Do Male Old Covenant Priests Exclude Female New Covenant Pastors? -- By: Eileen Vennum
PP 7:2 (Spring 1993) p. 6
Do Male Old Covenant Priests
Exclude Female New Covenant Pastors?
Eileen Vennum is at present the director of regulatory affairs of a small pharmaceutical company, and is working on a book entitled “Jesus and the Riddle of Femininity.”
The Qualification Of Maleness For Old Testament Priests Teaches Something Surprising About The Character Of God And Humankind
“If God meant women to lead in religious functions, why were they forbidden the priesthood under the Old Covenant?” This question expresses one of many arguments used to limit the participation of women within the church. It is a reasonable question and deserves a thoughtful answer.
The argument is based on the idea that God does not change (Malachi 3:6). Since God is unchangeable, it seems logical that a knowledge of God’s directives at one period of human history can tell us how God wants us to act at any period of history. Under Sinaitic Law women were forbidden the priesthood. God’s deliberate exclusion of women then seems to establish the eternal principle that some religious functions are properly performed exclusively by males.
This sounds plausible, but is it really?
Christians believe that God’s purpose for speaking and acting within human history has been to teach us about God’s self and bring us into fellowship with God. Teaching, a process of building knowledge on knowledge, moves the student from simple concepts to mastery of more and more complex ones. Though it may seem strange to think of God having limitations, in fact God is “hindered” in the same way all teachers are. The immaturity and finite understanding of God’s students limit what God teaches.
Think of how the great genius Albert Einstein might have taught mathematics to students with differing math backgrounds. Einstein’s use of counting apples to teach first graders and a computer to teach college students would not mean the man himself had changed. It would simply mean his method had changed to suit the understanding of his students and the complexity of the math being taught.
In the same way, God’s personality does not change. However, God’s methods of dealing with people have not remained constant throughout history. For example:
“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son ...” (Hebrews 1:1) Later in the book of Hebrews its author writes, “If that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second” (8:...
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