Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ten Objections to Women Priests

Alice C. Linsley

As a woman who served as a priest in the Episcopal Church for 16 years, I have some experience of the nature of the priesthood. In 1982, with the encouragement of my parish clergy, friends and family, it seemed the right course for my life. Over the years, I began to question the rationale for women priests. I remember feeling that I was standing in another's shoes, not appropriately mine. I wanted to explain this to my bishop, but he clearly did not want to hear it.

Galatians 3:28 has been used to justify the innovation of women priests: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." In the fourth century, St. Epiphanius remarked that the heretical Cataphyrgians (Montanists) employed Galatians 3:28 to elevate women as "bishops and priests and they say nothing makes a difference 'For in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.'''

Reading Galatians 3:28 in context, it is apparent that Paul is speaking of the unity of the body of Christ. He is not promoting gender equality as it is framed today. As the Supper was intended to unite the participants to the Head, Jesus Christ, the idea of a woman presiding at the Feast would have been unthinkable.

My doubts made the priestly ministry increasingly burdensome and problematic. As a heterosexual, Bible-believing, Anglican Traditionalist, I found no affirmation in the Episcopal Church as it moved toward a radical revision of the Gospel, setting aside the Apostolic Tradition for its social justice agenda.

Eventually, I renounced orders in the Episcopal Church and left that body. This initiated a decade of reflection on the role of women in the Church and the historic priesthood. During that time, I was in conversation with three former women priests who were seeking clarity also. One entered the Roman Catholic Church and the others entered the Orthodox Church of America. I explored both traditions, but I am thoroughly Anglican and have been for forty-three years.

I have written on the question of women priests, exploring it through Biblical studies, Church history, and cultural anthropology. As with many Anglicans, I believe that the Episcopal Church erred in 1976 when it departed from the all-male priesthood. On a single day the General Convention of the Episcopal Church overthrew catholic orders, rejected the teaching of the Fathers, and denied the authority of Holy Scripture.

Historically, the priesthood of the Church was restricted to a few chosen men, tested and carefully formed for the priestly office. In his treatise “On the Priesthood,” St. John Chrysostom wrote, "When one is required to preside over the Church, and be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also.”

Not a single woman served in the office of priest until 1944, at which time Florence Li Tim-Oi was ordained by Ronald Hall, Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, in response to the crisis among Anglicans in Communist China. She later stepped down from serving as a priest.

The first woman “canonically” ordained to the priesthood in the United States was a lesbian who served as Integrity's first co-president. Other lesbians had been among the Philadelphia Eleven. In the United States, the ordination of women and homosexuals was so intertwined from the beginning that it is difficult to treat these as separate questions. Both have been framed as "equal rights" issues, revealing a profound misunderstanding of the priesthood. The priesthood is not a right, and it is not a reward to be bestowed upon those who will advance a body’s agenda.

In this paper I address ten reasonable objections to women in the priesthood:

1. The Church is not a democratic body.
2. Women’s ordination is linked to homosexual activism.
3. Women’s ordination is rooted in Feminist thought.
4. Women priests perpetuate confusion about gender.
5. Women priests represent rejection of the authority Scripture and Tradition
6. Women priests cause confusion about the Eucharist.
7. Women priests represent a denial of the Fathers’ teaching.
8. Ordination of women to the priesthood undermines women’s ministries.
9. The feminization of the clergy discourages men’s participation in the church.
10. A female at the altar blurs the biblical distinction between life and death.

1. The Church is not a democracy

In 1994, Pope John Paul II spoke ex cathedra on female ordination, observing that the male priesthood had been "preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and clearly taught by the Magisterium in recent documents." He stated that the Church has "no authority to confer priestly ordination on women."

Synods may vote to conform “the constant and universal Tradition of the church” to the world’s shifting values. That invariably results in the loss of spiritual heritage and places the body outside the catholic Faith, which is where the Episcopal Church is today.

