Bible Review 21:3, Summer 2005

A Woman Equal to Paul

Who Is She?

By John Dominic Crossan

To the Editor:

I just completed the book In Search of Paul: How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom (Harper San Francisco, 2004), by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed. I was especially intrigued by the cover illustration of a sixth-century fresco of Paul and his faithful female disciple Thecla, from the Grotto of St. Paul at Ephesus, in Turkey. The authors state: “They [Paul and Thecla] are both of the same height and are therefore iconographically of equal importance. They both have their right hands raised in teaching gesture and are therefore iconographically of equal authority. But although the eyes and upraised hand of Paul are untouched, some later person scratched out the eyes and erased the upraised hand of Thecla.”

Then I picked up the December 2004 issue of BR, where I saw the same painting featured in David Cartlidge’s article “Thecla: The Woman Who Defied Women’s Destiny.” But here the painting is identified as a fourth-century image of Paul and Theocleia, Thecla’s mother.

So, who is this woman “of equal authority” to Paul? Is she his faithful disciple or her not-so-faithful mother?

Glynn Ann Carmody
Shreveport, Louisiana

Images published in this country of a fresco in the Cave of St. Paul at Ephesus have misled several of us who have used and discussed them.

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