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What may we read into Jesus’ omitting women from the apostolic twelve?

The answer is: nothing!

Rome maintains that this omission was a deliberate act by Jesus. For his openness to women shows that he did not yield to social opinions of the time. Read the official text here.
So by this omission Jesus established a permanent norm. It barred women from ordination for all time to come. Read the official text here.

To be able to judge the meaning of the Scripture texts in questions such as these, we need to be aware of two principles:
1. the difference between the ‘literal’ meaning and the ‘literalist’ meaning;
2. how ‘literary forms’ should be taken into account.

Now, the omission of a woman from the twelve is a non-fact. The NON-FACT of Jesus not having chosen women among the twelve apostles does not prove that he decided against them for ever.

We should also remember that Jesus, though the incarnate Son of God, was also human. We may not read the Gospels without taking this background picture into account.

  • Jesus possessed many of our human limitations. Click here!
  • He had to learn and discover new things as we have to do. He shared the knowledge and the ignorance of his contemporaries. Only in that way did he become truly like us. Click here!
  • Like all of us, Jesus had to grow in character, maturity and the understanding of his own mission. Click here!
  • We can, therefore, understand that Jesus did not and could not solve all the important questions that would face his Church in the future, such as the inclusion of women in the ministry. Click here!

On the other hand, by his words and deeds Jesus had expressed the full equality of women, a principle that implied their inclusion in the future ministry.

Read also: “The twelve apostles were men - -” by Ida Raming, Orientierung 56 (1992) pp. 143-146.

The answer is therefore: the omission of women from the apostolic twelve proves nothing. Jesus’ radically including women in his general priesthood implies that they should be included in his ministerial priesthood.

You shall take a male and female of each species  .  .  .

If you have questions at any stage, please, let me know. Click on the envelope and send me an email!Drop me a line!

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis 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.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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