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The Power of Children
The Construction of Christian Families in the Greco-Roman World

By Margaret Y. MacDonald

The Power of Children
Hardback, 248 pages $49.95
Published: 15th September 2014
ISBN: 9781481302234
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Biblical Studies, All History, Ancient History & Archaeology

The Power of Children examines Christian teaching about children in the context of family life in the Roman world. Specifically, author Margaret Y. MacDonald measures the impact of the New Testament’s household codes (Colossians 3:18–4:1; Ephesians 5:21–6:9; the Pastoral letters) for understanding the status and role of children in Christian homes and assemblies. By allowing children to frame her analysis, MacDonald demonstrates that the rigid social divisions of the period (wives–husbands, children–parents, slaves–masters) were far more complex and overlapping within the Christian context—highlighting the way in which Christian families challenged the prevailing imperial ideology. From curbing sexual abuse to the practice of pseudo-parenting and the teaching roles of both men and women in the family, MacDonald documents the development of an early Christian perspective that valued children as members in the household of God.

1. Introduction: Codes and Children

2. Small, Silent, but Ever Present: Slave Children in Colossians 3:18–4:1

3. Socialization and Education: The Nurture, Teaching, and Discipline of Children in Ephesians 5:21–6:4

4. The House Church as Home School: The Christian Assembly and Family in Pastorals

5. Conclusion: How Remembering the Little Ones Changes Things

"In The Power of Children, Margaret MacDonald continues her previous work on early Christian families and house churches, probing deeper into what we know and can surmise about the most silent members of early Christian communities. The Power of Children is the best book available on children, households, and the household codes in early Christianity."

—Carolyn Osiek, Brite Divinity School, Emerita

"In this stimulating and groundbreaking book, Margaret MacDonald brings children to the forefront of early Christian history, seeking them out in the margins and shadows of the text and bringing them into the center. The Power of Children is not only a compelling account of house churches as complex multigenerational communities but also a demonstration of how placing children at the center opens up the liberating potential of New Testament texts."

—Terence L. Donaldson, Lord and Lady Coggan Professor of New Testament Studies, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"The book is a powerful contribution to the study of Christian children in antiquity and, after reading it, it is impossible to read the household codes without pondering the lives of ancient children. Not only is MacDonald's book now required reading for those studying Christian children in antiquity, it must be required for those who study the Deutero-Pauline Epistles."

—John W. Martens, Journal of Theological Studies

"MacDonald offers biblical scholarship at its best: nuanced, multidisciplinary, detailed, informed, critically engaged, and insightfully reasoned."

—S. Young, McHenry County College, Choice

“This careful study shines new light on the multiple and overlapping identities of first-century church members. MacDonald’s perceptive analysis gives us deeper understanding of the texture of life in the early church and calls us to recognize the complexities of the domestic and ecclesial lives of those early believers. Every study of these texts and all constructions of life in the early church will need to be in conversation with this superb book.”

—Jerry L. Sumney, Professor of Biblical Studies, Lexington Theological Seminary

"MacDonald weaves together her intimate knowledge of cultural values of honour, patronage and gender hierarchy with fruitful, new insights on the lives of children, parenting, slaves and the composition and functioning of the early Christians in community. It is a wonderful contribution to continued work on families and households in early Christian scholarship."

—Mona Tokarek LaFosse, Studies in Religion

"MacDonald’s analysis is careful and cogent, her conclusions measured (respecting the limits of the evidence), and her approach fully informed by relevant ancient evidence and scholarly work."

—Larry Hurtado, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, The University of Ediburgh

“This book makes an important contribution to the study of children in early Christianity by incorporating and comparing a wealth of material on children in the Greco-Roman world to that of diverse New Testament texts and by arguing that children were both participants and a focus of attention in early Christian communities.”

—Judith M. Gundry, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

“…MacDonald has given the field of early Christian studies a valuable resource, and one that humbly invites further scholarship. Her depth of knowledge in the field is evident, and even those who may disagree with some of her interpretations of Scripture or historical data will nonetheless be aided by her research."

—J. Ryan Davidson, Fides et Historia

"Well-researched, accessible, interesting and insightful."

—Julie Faith Parker, The Review of Biblical Literature

"A wealth of insight"

—Amy L. B. Peeler, Wheaton College, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Here is a deeply researched and informative study that casts light on an overlooked
dimension of early Christianity, namely, the place of children and their influence in
the life and traditions of the church in its formative period."

—Dianne Bergant, CSA, The Bible Today

Margaret Y. MacDonald is Dean of Arts at St. Mary's University in Halifax.  

F. W. Beare Award - 2016 - Canadian Society of Biblical Scholars - Winner

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 248 pages
 9in x 6in

  HIS002000, REL006630, REL015000
 Baylor University Press

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