Ordained Women Of The Patristic Era -- By: Darrell Pursiful

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 15:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: Ordained Women Of The Patristic Era
Author: Darrell Pursiful

Ordained Women Of The Patristic Era

There Is Considerable Evidence Of Women Deacons, Elders, And Even Bishops In The Early Life Of The Church.

Darrell Pursiful

Darrell Pursiful is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Salem, Indiana. He has previously served as an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Campellsville University, teaching Greek, New Testament, and Church History. He is the author of The Cultic Motif in the Spirituality of the Book of Hebrews (Mellen).

History—at least official history—is always written by the winners. For some time, the advocates of an institutional, hierarchical, orderly, and preeminently masculine vision of the church have undoubtedly been the winners, and they have been permitted to frame the discussion.

John Driver has outlined what he considers to be a biblical vision of church history based on the motif of the righteous remnant,1 a vision characterized by weakness and insignificance (Deut 2:24-25; 6:2-8). Christ and his church, who suffered persecution by established political and religious interests and refused to dominate others in return, represent the continuation of this ideal.

Yet, within several centuries, the power of the Roman empire ‘would become wedded to the Christian religion, and many church historians would turn this biblical vision upside down. Thus Eusebius, and most church historians after him, ignored the biblical motif in favor of a Greco-Roman, dynastic approach. So Driver concludes: “Due to the Constantinian changes, the history of the Christian church became what Professor Dussel termed an ‘anti-Christian inversion.’ The church’s memory was twisted to serve the purposes of established powers and their institutions, rather than the needs of the Christian people.”2

The views of the established hierarchy have therefore been preserved and those of their opponents ignored, if not actively suppressed.

But it is not enough to assert what the “canonical” authorities have decreed—as if this closed the debate. There is early evidence for a “feminized” vision of Christianity. Celsus‚ in his True Discourse (c. 175), complains that Christianity was a religion of women and menials. Christian teachers, he claims, “lead children astray and tell them that, if they wish (to avail themselves of their aid), they must leave their fathers and their instructors, and go with the women and their playfellows to the women’s apartments, or to the leather shop, or to the fuller’s shop, that...

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