What were the reasons early Christiand gave for male-only priesthood?

Today we say that only men can represent Christ as a priest, for Christ was male. But I think it’s important to consider what reasons were throughout the centuries, for not every period saw women and their roles in the same light.

In other words, were early Christians sexist or anti-woman in how they talked about male church leadership?

I’m not debating the male-only priesthood - just asking about the reasonings, theology, etc. as they were considered in the early church.

Jesus created the all male priesthood. those who believed in Him, His followers, accepted that and believed that He knew what He was doing. if Jesus had created an all female priesthood, that is what His followers would have believed in. if He had created a mixed priesthood of both male and female, that is what His followers would have believed in.

we who believe Jesus is our God and Lord have little reason to question His commands and His creations. we can try to understand them in light of our knowledge and what God revealed before Jesus and there is nothing wrong with that. but we have no need to question whether what Jesus taught us and commanded us is correct, or right, or wrong. we accept His teachings.

This thread isn’t about accepting the teaching.

It’s about the early church’s theology about it.

Besides, plenty of people who are pro-women clergy would never think they are going against Jesus. They just have a different understanding, apparently. One of their reasons might very well be that the early church’s reasons for male-only church leaders are not reasons that we hold today. For example, if I can recall Augustine or some other father called women the weaker sex, etc

I think it goes all the way back into the OT where Abraham and his sister argued as to who was in charge and Abe won. Don’t count on me as to being 100% correct. Read the OT. Peace.

LOL! We may be “weaker,” but we tend to be smarter.:smiley:

Apparently it is about accepting the teaching or else there wouldn’t have been a ‘besides’ lol.

But here is Saint John Paul II Apostolic Letter that should help you…


And here is the document from Pope Paul VI that he references…


But I think you will find that eddie’s answer is indeed correct.

The Apostles which CHRIST CHOSE were all men. Should we do things differently in this regard than our Master? Of course not.
Women have served in the Church from day 1, but not holding the Apostolic office. Not in the day’s of Christ on earth, nor since, and I do not see that ever changing simply because it was Jesus Christ himself who started it.

God bless

If only we were more interested in Jesus’ understanding than our own understanding. Whether or not they think they are going against Jesus is irrelevant. A person can think that they are a chicken sandwich, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a human being.

You might as well explore the thinking behind women-only motherhood. At the end of the day, the answer is going to be “just because.”

There were oodles of priestesses in just about every religion contemporary to Christianity in the time of the Roman Empire. So it was not at all an oddity to have women serving in temples. Therefore, the argument from “women and their roles” holds very little water in this regard.

I don’t agree that Jesus created an all-male priesthood.
He may have picked those handful of men that day to help him with certain tasks on his mission…perhaps there were no women close by in the group at that moment, perhaps he was worried what they were about to do was too physically dangerous or rigorous for women, perhaps he thought the men at that time would be too close-minded to listen to women…(and indeed, as per Paul’s urging that women should not speak in church, he was right).
Perhaps…he did pick female apostles…but when the gospels were written 40 to 60 years later, the writers did not include them because they did not accept it.
But even if he did pick those dozen men that specific day, its doesn’t meant he intended for only men to take on that role…forever.
First of all, he thought the end was coming during that generation.
Second…he had female disciples who preached and broke bread and poured wine when the ceremony was still in the home, from what I understand…and Mary was a devoted preacher/helper, so I think he had big plans for her.

It seems to me that it was the men who organized the hierarchy and official roles of the church many decades/centuries later, after Jesus died, were the ones who decided this.
I don’t think jesus would have agreed or liked this decision at all.


What is your understanding of what the priesthood is?

There was no “apostolic office” in the days Jesus was alive. It was him and a group of followers–some of them women.
Mary M helped fund his ministry.
He chose both genders to be involved.


Being God, he certainly knew otherwise.

