Over at the American Jesus website, Zach Hunt recently reposted an article which argues that since women were first to the tomb and were instructed to inform the disciples that Christ had risen, that they constitute the first evangelists. He then carries the argument to say that this is a form of ordination, and since Jesus ordained women that we also should ordain women. Now, this idea (women at the tomb being the first people to report Christ’s resurrection and that they were commissioned by Christ to do so) is common among egalitarians. I have no problem with that idea. It is simply a matter of the Biblical record. However, the leaps in Zach’s logic are stunning and absolutely fallacious. Lets take a look a little closer.
Zach begins by pointing out that the women were tending to Jesus while the men were cowering in fear. While this is true on one level, it is also telling on another. Perhaps, and this is somewhat speculative, but perhaps part of the reason that the women were not cowering in fear is because they were not associated with Christ as disciples the way that Zach and other egalitarians seem to want to argue they were. Were there women among Christ’s gathering? Of course! Were they considered disciples or students of Christs, most likely not.
Next Zach proceeds to outline the rest of his argument. I will summarize it in syllogism here.
- Jesus commissioned the women at the tomb to preach the Gospel to the Apostles
- We ought to follow Christ’s example in regard to who we commission to preach the Gospel
- Therefore we ought to ordain women to be pastors
Now, I’m going to, for the sake of argument, grant to Zach that reporting the fact of the Resurrection to the Apostles is somehow equivalent to preaching the Gospel. I think that by the way that I phrased that last sentence, it’s pretty clear that I don’t think that it is, but for the sake of argument I’ll concede that point. The main problem that Zach is going to have to contend with here is that Evangelism and Pastoral Ministry (what we typically think of when we speak of ordination) are not the same thing.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV)
See, Christ commissions people for different tasks. The Apostle Paul tells us that there are four offices. For our discussion the important ones are the final two. First, lets look at the last one. This is that of “shepherds and teachers.” Now, I know that looks like two offices, but there are technical reasons that are beyond the intention of this entry that tell us they are one (it has to do with Greek and grammar). The final office is a combination of people who care for a specific group (shepherds) and people who teach that specific group (teacher). The two duties combined are what most people would refer to as Pastoral ministry. A Pastor is responsible to educate his flock, as well as to tend to their spiritual needs. The penultimate (second to last) office is that of Evangelist. The Evangelist is one who is tasked with (I would argue) going out into the world to proclaim the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and what that reality has accomplished in the lives of the Elect.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that those two things are not the same.
Now, the question here has to be asked of Zach: What logical warrant is there for you to jump from Jesus commissioning women to be Evangelists, to us commissioning women to be Pastors? The tasks of an evangelist is different from that of a pastor. Now, ignoring the fact that I don’t think what the women did in reporting the fact of the Resurrection to the Apostles is evangelism, even if we grant that ordination extends beyond just ordination to pastoral ministry, we STILL are left in a situation where women are being ordained to the office of Evangelist, NOT to that of Pastor.
Zach makes some more arguments further down which I don’t feel the need to address in full, because I think any competent exegete can see the errors present.
Most egregious (and needing to be addressed) is when he takes Peter’s vision of the unclean animals to mean that “a new day had dawned and new rules were being put into place.” A simple glance at just about any commentary will show you that this is an absolutely absurd way to interpret this passage. The point of the vision (found in Acts 10) is explained within the biblical text itself. It is not that God has put new rules into place, it is that God has taken that which was unclean (the Gentiles) and made them clean. (Acts 10:15) Peter’s proclamation in the remainder of the chapter shows that he doesn’t believe this to be God doing a new thing, but that he sees this to be God fulfilling the promise of the Old Testament. He pulls a similar move with Paul and the oft misinterpreted Galatians 3:28. Paul is not saying there are no distinctions or that these differences don’t exist, he is saying that they are not significant in terms of salvation. And again, Paul’s speech in Acts 15 shows that he also believes this to be a fulfillment of what God intended all along to do… not a new day with new rules.
He then argues, and I’ll end with this thought, that the point of such passages is that our context as Christians has done away with all identity markers. Logically, he assumes, it means that basing roles or positions on the identity markers that are no longer in play is unreasonable. However, his own argument regarding the classic complementarian passages in Paul, presupposes that Paul not only recognized these previous identity markers, but made use of them. Even if they were only contextual commands given to a specific group for a specific time, he still recognized and made use of those previous identity markers. In fact, Paul makes use of most of the identity markers that Zach supposes are done away with. He has instructions for Slaves and Slave Owners, for Husbands and Wives, for Parents and Children. He speaks to Jews one way, and to Gentiles another way. These identity markers are not only present in Paul, but utilized by him for both rhetorical and practical reasons.
At the end of the day, Zach’s exegesis… as it usually does… falls short of actually grappling with the text and accurately discerning its meaning. Combined with the unexplained leap in logic from Christ ordaining women to be evangelists (which no one I know of disputes women should evangelize) to Christ ordaining women to be pastors… this post by Zach fails miserably to establish his position.