The Seven Virgins/Female Angels and the Tower Part II

26 Hestia/Jan. 20

In Part I, we discussed the Seven Virgins of Aseneth who are connected to a Tower in the early Christian text, the Gospel of Joseph and Aseneth. (A) Part II examines the Seven Women around the Tower as found in the Shepherd of Hermas, (B) once considered a canonical text. (1 and 2).

Important to remember, as discussed in Part I, that the later part of the text may be a forgery: So, what was the motive of the later forgery to the Shepherd of Hermas?  In the first four visions Hermas encounters a female angel, whom he mistakes for the oracle of the Sibyl.  It is explained that this female angel represents the church.  In the ninth parable, it is explained that the female angel really was not a woman, but rather the Son of God.  This is an obvious gloss.  Whoever added this forged section, had a problem with female teachers in the church.  This actually was an issue of the second century church, and it was suppressed by the male majority.

Moving on to Part II:

While Aseneth must leave Her Seven Virgins behind in her Tower, thereby leaving behind her Pagan past, so that she may marry the Divine Joseph; the Shepherd of Hermas, in his vision, is told that the Seven Women (female angels) support the Tower and must be served.

(3[11]:3 The tower, which thou seest building, is myself, the Church, which was seen of thee both now and aforetime. Ask, therefore, what thou willest concerning the tower, and I will reveal it unto thee, that thou mayest rejoice with the saints.”

8[16]:2 She looked upon me, and smiled, and she saith to me, “Seest thou seven women round the tower?” “I see them, lady,” say I. “This tower is supported by them by commandment of the Lord.

8[16]:8 Whosoever therefore shall serve these women, and shall have strength to master their works, shall have his dwelling in the tower with the saints of God.”

While in Joseph and Aseneth, the Tower represents the Pagan priestesshood of Artemis, in early Christianity, Mary Magdalene has always been associated with a Tower. Magdal-eder means Tower of the Flock. (4)

Mary Magdalene is said to have been a Pagan high priestess. Later, She was to become the first Apostle to the Apostles. A spiritual leader of whom Peter was jealous. Some believe that she actually founded Her own Church. And while it is very possible that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were, indeed, married, others believe that their relationship was more spiritual.

The following article from Time Mag (warning: page has unwanted audio and a lot of popups), presents a different view of Mary Magdalene. One where she is a spiritual leader, a view held by many Gnostic Christians, as well. This flows well with the recent findings of the imagery of female priests (and Mary as a bishop) in the earliest known iconography of the Church, (see previous post), and other known factors of early female Christian clergy. .

And so, while in the Gospel of Joseph and Aseneth, the Tower represents the Pagan priestesshood of Aseneth, while in the Shepherd of Hermas, the Tower represents the Church. In his visions, the Shepherd sees an Aged Lady, a female angel, who explains to him that She is the Church, which is represented by the Tower and that all the bricks of the Tower symbolize the faithful. (The Blessed Virgin Mary also typifies the Church and the Church as Bride).

At one point, the Aged Lady shows him the Seven Women of the Tower:

8[16]:2 She looked upon me, and smiled, and she saith to me, “Seest thou seven women round the tower?” “I see them, lady,” say I. “This tower is supported by them by commandment of the Lord.

8[16]:3 Hear now their employments. The first of them, the woman with the strong hands, is called Faith; through her are saved the elect of God.

8[16]:4 And the second, that is girded about and looketh like a man, is called Continence; she is the daughter of Faith. Whosoever then shall follow her, becometh happy in his life, for he shall refrain from all evil deeds, believing that, if he refrain from every evil desire, he shall inherit eternal life.”

8[16]:5 “And the others, lady, who be they?” “They are daughters one of the other. The name of the one is Simplicity, of the next, Knowledge, of the next, Guilelessness, of the next, Reverence, of the next, Love. When then thou shalt do all the works of their mother, thou canst live.”

8[16]:6 “I would fain know, lady,” I say, “what power each of them possesseth.” “Listen then,” saith she, “to the powers which they have.

8[16]:7 Their powers are mastered each by the other, and they follow each other, in the order in which they were born. From Faith is born Continence, from Continence Simplicity, from Simplicity Guilelessness, from Guilelessness Reverence, from Reverence Knowledge, from Knowledge Love. Their works then are pure and reverent and divine.

8[16]:8 Whosoever therefore shall serve these women, and shall have strength to master their works, shall have his dwelling in the tower with the saints of God.” (5)


Let us Bless the Queen of Heaven,

Blessed is She.

Rev. Pamela Lanides.

A) The Lost Gospel, Decoding the Ancient Text by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson:

B) The Shepherd of Hermas in an updated language form by Daniel Robinson:




Earliest Christian Art Forms Depict Female Clergy.

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While the idea of female clergy in early Christianity comes as no surprise to Goddess, Esoteric and Gnostic Christians, the following discovery is nothing short of stunning.

From the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

Dear Linda

We have selected the following article from our printed newsletter ‘Communion’ for you.

