I had stated, in History and Hoax, that the testimony of faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is attested through documentation to the first century. In Primary Sources for the Ancient Mind I pull out some excerpts from some of these documents. This is only scratching the surface. In fact, library shelves are filled with the volumes of ancient Christians as well as their detractors: ancient heretics, extra-Biblical gospels and Jesus legends, ancient pagans, and ancient Jewish literature. These ancient writings were not suppressed at all - in fact, they have been copied, translated, packaged, repackaged, excerpted, quoted, and published in every form imaginable.
Attestations to Jesus and the faith of his disciples appear in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who lived in the first century. Anathemas directed against Christian teaching as blasphemous corruptions of the Jewish messianic hope are found in the Mishnaic literature compiled in the fourth century.
Ancient writings of Christians are compiled in numerous volumes, from reference editions for library use only to paperback copies of St. Augustine’s City of God. To find sources in the shape and form you like, consider these key words in your search:
Pre-Nicene Fathers. Post-Nicene Fathers. New Testament Apocrypha. Augustine of Hippo. Irenaeus. Origen. Tertullian. The Didache. Clement. Eusebius.
The journey of discovery which this entails can be enlightening when we remember some aspects of the ancient mind. First, their cosmology is different. They do not have a Germ Theory, knowledge of DNA, or the Hubble Telescope. Second, recall that the status of women has taken leaps in a single century. This does not besmirch the Bible or the faith - indeed, it makes the role of women in the Bible and in the ancient Church that much more surprising. Those today who believe that a return to paganism will empower women do not approach history with perspective. Third, many of these volumes will be translated into English using conventions at the time of translation.
Gender-neutral English is an innovation of the last couple decades. In addition, many of these wrote in Greek, they were bound by the conventions of their language. Theos, God, is rendered as a masculine noun in the Greek language. Spirit, pneuma, declines in the neuter, while Wisdom, sophia, declines in the feminine. In the translation to English from conventions of thirty years ago or earlier, the English pronouns referring to the Spirit or the Wisdom of God are masculine, when it would be just as correct (or more correct) to have used female pronouns.
Finally, these jewels cannot be discovered by looking up essays such as: The Sacred Feminine in My Church in Lyons, By Irenaeus, 167 A.D. Such subjects were neither collected into one argument, or suppressed either. It simply was not on the radar of a persecuted church hoping, through their suffering, in the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
These explanations are not intended to hide or conceal the very real chauvinism that is evident throughout the world and in every culture since Adam’s fall made the male to be a bully. The mindset of someone like Tertullian, for example, is decidedly chauvinistic. Living one hundred years after the generation of the apostles, he wrote that women ought not be bishops. He, himself, was not an office-holder, and he eventually abandoned the Christian faith for one of its heretical sects.
Again, given the pandemic chauvinism of the period, it is surprising how much notice Christian women do receive. A pagan opponent of Christianity, named Celsus, uses chauvinistic assumptions to denigrate the Church, in which it was visibly obvious that many women were taking part.
It just so happens that I own all the books I am referencing - many of them in paperback editions available in the theology or “classics” sections of large bookstores. I honestly thought these volumes would collect dust on my shelves. Little did I know that a phenomenon such as The Da Vinci Code, with its claims regarding the history of Christianity, would have me cracking these spines open for the first time since seminary.
These books are: A New Eusebius,edited by J. Stevenson and published by William Clowes and Sons - Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers from Hendrickson Publishers - and by St. Augustine, Confessions and City of God, both abridged editions and published by Image Books.