No jurisdiction has authority to set aside the all-male priesthood. The Body of Christ does not concede to the unilateral action of the Episcopal Church. The Church is not a democratic body in which dogma, doctrine, and the received tradition are changed or set aside by a vote.

2. Women’s ordination is linked to homosexual activism

Historically, a clear link exists between the push for women priests and homosexual activism. In 1974, the same year that Louie Crew founded the homosexual activist organization Integrity eleven women, including known lesbians, were ordained in Philadelphia.

In September 1975, more lesbians were ordained in Washington D.C. Here is the account in Louie Crew's words: "More 'irregular' ordinations of women took place… after our convention. In Washington at the time, on a missionary journey to our new chapters in the east, Jim Wickliff and I yielded to the counsel of friends who advised that our visibility at the ordination might put in jeopardy lesbians among all early ordinands."

In 1976 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirmed homosexual behavior when it passed the “we are children of God” resolution.

In 1977, Bishop Paul Moore (NY) ordained Ellen Marie Barrett, who had served as Integrity's first co-president.

Breaking catholic orders was necessary to opening the priesthood to partnered gay and lesbian persons.

3. Women’s ordination is rooted in Feminist thought.

Ideological Feminism is not about equal pay for equal work. It is not an ideology of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and equality. It is a Marxist ideology that reframes the economic antagonism between classes as a struggle between men and women. As in Marxism, radical feminism seeks to shift control of institutions and society to women. As such, ideological Feminism must oppose biblical headship as an expression of the sovereignty of God Father and God Son.

Feminist arguments are usually baseless and often irrational. Susan Cornwall argues that women can be priests because Jesus was a woman. By this ridiculous assertion she hopes to confront "discrimination against women" which she believes "is based on the tradition of Jesus having chosen only male apostles."

In 2015, Canon Emma Percy of the Church of England said, “In the last two or three years we’ve seen a real resurgence and interest in feminism, and younger people are much more interested in how gender categories shouldn’t be about stereotypes. We need to have a language about God that shows God can be expressed in lots of diverse terms.”

Percy wants to speak of God Father and God Mother. Attacking a straw man argument, she said, “Using both male and female language would get rid of the notion that God is some kind of old man in the sky.”

4. Women priests perpetuate confusion about gender.

Why draw the line at male and female language for God? On this slippery slope we may slide into casting God as transgendered or, like a crossdresser, being one gender but appearing as another. In a New York Times Opinion piece (Aug. 2016), Rabbi Mark Sameth makes a case for gender fluidity by citing examples in the Bible of male and female pronouns being exchanged or reversed. However, Sameth never claims that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures is transgender.

Jacques Derrida and others have noted that gender reversals in literature point to mystery. Derrida noted that in narratives when a gender reversal takes place, the other becomes the dominant voice. Normally, the dominant voice is that of the Male Principle/Presence, but when the reversal takes place, the Female Principle/Presence is in action. There are many examples of this in the Old Testament which explains why the Hebrew pronouns are sometimes ambiguous.

Genesis 3:15, the earliest Messianic reference in the Bible, is the most striking example of the mystery of gender reversal. The Hebrew says, “He will crush you a head and you will crush us a heel.” The subject of the verb is the third person, masculine, singular (he) and the imperfect tense of the verb indicates action yet to be completed. The suffix ך identifies the object of the verb as second person, masculine, singular (you). This would be translated as "he will crush you” and the message is directed to the serpent.

In the Vulgate, St. Jerome gives “ipsa” as the nominative feminine singular of ipse though ipsa is sometimes the nominative neuter plural. Jerome’s rendering of Genesis 3:15 reads: Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius: ipsa conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius. God says to the serpent, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. She will crush your head, and you will lie in wait for her heel.”

In his Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram the Jesuit priest Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637) recognized the significance of gender reversal in the Hebrew Bible. He resolved the problem of the verb in the masculine (yashuph, conteret), citing the interplay of gender in Hebrew: the masculine being used in place of the feminine and vice-versa when there is some mystery, anomaly, or singularity. Lapide wrote, “frequent exchange of gender in Hebrew: the masculine being used in place of the feminine and vice-versa, especially when there is present some cause or mystery.”

5. Women priests represent rejection of the authority of Scripture and Tradition

The fact that the gender exchange involves only male and female indicates that the biblical view of humanity is binary, not transgender, not homosexual, and not a spectrum.

Though the interplay of male and female language in Scripture hints at the mystery of the Godhead, it does not pertain to God. In Christianity, God has self-revealed as Father of the Son, Jesus Christ. As Fr. Thomas Hopko recognized, "In his actions in and toward the world of his creation, the one God and Father reveals himself primarily and essentially in a 'masculine' way.” (Women and the Priesthood, p 240.)

The Church’s relationship to God is expressed in the language it uses in prayer and the language it uses in speaking about God. That is exactly why we preserve the biblical language for God Father and God Son. The language is not negotiable. “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.” (1 John 2:23) This is the kerygma, as John makes clear: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:14-15)

The language of God Father and God Son is as essential to the Gospel as the dogmas of Jesus' two natures and the Trinity.

Those who applaud women priests acknowledge that women at the altar change the way we think about God. The Rev. Serene Jones, the first woman president of Union Theological Seminary, said exactly that: “When the people who are representing God, making God present, have female bodies, that inevitably changes the way you think about how God is.”

This revisionist language represents a rejection of the Bible’s authority. Setting aside the language of the Bible is preliminary to replacing holy men at the altar. Females and persons who identify as “other” claim presidency at the Eucharist. They change the traditional prayers according to their whims and dismiss the formularies of the catholic Faith. They invent narratives to work around Scripture and Tradition since they have dismissed the received Faith as sexist, patriarchal, and outdated.

6. Women priests cause confusion about the Eucharist.

When Anglicans contemplate reception of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, it is appropriate to see before them a masculine form. Likewise, in contemplation of the Annunciation and Incarnation we properly have before us an image/icon of Mary, not a masculine form. The narrative of gender equality at the altar changes the sign of His sacrifice, resurrection, and promise of immortality to the baptized. It reframes the Eucharist to avoid the reality of Jesus, the Male God. The product is sadly inferior as it resembles pagan commemorative feasts.

7. Women priests represent a denial of the Fathers’ teaching.

The invented narrative also represents a denial of the authority of the Church Fathers who urge diligence in maintaining the received Tradition. Ignatius of Antioch adjures, "Be diligent, therefore, to use one eucharist, for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup, for union with his blood; one altar, even as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons who are my fellow-servants, to the end that whatever ye do, ye may do it according unto God. (Philadelphians 4.1)

Women priests are evidence of the Western church’s love of innovation. Speaking against this tendency, St. Basil the Great wrote, “The dogmas of the Fathers are held in contempt, the Apostolic traditions are disdained, the churches are subject to the novelties of innovators” (Letter 90, To the Most Holy Brethren and Bishops Found in the West). The Great Schism of 1054, and the lesser fractures that produced a plethora of denominations, come from pride and innovation.

The Church Fathers have a clear consensus on the question of women and the priesthood. St. Epiphanius, in "Against Heresies" (79.304), wrote: "If women were ordained to be priests for God or to do anything canonical in the church, it should rather have been given to Mary. . . She was not even entrusted with baptizing. Although there is an order of deaconesses in the church, yet they are not appointed to function as priests, or for any administration of this kind, but so that provision may be made for the propriety of the female sex [at nude baptisms]. Whence comes the recent myth? Whence comes the pride of women or rather, the woman's insanity?"

In his treatise “On the Priesthood” (3.9) St. John Chrysostom wrote: "Divine law has excluded women from the sanctuary, but they try to thrust themselves into it."

St. Augustine, "On Heresies" (27) refers to the heretical Pepuzians mentioned by St. Epiphanius. "They give such principality to women that they even honor them with priesthood."

8. The Ordination of women to the priesthood undermines women’s ministries.

The Episcopal Church’s top-down corporate model of leadership has not encouraged lay women in local ministries. Instead, the Episcopal Church proudly elevates women to the episcopacy. In 2019, seven women were elected as diocesan or suffragan bishops. Women with leadership gifts are needed to organize and lead vital ministries in the parishes, in prisons, and to oversee outreach to the poor, elderly, and sick. They are not needed as priests and bishops, roles that isolate them from other women and from grass root ministries. The priesthood by its very nature is isolating. Women priests often feel doubly isolated from parishioners and from a church leadership that regards them as a social justice issue.

9. The feminization of the clergy discourages men’s participation in the church.

In his 1999 book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, Leon Podles looked at attendance trends in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and noted that the more liberal Protestant churches saw a decrease in male attendance from 47% to 40-35% between 1952 and 1986.

The trend is evident in the Church of England. In 1994, thirty-two women were ordained as priests in the Church of England. A February 2014 report in The Guardian states that between 2002 and 2012, the number of female full-time clergy increased by 41%. During the same period, the number of full-time male clergy dropped from 7,920 to 6,017.

The 2018 report reveals that the number of female clergy in the Church of England continues to rise with more women than men preparing for ordained ministry for the second year running.

From 2017 to 2018, the proportion of senior posts such as dean or bishop occupied by women rose from 23% to 25%. The figures do not include the six new female bishops in 2018, bringing the total number of female bishops in the Church of England to 24.

The 1992 decision to ordain women to the priesthood in the Church of England has been followed by the stated objective of having a 50%-50% census. To accomplish this means pushing women forward and denying some men.

Perhaps of greater importance is the number of fathers who regularly attend worship. Studies have shown that fathers are the greatest influence on whether their children also attend church. Writing on the importance of fathers in church, Robbie Low said, “To minister to a fatherless society, these churches, in their unwisdom, have produced their own single-parent family parish model in the woman priest.”

10. A female at the altar blurs the biblical distinction between life and death.

Speaking from the perspective of Biblical Anthropology, the priesthood of the Church stands in continuity with the Hebrew priesthood that was known to Abraham and his ancestors. As the author of Hebrews attests, Jesus is the perfect embodiment of that ancient priestly office (Hebrews 7:17). The priest's office is unique, deeply rooted in archaic religion, and stands as an ensign of the hope for immortality.

Anthropological research indicates that the priesthood originated among people who observed the binary distinction of male and female blood work. The priesthood is about blood sacrifice and blood covering. Consider the context of blood work in traditional societies. Men do the blood work that involves taking life: combat, hunting, and animal sacrifice. Women do the blood work that involves giving life: the monthly blood flow, and blood from the birth process.

Women were never priests because women were not permitted in the place of blood work that involves death. Likewise, men were not allowed in the birthing hut. The gender roles reflect the distinction between life and death, a distinction that God warns the covenant people not to blur. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20). A woman at the altar represents confusion about the binary nature of blood work in the biblical context.

The blood work of Jesus, the Son of God, is unique. His work on the Cross is both condemnation to those who are perishing and life to those who are being saved (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21). The faithful priest is a man whose life is a testimony to the reality of the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Conscious of Our Uniqueness as Humans

Ainu of Northern Japan

Many aboriginal peoples have a name for themselves that simply means people, humans or human beings. In Genesis 1, Adam (adamah) means human, and in Genesis 2 Adam refers to a red human.

The ancient Akkadian word ḫāpiru means human being.

The Ainu are an aboriginal people of Northern Japan and the eastern seaboard of Canada. The word Ainu means human.

The ancient metal workers of Anatolia called themselves the Nes (NS) which means humans, and their language was called Nesli. There is a linguistic connection to modern Serbian. In Serbian nas means us, naš means our, naši means our people, naški means our language.

