Woman is a misbegotten male.

Thought that would get your attention!

So I am thinking....

Why doesn't the Church just get on with it?
Well, considering the Fathers our heritage rests upon, no wonder it is taking them some time to be brave about the issue of women bishops. There is a lot of damage to undo.

Check this lot out from Rosemary Radford Ruether, 'Women-Church Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities', Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1985, pp. 137ff

“You are the Devil’s Gateway. It is you who plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree. You are the first who deserted the divine law. You are the one who persuaded him whom even the Devil was not strong enough to attack. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, man. Because of your desert, that is death, even the Son of God had to die. . . Therefore cover your head and your figure with sack-cloth and ashes.”

Augustine, On the Trinity: “Why must a woman cover her head? Because, as I explained before, the woman does not possess the image of God in herself, but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, the she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God, just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one.”

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “As the philosopher says, ‘Woman is a misbegotten male.’ Yet it is necessary that woman was made in the first production of things as a helpmate. Not indeed as a helpmate in any other works than procreation, for in all other works man can be more efficiently helped by another man than by a woman, but as a helper in the work of generation… The woman is in a state of subjugation in the original order of things. For this reason she cannot represent headship in society or in the Church. Only the male can represent Christ. For this reason it was necessary that Christ be incarnated as a male. It follows, therefore, that she cannot receive the sign of Holy Orders.”

Malleus Maleficarum (fifteenth-century manual of the Dominican Inquisitors against witches): “When a woman thinks alone she thinks evil, for the woman was made from the crooked rib which is bent in the contrary direction from the man. Woman conspired constantly against spiritual good. Her very name, fe-mina means ‘absence of faith’. She is insatiable lust by nature. Because of this lust she consorts even with Devils. It is for this reason that women are especially prone to the crime of witchcraft, from which men have been preserved by the maleness of Christ.”

Martin Luther. ‘On Marriage’: “Eve originally was more equally a partner with Adam, but because of sin the present woman is a far inferior creature. Because she is responsible for the Fall, woman is in a state of subjugation. The man rules the home and the world, wages war and tills the soil. The woman is like a nail driven into the wall, she sits at home.”

I think we just have to pray that more damage is not done. There is an offer on the table to leave for Rome, for those who are unable to accept the ministry of ordained and consecrated women. Anglo-catholics might very well jump ship but I wonder where it leaves Conservative, reformed evangelicals? Can they really return to something that is pre-reformation? Martin Luther would be turning in his grave if we didn't trust that actually he is probably having rather a nice time in Heaven, despite some of his challenging theology ;-)

I have been reading through Peter M M Lewellyn's paper again, just whilst I take a break from my exegesis of Ephesians 1 for college (yes, this girl knows how to party on a Friday night! ;-)) and it's got me thinking again.

Alongside Dr James I. Packer, whom Peter quotes, it would indeed seem that 'the burden of proof regarding the exclusion of women from the office of teaching and ruling within the congregation now lies on those who maintain the exclusion rather than on those who challenge it.’—‘Understanding the Differences’, p.298.

This is the last thing that I expected to read from Packer, but there you go, there is so much to hope for.

I have become rather shy in recent years about using two lines of reasoning in the defence of women's ordination and consecration but Peter Llewellyn has redeemed the approaches for me.

I avoid using arguments from culture, contemporary culture, because I never want to present the idea that the church should be governed by social mores or current discrimination legislation when it should be governed by scripture.

I avoid using Gal 3:28 because when I did use this in an essay I was told it was really speaking into the question of baptism rather than ministry.

Peter sets forth the very lines of reasoning that I have avoided as follows:

Now that discrimination against women is generally illegal, rather than being the standard of society, the church is in the position of either having to justify its discriminatory practices or end them. (It is a matter of profound regret and shame that it did not give leadership in this area, rather than being correctly perceived as the last bastion of discrimination.) The church can therefore no longer evade the issue, and indeed courageous people in different parts of the world are compelling the church to face it. Under these circumstances, for this Church to continue discrimination on the grounds of women’s subordination would serve to entrench that doctrine among its central theological principles.

I think that this is a very interesting angle and yes, I think that whilst we all insist that it is a secondary issue and that we can all get on with each other despite our disagreements, I suspect that whilst our attempts to 'wait for one another' and welcome one another are godly and orientated by the gospel, in reality the issue has become primary and not secondary.


