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The Crusades, Templars & the Holy Grail => The Sacred Feminine, the Cathars & Gnosticism => Topic started by: Rachel Dearth on May 28, 2007, 12:47:44 am

Title: Women & the Early Church
Post by: Rachel Dearth on May 28, 2007, 12:47:44 am
Strange Ideas about Women - Theoretical Justification for Sexism

By Jani Roberts - >


I could not help drink in Christianity as a child. It was the water in which I swam. As a child, there was nothing negative for me about being a woman. I took a lump of chalk from the hills and carved it into a head of a woman, the mother of life. My own family was dominated by a powerful woman of the Irish tradition , my mother. But in other ways my childhood was a lesson in suppression. I have told elsewhere on this website how it took me years to find myself as a woman, years during which I tried to find myself in studying christian theology, finishing with a masters degree in it.

It took time before I realised with some horror that women were seen by many males, including famous Christian teachers of the past, practically as creatures that exist to service them, as inferiors - and that this dreadful state of affairs had been justified with a pseudo-scienfic theory the purpose of which was both to make women accept such a status as natural and to excuse males from feeling guilty about suppressing their sisters' rights.

A whole ideology was evolved very early in European history to justify the suppression of women. Later simular neo-Darwinist theories were used to justify the dispossession and murder of Australian Aborigines by labelling them as less than human. The renowned Greek scholar Aristotle believed that the biological norm was the male and that the female was a defective version of the male. A thousand years after Aristotle's death, the very influential Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas adopted Aristotle's theory. He wrote: 'As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of women comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence." (Summa Theologica IV, QXCII art 1,2)

The men of the church liked his views evidently. Thomas Aquinas was canonized as a Saint and came to dominate Roman Catholic theology for over 500 years.

Christianity was germinated in part of Europe where some men had already evolved theories to put women "into their place". Petrarch wrote: "Woman is a real devil, an enemy of the peace, a source of provocation." But some of the early "Christian Fathers" showed far greater hatred of women. Tertullian, a well known Christian, in the 3rd century AD wrote: "Do you not know you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert - that is death - even the Son of God had to die And do you think of adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins." (On Female Dress 1i)

He believed women should dress so as to hide their charms so men like him would not be tempted into sex. "even the grace and beauty you naturally enjoy must be obliterated by concealment and negligence.... it is to be feared, beause of the injury and violence it inflicts on the men who admire you." The female priesthood in some parts of Europe was suppressed early in the Christian epoch.

Men found the power of women to attract them fearsome. They blamed women for their own lack of self control.

This fear of women among men lasted centuries. Pope Innocent VIII issued an astonishing Bull, or official statement, in 1448 called 'Summa Desiderantes' in which he blamed on women the supposed increasing impotence among German men. He said some women had abandoned themselves to devils, become witches that could use magic to make men impotent. Many men loved this theory because it meant they never needed to acknowledge any woman as more talented or spiritually powerful than they. If they did feel a woman was superior, she must be literally bewitching them.

This justified and helped start a pogrom against strong women that was to last over 200 years. Women were forced into accepting an inferior status to men - and it got worse. Men killed and tortured by the hundred the women they most feared. A guideline laid down in the Catholic Church for this persecution was again justified by mock science: 'there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in the contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.... All witchcraft comes from carnel lust which in women is insatiable" This quotation is from a book that went through 19 editions, was written by a Catholic priest under authority from the Pope and was a principle text for the Inquisition. (Malleus Maleficarum)

Behind all these theories were male sexual anxieties and insecurites. Men created a myth to explain their neurosis away... and, rather than sort out their own hang-ups, blamed, tortured and killed women - in the name of religion, of all that is holy. Karen Armstrong in her seminal work "The Gospel according to Women" wrote that if the Nazi Holocaust has caused long lasting traumas within the western world, then the centuries of persecution of women must also have left deep scars.

