Can a girl grow up to be a theologian?

Of course! Those who think otherwise are either confused about the nature of theology or are just wrong.

On definitions of theology:

“If you are a theologian, you will pray truly.
And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.”

— Evagrius of Pontus (345–399), “On Prayer,” The Philokalia, vol. 1.

 For our Greek-nerd friends, here’s the original:
 «Εἰ θεολόγος εἶ, προσεύξῃ ἀληθῶς, καὶ εἰ άληθῶς προσεύξῃ, θεολόγος εἶ.»

 — Εὐάγριος ὁ Ποντικός

Thus, a theologian (théologien OR théologienne,* equally), is one who, having spoken well with God, is enabled to speak well — and teach well — about God and the things of God.

A theologian is not merely someone with facility in articulating academic jargon.

Today’s théologiennes are part of a vast cloud of witnesses. Here are a some of my favorites (mostly arranged chronologically).

  • Mary the First Evangelist and the Apostle to the Apostles (NT period)
  • Phillip the Evangelist’s four preaching daughters (NT period)
  • Junia the Apostle (NT period)
  • Priscilla the teacher of the apostle Apollos (NT period)
  • Lois the teacher (and grandmother) of the apostle Timothy (NT period)
  • Eunice the teacher (and mother) of the apostle Timothy (NT period)
  • Perpetua (martyred 203; Carthage)
  • Felicity (martyred 203; Carthage)
  • Macrina the Elder (before 270 – c. 340; Cappadocia)
  • Macrina the Younger (c. 330 – 379; Cappadocia and Pontus)
  • Nina the Equal to the Apostles and the Enlightener of Georgia (aka Nino; c. 296 – c. 338 or 340; Cappadocia and Georgia)
  • Marcella (325–410; Rome)
  • Melania the Elder (c. 350 – either before 410 or c. 417; Spain, Rome, Jerusalem)
  • Melania the Younger (c. 383 – 439; Rome, Jerusalem)
  • Paula of Rome (347 – 404; Rome, Bethlehem)
  • Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179; Germany)
  • Hadewijch of Antwerp (1200s; The Netherlands)
  • Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1260 – c. 1282/94; Germany)
  • Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1423; England)
  • Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380; Italy)
  • Catherine of Genoa (1447 – 1510; Italy)
  • Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582; Spain)
  • Pandita Ramabai Sarasvati (usually just known as “Pandita Ramabai”; 1858 – 922; India)
  • Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 – 1957; England)
  • Mercy Amba Oduyoye (b. 1934; Ghana)
  • Marianne Katoppo (943 – 2007; Indonesia)
  • Gillian M. Bediako (living; Ghana)
  • Philomena Njeri Mwaura (living; Kenya)
  • Dana L. Robert (living; America)
  • Musa Dube (aka Musa Wenkosi Dube Shomanah, b. 1964; Botswana)
  • Lynn H. Cohick (living; America)
  • Michelle Lee-Barnewall (living; America)
  • Wanjiru M Gitau (living; Kenya)
  • Cynthia Long Westfall (living; America)

And of course this list would not be complete without the inclusion my very favorite théologienne:

  • Ruth Barron (living; America and Kenya)

The discerning reader will note that this is list is quite short with large gaps, both chronologically and geographically. I attribute that to the limitations of my own education. Also note that this is a list of favorites, not an exhaustive list of all whom I’ve read. Note that Macrina the Elder and Macrina the Younger were responsible for discipling two the other three “Great Cappadocians” — Macrina the Younger’s younger brothers Basil the Great (of Cappadocian Caesarea) and Gregory of Nyssa; she also played an important role in the formation of Gregory the Theologian of Nazianzen. Historically speaking, those three men were largely responsible for the survival of Nicene Orthodoxy. But the Nicene Orthodoxy of those three men is due to those two women, the two Macrinas. (Moreover, those godly men recognized publicly that they owed their very faith to the teaching of those two women.) Also of special note is Nina, to whom the ancient Church really did bestow two lofty titles: “Equal to the Apostles” and “Enlightener of Georgia.” She was nearly singlehandedly responsible for the conversion of an entire country.

As Mercy Amba Oduyoye has explained, using an Akan proverb, As Mercy Amba Oduyoye has explained, using an Akan proverb, “a bird has two wings.” A bird with one wing is necessarily grounded. A bird with only one strong wing may well fly in circles. If the Church is to soar, she most exercise both wings equally — she must give voice (and ear) to both men and women.

* In French, “theologian” is translated as either théologien (masculine) or théologienne (feminine); the language (and ancient Christian tradition) recognize that theologians — including teaching theologians — may be either male or female.

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This post is dedicated to AlitzahHannahgailEliana, Ahaviah, and Shalviah.

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