Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Women Were Never Priests

The Tradition concerning the all-male priesthood is about the Blood. This is why a male may stand at the altar, but not a woman. The blood work of Jesus Christ is the work of the dying and rising God. The blood work of Mary is about giving life and humanity to the Son of God. The priesthood originated among archaic peoples who observed the binary distinction of male and female blood work.

Alice C. Linsley

In the Episcopal Church USA, the innovation of women priests has caused great confusion and division. 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.

If the priest is an icon of Jesus Christ, then the priesthood is a Christological matter, and as such, it necessarily touches on soteriology. It cannot be a matter of secondary importance. Anglicans, even bishops, have no authority to change the received tradition concerning Jesus Christ, our Priest who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
Arch-heretic Schori

C.S. Lewis is correct that when it comes to 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?)

Priests or shamans?

It is obvious that women are not strong enough to lift large animals and to restrain them long enough to slit their throats for sacrifice. It is also a fact that there is no anthropological evidence of women priests in the ancient world. The so-called "priestesses" of the pagan shrines such as the Pythia at Delphi, were not priests, but shamans. Priests and shamans represent different worldviews. Themistoclea of Delphi represents the shamanistic approach and Deborah represents an approach in which consultation of spirits and drug-induced trance states is forbidden. Both women were consulted by their people, but their methods and the sources of their information were very different.[1]

The priesthood originated among Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors and from the beginning was a sign pointing to the one true Form of Priest, Jesus Christ.[2]  Every priest, either living before Christ or after Christ’s appearing, stands as a sign pointing to Him and receives the priesthood from Him.

The priesthood is a unique office and it is impossible to change it in any essential way. All attempts to change the priesthood, such as developed out of Protestantism or the ordination of women "priests", corrupt the sign so that it no longer points to the Jesus the true Priest, who is the fulfillment of the Horite expectation of the Divine Seed (Gen. 3:15). The Church has no authority to change the ontological pattern since the priesthood existed before the Church. The priesthood was not established by the Apostles, nor even by Jesus Christ Himself, but is an historical reality with a point of origin among Abraham's Kushite ruler-priest ancestors (Horites/Horim).

The first ruler-priest mentioned in the Bible is Melchizedek who lived during the time of Abraham. It is clear from Genesis 14 that Melchizedek and Abraham were well acquainted. Both belonged to the Horite ruler-priest caste which practiced endogamy. In other words, Abraham and Melchizedek were kinsmen. It is likely that Melchizedek was the brother-in-law of Joktan, Abraham's father-in-law.

The author of Hebrews tells us that Melchizedek points to Jesus as the true Priest: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:13-20)

Melchizedek represents the Messianic priesthood, but he does not represent the beginning of the priesthood. Cain and Abel acted as priests when they offered sacrifices in Genesis 4. This means that the priesthood was not established by the Apostles, it existed long before them. According to Saint John Chrysostom, a Church Father, the priesthood “is ranked among heavenly ordinances. And this is only right, for no man, no angel, no archangel, no other created power, but the Paraclete himself ordained this succession...”[3]

If the Apostles are not the source of the Christian priesthood, what is the source? It can only be the eternal Christ, who is the eternal Form/Priest. Through Jesus Christ the eternal truth signified by the Priesthood comes into focus. He alone is Priest, fulfilling atonement through His own shed blood. The Priesthood therefore, is necessarily tied to the Blood of Jesus Christ. Where people deny the saving nature of Jesus' Blood there can be no true Priesthood. Any priest who denies the necessity of repentance and trust in Jesus' Blood as the means of forgiveness, is a false priest.

What can we say about the Priesthood?