I sometimes forget quite how recent and how dramatic is the change of ideology in the West. Women are today equal - in theory. They have their own late night television shows in which they can openly tease men as sexual equals. The earlier 'scientific' theories for male supremacy are debunked as fraudulent. The witchery words of 'charm' and 'enchant' no longer entail the devil. Since this change, we have gone through a period of saying that it is solely conditioning that makes a woman mentally different from a male. We now know that our very brains are different, that we are differently talented but not definately not inferior.

But despite these changes, the structures society evolved in the centuries of male domination still keep women at bay. The Catholic Church will not admit women priests. Men ares till paid more than women. It is mostly men that make both the laws and wars, and sit in judgement.

The right-wing women's groups have a point, women must be proud to be women. But I do not see this as entailing that women will go back into the home, be wives servicing husbands. The proud woman must be canny. Together with other women she now needs to find her way to reform the very structures of society, the legislature, the armed forces, the churches, business from the top down so that they no longer reflect only traditional male values but rather embody the high female values of nurturing and co-operative action. Adding a few women to male dominated bodies will not do this. Our institutions have been totally shaped by presumptions made during the centuries that males have repressed and used women.

Title: Re: Women & the Early Church
Post by: Rachel Dearth on May 28, 2007, 12:50:21 am
Towards the De-masculinisation of the West.

By Janine Roberts

Many years ago we invited to our home the author of the Pedegogy of the Oppressed.Paulo Friere, a radical scholar who made an enormous impact back in the 1970s by saying education in third world countries should give power back to the people that were being educated rather than to teach them to obey orders from the ruling elite.

At that time our family home in Melbourne was also the home for about 35 Aboriginal people. We jointly challenged the organisers of his lecture tour for only making him available to the middle class elite. We wanted to hear him too - so they agreed that he would deliver a lecture at our home to Aborigines. He came and argued during his talk that Aboriginal people were so few in numbers that they needed to join forces with working people if society were to be changed.

One of the Aborigines then responded that what the author was proposing would mean that Aborigines would be nothing more than the currents in a fruit loaf. No, he continued, they could not seek their liberation initially by joining with white workers.. Instead Aborigines had to seek their salvation separately as a people, and, when they had won recognition as a people, would then be able to join with workers as equals to work with them as partners to construct a free society.

Women are also in danger of becoming simply the currents in the loaf. The major institutions of our society have only nominal numbers of women. This is all that is planned. No more fundamental revision of our institutions is planned. We are told that the appointment of some women to these institutions ends institutional sexism. The plan is that the basic shape of our institutions will remain as they were constructed by males during the years of oppression.

It could be that we have something to learn from Aboriginal society in Central Australia. (For a fuller description of this click here.) There both women and men traditionally have separate assemblies and only old people with grey hair sit jointly. Perhaps we need for a while to have a separate women's assembly to examine how female values could be incorporated in reshaped insitutions. While this process is happening, there could be separate Lower Houses or Houses of Representatives. The US Senate or the UK House of Lords could become the house of elected grey haired elders of either gender.

I can imagine some of the other changes that would be made. The House of Commens and the US Congress would stop being pits where males strut in packs and hoot at each other. Instead the anti-trust laws would be extended so that it would be illegal for our representatives to combine in groups of more than, say, 15 members. Marshalling by whips of armies of MPS in mock warfare with no regard to individual conviction would be replaced by values of co-operation and voting according to reason, conscience and individual conviction. Free votes of conscience would be the rule rather than the exception. Party politics as we know it would be ended. Enough people have surely been scandalised by televised parliamentary debates to want to see the back of the current system. Instead our representatives would be elected for their personal qualities . Female values of co-operation, mutual support and working for the public good would be fundamental to the structures of the new demasculinised parliament.

As for Foreign Affairs, a different set of priorities would determine who are our allies. In no way would we be allied to Saudi Arabia where women are not even permitted to drive cars. We would be friendlier to Libya where women have much more freedom. Our absolute priority would be to build a world based on co-operation rather than on military alliances and secret arms deals. Thisis supposed to be the current policy but too often militiary plans and private profits subvert the public policy.

Time to stop playing a male game. The wrong questions have been asked. The principal question for debate is not whether or not a woman's place is in the home. It is - have men proved themselves fit to control the legislature?

