Have you ever heard the argument that priests and Levites were male*, therefore male church leadership was the plan of God? Here is one apologist expressing the idea:
“…a system of religious authority was instituted in the Mosaic law, a system in which authority was in the hands of the priests and Levites – and only men could serve.” To make this point more clear now, let me point out that the closest OT equivalent to church leaders were the priests and Levites, and they were all men. Only males of the tribe of Levi could serve, which meant that in the OT, religious authority was allowed only for qualified men, not women – the same as in the NT.
– John Tors, from the web site Truth in my Days.
His main premise is wrong: Priests and Levites were not a system of religious authority. Priests and Levites performed a ritual service in the church. Who actually had “religious authority”? (“Religious authority” is the word choice of Tors, not mine.)
Pharisees – men learned in the Old Testament scriptures – had religious authority, and in another sense prophets had religious authority.
Pharisees were male, but this male authority was not by the design of God. Firstly, God said to teach all children His word. (Deut 6:6-7; Deut. 11:18-19; Ps. 78:1-7). But the Israelites chose to teach the scriptures only to boys, which went against God’s command to teach it to all the children. The boys who really wanted to go further with scripture studies eventually became Pharisees. Did God elect Pharisees, or say who could be Pharisees? No. God, in the form of Jesus, was very critical of the bunch of religious authorities called Pharisees.
On the other hand, Jesus often upheld the real religious authority of the prophets. Jesus confirmed that the prophets were sent by God, and had harsh words for the Israelites for not listening to the prophets. (Mat. 23:29-31 shows Jesus both criticizing Pharisees and upholding prophets as authorities.) Prophets are, per definition, sent by God with a message from Him.
Were the prophets – God’s actual religious authorities, all male? No! Prophets of the time before Jesus included Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Deborah (Jdg 4:4) and Huldah (2 Chr. 34:22) and Anna (Luke 2:36). God calling women to prophesy did not change in the time after Jesus: In fact, the prophetic message that “sons and daughters will prophesy” became clearly evident in Acts chapter 2.
It is simply not true to say that God’s ordained church authorities were all male. Priests and Levites were servants, not authorities. I do not know why God chose males to perform temple rituals. But God did not ordain male-only church authority – the religious authorities were not the performers of these rituals.
- Levites were male: Levites were a tribe, which of course included women. The (able-bodied) men (of a certain age group) among them did temple service.