The priesthood is one of the oldest religious offices in the world, traced back to at least 4000 B.C. It emerged out of the Proto-Saharan and Nilotic context and extended from the Sudan and ancient Nubia through Arabia to the Indus River Valley. According to the Vedic book, the Matsya, the Kushites (Sa-ka) ruled the ancient world for 7000 years. They spread their binary worldview and their religious practices, such a falcon-shaped fire altars dedicated to Horus. The Vedic Priest Manuals (Brahmanas) [4] speak of how the Brahman offered sacrifice at altars which they constructed according to geometry and at the proper seasons which they determined through astronomy. The Vedas also reveal the danger of a priestly order that becomes too powerful and self-serving, as happened also with the ruler-priests of Jesus’ time (Sanhedrin). When the True Priest appeared among them, they were unable to recognize Him because their understanding of the office of the Priest had become corrupted.

The priest must be understood against the backdrop of Horite perceptions of blood as the substance of life or the ground of Being. The binary aspect of blood is seen in the belief that it can both purify and pollute. The priest was not to come into contact with blood before his time of service in the temple. Contact with blood or a corpse caused him to be ritually impure. At the same time, spiritual contamination was cleansed by the blood of sacrificed lambs. Purity, holiness and blood are closely related concepts among the Afro-Asiatics, as is evident from linguistic study. The Hebrew thr means "to be pure" and corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm toro, meaning "to be clean." They are related to the Ethiopian Amarigna word anatara, which means "pure" and to the Tamil tiru, which means "holy." There is a relationship to the proto-Dravidian tor, meaning "blood." In some Kushitic languages mtoro means rain and toro refers to God. The Egyptian ntr, meaning deity, is related and also refers to deified Horite rulers.

From the dawn of time humans recognized that life is in the blood. They saw offspring born of water and the blood. They knew that the loss of blood could bring death. Killing animals in the hunt also meant life for the community. They sought ways to ensure that their dead entered life beyond the grave, especially their rulers who could intercede for them before the Deity. This is why peoples around the world covered their dead rulers in red ochre dust as early as 80,000 years ago.[5] This red dust is a sign pointing to the Pleromic Blood of Jesus.[6]

God planted eternity in our hearts so we innately know that Christ's Blood is not only redemptive, but also the source of our life. This is what St. Paul calls "the mystery of Christ". As his second missionary journey, Paul preached that, “in Him [Jesus Christ] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) He also wrote: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. (Eph. 1:7-10)

These words follow Paul’s explanation of the saving work of Jesus Christ in Ephesians: But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility... Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father. (Eph. 2:13-14)

Second, we know that the priest functions to mitigate blood guilt. Anthropologists have noted that there is considerable anxiety about shed blood among primitive peoples.[7] Among the Afro-Asiatics, the priesthood served to relieve blood guilt and anxiety and to perform rites of purity. The priest addresses impurities by seeking purification through blood sacrifice. He also addresses anxiety about shed blood through blood sacrifice.

Third, we know that no woman served as a priest in any official capacity. Women did not enter the area of the altar where blood was offered in animal sacrifice. We know this because the Afro-Asiatics, from whom we received the priestly office, believed that the blood shed by men and women were never to mix or even be in the same place. Sacred law prohibited the blood shed in killing (male) and the blood shed in giving life (female) to share the same space. This binary worldview supports clear distinction between life and death. The same distinction of life-taking and life-giving is behind the law that forbids boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk (Deut. 14:21).

The innovation of women priests begin in the Episcopal Church USA and has led to the demise of that denomination. Many of the women who were encouraged to become priests were latter inhibited from ministry with TEC's hit list now well beyond 600. Not surprisingly, the Episcopal Church has a seminary president, Katharine Ragsdale, who stated in a sermon that abortion is a blessing:

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.

When we overthrow the binary distinction between life-giving and life-taking, we are left with darkened minds and barbarity.

The ontological impossibility of women priests

Scripture speaks of numerous women in positions of leadership, but none were priests. Deborah and Huldah were regarded as prophets and their families were in the priestly lines. Daughters of priests, such as Asenath and Zipporah, are remembered as great women as well. However not a single women can be identified as a priest in the Bible or in the history of the Church. It is clear then that women have never been priests and that the nature of the priesthood from the beginning has been such that it pertains only to men.