Naxi elders in Yunnan China.

There is a Tibetan-Burmese population with the name Naxi. Naxi means "honored people."

The natives of the Aleutian islands call themselves "Anishinabe" which means "First Men" or "Original Men."

The Inuktitut word Inuit means "human beings." The Inuit are the "first people" of Baffin Island in Canada, the Northwest Territories, Greenland and Alaska.

It appears that the earliest populations self-identified as human, as distinct from other creatures. This is explicit in the story of Adam naming the animals. The Man and the animals are created from the same substance. They are formed from the earth and are earth creatures. As the story continues Adam discovers that he is unique. There is no other creature like him. He is alone until God fashions a companion for him, the woman.

Even some names given by paleoanthropologists to archaic populations work like this. For example. "Sahelanthropus tchadensis" simply means the humans of the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin.

Related reading: Adam Was a Red Man; A Kindling of Ancient Memory; Adam Named the Animals; On Blood and the Impulse to Immortality

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Adam Named the Animals

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 2:18-23 is a delightful folk narrative about God bringing animals to Adam to name. The story does not receive much attention from Bible scholars because they are at a loss to explain the origin of this narrative.

Genesis 2 is recognized as the older of the creation stories. The context of Genesis 1 is Babylonian and much later. The context of Genesis 2 is African, and it is in African tales that we discover the purpose of this account of Adam naming the animals. African animal tales highlight social relationships and hierarchies. By giving Adam the ruler's role in naming the creatures over which he is to have dominion, God establishes a hierarchy in the order of creation.

The Man and the animals are created from the same substance. They are formed from the earth and are earth creatures. As the story continues Adam discovers that he is unique. There is no other creature like him. He is alone until God fashions a companion for him, the woman.

The woman is also unique. She is made from the man, not the soil. In a sense, the woman is the crown of creation and as such she is vulnerable. The spirit of rebellion against God's order in creation makes her his first victim. By obeying the serpent instead of God, Eve became subjected to a creature of low estate. She exchanged her crown for an abased state. The first trespass was against God's order of creation.

St. John Chrysostom wrote, "Do you see how the devil led her captive, handicapped her reasoning, and caused her to set her thoughts on goals beyond her real capabilities, in order that she might be puffed up with empty hopes and lose her hold on the advantages already accorded her?" (From here.)

The social relationships are changed. The animals under Adam's rule are part of a fallen realm. Now the whole of the creation yearns for the day of redemption. In the grand scheme of God's providence, it would be a woman's obedience that would begin the restoration of paradise. Her name is Mary and she is the Mother of Christ our God.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Water Shrine of Lahai Roi

Hagar gave this name to the LORD who had spoken to her:“You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “Here I have seen the One who sees me!” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi. It is located between Kadesh and Bered." (Genesis 16:13-14)

Alice C. Linsley

In the Bible, Beer Lahai Roi is mentioned in connection to Hagar, one of Abraham's concubines, and Isaac, Abraham's heir. Genesis 25:11 explains, "After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi." Presumably, Isaac lived near Beer Lahai Roi with Rebekah who he had married before Abraham died.

Beer Lahi Roi refers to an oasis in the wilderness between Kadesh and Bered, two sites that have not been definitively identified. The oasis was south of Beersheba. It may be the sacred fountain on the way to Shur mentioned in Genesis 16:7 where the angel of YHWH found Hagar. Likely, it was a water shrine frequented by women when they were troubled.

As Abraham's heir, Isaac ruled over territory in Edom (shown below). Abraham's territory extended between Hebron and Beersheba (north-south axis) and between Ein Gedi and Gerar (east-west axis).

This region was called "Idumea" by the Greeks, meaning "land of red people." One of the rulers of Edom was Esau who is described as red and hairy. Esau was one of Isaac's sons, and his proper heir.

