Women with the Priesthood in Ancient Christianity

I attended Sunstone back in August.  Bridget Jack Jeffries (who runs a blog called Clobberblog), gave a fascinating presentation on female priesthood holders in the ancient Christian church.  Bridget is a “never Mormon” that attended BYU, graduating in 2005.  She “seduced” (her words, not mine) and married a BYU priesthood holder while there, and she is currently studying the History of Christianity in America at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago.  She has done some fascinating research on women and the priesthood in early Christianity that I wanted to share.

Following her presentation, I asked her if she would share her PowerPoint presentation, which she graciously did.  I have intended to post this much sooner, but have had a backlog of posts on Mormon Schismatic groups (see my Introduction, and details about Fundamentalist Mormons, the Bickertonitesthe Strangites) and the David O McKay Biography (first and second posts), to go along with the Mormon Matters implosion.  I’m finally getting around to Jack’s presentation.  (Better late than never, right?)  If you’d like a copy of her PowerPoint slides, she has made them available on this link to her website.

In her presentation, she said that “female priesthood” is a somewhat anachronistic term, but it is clear that women participated in ordinances that we would consider priesthood ordinances.  She noted that in the New Testament period and onward, there is evidence for

  • Women as apostles, bishops, elders, priests and deacons
  • Women performing baptisms and administering the Eucharist

She references several types of evidence to support this position

  • New Testament data
  • Canonical commentary
  • Early Christian texts
  • Inscriptions on monuments
  • Artistic depictions of women
  • Polemical evidence (church fathers condemning the already existing practice of ordaining women.)

She references Romans 16:7, which references Andronicus and Junia.  Some translators changed the name Junia (female) to Junis (male.)  Clearly Junia was an apostle.  Early Christian Father John Chrysostum (who lived from 347-405 AD) is quoted as saying,

Greet Andronicus and Junia–who are among the apostles’:  To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles— just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” (In ep. ad Romanos 31.2)

Jack refers to female Deacons in Romans 16:1-2 and 1 Tim 3:8-11.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.”

“Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money;  they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.”

Ancient Church Father Origen (185-253) also discussed Phoebe.

“‘I commend to you Phoebe . . .’ This passage teaches by apostolic authority that women also are appointed in the ministry of the church, in which office Phoebe was placed at the church that is in Cenchreae. Paul with great praise and commendation even enumerates her splendid deeds . . . And therefore this passage teaches two things equally and is to be interpreted, as we have said, to mean that women are to be considered ministers in the church, and that such ought to be received into the ministry who have assisted many; they have earned the right through their good deeds to receive apostolic praise.” (Commentary on Romans 10.17)

John Chrysostum discussed 1 Tim 3:11,

“‘Likewise women must be modest, not slanderers, sober, faithful in everything.’ Some say that he is talking about women in general. But that cannot be. Why would he want to insert in the middle of what he is saying something about women? But rather, he is speaking of those women who hold the rank of deacon. ‘Deacons should be husbands of one wife.’ This is also appropriate for women deacons, for it is necessary, good, and right, most especially in the church.” (Homily 11)

Theodoret of Cyrrus (lived 393-460 AD) said,

“‘In the same way, women’ that is, the deacons, ‘are to be serious, not irresponsible talkers, sober, faithful in everything.’ What he directed for the men, he did similarly for the women. Just as he told the male deacons to be serious, he said the same for the women. As he commanded the men not to be two-faced, so he commanded the women not to talk irresponsibly. And as he commanded the men not to drink much wine, so he ordered the women should be temperate.” (Commentary on 1 Timothy)

Jack refers other women mentioned in the New Testament.  The following are definite or probable church house leaders.

  1. Lydia (Acts 16:14-15; 40),
  2. Nympha (Col. 4:15),
  3. Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11),
  4. Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15-16),
  5. Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5),
  6. and possibly the “elect lady” and her “chosen sister” in 2 John.
  7. Euodia & Synteche are mentioned in Philippians 4:2-3.  Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350 – 428) read this as a struggle between the two women for leadership.