The biblical worldview is not concerned with subjective opposites such as tall-short, talented-untalented, dark skin-light skin, intelligent-unintelligent, etc. as these are relative and subjective, not absolute and objective. The Bible is concerned about what is ontologically real. It is not a book of superstition or antiquated ideas. It is full of reason and evidence of empirical observation.

The binary distinctions were the basis for law and religious practice in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion. Both law and religion recognized that one of the opposites is always greater in some way. The Sun’s light is greater than moonlight. Males are stronger and larger than females. Heaven is more glorious than earth, and life is superior to death. Only in this last category is the feminine greater than the masculine, because the blood of menstruation and childbirth speaks of life, whereas the blood drawn by men in war, hunting and animal sacrifice speaks of death.

Warriors were responsible for the blood they shed in battle. Hunters were responsible for the blood they shed in the hunt, and priests were responsible for the blood of the animals they sacrificed. Midwives, wives and mothers were responsible for the blood of first intercourse, menstrual blood and blood shed in childbirth. 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. Likewise, men were not present at the circumcision of females or in the “mother’s house” to which women went during menses and to give birth.

Because the Creator wants the distinction between life and death to be clear at all times to all peoples, He established this distinction between the “blood work” of women and men. This distinction between the two bloods is the basis for the priesthood, an office ontologically exclusive to males, since only men in the priestly lines could fill the office. This is a received tradition and a holy ordinance which no synod or jurisdiction has authority to change. The priesthood speaks of ancient holy tradition [8], not a creed, but rather the person of Jesus Christ.

From the Afro-Asiatic perspective, which is the perspective of the Bible, God is male and God is priest. It is clear also that God condescends to grant to the lesser a greater role. So it is that a young maiden, from the least of the tribes of Israel, should become the un-wedded Bride of God and the ever-virgin Mother of Christ our God.

God has not changed the office of the priesthood. It survives in Christian communities that preserve Holy Tradition received concerning the Son of God. When the priesthood is held high and priests live above contamination, the world is drawn to Jesus Christ. This happens because there is only one Priesthood: the Messianic Priesthood. There is only one Priest: Jesus Christ, and there is only one Blood, Christ’s pleromic blood which is the life of the world.

St. Paul expresses it this way: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, and one God and father of all, over all, through all and within all.” (Eph. 4:4-5)

As C.S. Lewis has written: “I have every respect for those who wish women to be priestesses. I think they are sincere and pious and sensible people. Indeed, in a way they are too sensible... I am tempted to say that the proposed arrangement would make us much more rational, but not near so much like a Church.” (From Priestesses in the Church?)

Related Reading: The Priesthood is About the Blood;  Female Shamans, Not Women PriestsRethinking "Biblical Equality"Women Priests by E.L. Mascall; Women PriestsGod as Male Priest; Levi-Strauss and Derrida on Binary OppositionsThe Question of Women Priests Must Be AddressedWomen Priests: History and Theology by Patrick Henry Reardon; Water and Blood; Blood and Binary Distinctions


1. To read about the difference between the worldviews of the priest and the shaman, go here.

2. Plato taught that there is but one true Form of all observable entities and this Form exists in eternity (outside of time and space). Species of natural objects observed are reflections of their true Forms. Plato studied for thirteen years at Heliopolis (Biblical On) in Egypt under a Horite priest.

3. St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (1977), p. 70.

4. The Brahamas are Vedic texts that provide instruction for Hindu priests. These texts give detailed instructions about sacrifices offered at altars of fire. They also make it evident that the Priest is a close associate of the King and the King relies heavily upon the Priests’ services. This is evident in the Priest-King relationship that we find n the Old Testament. For more on this, see Bujor Avari’s book India: The Ancient Past, pp. 77-79.

