About Philip B. Payne Man and Woman, One in Christ Philip B. Payne, and the cover of his latest book, Man and Woman, One in Christ
October 22nd
2010
written by phil

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.

5 Comments

  1. Noel
    11/02/2010

    Thanks Philip,

    It is amazing at how often simply making an assertion in a forceful, confident manner persuades people that it is true. Your taking the time to unpack each assertion and show its shortsightedness was much appreciated.

  2. EricW
    11/05/2010

    Dr. Payne:

    It seems to me that Jesus had to be male so that salvation would come through both a male (Jesus) and a female (Mary, from whom He took His human body and nature). Had Jesus been a female, heretics could argue that He only came through and assumed – and hence only saved – female human nature, but since He was physically a male but had received His flesh from a female, all of human nature, both male and female, was involved in the Incarnation and hence the Crucifixion and the Atonement and the Resurrection.

    But this does NOT mean that leadership in the Church must therefore be male. Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body and Bride. All the members, whether physically male or female, relate to Him as female to Male and as a body member to the Head, and to each other as mutually-joined and gifted functionaries of the Body as the Spirit gifts and enables each one. Christ and His Body is the One New (Hu)Man, not The New Male.

    I could go on ad nauseam as to why all the members of the Body stand and relate on equal footing and with equal potentialities with respect to the One Head, Christ, to whom they each are to hold fast.

    But the Apostle Paul made the case better than I ever could, if only people would read him correctly. :)

  3. phil
    11/05/2010

    Dear Eric,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I tend to be reluctant to say what God has to do or what Jesus had to be. After all, God the Son revealed that god could even speak to us through rocks. Unless God has revealed that the particular way He did something was the only way he could have done it, because of our limited human perspective, we are wiser not to assert that God could not have done it in some other way.

    Consequently, although we can look at what God did and see how it makes sense that He did it that way and how that way effectively communicates to us, we probably should not assert, for example that “Jesus had to be male so that salvation would come through both a male (Jesus) and a female (Mary, from whom He took His human body and nature).” This statement is also problematic because it asserts that salvation comes “through both a male (Jesus) and a female (Mary).” This is problematic in part because it does not distinguish the very different meanings of “through” in these two assertions.

    You write, ” Jesus had to be male [since]… Had Jesus been a female, heretics could argue that He only came through and assumed – and hence only saved – female human nature.” Perhaps heretics would have argued this, but so what? Heretics argue that Jesus did not do what the Gospels says he did, and that does not mean that Jesus could not have done those things. Similarly, heretics argue that Jesus could not be what the Gospels says He is, and that does not mean that Jesus could be what the Gospels say He is. Consequently, it is not a valid argument that Jesus could not have been female because heretics could have criticized this.

    The assertion “all of human nature, both male and female, was involved in the Incarnation and hence the Crucifixion and the Atonement and the Resurrection” is also problematic both logically and theologically.

    Logically, Mary was indisputably “involved in” the incarnation. She was not, however, in a corresponding way “involved in” the crucifixion, atonement, or resurrection. Mary observed the crucifixion, but so did many other people, some, such as those who crucified Jesus, were more directly involved in the crucifixion than she. As far as I know, there is no hint in the Bible that Mary or any other man or woman was “involved in” the Atonement and the Resurrection except as their beneficiaries.

    Theologically, to say that Mary or anyone else was involved in the Atonement and the Resurrection detracts from the uniqueness of Jesus’ role, as the Son of God, in these events. The Bible does not speak of Mary as co-redemtrix.

    There are indications in prophecy that the Savior would be male, such as Gen 3:15’s statement to the serpent: “the seed of the woman … he shall crush your head,” but these point to what God would do, not necessarily to what God had to do or what Jesus had to be.

  4. EricW
    11/05/2010

    Dr. Payne:

    Perhaps my “had to be male” was overstating my point.

    My main point in writing what I did – for indeed God can save us anyway He wishes – was that, as the Incarnation involved both God and man/humans, an argument could be made that the reason Jesus “had to be” male was NOT to show us that leadership must be “male” but to incorporate both human sexes in the Incarnation.

    I.e., I was undercutting Alexander Strauch’s argument by providing another equally valid to Strauch’s (IMO) reason(s) for Jesus’ maleness that had and has nothing to do with implying that thenceforth church leaders have to be males.

    Thanks for your reply.

  5. phil
    11/06/2010

    Dear Eric,

    You make an excellent point that there are valid reasons for Jesus being male that have nothing to do with showing that leadership ust be male.

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