Category: Widows in the Pastorals

Kidson, “Real Widows, Young Widows, and the Limits of Benefaction in 1 Timothy 5:3–16”

Lyn Kidson has produced another contribution to the discussion of widows in 1 Timothy 5. (See also her “Fasting, Bodily Care, and the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3–15,” Early Christianity 11.2 (2020): 191–205 [DOI: 10.1628/ec-2020-0016])

Lyn Kidson, “Real Widows, Young Widows, and the Limits of Benefaction in 1 Timothy 5:3–16.” Australian Biblical Review 70 (2022): 83–100.

Abstract: John Barclay, in his 2020 article, “Household Networks and Early Christian Economics,” outlines the puzzles that “abound” in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. Among his list of puzzles, he asks, “Is it inconsistent to say that a χήρα can be registered only if she has brought up children (5.10), but to deny her support in 5:4–8 if she has children to look after? Who are the younger χῆραι that the Pastor is evidently so anxious about (5:11–15) …?” Barclay’s article has gone a long way to resolving these puzzles. The “younger χῆραι” he identifies as “virgins.” This was an anomaly in the social world of the early Christians, which forced them to adapt terms for the woman beyond puberty but was without a man. This was a χήρα. While in agreement with Barclay, this article probes a little more deeply into the problem of the younger χήρα and her dowry. It makes the proposal that if the younger χήρα is a virgin, then the issue in 1 Timothy 5 is not her ongoing support, which seems manageable for the “real widow,” but the support for the virgin who wishes to marry after she has been assigned as a qualifying χήρα.

Maier, “The Entrepreneurial Widows of 1 Timothy”

A new essay on the widows of 1 Timothy has recently appeared:

Harry O. Maier, “The Entrepreneurial Widows of 1 Timothy.” Pages 59–73 in Patterns of Women’s Leadership in Early Christianity. Edited by Ilaria Ramelli and Joan Taylor. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198867067.003.0004

An earlier version of this essay is available on Academia, and includes this abstract: “This essay argues that the exhortations and admonitions voiced in 1 Timothy, a highly rhetorical pseudonymous letter written in Paul’s name, that widows (i.e. unmarried) women attests to a concern with single women’s patronage of Christ assemblies, which the writing seeks to address by having them marry. The argument seeks to move beyond a common explanation that the epistle was occasioned by ascetical teachings in which women discovered in sexual continence freedom from traditional gender roles. It seeks to furnish a broader economic concern with widows through an historical exploration of the socio-economic status of women who were artisans in the imperial urban economy. It identifies the means by which women gained skill in trades, the roles they played in the ‘adaptive family’ in which tradespeople plied their trade often at economic levels of subsistence. New Testament texts point to artisan women, some of them probably widows, who played important roles of patronage and leadership in assemblies of Christ believers. By attending to levels of poverty in the urban empire, traditional views of the widows of 1 Timothy as wealthier women assigned to gender roles are seen in a new light through consideration of spouses accustomed to working alongside their husbands taking on businesses after they died. While the lives of these women are largely invisible, attention to benefactions of wealthy women to synagogues and associations gives insight into the lives of women acting independently in various kinds of social gatherings.”

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