In both senses Galatians 3:28 is certainly a ‘key text’. Its meaning, like that of the other texts, is disputed, and will be discussed...but it is interesting to observe how the dispute is treated. Sydney ... give great attention to the detailed exegesis of 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Cor 14:33-36 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15, but dismiss such a key text as Gal. 3:28... Sydney says that ‘both Jews and Gentiles retained their own distinctiveness, as do men and women in marriage (Eph. 5) and in the church (1 Cor. 11)’; in the face of Paul’s most strenuous opposition to maintaining the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Would Sydney have us reinstate that distinction in the church? Or the distinction between slave and free? Surely not. As the world’s greatest evangelical New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce has put it: ‘If in ordinary life existence in Christ is manifested openly in church fellowship, then, if a Gentile may exercise spiritual leadership in church as freely as a Jew, or a slave as freely as a citizen, why not a woman as freely as a man?’ii. That our unity in the body of Christ must find its full expression in our church life, is absolutely fundamental—and must not be whittled away by the artificial diminution of the centrality of this text.

This is a new way of reasoning from that passage for me and I have some thinking to do about its consequences but I am glad to have the old brain cells stretched again in this interesting direction. I am also pleased for obvious and multiple reasons that whilst we have learned a great detail from the Church Fathers, we have also benefited from exercising discernment about some of their claims. If anything it means that there is hope for us all for it would only be the most arrogant amongst us who would claim that we have all of our theological arguments in perfect order!

More to come....

And just in case you are a seeker and all of this sounds downright horrible and off-putting, go and read about your status as an Ezer Kenegdo here, not a helpmeet, if you set out with the first rung in order on the theological hermeneutical ladder, there really is less chance that you will fall off

More here
Genesis 1-3
by Allison Young
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
by Allison Young
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
by Allison Young
Ephesians 5:18-33
by Allison Young
1 Timothy 2:11-15
by Allison Young

You'll have to join CBE to access the stuff, which you should do anyway, if you are stuggling with some of the issues highlighted above. You can access a lot of this stuff for free.

If you do not want to join CBE, you can read this helpful book:
Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family by Gilbert G. Bilezikian

If neither of these will do - go and read Ben Witherington III - intelligent and accessible instantly!


Rosemary said...

I ask again, where in Scripture is the command that women should teach men?

Rachel Marszalek said...

If the Bible is silent in terms of an imperative, it is not silent by example.

If it is silent in terms of an imperative, you can not base an argument on that - where does the Bible ever teach us to build churches in the sense of literal fabric - it does not - we are the temple - so do you propose we pull down our church buildings too?

A. Amos Love said...


How about when Jesus told at least five women
(The Bible names three and says other women)
to deliver the greatest message ever given to man kind.

Jesus is Risen.

Did the men believe them? Nope.

And when Jesus showed up Jesus upbraided the men
for their doubt and unbelief.

"when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalen." Wow!!!

Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2* And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3* And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7* But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
9* Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10* And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12* After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13* And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
14* Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Gill Stanning said...

Rosemary: Do you need a direct COMMAND? Is this a Biblical reponse to God's word? Do you ignore all else in the Bible except specific commands from God or do you look at obvious models of exemplary behaviour by his people and model those too? After all, Paul said 'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.' With this in mind; if a woman is shown to be teaching men with God's blessing (even in an indirect way) and this teaching is a positive experience for those men in the context that she is shown, then we HAVE to take note.
1. Priscilla taught Apollos (albeit with her husband) but she was clearly actively part of the experience.
2. Huldah taught the important officials from the King.
'And the King commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Miciah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asiah the King's servant, saying,
Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe - now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the second quarter - and they spoke with her.
And she said unto them: Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell ye the man that sent you unto me:
Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read.' (2 Kings 22:13-16)
3. Deborah lead Israel as Judge. In those times to lead politically meant to enquire of the Lord and talk of him and his will to others. It may not specifically say she 'taught', but I find it hard to understand how one can lead and judge without verbal wisdom which is after all teaching..
All these examples were within patriarchal societies who were less than encouraging of women using their God given gifts to lead... I find them most encouraging.

Janice said...

Have you read Cheryl Schatz on Gal 3:28?

Here's a very small part of it:

Gentiles inherit all of the promises of Abraham right alongside the Jews. Women inherit all of the promises and rights of sons alongside the men. Slaves inherit the kingdom promises of Abraham right alongside the free born. Just as all have been brought into salvation, so the outworking of salvation, the sanctification and privileges of sonship belong to all.