Title: Re: Women & the Early Church
Post by: Rachel Dearth on May 28, 2007, 12:55:11 am
What the Bible says about
Women's Ordination

"...Paul mentioned 40 names in his letters...and talked about the big missionary enterprise of which there are dozens of people or participants... Of those 40 people, 16 are women. That's a considerable proportion of women involved in the Pauline missionary effort." Helmut Koestler 4
" is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church." Pope Paul VI 8

As in so many religious beliefs, we see a major split between conservative and liberal Christians concerning female ordination:

Many conservative Christian denominations allow only men to be ordained. A major support for this decision is Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in which the author did "not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Further, 1 Timothy 3:2 specifies that overseers and deacons must be men. Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:34b-35 states that women must be silent and in submission when in church. If they want to clarify some theological point, they should wait and approach their husband at home. Any of these statements would totally preclude women becoming ministers or pastors. Much of their opposition to equal treatment of women is derived from their concept of the inerrancy of the official canon of the Bible. Most believe that such books as Timothy and Titus were written by Paul prior to his death circa 65 CE.
Many liberal theologians note that: In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), women's roles were highly restricted; they rarely held positions of power; they were often considered as property by their "owners" -- their fathers and husbands.
Jesus violated 1st century customs in Palestine by generally treating men and women as equals. Of the dozen or so individuals who made up Jesus' inner circle, about half were women.
Paul appears to have also treated women in the early Christian movement as equals, as co-workers, and as deserving of positions of authority, including the ministry.
An equally valid translation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is "I do not permit a wife to teach or to have authority over her husband..." 9
Through the use of Biblical criticism, liberal theologians have dated the books 1 Timothy and Titus to 100 to 150 CE. That is perhaps a half century after Paul's death. 1 Timothy 1:1, and Titus 1:1 declare that Paul was their author. Religious liberals consider the books to be clearly pseudonymous (written under an assumed name). The true author is unknown. Some theologians theorize that the books might have been written partly to counteract Paul's acceptance of women as equals, and to justify the church's gradual slide into a male-dominated institution.

Liberals would argue that the policies of Jesus and Paul in the area of gender equality are a higher standard than the oppression of women which is expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures and in some of the pseudonymous epistles. They believe that the present North American secular standard should be followed with respect to female ordination. They would prefer to abandon the restrictions on women that were implemented within Christendom, starting in the late 1st century CE.

Until the early years of the 20th century, very few Christian faith groups allowed women to be ordained. Since then, most of the liberal denominations have accepted female ministers and pastors. Mainline denominations followed. Very conservative denominations generally do not. The historical trend appears obvious - it may be just a matter of time before almost all denominations will remove their gender barrier, and finally match the rest of society.

Some Bible passages that may refer to female ordination or the equality of women in the leadership of the church:
Acts 9:36: Paul refers to a woman (Tabitha in Aramaic, Dorcas in Greek, Gazelle in English) as a disciple.
Acts 18:24-26 describes how Priscilla, a woman, and Aquila, her husband, both acted in the role of an official pastor to a man from Alexandria, called Apollos. Various translations of the Bible imply that they taught him in the synagogue (Amplified Bible, King James Version, Rheims, New American Standard, New American, New Revised Standard). However, the New International Version has an unusual translation of this passage. The NIV states that the teaching occurred in Priscilla's and Aquila's home.
Romans 16:1: This chapter is apparently unrelated to chapter 15 and to the rest of the book. It appears to be an independent note that has been attached to the epistle to the Romans. It starts with a letter of recommendation which introduces Phoebe to a group of people associated with the church at Corinth. Paul refers to her as a "deacon in the sense of a preacher, a minister, because Paul uses the same word for himself. He calls himself, in a number of instances, a deacon of the new covenant in 2 Corinthians." 4 It is often translated "deaconess" or "servant" or "helper" in English translations - perhaps in order to disguise her true status. The same Greek word appears in Ephesians 6:21 where it refers to a male and is normally translated "minister." It also appears in 2 Corinthians where Paul used the word to refer to himself.
Dr. Helmut Koester comments: "Most of the persons named in this list are not simply personal friends of Paul in the church of Ephesus, but associates and co-workers. This is shown by the repeated references to their functions. The fact that such a large number of women appears in this list is clear and undeniable evidence for the unrestricted participation of women in the offices of the church in the Pauline congregations." 7

