Is the Church a Patriarchy?


The 12 male Apostles and the ones they ordained were the “institutional church” in the first century. Is that also a sad fact?


“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
—St. Ignatius of Antioch, Doctor of the Church, Letter to the Smyrnaeans , Ch 8

This saint was early enough to have been a child when Our Lord was in his public ministry. That’s how far back this goes. To imply that the people can be separated from their bishop is simply wrong, incorrect in both fact and in sentiment.

( Ignatius of Antioch, Saint, also called Theophorus ( o Theophoros ); b. in Syria, c. the year 50; d. at Rome between 98 and 117. More than one of the earliest ecclesiastical writers have given credence, though apparently without good reason, to the legend that Ignatius was the child whom the Savior took up in His arms, as described in Mark, 9:35. It is also believed, and with great probability, that, with his friend Polycarp, he was among the auditors of the Apostle St. John. If we include St. Peter, Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch and the immediate successor of Evodius (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.”, II, iii, 22, Migne, P.G., L). Theodoret (“Dial. Immutab.”, I, iv, 33a, Paris, 1642) is the authority for the statement that St. Peter appointed Ignatius to the See of Antioch. St. John Chrysostom lays special emphasis on the honor conferred upon the martyr in receiving his episcopal consecration at the hands of the Apostles themselves (“Hom. in St. Ig.”, IV, 587, Migne, P.G.). Natalis Alexander quotes Theodoret to the same effect (III, xii, art. xvi, p. 53).


No, not a sad fact… a fact based strong cultural norm 2000 years ago.


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But so much of the Christian faith of the 1st century AD went against the ‘strong cultural norms’, why would one more ‘difference’ have ‘broken’ the Church?

Remember that in that time and that world, priestesses were the norm. The Gentiles were incredibly accustomed to priestesses. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for the early Christians to have priestesses, and they would have been listened to and respected, in fact, probably the male priesthood would have been a stumbling block for a lot of the Gentiles considering the Christian faith!!

The cultural norm for a faith was pantheism or monotheism. The early Christian faith was incredibly ‘countercultural’ --One God, but Three Persons.

Yet somehow, Jesus "just had to work with the ‘cultural norms’ of 1st century Judea. . .(not 1st century Greece or Rome where many women were actually quite socioeconomically emancipated, accustomed to priestesses, etc). . . and He just couldn’t ensure that His true ideas could be carried out for the next 2000 years until somehow, without His Church having anything to do with it, fallible human beings magically got the whole idea of ‘equality’ WITHOUT HIM?


Men can be virgins by not having sex.
The only difference between monks & nuns is gender.
Except carrying the baby in the womb, giving birth, & breastfeeding, fathers & mothers both have the same capabilities in rearing children, & both have equal responsibilities in caring for children.


Note that countries have had until recently (the Philippines still has) laws which allow rapist to marry their victim. Until recently marital rape was legally unrecognised. It wasn’t the Church’s initiative to end these laws. Thomas Aquinas said it was lawful for rapist to marry their victim.
A baroque artist was rapped by her tutor. The court tried force her to drop the charges by torturing her with thumbscrews. The rapist only got a year or so in prison.
How many statements from the church fathers, church doctors, saints, & popes condemn rape in comparison to how many statements condemn contraception?


But they cannot be consecrated as such. The consecration of virgins is only for women.

I’m not sure that’s quite it. I don’t think monks have quite the spousal elements in their vocation that nuns do by comparison.

Not quite the same capabilities, but equal in responsibility and need, sure. Did I say they had unequal responsibility?


To be fair, despite the presence of priestesses, women were still treated like garbage (especially when we compare it to today).

One point I would bring up (from a protestant friend) is that early Christianity didn’t abolish slavery despite being counter cultural. How would you respond to this?


Nevertheless, it was the time at which Providence deemed was right for the Incarnation.

More to the point, however, Our Lord was not one to bow to cultural norms. He was obedient, whether it made him so popular he couldn’t enter a town openly or so unpopular that the crowds sought to stone him or pitch him off of a cliff. He was certainly willing to go counter to prevailing norms having to do with women.

By Jesus?


No, I was referring to the argument that women were somewhat emancipated.


Ah. I get you.
It is true that the Greek “priestesses” were not simply women fulfilling a role that a man could fulfill. The role of a priest and of a priestess were, as I understand it, quite different. (Besides, a Christian bishop and a Greek priestess had very different roles.)

Having said that, I don’t think it is reasonable to say that the Holy Spirit was hog-tied and could not have elevated women to leadership within the Christian sect. Early Christians were weird within the prevailing culture, and there wasn’t much that could have put them lower in the general estimation than they already were.


I’m not sure how to defend that argument, since slavery for example wasn’t condemned by Paul or the early disciples from my knowledge.

We (or at least the people I know) usually defend this by saying that they didn’t want to significantly dissent from the culture they’re in because it would have prevented the spread of Christianity.

Christians (protestants) I know then take this argument and apply it to the female priesthood or submission in marriage.


The early Church didn’t abandon circumcision or keeping kosher because they did a poll to see what would help their popularity numbers. They were not a popular sect, let’s be blunt. They did what they thought the Holy Spirit was leading them to do with the idea that the Second Coming was imminent. They would not have been willing to have the Lord return to find them subverting the truth in order to curry favor with those who resisted the message. There simply is not evidence for that.

Keep in mind that chattel slavery as it was practiced in the United States was not the form slavery took in the ancient world. There was also no social safety net. Slavery could be transitory and slaves sometimes elected to take servitude to someone of means over the chance of starving because they were on their own.

My point is not that everyone was treated well but that there were prominent women of means in the social circle of the Apostles. This isn’t about how all women were treated but rather whether any could have been given the roles of presbyters in the early Church. It would have been possible.


I object to this whitewashing of ancient slavery. Especially in the Roman world, many people were forcibly enslaved. It wasn’t just voluntary indentured servitude.


Nobody said it was “just voluntary indentured servitude.” They said it could take that form. There were a variety of forms of slavery, some more humane and some less humane. But it still wasn’t generally comparable with the form of slavery that developed for agriculture in the new world.


Slavery is dehumanizing in all its forms, and should not be whitewashed in any way. It denies the equality of all people and always leads to subjugation and oppression. There were people who underwent indentured servitude in the Americas, but it would be abhorrent for me to point to those as a reason why people should not object to slavery at that time. Slavery in Rome included sex slaves and child slaves, and the great majority of slaves were forced into slavery after being conquered by the army.


Who said anything about thinking folks shouldn’t have objected to it? Claiming that its degree of cruelty varies greatly does not in any way imply that it has a truly benign form. You’re attributing to me a truly evil point of view that I don’t hold.


I was responding to petraGs point about how “slavery was different then” as a response to why Paul didn’t condemn it, which I saw as whitewashing. Even if that was not the intent, there is a meme in modern culture, especially Christian culture, that “slavery wasn’t bad in the ancient world, it was basically just voluntary indentured servitude”, which I feel a need to correct when I see it.

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