Modern Believing

‘I, Who Knew that I was Privileged to Converse with the Lord…’: Christian Women and Religious Authority in Third-Century North Africa

Modern Believing (2013), 54, (1), 23–33.

Abstract

This article considers the authority of female confessors in the early church. Beginning with a discussion of the role of Perpetua as portrayed in The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, it then places the evidence relating to Perpetua in the context of the correspondence of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage during the Decian persecution, fifty years later. It concludes that female confessors could and did exercise authority, and that they were considered capable of granting absolution. However, in North Africa, the authority of female confessors seems to have been distinct from that of deacons and presbyters.

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Author details

Methuen, Charlotte