Romans 16:3: Paul refers to Priscilla, a woman, as another of his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (NIV) Other translations refer to her as a "co-worker". But still other translations attempt to downgrade her status by calling her a simple "helper". The original Greek word is "synergoi", which literally means "fellow worker" or "colleague." 4
Romans 16:7: Paul refers to a male apostle, Andronicus and a female apostle, Junia, as "outstanding among the apostles" (NIV) The Amplified Bible translates this passage as "They are men held in high esteem among the apostles." The Revised Standard Version shows it as "they are men of note among the apostles." The reference to them both being men does not appear in the original Greek text. "Men" was simply inserted by the translators - we suspect because their minds recoiled from the concept of a female apostle. Many translations, including the Amplified Bible, Rheims New Testament, New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version simply picked the letter "s" out of thin air. They converted the original "Junia" (a woman's name) into "Junias" (which they considered a man's name) in order to erase all reference to a female apostle. Junia was first converted into a man only in the "13th century, when Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316) referred to both Andronicus and Junia as "honorable men."5 One source 4 refers to Hans Lietzmann who studied names used in ancient times. He found no evidence that "Junias" was ever used as a man's name. "Junias" might possibly have been used as a short form for "Junianus," which did exist. But there are no references to it in antiquity. It appears obvious that Junia was definitely an outstanding female apostle, and that many Bible translators have been trying to suppress this information.
1 Corinthians 1:11: Chloe is mentioned as the owner of a house where Christian meetings were held. There is some ambiguity as to whether the women actually led the house church or merely owned the building. Similar passages mention, with the same ambiguity: The mother of Mark in Acts 12:12, and
Lydia in Acts 16:14-5, and 40, and
Nympha in Colossians 4:15.

1 Corinthians 11:3: "...Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and the head of Christ is God. (NIV)" Conservative Christians often quote this passage as proof that a husband should retain full authority over his wife in family matters. This concept of women being in an inferior power position might logically be extended to the church organization as well. Some liberal Christians note that the Greek word translated "head" is "kephale", which can be interpreted in two ways: "having authority over," or alternately "source" or "origin." Looking at verses 3 to 12, each interpretation looks equally valid. The former would support rejection of women in positions of authority; the latter would not.
1 Corinthians 11:7-9: "For a the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head." (NIV) St. Paul is attempting to give an explanation why women should cover their hair while in church. This passage is often quoted by conservative theologians to justify the inferior position assigned to women and thus deny them access to positions of power in churches. Liberals might point out that this passage is largely ignored in practice; most women today do not cover their hair during church services. Also, it does not appear to say anything about female ordination.
1 Corinthians 14:34b-35: "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (NIV) There are many interpretations of this short passage:
Many conservative theologians accept this passage in its plain and literal meaning and interpret it as prohibiting all talking by women during services in every society, forever. This would of course prohibit a woman from accepting a position of pastor, minister or priest.
Bible scholar Hans Conzelmann concluded that this passage is a forgery*, inserted into St. Paul's original text by an unknown writer. (1) Thus, it cannot be regarded as the writing of Paul. The verses were not in the original version, and thus cannot be considered inerrant. He cites a number of reasons for this conclusion: this passage contradicts Chapter 11:5 where women are described as taking an active role in church assemblies by praying and prophesying during services. Either the above passage or 11:5 must be invalid.
there are "peculiarities of linguistic usage, and of thought" in this passage which are not found in the rest of the Epistle
the passage "spoils the flow of thought" and "interrupts the theme of prophesy." There is a discontinuity between verse 36 and 37. Verse 37 links up neatly with verse 33a.
If verses 34b to 36 are simply removed, then the chapter flows smoothly, as it was probably originally intended to do. The forgery* was rather crudely done.

