Holly Beers. A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.
Holly Beers has a Ph.D. from London School of Theology and teaches religious studies at Westmont College.
This book is part of Intervarsity Academic’s “A Week in the Life of” series, each book of which profiles a particular fictional character in antiquity. The only other book of the series that I have read thus far is Gary Burge’s A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion. A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman focuses on a pregnant Greco-Roman woman in Ephesus, who encounters the teachings of the apostle Paul.
A non-believer (I think) saw me reading this book and said that she wanted to read it. She likes women’s studies, but she recoils from anything that is “preachy” from a Christian perspective. There are aspects of this book that she would like. The side-bars in the book especially illustrate what life was like for people, particularly Greco-Roman women, in the first century C.E., for different economic classes. What did people eat, and how often? Where did they go to the bathroom? What was married life like?
But, overall, the book is very preachy. It is not as if the Greco-Roman woman swallows Christianity whole immediately after hearing it. She especially struggles with the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection. But the woman is confronted with, and drawn to, the egalitarian, democratic nature of Christianity, which holds that all people, of different classes, can become spiritual siblings in Christ. She contrasts Christianity favorably with Artemis, the goddess who assists pregnant women. She gravitates towards Christianity, even though she is reluctant to believe in it overtly, since Greco-Roman antiquity required Greco-Roman women to honor and accept the deities of their husbands.
The book makes some assumptions about the development of Christian theology. Jesus was deemed to be a god and a man in the first century, as far as Beers is concerned, whereas there are scholars who would reject the idea that Paul or Luke/Acts held such a high Christology. But Beers herself is a scholar, who has written in the field of New Testament studies, so she likely has arguments for the assumptions that this book reflects.
In terms of the story, I followed it on and off in my mind. This may be just me, since, currently, my mind pays more attention to ideas than to who this and that character is. This book definitely gave me food in its presentation of ideas, as it contrasts Christianity with other religions and philosophies in Greco-Roman antiquity. Something that I like about this book, in terms of its storyline, is that it does not get overly dramatic. A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion was too dramatic for my taste, but Beers’s book focuses more on what life was like for Greco-Roman women in antiquity, along with the place of Christianity then and there.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.