Christian History Timeline: Women and the Church Orders


1–90 A.D.

Pentecost (c. 30 A.D.) 

Spread of faith despite persecution by Nero and Domitian 


90–200 A.D.

Consolidation of church; spotty, localized persecution 


Justin Martyr

200–300 A.D.

Sharp persecution, especially in North Africa under Septimius Severus 

Origen, Tertullian make Christianity intellectually respectable. 

Church becomes more respectable, builds buildings 

Blandina martyred 

Perpetua martyred 

Decius stuns church with persecution; Valerian continues it 

Church tries to rebuild 

Origen martyred

300–400 A.D.

Diocletian launches Great Persecution (303–310) 

Edict of Toleration (311) 

Constantine converts, begins co-regency (313) 

Constantine makes Christianity the religion of the empire (324) 

Helena visits Holy Land 

John Chrysostom 


Monica dies 

Jerome in Rome

400–500 A.D.

Alaric the Goth sacks Rome (409–410) 

Pulcheria rules empire 

Augustine is bishop of Hippo

Key Writings

Didache (100–200 A.D.) 

Recognized those with the Spirit, gave guidelines for their ministry. 

Problem: Credentials of traveling prophets 

Restrictions on women: None specified.

Apostolic Tradition (c. 215) 

Conferred spiritual authority by ordaining bishops, elders, deacons. 

Problem: Setting apart church leaders and distinguishing their various roles. 

Restrictions on women: Widows designated as church workers but not ordained.

Didascalia Apostolorum (mid-200s) 

Regulated Christian life and ministry. 

Problem: Public image of Christianity? 

Restrictions on women: Severe, at home and in church. Consistent with Greco-Roman image of the good noblewoman. 

Statutes of the Apostles (early 300s) 

Defines the work of deacons, among other things. 

Problem: Women deacons taking on too much authority? 

Restrictions on women: Some women were ordained as deacons, but could not participate in eucharistic ministry, only good works. 

Octateuch of Clement: Testament of Our Lord (early 400s) 

Further defined church ministry. 

Problem: What are women allowed to do? 

Restrictions on women: Some are reversed. Women are encouraged to do works of teaching, visitation, etc. But they may only minister to other women.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #17 in 1988]

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