Women and Temple Priesthood

In fact, there’s some evidence from antiquity that suggests that there were Jewish women who may have served as priests in the Graeco-Roman period (for example diaspora Jewish inscriptions). Obviously this goes against the heavy weight of rabbinic tradition, but I bet that there is evidence in rabbinic texts to suggest something similar (probably when a rabbi criticizes some other practice)–I need to look into this some time. Is it possible also that some of the women (Sarah) in Genesis functioned as priests, but then that tradition was reinterpreted by the biblical writers? Controversial, but I would not rule it out.

In any case, whatever the technical sense of priesthood in modern contexts, Jews reformulated priestly and Temple practices into home and synagogue life after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. So a woman who lights the Shabbat candles functionally takes the place of a priest.

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DR. LAURENCE H. KANT (LARRY KANT), MYSTIC SCHOLAR: Engaged Mysticism and Scholarship in the Pursuit of Wisdom; Discovering meaning in every issue and facet of life; Integrating scholarship, spirituality, mysticism, poetry, community, economics, and politics seamlessly. Historian of Religion: Ph.D., Yale University, 1993 (Department of Religious Studies); Exchange Scholar, Harvard University, Rabbinics, 1983-84; M.A., 1982, Yale, 1982 (Department of Religious Studies); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1981; B.A., Classics (Greek and Latin), Tufts University, 1978; Wayland High School (Wayland, MA), 1974. Served on the faculty of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), York University (Toronto), and Lexington Theological Seminary (Lexington, KY). Works in many languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, English, French, Italian, German, Modern Greek (some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish). Holder of numerous honors and awards, including The Rome Prize in Classics (Prix de Rome) and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome.

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