Male/Female Leadership And Korah’s Revolt: An Analogy? -- By: Ronald W. Pierce

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:1 (Mar 1987)
Article: Male/Female Leadership And Korah’s Revolt: An Analogy?
Author: Ronald W. Pierce

Male/Female Leadership And Korah’s Revolt:
An Analogy?

Ronald W. Pierce*

This study is not intended to be a defense of the male leadership position (commonly called hierarchical or traditional) or of the male/female leadership position (commonly called egalitarian or feminist). Instead it is more narrowly focused on two questions that must be addressed by both camps within evangelicalism: (1) Does the relationship between men and women necessarily reflect a logical reasoning process on the part of God that can be discerned by mankind? (2) Is it important what position is held regarding this issue, as long as one believes in inerrancy? In an attempt to answer these questions two seemingly contradictory passages in the NT (Gal 3:28; 1 Tim 2:11–15) are compared to the revolt of Korah against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 1618) as a helpful analogy to the present debate.

I. The New Testament Tension

On the surface Paul’s statements in 1 Tim 2:11–15 appear to exclude women from participating in church leadership.1 More specifically he admonishes them to receive instruction quietly, and they are not to teach or exert authority over men. The natural response of the reader is to ask why this restriction is imposed. What have women done to deserve this? Or, perhaps, what had the women at Ephesus in particular done? That some response was anticipated seems evident in view of the two OT citations supporting the admonition. The first comes from the creation account in Genesis 2 and the second from the story of the fall in the following chapter. By citing the creation narrative the secondary formation of Eve is emphasized—that is, she is formed chronologically after Adam and from the person of Adam. The point made regarding the fall is that Eve was deceived but not her male counterpart. On the surface it appears that it is because of these two historical events, far removed from Paul’s time and culture, that women at Ephesus were excluded in some manner from leadership roles among God’s people.

*Ronald Pierce is associate professor of Biblical studies and theology at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

When the average person encounters these verses,2 he finds it difficult to understand how Eve’s place in creation could have permanently effected a subordinate role for womankind. Lik...

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