Recent accounts of the history of Christian theology tend to neglect material concerning widows in antiquity and their contribution to Christian discipleship. In this dissertation I would like to offer a corrective along the lines of studying the contribution of widows in Jewish and Christian antiquity to the Catholic tradition. In particular, I contend that the Jewish roots of the widows’ contribution to Christian theology is also overlooked. The idea of the widow as an “altar of God,” which emerges in early Church literature, requires an understanding of the history of widows and the altar in Jewish and Christian antiquity.
What can be gleaned from mentions of widows, especially the enrolled widows, in the early Church? Firstly, enrolled widows in the early Church had historical precedents in the Old Testament that are sometimes overlooked by scholars, particularly in the omission of the Old Testament widow Judith. Secondly, the altar in Jewish and early Christian antiquity is significant; the altar has many functions and nuances of meaning, which are essential to understand the motif of the widow as the altar of God. Thirdly, these widows in the early Church offer a challenging Christian ethos, which derives from their good works and from a rootedness in ascetic practices that comprise a whole way of life for Christian discipleship.
By and large, extant material on the order of widows dwindles after the fourth century A.D. The history of widows in Jewish and Christian antiquity can inform recent endeavors in the Church to revitalize the ancient vocation of widowhood, and that of belonging to an order of widows. This dissertation proposes to trace the trajectory of the contribution of widows in antiquity to Catholic theology. Moreover, by exploring what the early Church meant when it referred to the widow as the “altar of God,” especially in light of the altar’s many functions, I hope to shed light on an ancient and little studied practice in the Church. I will then show how this study of ancient Christian widows can inform two recent endeavors in the United States to renew the order of widows.
|Advisor:||Mueller, Joseph G.|
|Commitee:||Dempsey, Deirdre A., Orlov, Andrei A., Pace, Sharon|
|School Location:||United States -- Wisconsin|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religious history, Theology, Spirituality|
|Keywords:||Altar of God, Didascalia, Discipleship, Order of widows, Widow|
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