S. A. from S. Barrington, Illinois, asks for comment on a statement by Alexander Strauch arguing that since Jesus was male, “biblical eldership … must be an all-male eldership. For the Bible-believing Christian, the primary example of male leadership is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The most obvious point is that Christ came into the world as the Son of God, not the daughter of God. His maleness was not an arbitrary matter. It was a theological necessity, absolutely essential to his person and work. Jesus was and had to be a first-born male, ‘holy to the Lord’ (Luke 3:23). As the ‘last Adam’ and ‘the second man,’ He was the antitype of Adam, not Eve….” Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Littleton , Col.: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995) Chapter 3 “Male Leadership”: pages 51-66. This citation is from pages 52-53.
Strauch here makes various assertions, each of which cries out for an an answer to the question, “Where does Scripture state that this assertion requires, ‘elders must be male’?” As far as I know, the answer to this question for each of his assertions is the same, “Nowhere.”
He states, “biblical eldership … must be an all-male eldership. … The most obvious point is that Christ came into the world as the Son of God, not the daughter of God.” This seems to assume that only males can reflect God in leadership, but Genesis 1:26-27 defines mankind created “in God’s image” to be “male and female” and it is to “them” that he gives dominion. Similarly, Paul affirms that all believers are “being renewed in knowledge in the image of their creator” in Col 3:10. 1 Cor 11:11 introduces as the crucial point of Paul’s concern regarding church leadership in prayer and prophecy that “woman is not separate from man, nor is man separate from woman in the Lord,” and Gal 3:28 affirms in an argument against restriction of full privileges for Greeks in church life (Gal 2) that in Christ there is no dichotomy between male and female just as there is no dichotomy between Jew and Greek or between slave and free.
“His maleness was not an arbitrary matter.” Jesus’ Jewishness was not an arbitrary matter, but that does not imply that all elders must be Jews. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was not arbitrary, but that does not imply that all elders much be born in Bethlehem. Simply because something about Jesus was not arbitrary does not justify inferences about the separate question of whether elders must share this same characteristic.
“It was a theological necessity.” Does the Bible ever say that God could not have revealed himself through a woman? If one believes that everything that happens is ordained by God, one might say that everything is a theological necessity. But whether it was a theological necessity that God become incarnate as a man or not, why should that necessitate that all elders must be male?
“His maleness was … absolutely essential to his person and work.” Where does the Bible teach this? And even if it did, why should that necessitate that all elders must be male?
“Jesus was and had to be a first-born male, ‘holy to the Lord’’ (Luke 3:23).” Where does the Bible state,“Jesus was and had to be a first-born male”? Luke 3:23 does not state that Jesus was or had to be a first-born male. It states, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, of Matthat…” Note that although the NIV states “the son of Matthat and repeats “the son of” 38 times in the following verses, none of these include the Greek word for “the son” according to the NA27 and the UBS4 text of the Greek NT, nor do their footnotes have any indication that any manuscript variants insert “the son” into these verses. The only instance of “son” is the first instance, which is expressed as a denial: “Jesus … the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.” Nor does this passage anywhere mention “first-born.” In the list, David was not the firstborn of Jesse, nor was Jacob the firstborn of Isaac. Note 53 on page 101 of Man and Woman, One in Christ demonstrates that God’s Word repudiates primogeniture with remarkable consistency. For all of these reasons, Luke 3:23 is not a sound foundation for the assertion that “Jesus was and had to be a first-born male.”
“Jesus was and had to be … ‘holy to the Lord’ (Luke 3:23).” This is arguably true since atonement for sin requires a holy sacrifice, but this is not taught in Luke 3:23. Furthermore, women need Jesus, the holy sacrifice, and they need to be holy just as much as men do. Consider 1 Tim 3:15, “She will be saved through the Childbirth if they continue in faith and love and holiness…”
“As the ‘last Adam’ and ‘the second man,’ He was the antitype of Adam, not Eve….” Where does the Bible teach that Christ was not the antitype of Eve? Christ is the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15) who will crush the Serpent’s head, which Christ did on the cross, overcoming Satan. He restored what she lost in her disobedience. As such, Christ is the antitype of Eve. Christ is also the antitype of Eve in other ways: she was deceived; Christ is the truth. She disobeyed God; Jesus obeyed the Father. Her disobedience opened the way to death for all people; Jesus’ obedience opens the way to life for all people. These themes are prominent in Patristic writings (See many affirmations of these themes in Man and Woman, One in Christ pages 439-40 and especially footnote 74).
2 Cor 11:3 states, “But I am afraid that as the Serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Here Paul cites Eve as the antitype of what believers should follow, men as well as women. Paul uses similar antitype language of Christ and Adam, but its purpose is not to state that Eve was not involved in the fall, as any reading of Genesis 3 makes obvious, and as Paul himself affirms in 2 Cor 11:3. Its purpose is to show that Christ reverses the fall caused by human disobedience. Since that is its obvious purpose, it is only a “luxurious” over-interpreting of Scripture that reads from it also the unrelated idea that only men can be elders in the church. Nothing in the text of Romans 5 or 1 Cor 15 implies that Paul or the Holy Spirit who inspired his writings intended by them to teach that elders must be male.