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Culture, Leadership and Symbolism in the Old Testament by Carroll Stuhlmueller from 'Women and Priesthood: Future Directions'

Culture, Leadership and Symbolism in the Old Testament

by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.

from Women and Priesthood: Future Directions, pp. 25-45.
edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

CARROLL STUHLMUELLER, C.P., Professor of Old Testament Studies, completed doctoral work at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. Besides publications, he has lectured in the U.S. and abroad, including l'Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem. In 1957 he was teaching in the first graduate school of theology for women in U.S. (St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Ind.) and since then has been researching the topics of religious leadership and the role of women in the Church.

The Old Testament is the inspired word of God, yet a continuous debate questions its force for deciding religious issues today.(1) Particularly with controversial topics the Hebrew Bible lacks the decisive strength of the New Testament. In discussing that most unsettled topic of women priests, writers tend to bypass those very scriptures (2) which Jesus and His first disciples relied upon very heavily.(3) Moreover, during the early patristic age, the Old Testament style of priesthood sharpened or even imposed some very clear lines upon the Christian image of priest.(4)

This chapter avoids the simple route of transferring the qualities of Old Testament priesthood to our own priestly leadership. Nor will we delay over the religious role of women in the centuries before Christ, in order to discover Biblical models for women priests today.(5) In fact, a gap so deep and extensive separates the Old Testament from our late twentieth century,(60 that quick, thoughtless leaps from ancient biblical times to our own can be disastrous. For that matter, neither is it wise for us to copy slavishly the religious forms of New Testament times,(7) nor to condemn our ways if they do not literally conform to biblical details.(8)

Roman Catholic theology and practise have always emphasized the necessity to read the Scriptures within the life setting and pastoral needs of the Church of each new age.(9) Change does not come easily to this Church, but change it does, even as dramatically as at Vatican II. Within the twenty centuries of its evolution the Catholic Church has kept its roots imbedded in the Scriptures—maybe at times too tenuously, but firmly since 1943 (10)—yet its foliage and seasonal changes are adapted to the environment and geography of later centuries. The question before us now is simply this: is the ordination of women to full priesthood one of these adaptations, imperative for a strong, pastoral ministry today? (11)

All the chapters of this book study the priesthood as it evolved in its theology and ideals, practise and regulations. The eighteen hundred or more years of Old Testament history provide the ideal setting for investigating the evolution of religion with its slow progress and quick transitions, its confrontation and overreactions, its challenges and responses, its set-backs and collapses, its continual renewal and basic continuity. In the first and somewhat lengthy section of this chapter we present some general but very important data about the origin and development of religious forms in ancient Israel, crucial for theological development of any age and certainly applicable to the question of women priests. The second part of this chapter traces in broad outline the origin and principal stages of Old Testament priesthood under internal and external pressures. Finally, we inquire into the impact of biblical symbolism upon priesthood today.(12)


In Old Testament times styles of leadership were never revealed directly and immediately by God.(13) Every form of exercising authority, be it religious or civil, that is represented in the Hebrew Bible, can also be found in extra-biblical sources where it antedates Abraham (1850 B.C.) and Moses (1240 B.C.). We conclude then that God did not dictate the institutions of judge or king, prophet or elder, priest or sage. Yet, God was directing the process by which Israel was formed into a nation with lines of authority, and led forward in her history. The record of the legislation and history is called the inspired word of God, the Holy Bible. After giving a number of examples how Israel absorbed culture and forms of leadership from her neighbors, we will look into the way such “pagan” material became the word of God.

This interaction of religion and culture in Old Testament times can direct the Church today. Many important movements, like women’s liberation, originates and develops outside the Church, at least outside the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy. As the Church begins to adopt these non-religious movements, we can turn to the Old Testament for guidance and peace. In such a multiple relationship of conflict, challenge and assimilation, the Old Testament indicates how God’s will is learned and implemented.

Israel’s institutions, we say, originated in surrounding polytheistic cultures. At times the Bible openly admits this fact. Several examples will aid our discussion.

One of the first historical manifestations of priesthood occurs in Genesis 14:

Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram. (Gen 14:18)

While this chapter has many difficulties, its significance cannot be overlooked.(14) Centuries before Moses had formally established the levitical priesthood, a priest from Canaanite stock blessed Moses’ ancestor, Abraham. Later, one of the royal Davidic titles granted to the crown prince on the occasion of his coronation was ‘“priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4).(15) This title, originally of a pagan king, absorbed more and more of Israel’s messianic hopes, especially at Qumran(16) and later in the Epistle to the Hebrews.(17) In each of these cases politics, even at times on an international scale, provided the setting and catalyst for a vigorous religious development of the Melchizedek title. In fact, chapter 14 of Genesis, where the title first appears, opens with a military invasion. Therefore, when priesthood is first introduced, it was already a fully developed institution, worthy of Israel’s chosen ancestors and influential in the long political-religious struggle of God’s people.

Another institution which became a carrier of great messianic expectations was the Davidic dynasty. Royalty, however, was not anticipated by Moses, and the first movement towards monarchy admitted its foreign origin.

All the elders came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘’Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.’ (l Sam 8:4-5)

Even though Samuel opposed the monarchy, nonetheless, he accepted the action of the elders as indicative of the Lord’s will and arranged a compromise and anointed Saul and later David as a prince or nagid.(18) David later assumed the title of king or melek. Through another prophet, Nathan, God blessed David with extraordinary promises: “Your throne and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam 7:16).(19) A dynasty, born of political expediency and furthered by military might and charming diplomacy, eventually collapsed under the fierce Babylonian invasion. After August 587 B.C., no king ruled from Jerusalem. The divine promises had to be spiritualized and redirected in a way never anticipated by earlier traditions. (20) Divinely sanctioned institutions could disappear in their original form and surface again in styles never foreseen in their first endorsement.(21)

Two other, very important developments—prophecy and wisdom— were also absorbed into Israelite life from foreign sources. The first extended discourse about a prophet occurs when the Moabite king Balak ben Zippor summoned Balaam ben Beor from Pethor on the Euphrates (Numbers ch 20-24). The origins of wisdom from outside Israeliate religious tradition is disclosed, not only in its almost exclusively secular interests (1 Kings 5:9-14; Prov (10-31) but also in the geographical origin of many of its great patrons: “Agur teen Jakeh the Massaite" (Prov 30:1); “Eliphaz the Temanite” (Job 4:1); “Bildad the Shukite” (Job 8:1); “Zophar the Naamathite” (Job 11:1). (22)

All of these major movements of the Old Testament were so thoroughly integrated within Israel’s religious life and traditions that they will appear elsewhere in the Bible as the object of a direct revelation. In other words, the foreign origin was later forgotten and the whole movement was attributed solely to God. The Scriptures, in fact, make quite a habit of overlooking secondary causes and of attributing everything directly to God.(23)

A good example of such a development is present in the highly esteemed order of “elders.” In the Sinai desert the older tribal system of government by the “head of the family” (24) was breaking down. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, a Midianite priest, bluntly told Moses that “you are not acting wisely.” “Moses followed the advice of his father-in-law and did all that he suggested. He picked out able men” and appointed them judges or elders (Ex 18:13-27).

