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Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture

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2007/02/09 05:38:34 (permalink)

Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture

Dear friends,

In 1975, the Pontifical Biblical Commission emphasized that there was nothing in Scripture to either support or forbid the ordination of women to the sacerdotal priesthood. Prudence asks that we consider the scriptural overview of women's participation in Christ's priesthood. A link to focused information that will help us is:

http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/overv_sc.asp

In overview, the document includes a chart that navigates through scriptural history and connects us to a variety of other pertinent articles.

Please note: the links on the right hand side of the document connect to additional articles in which you'll see a specific icon.* It is in the shape of a black circle boldly placed in the upper left hand corner of the page. When you click your cursor on the different sets of words written on the icon, you'll connect to other documents that focus on five themes related to understanding scripture. The themes reflected in the icon are:
  • What Does God's Word Tell Us Here? :click centre of the icon
  • Literal Sense :click left hand side of the icon
  • Literary Forms :click top of the icon
  • Intended Scope :click right hand side of the icon
  • Rationalization :click lower edge of the icon

Let me know if there are questions. I trust you will enjoy!

With love and blessings,
~Sophie~

*!!! Chuckling to myself as I remember what I learned about icons in the Can women be icons of Christ? thread: even with computers, an icon is a 'sign' that points to something beyond itself.
post edited by Sophie - 2007/06/22 04:25:55

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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/02/10 18:11:07 (permalink)
    Sophie,  Thanks for pointing this out.  It's really helping me.
      -Frances
     
     
    Sophie
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/08 15:30:44 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    From a scriptural point of view, Rome's two main arguments as to why women cannot be priests are:
    • Jesus Christ set a permanent norm by omitting women from the apostolic team.  In other words, Rome's argument is that because Jesus did not choose any women to be one of his twelve apostles, women cannot be priests.
    • The apostle Paul excluded women from teaching and presiding in the Christian assembly.  According to Rome, women can therefore not be priests.


    As we move along, we will explore each of these points more thoroughly.  I will select several articles from our library that will help us unpack Rome's position.  
     
    In our exploration we will examine Scripture more carefully and see that despite Rome's position,  the ordination of women to priesthood cannot be excluded on the basis of Sacred Scripture. 

    Stay tuned!

    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/14 23:06:20 (permalink)
    We are led to believe, by the Catholic hierarchy, that the time period in which Jesus came was purposely selected to exclude women from the priesthood. God chose this period because it was a time when women were not educated so that they could not write their own accounts of their experience with Jesus; when they were treated as property of their husbands so that they would be restricted in their movement in society and be forced into a submissive role; when they were viewed as lesser and inferior beings, created less in the image of God than man so that they would not be permitted to preach the Gospel. And so God deliberately selected this time in our history and deliberately became a man so that men should continue to have dominion over women in the established Church. Furthermore, Jesus did not select six women and six men to be his disciples. Instead he selected twelve male disciples to travel with him and learn from him, not because of any expediency in dissemination of his message but to signal that forever more only men would be permitted to shepherd the flock.
     
    What arrogance, what pride!
     
    When one looks critically at how God works, it seems that God cares little about debunking the petty little social structures and cultural traditions that we create for ourselves. Jesus came to us at a time when the Jewish people were oppressed by the Roman Empire. This was a corrupt government that made sport of murder. And yet he subjected himself to their laws. He did not publicly condemn them. Instead he told people to pay Rome’s taxes. He even cured the servant of a Roman soldier. He did not condemn their practices of slavery and he did not condemn the oppression of women. So was his silence in these matters an assent to their validity?
     
    Only if you ascribe meaning to what was not done in the way in which you wish it to be interpreted.
     
    The message that Jesus came to give us was about love, compassion, forgiveness, and service to the humanity. Ironically these are qualities that are associated more with women than with men. Qualities associated with men are typically dominance, control, aggression, and power. Even the twelve argued among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Yet the message of God was one of love and humility, and if one lives the message that Jesus gave us, all the petty cultural horrors, and injustices would melt away not only in our society but in the Church as well.
     
    So the physician came to the sick. He came to show men that to be great means to serve. To be a priest is to serve humanity with love and humility. And if men were to truly embrace this message they would know that this service can be equally administered by men as well as women for both men and women possess the talents that are required.
     
    There are those priests who would say that being a priest is a thankless vocation. You work long hours with little pay and even less appreciation for the work you have done. They insist that they are doing women a favor in denying them ordination to the priesthood, that they are saving them from the torments of such a life. While all this may be true, there are still the voices of women who would consider it an honor and would sacrifice all for that honor. All they humbly ask is that their brothers harden not their hearts.
     
    Now there are arguments within the Church that there are other ways to serve. Why do you have to be a priest? To this I would simply answer that there are women who are called to the priesthood by God. They possess the talents, the love, and the selflessness to best serve in that capacity. They have chosen the better part and it should not be taken away from them.
     
    Anyone who has ever experienced discrimination knows how it leads to loss of self esteem and despair. It is essentially destruction of the spirit. It is the execution of one’s very soul. We had Jesus with us in the flesh and we killed him. He died because of our sinfulness and it was the arrogance, pride, and fear of the High Priests and the Roman authorities clinging to power that were the instruments of his execution. And every time we commit sin, every time we discriminate against our sisters, every time we deny them their rightful place in the Church we kill him again.
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/15 00:01:47 (permalink)
    The message that Jesus came to give us was about love, compassion, forgiveness, and service to the humanity. Ironically these are qualities that are associated more with women than with men. Qualities associated with men are typically dominance, control, aggression, and power.

     
    A beautiful message.  Sometimes I think that it was necessary for Christ to come as a man.  'Men' are less likely to listen to a woman than they are to a man.  The sad thing is, that He did come as a man...and they still won't listen.
     
     
    Sophie
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/15 00:23:07 (permalink)
     
     
     
     
    Dear friends,

    An article from our library that provides preliminary ground for our discussion about whether Jesus's choice of twelve men must be understood as his rule for male priests is found in the following: Jesus Christ and the fact of social Male Dominance.  The article shows the fact that Jesus did not choose a woman is a non-argument.  He did not choose women to be part of the twelve apostles because his need to adapt, to social perceptions of his time. He recognised his contemporaries were under the influence of the social and cultural spell of male predominance. 

    The article is available here: http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/myth1.asp
     
    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/17 03:22:51 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    In the early 1970s,  questions about the possibility of women's ordination began to rise (as they increasingly continue to do) from the grassroots of the Church.  Pope Paul VI identified a need to provide a 'reasoned explanation' as to why women could not be priests so as to quiet the increasing 'clamour.' He assigned the task of analysis to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.  They, in turn,  commissioned the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) to produce a scriptural exegesis assessing the biblical view of women priests.  A summary of the PBC's 1976 Report is as follows:



    Seventeen members present at the recent plenary session of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, voted on various aspects of the report. They agreed unanimously that the New Testament by itself does not settle in a clear way and once and for all whether women can be ordained priests. The members voted 12-5 that scriptural grounds alone are not enough to exclude the possibility of ordaining women.

    A copy of the Report is here:   http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/appendix.asp  As we learn more, we'll join others in wondering why the Vatican completely disregarded the learned analysis and work of the Commission.

    ~Sophie~
    post edited by Sophie - 2007/03/31 17:28:48
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/17 17:15:59 (permalink)
    Jesus' radical treatment of women:

    Christ overthrew many centuries of Jewish law and custom. He consistently treated women and men as equals. He violated numerous Old Testament regulations, which specified gender inequality. He refused to follow the behavioral rules established by the three main Jewish religious groups of the day: the Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. "The actions of Jesus of Nazareth towards women were therefore revolutionary." 1 Some examples are:
    • He ignored ritual impurity laws: Mark 5:25-34 describes Jesus' cure of a woman who suffered from menstrual bleeding for 12 years. In Judean society of the day, it was a major transgression for a man to talk to a woman other than his wife or children.
    • He talked to foreign women: John 4:7 to 5:30 describes Jesus' conversation with a woman of Samaria. She was doubly ritually unclean since she was both a foreigner and a woman. Men were not allowed to talk to women, except within their own families. Jesus also helped a Canaanite woman, another foreigner, in Matthew 15:22-28. Although he described non-Jews as "dogs", he was willing to talk to her, and is recorded as having cured her daughter of demon-possession.
    • He taught women students: Jewish tradition at the time was to not allow women to be taught. Rabbi Eliezer wrote in the 1st century CE: "Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman...Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity." 5  Jesus overthrew centuries of tradition. In Luke 10:38-42, he taught Mary, sister of Martha.
    • He used terminology which treated women as equal to men:
    • Luke 13:16 describes how he cured a woman from an indwelling Satanic spirit. He called her a daughter of Abraham, thus implying that she had equal status with sons of Abraham. "The expression 'son of Abraham' was commonly used to respectfully refer to a Jew, but 'daughter of Abraham', was an unknown parallel phrase...It occurs nowhere else in the Bible." 4 It seems to be a designation created by Jesus.
    • Luke 7:35 to 8:50 describes how Jesus' forgave a woman's sins. He refers to women and men (i.e. "all" people) as children of wisdom.
    • He accepted women in his inner circle: Luke 8:1-3 describes the inner circle of Jesus' followers: 12 male disciples and an unspecified number female supporters (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and "many others.") It would appear that about half of his closest followers were women.
    • He appeared first to one or more women after his resurrection: Matthew 28:9-10 describes how Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" were the first followers of Jesus to meet him after his resurrection. (However, this account is contradicted by passages in 1 Corinthians, which state that the first person to see Jesus was Cleopas, Peter or all of the disciples.)
    • Women were present at Jesus' execution: Matthew 27:55-56 and Mark 15:40-41 describe many women who followed Jesus from Galilee and were present at his crucifixion. The men had fled from the scene. (John 19:25-27 contradicts this; the author describes John as being present with the women.)
    • He told parallel male/female stories: The author of the Gospel of Luke and of Acts shows many parallel episodes: one relating to a woman, the other to a man. For example:
    • Simeon and Hannah in Luke 2:25-38
    • Widow of Sarepta and Naaman in Luke 4:25-38
    • Healing of a man possessed by a demon and the healing of the mother of Peter's wife, starting in Luke 4:31
    • The woman who had lived a sinful life and Simon, starting in Luke 7:36
    • A man and woman sleeping together in Luke 17:34
    • Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11
    • Dionysius and Damaris in Acts 17:34
    • Lydia and the jailer's conversion in Acts 16:14-34
      The book "Women in the Earliest Churches" lists 9 additional parallels. 3 Author Ben Withernington III quotes H. Flender:

    • "Luke expresses by this arrangement that man and woman stand together and side by side before God. They are equal in honor and grace; they are endowed with the same gifts and have the same responsibilities."
    • He expressed concern for widows: Jesus repeated the importance of supporting widows throughout his ministry. The Gospel of Luke alone contains 6 references to widows: (Luke 2:36, 4:26, 7:11, 18:1, 20:47 and 21:1)
    • Divorce: In Jesus' time, a man could divorce his wife, but the wife had no right to divorce her husband. This practice is supported by seven  references in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in which a husband can unilaterally give his wife a bill of divorce. There were no references to a woman giving her husband such a bill. In Mark 10:11-12, Jesus overthrows this tradition and states that neither spouse can divorce the other; he treats the wife and husband equally. 
       
      Passages where Jesus does not call for equality of the sexes:
       
      There are two passages where Jesus deviates from his usual practice of treating women equally:
    • His disciples: There are three conflicting lists of the names of the 12 disciples that Jesus selected. In all cases, the disciples were male. He later selected a total of 70 disciples; the gender makeup of the latter group was not recorded.
    • Levirate Marriage: In Mark 12:18-27 Jesus answered a question posed by some Sadducees. They described a woman who was widowed and required to marry her brother-in-law. This was called a "Levirate" marriage. Their first-born son will be considered to be the son of the deceased husband. In this case, they imagined that seven brothers-in-law married her in succession without having a son. Jesus could have used the opportunity to preach on the unfairness of this requirement of Jewish law (from Deuteronomy 25:5-10). After all, the woman was not allowed to refuse to marry any of the brothers, even if she despised some of them. Levirate marriage often involved serial rape. But Jesus is not recorded as having condemned the practice.

      There is a passage in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) where Jesus is reported as having insulted a woman. He referred to her as a dog, a sub-human. However, his treatment of the woman was apparently based on racist feelings, not on sexist beliefs. In Matthew 15:22-28 she was described as a Canaanite; Mark 7:25-30 identified her as Greek/Syrophenician. She had pleaded with Jesus to cure her daughter who was possessed by a demon. He first ignored her, but then explained that he was sent only to bring the Gospel to the Jews, not to the Gentiles such as she. Jesus cruelly replied to the desperate mother that it was not right for him "to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs." i.e. it is not appropriate to take the Gospel, which was intended only for the Jews, and offer it to Gentiles as well -- here described as sub-humans, as dogs. (Observant Jews in the 1st century CE often referred to Gentiles contemptuously as "dogs.") She quipped back to Jesus that even the "dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Jesus relented and, from a distance, cured the daughter of demonic possession because of the mother's faith.

    Treatment of Mary Magdalene by an Angel:

    In Matthew 28:1-7, after Jesus' resurrection, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" receive the first apostolic commission of any human - to tell the good news of the  resurrection to the disciples. This is reinforced by Jesus' appearance before the two women. The two Marys were thus the first apostles.

    References
    1. B.M. Metzger & M.D. Coogan, "The Oxford Companion to the Bible", Oxford University Press, New York, NY, (1993), P. 806 to 818
    2. Christians for Biblical Equality are an Evangelical Christian group, which opposes the vast majority of conservative Christian denominations by promoting gender equality. Their essay: "Statement On Men, Women and Biblical Equality" is at: http://www.cbeinternational.org
    3. Ben Witherington III, "Women in the Earliest Churches", Cambridge University Press, (Reprinted 1991), Page 129. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
    4. Frank Daniels, "The Role of Woman in the Church." part of the Religious Heresy Page at: http://www.scs.unr.edu/.
    5. Rabbi Eliezer, "Mishnah, Sotah 3:4"
    6. Ross Shepard Kraemer, Mary Rose D'Angelo, "Women and Christian Origins," Oxford University Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book.
    7. Karen L. King, "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle," Polebridge Press, (2003). Read reviews or order this book.