Ally Kateusz PhD (pictured above) is a historian
with a particular interest in the roles of women in early
Christianity, and is Research Associate at the Wijngaards
Institute for Catholic Research

I have been working on several projects this year related to early Christian women clergy, and recently I realized I had missed something important. What I realized is that there does not appear to be any surviving Christian art up to at least the middle of the sixth century that depicts a Christian man at the altar in a real church without a woman also with him. There are, however, two artifacts that depict men and women flanking the altar in parallel, and these are the two very oldest surviving iconographic artifacts to depict people at the altar in a real church.
Both of these artifacts are sculptures usually dated to the decades around 430 CE. One is a large sarcophagus front, which depicts the sanctuary of the second Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and the other is the Pola ivory reliquary box, which depicts the sanctuary of Old Saint Peter’s in Rome. Both sculptors portrayed a liturgical scene with men and women flanking the altar in parallel, with men on the left and women on the right.

I published my research about these two artifacts in the Spring 2017 Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, which won the March 2018 Feminae article of the month. Not only are these two the very oldest surviving artifacts to depict people at the altar in a real  church, they apparently survived only because they were buried. The ivory reliquary box was buried below an altar in Roman era church near modern Pola, Croatia, and the sarcophagus in a hypogeum adjacent the Theodosian walls in Istanbul. Both were excavated in the twentieth century. From this sample of two we can surmise that other similar artifacts must have existed, but none above ground survived, suggesting that thisgender parallel liturgy may have been censored later.

The idea that the gender parallel liturgy was censored is not far-fetched given the evidence of censorship of early liturgical manuscripts, which was even more pervasive than with literary manuscripts. According to Paul Bradshaw at the beginning of his magisterial The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, almost no liturgical manuscripts, neither Christian nor Jewish, have survived from the first seven centuries CE. Instead, almost all of the oldest liturgical manuscripts date to the early eighth century, and are written on similar writing materials in similar scripts, an apparent attempt to legitimize the liturgical practices of that day by presenting them as from an older tradition.

The biggest revelation for me, however, came during dinner with Miriam Duignan, Wijngaards Institute Communications Director, who asked whether there was evidence in art of women clergy officiating without men. In fact, the very oldest surviving artifact to depict Christians of only one sex at the altar of a real church depicts only women. This scene is on an ivory pyx dated to the 500s, which today is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Most scholars agree it depicts the altar in the rotunda or basilica of the Anastasis Church in Jerusalem, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, although other scholars suggest perhaps some other church in Palestine.

The round shape of the pyx evokes the famous rotunda church, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York titles it “Pyx with the Women at Christ’s Tomb,” suggesting this identification. Other art depicts the two Marys approaching the shrine over Christ’s tomb, which was inside the rotunda.  The pyx, however, does not depict the tomb. It depicts five women in what appears to be a liturgical procession to the altar table, a book set upon it, a lamp hanging above it, and a ciborium with twisted columns and curtains arching over it.The two women closest to the altar carry censers; the three others have raised arms.

A search of the Princeton Index of Christian Art indicates that a church mosaic in Qasr el Lebya that depicts a woman with a censer dated 539–540CE is the very oldest dated representation in art of a Christian with a censer. The ivory pyx, which cannot be dated more closely than the 500s, is the oldest to depict a Christian with a censer at an altar. In addition, it is by far the oldest to depict the liturgy in what was probably the Anastasis in Jerusalem – or for that matter, in any church in  Palestine.

We thus see early Christian artists portraying women in the very oldest surviving art that depicts anyone at the Christian altar. We see women in the liturgy both paralleled with men and without men. We see these women inside the sanctuaries of some of the most important orthodox basilicas in Christendom. To my knowledge these artifacts are older than any surviving art to depict a Christian man alone at an altar in a real church.

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James and Jewish Christianity

19 Hestia/Jan. 13

I would like to recommend an important book for Deanic Christians.

The author of this book is a Lutheran Pastor who holds a PhD. This book is specifically written for lay people and quite honestly, I have hardly been able to put it down.

Mainstream Christianity is largely based upon the teachings of Paul. It has also become known as Pauline Christianity and it’s base was Rome. However, many scholars are of the mind that Pauline Christianity is not the Christianity of Jesus and it was not the Christianity of his brother, James.

It is obvious from the gospels that Jesus was Jewish, thoroughly Jewish. And the first Christians were Jewish. They did not cease to practice their religion after the resurrection, nor did Jesus teach them to stop observing Jewish Law.

We have been taught that Jesus came to found a new church based on the verse, as found in Matt. 16: 18, Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church. However, many biblical scholars and theologians suspect that this was a later interpolation and was not original to the text.

So, the question could very well be asked: did Jesus come to found a new Church? Did he come here to start a new religion? Or was his a Jewish movement?

With time, Christianity would come to separate itself from Judaism.

There is evidence that the first Bishop/Patriarch (Pope) was James the Just, the brother of Jesus and not Peter. (James the Just is not to be confused with the many other James’ of the bible. James is the Western form of Jacob.) He was the Patriarch of Jerusalem and appeared to hold authority even over Paul, who never met Jesus.

I have always wondered what happened to those first Jewish Christians. Now I have the answer. The Jewish Christianity of Jerusalem was largely destroyed due to the sack of city by the Romans in 70 AD during to the first Jewish revolt. It appears that many Jewish Christians did escape and ended up in the diaspora. And here is one clue found by archaeologists as to where they initially escaped:

I have to wonder how Christianity would have turned out if this had not happened. If Christianity had remained Jewish-Christian rather than having been taken over by Rome. I have to wonder how the last 2,000 years would have turned out.

Though we might not agree with all of the conclusions of the author, The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity is well worth reading for its research into early Christianity.

A. M. Pamela Lanides