She Who Loved Much

She Who Loved Much

The Sinful Woman in St Ephrem the Syrian and the Orthodox Tradition

Category: Biblical Studies
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Paperback, 224 pages
Sep 6, 2022
9 in x 6 in
Country of Manufacture
Sep 6, 2022

— About the Book —

This sharply honed and well-constructed work brings to the fore and explores the New Testament story regarding the woman who entered a house where Jesus was dining and anointed him with precious oil shortly before His Passion and Crucifixion. The author unveils the intricate nature of the tradition of the Church that gives the woman a voice and elucidates her backstory through its liturgical poetry, oratory, and other writings. Scholarly consideration is given to all these sources in addressing questions such as:  Who was this woman? Where did she come from? How did she acquire the precious oil? How did she enter into the house of Simon uninvited? How did she perceive her own bold actions?

The reader will learn that in the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, as found in the hymnology of Holy Week, this sinful woman is shown to be an example of repentance and unconstrained love. The intricate nature of the hymns and homilies of the Orthodox Church give greater scope and application to the biblical record primarily in Greek and Syriac manuscripts, with particular attention given to the former texts, too often overshadowed by the latter. The author shares previously inaccessible texts of late antiquity such as homilies by Amphilochius of Iconium and Ephrem Graecus found here in English for the first time.

This in-depth and readable study will engage those who encounter the story of the sinful woman in the living tradition of worship within the Orthodox Church, together with those who have encountered this story in Scripture, or in the course of their academic studies.

— Author Biography —

Kevin James Kalish holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and is Professor of English at Bridgewater State University. He is also a priest of the New England Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America.

— Contents —



Short Titles and a Note on Texts


PART I - Earliest Developments of the Sinful Woman’s Story

1 - Introduction

Luke 7:36–50

The Story of the Sinful Woman

The Gospel Accounts

How Many Women? Mary Magdalene?

Filling in the Gaps

Genres of Early Christian Writing: Homily, Apocrypha, Hagiography, Greek Novel, Hymn

Ways of Story-telling


Plan of the Book

Central Argument


2 - Ephrem the Syrian and the Syriac Tradition


Christianity and the World of Late Antiquity

Ephrem and the Beginning of Christian Poetry

Ephrem the Syrian’s Verse Homily On the Sinful Woman

Ephrem the Syrian’s Invention of the Myrrh-Seller


3 - Amphilochius of Iconium, the Neglected Cappadocian


Amphilochius of Iconium, On the Sinful Woman Who Anointed the Lord with Myrrh; and on the Pharisee (Homily 4)

The Sinful Woman and Judas: Amphilochius’s use of Biblical Models

Interior Monologue

Shamelessness Transformed into Boldness


PART II - Greek Ephrem’s Homily on the Repentant Harlot

4 - Phenomenon of the Greek Ephrem


Meeting of Basil and Ephrem

Overview of the Homily


5 - Translation of Greek Ephrem’s Homily The Repentant Harlot


Her Thoughts and Plans

Encounter with the Myrrh-seller

The Woman Prepares Herself to Enter

Arrival at House of Simon

Reflection by the Homilist

Simon’s Doubts and the Parable of the Debtors


6 - Significance of Greek Ephrem’s Homily The Repentant Harlot

Voice of the Homilist

Imagining her Voice: Silent Speech, Interiority, the Self, and the Power of Fiction

Dialogue with the Myrrh-seller

Wounded by the Beauty of Christ

Encounter with Christ

The Parable of the Two Debtors: Will or Ought to Love?


PART III - The Sinful Woman as a Model of Repentance

7 - Romanos’s On the Harlot

Romanos Introduction

Translation of the kontakion

Romanos “On the Harlot” Commentary


8 - The Sinful Woman in the Lenten Triodion


Development of the Lenten Tridoion

The Sinful Woman in the Triodion Hymns

The Sinful Woman in the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

Holy Week and Greek Ephrem’s The Repentant Harlot

Hymn of Kassia the Nun


9 - Conclusion

Why the Sinful Woman? Boldness, Continual Repentance, and Perfect Love

Holy Harlots

Continual Repentance

Sinful Woman and Perfect Love


APPENDIX I: Literary Context

Late Antique Rhetorical Practices



Longer Version of Greek Ephrem’s Homily The Repentant Harlot (Recension B)




Glossary of Names