Socioeconomic Status in Early Christianity and Thecla’s Rejection of Marriage
Histories of women continue to debate wealthy women's access to leadership in the ancient world. Scholarly interpretations of women's religious status in the eastern Mediterranean have rested on views of women's (subordinate) social status. However, the frameworks used to analyze social status have not included a thorough economic analysis. Adequate investigation of texts about religion and socioeconomic status requires a critical framework that analyzes gender, race, ethnicity, marriage, slavery, sexuality, and colonialization as well as religion and access to wealth. Bain proposes an approach based on kyriarchy and guided by feminist historical material inquiry. Analyses of the ancient economy depend on contemporary economic theory, and women and lower-status men remain in the margins even in analyses of contemporary economic systems. The omission of gender, race, class, sexuality, and colonialism as categories of socioeconomic analysis has significant consequences for economic models, since these distinctions are embedded in notions of public/private, competition/affection, productivity, family, household, and labor. After elaborating this approach and comparing it to other methods in use, Bain illustrates its potential in a conversation with current scholarship on the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Archaeological sources constitute an essential element of this analysis.
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