shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#30 - Were women really "irrelevant" in the early Christian church?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Question/insight #30: "If women are to be priests, it must be the Will of God. Why now? Women were irrelevant in antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, after Trent, after Vatican I. There is nothing in the teachings of the [Apostolic] Fathers to warrant such a change in the life of the Church."
[Note from BibleTexts: This "question/insight" was a comment emailed by a participant in an ecumenical biblical forum regarding the ordination of women. I participate in this forum along with with clergy from a number of denominations and from throughout the world. My response was originally sent to the forum.]
Response #30: We really need to wake up and look more closely at the period even earlier than "the teachings of the [Apostolic] Fathers." We need to keep in mind that Paul publicly recognized women as fellow apostles, as preaching deacons (not just deaconesses), and as church presidents. See http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/women01.htm for more details.
We also need to get past the belief that Paul actually wrote or even agreed that, "As in all the churches of God's people, the women should keep quiet in the meetings. They are not allowed to speak; as the Jewish Law says, they must not be in charge. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is a disgraceful thing for a woman to speak in a church meeting." This is not the Paul of history! There is a very strong case to be made that this was added to Paul's genuine letter at least 50 years after Paul's martyrdom. See http://www.bibletexts.com/versecom/1co14v33.htm for more details.
In [the Ordination of Women forum], there seems to be almost endless theologizing, which is fine in itself. But an honest, meaningful discussion needs to be measured against the historical facts. Unfortunately much of the debate has avoided -- or at least keeps drifting away from -- the real historical facts. Let's cut to the chase: Regardless of what later Christian's wrote about it, the facts are in the New Testament writings that women played very active roles in the early church of Paul's day. (Again, see http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/women01.htm for more details.)
Happy Thanksgiving -- every day! Regardless of our differences, we all can be very grateful to God for each and every one of us. We may not know how to speak/write to each other as we should or even pray to God as we should, but thanks and praise to God, that:
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:26-28, NRSV)
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer