The Temple of Creation and Female Priests
#TGCreationWk was supposed to be over last week. But there are residual thoughts banging around in the heads of some authors. So in a deliberate non-literal fashion, our "week" has expanded beyond seven literal days. But do not worry, we took both Saturday and Sunday off to cover our Sabbath bases.
One of the really fascinating things from John Walton's The Lost World of Adam and Eve was his discussion about priesthood in the garden. This was a concept I was familiar with but certainly one that I had not dwelt upon. In the 12th Proposition (the twelfth "chapter"), Walton directs attention to Adam's role to "work and keep" the garden. For those who are unfamiliar with this particular Hebrew phrase, it has a direct connection to levitical commandments to take care of the temple. The people in Moses' day would have heard the description of the first couple and immediately thought of the garden as God's first temple with mankind.
Essentially, in placing His image, Adam and Eve, in the garden God was placing the final touches on His holy temple (it should be noted that Solomon's temple took 7 years to finish much like Moses' 7 days). The original garden was the place of God's unique presence within creation. Here the Scripture says He walked and talked with Adam and Eve. This type of imagery shifts later in Scripture towards the camp of Israel (Deut 23:14). The original audience would immediately see ties of this to Israel, the tabernacle, and Moses' communication with God. They were becoming God's temple with the same command to expand and fill the earth.
I was familiar with all of these thoughts from reading books by Peter Leithart and G.K. Beale. Both of these I would recommend quickly to conservative readers. Both of these books address this issue linking creation to the larger story of Israel and its temple, Jesus Christ as the temple, and the final creation as a global temple in Revelation. This makes them great introductions. It also allowed me to overlook one glaring reality: Eve was a priest.
Yep, go back and understand that. Yes, I know the proper word is priestess. But get over it. I cannot type that regularly without major problems. Plus I want to drive home the interconnected status of Adam and Eve. So for the sake of this blog post I'm sticking with one word: priest. When Eve was taken from the side of Adam she was endowed with co-dominion. This was already alluded to at the end of Genesis 1. She was his helpmate in no inferior terms. Adam's mission statement was Eve's mission statement. Both fell and needed clothing. Both were given new clothing as a sign of their re-installment as God's priests (I got this idea from Jeffery Niehaus). All of the contextual evidence point to this very simple and obvious point. Eve, a female, was a priest before God. Far too often Christians have looked at the role of priest solely from the levitical order. As should now be seen, the levitical order was a unique dispensation. We know there were elements of God's law to set them apart from the surrounding nations. The practice of female priests in the time of Israel would have been almost solely sexual. It makes sense that as God redeemed His people He would limit, for a time, the participation of females.
Yet even in the Old Testament God calls all of Israel a "kingdom of priests" (Exo 19:6). He is certainly not excluding women, or children for that matter, from the priesthood of His people. Nor does Peter's "royal priesthood" exclude women (1 Pet 2:9). John makes multiple references that are similar (e.g. Rev 5:10). Even the greater typology of the church as the new Eve supports this idea of females in priestly roles (Eph 5:31-32). Throughout the Bible it seems quite clear that the whole of God's people are priests before God. I think this has been generically presumed in the Protestant "priesthood of the believer" but I had never heard it expounded upon in this manner.
Now, do not misunderstand me. This is not the same as arguing for female elders or female pastors. Though I will concede that this should change the landscape of the discussion. Instead of focusing on that though, I would like to focus on the New Covenant inclusion of women in sacramental rituals.
The Levites were washed and consecrated for worship and service. This washing is part of the Old Testament foundation for baptism. This helps explain the scope of New Testament baptism and the expansion from male-only circumcision. So also, only the priests and their family could eat the sacrifice meals (with a range of exclusions). In the New Covenant every table is open and the Lord's Table is open to all who are baptized. This expansion reveals the priesthood of the entire church both male and female. This explains how the children of one parents, whether father or mother, could be holy in front of God (1 Cor 7:14). They are in the lineage of a priest.
It is little studies like this that keep me reading ravenously. I can make no sense of individuals who do not study the Scripture apart from their personal devotion. Creation is a great place to start.