Posted by: mattcolvin | December 14, 2011

Due Diligence on Junia and Apostleship (Romans 16:7)

Alastair Roberts has posted some things on his blog about Junia in Romans 16:7. This woman is mentioned along with (her husband?) Andronicus as “well-known among the apostles.” The vexed question in NT scholarship is whether this means that she is herself an apostle (one of the more well known ones), or whether it means that the apostles know her (but she is not one of them). Daniel Wallace and Michael Burer authored an article in which they used the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae to attempt to prove that the construction (ἐπίσημοι ἐν + dative) always means “well known to X”, not “well known among X.” It is a sloppy article, which pins its main force upon a single “close parallel” which upon further investigation turns out not to be a good parallel at all. Suzanne McCarthy, a commenter on Alastair’s blog, rightly faults Wallace and Burer for sloppy scholarship, but then tries to mount her own case for taking the phrase in Rom. 16:7 in a partitive or comparative sense, so that Junia is an apostle, and more eminent than other apostles.

Prompted by all this, I’ve done a little research.

First, I’ve done a TLG search on “episem-” and “en”. The vast, vast majority of citations bear no resemblance to Romans 16:7 at all. The vast majority are simply locative in force: ἐν is usually followed by a dative of the city or region where something or someone is ἐπίσημος. Logically, there is little difference between this construction and the “elative” construal that Wallace and Burer would like to find in Romans 16:7. For instance:

Aelius Herodianus et Pseudo-Herodianus Gramm., Rhet., Περὶ σολοικισμοῦ καὶ βαρβαρισμοῦ (0087: 044) “Lexicon Vindobonense”, Ed. Nauck, A. St. Petersburg: Eggers, 1867, Repr. 1965.
Page 308, line 7

καὶ παρὰ Θουκυδίδῃ κεῖται· εἰς τὸ Ἡραῖον ἐκαθέζοντο, καὶ παρὰ Μενάνδρῳ· καθιζάνει μὲν ἐνίοτ’ εἰς τὰ σήσαμα, καὶ ἐν Ψοφοδεεῖ ἐπίσημον.
“And in Thucydides we find: ‘they encamped in the temple of Hera”, and in Menander, “he resides sometimes in the sesame (market), and notably in Psophodeis.” (Aelius is commenting on Greek verbs for “sit” or “reside”.)

There are also many passages where the construction is best translated with a partitive or comparative construal, as Suzanne suggests. That is to be expected, since even in English, we can say “He is the tallest man in the city”. Is this strictly comparative, with no locative force? A moment’s thought reveals that it is both. (We cannot reify these grammatical categories and expect language to neatly pigeonhole itself into them.)

The TLG results did cough up a few instances that refute Suzanne’s ostensible rule that “ἐν + dative” will ordinarily be partitive or comparative. Especially helpful is Ephraem Syrus Theol., Ad imitationem proverbiorum (4138: 006)
(“Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα, vol. 1”, Ed. Phrantzoles, Konstantinos G. Thessalonica: Το περιβόλι της Παναγίας, 1988, Repr. 1995. Page 187, line 6)

Θέλω πρακτικὸς εἶναι καὶ ἐπίσημος ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἢ παραβαίνειν ἐντολὰς καὶ εἶναι
αὐτοῖς βδελυκτός.

“I want to be ready for action, and ἐπίσημος among the brothers, rather than to transgress the commandments and be repugnant to them.”

What is nice about this example is that the parallel construction of the sentence makes clear that there is not a comparison being made, nor any partitive construction, but that ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς is parallel to αὐτοῖς in the second half, and that both indicate the subjective perceivers of the good qualities the author desires to have — precisely how Wallace and Burer think “among the apostles” should be taken in Romans 16:7.

In the course of the comment thread on Alastair’s blog, I remarked that it is a methodological mistake to think that the interpretation of Romans 16:7 will be determined by inductively concocted “rules” of Greek idiom. The idiom, rather, will be largely determined by context. As I put it in the comments: “The truth is that in Greek, as in English, it is context and common sense that determines whether Sweeney is a nightingale, or sheep are wolves, or the virgin Mary is a woman (“blessed art thou among…). It is not some special rule about ‘en + dative with verbs’ and ‘en + dative with adjectives.’ If Junia was an apostle, then we will take the construction in a partitive sense. If she was not, we will not.”

Accordingly, I suggested that if we want to know whether Junia was an apostle of Jesus Christ — and I specify “of Jesus Christ” because in NT Judaism, one could be an apostle of all sorts of things, not only Jesus — it would be good to look the Jewish background and see whether it was possible for Jesus to have appointed a female shaliach to represent him.