Others point out that Paul would hardly cite the Torah (the Law) as justification for restricting roles of women; his entire ministry involved the exact opposite: he preached liberation from the Law. Some Biblical scholars say that Paul is here describing divisive practices being promoted by the Jewish Christians in Corinth - those who believed in Jesus as Lord while still following the Torah. They were generating discord by teaching that "As in the synagogues, women should remain the Torah says." That is, they wanted to translate synagogue practice, as defined by the Torah, into the Christian assemblies. Women were not allowed to speak in synagogues, so they should not be allowed to speak in Christian assemblies. Paul follows up this passage with verse 15 which severely criticizes the Jewish Christians for this position by asking "Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?" From this interpretation, restriction on women, as taught by the Torah, should be rejected; men and women should be treated equally with respect to their behavior and roles in church.
Still others point out that the purpose of 1 Corinthians was to answer a number of questions raised by the Church at Corinth. Paul's style was to write a brief quotation supplied by a Corinthian Christian, and then respond to it. Verses 3:1, 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, 8:1 are some examples.
Following this same pattern, Verse 14:33b to 14:35 is not a comment by Paul. Rather it may be a question raised by a Corinthian who objected to women speaking in church. The church member may have asked: "As in all of the synagogues of the holy ones, women should remain silent in the synagogues. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission, as the Torah says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the synagogue."
Paul would then have responded with an attack in Verses 36 - 38, and concludes the chapter with Verse 39, an instruction from the Lord to his "brothers and sisters" to be eager to prophesy, but in a fitting and orderly way. All that is required to come up with this translation is to rearrange the original Greek slightly. Ancient Greek was written without punctuation marks, divisions into sentences or spaces between words. This leads to a single passage having many different interpretations.

Others speculate that St. Paul is restricting the roles of women, but referring to: a temporary problem of a local nature at the church at Corinth
women chattering during services
women interrupting services with emotional outbursts
women speaking about certain specific items in church

Still others regard the passage as an indicator of St. Paul's poor regard for women, which originated in his Greek and Jewish background and was not overcome by his religious conversion to Christianity. That is, it was an expression of his personal beliefs and can be safely overlooked in the present day. Just as we have learned to ignore Biblical passages regarding slavery, passages concerning women covering their hair in church, passages prohibiting certain types of jewelry, we should learn to recognize the evil of Paul's sexism and recognize that this passage should be disregarded.

1 Corinthians 16:3: Paul refers to two a married couple: Priscilla and her husband Aquila as his fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (NIV) This is perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament that assigns equal status to individuals of both genders (and all races, nationalities and slave status). Some religious conservatives believe that this equality refers only to salvation and not to status.
Philippians 4:2: Paul refers to two women, Euodia and Syntyche, as his co-workers who were active evangelists, spreading the gospel.

Title: Re: Women & the Early Church
Post by: Rachel Dearth on May 28, 2007, 12:56:49 am
Images Depict Role of Women in Early Church

Dorothy Irwin, a Roman Catholic theologian and archaeologist, has discovered several images of early church women dressed in priestly vestments and has found epitaphs describing them as church leaders.

One mosaic uncovered by Irwin in the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome, shows a woman wearing the same kind of pectoral cross worn by bishops today. The woman is identified with the title "episcopa," the feminine form of the Latin word for bishop.

Among Irvin's other discoveries: a fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla, also in Rome and dated around 100, that shows seven women apparently celebrating a memorial Eucharist; a 4th-century fresco in the catacomb that shows a male bishop wearing a wool garment associated with ordination and placing his right hand on the shoulder of a woman in liturgical garb; and a mosaic over the tomb of a woman at the Cathedral of Annaba in Algeria describing her as a presbyterissa, or priest.

In her thirty plus years of research, Dorothy has found that women played an essential part in the early church. However as centuries past, women were subjected to being denied their rights as Roman law was instilled. The suppression of woman is depicted in an image where a man pulling a woman's Shepard staff from her arms.

Dorothy is a very loyal Catholic, but she firmly believes that the Church would be better served if it rebalanced its power and authority along the original lines of the early church. As do many, she does not think that a one-gender leadership is balanced.

By Michael Moon