Buried Talents: Why Were the Apostles All Men?

Reader Kirsty recently asked why all the apostles are male?  I answered in the comments, but I think the topic merits a post.


Regarding why Jesus chose male apostles, I think you have to start with why Jesus chose 12: why 12 people?

The Jews were a people steeped in symbolism. Whereas we Westerners tend to prefer the literal and the syllogistic, the Jewish (and Eastern) mind is much more about story and symbol. So what would 12 men symbolize? What story does the appointment of 12 men tell?

Obviously, the 12 tribes of Israel. Hence, they symbolized the totality of all Israel. But the 12 tribes are the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob — twelve men. Thus, they also symbolize the 12 men — who are (in the Eastern mind) the 12 tribes.

Now, if the 12 apostles are the 12 sons of Jacob, who would Jesus be? Who was the leader of the 12 sons of Jacob? Well, that makes him symbolic of Jacob, the father of the 12.

And Jacob’s other name is Israel. By selecting 12 male apostles, Jesus was (among many other things) symbolically staking a claim to being Israel — in symbol and also in prophetic fulfillment.

I have written a post, which won’t show up for a while, on the interpretation of Isaiah’s Servant’s Song, and when you read it, this will make better sense. The symbolism matters at several levels.

For example, we are baptized into Jesus, and so we become a part of the true Israel. Jesus is the true Israel and so those who are within him are a part of the true Israel.

This understanding gives us a different understanding of the prophesies and the crucifixion. But that’s all for a later post.

For now, the reason the apostles were all male is that the 12 sons of Jacob were male — and that Jesus had to become Israel, to pay the price for Israel’s sins, to demonstrate the life Israel was and is supposed to lead, and to bring the nations into Israel.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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25 Responses to Buried Talents: Why Were the Apostles All Men?

  1. Loribelle says:

    Do I dare say that also, there is that matter of Adam and Eve? I do not mean that the Lord devalues women, but the fact that it was EVE who was "quite deceived" and gave the fruit to her husband.

  2. JamesBrett says:

    is there anything to be said about male leadership in new testament culture? i appreciate the type of jacob idea, but i wonder if Jesus wouldn’t have chosen men either way?

  3. Whatever His reason, Jesus also chosen women to be the first “evangelists” of His resurrection.

  4. Tony says:

    I'm not so sure Jesus "chose" the women as the first evangelists of His ressurection as much as it shows the faithfulness of women compared to men. Those specific women were faithful all through His ministry: "Many women were there, watching from a distance." Mt 27:55; and "Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there." Mk 15:40,41

  5. aBasnar says:

    This was an excellent post, Jay!

    We miht further ask: What about the offspring of Jacobs daughter Dina? I don't know, actually, but the fact that it is not about the first born son only, but about all the sons, is interesting. Before that it was all about the firstborn son, but now there are twelve sons carrying on the promise and blessing of Abraham.


  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    You’ll find this article by N. T. Wright fascinating reading: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

    ALso this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaVVXleoAdU

  7. Alabama John says:

    One reason women were around more than the men was the men had to get back to work to make a living and the women had more free time to stand around.

    There has always been debate about Junia being an apostle or not.
    She seems to of been pretty important either way.

    Its just Gods plan in animal societies, fowl, even fish, whatever creature including humans for the male to be the dominate leader. The female has her hands full doing what she does best and the males would be lost and in most cases be hungry without her. Males are better at strutting and the women better at getting it done. Lions, turkeys, birds, in loudest, brightest color and prancing around.

    Independent females, you bet. and in animal and humans left alone, the females do much better than the males that depend on them so much.

    That's why men or males usually die first as the woman can adjust to life alone so much better.

    Apostle in title and writing men, apostle in examples and deeds, women.

  8. laymond says:

    "One reason women were around more than the men was the men had to get back to work to make a living and the women had more free time to stand around. "

    Man!! you are asking for it , aren't you? B)

  9. Clayton McCool says:

    IMHO There should be women Elders and they should counsel the women NOT MEN! How many Preachers, Elders and Male members have fallen into ADULTERY by preying on the vulnerabilities of women due to unstable marriages or even other matters?

    No NOT women elders OVER males and no not MALE ELDERS being over women, unless it is his own wife.

    Is it a SIN to dare use a little common sense?

  10. aBasnar says:

    Probably, Cloyd, you have a too limited understanding of "elder". Your suggestion is quite OK when you just think of older persons – and it could be backed up by scripture as well (e.g. Tit 2:3-5).

    But the term "elder" as synonym to "bishop" (= overseer) is a ministry to the whole church, not just a part of it (see e.g. Acts 20:28).

