The Ministry and Ordination of Women According to the Early Church Fathers
by Carolyn Osiek, R.S.C.J.
from Women and Priesthood: Future Directions,
edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. The Liturgical Press,
Republished on our website with the necessary
CAROLYN OSIEK, R.S.C.J., Assistant Professor of New Testament, is completing a doctorate in New Testament and Christian Origins at Harvard Divinity School. She has collaborated on several studies regarding the ministry of women, and has done extensive research on women in the early church. In 1976-77 she was Research/Resource Associate in Women's Studies at Harvard Divinity School.
Throughout the Old Testament into New Testament times biblical religion was responding to new circumstances and absorbing new forms of leadership. Older religious structures, as we saw in the previous two chapters of this book, evolved, most often in a gentle way, at times with dramatic leaps. These developments were gradually introduced into the written tradition of the Bible.
With the dawn of the Patristic Age, the Bible became a closed book. Nonetheless, its interpretation remained open to new and more developed forms of liturgy and sacred orders. We continue our search for the line of continuity within the early Patristic Period, a line which led to new adaptations within liturgical leadership. Can we spot signals which will permit such an evolution today, so as to open the priestly order to women?
Several early Church Fathers have left us brief comments scattered among their writings concerning the exercise of some form of official Church ministry by women. These remarks are often cited as part of a continuous and authoritative tradition forbidding women access to the ordained ministry.
When each of the texts, however, is examined within its own literary and social context, it becomes clear that their witness is by no means unanimous; there is no common agreement on the content of such forbidden ministry. Moreover, as we shall see, their reasons for prohibiting the exercise of the presbyteral function of women are untenable from the viewpoint of contemporary theology. Those ways in which women did exercise ministry were progressive adaptations to circumstances.
There is a problem of historical and theological perspective that must be kept in mind from the beginning. We know from a variety of ancient sources that many Christian communities of the first four centuries allowed extended leadership roles to women, including the ordained ministry in many cases. These groups for the most part represented strains of early Christianity which did not become contributors to the formation of the Christian tradition which we have inherited.
Rather, they were considered heretical by the orthodox tradition which eventually became the only legitimate Christianity; they are known to us as Gnostics, Montanists, Marcionites, and others. Whatever the theological factors involved, it is important to understand that what has survived is basically one theological tradition, the orthodox one, represented by the writers known to us as the Church Fathers, whose bias against heretical Christianity is obvious.
Tertullian was a fiery North African theologian of the late second century whose own spiritual journey led him eventually into the Montanist Church. Yet he provides two of the most direct and comprehensive statements opposing the participation of women in church ministry. It would be well to begin there.
In his treatise On Prescription Against Heretics, Tertullian very cleverly employs his gift for satire to present practices and teachings of Christian groups that he considered heretical in such a way as to make their adherents look ridiculous. One of these practices is the part played by women in the leadership and ministry of their communities. In chap. 41.5 he exclaims: These heretical women, how bold they are! They dare to teach, to dispute, to perform exorcisms, to promise healing, perhaps even to baptize.(1)
There is a yet more specific statement prohibiting Church ministry to women which comes, strangely enough, from Tertullian in his Montanist days. In the treatise, On the Veiling of Virgins, he says plainly: It is not permitted for a woman to speak in church, nor to teach, baptize, offer [eucharist], nor to take upon herself any male function, least of all the priestly office.(2)
Before going on to examine other texts, it is worth pausing to point out several important features of the two given above. First, Tertullian is one of the earliest Christian writers to speak of episcopal and presbyteral functions as priestly (sacerdotalis) though he is ordinarily using the term metaphorically. Second, it is not to be assumed that all the activities enumerated in the two passages are considered by Tertullian to be the work of the ordained minister alone. Elsewhere he indicates that both exorcism and baptism can be performed by laymen,(3) but apparently from the above two texts, if he is being consistent, not by women.
