Alice C. Linsley
I'm a traditionalist. My position takes as its basis the tradition of the priesthood which the Church received from Abraham's Horite people. This older understanding of the priesthood clarifies why "woman priest" is an ontological impossibility. Ignoring the origins of the priesthood weakens the traditionalist defense of the male priesthood. Traditionalists tend to go back only to the first and second centuries of Christianity, overlooking thousands of years of salvation history and significant anthropological and archaeological information.
Anthropological studies have shown that the origins of the priesthood predate Abraham. The oldest known order of priests to worship one supreme Creator were the Horite priests of Nekhen along the Nile (3000 B.C.). The ruler-priest Melchizedek was not the first of his kind. Priests were a caste in the ancient world, and as such practiced endogamy, that is, they married only within their priestly lines. Archaeological discoveries reveal that there was an order of priests dedicated to the Creator and his Son (Ra and Horus) as early as 3000 B.C. These are called "Horites" and they are Abraham's ancestors. This fact is recognized by Abraham's descendants who refer to their ancestors as "Horim."
The Horite ruler-priests held a binary worldview (versus a dualistic worldview). They were great observers of the patterns in nature and noted certain fixed binary sets: male-female, day-night and east-west. These priests kept records of celestial events and natural phenomena because they believed that God has made his divine nature and eternal power known in the order of creation (Romans 1:20). When we ignore or confuse such binary distinctions we have a distorted view of the fullness of Christ.
The ancient priests (Habiru/Hebrew) regarded blood as the substance of life. This why the first man is called Adam in the Bible. Adam is a reference to blood. Ha-dam means "the Blood" and specified human beings among archaic peoples. Leviticus 17:11: “The life is in the Blood.”
There is an etymological connection between the words Adam, Edom and the Hausa word Odum. These words pertain to red, the color of blood. Edom was the home of an especially prestigious line of ruler-priests. Some were identified as having a red skin tone. These Horite rulers are listed in Genesis 36. Jesus Christ's ancestry is Horite.
Blood is the complex and somewhat mysterious transport system that allows communication and coordination between different parts of the human body. It nourishes organs and muscles. Without it, life as we know it could not exist. It is natural to associate blood with the beginning of life and the renewal of life. For Saint Paul the Blood of Jesus speaks of the fullness of life in God. The blood of sacrificed animals prefigured the Blood of Jesus, but could never serve as a substitute. In Chapter 156 from the Book of the Dead (translated by R. Faulkner), the blood of the divine one provides protection.
For St. Paul, the benefits of the “blood of Jesus” are manifested as the pleroma, the fullness of all things in heaven and on earth, both invisible and visible. The Gnostics used the term to describe the metaphysical unity of all things, but Paul uses the term to speak about how all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ in bodily form (Col. 2:9).
Paul refers to the Blood of Jesus no less than twelve times in his writings. Because God makes peace with us through the blood of the cross, he urges “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together” (Eph. 4:3).
The Bible does not say that women can be priests because the very notion would have been unthinkable to the ancients. They held to the binary distinctions that reveal “woman priest” as an ontological impossibility. The idea of women sacrificing animals in the Temple would have been a great affront to the Creator. He created women to bring forth life, not to take it.
This idea that men and women have distinct blood work is a foreign concept to moderns. Today women fight in combat, hunt and abort their unborn. However, in the ancient world men and women had distinct roles when it came to blood work. These roles were not to be confused. Nor was it proper for the blood shed by males and females to be present in the same place. That is why women were not permitted at the altar of blood sacrifice and men were not permitted inside birthing chambers.
Abraham's Horite people made a distinction also between the blood work of men in killing and the blood work of women in birthing. The two bloods represent the binary opposites of life and death. The blood shed in war, hunting and animal sacrifice fell to warriors, hunters and priests. The blood shed in first intercourse, the monthly cycle and in childbirth fell to wives and midwives. The two bloods were never to mix or even to be present in the same space. Women did not participate in war, the hunt, and in ritual sacrifices, and they were isolated during menses. Likewise, men were not present at the circumcision of females (Pharaonic circumcision, not female genital mutilation) or in the birthing hut.
The distinction between the blood work of females and the blood work of males is ultimately about the distinction between life and death. This is why the Habiru (Hebrew) were commanded never to boil a baby goat it its mother’s milk. The mother's milk symbolizes life. Killing the new life in the substance of life blurs the distinction between life and death.
Historically, after childbirth women and their newborn infants were received into the church with great solemnity and joy. This was the Church’s way to recognize the woman and welcome the child. This liturgical moment, called "churching," affirmed the blood work of child bearing. This practice was observed in the Church for centuries, but began to disappear as feminist influences increased in the Church. Today, instead of welcoming the newborn and affirming the labor of the mother, Episcopal Church seminary dean, Katharine Ragsdale, leads her listeners in this chant:
“Let me hear you say it:
Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.
Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.
Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.”
The innovation of women priests has caused great confusion and division in the Church. This has spread throughout the whole Anglican Communion. This innovation is contrary to the binary pattern of Holy Scripture whereby the "blood work" of women and of men is distinct and never confused. A female standing as a priest at the altar is as confusing as a male image intended to represent the Virgin Mary.
Regardless of how one views the priest at altar - in persona christi, in persona ecclesiae, an icon of Christ, the divinely appointed mediator in the pattern of the Mediator, etc., this is not a matter of secondary importance. No synod or jurisdiction has authority to change the received tradition concerning Jesus Christ and his blood shed for the salvation of the world.
C.S. Lewis is correct that when it comes to the Church's received tradition, "We cannot shuffle or tamper so much. With the Church, we are farther in: for there we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us." (From Priestesses in the Church?)
Related reading: Blood and Binary Distinctions; Water and Blood; What Constitutes Being?; Why Women Were Never Priests; God as Male Priest; Binary Sets in the Ancient World; The Origin of Animal Sacrifice; What is Holy Tradition?; Circumcision and Gender Distinctions; Are Feminists Correct About the Church?