As the ruler, Isaac traveled from place to place within his territory. He spent time in Gerar repairing wells that had been dug by Abraham (Gen. 26:1), and he spent time in Beersheba where Abraham's cousin wife Keturah dwelt. Isaac had half-siblings living there.

Isaac also spent time at Beer Lahai Roi (Gen. 25:11), especially after his father died. Genesis 24:62 reports that Isaac traveled from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he lived in the "land of the South," a reference to Edom, the region south of Judah. Perhaps Isaac lived for a time in Beer Lahai Roi with Rebekah because his new wife had kin there. In Isaac's time, all of this area was within the territory controlled by the Horites of Edom.

Isaac married Rebekah shortly before Abraham's death. Genesis 25:20 says that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. The marriage and ascendancy pattern for the rulers among Abraham's Horite Hebrew caste indicates that Rebekah was Isaac's second wife. He probably had married a half-sister when he was much younger.

Isaac had half-sisters where Abraham spent the last years of his life in the "wildernesss of Beersheba" (Gen. 21:14). It is likely that Isaac's first wife was a half sister, as was Sarah to Abraham.

Once Isaac ascended to rule over Abraham's territory in Edom, Isaac's two wives would have lived in separate households on a north-south axis. These settlements would then have marked the northern and southern boundaries of Isaac's territory.

Related reading: The Chiefs of Edom; Abraham's Concubines; Abraham's Sons; A Woman at a Well; Ishmael Was Not Abraham's First Born Son

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Leaving Haran

Alice C. Linsley

Abraham's father Terah maintained two wives in separate households. One resided in Ur of Chaldea (modern Iraq) and the other resided in Haran (modern Turkey). The rulers of Abraham's people marked their northern and southern boundaries by the placement of their wives. Abraham did this also. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided in Beersheba to the south. (Both Hebron and Beersheba were in the territory that the Greeks called Idumea, which is Edom, the land of red people.)

The Horite Hebrew rulers did not place their wives on an east-west axis because that would be to claim equality with God. The solar arc indicated God's daily route from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun. There is a subtle criticism of Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4) whose two wives lived in settlements on a east-west axis. As the Hebrew scholar Theodor Gaster noted, their names Adah and Zillah indicate dawn and dust. This rounds out the picture of Lamech's arrogance, for besides boasting of killing a man, he set himself as an equal to God.

Evidently, Terah was a powerful ruler. His territory was the fertile land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. His son Nahor ruled after Terah died in Haran (Gen. 11:32). Nahor was Abraham's older brother.

In Akkadian, "na" is a modal prefix indicating service to, affirmation, or affiliation.The name Na-Hor would then indicate a servant of Horus; further evidence that Terah and his sons were Horite Hebrew rulers.

Nahor's sons were Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. Job was of the clan of Uz. Nahor also had children by a concubine named Reumah. Their names were Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah (Gen. 22:20-24). The name "Tahash" refers to tanners and leather workers. A stronghold called Aram-Maacah is mentioned as an ally to the late Bronze Age strongholds of Aram Naharaim and Zobah in 1 Chronicles 19:6.

According to the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horite Hebrew, Abraham would have received gifts from his father before Terah died. These were provisions for Abraham's departure as a "sent-away" son. Sent-away sons were to seek territories of their own away from their father's proper heir. The sending forth of Abraham constitutes a divine call and appointment. It means that a kingdom will be gained, not according to worldly means, but as God directs. Sent-away sons receive divine protection, guidance, territory, authority, and heirs. This pattern is found with Cain, Abraham, Moses, Yacob, Yoseph, Samuel and David.

The right of rule was bestowed on the first born son of the principal wife. The principal wife was the bride of the man's youth and a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham. Inheritance grants were given to the sons of concubines. Abraham gave grants to the sons of his concubines Hagar and Masek and sent the sons away from the territory of his proper heir, Isaac (Gen. 25:6). 

