In my previous post, I explored the role of the female apostle, treating her as the female ‘shaliach’ of the lead male apostle. I related the role of Junia to that of Timothy, another example of an apostolic shaliach, and claimed that Junia would have sustained a similar relation to Andronicus as Timothy sustained to Paul.
Although I suggested that there were certain differences between the manners that the two characters would play their roles, and represent the lead apostle, the precise character of these differences was vague and somewhat confusing. In representing Paul, for instance, Timothy was able to embody his authority in a manner that empowered him to teach and exercise Paul’s apostolic authority over other men. Why wouldn’t the female apostle, acting in the authority of her husband be able to do the same? The approach that I took to this was to present an essentially and initially undifferentiated role of apostolic shaliach being restricted from certain forms of representation and focused upon others as it was conditioned as a second step by the gendered role of the woman. I moved, somewhat tentatively, towards the position that the female apostle would have represented the authority of her husband in the leading and teaching of other women.
A degree of analogy here is plain: as Genesis 2-3 reveals, the woman is the assistant of the man and participates in – indeed is essential to – his role and its dignity, similar to the way that the shaliach is the assistant to and representative of his master. However, despite a measure of overlap and several similarities, the manner in which the woman relates to the man as his deaconess seems to differ from the way that the deacon does, not merely in scope and focus, but also in its fundamental character. My dissatisfaction with my earlier expressed position has led me to revisit this question and to advance a different approach, one which I believe to be more rigorous in its attention to the biblical pattern.
Laying Hands on Women
One of the things that has a measure of bearing upon this question is the question of whether the ritual of the laying on of hands is ever performed on females in any context. This would help us to articulate just how formal or not the woman’s participation in the role of her husband is.
In discussing Genesis 2:18 in my previous post, I observed that, instead of employing the noun עזר to refer to the helper, the Targum Onkelos employs the noun סמך, which might create some sort of conceptual proximity between the helper and the laying on of hands rituals. It is probably unlikely, however, given the range of other uses of the term.
We also see hands laid on female animals in such places as Leviticus 4:27-29, 32-33, when a common person is making a sin offering. The female kid or lamb can only represent the person of the commoner: it cannot represent the priest, the ruler of the people, or the congregation as a whole, all of whom must be represented through male sacrifices. We should observe in passing that the fact that the gender of the sacrifices were stipulated in such cases, and that such of the sacrificed animals were to be female, suggests that their meaning cannot just be exhausted in a narrow understanding of Christ’s fulfilment of the sacrifices of Leviticus at Calvary. The sacrifices of Leviticus look forward to a fulfilment, not merely in Christ’s own person, but also in his body, the Church. Here we see that gender is firmly located within the logic of representation. I suspect that until we get Leviticus right on such matters, we will struggle to understand the role of women in relation to Church offices.
The Sons of Israel
Israel as a whole was represented by males, and more particularly, by sons. The story of the Exodus is in many respects a story about the priestly and representative character of sons. Israel’s sons are being cast into the river. Israel is thus being robbed of its priestly ministry, and being made subject to Pharaoh’s authority. Moses is the male child without defect. We should not miss this fact: whenever Moses’ birth is mentioned, the fact that he was a beautiful child is referred to (Exodus 2:2; Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23). The Bible is not wasting words cooing over Amram and Jochebed’s baby photos: as the child without blemish, and of uncommonly beautiful appearance, Moses is the eminent priestly son, the natural representative of the people. Note that Saul, David, and Solomon are all spoken of as having a remarkable and compelling appearance, which sets them apart from all others as physical specimens. These were men who would cause people to catch their breath: one glance at them was sufficient to reveal that they were no ordinary males.
As the representative of the people, the expression of their authority, and their avenger, Moses slays the Egyptian. When God appears to him in the burning bush, God declares that Israel is his firstborn son, his representative on earth (Exodus 4:22). Israel is God’s son who represents his authority on earth; the sons of Israel are the ones who represent the authority of the nation. God threatens Pharaoh’s son, the representation of his authority, if Pharaoh will not let God’s son go. The story that immediately follows in Exodus 4:24-26 is directly related to this theme, but explaining its logic would rather distract from the movement of this case (I refer you to Appendix F of James Jordan’s The Law of the Covenant for a detailed treatment).
