“Scripture in its entirety IS PERVADED BY THE PRINCIPLE OF MEN BEARING THE ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY FOR MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY AS WELL AS FOR THE CHURCH, ‘the household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15). This principle of male headship reaches from God’s creation of the man first (Gen. 2:7), to his holding the first man accountable for humanity’s sin (Gen. 3:9-12), to the ancient Israelite practice of ‘patricentrism,’ to the all-male Levitical priesthood in Old Testament Israel, to Jesus’ choice of twelve men as his apostles, to Paul’s teaching that men bear ultimate responsibility and authority for the church (1 Tim. 2:12). In fact, Paul himself believed that his teaching of male headship was rooted in the Genesis creation narrative (see 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13)” (“Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?”, pp. 33-34).
I’ve addressed the issue of Adam’s place in creation, as well as his place in the first sin. Now, I’m gonna address another justification for a patriarchal hermeneutic: “the ALL-MALE Levitical priesthood in Old Testament Israel.”
Stanley Grenz, in his book “Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology for Women in Ministry,” provides a sound refutation of Kostenberger’s priesthood claim:
“Maleness was not the sole prerequisite for service in this office. Rather, the instructions found in Leviticus and Numbers include additional and quite stringent requirements. ONLY MIDDLE-AGED MALES FROM THE TRIBE OF LEVI AND THE BLOODLINE OF AARON WHO WERE PERFECT PHYSICAL SPECIMENS AND HAD MARRIED A VIRGIN (OR PERHAPS THE WIDOW OF A PRIEST) QUALIFIED AS TRUE PRIESTS OF GOD, AND THEN ONLY WHEN THEY WERE NOT CEREMONIALLY UNCLEAN . On what basis, critics ask, can we conclude from the Old Testament priesthood that GOD ESTABLISHES GENDER, BUT NOT THE OTHER HOST OF RESTRICTIONS SET FORTH IN THE BOOKS OF MOSES, as the basis for restricting the ordained office in the church?” (“Women in the Church,” page 181)
In the New Testament, we find that Timothy was a young man (sources say in his early 30s); he was a Gentile, NOT a Jew from the tribe of Levi and the line of Aaron; Timothy was not married (single); and we have some idea that he may have been physically fit, but we can’t know for sure (1 Tim. 4:8).
So Timothy doesn’t fit all the requirements for an Old Testament priest. Neither did any of the other Gentile leaders of Paul’s day. So, for complementarians who advocate that the current leadership should be representative of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood, all Gentile pastors and elders must step down from their posts (for they don’t even come close to fulfilling the requirements of Levitical priests).
However, according to 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” As a result, the Levitical priesthood is no longer needed.
Hebrews 9 aids us in this new understanding:
1Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and(A) an earthly place of holiness. 2For(B) a tent[a] was prepared, the first section, in which were(C) the lampstand and(D) the table and(E) the bread of the Presence.[b] It is called the Holy Place. 3Behind(F) the second curtain was a second section[c] called the Most Holy Place, 4having the golden(G) altar of incense and(H) the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was(I) a golden urn holding the manna, and(J) Aaron’s staff that budded, and(K) the tablets of the covenant. 5Above it were(L) the cherubim of glory overshadowing(M) the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6These preparations having thus been made,(N) the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7but into the second only(O) the high priest goes, and he but(P) once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that(Q) the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9(which is symbolic for the present age).[d] According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered(R) that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10but deal only with(S) food and drink and(T) various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
11But when Christ appeared as a high priest(U) of the good things that have come,[e] then through(V) the greater and more perfect tent ((W) not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he(X) entered(Y) once for all into the holy places, not by means of(Z) the blood of goats and calves but(AA) by means of his own blood,(AB) thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if(AC) the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with(AD) the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[f] for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will(AE) the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit(AF) offered himself without blemish to God,(AG) purify our[g] conscience(AH) from dead works(AI) to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:1-14, ESV)
I placed all these verses here to give us an idea of the context. In verses 1-5, the writer is describing the EARTHLY tabernacle and its contents; in verses 6-10, the writer shows us the Levitical priests who go into the first section of the tabernacle EVERY DAY to offer sacrifices for the people. The first section is UNCEASING in its operation—it functions ALL THE TIME. It is the dwelling place of priests in the tabernacle.
But there was a second section called “The Holy of Holies,” and ONLY the high priest traveled into this special section—ONCE A YEAR—to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. None of the other priests could enter into the second section. As we can see, although the priests were the “elites” of the tribes and the nation, there was a system of ELITES WITHIN THE ELITES! We could say there was a well-defined hierarchy of national leadership for the Old Testament people of God.
Hebrews 9:8-10 tells us what the two sections of the tabernacle represent:
“8By this the Holy Spirit indicates that(Q) the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9(which is symbolic for the present age).[d] According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered(R) that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10but deal only with(S) food and drink and(T) various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:8-10, ESV)
The way into the Holy of Holies was still OFF-LIMITS, since the majority of priests could only go into the first section. From the verses above, we see that “The Holy Spirit indicates” this fact. The Old Testament account of the priests and their duties, then, is a FORESHADOWING of that which is to come:
1For since the law has but(A) a shadow(B) of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities,(C) it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3But(D) in these sacrifices(E) there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For(F) it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4, ESV)
The Law was “a shadow,” an image of the real. Think about a real shadow: is the shadow the actual person? No, of course not! But the shadow shows us what the real person will look like; thus, by looking at the Old Testament Law, while we see a “glimpse” of what is to come, we don’t see EVERYTHING AS IT WILL BE. Therefore, the Old Testament Law is not “the true form” of God’s intention—it was to work UNTIL the time that Christ came.
