Monday, June 24, 2024

Is "Male Headship" a Biblical Doctrine?


The Hebrew cousin bride had the prerogative to name her firstborn son after her father.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Where is the Evangelical doctrine of "male headship" found throughout the canonical Scriptures? It is cobbled together by cherry picking verses from Paul whose concern was recognition of God's supreme authority. The Apostle Paul had great respect for women and his instructions in 1 Timothy 2 address a specific situation. Most of Paul's writings on men and women are used to speak of the authority of Christ as the Head of the Church.

"For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." (Eph. 5:23-24) Here Paul uses a marriage analogy to speak of Christ's authority. 

Paul repeats that analogy in 1 Cor. 11:3 - "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Again, Paul's concern is that Christ's followers recognize authority.

Paul often uses analogies. The Adam of which Paul speaks is analogical, not historical. Paul's analogy involves a typical Hebrew parallelism between Adam by whom sin and death entered and the New Adam, Jesus Christ, by whom sin and death are overcome. Clearly this analogy is not intended to be taken as history, unless we are to believe that people before 6000 years ago did not sin and did not die.

It is clear that in drawing this analogy, Paul believed Adam to be historical because both Adam and Jesus Christ acted in ways that had lasting consequences in human history. However, Paul also admits that his presentation of Adam involves typology. He writes that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come.” (Rom. 5:14)

Evangelicals maintain that God established male headship at creation. However, in the Bible male-female is a binary set. Binary sets are composed of 2 closely related entities such as male-female and sun-moon. It is universally evident that one of the entities of these sets is greater in strength than its partner. "God made the two great lights—the greater light (the sun) to rule the day, and the lesser light (the moon) to rule the night." (Gen. 1:16) This is the message! The Creator is greater than the creature. Only the greater power and authority can stoop to save. Paul goes on to express the binary relationship this way: As Christ loves and protects the Church so the husband is to love and protect his wife. 

The binary reasoning of the Bible is based on the early Hebrew priests' acute observation of patterns in creation. The male of the human species is larger and stronger than the female. The sun's brilliance surpasses the refulgent light of the moon. To apply an analogy: The Church reflects Christ's light in the world. 

For the early Hebrew the sun was a symbol of the Creator because it spoke of God's rule over all the earth. It also spoke of divine authority. Those who were appointed by God were believed to be divinely overshadowed. That is why Hathor is shown with the sun resting in her crown of horns. She is the archetype of the Virgin Mary who conceived by divine overshadowing (Lk 1:35). 

The same belief about divine appointment is expressed in the Hebrew names of many rulers. The initial Y is a solar cradle indicating divine appointment. It is found in these names: Yishmael (Ishmael); Yishbak; Yitzak (Isaac); Yacob (Jacob); Yehuda (Judah); Yosef (Joseph); Yetro (Jethro); Yeshai (Jesse), Yonah (Jonah), Yeroboam (Jeroboam), Yosedech (Josedech) and his son Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) who wore the double crown (Zech. 6:11).

Yesu (Jesu) in hieroglyphics represents one who judges and rules as God's appointed.

The binary reasoning of the Bible prevents the biblical faith from slipping into dualism, a view in which the two entities of a set are equal in every way and to be granted equality in all things. That view is represented by egalitarians. Binary reasoning also prevents slipping into views that place all authority exclusively with males (absolute patriarchy). The social structure of the biblical Hebrew was neither egalitarian nor patriarchal. My book "The First Lords of the Earth" makes that clear in chapters 6-13. The final chapter is about binary reasoning.

Gender Balance Throughout the Scriptures

A detailed anthropological study of the social structure of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste shows that it was neither patriarchal nor egalitarian. It reveals a balance of authority between males and females. There were male prophets and female prophets, male rulers and female rulers; inheritance by male heirs and inheritance by female heirs, patrilocal residence, and matrilocal residence; and an equal distribution of rights and responsibilities between the "mother's house" and the "father's house."

Hebrew names and titles include patronymics such as Kalev ben Jephunneh (Num. 13) and Bartholomew, an Anglicized version of the Aramaic patronymic Bar-Talmai. Patronymics are common in the Hebrew Bible. So are matronymics. Bath-Sheba is an example. Solomon's mother was of the royal house of Sheba. This is why one of the entrance pillars of Solomon's Temple commemorates Jachin (Joktan), a name associated with the clan of Sheba. Solomon bowed before Bathsheba, the queen mother, and had her sit on a throne at his right side (1 Kg. 2:19).

The Hebrew gender balance is evident in the biblical narratives which give equal attention to males and females. The blood symbolism of the Passover associated with Moses has a parallel in the blood symbolism of the scarlet cord associated with Rahab.

The abusive behavior of drunken Noah toward his sons has a parallel in the abusive behavior of drunken Lot toward his daughters.

The gender balance is evident in the New Testament narratives also. When Jesus was presented in the temple His identity as Messiah was attested by the priest Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

Men and women are among Jesus’ followers. The women reportedly provided many of the material needs of Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus restored life to Jairus’ daughter (daughter to father) and life to the son of the widow of Nain (son to mother).

Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 involve a male seeking a lost sheep and a female seeking a lost coin. Paul commends both men and women to the Gospel ministry. Among them are Apollos, Priscilla, Timothy, and Phoebe, a leader from the church at Cenchreae, a port city near Corinth. Paul attaches to Phoebe the title of prostatis, meaning a female patron or benefactor.

To understand the gender balance of the early Hebrew, we must dismiss the false narrative that their social structure was patriarchal. The traits of a patriarchy do not apply to the biblical Hebrew from whom we receive the earliest elements of the Messianic Faith we call "Christianity." Line of descent was traced through high-status wives, especially the cousin brides. Women owned property and could inherit. The biblical data reveals that the responsibilities and rights of males and females were balanced, yet distinct. There were Hebrew women of authority, but not one served as a priest at the altar. Instead, many ministered to women at the royal water shrines where women came for healing, purification, and for prayers concerning fertility concerns. 

In the Bible, both men and women of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste were persons of authority though no women served as priests. Unless the Church reflects this biblical pattern, it cannot claim to be faithful to the whole counsel of God.

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