Outrageous Women, Outrageous God: Women in the First Two Generations of Christianity

Ross Saunders

Download your free sample chapter here.

Please note that the printed version of this book is no longer available to purchase through this website. It is, however, still in print. If you would like to find out how to obtain a copy of this book, please contact Lula Sanders  (stavroula@ihug.com.au; 02 88501562; 0407 081 774).


Commended, Australian Christian Book of the Year Award, 1996.

Outrageous Women, Outrageous God is a study into the status and ministry of women in the New Testament, and how they went against many of the social and religious constraints of their time. It is a fresh approach to the place women, both Jewish and gentile, made for themselves-from the conception of John the Baptizer to the death of the last apostle.

When you stop to consider that all the authors of the New Testament books were men who were part of the constraints which society and religion placed on women, you cannot help being amazed at the extent to which women gained prominence in early Christianity. In describing these women and their actions, Ross Saunders has used the word, ‘outrageous’ to emphasize just how far some of them stepped outside what was traditionally allowed them: ‘That God would at times encourage such behaviour means that to some extent, God is the origin of this outrageousness.’

‘A classic! Saunders clearly and crisply situates Jesus and Paul in their non-Western culture and shows their outrageous and counter-cultural stand on male and female relationships. An exceptionally readable guide for Bible readers who want to see Jesus and Paul engaging their culture. Uncluttered, accurate, terse and engaging portrayals. A gem of a book.
Professor Jerome H. Newrey, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

‘Outrageous Women Outrageous God is an incisive and engaging analysis of the biblical vision of inclusive human community. Ross Saunders’ use of “outrageous” is an apt description of God’s call to women in the New Testament and the early church. It is a vision as relevant today as ever, when social convention threatens the place of women in church and society.’
The Rev’d Dr Don Saines, Dean of the Cathedral Church of St Paul, Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, and formerly Principal, St Francis Theological College, Brisbane

‘Ross Saunders’ analysis of different episodes enables us to see these women as influential individuals. I commend his fresh approach to a topical issue.’
Professor Alanna Nobbs, Macquarie University, Sydney

Mia Mia (magazine of MU Australia), Winter 2014, p. 1

You can read Jan’s review by downloading a pdf version here.

Book Review, ‘Women behaving outrageously’, by Gillian Moses
Diocese of Brisbane’s August 2010 Focus magazine

Ross Saunders, an Anglican priest from the diocese of Sydney, began his study of women in the early Church as a Bible study with the Community of the Sisters of the Church, in Glebe, Sydney. He then developed his series of talks into the present book form, first published in 1996 and now in a revised edition, published posthumously this year.

Using a social scientific approach, which sets the accounts from Scripture and the early church fathers firmly in their social and political context, Saunders considers the way women and women’s ministry have been viewed within the church over its first 400 years. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Paul of Tarsus who emerges from this study as a leading light in the battle for women to minister and lead within the early church.

Through the social sciences, which offer a picture of life in the ancient near-eastern society of the New Testament, we notice how outrageous these women were in demanding to be seen, heard, healed, and to serve. Equally outrageous was the God who, through Jesus, noticed and approved the behaviour of these radical women.

When Saunders turns his attention to the letter of Paul, he argues that Paul saw women as partners in God’s mission, working beside men and in some cases leading local congregations. For example, the only deacon identified by name in all of Paul’s letters is Phoebe, a woman (Romans 16:1–2).

Perhaps Saunders’ most interesting thesis concerns the apocryphal writings of the early church. These “Novellas” often featured heroines doing outrageous and miraculous deeds, with men firmly in the background. Saunders observes that the rise of outrageous-women-of-faith literature coincides with the disappearance of women from church leadership and ministry. As the church bowed to pressure to conform socially, women’s desire to witness to their faith sought an alternative expression through these fictional tales of derring-do.

Outrageous Women, Outrageous God would be a good study for a parish group interested in engaging with the issue of women’s ordination through the scriptures. Saunders wrote from within the landscape of Sydney Anglicanism although, as a member of the Anglicans Together organisation, his inclusive credentials were sound.


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