I have only done some rather cursory research concerning the Jewish halakah about agency. The relevant part of the Talmud Bavli is tractate Gittim (“Bills of Divorce”), where the Amoraim debate whether a husband may send his bill of divorce (“Get”) to his wife via a shaliach, and if so, whether that shaliach may be female, or must be male. Their interesting conclusion (Mas. Gittin 62b) is that the shaliach by whom the husband sends the bill must be male, but that the document may be received by a female shaliach appointed by the wife:

“It goes without saying that a man may be an agent for conveying the Get, seeing that a husband may himself convey a Get to his wife.12 A woman may [similarly] be an agent for receiving, seeing that a woman receives a Get from the hand of her husband. What of a man becoming agent for receiving and a woman agent for conveying? — Come and hear: IF A MAN SAYS, RECEIVE THIS GET ON BEHALF OF MY WIFE OR CONVEY THIS GET TO MY WIFE, IF HE DESIRES TO RETRACT HE MAY DO SO. IF A WOMAN SAYS, RECEIVE MY GET ON MY BEHALF, IF HE DESIRES TO RETRACT HE MAY NOT DO SO. (all caps = Mishnah) Does not this mean, where there is the same agent for both, which would show that the one who is qualified for conveying is also qualified for receiving? — No; we speak of two agents.” (Soncino translation, available in PDF online at

The rabbis continue, ultimately concluding that a wife may appoint a man as an agent to receive the bill of divorce, but a man may not appoint a woman as an agent to send or convey it. The reason is that the agent (shaliach) must himself be qualified to perform the mitzvot for which his principal is using him as a surrogate.

Whether this sort of consideration was operative in the time of Jesus and Paul, I have no way to know. The rabbis engaged in the debate are Amoraim, and thus of a later period. But there is also evidence that the Tannaim (the sages of the Mishnah) considered similar questions (Mas. Gittim 23b), ruling that Gentiles and slaves may not act as agents for Israelites because “Just as you are sons of the Covenant, so must your agents be sons of the Covenant.”

What, then, may we conclude about Junia? If we think that the Jewish institution of agency (apostleship) was already operative along Rabbinic lines, and that the Church and Jesus also followed such rules, then Junia cannot have been an apostle of Jesus. (Before saying that it is implausible that Jesus should have obeyed such rules, remember that the 12 apostles, as well as Paul and Matthias, were all men, not women; and all free men, not slaves; and all Jews, not Gentiles. It is a fact that egalitarians cannot easily dismiss.) If, on the other hand, the Mishnah’s and Talmud’s rules are only later developments, and especially if they were reactions against looser rules about apostleship among Christians, then our conclusion will be that nothing prevents Junia from having been an apostle of Jesus, just like Peter or John.


  1. “I translate: “I want to be ready for action, and ἐπίσημος among the brothers, rather than to transgress the commandments and be repugnant to them.””

    Hi Matt,

    I have had a real chuckle over this one. You have interpreted “the brothers” as if they were a different group from the speaker. It is as if “the brothers” were “the blacks” or something like that – some particular group that called themselves “the brothers”. But in Greek and Hebrew, “the brothers” can only be those people who you belong to. That is the ONLY interpretation from Greek, your own brothers!

    • Yes, of course it is talking about the brethren of the speaker. But I think you may be missing the force of the example because of a misunderstanding of how I’m using it. Did you notice that the brothers are also the ones whom he doesn’t want to “be hateful to”? So by your logic, “εἶναι βδελυκτός + dative” is also partitive in force?

      • How could it be? It is a different construction that is well recognized. En plus dative and dative are two different things. I don’t know where you are going with this, and I don’t see how you are refuting my claim that the preponderance of the evidence is in my court

        You have not yet shown episemos in a context that does not suggest either comparative or partitive.

  2. Hi Matt,

    I am going to link back to this and use your quote as one more in defense of Junia among the apostles.

  3. It’s also interesting to see that Paul’s own agents — Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, Silvanus, all the men who act as shaliach for him, not for Jesus — are male.

  4. On a related note, I believe that David Daube’s reading of the book of Ruth depicts Ruth as Naomi’s shaliach and substitute. But that is woman-for-woman, not woman-for-man.

  5. […] posts some thoughts in response to my earlier post on the subject of Junia as a female apostle in Romans 16:7. He has […]

  6. […] Matt Colvin, with a Ph.D. in Greek has kindly entered the discussion and provides more Junia evidence. He writes, The TLG results did cough up a few instances that refute Suzanne’s ostensible rule. Especially helpful is Ephraem Syrus Theol., Ad imitationem proverbiorum (4138: 006) […]

  7. I sure hope that Alastair does not think that you have refuted my ostensible rule – whatever that is. From a common sense view, the speaker was among the brothers, and Junia was among the apostles. Please don’t imply that you have proven otherwise.