Some may wonder if a deaconess is simply the wife of a deacon.  However, Jack says that wives of male deacons were generally not given the title of “deaconess”.  She says that descriptions of their function don’t start appearing until the late second and early third centuries.  She also shows a painting possibly depicting women administering the Eucharist (LDS refer to this as the Sacrament.)  Archaeologists are split as to whether this truly represents the Sacrament.

In the 5th century, Testamentum Domini 2:20 states that if pregnant women could not attend church on Sunday, deaconesses could take the Eucharist to their home.  She also notes that in 511 AD, 3 Gallic bishops were chastised for allowing women to assist with the Eucharist.  This obviously indicates that women were involved in the practice.  Canonical Resolutions 24 (6th century) states that deaconesses could distribute the Eucharist to their female companions who lived in convents in Edessa.

Jack describes the practice of baptisms by women.  Acts of Paul and Thecla (2nd century) depicts Thecla performing a self-baptism similar to the story of Alma in Mosiah 18:13-14.  She also notes that early church Father Justinian said it was acceptable for women to baptize as long as they met certain requirements.  In several texts as early as the first half of the third century, female deacons are described as assisting with baptisms and anointing the bodies of the female converts with oil before or after baptism.  In others, it is the women themselves performing the baptisms.

However, such things weren’t popular with everyone.  For example, Tertullian (c. 160 – 220) railed against women performing baptisms (On Baptism 17.4).  Jack gives several examples where baptisms performed by women were criticized.  Church councils in the 5th and 6th centuries condemned the practice, and as infant baptism became the norm, fewer adult female converts needed to be baptized, so the practice appears to have died out.

As far as female elders, Jack says there is less evidence; (there is more evidence in the Western Church than Eastern Church.)  She has noted 15 inscriptions referring to the feminine form of “elder”.  Jack says “Since the wives of elders were sometimes called by the term, we can’t be certain that every reference to a female presbyter is meant to denote an ecclesiastical office. However, usually when that was the case, the husband was titled and mentioned along with her.”  Jack showed several inscriptions referring to female elders.  For example, Guilia Runa is noted to have been “presbiterissa”, suggesting that she was a recognized leader of the Church of Saint Augustine in Hippo around the 5th century AD.  Leta of Tropea, Calabria is noted as “The Presbyter”, but her husband is not honored as an elder.  There are other examples.

Jack mentions that Episcopa Theodora, was the mother of Pope Paschal I.  A painting of her is found in the Church of St. Praxedis, AD 820.  Her husband is mentioned in other texts and is not a bishop.  It appears that vandals tried to scratch off the “a” in “episcopa” in an attempt to obscure her gender.  Other inscriptions include:

  1. “Here lies the venerable woman, bishop Q (uenerabilis fem[ina] episcopa Q), buried in peace for five [years] . . . +Olybrio.”  It is a damaged inscription at St. Paul’s Basilican Cemetary in Rome, 4th-6th century
  2. Canon 20 of the Council of Tours (6th century) mentions an “episcopa Terni”
  3. A 5th century fragmentary inscription is dedicated to a priestess in Solin. A cross on the inscription indicates that it was a Christian priestess, not a pagan one.

I have previously mentioned a heretical group called the Montanists.  Briefly, Montanus lived in the 2nd Century AD in Turkey, and was an early Christian leader that traveled with 2 prophetesses.  Jack quoted Epiphanius of Salamis (310-403) describing the Montanists: “They consider Quintilla together with Priscilla as founder, the same as Cataphrygians. They bring with them many useless testimonies, attributing special grace to Eve because she first ate of the tree of knowledge. They acknowledge the sister of Moses as a prophetess as support for their practice of appointing women to the clergy. Also, they say, Philip had four daughters who prophesied. Often in their assembly seven virgins dressed in white enter carrying lamps, having come in to prophesy to ecstasy;”

So, there does appear to be ample evidence for female priesthood in the ancient Christian Church.  I would love to hear more from Jack on why female priesthood is considered “anachronistic”, because I don’t fully understand what she means.  But I absolutely loved her presentation, and I loved how she ended her presentation.

  • Option 1 — We can Reject or Dismiss this information.  We can say things such as:

–        “We don’t care if apostate Christian groups were ordaining women”

  • Option 2 — We could offer a polemic attack against Joseph Smith.

–        We can look at this data and say, “Look what Joseph Smith neglected to restore.”

  • Option 3 — We can accept this information.

–        Yes, women did hold a priesthood in ancient times.

–        The 9th Article of Faith allows that God still has things to reveal; gives Latter-day Saints room to be accepting of this data

Since Jack went to BYU, she is quite familiar with the Mormon concept of an apostasy.  She said, “I think it shows very well how the idea that women had the priesthood and it was taken away can fit into a Mormon apostasy narrative.”

In a letter from Atto, Bishop of Vercelli, wrote to a priest named Ambrose in the 10th century:

“Because your prudence has moved you to inquire how we should understand “female priest” (presbyteram) or “female deacon” (diaconam) in the canons: it seems to me that in the primitive church, according to the word of the Lord, “the harvest was great and the laborers few”; religious women (religiosae mulieres) used also to be ordained as caretakers (cultrices ordinabantur) in the holy church, as Blessed Paul shows in the Letter to the Romans, when he says, “I commend to you my sister Phoebe, who is in the ministry of the church at Cenchrea.” Here it is understood that not only men but also women presided over the churches (sed etiam feminae praeerat ecclesiis) because of their great usefulness. For women, long accustomed to the rites of the pagan and instructed also in philosophical teachings, were, for these reasons, converted more easily and taught more liberally in the worship of religion. This the eleventh canon of the Council of Laodicea prohibits when it says it is not fitting for those women who are called female presbyters (presbyterae) or presiders (praesidentes) to be ordained in the churches. We believe female deacons truly to have been ministers of such things. For we say that a minister is a deacon (diaconum) from which we perceive female deacon (diaconam) to have been derived. Finally, we read in the fifteenth canon of the Council of Chalcedon that a female deacon is not to be ordained before her fortieth year— and this was the highest gravity. We believe women were enjoined to the office of baptizing so that the bodies of other women might be handled by them without any deeply felt sense of shame…as as those who were called female presbyters (presbyterae) assumed the office of preaching, leading, and teaching, so female deacons had taken up the office of ministry and of baptizing, a custom that is no longer expedient.”

Personally, I’ve studied a bit about women and the priesthood, and I have a post planned that will show that Mormon women washed, anointed, and blessed the sick by the laying on of hands right up until 1946.  I agree with Jack that women’s loss of the priesthood fits very well with the Apostasy.  Of the options she mentioned above, I like Option 3 best.

She let me know of a couple of other links you might find interesting.

So, what do you make of Jack’s presentation?


18 comments on “Women with the Priesthood in Ancient Christianity

  1. Interesting. What bible did you use for some of those quotes? You referenced Romans 16:1-2 twice, one with the King James version and the other with a different wording.

    I always thought women could hold the priesthood. How else could the do ordinances in the temples?

  2. It appears to me Jack referred to the New Revised Standard version.

    Yes, Jon, I think it’s a pretty well kept secret that women hold the priesthood in the temple, but certainly Jack is referring to baptisms, the sacrament, etc, and Mormon women don’t assist with that. I see nothing wrong with women baptizing, blessing/passing sacrament, etc, which is the point of Jack’s presentation, I believe. Certainly female priesthood in the LDS church is not visible when it is only allowed in the temple, and some temple workers don’t even know that.

    I have a future post or two planned on female priesthood in the LDS church. Michael Quinn notes the Brigham Young blessed his daughter in her patriarchal blessing that with the endowment, she had the Melchizedek Priesthood. Women participated in the laying on of hands for healing other women and men until 1946 in the church. But the brethren grew uncomfortable with the practice and said elders should be called. I don’t want to get into too many details now, because it’s probably my next post or 2, but I think women should have as much right to administer in priesthood ordinances as men.

    I’m hoping Jack stops by to discuss why she didn’t discuss Mary Magdalene in her presentation. Magdalene is known as “the apostle of the apostles”. I’m also very curious why she refers to female priesthood as an anachronism. Female baptism sure seems like they held the priesthood to me.

  3. Maxine Hanks wrote a book in 1992 called Woman and Authority that delves into woman holding the priesthood in the time of Joseph Smith. In it she quotes a statement by Brigham Young that goes directly against your statement regarding Brigham Young’s Patriarchal Blessing of his daughter.

    Sister[s] … have no right to meddle in the affairs of the kingdom of God … [they] never can hold the Priesthood apart from their husbands. When I want Sisters or the Wives of the members of the church to get up Relief Society I will summon them to my aid but until that time let them stay at home & if you see females huddling together veto the concern … and if they say Joseph started it tell them its a damned lie for I know he never encouraged it.

    I’m not totally comfortable with the extensive use of “…” in her quote. Makes it seem as if she is taking something out of context, but in her reference she says the quote is from the Seventies Record, 9 Mar. 1845, typescript in her possession.

    Perhaps you could research this as part of your post. Maybe you already have.

  4. Well, I don’t doubt that contradicting quotes, but it does appear that I quoted Brigham Young when I should have quoted his brother Joseph Young. I did a post in January discussing women and the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    In 1843 Smith extended the Melchizedek priesthood to LDS women through an “endowment ceremony” rather than through ordination to church office.

    * For example, in 1843 Presiding Patriarch Hyrum Smith blessed Leonora Cannon Taylor:

    “You shall be bless[ed] with your portion of the Priesthood which belongeth to you, that you may be set apart for your Anointing and your induement [endowment].”

    * Thirty-five years later, Joseph Young (a patriarch and senior president of the Council of Seventy) blessed Brigham Young’s daughter:

    “These blessings are yours, the blessings and power according to the Holy Melchi[z]edek Priesthood you received in your Endowments, and you shall have them.”

    The decline in women’s awareness that the endowment ceremony gives them Melchizedek priesthood corresponds to the decline in women’s status in the LDS church during those same years. In the process, twentieth-century Mormons–both male and female, conservative and liberal–have identified priesthood with male privilege and hierarchical administrative power. Therefore, some recent writers regard as insignificant the concept that endowed Mormon women had (and continue to have) the Melchizedek priesthood without ordained office and hierarchical status.

    It could be that Brigham did say that in 1845, and changed his tune 35 years later. I find his brother Joseph’s wording especially curious. Sidney Rigdon claimed that Emma was the first woman with the Melchizedek Priesthood. Anyway, here’s the link for my previous post on the subject. http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/05/05/women-and-the-melchizedek-priesthood/

    I hope to have a new post on the topic in a days or two.

  5. […] a follow up to my previous article discussing female priesthood holders in Ancient Christianity, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a now discontinued practice of Mormon women anointing […]

  6. Members of the Community of Christ (then the RLDS Church) in the 70s and 80s definitely reviewed and discussed this extensive evidence that women in early Christianity exercised priesthood authority. Considering the goal of the Restoration to “restore” primitive Christianity, the impetus to restore good practices like this that had fallen out of use in the post-Constantine church, influenced the thinking of a number of people in the lead up to accept the revelation which ended priesthood discrimination on the basis of gender in the Community of Christ.

  7. John, that is so interesting to me. Jack mentioned female priesthood being anachronistic. I had hoped she would discuss this. Do you know what she means? Also, can you see the LDS church ever making a similar change regarding women being ordained to the priesthood?

  8. I imagine she means that when we the Christian church actually emerges with what we think of as priesthood and offices (bishop, priest, deacon), there isn’t female priesthood anymore, and that when women were in “priesthood” roles (as deaconesses and apostles) this was an era before you could really speak of a “Christian Church” and priesthood, but instead should think of multiple, non-systematized Christianities. In an actual, historical sense, Joseph Smith’s 1830s creations bear little resemblance either to the followers of the historical Jesus during Jesus’s life, nor any to the diverse, competing Christian communities that emerged after his death. In that sense, the Restoration was not an actual restoration, it was a conceptual restoration. The early Mormons believed they were reliving the New Testament, but they were actually doing something new.

    On the second question, I don’t see any signs that LDS leaders intend to budge on the principle of discrimination against women. Anything is possible in the far future, but there’s little reason to anticipate a change in the foreseeable future.

  9. MormonHeretic ~ I apologize to you for neglecting this thread. I’ve been horribly busy and it kind of fell onto my “things to do later” list and I did not get around to it.

    I see now though that John Hamer (#7) pretty much nailed what I meant when he said:

    I imagine she means that when the Christian church actually emerges with what we think of as priesthood and offices (bishop, priest, deacon), there isn’t female priesthood anymore, and that when women were in “priesthood” roles (as deaconesses and apostles) this was an era before you could really speak of a “Christian Church” and priesthood, but instead should think of multiple, non-systematized Christianities. In an actual, historical sense, Joseph Smith’s 1830s creations bear little resemblance either to the followers of the historical Jesus during Jesus’s life, nor any to the diverse, competing Christian communities that emerged after his death.

    Thank you, John.

    I had to be careful with this presentation because, as a non-member, I technically don’t even believe in “the priesthood” as Mormons understand it, and I have to be accountable for that. I don’t want my Protestant peers to say, “Since when do you believe in the Mormon priesthood?” I’m making a tricky appeal, encouraging Mormons to accept the possibility of something that I don’t even accept. But believing that women held “the priesthood” in ancient times would probably be helpful towards effecting change today, which is what I want to see.

    The other warning about anachronisms is that sometimes things that are considered priesthood functions in one era are not considered priesthood functions in a later era, and vice versa. J. Stapley made this point over at BCC not too long ago:

    Some have argued that because women were authorized to heal by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, that they had “the priesthood.” I think that they do so because healing rituals in the church today are performed by the invocation of priesthood authority. But this is not the case in the early church. All church members were authorized to perform healing and blessing rituals. A similarly faulty argument would be to say that women hold “the priesthood” today because they speak in church, and in Joseph Smith’s day only priesthood holders did the same, often invoking the authority of the priesthood in the process.

    What a lot of people do in this debate is look at later evidence concerning women as deacons and elders and then read that evidence back several hundred years into the text of the New Testament. For example, later the office of deaconess was primarily concerned with ministry among women, so people will say, “It doesn’t matter that Phoebe is called a female deacon because early Christian deaconesses only ministered to other women; this is the same function as women’s ministry leaders today. No need to admit women to the diaconate.” But we get no information on what “deaconesses” were doing until 100-200 years after Phoebe lived. We really have no idea what Phoebe was doing. Maybe she was performing the same tasks and functions as male deacons; maybe she wasn’t.

    This cuts both ways. I was just reading a commentary on this which pointed out that Justin Martyr uses the masculine word for prostatis to refer to the person who presides over the Eucharist. So does that mean that Phoebe as a prostatis was presiding over the Eucharist? It’s not impossible, but it seems unlikely that was Paul’s intention in naming Phoebe a prostatis.

    I think that later evidence should always be considered because it may be preserving earlier traditions, but we must never overstate how much it tells us about past eras. We have to be careful.

    #5 John ~ I didn’t know that the RLDS church / Community of Christ had considered this evidence in making their decision to grant the priesthood to women. That’s fascinating. Thanks for sharing that.

  10. Jack, I’m glad you finally made it back, and I appreciate your insights. I’m thinking about cross posting this a Wheat and Tares. I think it might be more popular over there with more readers (I was disappointed with the lack of participation here–I guess I don’t attract many feminists…) Anyway, would you be interested in seeing a replay over there? Perhaps we can email to get a good time. I’ve got some cool posts about some apocryphal gospels that I have planned between now and Christmas, but maybe we could sneak it in in January?

    Anyway, thanks for the info about the anachronisms. I think it’s hard for most people to realize that there were multiple competing “Christianities” as opposed to the unified one through Peter than we’re all taught. I’m sure my ideas about ancient Christianity are probably a bit naive, even though I think I’ve studied early Christianity more than the average Joe.

    I know I asked you at your presentation, but I can’t remember what you said. I know that Mary Magdalene was known as “the Apostle of the Apostles”. As I recall, she seemed to hold a special status among ancient Christians because she was the first person to see Jesus–even before the 12 apostles. If an apostle is a “special witness of Christ”, certainly Mary should be MORE special since she was the first. I believe there is a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, though I haven’t read it yet, and I wonder how her role was in ancient Christianity was perceived, especially with regards to priesthood.

    I have also heard that many women were in charge of “house churches” and held secret meetings in the early years of Christianity. From what I understand, these were generally the more wealthy women, and were some sort of leader, but I’m unsure of their leadership role in worship services. I’m also unclear if they date to the first century AD, or later. Do you have any details on this?

  11. […] October, I wrote a post titled, Mormon Women Blessing the Sick, as a follow up to my post on Women with Priesthood in Ancient Christianity.  Jonathon Stapley was the first to comment, […]

  12. I disagree on the bit that women held the priesthood and performed ordinances in the Christian Church, at least before the apostasy, unless women were allowed to marry women in the very early church. Read Paul’s admonition that Deacons (1 Timonthy 3:12) , Elders (Titus 1:5-6), and Bishops (1 Timothy, 3:2) must be the husband of one wife. Of course, you being the Heretic, will probably opine that Paul was a rogue apostle speaking for himself and not God.

    But, asthey are written, those verses seemingly legislate against women holding any of those offices.


  13. Here’s a few excerpts that may change your mind. As you know, Mormons believe that rogue translators changed the Bible, and one mistranslation concerns Junia/Junis.

    [Jack] references Romans 16:7, which references Andronicus and Junia. Some translators changed the name Junia (female) to Junis (male.) Clearly Junia was an apostle. Early Christian Father John Chrysostum (who lived from 347-405 AD) is quoted as saying,

    Greet Andronicus and Junia who are among the apostles. To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle. (In ep. ad Romanos 31.2)

    Jack refers to female Deacons in Romans 16:1-2 and 1 Tim 3:8-11.

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

    Jack refers other women mentioned in the New Testament. The following are definite or probable church house leaders.

    Lydia (Acts 16:14-15; 40),
    Nympha (Col. 4:15),
    Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11),
    Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15-16),
    Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5),
    and possibly the elect lady and her chosen sister in 2 John.
    Euodia & Synteche are mentioned in Philippians 4:2-3. Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350 – 428) read this as a struggle between the two women for leadership.

    Like I said, there is more info in the post, but what do you make of these New Testament references?

  14. MH, The verse citing Phebe as an example of a deaconess (oe any other priesthood office) is unpersuasive. She is said to be “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.” That generic term can have many interpretations. And, Jeffries is appealing to the very author I used to rebut her arguments.

    The case of 1 Timothy 8-11 actually works against the ideathat women were deacons in the New Testament church. I am quoting 8-11 and 12 for good measure, as it is one of the scriptures I used in rebuttal.

    1 Timothy Chapter 8:
    8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
    9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
    10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
    11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
    12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

    Verses 11 and 12 effectively tell us that Paul viewed all deacons as men, else how were they to have wives???

    Lydia is not even mentioned as a servant. Only that she was baptized along with her household. It days nothing about her having a husband, so she may indeed been the head of her household, but that is a far cry from holding the priesthood.

    In Col 4:15, Nymphas is noted to be a man “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” There are other variant readings which say in their house, and one, the Vaticanus manuscript which says “her house”. But, in any case, it only sems to mean that there was a small organization, probably a branch, that met in his/her/their house. It still implies nothing about Nymphas holding a priesthood office, be it male or female.

    Chloe in 1 Corinthians 1:14 likewise is silent as to Chloe’s connection with the church. “For it hath been declared unto me aof you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are bcontentions among you.” It is really hard to draw an implication for the lady to be a priesthood holder from that. Again, she may have been the head of her household, as no husband is mentioned. That sparse sentence is meager fodder to build any a casefor any type of leadership role in the church.

    Stephanas is also another name which is probably a male name. Even so, there is no indication that he/she was a priesthood holder.

    The strongest evidence that given, in my estimation, is that of Romans 16:7 “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

    If Junia is indeed a females name, the verse could be interpreted that she was a noted apostle, along with Andronicus, but that is the only verse that mentions them in the New Testament. A more logical reading would be that Andronicus and Junia were well known among the apostles. They surely are not listed elsewhere as being among the apostles.

    Bridget Jeffriesis not the first and probably will not be the last to read “priesthood” into those citations. You have already noted that Jeffries cited John Chrysostum as one of her sources, who is only voicing his opinion. He certainly had no apostles about him to confirm his interpretation, unlike today. The strongest evidence is weak at best.


  15. Glenn, now that you are here, what do you make of the early church fathers referring to these women? I also note that she said “priesthood” is a bit of an anachronism.

  16. MH, I make of it that they were interpreting those scriptures, and doing so incorrectly. The apostasy was well on its way before the apostles were actually killed off. Many of Paul’s writings were warnings against the apostasy already taking place. The famous “baptized for the dead” citation in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15 is an affirmation of the physical resurrection of the body, which was being taught against by some (12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?). We do not know what other anomalies were introduced into various branches ofthe church during that apostasy.

    I have stated elsewhere that I am not opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood. But it is something that would require a revelation from God to change.

    I do not think that the evidence from the extant New Testament sources is sufficient to make any type of case for ordination of women in the New Testament Church as established by the Savior.


  17. Glenn, as you well know by now, I like to look at all the evidence. I feel like you have a little bit of tunnel vision regarding this issue. “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” Now what I find ironic is that many Mormons say they believe there are problems in the Bible, but when it disagrees with their personal opinion then the Bible is translated correctly.

    Concerning Junis/Junia, to me the evidence that John Chrysostum gives is quite compelling. This seems to be a clear cut case of intentional mistranslation and obscuring the identity of the person in question. It seems to me that this is one of the better documented cases of an intentional obscuring of the Bible to make Junia become male. I know you disagree, but the evidence in this particular case seems very compelling to me. I think that when Mormons claim that there are mistranslations, they would be wise to accept clear evidence when it is found, and the John Chrysostum evidence seems pretty solid that Junia was a woman.

    I encourage you to review Jack’s powerpoint slides at the link in the OP. I think it is important not to look at the Bible in a vaccuum. We need to recognize that many church fathers had access to information that we do not have. Yes the apostasy was underway even when Paul was there, but why can’t part of the apostasy be the obscuring of female priesthood holders? It is my belief that had Joseph lived longer, he would have made the Relief Society a priesthood quorum, thus restoring an ancient Christian practice.

  18. […] I think this brings up some really interesting theological dilemmas.  On the one hand, I think many Mormons would tend to gravitate toward the interpretation that the Pope Gregory unfairly blamed Mary as being a prostitute.  There is some indication that he did that in order to discredit those that thought that women could be leaders in ancient Christianity. […]

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