Passover and the slaying of the firstborn sons powerfully underlines the representative role of sons. Every single firstborn male in Egypt is placed under threat (Exodus 11:4-5). Israel has to come under the covering of the blood of a male lamb without defect (12:5). In Exodus 13, YHWH claims all of the firstborn males for himself, both of man and beast. The firstborn of Israel are living sacrifices. They pass over to God, and their lives are redeemed by the offering of a ram.
We should not miss the connection to the sacrifice of Isaac here. In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham. While many believe that this episode is merely a proof of Abraham’s faith, and that having passed the test, Abraham is blessed and nothing essential changes, this reading misses crucial aspects of the picture. God claims Isaac for himself, and Abraham must sacrifice him. At the point of sacrifice God stays Abraham’s hand, and provides a ram, which is offered in Isaac’s stead. Much the same thing is taking place here as occurs in the Exodus. Isaac’s status is changed. Through the sacrifice of the ram, God claims Isaac for himself. Isaac was no longer merely Abraham’s son, but was God’s son. As such, Isaac no longer served merely as a representation of Abraham’s personal authority, but also of God’s authority. In returning Isaac to Abraham, God graciously binds the manifestation of his authority in the world to the manifestation of Abraham’s.
The firstborn sons of Israel were claimed by YHWH as his own in the Exodus (Numbers 3:13). In Numbers 3, however, the males of the Levites and their cattle are taken in the stead of the firstborn males of the rest of Israel. The Levites thus represent and minister the priestly authority of Israel as a nation. The Levites don’t have a priestly authority of their own, detached from the priestly authority that Israel possesses as a nation: they are Israel’s priestly authority. The Levites are the representation of Israel’s priestly authority, and of God’s authority among his people. They are the representation and ministers of an authority that is the shared possession of the nation as a whole, even though they are the only ones permitted to represent and minister it.
The role of sons in representation of the authority of the people is only further underlined by the requirement for male offerings, and such descriptions of them as ‘sons of the herd’ (Leviticus 1:5).
Image and Glory
In 1 Corinthians 11:7 we encounter a verse that many might find perplexing:
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
I believe that careful attention to the logic of this verse is absolutely crucial to unlocking the puzzle of the difference between the female helper apostle, and the male helper apostle.
If one were reading without paying too much attention, one might fall into the trap of reading ‘man … is the image and glory of God; but woman is the image and glory of man.’ However, the text does not say that the woman is the image of the man. The woman is the glory of the man, but not his image. We will return at a later point to the question of whether women are also the images of God.
Who then is the image of the man? The image of the man is the priestly son. Eve was the glory of Adam, but it was Seth who was his image, the expression of his authority in the world: ‘And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth’ (Genesis 5:3).
The blessing of the father is given to the sons who bear his image in the world. The firstborn’s blessing generally involves the laying on of hands. As the father leans upon the head of his son, he impresses his image upon him. His son then represents him and his authority in the world. The chief blessing of the right hand naturally belongs to the firstborn son, who is the chief image of the father. In Genesis 48:12-22, for example, we see Isaac giving Joseph the firstborn’s double portion (v.22), through laying his hand on both of Joseph’s sons’ heads (but reversing their birth order), thereby giving Joseph two tribal portions in Ephraim and Manasseh in contrast to the single portions received by his brothers.
As N.T. Wright and others have observed, Scripture’s use of the concept of ‘image’ should be understood as the visible representation or expression of a person’s authority and rule. The conceptual connection between image and authority is a tight one, and sheds considerable light on our current questions.
The relationship between image and sonship is clear elsewhere in Scripture, especially in references to the person of Christ. For instance, in Colossians 1:15 we read of Christ: ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.’ It is the son who represents – who is the embodiment – of the authority of his father. The man’s possession of a son is his possession of authority, much as having a wife is having glory. Hebrews 1:2ff. reveals the same connection between the firstborn, image, and authority: as God’s image and firstborn Son, Christ is God’s strength and authority at work in the world.