    Copyright 1998 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
    Last update: 2004-AUG-27
    Author: B.A. Robinson
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/17 19:50:49 (permalink)
    Jesus showed mercy, love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance to both men and women. In that respect he defied many discriminatory laws of the time. He did not have a political agenda for the emancipation of women.
     
    This, however, does not mean that God supports discrimination on the basis of sex.
    Therese
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/17 20:17:15 (permalink)
    Hello,

    I am interested to hear more about what you mean.

    I think I agree with you-- that Jesus did not have a 'political' agenda.  Yet though his message was spiritual in nature, can we say it is limited only to an 'interior' state of being. His message, his spirituality weaves into everything.  I am not sure how many times the words 'widow,' 'orphan,' 'poor,' 'suffering' are mentioned in the Old and New -- First and Second-- testaments but it is many.  Someone suggested that if we cut out those words each time they appear in the Bible, we'd be left with quite flimsy pages.

    Could his be called a spirituality of the cosmos -- something that is essentially about right relationship -- with everything? right relationship with God, our neighbour, creation, ourselves? If is about this, and we are Christian, then we are called to give our attention to restoring/creating right relationships in the world.

    From the point of view of women and men, there is no 'right' relationship if one is subordinate to the other -- anywhere...including Rome and the Church.

    What do you think? 

    Therese
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/17 22:39:15 (permalink)
    Hi Therese,
     
    Our greatest commandment is to love God and love one another. If we truly did this, women would not be excluded from ordination to the priesthood. We would not have subordination of one sex to the other.
     
    What breaks my heart is that the leaders of our church, the church that I love so much, were entrusted with proclaiming this message, but they do not practice what they preach.
    Therese
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/18 00:14:51 (permalink)
    Hello,
     
    Your words make me think.  I know what you mean about heartbreak.  I have shed so many tears about the way some things are in the Church. 
     
    I find inspiration in reading about some of those who have gone before us.  So many people treated shabbily by Rome are later revered for their courage, stamina, and faithfulness to Christ...in spite of Rome's furor.  There is a good post in the Holy Women thread that tells about Mary Ward, foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Loretto Sisters.  It says:

    [In 1630] Mary was imprisoned by Church officials who called her a dangerous heretic for her efforts to expand the role of women religious in spreading the faith. Her work was destroyed and her Sisters scattered. But she never gave up her trust in God, and right to the end of her life, she trusted totally that what God had asked of her would be accomplished in the future. She died near York in 1645.  In 1877, her institute was fully restored, with papal permission, and became the model for modern Catholic women's institutes.

    Despite Rome's actions, she kept her eyes fixed on Christ and eventually Rome followed along (although long enough after that to all those alive in 1877, it probably seemed like Rome was leading!)
     
    I see it as an act of hope to persist in our work.  Like Mary Ward, we may never actually see our labours come to fruition -- but as we follow Christ in our work, we are nonetheless doing important foundational work that will help bring about change.
     
    It's committment to Christ's justice and love that keep me moving forward.  If this is part of Christ's Church, it's in need of our help!
     
    We are building a critical mass that will in itself create change.  More and more, Rome's 'men only' policy makes it look silly.  The thing that is sillier still is that sometimes it seems the secular world does a better job of following Christ on some issues than Rome itself does.
     
    I am glad to be sharing the journey with you.
    Therese
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Therese
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/18 00:17:51 (permalink)
    I posted this in another spot.  Given what we've been sharing here, it strikes me as something worth reflecting on as we gather here, too.  Robert was a teacher of mine --though not Catholic, much of what I what I learned from him applies in our Church.  He is a wonderful man who is helping to heal the world with his work. therese

    ...fear and anger, while they are often an important part of awakening consciousness, are not ultimately the best fuel for making change. Many of us have responded to the words of Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” To really become part of the solution rather than part of the problem, we must, even in the midst of chaos and struggle, go beyond railing against what we don’t like. We must learn to keep our hearts open, and to dream the positive future we want to create.
    • Robert Gass
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/18 04:29:08 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: Guest

    Hi Therese,

    Our greatest commandment is to love God and love one another. If we truly did this, women would not be excluded from ordination to the priesthood. We would not have subordination of one sex to the other.

    What breaks my heart is that the leaders of our church, the church that I love so much, were entrusted with proclaiming this message, but they do not practice what they preach.

     
    at times, it becomes ludicrous that faith leaders need frequent reminders about who Christ is and what the message is all about!  On the page about women, we'll need to bring out the foghorns or get them to turn their hearing aids up!!!
    Sophie
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/20 07:47:52 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    As we have discussed earlier, one of Rome's arguments against women priests says that:  Jesus Christ set a permanent norm by omitting women from the apostolic team.  Because Jesus did not choose any women to be one of his twelve apostles, women can therefore not be priests.  World famous Catholic theologian, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza* adeptly challenges this view in her article called simply The Twelve.  She critically examines early Church traditions and looks at the significance of the twelve apostles.  In considering Christ's message about 'service' -- diakonia -- she writes that the Vatican's argument that  "the Church in faithfulness to the to the example of Jesus who did not choose women as members of the Twelve, cannot ordain women" is not supported by  the New Testament." Her ultimate conclusion is that:

    The Church can entrust the apostolic ministry and power to whomever it chooses without maintaining any historical-lineal connection with the Twelve. The Church’s faithfulness to apostolic ministry and to the gospel of Jesus has to be expressed through service (diakonia). Together with the twelve apostles the Church must serve Jesus Christ who came to serve. According to Mark this apostolic witness of service was best exemplified by the women followers of Jesus.

    Her article is available here:  http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/fiorenz1.asp  If you have any questions, please let me know.

    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~

    *Elisabeth Schuessler Fiorenza studied at the Universities of Wuerzburg and Muenster, earning a Licentiate in Pastoral Theology and a Doctorate in Theology. Her books include Die Getrennte Schwestern, and many book since. An Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, she was at the time associate editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Horizons.
    Therese
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/21 15:57:57 (permalink)
    How the Bible was used to justify slavery
    By Giles Fraser 20 Mar 2007

    The Germans have a wonderful word: Ohrwurm — literally, ear-worm — for a tune you cannot get out of your head. Recently, my Ohrwurm has been “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” My family is sick of me singing it at top volume.

    “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, along with other hymns, such as “Glorious things of thee are spoken” and “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”. As we shall often hear in this abolition-anniversary year, Newton was a slave-trader who had a conversion to Evangelical Christianity during a sea storm in 1748, and eventually set about arguing for the emancipation of slaves. “Amazing Grace” has been one of the anthems of Christian defiance ever since. Yet what is gob-smacking about Newton is what a nasty piece of work he once was. The idea that the author of “Amazing Grace” raped his slaves has been a conceptual Ohrwurm for me ever since I found it out. Indeed, Newton’s conversion might have stopped him from swearing and drinking, but he continued to trade in slaves for six more years.

    As Stephen Tomkins puts it in his new biography of Wilberforce, who was inspired by Newton, he “would read the Bible and pray for an hour or two, leading services for the crew, while his human cargo lay or sat hunched and chained under their feet”. It is astonishing to us, but the truth is that many Christians supported slavery because it was there in the plain meaning of scripture.

    Slavery was given foundational justification in the book of Genesis, the curse of Ham condemning Ham’s descendants to perpetual captivity. It would have been seen as what contemporary Evangelicals call “a creation ordinance”. The New Testament enthusiastically takes up this theme, for example in Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “Let as many slaves as are under the yoke count their own master worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, but rather do them service.”

    What was deeply courageous about the Newtons and Wilberforces of the 18th century is that they fought their society’s prejudice, as well as the uncritical biblical theology that reflected it.

    The idea that we might bask in the memory of these campaigners, without reflecting that there may be similar challenges for contemporary Christians, is to be radical 200 years too late. No: the spirit of “I was blind, but now I see” has a new challenge. And there are arguments within the life of the church today where we need to apply it.

    Giles Fraser’s latest book, Christianity With Attitude, has just been published by Canterbury Press in the UK.
    Sophie
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/28 04:24:12 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    Important in our discussions about women priests is an understanding of apostleship.  One of Rome's arguments for restricting priesthood to men is that only were men were apostles. Or so they say! At the word 'apostle,' many quite naturally think of 'the Twelve.' They are the apostles we've traditionally been taught about. Yet sacred scripture tells us about other apostles.  St. Paul refers to himself as an Apostle.  And he was not one of 'the Twelve.' When he tells us about his friends Junia, a woman, and Andronicus, he describes them as outstanding apostles. And, though many in the Western Church do not know, the Eastern Catholic Church reveres many women as apostles.  Mary Magdalene is one of them.  

    So before we go further, some answers to questions are needed: What is an apostle? What were their functions? How did one become an apostle? Who were the apostles? Were there women among them?  In her article The Other Apostles, Barbara Reid, OP* answers these questions.  Get out your Bible! She provides many scriptural references. As Reid points out, when we try to name the apostles it is a much bigger challenge than simply trying to memorize a list of the Twelve!