I'm still thinking about the quote, "that which is not assumed is not saved". If it's so important that Christ was male (and therefore only male presbyters can properly represent Him) then it's equally important that Christ was not female. He assumed maleness but did not assume femaleness. Therefore, by that reasoning, females can't be saved.

I don't believe that. I do believe that too many men and women have mistaken their cultural presuppositions for God's Word.

Rachel Marszalek said...

This is becoming a very interesting discussion. Thank you all for your contributions. I wonder what the church in the future will make of our wranglings in the present moment. We are in the middle of a movement so obsessed with role and function. I continue to read about the theological tangles people get themselves into as they present Christ's ontological equality and yet eternal functional subordination. Gilbert Bilezikian is very interesting on this front.

What is encouraging now is that even some who hold to this doctrine are divorcing it from its applications to men and women and how they should relate to one another.

As we come out of a modernist culture and yet as Christians fear some of the uncertainties that come with post-modernism, it would seem that some of us, reacting against the 'new-modern' must make the Bible 'modernist' in its message.

I think in some ways it is up to our generation to redeem Christianity from some of its associations for seekers. The Holy Spirit has perhaps a lot to undo before the words of the gospel can truly fall on fertile soil. Whilst the fertile soil is hampered by the choking weeds of words which subordinate women and Christ, the enemy is gaining the advantage.

I wouldn't normally use such harsh language but I am sensing that there are so many men and women arrested in their development because of the teachings of some wings of the church. Co-dependency is never a good thing, whether it be authoritive styles of pastoring, vicaring, unhealthy submission to hierarchy which means that the serving goes only one way and is not mutual, or an unhealthy permission-driven existence for men or women. If we can begin to live together in mutuality and not be shackled to prescribed functions, we will grow into a healthier body under the Lordship of our Head from whom all growth is possible - Christ.

We need to recover a language which has more to do with 'humbling ourselves' than is about authority and subordination. In this way we will grow more into the likeness of Christ.

Charles Read said...

The point about Gal. 3:28 is that in Christ all those distinctions (slave/free etc.) lose their status and power. The distinctions remain but no longer mean anything in terms of who's got power over whom. So a slave and a master (or mistress) who become Christians remain slave and mistress but the power implications no longer apply. This is radical stuff in Paul's culture where they delighted in working out who was higher up the social scale than who else.

If Gal. 3:28 is a baptismal text, then the point is that in baptism all social divisions (even gender) lose their significance. Susan Ross calls baptism 'the inclusive sacrament' because we can baptise anyone (male, female, slave, feree, young, old, trained at St John's Nottingham, trained at Ridley...) - hence baptism not circumcision became the Christian sacrament of initiation - because you can do it to anyone. Its displacement of circumcision does of course say something about gender equality in Christ.
A slogan of the early campaigners for women's ordination was "If you won't ordain us, stop baptizing us".
By the way, I met Gilbert Bikezikian at a CBE conference in Denver in 2007 - he's a real gentleman, in the old fashioned use of that term!

Rachel Marszalek said...

Thank you Charles. Gal 3:28 is certainly powerful when set in its historical context, particularly.

Our ecclesiology is impacted by this application. Distinctions remain, yes, but issues of authority should not come into it, as you say.

Christina Baxter was explaining yesterday how the unity which a Bishop represents becomes a nonsense if in the event of a female bishop, a male bishop has to be in place for particular functions. In some senses it is not dissimilar to asserting that the Gentiles really should have been circumcised to enter the Kingdom. Women bishops should not be defined by their gender but by their giftings and status in Christ.

Charles Read said...

Yes - Christina has a powerful point there. I hope she gets to make it at the February Synod!

However, one member of the Revision Committee said to me that we have not yet seen what functions may be delegated / transferred to a 'suitable' bishop - if it was making the tea there would be no controversy. But I bet it isn't making the tea they suggest transferring....

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes rather than confirming and ordaining it could be cake-cutting and tea-making - I love it!

Excuse me, move over Mrs Bishop it requires Mr Bishop to mulsh the tea bags and divide the cake, you really have no theological authority to do such a thing!

'Hold the tea and cake vicar, Mr Bishop is revving the engines of his small jet and putting on his flying goggles, he'll be with us by evensong. Don't let anyone near the refreshments until he's arrived!'

(Apologies, I'm getting a bit silly now and better stop.)

Glad you stopped by Charles ;-)


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions