Teaching Women: Biblical Women and Women's Choirs in Syriac Tradition


ACLS Fellowship Program


Religious Studies


This study examines the role and function of women’s voices in late antique Syriac Christianity. Syriac homilies and doctrinal hymns utilized the technique of imagined speech for female biblical characters. The hymns were generally performed by women’s choirs in liturgies of the civic Syriac churches, a practice disallowed in Greek civic churches of the same period. This study asks how women’s speech was represented through biblical women, how that representation functioned in Christian teaching, why it was granted authority, and how ritual performance—by women’s choirs, male chanters, or male clergy, separately or in antiphonal exchange—contributed to the social meaning of women’s voices in the late antique Syrian Orient.