The two important actions are teaching and the offering of the eucharist. As for the latter, we shall see that only two other writers, Firmilian and Epiphanius, voice concern over women celebrating eucharist.(4) The objection to women teaching deserves more attention, for it is a key factor in later texts. Tertullian indicates the basis for his statement by partially quoting the text, It is not permitted for a woman to speak in church from 1 Cor 14:34-35: Let women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted them to speak, but let them submit, even as the Law says. If they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
This text is frequently cited and always thought of by early Christian writers in connection with 1 Tim 2:11-12: Let women learn in silence in all subjection; for I do not permit a woman to teach nor to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.(5)
The passage goes on to attribute the need for womans submissiveness to the fact that Eve was created after Adam but sinned before him. This of course immediately evokes both the second creation account and the story of the first sin from Gen 2 and 3, climaxing for our purposes at 3:16 where the woman is punished by the pain of childbearing (see 1 Tim 2:15) and consignment to the authority of the man. This triad of biblical passages, 1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:11-15; Gen 3:16, is the key to understanding the position of the early Church regarding ministry for women. Though Tertullian quotes only the first in Virg. vel. 9.1, he is aware of all three.
The treatise On Baptism, written earlier in Tertullians career, was composed against just such a woman teacher as he condemns in general terms in the passages cited above. She was a Gnostic of the obscure Cainite sect which rejected baptism, and she was exercising her teaching career in Carthage where Tertullian lived. He criticized her for taking upon herself the right to teach at all.
At the same time he attempted to squelch any other womans claim to the right to teach or baptize after the example of St. Thecla, who both taught others and baptized herself in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Tertullian declared that the Acts had been written very recently by a presbyter of Asia Minor who was deposed for his efforts, and could therefore command no authority. Besides, he concluded, the same Paul who wrote 1 Cor 14:3435 could never have authorized a woman to teach, as Paul does to Thecla in the Acts.6
Tertullians esteem for prophecy kept him from denying to women that spiritual gift, and he was able to cite Pauline authority equally for this position.(7) He in fact knew of female prophets and visionaries from his own experience but tried rather unconvincingly to distinguish the exercise of prophecy by women from their speaking for the sake of their own instruction or imparting it to othersall apparently based on the attempt to hold literally to Pauline precepts on the subject.(8)
Another early Church writer who attempted to reconcile with one another the Pauline precepts on prophecy and public speaking by women was the third century Alexandrian, Origen. In his Commentary on 1Corinthians(9) he directs his comments regarding 1 Cor 14:34-35 against the Montanist female prophets Priscilla and Maximilla. In order to discredit their prophecy, he invokes the Pauline injunction Let women keep silence in the churches to the effect that no authentic woman prophet spoke in the public assembly, neither the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) nor Deborah (Jag 4:4), nor Miriam (Exod 15:20-21), nor Hulda (2 Kings 22:14-20), nor Anna (Luke 2:36).
Origen uses arguments from silence, as in the case of the daughters of Philip, and sometimes simply distortion of the evidence, as in the case of Deborah, to whom people came for judgment (Jdg 4:5). He then goes on to quote Titus 2:3-4 to show that women may indeed teach, but only other women, and that when Paul in 1Cor 14:35 sends women home to find out what they wish to know from their husbands (literally, men), the injunction concerns not only married women, but also widows and virgins, so that men must here be understood generically to include a brother, a relative, or even a son.
The clear implication is that any man is more capable of teaching the faith than any woman, even a son his mother! For men should not sit and listen to women, as if men capable of being responsible for the Word of God were entirely lacking.... A woman speaking publicly is a shameful situation which reflects judgment on the whole Church.(10)
It is important to note several things about this passage. Like Tertullians Praes. 41.5 it is a polemical statement, aimed against a particular group of opponents, the Montanists. In spite of its citation by the Vatican Declaration on the Ordination of Women as evidence of the Church Fathers opposition to women in priesthood,(11) the passage is really not concerned with any presbyteral or sacerdotal function except that of teaching as public speaking in church, i.e., as a sign of authority exercised over men as well as women.
On this point Origen holds literally to 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:1112. If the authors of the Vatican Declaration consider this text relevant to a contemporary discussion about women in the ordained ministry, it can only be because they understand the authority to teach the Christian faith as essential to the priestly office.
If women are still today considered incapable of teaching the faith to men as well as to women, then the educational work of several generations of Religion teachers in official Church schools, colleges, and adult education programs is in a precarious position. If a fine distinction is to be made between communicating the faith in a classroom and to the same people from the pulpit, we are entering into legalism. If the validity of womens participation in Christian education is not to be questioned, then the association of this passage from Origen with the priestly ministry of women is irrelevant.
Though Origens dealing with the Montanists in the above passage focuses on their womens activity as prophets and teachers, there is other evidence of sacramental functions performed by women apart from passages already cited. A letter of Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia to Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, in the middle of the third century recounts the story of a woman whom the author knew of personally. About 20 years previously she had begun not only exercising gifts of prophecy in the neighborhood but also baptizing and celebrating the eucharist for her followers according to accepted orthodox rites.(12) While leveling against her the usual accusations of madness, diabolic possession, and moral turpitude, Firmilian assumes that of course her sacramental ministry was not valid, anymore than that of heretics and schismatics, about whom the discussion is really concerned.
The interesting thing about the story is that Firmilian does not connect her with any recognized heretical group. She seems to have exercised her ministry on the fringes of an orthodox community and in an orthodox manner. Unfortunately, we do not know whether she had been ordained by someone whose ministry Firmilian would have accepted. He does not say. Lacking that information, it is impossible to say whether he considered her sacramental ministry invalid because her ordination (or lack of it) was also invalid, or simply because as a woman she could not perform such ministry.
It is especially to Epiphanius that we must turn for more specific information on sacramental ministry by women, as well as for more specific rejection of it. The fourth century bishop of Salamis says that the Marcionites allowed women to baptize (13) and that the Montanists
attribute a special grace to Eve because she first ate of the tree of knowledge. They acknowledge the sister of Moses as a prophetess as support for their practice of appointing women to the clergy. Also. they say, Philip had four daughters who prophesied.... Women among them are bishops, presbyters, and the rest, as if there were no difference of nature. For in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female . . . (Gal 3:28)
Even if women among them are ordained to the episcopacy and presbyterate because of Eve, they hear the Lord saying: Your orientation will be toward your husband and he will rule over you. The apostolic saying escaped their notice, namely that: I do not allow a woman to speak or have authority over a man. And again: Man is not from woman but woman from man; and Adam was not deceived, but Eve was first deceived into transgression. Oh, the multifaceted error of this world ! (14)
The exegetical approach of the orthodox Fathers is typified by the end of this passage. While the more free-form group quotes Gal 3:28, the orthodox theologian replies with Gen 3:16, 1 Cor 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:12-14 and 1 Cor 11:8 thrown in for good measure. There is no doubt that sheer quantity of quotable material is in his favor, and that he readily uses it to support his position.
Epiphanius longest discussions about women and priesthood occur in two passages concerning a group about which it would be very helpful to have more information. From the data we have it is quite justifiable to call them a feminist religious society. They are a group of women in Arabia (though the organization came originally from Thrace) who assemble together in honor of the Virgin Mary with a special kind of prepared cake called a kollyris, whence they are called Collyridians by Epiphanius. They have what is assumedly a eucharistic liturgy: in the name of Mary they assemble hierourgein dia gynaikonliterally, to function as priests for women.(15)
The author launches into a long treatment of the absence of women priests throughout history, beginning with Eve who performed no sacrifices while Cain, Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron and the levitical priesthood after him did;(16) and so on into the New Testament. At this point Epiphanius brings in an argument that has since become classic, but which occurs for the first time only a short while before in the third century Syrian Church Order known as the Didascalia Apostolorum: the exemplary will of Christ. If Christ had wished that women baptize, he argues, then surely he would have been baptized by his mother instead of by John, and he would have named women among those commissioned to spread the gospel. Instead, the twelve, Paul, Barnabas, and James were sent out to baptize, to perform the priesthood of the gospel, and to be leaders of the mysteries. There were no women appointed among them.(17) Thus 250 to 300 years after the death of Jesus his positive will begins to be interpreted with regard to women in the ordained ministry, which by this time has acquired a clear image of consecration as setting apart for the performance of holy rites as well as for the service of the community.
In the churches of the Didascalia, the Apostolic Constitutions, and Epiphanius, however, there were recognized official functions performed by women. From the earliest years of Christian community organization there had been a special place for widows. They were recipients of charity in return for their responsibility of prayer and fasting for the Church, hospitality, and instruction of younger women.(18)
In Tertullians Carthage widows were clearly an official order (ordo) in the Church(19) and even formed part of the ecclesiastical tribunal along with bishop, presbyters, and deacons.(20) In early third century Rome widows were also officially designated as persons to be honored but not ordained.(21) This latter situation perdured in third and fourth century Syria as witnessed by the Didascalia and Apostolic Constitutions, but not in the fifth century Syrian document known as the Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesus Christi, where the same language regarding ordination is used of widows as of the rest of the clergy.(22) Widows held positions of honor and service in many times and places in the early Church, but only in the late second century Carthaginian Church of Tertullian and the fifth century Syrian Church of theTestamentum Domini is there the good indication that they were considered members of the clergy.
It was in Syria that another group of ministerial women came into prominence: the deaconesses.(23) The Didascalia and Apostolic Constitutions speak often of them(24) and Epiphanius echoes the same information about their role in the Church (25) they assist at the baptism of women (by immersion) and visit sick women at home, both cases when it would not be suitable for a male cleric to be the principal ministrant. In other passages deaconesses instruct female catechumens and newly-baptized women, and preside over the good order of women during liturgical gatherings.
Were deaconesses ordained? In the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions (for which there is no parallel in the Didascalia), the formulae for ordination and establishment of those in major and minor orders and specially designated groups are given in descending order of importance: presbyter (chap. 16), deacon (chaps. 17-18), deaconess (chaps. 19-20), subdeacon (chap. 21), rector (chap. 22), confessor (chap. 23), virgin (chap. 24), widow (chap. 25), and exorcist (chap. 26).(26)
The characteristic term cheirotonia, or its related verb, meaning ordination into the ranks of the clergy, is used for presbyter and deacon. Then when describing the ritual for deaconesses, the text does not use cheirotonia but rather substitutes an alternate expression meaning having placed hands on her. . . Next, the ritual for the subdeacon uses both the present participle of the verb cheirotonein and the alternate expression used for the deaconess.
After this, the ritual for the appointment of a rector uses the same expression as that used for the deaconess: having placed hands on him . . . followed by the actual prayer to be recited. Then of the following four groups, confessors, virgins, widows, and exorcists, it is specifically said for each that they are not ordained ( ou cheirotoneitai) and there is no prayer of blessing prescribed for them, even though they are recognized groups in the community.
There is no clear conclusion to attain in regard to the ordination of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions because the evidence presented above can be interpreted in two ways. The fact that the important word cheirotonein does not appear in the directives for either deaconess or rector can be seen as a deliberate omission indicating that they did not actually receive ordination in spite of the fact that the subdeacon whose ritual is placed between them did.
On the other hand, the fact that it is specifically said of all groups following the rector that they are not ordained may imply that those mentioned above are, in which case the absence of the term cheirotonia in the case of the deaconess and rector may simply be a change in wording for the sake of variety; the verb cheirotonein, upon which we are placing considerable importance did after all originally mean simply to lay hands on, or to appoint.
In support of the second interpretation, i.e., that deaconesses did receive an actual ordination, are three additional pieces of evidence. First, they appear with other members of the clergy, for example in the distribution of leftover gifts from the offerings of the faithful; even though they are mentioned last, they are the only group of women included in a list that stops with rector or cantor.(27) Second, a later Epitome or summary of this part of the Apostolic Constitutions entitles the two sections on deaconesses (Ap. Const. 8.19-20) About the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess and Prayer for the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess.(28) Third, Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) directs that a woman shall not receive the ordination (cheirontonia) of a deaconess until she is at least 40 years of age, and she must remain unmarried.(29) Here in an independent source from approximately the same period the ordination of deaconesses is taken for granted.
