Women Deacons (Deaconesses) - Tertullian

We have a reference to "women in Ecclesiastical orders" from AD 196 (Tertullian, ON EXHORTATION TO CHASTITY, chapter 13), an early 3rd century church record of women holding an official position of deacon with an actual list of their duties (Didascalia), and late fourth century church manual with a section concerning women deacons (Apostolic Constitutions). Quoted As Authority for Deaconesses

This does not concern the office of Deaconess but of second marriages. The Ecclesiastical Order is for nuns and not Deaconesses. If Tertullian meant Ecclestiacal office he would have included filling all of the roles of the Catholic clergy which does not exist in Christianity.

We quote the reference in full:

Chapter XIII.-Examples from Among the Heathen, as Well as from the Church, to Enforce the Foregoing Exhortation. To this my exhortation, best beloved brother, there are added even heathenish examples; which have often been set by ourselves as well (as by others) in evidence, when anything good and pleasing to God is, even among "strangers," recognised and honoured with a testimony. In short, monogamy among the heathen is so held in highest honour, that even virgins, when legitimately marrying, have a woman never married but once appointed them as brideswoman; and if you say that "this is for the sake of the omen," of course it is for the sake of a good omen; again,

that in some solemnities and official functions, single-husbandhood takes the precedence: at all events, the wife of a Flamen (pagan priest) must be but once married, which is the law of the Flamen (himself) too.

For the fact that the chief pontiff himself must not iterate marriage is, of course, a glory to monogamy. When, however, Satan affects God's sacraments, it is a challenge to us; nay, rather, a cause for blushing, if we are slow to exhibit to God a continence which some render to the devil, by perpetuity sometimes of virginity, sometimes of widowhood.

We have heard of Vesta's virgins, and Juno's at the town of Achaia, and Apollo's among the Delphians, and Minerva's and Diana's in some places.

We have heard, too, of continent men, and (among others) the priests of the famous Egyptian bull: women, moreover, (dedicated) to the African Ceres, in whose honour they even spontaneously abdicate matrimony, and so live to old age, shunning thenceforward all contact with males, even so much as the kisses of their sons.

The devil, forsooth, has discovered, after voluptuousness, even a chastity which shall work perdition; that the guilt may be all the deeper of the Christian who refuses the chastity which helps to salvation! A testimony to us shall be, too, some of heathendom's women, who have won renown for their obstinate persistence in single-husbandhood: some Dido, (for instance), who, refugee as she was on alien soil, when she ought rather to have desired, without any external solicitation, marriage with a king, did yet, for fear of experiencing a second union, prefer, contrariwise, to "burn" rather than to "marry; "or the famous Lucretia, who, albeit it was but once, by force, and against her will, that she had suffered a strange man, washed her stained flesh in her own blood, lest she should live, when no longer single-husbanded in her own esteem! A little more care will furnish you with more examples from our own (sisters); and those indeed, superior to the others, inasmuch as it is a greater thing to live in chastity than to die for it. Easier it is to lay down your. life because you have lost a blessing, than to keep by living that for which you would rather die outright.

How many men, therefore, and how many women, in Ecclesiastical Orders,

owe their position to continence, who have preferred to be wedded to God; who have restored the honour of their flesh, and who have already dedicated themselves as sons of that (future) age,

by slaying in themselves the concupiscence of lust, and that whole (propensity) which could not be admitted within Paradise! Whence it is presumable that such as shall wish to be received within Paradise, ought at last to begin to cease from that thing from which Paradise is intact.

This would seem to eliminate this passage as authority for the Deaconess in the church.

Richland Hills Church of Christ and the Deaconess

The Deaconess - Rubel Shelly is

Huldah - Prophetess - Librarian?
Ezekiel 13 - Women in Ministry - Rubel Shelly
1 Timothy 3:11 - Deaconesses
Deacon in The Catholic Encyclopedia
Deaconess in the Catholic Encyclopedia
Deaconesses in the Council of Nicea A.D. 325
Women Deacons (Deaconesses) - Didascalia
Women Deacons (Deaconesses) - Tertullian
Women in Worship - Deaconesses - Lifting Holy Hands

Kenneth Sublett

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