Many heroes of the Bible are men who left their homes and relied on God for provision of their own territories. This practice of sending away sons drove the expansion of the Horite Hebrew into new territories. It explains why the Horite Hebrew are found dispersed among the peoples of Y-DNA Haplogroup R (shown on map above).

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The God of Genesis

Priest of the Sethite High Places of the Anu (c. 2200 BC)

Alice C. Linsley

Recently, I was asked how the God of Genesis connects to Christian theology, specifically to the catholic faith. By "catholic" I mean what the Church has believed at all times and in all places, and what is enshrined in the Creeds, protected by the ecumenical councils, and attested by Holy Scripture.

This is a thoughtful question that encourages us to focus on the theological substance of Genesis. Who is God in the first book of the Bible?

God is the High God. He reigns supreme over all other deities, rulers, dominions, and powers. This is expressed in the pervasive solar symbolism of Abraham and his Horite Hebrew people. As the sun is the great light that gives light to the world, so the High God shines above the whole creation.

God is the Creator and eternal. He is from before the beginning of the creation. He creates in an orderly fashion. That order includes binary distinctions, hierarchies, and boundaries, and commands. God separates the waters above from the waters below, and the dry land from the sea. He stretches the heavens from the east to the west. He creates male and female. He creates a garden with boundaries, and within the garden He places the Tree of life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil with instructions on how to pursue life.

The God of Genesis is perceived as having male qualities. He was believed to inseminate the earth. This belief was probably due to the discovery of meteoritic iron pellets by archaic peoples. The meteoritic iron found on the earth's surface was worn by chiefs and rulers because it represented power from on high. Iron beads were a symbol of royal and priestly authority and were worn by kings, priests and warriors. This belief continued into the dynastic periods. King Tut's dagger (shown above) had a gold sheath and a tip made of meteoritic iron.

The God of Abraham's Horite Hebrew people was father to a son. God father was called Ra or Ani and God son was called Horus or Enki. Horus was the Master of kings, the wearer of the two crowns, and the one who unites the peoples. He was called "Horus of the Horizons" because he was said to rise in the east as a lamb and set in the west as a mature ram. This is the message Abraham's received on Mount Moriah when the offering of his own son is met with the offering of God's son in the form of a ram.

God's spirit goes forth and generates life. In the Nicene Creed the Holy Spirit is proclaimed "the Lord, the Giver of Life." The Spirit of God animates as it enters like a breath into the first humans. The Spirit moves like a wind over the dark deep and brings order to chaos.

The God of Genesis looks on the heart. He knows what Sarah is thinking and lovingly confronts her (Gen. 18). He does not hold King Abimelech guilty for taking Sarah since Abimelech did so with a clear conscience (Gen. 20:6).

The God of Genesis is merciful. Though Cain deserves death for killing his brother, God instead banishes him and places a mark of protection on him. Likewise, God shows mercy to others who murdered, including Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4), Moses, and David.

God provides what is needed. Eden is well-watered with abundant vegetation. Clothing is provided to cover the couple's nakedness. Noah, his family, and his royal menagerie are saved in a time of flooding. Abraham receives a territory and an heir to rule over his territory. Jacob receives herds, flocks and wives. Hagar is brought to water in the wilderness. An angel delivers Lot from destruction. Joseph is delivered from death and elevated from a slave to the grand vizier of Egypt.

God reveals through prophets and in visions and dreams. Abraham visited the prophet who sat under a great oak at Mamre. The old man Abraham had visions (Gen. 15) and the young men Jacob and Joseph had dreams. Echoing Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17 says, "Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In the "last days" the young will be as wise as the old visionaries and the old will be a spry as the young dreamers.

God appoints priests to serve his people. Melchizedek comes to Abraham after the battle and brings bread and wine. He offers prayers and receives a tithe from Abraham (Gen. 14:20).