There is good indication that the office of deaconess was widespread in the East for at least several hundred years, beginning in the third century. In the West, evidence is far more scarce and exists mostly in the form of later synodal decrees witnessing negatively to the institution, that is, attempting to prevent or suppress its development.(30)
The reasons for this geographical disparity become clearer when one looks more closely at the actual role of the deaconess. In all the texts at our disposal, her pastoral activity was restricted to the care of women, and for the most part to those kinds of care that could not be given by men. This work, moreover, was further circumscribed by the norms of society in which respectable women were inhibited in their social movement and access to the outside world. Chief among these kinds of pastoral care were assistance at the unclothing required for baptism by immersion, and the visting and nursing of sick women at home, which sometimes included bringing the eucharist to them. Other activities that made the deaconess a focal point for the religious life of female Christians also developed: supervision of women in the assembly (seated separately from the men) and religious instruction of women and younger children.
It is important to recognize that, although it may have been different in the first Christian generation, the vast majority of the evidence indicates that in the orthodox tradition during the patristic period the ministry of women was directed almost exclusively to women. Within some of the alternative Christian traditions, this was not so.
To accept the witness of pastoral practice in those churches requires, as was stated at the beginning of this chapter, a significant shift of historical perspective which should not be expected to overtake us in the immediate future. Only when the horizon of Christian consciousness has broadened beyond its present denominational limits will we be able to respect the diverse traditions in early Christianity as we are learning to respect religious diversity today.
The question remains, whether women were ordained in the early Church. It is the judgment of this author that only in light of the above observations can that question be intelligently discussed. It would seem that women were ordained in some times and places and that this ordination was respected within the limits of its function in each particular community. A church observing the statutes of the Apostolic Constitutions may have had women serving as deaconesses, while down the street in the same city the local Marcionite church may have had women composing half its assembly of presbyters. Any ordination to the ministry is ordination to a specific role of service that varies according to time and place. It was no different with the ministry of women.
What washopefullydifferent then than now is the attitude of men toward women in the Christian community. Tertullian could call women the devils gateway;(31) Origen could declare shameful whatever a woman said in the assembly, even if it be marvelous and holy, it still comes from the mouth of a woman;(32) Epiphanius could say that the female sex is easily mistaken, fallible, and poor in intelligence.(33) Much of the pastoral practice of the early Church incorporated and reflected similar views.
It has often been pointed out that the blatantly misogynist statements of the Church Fathers are sometimes balanced by other more appreciative reflections about women.(34) Be that as it may, belief in the natural inferiority of women was an assumption that went largely unquestioned in antiquity and lies behind most of the repressive restrictions against women in early Christianity. The Vatican Declarations assertion that the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavorable to women found in the writings of the Church Fathers had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction (35) is at best naive.
It is, however, useless to blame past generations for what to us appears as short-sightedness because it was based on limited awareness. We can only blame ourselves and our own generation if we do not change and act on our own expanded awareness just as faithfully as past generations did on theirs.
Future directions for women in ministry cannot be founded solely on past practice for several reasons: the evidence is too disparate, the social role of women in general was entirely different then than it is now, and most importantly, because Tradition cannot be interpreted in this manner. To understand Tradition as that which dictates limits for present and future Christian life is to make of it our plaything and our instrument to try to control the Spirit. Rather, Tradition is that solid base upon which the living experience of Christians builds.(36) The way in which Tradition becomes normative and yet develops and unfolds new ways of understanding is precisely what is at issue in this book, and is expanded in other chapters.(37)
Believers of every age are called upon to adapt fundamental Christian insights to their own new situations. This is what the apostolic generation, as well as every generation since then, has had to do. Christian history and tradition can show how those before us have dealt with diversity and change by creating and adapting structure and practices according to the circumstances in which they found themselves while yet remaining loyal to the faith given them in Jesus Christ. We are not observers of that history. We are part of it.
1. De praescriptione haereticorum 41.5. Text available in Corpus Christianorum. Series latina (henceforth CCL) 1, 221, 12-15. All translations given in the text of this article are by the author. English text also available in its context in Ante-Nicene Fathers (henceforth ANF) 3, 263.