    • You appear to be confusing the fact that the speaker is one of the brothers with the meaning of a certain Greek construction. If you cant keep those straight, then there is nothing to keep you from “making words mean so many different things”, as Alice says to Humpty Dumpty.

      This is really pretty elementary philology, and yes, I certainly do consider it proved, by all the measures that philologists use.

  8. […] to Matt and Alistair for persisting in this discussion. This conversation began on Denny Burk’s blog. […]

  9. Matt,

    I don’t know what you consider to be proved. It just isn’t clear to me. “He is outstanding in the class and this bugs the other kids.” Does that make “outstanding in the class” mean that he is not a member of the class just because he is not one of the other kids? I just can’t follow your reasoning here.

    • A better comparandum: “He is laughable among his classmates.”

      Does this primarily mean that he is more ridiculous than they? (Comparative) Or that he is the only ridiculous one out of the whole group? (Partitive) Or does it not obviously mean that they are laughing at him? (Note that “among his classmates” would be ἐν τοῖς συμμαθήταις in Greek.)

      Just so, the parallel clauses of the Ephraem sentence make clear that ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς is not comparative or partitive, any more than the later dative αὐτοῖς is. The speaker is not competing with his brothers or comparing himself with them. He is seeking to be of use to them, have reputation with them, and not be hateful to them.

      There is no grammatical or lexical reason why Junia and Andronicus cannot be doing the same thing in Romans 16:7.

      • Matt,

        It concerns me that you are labelling as parallel clauses, to phrases that do not have the same structure and are not in any way obligated to function in the same way.

        Θέλω πρακτικὸς εἶναι καὶ ἐπίσημος ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἢ παραβαίνειν ἐντολὰς καὶ εἶναι
        αὐτοῖς βδελυκτός.

        I want
        to be ready for action (adjective)
        and prominent/outstanding (adjective with en plus dative) among my brothers,
        rather than
        to transgress the commandments (verb)
        and to be repugnant to them. (adjective plus dative.)

        I can sort of see your point, but it doesn’t strike me as the way the passage has to be read. And to overturn the usual Greek grammatical rules for this, seems very weak. I still read it the way one would who has been trained in Greek – with an adjective, en plus dative is member of the group, and dative alone means “to” or “by.”

        You refer to context but look at this sentence. “He wants to be tallest among his classmates, and respected by them.” What is wrong with that sentence? “Tallest among” remains partitive, in spite of the rest of the sentence.

        It sounds more like English than “laughable among” although that may be allowed but is certainly odd. One would likely say “laughable to.”

      • Two little words, Suzanne: “μάλλον … η…” Please take them into account.

      • Here is another example. I was a soccer mom for years,

        He wants to be ready for action, the outstanding among his teammates, rather than not following the rules and being bullied by them.

        Now let’s change that.

        He wants to be ready for action, the best trained among his teammates, rather than not following the rules and being bullied by them.

        Partitive works fine.

      • Yes, it could be partitive… But it also could not. That’s my point.

      • If it could be partitive, then one should head back to the grammar books and find out whether adjective with en plus dative is always partitive in other ocurrences. If I recall correctly, the lexicons will list en plus dative following an adjective as partitive, as “among.”

        If you disagree, you would need to build a strong case for a new category in Greek, for a construction with a new meaning. That is what Dan Wallace and Mike Burer tried to do. They tried to publish a paper to introduce a new meaning for the construction en plus dative following adjective.

        Since Wallace has published a grammar book, I am sure that he felt that he could do this. i don’t think he succeeded. My sense is for myself, and for others who are unpublished, that it is better to abide by the run of the mill understanding that has been established over 2000 years, and not break with it, unless there is some kind of broad consensus.

        To tell you the truth, I can’t imagine anyone significantly rewriting Greek grammar rules at this point in time.

      • You think that I am rewriting grammar books? Throw me into that brier patch!

        Herbert Weir Smyth’s Greek Grammar (the standard reference grammar in English-speaking universities) says nothing about partitive force for the preposition εν + dative. Consult it yourself. It’s online. Section 1687, on prepositions, is the place to look. Of course, because I am generous, I readily agree with you that many such uses of εν meaning “among” are actually partitive. But I insist that such a partitive sense emerges from the context and referents, and not from “grammar rules” (and since you are appealing to grammar in order to establish the referents, you cannot appeal to the referents to establish the grammar without arguing in a circle.) At any rate, it is rather ironic that despite your appeal to grammar books, the best Greek reference grammar in English does not give you any support. I would never have bothered to mention it if you had not made an issue of it.