The traditions in the Book of Numbers, however, much later and more religiously imbued, leave the impression of a direct revelation from God:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know for true elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the meeting tent. When they are in place beside you, I will come down and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will bestow it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself.”(Num 11:16-17)(25)

This order of “elders’’ continues in the Bible down to the presbyteros of the New Testament (26) and into later Christian usage which adapted this word for its “priests.” While divine wisdom reaches from end to end mightly and governs all things well” (Wis 8:1), still the immediate occasion lay in the pagan priest Jethro and his common sense advice to a young and over-zealous son-in-law.

These examples hopefully will suffice to point out a pattern in the “revelation” of civil and religious leadership, important for our theme of women priests. God expected his people: first, to learn from the experience and sound advice of their surrounding culture, even if it was idolatrous; second, to allow for cultural and even unexpected developments within each institution; third, to see His holy will operative in the political and economic factors responsible for the developments.(27) These same principles functioned in the early apostolic church and throughout church history. They offer a model for a development of ordained priesthood today which would open all offices of service to capable women as is being done in secular society.

Today when there is an insufficient number of male, celibate priests, another “Jethro” is appearing from outside the religious community and telling church leaders with equal bluntness:

You are not acting wisely . . . . You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but also these people with you. The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me, and I will give you advice that God may be with you. (Ex 18:17-19)

Jethro continues: “Choose able and God-fearing” women, “trustworthy” women, “who hate dishonest gain.... Let these render decisions” and lead in prayer—an adaptation of Ex 18:21-22.

Transitions such as this, motivated by secular movements need not disturb the church, as throughout biblical times styles of religious authority originated and developed under impetus from outside Israel or outside her priesthood. In fact, the Bible goes so far as to warn the Church that she has no competency to create structures and institutions ex nihilo (out of nothing)—2 Macc 7:28; she can only learn and adapt them from the surrounding world. The Bible moreover witnesses to an extraordinary development of institutions, once accepted within the religious organization. These models of biblical life offer clear directives for an evolution of priesthood today which would break its long tradition of male-only ordination and open the ranks to women. When women outside the church can rise to the highest posts of authority and can exert strong, beneficial leadership, biblical precedent would not only permit but urge the church to absorb such a movement within her own lines of authority.

The many cultural transitions of Old Testament times took place within a country of only six thousand square miles with no more space than the state of New Jersey and much less arable soil. The church today occupies the globe which may be one world and yet manifests an extraordinary variety of cultures. A world wide church must adapt itself to each situation so that its emphases in doctrine and morals as well as its sty/es of leadership and its prophetic stance for the oppressed will vary greatly. If women have acquired more respectable and productive roles of leadership in some areas of the world than they have in others then the Church is expected to absorb the progress of women according to each country or district where she is present. The Church today has to live at once the many styles of organization spread over a longer period of time in the Old Testament period.

There is another principle or norm (besides relieving the burdens of the overworked priest!!) which the Old Testament offers in the controversial question of women ordination. This position will be more acceptable to the mood and ethics of our contemporary world. In the Bible priesthood underwent an extraordinary development through the impact of the prophets, who championed the rights of the poor and the unprotected “minority.” The women movement today is itself the voice of a minority group. By ordaining women the prophet’s voice would add a new tone and quality to the words of the priest. The Church’s teaching and liturgy would then more effectively sharpen the conscience of all Catholics to the suffering of neglected or persecuted people.

A quick historical survey of Israel’s religion will enable us first to appreciate the role of the “classical prophets” in biblical times and then to recognize their image today in the movement of women for religious leadership and for priesthood.

Around 1200 B.C.Moses organized the disspirited and enervated slaves of Pharaoh into a unified people with tradition, laws and governmeet. Authority tended to be vested in gifted individuals, like Moses and Joshua, who were not necessarily succeeded by their own sons or relatives. Moses, nonetheless, did set up an institution of elders for civil matters (Ex 18:13-27) and he chose his own tribe of Levi for religious instruction and worship.

After Moses’ death and the settlement of the Promised Land, a complementary and sometimes rival form of religious leadership appeared in the charismatic bands or communities, simply called “prophets” in the Bible. These are to be distinguished from the “classical” prophets, individuals like Amos or Jeremiah with books to their name, who at first denied the name “prophet” and were not associated with any band or community.(28)The charismatic groups first show up in 1Sam l0:5-6. clearly distinguishable in lifestyle and work. Later in 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 6 the characteristics of their organization become still more evident. They shared many qualities with the Canaanite prophets; the two groups, nonetheless, opposed one another, even violently (1 Sam 19:2224; 1 Kings 18). These “charismatic prophets” became ever more popular and powerful. They acquired the right to anoint or depose kings (2 Kings 9) and stood next to the royal throne as advisors directing the wave of the future (2 Sam 7).

Because many abuses surfaced among the charismatic prophets, a change was necessary. God summoned a whole new series of prophets: we give them the name “classical prophets.”(29) The first of them, Amos. was determined not to be associated even by name with the other group. He even denied to be a prophet or a member of any prophetic band (Am 7:10-15). Such was his non-conformity that king and high priest banished him, prodded into action by the ladies and gentlemen whom Amos lashed with his bitter, sarcastic tongue (cf., Amos 4:1-3; 6:1-8).

AIthough rejected by the institution, Amos developed his preaching within the larger context of Israel’s traditions. At first in angrily championing of the rights of the poor (Amos 4:1; 5:7-15), he seemed to be profaning sacred places and people (4:4-5; 7:16-17) as well as denying sacred traditions (3:2, 12; 5:18; 9:7). Actually, Amos was making the “heart of the matter” more visible as a reforming power in people’s lives and in the institutional forms of religion.(30) To be a chosen people, he insisted, did not consist simply in biological birth from Abraham’s stock (Amos 3:2): one must also manifest Abraham’s justice, humility and kindness, as another prophet Micah declared (Mic 6:8). The promised “Day of the Lord” can turn into darkness if that be the only way to sweep away pride and oppression (Amos 5:18).

If Amos had simply repeated traditional theology by rote, then he would have been, according to a recent work of James A. Sanders among “false prophets [who] invoked an otherwise decently good theology but at the wrong time, supporting leaders and people when they needed a challenge.”(31) Amos’ challenge was remembered. Who could ever forget his sentences, at once brilliant, sarcastic, devastating and crude? They were gathered together into convenient blocks or sermonettes, producing one of the most orderly books of the Bible.(32) The prophet, “excommunicated" by the priest Amaziah, is incorporated within the Bible by postexilic priests at Jerusalem!

Prophecy and priesthood merge in still another way than by priestly editing and accepting of prophet’s words. During the Babylonian exile and particularly in the early postexilic period, between 539 and 400 B.C., the prophets Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah and Joel turned out to be quite different from their predecessors.(33) Some were priests, others preoccupied with priestly matters. The book of this late period closest in form and spirit to pre-exilic prophecy is that of Malachi, yet here again the prerogatives of the levitical priesthood are seriously defended (Mal 2:1-9) and the site of messianic fulfillment, where the prophet Elijah will suddenly appear, is the temple (Mal 3:1).

Looking back on this development, we see that organizational leadership will always need its “’Amos.’’ At first it will usually oppose such spontaneous unconventional leaders, but if the prophet perseveres, remaining in the council of the Lord (Jer 23:18, 22) and within the community of Israel, even through agony and destruction as did Jeremiah (Ch 39-40), then their ministry will be absorbed within the structure of traditional leadership.(34) Charismatic authority will be institutionalized, while more ancient structures will be radically transformed.

The example of Old Testament prophecy, as studied here, has provided us with one example among many how a priestly institution can be challenged and eventually enriched by loyal, prophetic opposition. The steps in biblical times consisted in prophet, disciples, remembered words, accepted tradition, book of prophecy. The movement which began as a bitter challenge and even a condemnation of priesthood eventually produced a prophetic priesthood. For today the steps might be summarized thus: the women movement in society at large; its prophetic challenge to church authority; a growing number of disciples within the movement; articles and books which document the movement and direct its progress; hesitancy, rejection, re-study and gradual acceptance by church authority; incorporation within Church law with an enriched form of priesthood.

Such a new prophetic priesthood does not simply reproduce the former manner of priestly life and activity, but manifests new models within the traditional structures. Women aspiring to ordained priesthood do not want to take over the position of the male priests, robe themselves in the same vestments and function in the same way.(35) Rather, they look towards an enlarged, diversified priesthood. with a particular outreach to minorities.

Up till now we have remained almost exclusively on the historical plane in discussing the interaction of Old Testament religion with surrounding cultures. We now turn the coin to its theological side and seek the religious principle by which Israel discerned what and how to accept from the culture of her neighbors. An intuition about God’s personal love, breathed by divine initiative into Israel, enabled her to choose what was fitting, to purify and even transform it and then to turn it into something quite different from its expression outside of her own community.(36)

Before Israel could react to God’s goodness on her own initiative, she had to be called into existence. It was this part of the Lord’s personal love which gave birth to a people uniquely His own, distinct from all other nations. This idea of a chosen people is expressed with tender eloquence:

Tell the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites. (Ex 19:4-6)

First, we notice that in His goodness God intervened and called Israel in the midst of her history. She was already a part of the ancient Near Eastern fertile crescent, manifesting the cultural strengths and weaknesses of its inhabitants. Deuteronomy ch 26 expressed it this way in a very early credal statement: “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt , while another credo in Joshua ch 24 admits: ”In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the river and served other gods." With loving concern God then accepted the people as they were not only at the starting point of salvation history, but also at each new transition along the way.

lsrael, as a result, was always conscious of a forward movement in her theology. No matter where she was, God would be there, living among His people, beckoning them onward. Naturally, she looked backward to great moments of salvation, yet the past was not considered the golden model which every subsequent age must reconstruct.(370 Rather, the past was being relived with new and greater possibilities. In historical continuity with her past, Israel was able to fulfill ancient hopes with dramatic leaps forward (cf., Is 43:18-19; 48:3, 6b-S, 11-12).38

At the roots of her origin and major developments, Israel was radically different from her neighbors. All other peoples traced their origin to the founding of their city and especially of their temple. Here on great feastdays, especially New Years, they celebrated the act of creation, primeval paradise and first innocence.(390 Israel, instead, commemorated her freedom from sin, slavery and oppression and awaited a new creation in the future. With the non-Israelites the gods came to be regarded as omnipotent powers, following the seasons of the year, yet like weather capable of erratic change and uncontrollable violence. Seldom if ever do these gods sustain a prolonged personal interest in the people, and in these cases the object of their divine concern must be of noble, if not of royal blood.

Religion outside the Bible did manifest a limited forward vision, that winter shall be followed by a new spring or that victory shall crown a military expedition. Yet, no surge of life nor any triumph in battle could ever equal first creation with its explosive energy, its titantic struggle of the gods, and its idyllic first paradise. Non-Israelite religions then sought balance and fertility in nature, victory in war, protection against evil spirits, wisdom to anticipate and control life’s fortunes and misfortunes. Basically, non-Israelite religion attempted to placate divine powers and so to recover as much as was humanly possible of primeval paradise. Israel’s religion, on the contrary, provided the liturgical and moral opportunities to respond to God’s personal love and to await a new paradise beyond human possibilities.

The essential difference between Israel’s religion and that of her neighbors helps to explain Israel’s determination that her future must be far superior to anything experienced in the past and that this mysterious development is to be instilled, furthered and finally accomplished by the Lord’s very personal love for His people. Israel’s normal evolution, therefore, was bound to spring many surprises which only afterwards would be perceived in continuity with the country’s previous history!

At important transitions Israel was often shocked into the reality of what God can do: destroy Jerusalem and wipe out the Davidic dynasty, bring an end to such noble institutions as judgeship and prophecy, build a new people out of the catastrophe of the exile and grant unrivaled authority to priests (Neh 8-13; Zech 6:11) and later to the Maccabean-Hasmoneans, a non-Davidic and non-Zadokite family (1 Mac 10:21). Furthermore, all of Israel’s institutions were seen as absorbed into the mystery of God, the Davidic dynasty acquired such honorific titles as “Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5). Wisdom was the Lord’s “firstborn, . . . poured forth at the first, before the earth’’ (Prov 8:22-23). Prophecy was present, standing “in the council of the Lord” (Jer 23: 18).

This basic attitude of the devout Israelite—continuity with overwhelming surprise, leading to a future golden age—meant that all institutions, once taken over from their pagan neighbors, were no longer controlled by a past model ab initio but were open to surprising developments. As we saw earlier, these developments happened within the societal, military and political interlocking of Israel’s life; yet they were interpreted as the mirabilia Dei, God’s wondrous works. Israel, consequently, was able to survive cataclysmic disasters and still trust God.

Her prophet thus enunciated God’s oracle:

See, I am doing something new !
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Is 43:19)

A disciple of this prophet wrote still more excitedly:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, . . . .
While you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for Him. (Is 63: 19; 64:2-3)

Lines such as these ought not to be interpreted simply of Jesus’ incarnation, but rather of what is to happen consistently in Israel’s future which is also ours.

These wonders are not ostentatious impersonal deeds. They center upon the Lord’s intimate presence among a hungry, discouraged people. This concern of the Lord for the needy is very evident in the larger context of Is 63:7-64:11, just quoted.

If we apply this Old Testament model to the question of Catholic priesthood and the ordination of women, the following conclusions emerge for our serious consideration.

First, the church today like Israel in Old Testament times consists of a people on a journey.(40) True, a very important difference separates church and synagogue, in that the fulness of hopes is manifest in Jesus. “He is the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made His own” (Eph 1: 14). Yet, the full details and the perfect blueprint of church structure were not revealed in Jesus’ lifetime nor during the apostolic era. This fact is apparent in Paul’s struggles for the acceptance of Gentile converts and for church unity (cf., Gal; 1-2 Cor). The same openness to future re-structuring becomes evident in the significant transition to a more monarchical form immediately after the close of New Testament writings. The Catholic Church, moreover, has modified the functions of sacred orders, has totally dropped such an important New Testament order as “prophet,” and has granted extraordinary power to non-biblical offices like patriarch and cardinal. Again, the evolutionary journey of ordained priesthood to include women would follow this theology of a migrant church.

Second, throughout the Bible as in any world culture continuity provides a most valuable ingredient for survival and development. Yet, within Israel’s continuity, dramatic transitions occurred, so overpowering that at their first announcement by the prophets, not even the major religious authorities understood and accepted the message (Jer 7:26) and the prophets themselves were baffled (Jer 12: 1-5) and terrified (Jer 4: 1921). Such threatening oracles and fearful experiences turned out to be the only way continuity was possible, at least continuity worthy of God’s ideals.

Today the Church needs to consider how to enrich her tradition by new movements as the ordination of women. True, many members of the Church will respond negatively, as though sacred traditions were being violated and cultural patterns upset. Their reactions must be taken into consideration on the very principle being discussed here of God’s loving concern for each of His people. Nonetheless, traumatic upset in one part of the Church is not necessarily a proof of God’s displeasure. Furthermore, one of the qualities of intimate love is to take the loved one by surprise! Religiously to live by faith means an availability to God s secret wonders. “Those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength” (Is 40:31). At this hour when women have proven their effective leadership in many parts of the secular sphere, the Church is obliged by biblical precedent to open leadership roles to them and to await the wonder and the surprise of such a move.

Third, we saw that God directed the development of biblical tradition through a prophetic concern for the poor and oppressed “minorities.” Most of Israel’s spectacular changes were announced as a necessary response to oppression: Moses’ leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt; the prophetic oracles leveled against Jerusalem because the “orphan” and the “widow" were mistreated (Is 1:16). Today “women” constitute one of the oppressed minorities. If the Church cannot move to visible leadership in furthering the full and equal rights of women in all areas of church authority, other prophets will raise the alarm and summon the invader (Jer 4:5ff).

Finally, if the church combines a strong piety towards the person of Jesus with her prophetic rage to defend the oppressed, then she will be able to direct and purify any new developments like women ordination. In fact, the church’s experience will provide respectability to the prophetic movement; her traditions will modify excesses and best of all her continuous concern for all the oppressed will prevent this movement from hurting anyone within the church.


Our study now turns to the history of Old Testament priesthood.(41) Not much is gained for our purposes here from presenting ancient facts within their ancient setting, but it will be beneficial to observe how divine revelations about priesthood were seriously modified in later periods. The church may find a model here in the Old Testament for authorizing important changes in what was considered up till now a divine order to restrict priesthood to the male sex.

In the Old Testament the differences between one age to another in revealed doctrine could be very pronounced. An unguarded reader might even charge the Bible guilty of error or at least of contradicting itself, if he or she did not appreciate the close relation of biblical revelation with world culture and its adaptation to new cultural situations. Even when earlier inspired texts seemed to have closed the case and ended theological development—i.e., that the Davidic dynasty would reign always from Jerusalem (2 Sam 7:16) — still new changes were sanctioned by the authority of God’s word. These alterations were eventually absorbed within tradition and seen in continuity with the past. One of the stylistic ways to regroup under tradition was the genealogical tablet.(42)

These tablets of names (43) served a much wider purpose than to follow biological origins. They could substantiate some major political or sociological changes, as when the Kenizzites, originally non-Israelites from the line of Esau (Gen 36:11, 15) were absorbed within the tribe of Judah, son of Esau’s twin brother, Jacob, and given full rights.(44) The table of nations in Gen 10 served a political and religious purpose: the fulfillment of God’s promise to Noah and his sons, “be fertile and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1), viewed Israel’s salvation “exclusively within the realm of history," (450 a history reflecting the crucial political period “between the end of the eighth and the end of the seventh centuries.” (46)

Historical events, then, as described in the Bible, become carriers of a profound pastoral theology closely linked with peoples’ needs and hopes. We propose to look at the complicated history of Old Testament priesthood in order to clarify the theology and to draw parallels for theological development within Catholic priesthood today.

As mentioned already, Moses presided over the formation of civil and religious institutions. He bestowed special privileges upon his own tribe of Levi. up till then under a curse for its violence and betrayal of trust (cf., Gen 49:5-7); Levi was to be principally responsible for teaching and for conducting liturgical ceremonies (cf., Deut 33:8-11).(47) After Moses’ death, these “Mushite” Levites,(48) as scholars refer to them in distinction from others who were later admitted to the ranks of Levi, were in charge of the sanctuary at Shiloh in central Palestine and cared for the Ark of the Covenant (Judg 20:27-28; 1 Sam 1-4).

It was more normal for religious duties to be confided to the Levites, but non-Levites could and did function as priests (Judg 17:5; 1 Sam 7:1; 2 Sam 8:18). It was due to politics and military might that David’s sons performed priestly acts (2 Sam 9:18), that David and his successors after the conquest of Jerusalem assumed the title of the former Jebusite king of that city, “Priest forever according to the order of Melichizedek,” that Solomon sacrificed at the most renowned high place of Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4). In fact, throughout the books of 2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings, the kings were superior to the levites installed by Moses and could take their place on very special occasions.(49)

David named two high priests: Abiathar, representing the Mushite Levites who were direct heirs of the Mosaic traditions and the Ark; and Zadok, formerly a Jebusite priest who converted to the worship of Yahweh and was representative of the southern group (2 Sam 8:17; 20:25).(50) David similarly installed two commanders-in-chief, Joab in charge of the northern troops with closer ties to Moses, and Benaiah in charge of the Cherethites and Pelethites, people with fragile ties to Moses. Upon his accession to the throne, Solomon removed the northerners Joab and Abiathar, who unfortunately had sided with the losing contender, Adonijah. At Solomon’s orders, Adonijah and Joab were executed and the priest Abiathar was exiled from the Jerusalem court and sent to live at Anathoth (1 Kings 1:5-8, 38-39; 2:24-25, 26-27, 33-35; cf., Jer 1:1).

From the death of Solomon in 922 B.C. till the destruction of Samaria in 721 B-C., the tribes were divided into two kingdoms, with the Zadokite priests (originally non-Israelites) in charge of religious functions in the southern Kingdom of Judah, and with Mushite and non-Mushite Levites functioning in various sanctuaries of the northern kingdom of Israel. After 721 B.C., all religious and civil life was concentrated around Jerusalem. During the reform of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.) the northern or Mushite Levites regained some power at Jerusalem, but the reform and the Levites’ respectability collapsed at the king’s tragic death.

During the Babylonian exile (587-539 B.C.) remnants of the two rival priesthoods each drew up plans for Israel’s return to the Holy Land and the revival of their own religious institutions. One of these documents is located in the final draft or redaction of Deuteronomy; the other is found in what is called the “Priestly’’ or “P” tradition.

Deuteronomy very explicitly defends the equal rights of all levites to religious services:

When a levite goes from one of your communities anywhere in Israel in which he ordinarily resides, to visit, as his heart may desire, the place which the Lord chooses, he may minister there in the name of the Lord, his God, like all his fellow Levites who are in attendance there before the Lord. He shall then receive the same portions to eat as the rest, along with his monetary offerings and heirlooms. (Deut 18 6-8).

Not only is the part-time levite granted full liturgical privileges at the sanctuary, but he may also support his family from the “stipends,” portions of the animal and grain sacrifices and other monetary gifts.

Ezekiel, on the other hand, sided with the Zadokite priests; in fact, he himself as a priest belonged to their ranks (Ez 1:1). As a venerable leader around whom the elders gathered (Ez 10:1; 14:1), he threw all his weight into the statement: “These are the Zakokites, the only Levites who may come near to minister to the Lord” (Ez 40:46; cf., 43: 19). Then he laid down the law which reversed the position in Deuteronomy and reduced the other levites to menial roles of “minor orders”:

But as for the Levites who departed from me when Israel strayed from me to pursue their idols, they shall bear the consequences of their sin. They shall serve in my sanctuary as gate keepers and temple servants; they shall slaughter the holocausts and the sacrifices for the people, and they shall stand before the people to minister for them.... They shall no longer draw near me to serve as my priests, nor shall they touch any of my sacred things. (Ez 44:10-11, 13)

The final words of this passage deprived these other levites even of their “stipend.” To clear the records, the Zadokite priests were equally guilty of idolatry, as Ezekiel admitted in ch 8-10.

Though the development is complex, the main lines ought to be clear. Zadokites, once not even followers of Moses, became co-equal in the priestly office with the other levites. Under the strong influence of Ezekiel, they became Levites with a capital “L” and all the others were reduced to a small “1" as levites!

Many conclusions emerge not only about the interaction of priestly leadership with world forces and internal politics, but also about the process of divine revelation.

First, history witnesses to a distinct but complicated evolution, at times of revolutionary force (David’s conquest of Jerusalem, and the establishment of his dynasty, the adoption of the Zadokites as levitical priests and the construction of the temple), yet in retrospect these actions were recognized in a line of continuity with Moses. Notice David’s concern to house the Ark at Jerusalem (1 Sam 6). Conflict constituted a major ingredient of theological development. (51)

Second, out of the convoluted interaction of religion and politics, of world culture and biblical faith, of good and bad motives, God’s word was born and revelation recorded.

Third, a wide variety of priestly styles are noticeable. Levites were preferred to lead religious functions, but non-Levites would be chosen, at times temporarily for the task, particularly if they were gifted for liturgical ceremonies and for teaching. Levites in the northern Kingdom often had secular jobs and exercised priesthood only on special occasions when they went up to the sanctuary “as their heart may desire” (Deut 18:6). Evidently levites were not automatically chosen but had to prove themselves.

Fourth, while none of the levites possessed landed property,(52) those at Jerusalem were much more securely ensconced under the king’s good pleasure and vigilance.

Fifth, Israel’s priesthood reacted sensitively to cultural changes and political conflicts ending up with a decision interpreted as “divine revelation. ”

Just as the patristic age of the church drew rules and expectations from Old Testament priesthood, especially as it functioned in the late postexilic age, and applied these qualities to the Catholic priest, we, too, in this our age of the church can find support and guidance from the same Old Testament in our search for God’s will in the pastoral development of priesthood. The absorption of Zadokites and other non-levites into levitical priesthood would undergird a development towards women-priests and certainly countenance a much larger ministerial role to women This new change would provide an opportunity to reconsider other options, such as part-time priests with secular jobs, occasional functions in priestly work, a more democratic form of exercising priestly and episcopal authority. This suggestion asks that priesthood be modeled less upon the authoritarian Zadokites of postexilic Jerusalem (where the patristic age garnered ideas) and more upon the levites of the preexilic northern kingdom (where the New Testament disciples of Jesus turned).(53)

These new visions of priesthood would correspond to the determination of most women, who in their call to priesthood, want to create new models and life styles rather than duplicate what is being done now by men priests.


Priesthood in both Old and New Testament times functioned within a world of symbolism. The entire sacramental system of the Church, as mentioned already, unites the assembly with God through symbols like bread and wine, water and oil. This focal position of symbol is recognized by the Roman Declaration in its study on women ordination. Its strongest argument—at least in the mind of its authors—and certainly its most extensive discussion is based on sacramental symbolism. “Sacramental signs,” here it is quoting from St. Thomas, “represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” The document immediately concludes that “this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister” would be violated “if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man” (sec. v).

Because of its importance the question of symbol is discussed from many angles in this book. Here we inquire into the Old Testament and test the position of the Declaration on “natural resemblance” against the style of symbolism in the Holy Scriptures before Christ. In the Old Testament symbols were formed from the elements of earth and human life. They emerged from decisive events like the exodus out of Egypt, the journey through the desert and the crossing of the Jordan River. Symbols included the world of people like Moses, David and Solomon. Stories like Noah’s flood and Jonah’s voyage in the belly of the whale take on the status of a continuing symbol, like the Shakespearean character Macbeth. Every symbol began with something or someone so real and so impressive, that people began to see in them all sorts of meaning and power. In some cases, like Noah’s flood, the reality is difficult to recover from all the stories that have been told about it in the ancient Near East.

For people, events and things to develop into symbols, they must be contemplated in the depth of their existence and then that hidden meaning be expressed in a striking way, charged with emotion. This expression, now become symbol, may take its “parent’’ by surprise. Symbols are thus born out of the past but project mysterious signals of the future. They exemplify parts of our discussion in section two of this chapter. As many people together contemplate the exodus or the bread and wine, new depths of meaning are perceived, inner union achieved, challenges given, the decisions made. These conclusions may be very subconscious intertwined with will, emotions, memory and desires; as a result deep contemplative responses are evoked.(54)

The Old Testament adds another important quality to its symbols, which will be considerably important in our treatment of women priests. In the Hebrew Bible it is possible that one set of symbols abound with items which clash with one another. Especially in the apocalyptic books like Zechariah and Daniel ch 7-12, but also in an incipient way with Ezekiel ch 1, the composite symbol becomes so weird that we cannot possibly imagine it, all at one time. Each item must be taken separately for what it is worth: eyes = visions; wheels = mobility; wings = swift flight; bull = strength; lion = royal power. Clothing, color, numbers, celestial bodies and bodily limbs, each has a distinct communication. Yet, they can be meshed together in one cacophonous conflict of parts to symbolize the mystery of God beyond human language and even beyond human symbols!

At times the clash of symbols may so disturb us, that like the prophet Ezekiel we fall exhausted upon our face (Ez 2:1). At other times the dissonance is more subtle, as in the prophecy of Hosea. In ch 2-3 the prophet focuses attention upon a sexual symbol which portrayed the Lord Yahweh as Israel’s spouse. The New Testament follows with the example of Jesus who compared himself to a bridegroom in his loving and joyful presence with his disciples (Matt 9:15). This image of Christ as spouse of the church is developed in 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:9; 22:17. The Declaration refers to this symbol in order to explain the exclusion of the female sex from priesthood. It insists, as we saw at the beginning of this section III, upon the “natural resemblance” of all priests to Jesus’ male sexuality, for they act in persona Christi.(55)

Hosea’s symbol was drawn from the experience of his marriage, in particular from the infidelity of his wife. Chapters 1-3 develop this image at length, with emotional eruptions, profound dejection, vaulting hopes, poignant tragedy. So acutely did Hosea experience the violent swings of emotional response, that we almost lose sight of the symbolic value and think only of his personal tragedy. Chapter two introduces the religious application, sometimes very quickly as in v 15 (“and she forgot me, says the Lord”), at other times explicitly as in the mention of Egypt, the valley of Achor and the covenant (v 17, 20-22).

From this heartbreaking matrimonial context there was born that rich symbol of Yahweh, Spouse of Israel. Israel is the adulterous wife, again and again violating the Lord’s love, yet always received back again. Israel then is cast in a female image. In the use of this image, however, the Prophet directs his complaint against the priests and here comes the clash of images—from female harlot to male priest. “With you is my grievance, O priests.” “They sin against me, exchanging their glory for shame. They feed on the sin of my people.” This account reminds us of prostitution where money is made off of sex. Hosea declares God’s verdict, again with sexual allusions:

I will punish them for their ways ....
They shall eat and not be satisfied,
they shall play the harlot but not increase.
Because they have abandoned the Lord to practise harlotry.

Hosea saw the image or symbol of his harlot wife fulfilled in the male priests. There is no question here of homosexuality nor of any sexual offence. Hosea listed other crimes in ch 4. The priests are “adulterous wives” because of their excessive wealth, their reliance upon clout, their lax religious spirit, their routine liturgies. Several times in ch 4 and 5 Hosea moved from female to male without explanation or transition. Images in the Old Testament can clash that way.

Other, important examples of such turbulent transfers of images can be seen in the Old Testament. For instance, “tabernacle” can signify the “home” or protection which God provided for Israel in the desert or in the agricultural land of Canaan (Deut 16:13-17). Later it signified the home which Israel made for God, the temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 8). Subsequently, the Jerusalem temple began to symbolize the messianic home which Israel offers to all the peoples of the earth (Is 2:1-4: Zech 14). In the New Testament tabernacle means the human body of Jesus (John 2:21), the church (Luke 24:50-53), or heaven (Rev 21:2).56 This enduring and significant symbol never preserved “a natural resemblance” to its original form of a desert tent. Even the principal agents change roles, so that sometimes God, at other times human beings raise up the tabernacle.

This biblical background to symbol cuts against the position in the Declaration about “natural resemblance.” The symbolic representation of Jesus, spouse of the Church, must preserve and communicate not only the intimate union of life and the fertile reproduction of life, but it must as well manifest that aura of mystery and conflict involved in such intimacy. It seems that if the necessity of “natural resemblance” is pushed to its extreme, then the symbol of Hosea’s marriage would require that Jesus himself and all priests not only be married but also be victimized by unfaithful wives! The same ultimate need of “natural resemblance” would exclude the saints from the church (which is the adulterous spouse), implicitly deny Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and correspond best with that false theological system which emphasizes the corrupt nature of all flesh.

Furthermore, an over-emphasis upon “natural resemblance” distorts other basic qualities inherent in good symbolism. Symbols almost always transcend their origin and take their parents by surprise. They are born from the past but point to the future. If priesthood must remain the prerogative of the male sex because of a natural resemblance to Jesus’ male sexuality as spouse of the church, then priesthood may fail to point in a striking way to the future where there will “not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female” (Gal 3:28).

In heaven each of the elect will certainly maintain a line of continuity with their earthly personality, grounded in male or female sexuality. Yet heavenly sexuality will be such that “they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30). They will express their intimate love for one another in a way infinitely more ecstatic than ever on earth. These heavenly realities of love can be glimpsed not only in the symbolic banquet of the Eucharist which exceeds any family dinner on earth (cf., Is 25:6; 54:1-2; Ps 22:72) but also in the priesthood which should transcend the bounds of earthly sexuality.(57)

Biblical symbolism then not only supports an extension of priesthood to women but even seems to encourage it.


The two main areas of Old Testament religion, priesthood and symbolism, discussed in the second and third sections of this chapter ought to be considered integrally together, so that one is not applied to priesthood independently of the other. Secondly, each had its own history or evolution, as did the entire ancient Near East and individual countries within it like Israel.

Within Israel’s long, complicated history, various symbols rose in importance, then declined, each at a different rate in various parts of the country. The symbols of exodus and desert tabernacle were eclipsed by the symbols of the city Jerusalem and its temple in the south at Jerusalem. Biblical symbolism, moreover, not only sustained but even delighted in a clash of images. A major symbol might seem to explode as one image is heaped upon another, yet the awesomeness of God’s way of salvation, its overwhelming and uncontrollable mystery are being communicated. Priesthood, too, must not be tied to any excessive “natural resemblance” but in its unity and variety it must stir contemplative wonder over the mystery of God’s transcendent intimacy with his people. Extending the priesthood to women would follow these biblical norms and accentuate the mysterious presence of Jesus, wondrous spouse of the Church.

The rise, fall and revival of symbols depended upon the political and economic fortunes of Israel and Judah. This close interaction of religious institutions with historical events was also apparent in Part Two of this chapter. The institution of priesthood did not follow a single line of biological descent from the levites and the family of Aaron. Pagan priests like the Zadokites of pre-Davidic Jerusalem were absorbed within the ranks of the levites and eventually became the Levites with capital “L”. Catholic priesthood must also evolve and gather new forms of leadership within its ranks. Women are just now emerging with strong leadership qualities and for this reason should be included in priesthood.

While the second and third sections of this chapter carried the main burden or more specific aspects of the Old Testament focus on women ordination, the first section provided basic orientation. Here the crucial point was discussed that neither in the Bible nor in the Church does divine revelation dictate distinctive styles of leadership. It is not the competence of Bible or Church to create forms of authority; and therefore, it is not godly for either Bible or Church to differ too radically from secular culture in the general lines or styles of leadership. The Church risks repudiating the cultural advance of women in many areas of the world, if she refuses them the right to aspire to the supreme area of leadership, which resides in the priesthood in its various orders. Not to open priesthood to women may imply that their social, political and economic advances elsewhere are ungodly and evil. This serious charge stems from a quality of biblical history where all good forms of leadership and culture were tried and absorbed within the life of Israel.(58)

Israel discerned what forms were good and what forms were bad by the intuition of Yahweh’s personal, compassionate love. This revelation purified and enhanced whatever was accepted within the chosen people. It exercised its influence most vigorously in the preaching of prophets who championed the rights of the poor, the neglected, the “minorities.” Today women constitute such an oppressed minority. In the secular world, prophets are sounding the alarm! Their voice must be heard as well in the ranks of the church. If not, then the Old Testament prophets will cry out again that Jerusalem be destroyed, so that a renewed Holy City rise from the ruins. If the warning is heard and God’s voice obeyed, again something new will evolve without the ordeal of Jerusalem under fire. Prophets do not repeat the past, however good and orthodox that may have been. They challenge it to be better, purer and more reflective of God’s personal love for the poor. Ordination of women might exercise such a profound prophetical impact upon priesthood and church.

Finally, in the prophetic evolution of symbols and institutions, continuity with tradition is maintained yet a fresh and vigorous form is most of all in evidence. Women priests would not simply imitate what the men are doing. They would introduce the priesthood and Eucharistic piety into new areas of ministry, with new styles of action, within neglected and non-evangelized neighborhoods. Women priests will call forth a prophetic spirit within priesthood. They will diversify and enrich its ranks. With a new enthusiasm, they will inspire a wide variety of capable people to join the various types of priesthood, be they religious orders or diocesan groups, male or female.

This Old Testament hope must be tested against the fuller revelation of the light of Christ and the long tradition of the church. This we proceed to do in the following chapters of this book.


1. D. L. Baker, Two Testaments: One Bible (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1976, is valuable for its full bibliography on the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament; its explanations, however, are inadequate. For a critical investigation, see Robert B. Laurin, Contemporary Old Testament Theologians (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1970). For a good practical example, see Elizabeth Achtemeier, The Old Testament and the Proclamation of the Gospel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973) and Lucien Deiss, God's Word and God's People (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1976).

2. The Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith totally ignores the Old Testament except for occasional references. These do not occur in sections 2 and 3, where the Bible is investigated explicitly.