    Please enjoy! Much more to follow!

    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~

    *Barbara E. Reid, O.P., holds a Doctorate in Biblical Studies from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She is Professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union,Chicago. She is the author of Parables for Preachers (Liturgical Press, 1999; 2000; 2001), A Retreat With Luke and is New Testament Book Review Editor for the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. She has led a number of CTU's Israel Study Programs and Retreats.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Other Apostles
    Barbara Reid, O.P.

    Can you name the apostles? If you are old enough to remember memorizing the list of apostles from the Baltimore Catechism, you would probably begin with Peter, Andrew, James and John and work your way through the list of the Twelve. The Synoptic Gospels each give a list of twelve apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:13-16) as does Acts 1:13-14.  Each list varies slightly. This is, however, only a part of the picture of the apostolic ministry in the early Church. The noun 'apostle' (apostolos) derives from the Greek verb apostello.  It means 'to send.'  Accordingly, an apostle is 'one sent'  as an envoy or a missionary. The word did not originate with Christians.  It is found in secular Greek literature where it refers to a bearer of a message (e.g., Herodotus 1.21; Plato, Ep. 7.346a).  The verb is also found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) at Ezra 7:14 and Daniel 5:24. In the early third century Origen defined the term this way: Everyone who is sent by someone is an apostle of the one who sent them (Jo 32:17). In the New Testament, the purpose for the sending is to carry on the mission of Jesus.

    The Synoptic Gospels In the New Testament there are differing understandings of how one gets to be an apostle. In the Synoptics, there are twelve men called by Jesus 'to be with him' and sent 'to preach and to have authority to drive out demons' (Mark 3:15; similarly Matthew 10:1-2; Luke 6:13; 9:1-2).  Yet these functions are not exclusive to the Twelve. In Mark's Gospel there are many others in addition to the Twelve who follow Jesus, including Bartimaeus (10:52) and crowds (2:15; 3:7; 5:24; 8:34; 11:9). Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome followed both in Galilee and all the way to Jesus' crucifixion in Jerusalem (15:40-41). And another exorcist who is not one of the Twelve is able to drive out demons, though this does not sit well with Jesus' followers (Mark 9:38-41).

    As for proclaiming the Good News, the Twelve are not the only followers who are commissioned by Jesus to do so. When the man who had been healed of a legion of demons wanted to stay with Jesus, he sent him instead, saying, 'Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.' The man then went off 'and began to proclaim (keryssein) in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed' (Mark 5:19-20).  Similarly, the man who had been healed of leprosy (1:45) and the one healed of deafness and a speech impediment (7:36) proclaimed (keryssein) what Jesus had done, though in these latter instances, they were not sent by Jesus to do so.

    In the closing scene of Mark's Gospel, the heavenly messenger clothed in white commissions Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome to "go and tell [Jesus'] disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you'" (16:7). This Gospel ends, however, with the women saying nothing to anyone because of fear. In this way Mark leaves the story open-ended, inviting his readers to take up the commission to go forth and proclaim. In the Gospel of Matthew the women are commissioned both by the angel at the tomb (28:7) and directly by the risen Christ (28:10) to tell the other disciples. That they do fulfill this directive is implied by 28:8, where they run to tell the disciples, and 28:16, where the eleven go to Galilee as they were directed. Luke relates that the women 'told all this to the eleven and to the rest' (24:9-10) but they were not believed (24:11).

    The Gospel of John  In the Fourth Gospel, the word apostle never appears. Likewise, the Twelve do not play the role that they have in the Synoptic tradition. There is no story of the call of the Twelve (although there is an allusion to it in 6:70), nor of their being sent out on mission. The Twelve only appear in the scene after the feeding of the 5,000, where Jesus asks them if they also want to go away (6:67). In this same episode Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, is identified as one of the Twelve, as is Thomas the doubter in the postresurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples (20:24). These few allusions to the Twelve appear to be traces that have remained from the evangelist's source, since the Twelve do not have a distinct function in the Fourth Gospel.