All of this leads to an important conclusion: women cannot represent, or image, the authority of the man, as that is not the form of representation for which they were created.
The Shaliach as Image of his Master
In the previous post, I maintained that both female helper apostle and male helper apostle represented the authority of their masters. We should observe that without the helper apostle, the authority of the lead apostle would be considerably lessened: the helper apostle was the right hand of the apostle, who gave a considerably greater reach and scope to his authority. As such the helper apostle did not just point to an authority that lay elsewhere, but was a living embodiment of the authority he enacted.
Following Matt Colvin’s reading, I argued that Timothy was Paul’s helper apostle, the apostle of the Apostle Paul, his shaliach. However, the relationship that existed between Paul and Timothy needs closer attention. I observed the closeness of the relationship between them, but I did not sufficiently underline the significance of its unique form: Timothy is Paul’s son. This fact is mentioned at several points in Scripture (e.g. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2).
Of course, Timothy wasn’t Paul’s biological son, but the relationship that Timothy bore to Paul was one of a son to his father. As such Timothy was able to act as the representation and image of Paul’s authority, and be his right arm at work in the world. This sonship relationship is essentially the same as Joshua had with Moses (by renaming him – Numbers 13:16, and leaning upon him in the firstborn’s image blessing – Deuteronomy 34:9), and Elisha had with Elijah (2 Kings 2:12 – note also that Elisha requests the firstborn’s double portion of Elijah’s spirit in verse 9, which he later receives).
The Female Helper Apostle as the Glory of her Husband
As a woman, the female helper apostle cannot be the image of her husband, as she cannot take the place of the firstborn son. However, although women do not enjoy the shaliach role of firstborn sons, they still stand in a representative role in relation to their husbands, a role that is highlighted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7, and which can easily be deduced from more general attention to biblical patterns. As God’s firstborn son, Israel represents God’s authority in the world. However, as God’s bride, Israel represents his glory.
Both the firstborn son and the wife are integral to the identity of the man whom they represent. Without the firstborn son, the man lacks authority in the world: without the wife, the man lacks glory. Regarding the apostle’s wife as the representation of the glory of her apostle husband gives us a far better model for understanding her role.
As the glory of her husband, the wife does things and represents things that the firstborn son can never do or represent. While the son’s role is frequently akin to that of a servant, the place of the wife is one of exalted honour. The man has no glory that he possesses in detachment from his wife, rather the wife is the embodiment of his glory.
All of this sheds light upon the question of ordination. Women are not ordained, because ordination (the laying on of hands) is for sons, who represent their fathers’ authority. The clergy should be exclusively male for this reason. The roles played by women are not roles of servant authority entered by ordination, but roles of glorious representation, recognized by the according of honour.
The apostle’s wife is the apostle’s glory and she enjoys a position of exalted honour for that reason. No hands are laid on her in ordination, but she enjoys an exalted place alongside her husband in the life of the Church. When she gives counsel, people shut up and listen to her. She is sought for her wisdom. She is eminent among the women, not as an ordained Church officer, but as one who represents the glory of the apostle. She is held up as a model and example for imitation. She teaches and spiritually guides other women as an esteemed sharer in the apostle’s ministry. This position of honour is not merely one of reflected glory from her husband, for she is an expression of her husband’s glory.
The apostle’s wife can lead the other women, under the apostle’s authority. This leadership is not the same as the apostle’s leadership, which involves clear rights of office over the members of the Church. The apostle’s wife possesses no such rights, nor can she exercise them on behalf of her husband, as she cannot image him. However, her leadership is effected through honour, as the members of the Church set her forth as a person to emulate and follow.
Such women should be prominent in the life of the Church. To the extent that the ordained clergy seek their own glory, rather than glorifying the wider congregation, and the women within it in particular, they are failing to discharge their duty. The fact that the role of the clergy is often seen to be the one of glory within the Church is a sign that something has gone seriously wrong. Of itself the priestly ministry is inglorious, its glory is ministered to it from outside, and is a glory chiefly manifested in the exalted and prominent place of honoured faithful women within the life of the Church. Conversely, the fact that many women seek to usurp the authority of ordained firstborn son images in the Church is a sign that they are not being glorious as they ought to be.