    Eldership is more than counselling, far more. Counselling is something every Christian is called to, since we are called to take care for one another, to encourage, edify and admonish one another. A church where this happens (which functions like an extended familiy) normally does not need "professional consellors" anyway.

    In a general sense, elders as shepherds take oversight, seek the lost sheep in their midst and – if their are wise – will delegate some tasks and talks to other more gifted brothers and sisters. They don't (and should,'t) do all by themselves.

    Your point, Clayton, seems to be based on this "lone super-elder" whom everyone expetcts to do everything. And women pressing into this ministry might do this for the this human desire for being thus important (or even powerful) – at least that's what is often the motto in egalitarian visions in the world: "Women demand their fair share of power." Nothing should be further from the Gospel-Truth, but in fact many ministers in the churches hold such a "position of power" that is appealing to the flesh.

    My observation is, it is not like that at all. It is hard work, it needs so much patience, you won't find quick and delightful obedience today anyway … you have to keep the flock together, feed it, heal it and lead it on to eternity (which means, we do have a long way to go together!) … and we'll have to give an account like Jesus gave one:

    Joh 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

    That's the benchmark for New Testament eldership.

    And seeing all that is to be seen in the scriptures concerning this ministry, I doubt the wisdom of those who add or substract from the inspired guidelines in order to make their own ideas come true. Lets remain faithful to God's Word or return to it!


  11. Skip says:

    I guess the question is is should we follow the Biblical pattern of leadership gender roles in the church such as elders, evangelists, teachers, etc… For example what is the gender of the elder as described by Paul in Titus 1:6.

  12. Adam Legler says:

    NT Wright is great. Thanks for turning me on to him.

  13. aBasnar says:

    If that's the question (shall we follow the Biblical Pattern?), then the answer should be obvious from the Scriptures.

    The quidelines for choosing elders/bishops are contained in the letters to Timothy and Titus. 1Ti 3:15 states clearly why this letter has been written:

    1Ti 3:14-15 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

    It is about the behavior in the household of God. All the instructions of the letter are to be seen in the light of these lines. And the instructions reflect the character of the church as the pillar of truth and the house of the Living God.

    This makes it obvios that we have to follow the "patterns", because the nature of the church is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (since our God has this nature Heb 13:8). We are not from this everchanging world therefore we do not conform to its everchanging standards (Rom 12:1-2). Our guidelines have their origin in Eternity and reflect the Kingdom of God.

    And since this is so, we can put any change from this almost on the level of a different Gospel. Why that? Because if we start assuming that the guidelines in 1st Timothy about the church are cultural we define the New Testament church as a blending of "Godly Wisdom" and "Cultural Necessity". Listen (Read) carefully, what I put down here: If the church – by definition! – is a mixture of worldy (i.e. cultural) ideas and Divine Inspiriation, it is no longer "a pillar of truth", but contains only seeds of truth. It is no longer the house of the Living God (alone), but also the house of Demons!

    Please rememeber how strict God was that the tabernacle was to be built absolutely according to the pattern shown to Moses on Mount Sinai! It was constructed after a Divine plan and must not be blended with human ideas! It's the same with the church – texts like 1st Timothy reveal very specific details of God's plan for the Church. So we MUST build accordingly.

    If we did not, then we must tear down everything that's been erected according to human ideas in order to restore the church of Christ. Female leadership is one of these wrong innovations, that must be torn down – and I know this will hurt and leave many sisters who were misled into their ministry hurt and frustrated. Blame it to the innovators, to these wise guys at the seminaries and Christian Universities and to all the elders who did not sound the alarm when it was their duty to do so.


  14. Clayton McCool says:

    Alexander. IF an elder may delegate their "feeding" to a Pulpit Preacher then pray tell me why they cannot delegate women to feed the women and men feed the MEN?


  15. guy says:


    The main page has come up for me in the "mobile edition" for the past couple days now, and when i click "exit mobile edition," it just loads the same mobile edition page. Any ideas what might be happening?


  16. aBasnar says:

    Dear Clayton, pray tell: Where is the pulpit in the New Testament? But seriously and very simple: is 1Ti 2:12 in any way ambiguious? Not for you, but for those who don't have the Bible at hand:

    1Ti 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

    The problems with these verse aro not that it contains any ambiguities but that it is only all too clear. And many don't like it. Why? Because they follow the prejudice of the serpent: "If God prohibits soimething it is because He is withholding something good from you. God does not love you. He is mean."

    But the text is as clear as the command "Don't eat from that tree."


  17. aBasnar says:

    Oops, sorry, I misread you: Women may teach women and men men on in theuir special fields, but the overall teaching that applies forthe whole church is part of the male leadership. But – really – that's all in the scriptures! Where are the problems? Read 1st Timothy to Titus! It's plain language that everyone can understand.


