with male and female Christians. There are some references to women within the everyday situations of Ufe, and the author makes the most of sharpening these images. In the correspondence of Pliny with Trajan there is only one brief reference to female slaves, but this is a good enough Anknüpfungspunkt from which we can go into the discussion of other issues, such as the communal meal, the nomen ipsum, etc. Similar is the situation with respect...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 275-276
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.