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Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women

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According to most recorded history, women in the ancient world lived invisibly. Piecing together their story from the few contemproary accounts that have survived required painstaking detective work by Cooper, but it renders the past and the present in a new light. Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new understanding of relationships took root in the ancient According to most recorded history, women in the ancient world lived invisibly. Piecing together their story from the few contemproary accounts that have survived required painstaking detective work by Cooper, but it renders the past and the present in a new light. Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new understanding of relationships took root in the ancient world. Women from all walks of life played an invaluable role in Christianity's rapid expansion. Their story is a testament to what unseen people can achieve, and how the power of ideas can change the world, on household at a time.


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According to most recorded history, women in the ancient world lived invisibly. Piecing together their story from the few contemproary accounts that have survived required painstaking detective work by Cooper, but it renders the past and the present in a new light. Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new understanding of relationships took root in the ancient According to most recorded history, women in the ancient world lived invisibly. Piecing together their story from the few contemproary accounts that have survived required painstaking detective work by Cooper, but it renders the past and the present in a new light. Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new understanding of relationships took root in the ancient world. Women from all walks of life played an invaluable role in Christianity's rapid expansion. Their story is a testament to what unseen people can achieve, and how the power of ideas can change the world, on household at a time.

30 review for Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    Cooper examines the first four centuries of Christian women, combining both historical analysis and feminine insight. She starts with a personal account of how she became aware of women's unique connection to faith, and then begins her historical account right amidst the stories of women in the New Testament. I really enjoyed the analysis and insights in this book. The author portrays a fascinating world of early Christianity which is still figuring out what it is. She examines the early stories Cooper examines the first four centuries of Christian women, combining both historical analysis and feminine insight. She starts with a personal account of how she became aware of women's unique connection to faith, and then begins her historical account right amidst the stories of women in the New Testament. I really enjoyed the analysis and insights in this book. The author portrays a fascinating world of early Christianity which is still figuring out what it is. She examines the early stories of women and the grey areas between myth and history, the role of wealthy women both in spreading Christianity and establishing the ascetic and pilgrimage patterns of faith, the conflict between differing views of Christ's man and god nature, and how this related to perceptions of Mary. She also touches on the early conflicts over doctrine and the various meetings which resolved these (and formulated such articulations of doctrine as the Nicene Creed), especially as these relate to women's involvement. I thought the discussion on the relationship between Christianity and the imperial cult after the time of Constantine was particularly interesting. There is a lot to this book and for both those with a historical or a Christian interest, I think this would be an interesting read. The author's treatment, which combines both academic rigour and sympathy, makes it accessible to a wide audience. However, I personally am an evangelical and read quite a number of books pitched for Christian women - including authors like Joanna Weaver and Joyce Meyer - and while I enjoy their books, this is of a different type. I think the author is a Christian but I doubt she is an evangelical. This book doesn't sanitise anything, showing all the complexities of Christianity in the first four centuries, the cults and the conflicts. For readers used to authors like Francine Rivers who make historical Christians seem just like modern evangelicals, this might be hard to read. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with Weaver, Meyer or Rivers, all of whom I enjoy, but they follow a fairly conservative evangelical line. Cooper is much more about the historical aspect, which makes for quite a different treatment. Some of her material is informed speculation and it does offer an interesting, alternative perspective.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aumaine Rose Smith

    Loved the clarity and precise historical telling of this prose. Loved too the focus on literacy and relationships as defining avenues for early Christian women’s identities