  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    That’s a new one. IntenseDebate is having some server problems, which messes up the commenting system now and again. But I’ve never had the mobile theme show up in any browser.

    Which browser are you using? What operating system?

    In the Windows worlds, I’d suggest that you clear the brower cache and make sure you have javascript enabled.

  19. Randall says:

    The issue of whether there is a pattern in the NT that the church must/should follow has come up several times in this discussion. It appears to me that you advocate there is a pattern and it is important to follow it, at least precisely as is practical. This is a common way of thinking in the CofCs.

    There is a guy named John Mark Hicks that has a blog. He has been a life long professor and teacher in CofC universities, and congregations and has published several books that deal with our history, particularly Lipscomb and Harding and also on subjects such as baptism and the Lord's supper. His father was a CofC minister and he remains active in the CofC. He hold graduate degrees and I think highly of his scholarship – I believe most in the CofC that know him will speak highly of him.

    On his blog there is tab for serial index – here is the site: http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/serial-index/
    Under the serial index tab there are multiple subject and one of them is hermeneutics. Under hermeneutics there is a six part series on Stone-Campbell Hermeneutics. It is a very good series and each part takes only about 10 minutes to read. Some may find the first part a bit dry but is good and probably necessary background for the rest of the series. By the time you get to part three on the Temple of Truth you will hooked on anything everything Hicks writes about hermeneutics.
    The Temple of Truth is an analogy where someone:
    "imagines a field where the blocks for building the temple are strewn out on the ground just like facts are strewn throughout the Bible. It is the builder’s task to erect the temple just as it is the interpreter’s task to erect a system of doctrine. Here is Lamar’s description (pp. 40-42):

    If now, while those stones or blocks were all spread out upon the ground, before the building was commenced, as, for the sake of the illustration we may suppose them to have been, a skillful architect had gone with rule in hand, and carefully measured and compacted every several piece, he could have determined with accuracy the place of every stone in the future building. And if he had been employed to superintend its erection, he could have had the work carried on according to the method or plan which was indicated by the stones themselves. Every piece had an appropriate place, and the marks upon it showed what was that place; and when they were all arranged agreeably to those indications, the structure was Solomon’s Temple.

    It is thus in the Scriptures. The materials of the Temple of Truth are accurately fitted, marked, and numbered, and spread out before the reader, it may be in some confusion, enough to arouse him from indifference to careful examination; and now if he will earnestly consider and carefully compare these materials, it is next to impossible for him to mistake their method, or to fail to arrange them in the precise order designed by their Author and Giver. And simple as it may seem, this just and natural arrangement of the facts or materials of the New Testament, without adding to or subtracting from their number–assigning to every fact, precept, promise, doctrine, blessing, and privilege its own exact place in the collection of the whole–will conduct us in the most direct manner to the clear, full, and correct understanding of Christianity. For the entire business of interpretation consists properly in the careful observation and comparison of the phenomena of revelation, preparatory to the determination of their respective places and relative bearings in the grand synthesis of the whole. The rules, therefore, by which we come to a just understanding of individual facts, and the method which controls the operation of those rules, and arranges those facts into the true Christian system, must be drawn from the nature of the subject as presented in the Bible itself."

    I recommend this series to you and I think you will find it rather interesting.

    P.S. Jay – sorry this is such a long quote – please feel free to edit it.

  20. guy says:


    i'm using Mozilla Firefox on Windows XP. But as of this morning, it seems to have mysteriously fixed itself.


  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    That’s the mystery of computers. Sometimes they self-repair. Sometimes they self-destruct. Never is there an explanation.

  22. aBasnar says:

    I read John Mark Hick's series on women in ministry which was good – a very good- lesson in restoration history. I liked it very much.


  23. Larry Short says:

    Three days ago, I was elated at the working new software, like spell check. In the last couple of days, I cannot run spell check or indent paragraphs. Bama, women were at the cross because most societies tolerate mourning women but arrest men. Has anyone realized what leadership means? Responsibility, like Adam for Eve's error. Women who take charge are responsible for their charges, i.e. "by what judgement you judge……" Women elders would be double charged, once for errors in leadership and second for not submitting. Women coach the younger women, and the kids. Some of the best of me was taught by Godly women in my younger years.

  24. wjcsydney says:

    If the women elders are appointed by the men… where is the lack of submission? We are all to submit to one another.

  25. guestfortruth says:

    Ephesians 6:14 “ Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”
    Romans 6:17 “17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form (Pattern) of doctrine to which you were delivered.”
    Judas 1: 3-4 “3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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