3. Cf., 2 Tim 3:15-16, '“Likewise, from your infancy you have known the sacred Scripture (the Old Testament, for Paul is referring to Timothy's years as a Jew], the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation. All Scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching - for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work.” Also Jesus' words in Matt 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come, not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.... Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part of a letter, shall be done away with until it all comes true. ”

4. Elements of Old Testament priesthood transferred to Christian priesthood were: celibacy (in that the Jewish priest had to be continent while functioning at the altar); perpetual (the Jewish priest was born into the priestly tribe or family and so retained the priestly office perpetually like his birthright); separate caste (again by reason of birth in Old Testament times, and in postexilic times by reason of the theocratic state at Jerusalem); little or no property (for Old Testament references see fn 52).

5. Cf., ch. 8, section 1; also Clarence J.Vox, Woman in Old Testament Worship (Delft: Judels and Brinkman, 1968); J. Edgar Bruns, God as Woman, Woman as God (New York: Paulist, 1973); J. de Fraine, Women of the Old Testament (DePere, Wisc: St. Norbert Abbey Press, 1968); A. Feuillet, “La dignité et le role de la femme d'aprés quelques textes pauliniens: comparison avec l'Ancien Testament,” New Testament Studies 21 (1974/ 75) 157-91.

6. The difficulties of transposing biblical sentences and ideas to our twentieth century world are eloquently described by D. Nineham, The Use and Abuse of the Bible (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1977) ch 1 “Introduction: Cultural Change and Cultural Relativism.” Unfortunately, Nineham fails to answer his serious problem, principally because he overlooks the ongoing presence of Israel and Church where biblical traditions are continuously reinterpreted and where liturgical worship grants an important role of symbolism. The Report of the Biblical Commission on the ordination of women admits in its introductory section: “The question asked (Can Women be Priests?) touches on the priesthood, the celebrant of the eucharist and the leader of the local community. This is a way of looking at things which is somewhat foreign to the Bible.”

7. The Report of the Biblical Commission plainly states its own difficulty: “Yet one question must still always be asked: What is the normative value which should be accorded to the practice of the Christian communities of the first centuries?"

8. Writers like Hans Küng leave the impression that the ideal form of Church order is that of 1-2 Corinthians since it's closer to Jesus' lifetime, while the church administration according to the pastoral epistles represents a later less perfect form. The earliest forms are not necessarily purer and closer to the will of Jesus but represent one model among others from which the church of any age can draw upon for its own effective pastoral ministry.

9. Cf, Vatican II, Dei Verbum (Apostolic Constitution on Divine Revelation), ch 2 no 8, ''This tradition (expressed in a special way in the inspired books) which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51), through the intimate understanding of spiritual things they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her."

10. The date 1943 marks the issuance of Pius XII's encyclical magna carta on biblical studies, Divino Afflante Spiritu. It should be pointed out that the three most important documents on the Bible come from Pius XII and from Paul VI. Under the latter's pontificate, Vatican II's Constitution on Divine Revelation was released. Earlier, on April 21, 1964, in the first year after his election, he approved an Instruction on the Historical Truth of the Gospels certainly reflecting the most up-to-date scientific study on the formation of the gospels.

11. The Declaration confined itself almost exclusively to the theological question of women ordination. Because the Bible itself is primarily a pastoral document and because here lies the principal competency of the church and magisterium, the Declaration would have been more convincing had it addressed itself to the readiness of the church for this type of change in priesthood and the effect of such upon the sanctifying mission of church leaders.

12. Because Roman Catholic priesthood is closely connected with sacramental and especially eucharistic liturgies, the proper understanding of symbols is crucial. Sac raments are invalid, if symbols are broken (i.e., to use milk instead of water for baptism); they can be valid and yet productive of little good if the symbolism is poorly expressed (i.e., to administer the Eucharist with haste and anger, or to fail in integrating the Eucharist with the liturgy of the Word).

13. On this point, our study differs from a statement in the Declaration, sec. 6, par. 35: ''Thus one must note the extent to which the Church is a society different from other societies, original in her nature and in her structures." — The position of this chapter, that basic styles of leadership were not immediately revealed by God but were found pre-existing among neighboring peoples is substantiated by the classic study of Roland de Vaux, O.P., Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), available in a two-volume paperback. The French title indicates the subject matter more accurately: Les Institutions de L'Ancien Testament.

14. G. von Rad, Genesis (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973) 175, writes: "This chapter contains some of the most difficult and most debated material in the patriarchal history, indeed, in the entire historical part of the Old Testament." At first it seems that this chapter can be removed from the book of Genesis and the entire narrative proceeds even more smoothly. Yet, many of its details have been corroborated in the startling discoveries at Ebla in NW Syria according to an oral report of Mitchell Dahood at the annual convention of the Catholic Biblical Association, Detroit Michigan, August 16-19, 1977.

15. Cf., Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms, 2 ed (New York: Alba House, 1974) 358.

16. Cf., J. A. Fitzmyer, "Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11," JBL 86(1967) 25-41.

17. Cf., David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1973).

18. For the difficulties of the transition from the leadership of the judges to that of royalty, difficulties which are reflected as well in the complex text of 1 Samuel with its pro- and anti-monarchic texts, see J. Blenkinsopp in the New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (New York: Nelson 1969) p 305-7; or W. Wifall, The Court History of Israel (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1975) 21; H. W. Hertzberg, I & 11 Samuel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964) 71.

19. An exceptionally brilliant account how God's will was achieved in a human situation as convoluted as a Russian novel is presented by G. von Rad, ''The Beginnings of Historical Writing in Ancient Israel,'' The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966) 166-204.

20 ..We note the traumatic problem of the late royal period, experienced particularly by the prophets: were the promises about David and Jerusalem unconditional? Could Jerusalem possibly be destroyed? While Isaiah 1-39 holds for its inviolability, Jeremiah held that it could collapse as did Shiloh (Jer 26; 7).

21. .In Is 11, the prophet finally admitted that God could cut down the Davidic dynasty, so that nothing is left but a hidden root (Jesse, David's father). Eventually God would send the Spirit so that new life would appear as a tender shoot.

22. Cf., R. E. Murphy, ''Introduction to Wisdom Literature,'' Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewoods Cliff, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968) ch 28, n 4; H. Duesberg and I. Fransen, Les Scribes Inspires, 2 ed (Belgium: Editions de Maredsous, 1966) 15-95. William McKane, Proverbs (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970) 51-208 on "International Wisdom."

23. As examples, see 2 Sam 12:11; 21:1; Ez 20:25-26; cf., W.Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967) Vol II, p 153-4; P. van ImSchoot, Theology of the Old Testament (New York: Desclee, 1965) 106-7.

24. Cf., R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, Vol I, p 7-8.

25. A similar tradition, attributing the order of elders directly to God, is given in Deut 1:9-18.

26. Cf., Acts 11:3; 14:23; ch 15-16; 1 Tim 5:17, 19; Jam 5:14.

27. Archbishop William Borders' pastoral letter, August 19, 1977, stated very succinctly the principal thesis of our chapter: "Every faith community in each period of history must understand the mission of Christ and his message in relationship to its culture and age. Yet the church must grow and therefore change. As an instrument of the Holy Spirit, the church proclaims, protects and penetrates the truth of the Father's revelation; but never in any formulation will the church express the totality of revealed truth. The church must speak within a cultural pattern so that eternal truths are expressed within the confinement of space and time. The church penetrates and modifies an existing culture but does not substitute another for it. The church accepts what is good in all cultures. It tries to change those things which wound the lives of people, becoming, as Jesus challenged us to be, a leaven for society" Origins NC Documentary Service 7 (Sept. 1, 1977) 168. We have developed these ideas at greater length in Thirsting for the Lord (New York: Alba House, 1977), especially in ch 17 "The Process of Humanization.''