    The characters who best exemplify apostleship in the Gospel of John are the Samaritan woman (4:4-42) and Mary Magdalene (20:1-2, 11-18). The woman who Jesus meets at the well engages in theological discussion with him as she comes to deeper and deeper understanding of who he is. She moves from identification of him simply as a Jew (4:9) to the possibility that he is 'greater than our father Jacob' (4:12), a 'prophet' (4:19), 'Messiah' (4:25, 29), and finally, 'savior of the world' (4:42). Just as the fishermen in the Synoptic Gospels leave behind their nets to follow Jesus and to be sent as apostles, so the Samaritan woman leaves her water jar at the well and goes to testify about him to all her townspeople (4:28). Just as the Twelve experience initial success in their mission (e.g., Mark 6:30-33) and cause people to come to Jesus, so does the Samaritan woman (4:39-42).  [For more about the Samaritan woman, see our thread, Holy Women Through the Ages.]  The account of the empty tomb in the Gospel of John is distinctive in the way it portrays Mary Magdalene as apostle to the apostles. In this Gospel, it is not the heavenly messengers who send her to proclaim to the others.  Jesus himself appears to her and commissions her when he says, "Go to my brothers and sisters and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " (20:17). The episode concludes with Mary going and saying to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord' and telling them the things he had said to her (20:18). [More about Mary Magdalene to follow. I invite you also to visit our thread Mary of Magdala: The ultimate Apostle to the Apostles! 

    Acts and Paul  Although Luke relays the tradition that Jesus sent a further seventy[-two] on mission (Luke 10:1-12), he generally equates the Twelve with 'apostles' (Luke 6:13). In Acts 1:15-26, he tells how the Twelve were reconstituted after the death of Judas. Luke's criterion for Judas' replacement is that he be a male (aner) member of the company of believers who has been an eyewitness from the beginning (1:21-22). Paul, however, clearly has a different understanding of qualifications for apostolic ministry. Interestingly, after James is killed by Herod(Acts 12:1) no replacement is chosen for him.The Twelve disappear from the story after Acts 6:2. And Peter fades from view as spokesperson after 15:7 when James takes over as the leader of the community in Jerusalem, along with the apostles and elders (15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4).

    In the letters of Paul, there is mention of a number of apostles who are not on the list of the Twelve. The most obvious is Paul himself who begins most of his letters with a reminder of his apostolic credentials, 'Paul, . . . called to be an apostle' (Rom 1:1; similarly 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Tim 1:1; 2 Tim 1:1; Tit). In 1 Cor 9:1-27, where Paul is defending his apostleship, he asserts that his experience of the risen Christ and his commission to proclaim the gospel (which can be inferred from the fact that the Corinthians have, indeed, been brought to faith by his preaching) are evidence of his call to be an apostle. In his second letter to that community, when his authority is being challenged by others whom Paul asserts are 'false apostles' (2 Cor 11:13), he reminds the Corinthians that his authority has been confirmed by the 'signs and wonders and mighty works' of a true apostle that were performed among them (2 Cor 12:12). In his letter to the Galatians Paul is particularly insistent that his apostolic commission came directly from Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal 1:1). Paul understands his particular mission to be apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13; Gal 2:8). He recognizes his unworthiness to be an apostle because of having persecuted the church, but claims the grace of God to be the hard-working apostle he is (1 Cor 15:9-10).

    In the same context as this last reference to his unworthiness to be an apostle, Paul lists also Cephas (the Aramaic name for Peter) and the Twelve as apostles (1 Cor 15:5), but mentions as well 'James and all the apostles' and the 'more than five hundred brothers and sisters' to whom the risen Christ appeared (1 Cor 15:6-7). He also mentions 'James the brother of the Lord' in Gal 1:19.  Other apostles to whom Paul refers include Apollos (1 Cor 4:9), Barnabas (1 Cor 9:5-6; so also mentioned in Acts 14:4, 14), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25, note that some translations render apostolos here as 'messenger'), Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 2:7 with 1:1), and Andronicus and Junia, who were 'prominent among the apostles' (Romans 16:7). It is notable that Junia was a woman. Unfortunately we know nothing more of these two 'prominent' apostles who were relatives of Paul.

    Early Christian Tradition In the early Church and into the Middle Ages, Christian tradition preserved the memory of other apostles along with the Twelve. In commentaries on Scripture, liturgical works, novels and literature about the saints, figures such as Thecla, Nino, the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene are spoken of approvingly as apostles.  Origen (185-ca.251), for example, spoke of the Samaritan woman as an apostle and evangelist: 'Christ sends the woman as an apostle to the inhabitants of the city because his words have inflamed this woman' (Comm. S. Jean 4, 26-27). Such an estimation of her as apostolos as well as 'anointed with priesthood' is found in the writings of Theophylact (ca. 1050-1108), the archbishop of Bulgaria (Joh. 4, 28ff [MPG 123, 1241D]). Hippolytus of Rome, who died ca. 235, interprets the empty tomb tradition 'so that women, too, would be Christ's apostles' (Kommentar zum Hohenlied XV 3,1-4 (GCS 1, 350-55).