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre Good

    Beginning with Paul's Letter to the Corinthians and the women therein, Prof Kate Cooper of the University of Manchester surveys lay women in the period of Christian Origins. “I had never heard of Chloe, and I found her fascinating,” she says. The biblical figure of Chloe is mentioned only once, in 1 Corinthians 1:11, but clearly she is a householder. “Chloe is like an empty picture frame,” Cooper said. Discerning her story and contributions requires both scholarly knowledge of the early Church i Beginning with Paul's Letter to the Corinthians and the women therein, Prof Kate Cooper of the University of Manchester surveys lay women in the period of Christian Origins. “I had never heard of Chloe, and I found her fascinating,” she says. The biblical figure of Chloe is mentioned only once, in 1 Corinthians 1:11, but clearly she is a householder. “Chloe is like an empty picture frame,” Cooper said. Discerning her story and contributions requires both scholarly knowledge of the early Church in Corinth and a willingness to use informed imagination. As for the gospels, the story of Mary & Martha in Luke can be read as an example of a first-century problem: whether a traveling teacher had to respect the authority of a householder. In the story, Martha welcomes Jesus into her home, and his rebuke is less about her practical ministry than, for Luke, an indication that, “actually, Jesus can speak to power,” Cooper said. Householders were important in the early Christian movement, yet they needed to wear their authority lightly. In the negotiation over whether householders could receive traveling teachers from among the followers of Jesus, “women were full players.” I found intriguing her use of creative imagination to uncover the contributions of early Christian women, including the “sound conjecture" that the Empress Pulcheria was instrumental in the development of the theology of Mary as Theotokos. Such use of creative imagination means that Band of Angels is not an ordinary academic book but a creative interpretation. In the book’s epilogue, Cooper places a young Mary at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE. “She is a shepherd’s daughter, barely of marriageable age but already expecting a baby…. Such a listener would make very little of the high-level talk about divine and human natures, and she would know nothing about bishops and their councils” (Band of Angels, p. 285). Yet she can help them, Cooper noted, as unnoticed women often did in the development of early Christianity. “Mary shows that anyone can do it,” Cooper said. “This thing of drawing down the power of heaven, try it.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a topic and time in history I knew next to nothing about, so it was very interesting to get a glimpse. I do wish that more 'ordinary' women were looked at. I know there is much more recorded history of empresses and the like, but it felt strange to me that this collection of stories on the early church was so primarily filled with the wealthy. Heiresses didn't need to marry and so could dedicate their lives to virginity in the new monasteries, but what of the women who didn't have such f This is a topic and time in history I knew next to nothing about, so it was very interesting to get a glimpse. I do wish that more 'ordinary' women were looked at. I know there is much more recorded history of empresses and the like, but it felt strange to me that this collection of stories on the early church was so primarily filled with the wealthy. Heiresses didn't need to marry and so could dedicate their lives to virginity in the new monasteries, but what of the women who didn't have such freedom? Or the widows and poor those communities often sheltered? All post-Biblical women featured in this book were new to me and very interesting to be introduced to (Thecla was my favorite!), but I was also left wanting to know so much more.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Simim

    I absolutely LOVED this book! It was not only a refreshing read, but it was great learning of women and history I didn’t know was there. I’ve been in a bit of a annoyance of the disregard of women by people in the church as if we have no calling other than “the home” so reading this has just continued to confirm that God can use whoever he wants. I am very appreciative of the historical analysis and explanation of what was going on at the time but also the different view points from different sc I absolutely LOVED this book! It was not only a refreshing read, but it was great learning of women and history I didn’t know was there. I’ve been in a bit of a annoyance of the disregard of women by people in the church as if we have no calling other than “the home” so reading this has just continued to confirm that God can use whoever he wants. I am very appreciative of the historical analysis and explanation of what was going on at the time but also the different view points from different scholars, especially when touching upon the church fathers who were also involved with/working with these women. Reading about the intense involvements of women of the ancient church is insane to me because I never learned about them, but also it just wasn’t taught (and still isn’t). So I guess you can say I was extremely excited reading this book, as I already had an idea about the works of the church fathers and that history, but also to know there’s women too. However, I am curious about the non wealthy women who were involved with the church. Of course, there are only a select few of women spoken of within this book, but I am much more curious now about what else is out there that has been ignored. Thank you to this author for shedding a great light that was needed to be seen!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy Hughes