There is an old Catholic Answers article that contains quotations from the Church Fathers on the subject of female priests. Here it is:

Women and the Priesthood

Some of the quotations discuss the theology as to why they are not called to be priests. For example:

225 A.D. - Didascalia - “For it is not to teach that you women…are appointed. … For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us.” (Didascalia Book 3 Chapter 6 Paragraphs 1–2)

377 A.D. - St. Epiphanius of Salamis - “If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood or with assuming ecclesiastical office, then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function. She was invested with so great an honor as to be allowed to provide a dwelling in her womb for the heavenly God and King of all things, the Son of God. … But he did not find this [the conferring of priesthood on her] good.” (Against Heresies Chapter 79 Paragraph 3)

400 A.D. - The Apostolic Constitutions - “[The] ‘man is the head of the woman’ [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, ‘He shall rule over you’ [Gen. 3:16]. For the first part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ.” (Apostolic Constitutions Chapter 3 Paragraph 9)

These seem to me to be largely identical to the reasons the Church gives today.

You may also be interested in this article:

Catholic History & Women’s Equality: A Timeline

It covers the related issue of female equality in the Church Fathers. For example, I love this lengthy quote about women from St. Gregory Nazianzen:

“I see that the majority of men are ill-disposed, and that their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason why they restrained the woman, but indulged the man?]” “[A] woman who practises evil against her husband’s bed is an adulteress, and the penalties of the law for this are very severe; but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he has no account to give… I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. They who made the Law were men, and therefore their legislation is hard on women… [T]hey have placed children also under the authority of their fathers, while leaving the weaker sex uncared for. God does not so; but says Honour your father and your mother…and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. … See the equality of the legislation. There is one Maker of man and woman; one debt is owed by children to both their parents. … Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the Man? So He was also for the woman. Did He die for the Man? The Woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David; and so perhaps you think the Man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the Woman’s side. They two, He says, shall be one Flesh; so let the one flesh have equal honour.” (Oration 37 Paragraphs 6-7)

Jesus was God not man and as sovereign, He acted in a manner that suited Him.

"In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, I myself wrote in this regard: “In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time.”(5)

God made it this way.


Biblically Paul tells Timothy that theologically woman was deceived and applies the same doctrinally with regard to teaching:

1 Tim 2:12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

However that doesn’t mean that Adam was guiltless, after all he consented by going along with her:

Rom 5:17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

In his corrections to the Corinthians on orderly worship he ends with this:

1 Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.As in all the churches of the saints,
34 the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.
35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36 What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
37 If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.
38 If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

So we see in v 37 his corrections aren’t his but a command from the Lord and continues in 38 he writes that basically if one doesn’t agree with these teachings it isn’t him with whom they disagree but God.

As a caveat this only pertains to the priesthood, obviously St. Paul employed them in other capacities such as deaconesses (whose role in the early church was ministering with regard to women and baptism, since one went in the water naked and came out the other side, clothed by a deaconess) and in catechesis as we can see in Acts. They are also not prohibited from tongues or prophesy in worship as we can see at the time. However the liturgical aspects or worship were not allowed, i.e. consecration, teaching etc.

For what it’s worth, there was never such a thing as a woman priest, that’s a modern conception that seems tied closely to the idea of transgenderism. Biblically there were Priests and Priestesses, one denoting male and one female. Priestesses are forbidden in the OT, and in the NT are often referred to with regard to non christian worship.

So they can PC up the verbiage but it doesn’t change what Christ taught Paul and obviously the other apostles. As a follower of Christ the essential question is, whom do we follow, Christ or the modernists? St. Paul says not to recognize them as they do not recognize this is from the Lord. Or put another way preferring their own teachings to His.

Ironically I worked with a Lutheran woman this week (I obviously do not believe she represents Lutherans here) and she said she would never join a church that would not allow woman priests and went on to say (very left wing femenist) she wouldn’t listen even if Christ told her himself and that He would be wrong. (Actual words and conversation, which I dropped, since she had no intention of listening to truth).