    In the Acts of Thecla, written in Asia Minor in the late second century, Thecla is depicted as an apostle accompanying Paul in his missionary work. A fifth-century work entitled Acts of the Holy Apostle and Witness of Christ, Thecla attests to the ongoing popularity of the cult of the apostle Thecla. Several works preserve the traditions about Nino, a woman apostle who received her theological education from a woman teacher in Jerusalem and then was given a cross and commissioned with a blessing by Juvenal of Jerusalem to proclaim the resurrection wherever she may go. Her missionary travels took her to Georgia where she preached the gospel as a prisoner of war during the reign of Constantine. Numerous legends and artwork dating into the Middle Ages elaborate on the tradition of Mary Magdalene as apostle to the apostles. In southern France, for example, legends arose about the missionary work there of both Mary Magdalene and Martha, who are said to preach, convert and baptize. Stained-glass windows of the late 13th century in the cathedral at Semur in Burgundy preserved images of these two women preaching.

    Fluid Roles  What is clear from the New Testament evidence and the ongoing Christian tradition is that the definition of 'apostle' was not uniform in the first communities of believers.  While the Gospels narrate the call and sending of Twelve, the picture from Paul's letters is of a whole contingent of apostles sent out to preach and evangelize. There are not yet fixed 'job descriptions' for ministers in the early Church. Some, like apostles, are sent away from home to proclaim to others. Others, like the healed man in Mark 5:20, and hosts of house churches, such as Mary (Acts 12:12), Nympha (Col 4:14), and Lydia (Acts 16:40), are to remain at home and announce God's goodness there. When we try to name the apostles, it is a much bigger challenge than trying to memorize the list of the Twelve. There were also Andronicus, Junia, Barnabas, Apollos, Epaphroditus, Paul, James the brother of the Lord, Silvanus, Timothy, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, Thecla, Nino and countless others whose names are now lost to us.
    http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0401.asp
    post edited by Sophie - 2007/03/28 14:32:42
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/28 09:25:22 (permalink)
    To the Curia:  When I think about the dreadful things that Scripture condones, your arguments about keeping women out of the priesthood because Christ chose twelve men as apostles leaves me quite cold.  You are stunningly dense.
    Sophie
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/29 02:40:25 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    Among the Vatican arguments made to exclude women from priesthood, Rome advocates a so-called scriptural position. In his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,* Pope John Paul II explains that Rome's capacity to act is limited by the example set by Jesus himself.  He chose only men as apostles -- or so they say.  According to Rome, this precedent set by our Lord is part of God's eternal plan. Rome has no choice in the matter.  It is God who demands that Rome exclude women from sacramental ministry. Rome bases its scriptural argument on what seem like three basic points:
    • Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, has a mission. "The twelve Apostles... are in a special manner closely linked up to the sending of the Incarnate Word himself' (3). Christ entrusts to the Apostles - the twelve men whom he has placed as foundation stones of his Church (cfr. Rev 21,14) - the mission of "representing Christ, the Lord and Saviour" (4).
    • Excluding women at the choice of the twelve is an intentional action motivated from within "the eternal plan of God," "a ruling which must be attributed to the wisdom of the Lord of the Universe" (5). "For the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles show that this calling happened according to the eternal plan of God: Christ chose those persons whom he wanted (cf. Mk 3,13-14; Jn 15,16)  and he did this in unity with the Father, `through the Holy Spirit' (Acts 1,2) after having spent the whole night in prayer (Fr. Lk 6,12)" (6).
    • When choosing their successors the Apostles have, following Christ's example, chosen only men. The mission which Christ entrusted to his apostles has since then been transmitted through the priestly ordination. That is also why priestly ordination in the Catholic Church is reserved to men.

    Whew! In his article, The Scriptural Argument in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Reimund Bieringer examines Rome's scriptural argument.  Looking at it from the perspective of historical-critical exegesis, he discusses:
    • the difference between the Twelve and the Apostles
    • what are we to make of the masculinity of the Twelve
    • the biological difference
    • the social socio-cultural difference
    • the theological difference

    In this insightful analysis, Bieringer establishes that:
    • on the basis of the New Testament alone, it is impossible to conclude that Jesus chose only men as Apostles.
    • on the basis of the New Testament alone, it is impossible to conclude that the male sex of those chosen is essential to Christ's mission.

    Putting it simply,  Bieringer's conclusion is that the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis reconstructs facts which cannot be substantiated with historical - critical proof. A copy of his article is available here: http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/biering.asp 

    If you have any questions, please let me know.

    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~

    * a copy of the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis will follow.
    post edited by Sophie - 2007/03/29 06:18:50
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2007/03/29 04:58:49 (permalink)
     





    Dear friends,

    As promised, a link to the  May 22, 1994  Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis of John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone is available here: http://www.womenpriests.org/church/ordinati.asp

    Let me know if you have any questions.  Rest assured, there will be much more discussion!

    With love and blessings,
    ~Sophie~
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