God appoints rulers to uphold the law. The Kushite kingdom builder Nimrod establishes cities with government officials and builds a great empire in Mesopotamia. Genesis 36 lists other ancient rulers; the Horite Hebrew rulers of Edom who were known for their wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). Genesis 36:31 speaks of the great antiquity of the Horite rulers: "These are the kings who reigned in Edom before any king ruled in Israel."

Among the Horite Hebrew the appointment of priests, rulers, the chosen sacrifice, and the Mother of the Son of God was represented by divine overshadowing.

God's son is called the "Seed" in Genesis 3:15. He was expected to be born of the Woman (not Eve) by divine overshadowing of the Spirit, just as the Angel explained to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Though the cultural contexts of Genesis often seem strange, the God of Genesis is familiar to people who are steeped in the catholic faith of the Church. We affirm that God is Father, Son and Spirit. We affirm that God is merciful, and He makes provision for human failings, even giving His son as the appointed sacrifice through whom we receive by faith the forgiveness of sins and the promise of immortality.

Related reading: The Substance of Abraham's FaithJudaism is Not the Faith of Abraham; On Blood and the Impulse to Immortality; The Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Killing of Abel

An 11th-century ivory relief from Salerno, Italy (now in the Louvre).

"Cain [Kan] spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field [sadeh in Hebrew; gan in Akkadian], Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him." (Genesis 4:8)

Alice C. Linsley

Note that the Genesis text does not mention what Kain said Abel beforehand, nor what Abel answered. Is it possible that Abel did not pay attention to something his brother told him? Perhaps Kain had warned Abel not to trespass upon his territory.

The story of the killing of Abel involves a fascinating interplay between the words kan and gan. The Akkadographic value of gan and kan is the same (see page 21), and both words refer to a field or plot of land. The Akkadian word kan also refers to blood, suggesting a play on words: Abel's blood (kan) cried to God from the field (kan).

As a shepherd, Abel would have been a man of the fields. Apart from the Akkadian association of field and blood (kan), the word "field" in this passage seems benign, so what precipitated the killing?

The idea of two offerings, one accepted by God and the other rejected, is likely a later embellishment. It serves the purpose of a later source. If we remove this detail, a different picture emerges.

Some have speculated that Abel's flocks trespassed on Cain's land and an argument ensued. Or Kain may have enticed Abel to enter a region over which Kain exercised control.

For Abel, entering the territory of an angry older brother may have been a deadly mistake. This interpretation is supported by the Hebrew word sadeh which means field, territory, or country.

The theme of a younger brother entering the territory of an older brother is found in the story of Jacob returning to Edom where Esau ruled as Isaac's heir. Though Esau went out to meet Jacob and greeted him hospitably, Jacob was wise to not settle in Esau's territory.

Among ruling families, the older brother's claims are taken seriously. To insure that Isaac was established as the ruler over his father's territory in Edom, Abraham took two important steps. He gained a second wife for Isaac in the person of Rebekah, Isaac's patrilineal cousin bride; and he gave gifts to his other sons and sent them away from Isaac (Gen. 25:6).

Is there evidence that Kain was a ruler over a territory? Yes, there is abundant evidence.

The name of Cain's firstborn son (Gen. 4:17) is Enoch which is related to the Nilo-Saharan word anochie or anochi, meaning "one who is to follow" as an heir to the throne. Among the Igbo, anochie means “a replacer” or “to replace.” A Nigerian anthropologist reports that, "Anochie means direct heir to a throne."

Cain was a city builder (Gen. 4:17) and cities were built by rulers. He named the city after his son Enoch.

Cain's wife named their first-born son after her father, which was the pattern among Abraham's ruler-priest ancestors.

By the time that Jude wrote his epistle (c. 68 AD) Cain was solidly established as the archetype of an earthly ruler. Jude warns those who might abandon Christ that God punishes those who rebel against Him. He uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest.

King Solomon was visited by a great queen of the royal house of Sheba. Her title was Kandake (rendered "Candace" in English). Kandake is not a proper name. It is a royal title and the female counterpart to Kain/Kan.