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Response to Dr. Peter Moore on Women Priests - Alice Linsley

Response to Dr. Peter Moore on Women Priests

By Alice C. Linsley
Special to Virtueonline
June 13, 2011

I have great respect for Dr. Moore but I believe that he is very mistaken in his assumption that women priests is a matter of church order and not a matter of doctrine. The dichotomy of church order and doctrine sends a dangerous and false message. The Church is to embody doctrine down to the smallest detail if it is to represent the "new creation" of which St. Paul speaks.

The Origins of the Priesthood

The priesthood is and has been from its origin a messianic symbol. The ruler-priest among Abraham's ancestors united the people to God through sacrifice and united the peoples. This is why he wore a double crown, symbolizing the uniting of two kingdoms. "The LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two." Even the rabbis recognize that the 2 crowns (or double crown) of Zachariah 6:11-13 is a Messianic reference.

The double crown of ancient Egyptian rulers represents the Upper and Lower Nile regions which were united under the Kushite Pharaohs. The Kushites were descendants of Kush, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. One of Kush's sons was Nimrod, the great Kushite kingdom-builder and an ancestor of Abraham.

The double crown of the Israelite high priest was essentially the double crown of Horus worn by the rulers of the Nile Valley. The mitznefet was the white turban of the Upper Nile and the tzitz was the circlet worn around the turban, like the red circlet of the Lower Nile. Narmer (Menes) was the first recorded to wear the double crown. He was the founder of the First Dynasty around 3100 B.C. Abraham was closely related to the rulers of Egypt. The Babylonian Talmud indicates that his maternal grandfather was a priest of Karnak in Egypt.

Horus was regarded as King of the universe in ancient Nilotic mythology. He is the only celestial figure portrayed as a Man in the Egyptian pantheon and he was called the "son of God" because his virgin mother Hat-Hor conceived him when she was overshadowed by Re. He was born in a cave, killed by his brother, and rose again. Here is the origin of Messianic expectation.

A caste of priests served Horus and they are called Horites in the Bible and in secular history. The rulers of Abraham's people were Horites and their conception of the priesthood was received by the Jews and through the Jewish Apostles and priest-disciples such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Hari-mathea, was received and preserved in the earliest Christian congregations. Paul wanted these Christians to be clear as to the nature of Jesus' priesthood and so he forbade them to eat of the Eucharist as they would have eaten food offered to idols (I Cor. 8).

The ruler-priest pattern speaks of Christ. It is a received tradition and can't be changed. We may not like it or be willing to make the time and effort to understand it, but we have no authority to change it.

Paul's Creation Theology is a Received Tradition, not His Invention

Most of the Pauline texts cited in favor of women priests do not deal with catholic orders since these had not yet emerged. Instead, they address orderliness in the churches. St. Paul develops his creation theology on Semitic assumption that the Creator ordered the creation and the order of creation involves universally and objectively observed binary sets such as male/female; heaven/earth; east/west; and night/day. Christians honor the binary distinctions as an act of faith that God has ordered all things well.

The binary distinctions were believed to represent God's order in creation. That order was fixed in many ways. St. Paul assumes that the order is fixed and the the Church as the new creation will reflect the fixed order.

In the Hindu RigVeda (1000 B.C.) and in the Laws of Manu (about 250 B.C.) four castes are elaborated as the primeval divine creation. Today so many sub-castes exist under these four that it is difficult for a Hindu to know who is one's equal or one superior. This is why most Hindus are not concerned with what to believe as with who they may marry, what they may eat, and with whom they may eat. Hindus believe that this caste system represents the divine body. The Rig Veda says:

His mouth became the Brahman. (Priest class) His arms became the Kshatriya. (Warrior and ruler class) His thighs are the Vaisya. (Artisans and farmer class) The Sudra was produced from his feet. (Poor untouchables)

This view of sacred appointments did not originate with Hinduism. It is found earlier among the ancient Kushites who spread from the Nile region into Pakistan and India, bringing their religious ideas with them.

Americans find it difficult to understand or accept the idea of a fixed order in creation. Ours is an egalitarian society in which people choose the work they do and often change jobs or careers. We choose who we marry, but not so in the ancient world. Archaic societies were strictly stratified. One married within one's caste and inherited one's line of work. St. Paul understood this well. He was a tentmaker because his father was a tentmaker. Likewise, Jesus was a carpenter because Joseph was a carpenter.

St. Paul assumes this stratification to be part of God's design and tells people in the churches to obey the authorities, to render service as unto Christ, and to do their job without complaining. He explains that the Church is the Body of Christ and each of us a part of His Being. His analogy of arms and legs, with Christ as the head, draws on the old tradition that the Church, as the new creation, will pattern the original order of creation for the world to see. The Church as the Body of Christ ushers in by the Messianic age. In First Corinthians 12:27-30, Paul explains, "Now Christ's body is yourselves, each of you with a part in the whole. And those whom God has appointed in the Church are...

First - apostles
Second - prophets
Third - teachers
Fourth - workers of miracles and so on

It is fairly certain that St. Paul sees a fixed order in creation and the Church, an order which he viewed as having been established by God in the beginning. It is an order characterized by binary distinctions that speak to us about God, and most especially about the Father who delivers an eternal kingdom to his divine Son.

In Paul's view the Church reflects the doctrine of Jesus Christ. There is never a dichotomy of church order and doctrine. The Church embodies doctrine down to the smallest detail.

To express this another way: in contemplation of the mystery of the Virgin Birth an image of the Theotokos is more helpful than an image of a Man. Conversely, in contemplation of the mystery of Jesus the universal ruler-priest and head of the Church, it is not helpful to meditate on a woman standing at the altar. It represents confusion in the Church and poses to the world confusion about Jesus Christ.

--- Alice C. Linsley teaches Philosophy, Ethics and World Religions at Midway College in Kentucky

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