    It's always a pleasure to read someone who knows the stories of women in Christianity so well that the stories become fresh again. Kate Cooper set out to write the book that she wanted the great women in her life to enjoy reading and I think she was successful. She includes some women that many might not think to include in a book about women in Christianity, perhaps because there is precious little about them or they are outside the norm of what we think of as exemplary Christian women. The sec It's always a pleasure to read someone who knows the stories of women in Christianity so well that the stories become fresh again. Kate Cooper set out to write the book that she wanted the great women in her life to enjoy reading and I think she was successful. She includes some women that many might not think to include in a book about women in Christianity, perhaps because there is precious little about them or they are outside the norm of what we think of as exemplary Christian women. The section on NT women was welcome in this regard as was the space given to the Christian empresses, including them in a narrative that so often does not include them. Cooper's introduction and epilogue were, however, a little disorienting for me. The preface was very personal, which is fine, but its style sets a tone for the book that the book doesn't really follow. My experience heading into the core of the book was disjointed to start with because I wasn't quite sure how to take the preface with me into the rest of the book. The epilogue was the same way, embracing an imaginative tone and serving to end my reading on a disjointed note. While wondering what Mary would've thought of the Council of Chalcedon is a diverting fantasy I am not sure I quite understood why she ended this way. Of course, I am only speaking of a handful of pages. The rest of the book is a delightful immersion into the world of some early Christian women.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This book is a gem!! The book description doesn't give this one justice. I love a read that can fill in blanks in my basic historical knowledge of the early church. This provides a look at the world through the eyes of early Christian women and illuminates a fascinating corner of history through the eyes of a historian and touches on cultural and societal values as it concerned those who were living during that time. The author, Kate Cooper, also provides a refreshing look at early Christianity This book is a gem!! The book description doesn't give this one justice. I love a read that can fill in blanks in my basic historical knowledge of the early church. This provides a look at the world through the eyes of early Christian women and illuminates a fascinating corner of history through the eyes of a historian and touches on cultural and societal values as it concerned those who were living during that time. The author, Kate Cooper, also provides a refreshing look at early Christianity without a condescending or disparaging comments. She maintains a balanced examination that lets the subjects come alive by placing them in their own contexts sans modern judgement. This context she provides is one of the best parts of the book as it allows the reader to slip briefly into another time without that unaccessible remote feeling. The epilogue is gorgeous don't cheat and read it early, it's the perfect ending! I love notes and bib's- this one doesn't disappoint.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I enjoyed this book muchly – introduced me to a lot of documents that I didn’t know where out there and/or available to the average lay person to read. It introduced me to the woman’s role in Christianity as I have never been introduced before – and, explained many of the chapters as have never been explained to me in that way. I only gave it a three as I ran across a lot of typos and I did find a couple of the book notes referring to other articles that were numbered incorrectly. I also it a ra I enjoyed this book muchly – introduced me to a lot of documents that I didn’t know where out there and/or available to the average lay person to read. It introduced me to the woman’s role in Christianity as I have never been introduced before – and, explained many of the chapters as have never been explained to me in that way. I only gave it a three as I ran across a lot of typos and I did find a couple of the book notes referring to other articles that were numbered incorrectly. I also it a rating of 3 because if the book notes were incorrect how do I know her interpretation of what she’s talking about it correct. Would be a great reference for persons doing research or literary classes on the Bible. The book was well written though and interesting!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe Holman

    I found this to be an amazing book. The author did an outstanding job of looking at the early Christian world through the writing of and about early Christian women. Cooper makes a compelling case that women were essential in the spread and acceptance of Christianity and played both lead an supporting roles from the virgin Mary and throughout antiquity. In writing this book she also gives new prespective to the Roman Empire and a glimpse into the future and differences between Western Christianit I found this to be an amazing book. The author did an outstanding job of looking at the early Christian world through the writing of and about early Christian women. Cooper makes a compelling case that women were essential in the spread and acceptance of Christianity and played both lead an supporting roles from the virgin Mary and throughout antiquity. In writing this book she also gives new prespective to the Roman Empire and a glimpse into the future and differences between Western Christianity and Eastern Orthodox. Well done!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I really wanted to like this book a lot, as it covers aspects of early Christianity which I know shamefully little about. However the writer's plodding style and lack-lustre story-telling did not enthuse me and the editing was very sloppy (errors in spelling and syntax, paragraphs repeated only a few pages away from each other). A better editor could have tightened up the narrative and turned it into a really gripping book. Some of her reference material looks much more interesting than the book I really wanted to like this book a lot, as it covers aspects of early Christianity which I know shamefully little about. However the writer's plodding style and lack-lustre story-telling did not enthuse me and the editing was very sloppy (errors in spelling and syntax, paragraphs repeated only a few pages away from each other). A better editor could have tightened up the narrative and turned it into a really gripping book. Some of her reference material looks much more interesting than the book itself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.D. Holman

    I'm not sure I can praise this book highly enough. It can appeal to both those interested in early theology and in secular ancient history. If you want a book about strong women, this is an excellent choice. It made me look at the Apostle Paul in a new light, as well. It also makes me want to weep for the state of modern Christianity, and how much it overlooks the accomplishments and capabilities of women. I'm not sure I can praise this book highly enough. It can appeal to both those interested in early theology and in secular ancient history. If you want a book about strong women, this is an excellent choice. It made me look at the Apostle Paul in a new light, as well. It also makes me want to weep for the state of modern Christianity, and how much it overlooks the accomplishments and capabilities of women.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martin Shone