2. De virginibus velandis 9.1; text in CCL 2, 1218-19 and translation in ANF 4, 33. Contrary to what one might suppose today, the treatise did not argue that virgins should wear veils to distinguish them from other women, but rather that, since all other respectable women were veiled in public, consecrated virgins should be too, so as not to depart from general custom. Though Praes. 41.5 is cited by the Vatican Declaration, fn. 7, as indicative of Church Fathers' opposition to women in the ordained ministry, strangely, the more blatant Virg. Vel. 9.1 is omitted.
3. Exorcism as a matter of course, baptism in case of necessity. See Apology 23; De corona 11.3; De idolatria 11.7; De baptismo 17.1-3. See the discussion in Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church, trans. Jean Laporte and Mary Louise Hall (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1976) 17-22.
4. The Vatican Declaration (7, p. 17) also cites Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.13.2. This text describes the eucharistic rite of the Marcosian Gnostics in which a woman holds the chalice at the altar. Irenaeus, however, describes the ritual as part of a condemnation of the whole Marcosian community, not of the action of its women at the altar. This text is thus a witness to the priestly ministry of women in the Marcosian Church, but not of the Church Fathers' condemnation of such ministry.
5. This kind of suppression of women in the Pastoral Epistles seems already to be a reaction against some form of variant Christianity that encourages women to be more active in Church life (cf. 1 Tim 5:14; 2 Tim 3:6-7). See M. Dibelius and H. Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Hermeneia: Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 44-49; R. Karris, "The Background and Significance of the Polemic of the Pastoral Epistles," Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973), 554-555. It is also quite possible that 1Cor 14:34-35 is part of an interpolation from the same period and situation as is represented by the Pastorals: see R. Scroggs, "Paul and the Eschatological Woman," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 40 (1972), 284; for a listing of exegetes pro and con on the question, see J. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (London: SCM, 1975), 435, n 115. These biblical passages were discussed by Robert J. Karris in ch 3 of this book.
6. De baptismo 17.4; CCL 1, 291, 20-292, 31. English text available in ANF 3, 677; Gryson, 18; E. Evans, Tertullian's Homily on Baptism (London: S.P.C.K., 1964) 37. The legend of Thecla continued on for several centuries; whether she was ever a historical person is difficult to say. It is significant that Tertullian attacked only the authenticity of the Acts and implied neither that they were doctrinally heretical nor that Thecla ever existed. The Acts in English are to be found in E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965) 2, 353-364.
7. 1Cor 11:5.
8. Contra Marcionem 5.8.11; CCL 1, 688, 7-13. English text in E. Evans, Tertullian Adversus Marcionem (Oxford, 1972) 561; Gryson, 19. See the account of a female visionary in De Anima 9.4; CCL 2, 792, 24-793, 38. English text in ANF 3, 188; Gryson, 20.
9. Preserved only in fragments from a collection of Patristic commentaries; text ed. by Claude Jenkins, "Origen on 1Corinthians,'' Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1908) #74, 40-42. English text in Gryson, 28-29.
10. Ibid. The same argument about women prophets staying in their place is repeated in the Apostolic Constitutions 8.2.9., ed. F. X. Funk (Paderborn: F. Schoeningh, 1905); 1, 470; English trans. in ANF 7, 481.
11. Declaration, fn. 7.
12. Ep 74 (75). 10, 11; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 3, 817-818. English text in ANF 5, 393.
13. Panarion 42.4: "They give to women the commission to baptize."
14. Panarion49.2-3; ed. Oehler I-II, 40-42. English translations of these texts are not readily available. In dependence on Epiphanius, Augustine, De Haeresibus 27, reports the same information, including the account of Christ's appearance as a woman to one of the Montanist prophetesses (Epiphanius 49.1).
15. Panarion 78.23; 79.1; Oehler l-II, 440-442, 446-448. The rest of ch 79, sections 2-9, is devoted to the two questions, why Mary should not be worshiped and why women should not be priests.
