Case study on Matthew 10,1-4; Mark 3,16-19 and Luke 6,13-16
"He went up into the hills and called to him those
he had chosen. They came to him. He appointed twelve to be with him and to be
sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons:
Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the
son of Zebedee and his brother John whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is sons of
thunder; Andrew, Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas, and James, the
son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot who
According to conservative authorities in
the Catholic Church this original call is normative for the future ministry of
bishops, priests and deacons. Since no women were present among the original
twelve, women have been excluded from these ministries by Jesus himself, they
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There are simple reasons to explain why
Jesus did not include women among the original group of twelve
Jesus chose the number twelve to indicate that with
this new group of 'patriarchs' God is starting the new Israel announced by the
prophets. Men would fit more appropriately into this role since the original
tribal leaders were all men.
Since this was the beginning of Jesus' ministry, it
would be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to break with the ancient
Jewish tradition that ascribed all leadership functions to men.
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Though a small group of women joined Jesus' traveling
band later (Luke 8,1-3), in this initial stage it was not practical to mix men
and women. Available accommodation and social custom would have made this very
Conclusion: The absence of a woman among
the apostolic twelve does not need to have any lasting significance.
The call of the twelve apostles is not
normative for all times in all its details. Many important elements of the
original call have been abandoned in the course of time.
Five of these original features will be highlighted
1. There were twelve of them.
This was crucial. The 12 apostles signalled a new beginning
for the 12 tribes of Israel. They respresented the New Israel prophesied by the
After Jesus' death, the apostles take pains to appoint a
successor to Judas to fill up the number (Acts 1,15-26). But soon after that,
as new leaders were needed in many early church communities,
the number twelve was abandoned.
2. Their call was based on a personal selection by
Again, after Jesus' death, Peter tries to make up for this
when choosing a successor to Judas. After selecting two candidates, the final
decision is reached by casting lots, implying that the final decision was
ultimately God's. Paul's ordination as an apostle took place after an
intervention by local prophets in Antioch (Acts 13,1-3).
However, quite soon the selection of new
candidates was made by leaders and members of the communities themselves (Acts
3. The apostles received power to drive out unclean
spirits and cure the sick.
This new authority of the apostles was a distinguishing mark
of their ministry. They were specifically sent out to drive out demons and cure
sick people so that their preaching would be more easily believed.
Although the Acts of the Apostle still mentions such
miracles being performed by Peter and Paul, the driving
out of demons and curing of the sick are not maintained as part of the later
4. All the twelve apostles belonged to the Jewish
This is clear from their names and the origins indicated for
some of them. Their being Jewish was also important since they were the 12 new
'patriarchs' of Israel. Jesus' first injuction to the twelve was: "Go nowhere
among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans. Rather go to the lost
sheep of the house of Israel".
However, being Jewish was dropped as a
requirement for the ministry.
5. The apostles were free men.
The twelve were fishermen and craftsmen, but they were free.
Jesus did not include a slave among them, or even someone who had been a slave.
In the later Church also former slaves were
admitted to the ordained ministries.
Conclusion: Five important features of the
call of the twelve apostles were later dropped in Church practice. Why should
the fact that all the twelve were male constitute a permanent
The absence of a woman among the original
twelve is a purely negative fact. Negative facts prove nothing as other Gospel
Sandals as worn in the time of the apostles
1. Mode of travel
Jesus ordered his apostles to travel as the poor did. No worse, as
the poorest of the poor did: barefoot.
"Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper coins in your belt, no bag
for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff!" Matthew
10,9-10; see Luke 10,4
These injuctions were taken seriously. Mark mentions that Jesus
relaxed them regarding sandals and a walking stick:
" . . . nothing for your journey except a staff; no bag, no
food, no money in your belts; you may wear sandals but not two tunics."
Jesus rode on a donkey at times, but did not ride on horseback
(Matthew 21,1-7). He would cross the lake of Galilee in a
Jesus does NOT, repeat NOT, mention the modern
modes of travel like cars, buses and airplanes. He does NOT mention suitcases,
wallets and travellers' cheques. How can bishops and priests today presume to
use such modern modes and tools of travel?!!
2. The 'blessed sacrament' in a tabernacle
At the last supper, while instituting the eucharistic meal, Jesus
"Take and eat, all of you!" Matthew 26,26 (Mark
14,22; Luke 22,19) "Drink of this, all of you!" Matthew
26,27 (Mark 14,23; Luke 22,20)
Jesus did NOT, repeat NOT, say that the
eucharistic bread and wine could be preserved to take communion to the sick;
and certainly not that it could be kept in a tabernacle for worship. How could
the Church presume to adopt such practices?!!
3. The language used in the liturgy.
Jesus spoke his mother tongue: Aramaic. For instance, he taught us
the prayer we call the 'Our Father', saying very clearly: "Pray like this!"
Matthew 6,9; Luke 11,2
To hear what the original prayer sounds like, click on the video
When Jesus said: "you shall pray like this", he
did NOT, repeat NOT, indicate that translations would be permitted. How could
generations of Christians until this day have presumed to say the Our Father in
their own languages?
Conclusion: Examples like this could be
If the negative norm of Jesus NOT having
said or done something explicitly is taken to imply a permanent decision, many
legitimate later decisions by the Church are totally invalid.
In the same way, stating that the absence of
women from the original twelve constitutes a permanent norm makes no sense.
The original call of the twelve was
not normative in the sense that it laid down all the requirements and features
of the ministries instituted by Jesus:
The Early Church soon dropped many of the restrictions implied
in the original call: the number 12, personal selection by Jesus, the power to
heal the sick, Jewish descent and free status - see the Second Observation
Jesus sent 'seventy-two disciples' on another occasion (Luke
At the Last Supper - also seen as normative - when Jesus
commissioned his disciples: "Do this in memory of me", women too were present
and thus received that same commission.
The Church ordained women through a full sacramental
ordination, showing thereby that Jesus had not excluded women from ordination.
For all these reasons we can
be absolutely sure that the absence of women from the apostolic twelve did not
constitute a permanent norm by which women are excluded from ordination.