5. Anthropologists have discovered that the wider the dispersion of a culture trait the older the trait.

6. Sophisticated mining operations in the Lebombo Mountains of southern Africa reveal that thousands of workers were extracting red ochre which was ground into powder and used in the burial of nobles in places as distant as Wales, Czechoslovakia and Australia. Anthropologists agree that this red powder symbolized blood and its use in burial represented hope for the renewal of life.

7. This has been discussed in many of the great monographs: Benedict's Patterns of Culture, Lévi-Strauss' The Raw and the Cooked, and Turnbull's The Forest People.

8. For more on Holy Tradition go here and here. Holy Tradition has two categories: kergyma and ecclesiastical order and discipline.  The first is non-negotiable and the second accommodates.  The "priesting" of women touches on the first category. Women bishops would never have become a divisive issue if Anglicans had held to the received tradition.


Georgia said...

Alice, My huge 1933 dictionary (I refuse to use the newer ones) says pleromic means fulness and points to Colossians 2:9, "for in him dewlleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

I am guessing by pleromic you mean that Christ's blood was/is an eternally efficacious sacrifice and means of atonement.

Georgia said...

By eternally effective...I mean an ongoing continual unending effectiveness.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Paul develops the idea of the pleromia in Colossians and elsewhere in his writings. He was borrowing the concept from the Greek philosophers. He also was drawing on his rabbinic trianing, so yes, he related the pleroma to the atoning Blood of Jesus.

A study of the worldview of the Afro-Asiatics as presented in the Bible suggests that the Blood of Messiah is of an eternal nature. Since life is in the Blood, and all things were made through Him, the Blood atones for sin AND is gives life to the world. Now that's fullness!

Alice C. Linsley said...

Andrew, I was an Episcopal priest for 18 years and would have been glad to have a fine women priest like Anne Kennedy as a collegue.

Ordaining women as prists breaks Holy Tradition. This is very serious because it can lead to "abortion worshiping Episcopagans". Indeed recent TEC/ECUSA history has shown us that is is the case.

Further, there will be no unity among Christian bodies while there are women being made priests. It is, and will continue to be, a divisive practice, one which departs from Scriptural teaching and Holy Tradition.

Some argue that WO does not tocuh on matters of salvation. This is false. It touches directly on our understanding of who Jesus Christ is and it presents a distorted picture by obscuring the binary distinctions that reveal Him.

Georgia said...

Dividing and fracturing unity and oneness can be done on several levels....

- in the individual it is called a divided heart and mind and is unstable in all of its ways.

- in the church it is called disunity and causes a loss of the anointing which is dependent on the unity in and of the Church(Psalm 133)

Sin divides and fractures individuals, families and churches.

Jesus 'gathers the fragments that remain'

Gathering and scattering are figurative language for the sin, rebellion (scattering) return/repentance and reconciliation (gathering) process.

"Who is not with me is against me, who does not gather with me, scatters abroad."

"Woe to shepherds who scatter my sheep."

"I want you to be One as my Father and I are One."

Not being congruous with the Ikon of God as a priest, a woman surely becomes a scatterer, obscuring the light and the image of God.

raphael said...

Dear Alice,

I'm curious. You've said that you were an ordained priest. Have you written an account of the factors that led to changes in your viewpoint concerning the priesthood?


Alice C. Linsley said...

You are now the third person who has asked me that question. I guess it is time to tell my story. I'll begin writing it and will post it here as soon as possible, probably mid-August.

Alice C. Linsley said...

It is true that only men were ordained by God to be priests, but rom the beginning these priests married daughters of priests so that Jesus Christ comes of priestly lines through Joseph and through Mary whose father Joachim was a priest.

Unknown said...

Okay, I'm a year late in commenting. Was just directed here by your comment over at Getreligion.

Outstanding essay! I've never seen this sort of contextualization of the Biblical view of the priesthood within the surrounding culture. Brilliant!