16. Panarion 79.2.
17. Panarion 79.3; and again in 79.7; Didascalia ch 15 in English trans. of R. H. Connolly (Oxford, 1929) 142. The same text is preserved in Greek in the Apostolic Constitutions 3.9; Funk, 1, 199-201; English trans. in ANF 7, 429. The Ap. Const. adds to the argument quotations from 1Cor 11:3; Gen 2:21; 3:16. The same argument regarding women as teachers occurs in the Didascalia ch 15 (Connolly, 133) and in Apostolic Constitutions 3.6.1-2 (Funk, 1, 191: English trans. in ANF 7, 427-428). Since Epiphanius was a native of Palestine, it is not unlikely that he acquired the ideas from one of the Church Orders.
18. E.g. 1 Tim 5:3-16; Titus 2:3; Acts 9:39; Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans 13.1; Polycarp 4.3; Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. 2.4.3; Justin, Apology 1.67.6; Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 20, 24, 30; Origen, On Prayer 28.4.
19. Exhortation to Chastity 13.4; To His Wife 1.7.4.
20. On a Single Marriage (De monogamia) 1l.l; On Modesty (De pudicitia) 13.7.
21. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 10 says that widows are to be ''instituted" (kathistasthai)but not ordained (cheirotoneisthai)because they, like virgins, have no leitourgia, or official ministry. This situation seems to differ from that in Carthage as described by Tertullian.
22. Didasc./Ap. Const. 3.1.1-2 (Funk 1, 182-183). Widows are not ordained: Ap.Const. 8.25.2 (Funk 1. 528). In the Apostolic Constitutions the tendency to present widows as surpassed in importance by consecrated virgins is noticeable: see Gryson, 58-60. This differs remarkably from the Testamentum Domini, in which widows have the highest honorary and liturgical functions among women and are ordained (Test. Dom. 1.40; see discussion in Gryson, 64-69.
23. There are only three earlier texts which may speak of deaconesses: Rom 16:1 where Paul calls the woman Phoebe a diakonos of the Church at Cenchreae (one of the seaports of Corinth); 1Tim 3:11 where "women" are mentioned between two statements about deacons; the ministrae of the Church in Bithynia whom the governor Pliny tortures to get information about Christians (Pliny, Epistle 10.96.8). It is doubtful that in any of these cases anything like the full-blown order of deaconesses of the Didascalia is envisioned, though the text in Pliny is the most possible.
24. It is impossible here to discuss at length the full treatment of deaconesses in these two documents. See the exposition in Gryson, 54-63.
25. Panarion 79.3
26. The rite for ordination of a bishop begins much earlier, in chapters 4 and 5, and merges into a more general liturgical rite described in the intervening chapters.
27. Ap. Const. 8.31.2 (Funk 1, 532-5); cited by Gryson, 62. Deaconesses are also included among the clergy in regulations regarding who can bless, depose, and excommunicate whom: 8, 28.1-8 (Funk 1, 530-1).
28. Epitome, chapters 9-10 (Funk 2. 81). An additional complication is created, however, by the fact that the rector, who in the Ap. Const. receives the laying on of hands with the same expression as that used for the deaconess, is not ordained in the Epitome (ch 13).
29. English text in Gryson, 63. On age limits for widows and deaconesses, see the discussion by Gryson, 63-64.
30. The further evidence for both East and West is collected by Gryson. More detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this study.
31. On the Apparel of Women 1.1-2.
32. Origen on 1Cor 14:34-35. See note 9 above.
33. Panarion 79.1.
34. Tertullian, for instance, was happily married, had a tender love for his wife, and considered men and women equally capable of great virtue; see F. Forrester Church, ''Sex and Salvation in Tertullian," Harvard Theological Review 68 (1975), 83-101.
35. Declaration, sec. 1, par. 6.
36. For an excellent assessment of the diverse understandings of Tradition, see John W. O'Malley, "Reform, Historical Consciousness, and Vatican II's Aggiornamento," Theological Studies 32 (1971), 573-601.
37. For the question of Tradition, we call attention to ch 6, by Gilbert Ostdiek.
|Contents of Women and Priesthood book||Support our campaign||Sitemap||Contemporary theologians||Join Campaign activities||Go back to home page|
This website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.
The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.
You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.
Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.
The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.