Do Women Image God?
So far we have argued that firstborn sons are the images and authority of the man and that the wife is the glory of the man. The first role is one of ordination, the second role is one of honour. As it stands, this picture seems to have the man in the centre, relativizing both the woman and the son. However, as I claimed in my previous post, in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, Paul proceeds to engage in an asymmetrical reversal of the poles. The picture must ultimately be one in which all poles can be seen to be essential and, from a particular perspective, central. I don’t believe that this is hard to demonstrate.
The key point that should shape our entire understanding of this is the fact that we all minister being to each other. The gifts, being, and status of one party is not held over against the others, but is ministered to them. We saw this pattern earlier when we observed that the Levites did not possess some exclusive authority private to their tribe held over against all of the other tribes. Rather, the Levites ministered a priestly authority that was the possession of Israel as a whole nation, for the sake of the whole nation.
The same pattern can be observed in the Church. The Church receives the single Gift of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Spirit is the common possession of the Church. However, the being of the Church is ministered to the Church by means of differentiated ministries (1 Corinthians 12). The gifts of one party are not held over against other parties as private possessions, but are gifts to be given. The gifts given to one party are gifts given to the whole Church through that party. More particularly, the ministering of these gifts is a re-presentation of the single Gift that the Church has already been given. When the clergy exercise priestly authority, they are not exercising an authority that is their private possession, but are exercising the authority that belongs to all in the Church, acting on our behalf as ministers.
This is the pattern that the relationship between men and women, and firstborn sons takes (undoubtedly much could be said concerning the roles of younger sons and daughters, but this is not the time). The man is the image and glory of God, expressing God’s authority and his glory. However, man by himself has meagre authority and little glory. It is through the firstborn son that the man gains his strength (on the firstborn as the representation of strength, see Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17, Psalm 78:51) and authority. The son does more than picture an authority and strength that the father possesses as a detached individual: the son is his father’s strength and authority. Similar observations should be made of the wife: the wife is the glory of her husband, and without her the man is without glory. Both wife and son minister the being of the man to him.
However, the man does not merely have his being ministered to him, he is also the minister of being to others. The father filiates, and ‘ordains’ his son. Without the authorizing work of the father, the son cannot be his authority in the world. The son is the authority of the father, not an authority to or of himself. The man renders his wife glorious by exercising his authority on her behalf. He enables her to be a glory by taking her to himself. Without a husband, the woman can suffer reproach or dishonour (cf. Isaiah 4:1).
The relationship between the firstborn and the woman is also one of ministered being. It is in bringing forth the firstborn that the woman most powerfully ministers glory. Barrenness is regarded as a reproach (Genesis 30:23; 1 Samuel 1:6; Luke 1:25), a dishonour from which the firstborn delivers the woman. The firstborn also ministers the authority of the man on behalf of the woman. The woman, for her part, in addition to being the one through whom the firstborn comes, is the minister of the glory of the man to the firstborn.
We are all inglorious when detached from each other, yet in such asymmetric mutuality, we all enjoy great authority and glory. Hence, although they do not image God in the manner that men do, women possess the image of God, as men are God’s gift to women (or at least, so we flatter ourselves – cf. Genesis 4:1). Likewise, although men are not glorious of themselves, they nonetheless possess the glory of God, because God gave women, the glorious sex, to men.
What About the Exceptions?
What are we to say about childless men, unmarried men or women, barren women, and children without a father or a mother? From a human perspective such persons would seem to be without both authority and glory, and this is an assessment expressed and even enacted on various occasions in the Bible, most especially in the Old Testament.
In the Church our human relationships are taken up into a deeper and greater life, in which the relationships of glory and authority can be enjoyed even by those excluded from the human relationships that manifest these characteristics. In his relationship with the Church, Paul glorifies another, as a man glorifies a woman. For instance, the glory of the Ephesian church is Paul’s suffering on their behalf (Ephesians 3:13). Likewise, Paul’s glory is found in what Christ has accomplished through him in the Church: ‘For you are our glory and joy’ (1 Thessalonians 2:20). The faithful widow or women without a husband or children is granted an honoured place within the Church (1 Timothy 5). She glorifies the Church by her holy and faithful life, is rendered glorious, and is empowered as the Church ministers its authority on her behalf. The orphan is likewise adopted into the Church, and given the filial place as a son of God, who shares in the glory of his Mother the Church.
