Whenever you want to revise the historical events of early Church history you pretty much have to go with some theory of how in the third or forth century evil men supplanted the true Gospel and replaced it with something else. Mormons call it the great apostasy. Dan Brownians place it with the Emperor Constantine. Many groups do roughly the same thing.
Now we once again hear from “church historian” Jimmy Carter.
In opposition to the vast majority of authentic scholars and historians, Carter asserted: “It’s clear that during the early Christian era women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets.” He added: “It wasn’t until the 4th century or the 3rd at the earliest that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant position within the religious hierarchy.” [reference]
Well if those “dominant Christian leaders” did such a good job – then how does Mr. Carter know there were women priests and bishops? These men must of done a pretty good job of erasing the record of all these women since historically there is no mention of them in any documents other than the women priests in some heretical sects such as Collyridianism where Mary was worshipped as God. Somehow I don’t think Jimmy Carter and other defenders of woman priests would endorse the beliefs of these heretical groups with women priests. What references to woman priests we actually have in the writings of the Early Church Fathers is a disavowal of them.
Now what Jimmy Carter means by “twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures” is hard to tell. Since the canon of scripture was defined during this time period I guess he says that the evil men who erase the record also managed to define the very books of the New Testament that he accepts. Does he refer to the fact that Jesus only picked men in the Gospels as being a distortion? Otherwise exactly what passages were twisted? No like all of this stripe general assertions is all that is made without a shred of evidence backing up what they say. No doubt President Carter heard someone else make these assertions and then just passes them on like so much of anti-Catholic bigotry.
My real question would be if Mr. Carter says that there were woman priests and bishops in the Early Church then why does he not belong to a church that has priests and bishops. If he accepts this as the structure of the Early Church than why is he a Southern Baptist? Really if you are going to go down the road as to accept the Early Church in the first two centuries than there is a lot of examples that Jimmy Carter is not following. Cardinal Newman said “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant”. There might be a lot of things Jimmy Carter is deep into, but one of them is not history.