Sunday, December 28, 2008


There is an ancient form of Christianity that comes up quite often in my discussions of female ministers called Collyridianism and I thought I should have a reference page. I also thought some of my readers might be curious.

The Collyridians were Christians who consider the trinity to consist of The Father / Allah, Jesus the Son and Mary the Mother. Like Muslims they held the Father was unknowable only his will was knowable and revelation of the father was through the son and the mother. They had something like the Eucharist but as the priest represent Jesus to the congregation the priestess represents Mary. And hence parallel offerings. They accepted something like the canonical bible though like many middle eastern Christians of the time they may had used the Diatessaron as their gospel prior to canonization. They most likely were docetic in their theology, and they likely were much more syncretic than orthodox Catholicism.

Many Muslim scholars believe this is the form of Christianity described in the Qu'ran for example sura 5:73-5:
[5.73] Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve.
[5.74] Will they not then turn to Allah and ask His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[5.75] The Messiah, son of Marium is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman; they both used to eat food. See how We make the communications clear to them, then behold, how they are turned away.
The show up most noticeably in the writings of Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis. And it is here that they come up so frequently, because in defending the what is wrong with the Collyridians he explicitly allows for teaching and ministering, that is what Protestant ministers do and only attacks woman performing the sacrifice (communion). I’ll quote the relevant excerpts, [] are mine:
undertaking to do something blasphemous and forbidden and performing in her name, by means of women, definitely priestly acts… [long biblical history of woman not offering sacrifices dropped] Deaconesses serve bishops and priests on grounds of propriety….. . . This you must also carefully observe that only the office of deaconesses was necessary in the ecclesiastical order; also ‘widows’ are mentioned by name, and among them the senior most are called ‘elders’ (Greek: presbytidas), but they have never been made women presbyters (presbyteridas) or women priests (sacerdotissas)….
“Never has a woman been appointed amongst bishops and priests. But, someone will say, there were the four daughters of Philip, who prophesied. Yes, but they did not exercise the priestly office. And it is true that there is the Order of Deaconesses in the Church . But they are not permitted to act as priests or have anything to do with that office.
” (Panarion 79, 1-4)

Epiphanius' entire apologetic is biblically based so Collyridians must have held a high view of scripture, which shows another example of people in the ancient world were able to read scripture in a way empowering to woman. We know that Islam had the same opinion “people of the book”.

They seemed to have continued on to a limited extent after the 4th-5th century. St. John of Damascus wrote about them in 728 and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, even asserts that Summa Theologica III.25.5 was directed at this group's practices, putting their death later still.

Interestingly there is a new denomination forming in their honor, The Collyridian Britannic Episcopal Church. Also a highly related group the Army of Mary has 25,000 current members.


See also

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