Someone told me that the early church, at first, also had women who presided at the Eucharist. I know she has the burden of proof, but I am not currently in a position to ask for her evidence. Does anyone here know what she could be referring to? Is there evidence that both women and men from the first decades led the Eucharist?
Here’s 2 articles that might help…
What Should I Know About Pope Francis and ‘Women Deacons’?
Pope Francis’s Commission on Women Deacons: 12 Things to Know and Share
I don’t think there is any real history of women priests and since the burden of proof is on your friend I’d just relax and wait.
Thanks! The issue was specifically about women presiding at the Eucharist (as priests, for example) and not so much women deacons.
Sometimes, when people say objections against the Church, they can make a real play with words. “presided at the Eucharist” is too ambiguous, since that phrase could claim that women were priests, or claim that women administered Communion to people at their homes (like in Extraordinary minister), or women played a major role in the liturgy (without being ordained), ect.
All the best
Only with some heretical sects of the early centuries, principally Gnostic ones, do we find attempts to have the priestly ministry exercised by women. It must be further noted that these are very sporadic occurrences and are moreover associated with rather questionable practices. We know of them only through the severe disapproval of which they are noted by Saint Irenaeus in his Adversus Haereses, Tertullian in De Prescriptione Haereticorum, Firmilian of Caesarea in a letter to Saint Cyprian, Origen in a commentary on the First Letter to the Corinthians, and especially by Saint Ephiphanius in his Panarion.
The “History” section of this Wikipedia article on “Ordination of women in the Catholic Church” might be helpful.
Pope Gelasius I apparently condemned the practice of women officiating at altars; inscriptions near Tropea in Calabria refer to “presbytera”, which could be interpreted as a woman priest or as a wife of a male priest. Furthermore, a sarcophagus from Dalmatia is inscribed with the date 425 and records that a grave in the Salona burial-ground was bought from presbytera Flavia Vitalia: selling burial plots was at one time a duty of presbyters. There have been some 15 records so far found of women being ordained in antiquity by Christians; the church, as noted, states those ordinations were by heretical groups, while the Women’s Ordination Conference contends those same groups were orthodox.
From the Wiki link given above comes that quote ^
So how should we understand these groups as “heretical”? For example, a good indication would be if a group were indeed Gnostic and so totally against apostolic Christianity. But I wonder if any of these 15 records or so are related to apostolic Christian churches??
So the fact is early Christians sometimes ordained women to be priests. But the issue is: Were these ordinations from the begging, or did these represent a later aberration? Also, were they confined to readily-identified non-orthodox, non-apostolic churches, or were they indeed part of otherwise orthodox churches?
Many argue that the Eucharist was a fluid celebration in that, celebrated at first in homes, it was led by home church leaders, whether women or men.
A Wiki article is always notoriously unreliable on a subject like this.
None of what we would call today orthodox Christians had priestesses. Only the gnostics had such a practice, and it was very rare even for them.
No one has yet found any evidence of even a single female Christian priest. On the other hand, we know that the early Church ordained only men–there is an abundance of evidence on that point. It really is that simple.
There is some truth to that. Yes, it was fluid.
However, that doesn’t translate into the idea that the early Christians did not have the concept of valid ordination.
This is an example of modern day people thinking that earlier people were just “not as smart” as we are today. The Jewish religion had priests (until the Temple was destroyed). They were very careful about who actually was, or could be, a priest. The other religions from which the Christians came, likewise had priests. They had to be legitimate priests (the equivalent of our modern ‘valid ordination’). The Christian belief that priests have to be validly ordained is not something that later Christians simply invented—as if the early Christians were not intelligent enough to know this. The later-early-Church (like the 2nd or 3rd centuries) received this understanding from earlier generations. They did not simply invent it.
It’s also worth noting that all the pagan religions that made up the Roman Empire had priestesses. This means that the earliest Christians, before they became Christians, were completely comfortable with the idea of priestesses. The all-male priesthood was unique to Judaism. The point here is that the claim that the early Christians were merely following the convention of the time is without any merit. Instead, they were following the Divine Law, just as we are.
The only reservation I have with this argument is that pagan (and Jewish) priests were not necessarily equivalent to the early Christian “priest,” in which there actually distinct terms from a sacrificial priest and a Christian elder or presbyter (the English “priest” is a derivative of the Greek term).
While there was a sacrificial nature to the function of Christian ministers (in the Eucharist), they were first identified simply as elders (presbyters). Later on in English, the sacrificial “priest” would forge with the presbyter “priest”.
What I am ultimately saying is this: that one could argue that, while early Christians saw priestesses in the pagan religions, these early Christians did not equate the pagan priests’ function with that function of the Christian elders (who were Christian priests by our modern terminology). I hope that makes sense.
In our parish,they were never heretical when using the tea urn or washing the dishes.Such a relief we had men to explain it all
Yes, I see what you’re saying here.
The vocabulary itself has changed.
The point though is that the notion of females having leading public roles in religion (whatever they’re called) was quite normal.
For the Christians the “one who offered the sacrifice” had to be a man—even though the vocabulary did indeed change, and the office of presbyter/elder was a somewhat later development.
When the question is “who offered the Eucharist?” we can indeed use different words to describe different time periods, but the fact that this was an exclusively male role did not change.
Keep in mind that Deacons are actually a part of Holy Orders because they are ordained…Can ordained and widowed Deacons marry?
only a bishop can ordain a priest, christian “communities” do not have the power or authority to ordain priests.
there have been bishops who have been heretical to the true faith. it is possible that a heretical bishop tried to ordain women.
we have no evidence that faithful (those who remained loyal to the primacy of peter) bishops ordained women. at least i am unaware of such evidence and would welcome encountering it if it does indeed exist.
there were real, though heretical, bishops who did not believe or teach that Jesus was truly man and truly God.
a bishop or even a group of bishops can be heretical. the bishops of england who believed and taught that henry the VIII was the head of the Church are a more recent example of a group of bishops being heretical by denying the primacy of peter.
Modern day feminism.
“I do not permit a woman to speak in church.” Paul was pretty clear.
Priesthood starts with Adam. It must be followed from Eden… then it will all be quite clear.
Such “reformers” already have the Episcopalian Church! What, are Episcopalians not good enough?
For some folk, no.