I have a question, though. You mention that the Afro-Asiatics, and especially the Jews, insisted upon a strict separation of life and death, birthgiving and killing, female and male. That seems obvious enough from the OT; but, given that Jesus' blood seems precisely to combine in itself the categories of life and death (the Sacrifice that brings about life, the blood that regenerates/resurrects), what does that say about the categories of male and female. It seems to me life and death, birthgiving and killing are no longer separate in the way they once were: Christ, the giver of life, has descended into and harrowed hades; we likewise are baptized into Christ's DEATH, so that we might be BORN again from above. Don't get the impression that I'm a partisan of female priests; I'm not. But since your thesis seems to rely on the OT separation of life and death, birthgiving and killing, to establish the male-only priesthood, I'd be interested to hear how you make sense of the NT synthesis (for lack of a better word, sorry) of the two. I have a feeling the idea of OT=shadow, NT=icon, eschaton=full revelation of reality might be helpful, fir example, in dealing with the whole "there is neither male nor female" thingy. Am I making any sense?

Hope to hear from you!

Alice C. Linsley said...

James, The fact that in Jesus Christ alone are the distinctions made one is a sign that HE is the promised Son of God, the Christ, who the Prophets foretold.

You would find this short essay helpful, I think:

The Apostolic testimony of the New Testament is consistent with the ancient (pre-Jewish) Afro-Asiatic worldview. Abraham's Afro-Asiatic ruler ancestors lived in expectation of the appearing of the Son of God. That is why their ruler-priests married the daughters of priests exclusively - that Christ might be born of their bloodline, since they were the ones to whom the promise was first given in Genesis 3:15. Read more on this here:

Best wishes and may God bless you richly. Alice

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying this website, but I have some questions about how this applies to our world today. I was raised protestant and always understood Christ as the fulfillment of the priesthood and the "priesthood of all believers" as the reason our pastors are not priests. Also, are you saying that we should follow all the old testament traditions, such as not mixing types of cloth and not breeding mules, or not have a father in the room during his childs birth? Do you approve of female circumcision? I was considering the Catholic church at one point but became quite confused at the teachings on birth control. This just doesn't seem practical in today's world. Doesn't Paul state that we are not required to follow the old Jewish laws?

Alice C. Linsley said...


If you will email me, I would like to communicate with you about these important matters.

The short answer is that everything about the binary framework of the biblical worldview applies today, especially to Bible-believers. How this works out in everyday life may vary.

It sounds as if you are exploring the more basic question of moral authority in the modern world. You need to consider that catholicism is authoritative, but Roman Catholicism may not be in every point. Jewish laws are not authoritative for non-Jews. Neither is the Talmud, the Midrash and most commentaries on the OT written by rabbis who have rejected Jesus as the Christ.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I haven't heard from you, Anon, but I have continued to think about this and here are some things that should be considered:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Here is Part 1 of "My Story" from Baptist childhood to Episcopal priest to Eastern Orthodox laywoman. However, I have since returned to the Anglican Church as that is where God has asked me to use my gifts.

It links to Parts 2 and 3. It is a long story.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The field of Biblical Anthropology has much to offer to this conversation. Those interested are invited to join the Facebook Group The Bible and Anthropology.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alice,

I have found your articles to be very insightful and has made me think about the Bible and Christ's covenant in a totally new light. As a youngman who has spent his twenties dedicated to God's purposes in preaching and other forms of ministry, I have found myself sidelined, confused and deeply hurt by this particular debate. It has been faith up ending for m. I have been in a place of simply not knowing what to do with my life as it has confused me greatly as I was in a leadership role in the church, but can no longer be there as my views on the Bible are traditional. The irony is that I was told that I was unorthodox for confirming and believing in the male priesthood. Anyway. Thank you so much for you teaching Alice. You have been a faith saver for me and many other traditionalists who are navigating the murky waters of what was once clear, but now is treachorous.

In Christ and all of his fullness,


Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks be to God!