Notice that in Hebrews 9 above, the writer tells us that the first section of the tabernacle, entered by MANY priests, is “symbolic of the present age” (Heb. 9:9a, ESV).The “present age” refers to the time of the priests. Before the time of Christ, Old Testament Law was in play; the people sinned, the priests entered into the tabernacle to offer sacrifices on behalf of sins.
According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered(R) that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10but deal only with(S) food and drink and(T) various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:9b-10, ESV)
Although this was the way to deal with sins at the time in which it was instituted, “gifts and sacrifices are offered that CANNOT PERFECT THE CONSCIENCE OF THE WORSHIPER,” meaning that offering up sacrifices could not change the person’s thinking, could not lead them to repentance. The only thing the sacrifices did was set a person right with God; however, the next day, that person would sin and would have to go back to the tabernacle and hand another sacrifice to the priest, who would offer it up on the altar so as to keep the sinner right with God. It was not ever to be permanent, the writer tells us—“but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed UNTIL THE TIME OF REFORMATION.” It was only to be in place for a short time, never to be instituted for an eternity.
11But when Christ appeared as a high priest(U) of the good things that have come,[e] then through(V) the greater and more perfect tent ((W) not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he(X) entered(Y) once for all into the holy places, not by means of(Z) the blood of goats and calves but(AA) by means of his own blood,(AB) thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if(AC) the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with(AD) the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[f] for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will(AE) the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit(AF) offered himself without blemish to God,(AG) purify our[g] conscience(AH) from dead works(AI) to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:11-14, ESV)
Now we see Christ as “high priest” going into a GREATER AND MORE PERFECT TENT (a heavenly one), making restitution for our sins (not with the blood of animals, but HIS OWN). And what did He do for us? He secured “an eternal redemption,” not a redemption for the day. As HIGH PRIEST, Christ did what NO OTHER high priest could do: offer one sacrifice for sin (shed His blood) and have that one sacrifice atone for ALL SIN for ALL TIME!
23Thus it was necessary for(AU) the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has entered, not into holy places(AV) made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God(AW) on our behalf. 25Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as(AX) the high priest enters(AY) the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is,(AZ) he has appeared(BA) once for all(BB) at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:23-26, ESV)
The earthly tabernacle, the priests, and even the offerings were “copies of the heavenly things.” The Greek word for “copies” is “hupodeigmata,” meaning “example, representation, a figure” of something. Something that is a “representation” of something else IS NOT the object itself, but an object that POINTS to the destination. For example, Romans 5 records that Adam was “the prototype of the coming one.” The word for “prototype” in the Greek is “tupos,” from which our English word “type” is derived. Adam, then, is a TYPE of Christ. How so? The rest of Romans 5 answers that; but the emphasis here is that Adam IS NOT CHRIST—but he is an EXAMPLE or REPRESENTATION of what Christ would be—Adam was the human FIRSTBORN of creation, while Christ was the FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION; Adam’s sin led to the curse of creation, Christ intended to RECONCILE ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF (according to Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1), which included ALL of creation (including the ground).
The tabernacle then, was a REPRESENTATION of the heavenly places; just like the priests, it was to show us the work of the One who was to come—Christ Jesus. Therefore, when Christ came, the representation and sign (the Temple and priests) were made obsolete, old, ancient, dead, nullified.
We’ve seen that Christ, OUR HIGH PRIEST, took away sins with His sacrifice once-for-all; but, what about the other Levitical priests? Are they still offering sacrifices? The answer is NO. Look at Hebrews 10:
19(V) Therefore, brothers,[c] since we have confidence to enter(W) the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by(X) the new and living way that he opened for us through(Y) the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have(Z) a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts(AA) sprinkled clean(AB) from an evil conscience and our bodies(AC) washed with pure water. 23(AD) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for(AE) he who promised is faithful.(Hebrews 10:19-23, ESV)
THERE ARE NO MORE LEVITICAL PRIESTS! BELIEVERS are the new priests. This is why the writer says in verse 19 that “WE have confidence to enter THE HOLY PLACES by the blood of Jesus.” From Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 that we’ve seen here, ONLY the priests were allowed to enter into the first section to offer sacrifices (none of the masses could go there but the priests), and ONLY the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies. Now, because of what Christ has done by offering up Himself for our sins, WE are the “priests” that go into the holy places. How? By Christ’s blood.
So because all believers are allowed to come before God, there is no longer a need for the Levitical priesthood. No longer do we have to worry about who the priest is, or how to prepare the lambs, bulls, and goats to be offered. No longer do we have to worry about times to go to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices. No longer do we fear God’s wrath if we don’t take a lamb or goat to the temple, etc. Because of what Christ has done, we all can approach God on our own to make requests of Him.
Now I love this part. Look at Hebrews 10:20—
20by(X) the new and living way that he opened for us through(Y) the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
He, being Christ, opened up the holy places for us “through the curtain, that is, THROUGH HIS FLESH.” Luke records in his Gospel what happened in this precise moment:
44(BM) It was now about the sixth hour,[e] and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,[f] 45while the sun’s light failed. And(BN) the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:44-45, ESV)
When Christ dies, the temple curtain gets destroyed. Why? because, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, once Christ died, there was no more need of a HUMAN mediator between God and men: Christ killed the need for that (1 Timothy 2:5). Because of this, all believers can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16, ESV).
I am still not finished tackling Kostenberger’s remarks about the nature of the Levitical priesthood. In my next post on “Justifications for a Patriarchal Hermeneutic,” I will take a look at how the Levitical priesthood even came to be. Keep reading…