28. We attempt to compare these two styles of prophetical action in "Prophecy in Israel,'' Perspectives on Charismatic Renewal, ed. by Edward D. O'Connor (University of Notre Dame Press: 1975) 13-35. The emergence of charismatic leadership within the Church today is discussed in this book by Dennis J. Geaney (ch 11) and by Alcuin Coyle (ch 12).

29. This name, "classical prophet," was established by W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961) Vol I, p. 338.

30. An important book, linking prophecy with Israel's traditions and law, is by Richard V. Bergren, The Prophets and the Law (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1974).

31. James A. Sanders, "Hermeneutics in True and False Prophecy," Canon and Authority, ed. by G.W. Coats & B.O. Long (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977) 31.

32. i.e., oracles against the nations (1:3-2:16), each introduced by ''For three crimes . . . and for four, I will not revoke my word"; two series of thirteen oracles each (3:1-5:9 & 5:10-10:14); the visions (7:1-3, 4-6, 7-9; 8:1-3; 9:1-4); another series of four oracles (8:4-14); concluding oracle of destruction and restoration (9:5-15). Each of these subdivisions possesses internal features of well organized structure.

33.Cf., Paul D. Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975); G.W. Ahlström, Joel and the Temple Cult of Jerusalem (Leiden1971)

34. A good exposition, when and how earlier traditions were transmitted, redacted, and given a firm place within Israel's growing "canon" is provided by P. Grelot, "The Formation of the Old Testament," Introduction to the Old Testament, ed. by A. Robert and A. Feuillet (New York: Desclee, 1968) 556-605.

35. Cf., Elizabeth Carroll, "The Proper Place for Women in the Church,'' Women and Catholic Priesthood, ed. by Anne Marie Gardiner (New York: Paulist, 1976) 21-22. This question has already been discussed in ch. 1 of this book.

36. W Eichrodt, op. cit., 206-210, places the intuition of "God as personal" as the basic revelation of God in the old Testament, more crucial for understanding Old Testament theology than any other divine attribute.

37. From this fact there developed the system of types and antitypes, as well as of promise and fulfillment.

38. The element of surprise in Israel's development is expressed in the Hebrew word pith’om, to be translated "suddenly'' or "by surprise." It occurs in Is 48:3 & Mal 3:1.

39. For this insistence upon first creation (i.e., founding of city and temple) and upon the New Year's festival, see my work, Creative Redemption in Deutero-lsaiah (Rome: Pontifical Institute Press, 1970) 74-82. The difference with Israel's religion is presented by R.A.F. MacKenzie, Faith and History in the Old Testament (Minneapolis: 1963).

40. The importance of the exodus or journey motif in the New Testament can be seen in the travel-motif of the gospels, especially of Luke; it constitutes one of the dominant themes in the Epistle to the Hebrews, this time in terms of God's people on a procession towards the Holy of Holies with Jesus at the head already behind the veil (Heb 9:11).

41. Here we depend principally upon the doctoral dissertation, defended before the Pontifical Biblical Commission by Aelred Cody, A History of Old Testament Priesthood (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1969); R. de Vaux, Histoire Ancienne D'lsrael (Paris: Gabalda, 1971); id., Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), in paperback edition, Vol 2, "Religious Institutions"; also James C. Kelly, The Function of Priest in the Old Testament (Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianium, 1973). The first two works include extensive bibliography.

42. Cf., Marshall D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies with Special Reference to the Setting of the Genealogies of Jesus (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969).

43. i e., I Chron 1-9.

44. Cf., R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, Vol I, p 6, "Individuals, too, can be incorporated into a tribe either by adoption into a family . . . or through acceptance by the sheikh or the elders. Even here the principle is safeguarded, for the newcomer is attached 'in name and in blood' to the tribe; this means that he acknowledges the tribe's ancestor as his own, that he will marry within the tribe and raise up his family inside it. The Arabs say that he is 'genealogized' (root: nasaba). With a whole clan the fusion takes longer, but the result is the same, and the newcomers are finally considered as being of the same blood.''

45. G. von Rad, Genesis, 2 ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972) 145.

46. A. Clamer, La Genèse (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1953) 224.

47. Even a cursory reading of Gen 49:5-7 and Deut 33:8-11 will manifest two pronouncedly different attitudes towards Levi. Gen 49 reflects not only the earlier curse and displacement suffered by Levi but also the later jealousy towards its priestly privileges in the southern kingdom of Judah.

48. Cf., R. de Vaux. Ancient Israel, Vol II, p 370-1.

49. Although royalty performed liturgical acts, they were seldom called "priests," probably because the hebrew word for priest, kohen, means "to serve."

50. The Jebusite origin of Zadok is defended by A. Cody, op. cit., 88-93.

51. Sebastian MacDonald in ch 9 of this book will explain the role of "conflict" in theological development.

52. Cf., Deut 12:12; 14:27, 29; 18:1-2; Num 18:20; Josh 13:33; Ps 16.

53. Cf., David M. Stanley, ''Conception of Salvation in Primitive Christian Preaching,'' CBQ 18 (July, 1956) 231-254; J. Schmitt, ''L'Eglise de Jérusalem ou la Restauration d'Israël d'après Act 1-5," Recherches de Science Religieuse 27 (1953) 209-18.

54. These ideas of symbol are drawn from my introduction, written for Joan Schaupp, Woman, Image of the Holy Spirit (Denville, N.J.: Dimension Books, 1975). Cf., Thomas Fawrett, The Symbolic Language of Religion (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1971); L. L. Mitchell, The Meaning of Ritual (New York: Paulist, 1977); Cyprian Vagaggini, Theological dimensions of the Liturgy (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1977). Symbolism is discussed from a liturgical viewpoint by Ralph Keifer (ch. 7) and from the psychodynamic aspect by Thomas More Newbold (ch. 10), in this book.

55. Cf., Declaration, sec. 5, par. 25-33.

56. An important Hebrew word for temple, miskan, etymologically means "desert tent." After the settlement in the Holy Land it was reserved for the liturgical tent or temple. Only in the very late postexilic age did it revert back to signify secular homes. In any case, the original natural form was not preserved (desert tent) but its original significance (God's providing for his people) was maintained. Cf., Frank M. Cross, Jr., "The Priestly Tabernacle," Biblical Archaeologist 10 (1947) 45-68, reprinted in The Biblical Archaeologist Reader 1 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961) 201-228.

57. This statement about heaven's breaking the bounds of earthly sexuality can be directed towards the importance of a celibate presence within the priesthood on earth. Earthly symbolism must point to the heavenly. This symbolism too must be maintained but not at too high a cost for preserving "natural resemblance," because "virginity" undergoes its own transcendent history in the Bible. For instance in Rev 14:4, all the elect must be adults, male and virgins, if natural resemblance is insisted upon. The text reads: hoi meta gunaikon ouk emolunthesan, parthenoi gar eisin; a very literal translation is: "these are the men who have never been defiled with women, for they are virgins.'' Because "virgins" and "defilement" must be taken figuratively, so as to stir serious thought and application among all the faithful, the symbolic expression in the church must avoid excessive literalism or extreme forms of "natural resemblance."

58. Cf., Phil 4:8, ". . . your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise."

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