    A thoroughly enjoyable read which gives light to many of the women hidden within the depths of history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Interesting information on women in the early times of christianity. It is a little dry but very informative and new to me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Verity Moon

    Such rich political and theological history concerning the forgotten Christian women of the early times. An enlightening read definitely.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rushing

    Kate Cooper has written an introductory text that explores the role of women in the shaping of the early history of the Christian Church. This is an important book, if for no other reason than it fills a gap in the scholastic literature. However, Cooper writes this book to a wider audience than just scholars of Late Antiquity. She aims to reach the layperson who is interested in the topic, whether they have any historical knowledge of the period or not. In her preface, Cooper explains that she i Kate Cooper has written an introductory text that explores the role of women in the shaping of the early history of the Christian Church. This is an important book, if for no other reason than it fills a gap in the scholastic literature. However, Cooper writes this book to a wider audience than just scholars of Late Antiquity. She aims to reach the layperson who is interested in the topic, whether they have any historical knowledge of the period or not. In her preface, Cooper explains that she intended her audience to be the women in her family who would delight in stories of the women of the past. She has succeeded in her goal.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Coleen Dailey

    At first I didn't think I would like this book because it centered more on St. Paul than the women. However, for the women at the very beginning were listed in the Bible and there is no other reference for them. When they moved into later years (second and third century) there is a historical record of many of the women and their contribution to the early church really led to the growth and development of the church. Women not only helped create the church by providing financial support and plac At first I didn't think I would like this book because it centered more on St. Paul than the women. However, for the women at the very beginning were listed in the Bible and there is no other reference for them. When they moved into later years (second and third century) there is a historical record of many of the women and their contribution to the early church really led to the growth and development of the church. Women not only helped create the church by providing financial support and places for the church to meet but also participated in the dialogues that created some of the beliefs we still say today. They traveled to spread the word of Christ and helped to "find" places that have through the centuries been considered basic to our story. I do use the term find loosely because by the second and third centuries it would be difficult to tell where the nativity actually took place other than by a three or four hundred year old tradition. Women also made pilgrimages to visit these places and wrote concerning their travels. By the fourth century women were reading and traveling . One of the quotes that I particularly like refers to reading and the imagination and travel. Women were starting to be more restricted in what they could do and reading would take them places they could not longer go. Just as reading does today. A very interesting book for people who are interested in the early church and women's history.

  17. 4 out of 5

    A.C. Bauch

    I enjoyed the first half of this book, especially the parts that explored women as presented in the New Testament. I learned a lot about familial law in the Roman Empire, which dispelled many of my preconceived notions about women's legal rights during that era. However, when the book transitioned to "historical" women (quotation marks used because the existence of all the women discussed can't be verified), I lost interest. I'm unsure for the reason, because I love history. Perhaps one day I'll I enjoyed the first half of this book, especially the parts that explored women as presented in the New Testament. I learned a lot about familial law in the Roman Empire, which dispelled many of my preconceived notions about women's legal rights during that era. However, when the book transitioned to "historical" women (quotation marks used because the existence of all the women discussed can't be verified), I lost interest. I'm unsure for the reason, because I love history. Perhaps one day I'll pick this book up again and finish it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Cramer

    I had high hopes for this book. 5-star rating hopes. (Tighter editing could have helped get it there.) Band of Angels is a wealth of information about the worlds in which the various early Christian women named in the book lived. I certainly learned a lot, but was left wanting to know more about the women themselves. If only the record of history had been kinder to (or even vaguely aware of) women and hadn't left such a dearth of information. **I received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. I had high hopes for this book. 5-star rating hopes. (Tighter editing could have helped get it there.) Band of Angels is a wealth of information about the worlds in which the various early Christian women named in the book lived. I certainly learned a lot, but was left wanting to know more about the women themselves. If only the record of history had been kinder to (or even vaguely aware of) women and hadn't left such a dearth of information. **I received this book through a Goodreads Giveaway.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    A good book--and we need to hear more about this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    RHL Staff

    Really enjoyed this book. It very readable and showcased just how much women effected the early church and were a part of it's formation. Really enjoyed this book. It very readable and showcased just how much women effected the early church and were a part of it's formation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan N. Weis

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  24. 5 out of 5

    Noel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jana

  26. 4 out of 5

    Darcy Allen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

  29. 5 out of 5

    John Hanscom

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah M. Shakour Carter

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