She isn’t the only one, look at the women who ordained themselves priests (priestesses) in the church. Whom are they following?

Peace and God Bless

Jesus was God AND man. Let’s not correct one heresy by proclaiming another.

Even though Jesus had devoted female followers, such as his mother and Mary Magdalene, he he only gave the Commission to the twelve. That is very telling. I agree that Jesus had big plans for Mary, but not as a priest. You could argue that Jesus ordained women, but the the writers of the New Testament were “anti-woman” and didn’t accept this. However, this is simply conjecture with no evidence to back it up.

As far as theological reasons for a male priesthood, there is the fact that Jesus only ordained the twelve to preach and baptize, but not his female followers (as I mentioned above). Also, only the twelve were present at the last supper when he instituted the Eucharist. The priest acts “in persona Christi” and therefore must represent the very nature of Christ, who was a man.

Well, okay, with all kindness, only Dmar has contributed to the question at hand. Sorry if I’m not clear, but please read my other two posts and see that I am talking about the theology, reasoning, and justifications of the early church (church fathers, first few centuries).

I am not talking about current Catholic teaching. I am not debating whether or not this teaching is true. I am simply looking for summaries or references to the early church’s teachings.

I am aware that Jesus chose men as Apostles. I am aware that men took the predominant roles of leadership in the early church. However, again, I am asking about the early church’s reflection on the matter.

Thanks Dmar. I will read your quotations when I am not on my phone.

There were a lot of priestesses in other pagan religions at the time of the early Church. It was not the practice of the early Church to change what the apostles had started. They considered the male priesthood as something to guarantee the apostolic nature of the Sacraments of the Church. They did not offer any theology to protect it. It was part of the Holy Tradition which the Church must safeguard. This must have surprised the pagan world which included priestesses. The Church would be different. I don’t know any other reasons why the Church had only ordained men but we must remember in the early Church there was a female deacon office that served women who were been baptized. This office of a female deacon was not the same as the office of a male deacon. The female deacon office was instituted to serve a purpose that was necessary at that time. The male deacon was entirely something different. It served a different purpose and was at a higher level of servitude than what was contained in the female deacon. Today we are entering a time now when we need to develop teachings on why only the male be ordained to the sacramental priesthood. It is not that well developed but it is coming together. We need to know that a female priest no matter who ordains them even it is be a Pope cannot change the species of bread and wine into Jesus Christ. We would lose all the Sacramental grace contained in those sacraments that require a priest or a bishop to celebrate them. If women were ordained today you will only have a elevated lay ministry. The Holy Spirit does not confer the sacrament to be a priest to any woman. The question is why? It has to do with the function and nature which a man has and what a woman has.
For instance how does God love. He initiates it. St. Paul had written in Ephesians for men to love their wives but he does not say women to love their husbands in the next verse. There is good reason why Paul had stated what he said. Men must learn to initiate love the same manner as God. When St. John Chrysostom had a man to seek his advice on his wife that she does not respond to his love the saint looked at him and told him to continue this love to her. He said but she does not love back. He said to him than give her another dosage. Women on the other hand were never created to initiate love but to respond to love. Men on the other hand have this responsibility to respond to love as well as to initiate it. When God created Adam He initiated this love to Adam. Adam then learned to respond to that love. When God created Eve He left the love to initiate to Adam. Adam would love Eve, would initiate this love to Eve just as God had given to Adam. Eve than would learn to respond to that love. Eve did not learn love directly from God but she learned it from her husband. That is why God has given the priesthood only to males because God wants the priest to initiate love in the same manner He does. The priest than must love by initiating it.
Women were created only to respond to love but they can do it very well even at times better than the men. Men can learn from certain women how to respond to love because at times men do not know how to respond to the love of God. However when a man does learn to respond to love and to initiate it than you have a person who can be a priest. The greatest saint who has ever responded to love was the Blessed Virgin Mary. We can learn a lot from her.

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