Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ormulum vs. Priestesses

When I was as yet a Lutheran, and risking to have a "female priest" or priestess in my parish (I left when she came or when I knew she was coming, to become Catholic), I often repeated the good argument that Jesus only chose men for his twelve apostles. Some might have replied - but this was less likely to happen among Lutherans - that the twelve apostles and priests are two different stories. Which is of course untrue. But the main answer, given by Lutherans aware of the connection between the twelve and NT priesthood, was that Jesus was suffering the constraints of the culture He came into, back then it would have been unthinkable to have female priests.

First of all, this is factually wrong. It was unthinkable among Jews, because Aaronite priesthood was all male, but Christ was the Divine Person, the Son of the Father, who had spoken to Moses and was responsible for that - and outside the true faith, plenty of religions back then had priestesses. Vestals were not just "pagan nuns", they were priestesses of fire and hearth. Unlike the Christian nuns. Priestesses of Venus were harlots. There were priestesses of Isis. And so on.

But, one could add a second one: what if it had been true? Christ chose when and where He was to become Man. And Ormulum puts it very well:

Forrþrihht anan se time comm
þatt ure Drihhtin wollde
ben borenn i þiss middellærd
forr all mannkinne nede
he chæs himm sone kinnessmenn
all swillke summ he wollde
& whær he wollde borenn ben
he chæs all att hiss wille. (3494–3501)

Wikipedia : Ormulum

Forthright an came the hour, that Our Lord was wont to be born in this Middleearth for all mankind's need, He chose for Himself the/his kinsmen all such as He would, and where He would be born, He chose all at His will.

In other words, every circumstance of social and historical matter surrounding His Incarnation was totally at His discretion. Including the Jewish priesthood being all male and including being born in Jewry.

So, not just on this single matter of priestesses, but on any matter, one cannot reason as if God couldn't help such and such a detail, as if He was under some kind of constraints from when and where He was born, except of course, when it came to speaking openly about His Godhead - which He did, but with some indirectness. Here, He was also fulfilling a plan of keeping Satan in the dark on whom he was plotting to get crucified. On the other hand, there we are not relying on a late speculation, we are relying on early tradition. Including the post-Resurrection accounts, where more fulness is given.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bibliothèque Audoux, Paris
St Barnabas

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