All of this makes more sense as we appreciate that being the image and glory of God as male and female must involve a participation in more fundamental relationships. The Church is the place where we are renewed in the image of God (Colossians 3:9-11). The Church is also the site where the glory of God is being manifest. As we participate in the life of the Church, we can manifest the true logic of human being and identity, where authoritative firstborn sonship (cf. Hebrews 12:23) and glorious wifehood (Ephesians 5:25-27) can be enjoyed.
The Church is only the site of the outworking of the true ontological mutuality and life of humanity by virtue of its participation in God’s own life. Within the Church we are being renewed in the image of God. The Image of God, however, is Christ (Colossians 1:15). It is through participation in Christ that this new life is enjoyed. Likewise the glorious character of the Church is nothing less than a participation in the Spirit, who is the glory of God. Once this all has been grasped, it becomes apparent that no person is held back from full realization of the ontological destiny of humanity.
The Life of the Trinity
This argument has progressed gradually, in large part to reveal the working that underlies the sort of arguments that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 11, where the differentiated roles of men and women in worship are related to the differentiated life of the Trinity. There is a path leading from the fundamental datum of physical sexual difference and differentiated roles in worship into the very heart of Trinitarian theology. This is why careful thinking in this area is so important, and the ordination of women such a grievous error, calling into question the very ecclesial being of the churches where it is practiced.
God created humanity to reveal his image and glory. Human life in communion is expressive of the very life of the Trinity. We have spoken of the relationship between fathers and firstborn sons in Scripture. In the only begotten Son of the Father, we find the prototype for all such relationships. The Son is the perfect expression of the authority of Father. He is the one by whom the world is made, governed, upheld, and saved. The Son is the right hand of the Father.
The Spirit is the glory of the Father, the glory that the Father gives to the Son (Mark 8:38). The Spirit is also the glory of the Son, the glory that the Son renders to the Father (Thomas Weinandy has some helpful observations on the role of the Spirit in The Father’s Spirit of Sonship). Each person is the ‘medium’ or ‘gift’ of the relationship between the other two persons. The Spirit is the glory passed between Father and Son. The Son is the authority passed between Father and Spirit. The Father is the authorizing name passed between Spirit and Son. Each of these relations in turn implies the others. Although one person may appear to be rendered a pure object in each of these relationships, as the relationships are mutually implicatory in a single sharing of divine life, no such objectification occurs.
One of the things that should be clear from the picture above is just how closely the role of women corresponds to the role of the Spirit. Women can represent God in a peculiar manner that no others can, thereby ministering being to all others, and receiving being in return. Women do not image God in the same way that men do (as men are particularly associated with the Son), but they represent God’s glory in a manner that men cannot. This connection between women and the role of the Spirit could be articulated in great detail using biblical typology.
Seeing the closeness of the relationship here underlines just how important the ministry of women is in the Church. If we are serious Trinitarians, I believe that we are led to the strong conclusion that the role of women possesses no less dignity than that of men. Indeed the role of women is probably the primary manifestation of the glory of the Church. All of this is of seismic import for the way that we treat and regard women within our churches. We have taken no more than the smallest of steps towards working out the far-reaching implications of this.
Returning to the question that started us off, this also reveals the distinct manner in which Junia participated in the apostleship of Andronicus. It unworks certain of the confusing perceptions that might have arisen from my previous post, while providing a clearer framework within which the distinct roles of sons and wives can be recognized.
This, I hope, will be my final treatment of the subject of women’s leadership. What I trust I have achieved is a revelation of how tightly male-only ordination is woven into the very fabric of the Christian faith, having implications for our understanding of our gendered identities as revealed in Genesis 2-3, but, far more importantly, following closely from the life of God himself.