This is part four in a series on what the Bible says in regards to the ordination of women in the church. Again, instead of rewriting what I believe has already been well laid out, I am sharing Dr. Jim Feeney’s writings on the subject for your edification. You may disagree, and that is your right, but please be able to point to the Bible for your reasons and not the culture.
Argument #4: “Well, we know that the Bible was written in a time of male-dominated cultures. So the spiritual language of the times was male-dominant.”
A Biblical Response: The premise itself is disputable. Some embracing a feminist position have objected to God being called “Our Father” and angels being identified by male names, attributing this simply to the biases of male-dominated cultures. But the historical record of ancient spirituality does not permit this argument. The ancient world, along with its male deities, had a superabundance of female deities. Goddesses seemed to be almost universal in ancient cultures. A short list of examples would include Asherah in Canaan, Ishtar in Babylon and Assyria, Aphrodite among the Greeks, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and the famous Roman goddess Venus. There is no support for modern feminist declarations of a domineering ancient male bias in spiritual things. To the contrary, history shows a spiritual pantheon of goddesses in the ancient nations and the cultures in and surrounding Israel.
But the more important rebuttal of this false argument is from the Bible itself. Again, we are assuming a high view of Scripture, agreeing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God in its entirety. Without this mutual agreement, we have no common ground upon which to discuss the ordination of women and their exercising leadership in the New Testament Church. The Bible is inerrant, it transcends cultures, and it is intended to shape cultures, not to be shaped by them. So from the standpoint of biblical inerrancy, I take note of the fact that in His Bible:
•• God revealed Himself as “God the Father” (John 6:27, et al.), as “Our Father”(Matthew 6:9, et al.).
•• Jesus is repeatedly called “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1, et al.).
•• In the Creation, “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). And the man Adam exercised dominion in the earth before the woman Eve was created (Genesis 2:19-22).
•• The priests, Israel’s spiritual leaders and teachers under God’s Old Covenant, were all males (Exodus 28:1, et al.).
•• Moses appointed seventy men as elders of Israel (Numbers 11:24).
••The apostles whom Jesus chose to lead His early Church under God’s New Covenant were all males (Matthew 10:2-4).
•• In sum, God the Father and His Son Jesus were revealed in male names. And God’s spiritual leadership on earth, both before and after the Cross, was comprised of males.
•• A concluding thought — God, who has given us His Bible, is not affected by cultures and biases!
Let me repeat the erroneous Argument #4 — “Well, we know that the Bible was written in a time of male-dominated cultures. So the spiritual language of the times was male-dominant.” A corollary to this incorrect line of reasoning often states something like this: "Women in ancient times were generally uneducated and were not prominent in their societies compared to men. This is no longer true in our modern times." The bible itself consistently disproves this false notion about the ancient cultures in which bible characters moved and lived. Contrary to the assertion that women were subjugated to male dominance in bible days, the Scriptures give numerous examples of notable, prominent, influential women in the nations and cultures of bible times. For example:
•• The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31. In addition to managing her household admirably, she:
• deals in real estate (16)
• has her own earnings (16)
• makes further investments with those earnings (16)
• is a successful businesswoman, involved in trade with other merchants (18, 24)
•• Luke 8:3b These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Some of Jesus' followers in Israel were "women of means".
•• Acts 13:50 "...women of high standing" were mentioned when Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia.
•• Paul's preaching in Thessalonica was favorably received by "not a few prominent women" (Acts 17:4).
•• In Berea, the new Christian converts included "a number of prominent Greek women"(Acts 17:12).
•• Over an entire millennium (from Proverbs to Acts), and in a variety of ancient nations including Israel, the bible gives illustrations of the widespread presence of entrepreneurialwomen, women of means, women of high standing, prominent women. And yet, in compliance with the clear teachings of the New Testament Scriptures, we see not one clear instance under the New Covenant of a woman in the God-ordained ministry role of an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher (Ephesians 4:11), nor do we see a single instance in the New Testament of a woman elder in the churches.