In this article, it is argued that from the beginning of the Christ-following movement, the gospel
message represented a challenge to a male-dominated social system. Early Christian literature
shows that women, whose voices were often silenced in antiquity, are empowered. This is seen
most clearly in the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. There we see how the protagonists is
presented as acting counter culturally, challenging the world of men and turning patriarchal
values and expectations upside down. It could be argued that the gospel message portrays
women in the centre of missionary witness and empowers them in this manner. Furthermore,
early Christian Martyrdom texts also show how the concept of suffering, honour and shame is
redefined and how power and strength in weakness and oppression is reformulated.
This project is part of the NRF mission and ethics project of the author at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Prof. Dr Kobus Kok is
participating in the research
project, ‘Studies on the book
of the Acts of the Apostles’,
directed by Prof. Dr G. Steyn,
Department of New Testament
Studies, Faculty of Theology,
University of Pretoria.