        The irony deepens when we look at Smyth’s example sentence for εν meaning “among.” He cites Plato’s Laws 631B, where Plato speaks of nomoi en pasin eudokimoi Hellesin — “Laws famous among all the Greeks.” Partitive? Comparative? Not a bit of it. The phrase in the dative clearly denotes the audience or perceivers among whom the laws in question are eudokimoi. Is this parallel to the usage Burer and Wallace suppose for Romans 16:7? I should say so. (Though I do not insist that this means W&B are correct, only that you cannot rule their translation out.)

        This sort of usage is not rare or unusual, Suzanne. I could find thousands from Greek literature. So if you think that this is “a new category in Greek,” then you are the one who is rewriting grammar books.

        Keep trying, egalitarians. The facts and the languages are against you.

      • Matt,

        Thanks! This helps me see your side. I am open to what you are saying.

        However, the question remains, why has 2000 years of the history of interpretation and consistent witness from the Greek Orthodox church that Andronicus is actually an apostle and Junia is his female coworker been tossed aside by modern English Bibles. That is, there is not even the slighest evidence that Greek speakers thought that this was not partitive. Not even one example. Are modern Americans better at reading Greek than the Greeks?

        My question is this? How do we make translation decisions? And have women been warned that in the case of a very slight possibility that the text can be altered to reduce the status of women, this has been done? Do we let women know that the Bible is not typically translated in favour of women? It is not that men are obligated by scholarship to downgrade Junia, but that they chose to do so on the slightest rationalization. Is this what one would call transparency in translation?

        I want to know if my minister believes that as long as there is even one chance in one hundred that the text can be interpreted in favour of the subordination of women, that that has been done. Basically I found that this was true, and that is what he believed and I had to leave. I had to ask what would motivate a human being to treat other human beings in this way. I still don’t understand that. Why didn’t he just tell me that at first.

      • I don’t have a use for your conspiracy theories. Nor do I believe that the church has been against women, for the simple reason that I don’t believe that feminism is beneficial to women.

        As for the Greek Church, I would be willing to follow their understanding of Junia as an apostle if you will be willing to follow their understanding of some other texts, such as what it means for women to “be silent in the churches” and “to be keepers at home” and “not to teach or exercise authority over a man”. But somehow, I don’t think you’re likely to buy their opinion on those, are you?

      • “I don’t have a use for your conspiracy theories. Nor do I believe that the church has been against women, for the simple reason that I don’t believe that feminism is beneficial to women.

        As for the Greek Church, I would be willing to follow their understanding of Junia as an apostle if you will be willing to follow their understanding of some other texts, such as what it means for women to “be silent in the churches” and “to be keepers at home” and “not to teach or exercise authority over a man”. But somehow, I don’t think you’re likely to buy their opinion on those, are you?”

        I have copied your comment so as to reply within viewing distance.

        I know several of the people concerned and have a great deal of information through private email. I don’t like the term conspiracy and didn’t use it. I can’t pursue this line of thinking here, although I am persuaded that the W and B article has come from a bias against women and NOT from open searching for truth.

        Regarding the Greek orthodox church, you don’t present their views, so I can’t comment. I am fully aware that many egalitarian women are happy there. It is not my choice, but I do know these women. I also have no comment whatsoever on “priesthood.”

        As for the final line of your comment, it is graceless and shows how close you are to a personal attack. You have absolutely no idea of the personal circumstances of my life, or my lifestyle I have not attacked your lifestyle or personal life and I would suggest that you not do the same with me. I suppose that people do this all the time to me, because they run out of scholarly things to say.

        You think that feminism is not good for women. I won’t comment on your opinion. I will say that when I left complementarianism it was the road out of hell. I cannot look back on that time without experiencing trauma. It was truly terrible. I would not be alive today without many of the laws brought about by feminists. Your attack is already traumatic for me. Please try to treat women as human beings who wish to engage in a scholarly discussion and not make it personal. I don’t think you have any idea what you have done.

      • Suzanne,

        I’ve said nothing whatever about your personal life or past history, for the simple reason that I do not know about them.

        I do know that the Eastern Orthodox churches are just as much in line with the universal Christian tradition of male officers, and that the Greek fathers do not engage in the revisionist feminist interpretations of the so-called “texts of terror” that we have begun to see in the last 40 years or so.

        The Eastern church does not have a pope. It has… Wait for it… Patriarchs.

