Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God as Male Priest

"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."-- Fr. Thomas Hopko (Women and the Priesthood, p 240)

Alice. C. Linsley

Among Abraham's ancestors the sun was venerated as the emblem of the Creator. It was believed to inseminate the earth and bring forth life. This is a distinctly masculine image for God and key to understand the origins of Messianic expectation among the Nilo-Saharans.

Their worldview was based on universally observed binary distinctions such as male-female, the east-west solar journey, dark-light, life-death, and on human experiences on a fundamental level of existence. The binary sets are observed by all people in all places on earth. The biblical worldview is not concerned with subjective distinctions such as tall-short, talented-untalented, dark skin-light skin, intelligent-unintelligent, etc. as these are not absolute and objective. The Bible is concerned about what is real ontologically.

The ancient Afro-Asiatics honored many realities, but one of the most significant is the male-female distinction. They associated maleness with the Sun and femaleness with the Moon. This association extended to semen and milk. The Sun inseminates the earth with its light and warmth and the Moon, which influences tides and body fluids, stimulates female reproduction and lactation. The ancients observed a relationship between the lunar cycle and the periodicity of the menstrual cycle. In France, menstruation is called le moment de la lune.

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.

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.

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 didn’t 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.

It is also significant that among tribal peoples, brotherhood pacts are formed by the intentional mixing of bloods between two men, but never between male and female. The binary distinctions of male and female were maintained as part of the sacred tradition.

Female Blood Work

As a point of fact, the first reference to the shedding of blood in the Bible is not Cain’s murder of Abel. The first reference is to the blood of “the Woman” who would give birth to the One who would crush the head of the cosmic serpent and restore Paradise. This is significant because it places life-giving blood before killing. In other words, the blood work of women is posed as both prior to and equal to the blood work of priests.

In the Bible, the first blood work of women is not the birth of Cain, but the birth of Messiah promised to “the woman” in Eden in Genesis 3:15. This woman is not Eve, since Eve is not named by Adam until verse 20. The first blood work of Scripture is Christological, as indeed is the blood work of priests.

Male Blood Work

God sacrifices an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). In the Biblical chronology this places God as priest between the birthing blood of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) and Cain's murder of his brother (Gen. 4:8). God is at the sacred center between life and death. There God sacrifices what is His for humanity. In this sense, God is the first priest and that first animal that covers nakedness is a symbol of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

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 ruler-priest lines should become the un-wedded Bride of God and the ever-virgin Mother of Christ our God.

Related reading:  The Importance of Binary DistinctionsThe Binary World and Kenosis; Blood and Binary Distinctions; The Priesthood as Heavenly Ordinance; Ideologies Opposed to Holy Tradition; Why God is Father and Not Mother by Mark Brumley; Why I am Not a Protestant


Anonymous said...

As if on the head of the pin, this is balanced. And yet all the more amazing article because of that.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley,
You/your research and writings totally rock. Best and blessings,

CB said...

I particularly liked your observation that the maleness of priesthood is based on the male role of slaughter--war, hunting, killing of animals for sacrifice. It seems so obvious, but I've missed it until now. It is interesting to be reminded of the sheer muscular strength required to manhandle a large animal, such as an ox, for slaughter, plus the danger of close quarters with a frightened animal. It would be natural to reserve this work for men.

You give me plenty to consider as I am wrestling with theological issues of women in the priesthood. Thank you for posting.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks, David.

CB, the matter of women as "priests" divides the Church. There's a reason for that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alice, as always a gem of an article. As a hunter I was taught and I have taught my son to give thanks to the creature I have slain for giving it's life for mine and also to never kill what one doesn't intend to eat. Harvesting game from the field is so very different from buying meat in plastic wrapped Styrofoam trays. The disconnect that occurs in peoples minds concerning where food comes from is sad. Food does not come from the grocery store, that is where it is sold, it comes from the labor of man and the sacrifice of animals. Fathers hunting and fishing with their sons is one way to stay connected to that reality. Something has to die in order for me to live, be it deer, strawberry, wheat or chicken. Eating is a sacred and holy thing. Perhaps we might all be in better health if we viewed it that way.

Once again, thank you for a wonderful article.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks, Father. BTW, I'd like to be on the mailing list to receive news from Nashotah, your alma mater. : )

The idea that each person is responsible for the blood they shed takes on a very serious aspect for the Jews who told Pilate that they would bear the Blood of Messiah upon their heads and the heads of their children. Since the Blood of Jesus is both our salvation and our judgement, this is a blessing and a curse.