      • PS I do want to briefly comment on your example.

        nomoi en pasin eudokimoi Hellesin

        This would not help the W and B article because it does not fit the pattern of a person as the referent of episemos. In the case you cite, the referent is an object and cannot be a member of the group. So, this example suggests a direction that further research could take, but it does not actually resolve the overall issue. It is not a conslusive example. It shows me that I have not stated explicitly many of the ground rules that W and B set out at the beginning. I have taken some for granted, without assessing their validity.

        However, there will likely never be conclusive examples. The best we can do is ask for Bibles based on the best published research, and the hstory of interpretation. Women need to ask for that, and not get stuck with a Bible which contains an internal bias against women.

      • Suzanne,

        You have already used the words ‘conspiracy’ and ‘cover up’ on a couple of occasions in discussing this issue so far. Considering that you consistently speak as a conspiracy theorist (e.g. ‘…have women been warned that in the case of a very slight possibility that the text can be altered to reduce the status of women, this has been done?’), I really don’t think that he is reaching on this issue.

        I can’t speak for Wallace and Burer, but there are reasons from the wider New Testament context to doubt the existence of a female apostle, and as the grammar of Romans 16:7 can support a reading in which Junia is not an apostle, I see good reason for people to follow such a reading. I think it grossly uncharitable and, frankly, rather paranoid of you to attribute such a reading to ‘a bias against women’. The issue here is faithfulness to the text, and it is the text that many believe gives us reason to question the Junia as female apostle reading.

        The Orthodox Church is definitely not egalitarian, and consistently opposes the ordination of women to the priesthood. If anything, it is even more strongly opposed than the Catholic Church. The most unyielding critics of feminism and egalitarianism that I know of come from Orthodox backgrounds.

        Suzanne, in discussing these issues with you, it has been clear to me from early on that you approach the subject with the mindset of a conspiracy theorist, and further discussion has merely solidified this impression. I read Matt’s comment merely to be highlighting the irony and hypocritical opportunism in your appeal to the importance of keeping with a tradition that is far more strongly opposed to egalitarianism and the ordination of women to the priesthood than it is committed to any particular reading of Romans 16:7.

        Matt’s comment wasn’t a personal ‘attack’ at all. If Matt ran out of scholarly things to say, it strikes me that it might have more to do with your adamantine resistance to reason, perspective, and balance on this particular matter. At some point people just have to recognize that some opponents’ positions on certain matter have less to do with scholarly opinion that it has to do with the fact that it is bound up with a particular deep personal bias or ‘trigger issue’ in their lives. I don’t think that Matt is trying to make this personal at all. It has just been obvious from early on that, for you, this is personal: Matt was just pointing to that particular elephant in the room.

        The fact that you have experienced what you have is tragic, and I am sure that I also speak for Matt when I say that I am very glad that you have been able to leave such a situation behind you, and we both wish you all the best in the future. I also suspect that I speak for Matt in saying that a personal discussion is exactly the last thing that we want to have. However, scholarly discussion has two sides to it. If you want to be treated with charity and be attended to with care as an individual voice in the conversation, perhaps you need to extend the same courtesy to others. You are the one who has consistently brought sex into this debate, stereotyping your opponents as male chauvinists who wish to reduce the role of women by distorting the text, and don’t really have a desire ‘to treat women as human beings who wish to engage in a scholarly discussion.’ It is nigh on impossible to reason with someone who approaches a debate like this. Perhaps if you really want a scholarly discussion, you might contribute to the cause by jettisoning this particular perspective.

      • Matt,

        Thanks for the discussion. I can no longer figure how to locate a comment in the thread. However, it seems that the discussion of grammar has exhausted itself and you wish to move in a direction which holds no interest to me. I wanted to talk about Bible translation and stick with that. So, thanks for the dialogue. It was great.

      • My summary of the debate as I see it: You, Suzanne, have been trying to establish that Junia must be an apostle because of an alleged grammatical rule that “When ‘X is Y among Z’, X is always itself a member of Z.” I have been arguing against this rule. It is contradicted by numerous examples in Greek literature, and is not taught by any reliable Greek grammar that I know of. I believe it is plain as day that Greek uses “en + dative” to mean “among” with at least as much variation in meaning as the English preposition, and that “X being Y among the Z’s” may or may not imply that X is itself a Z.

        I’ve made this argument from Wallace and Burer’s example of Euripides; you have twisted that example, offering an impossible interpretation whereby Euripides is damning the goddess with faint praise by comparing her to mortals; I have appealed to an example in Ephaem to make an argument from syntactic parallelism to grammatical similarity; you have responded in a way that makes clear you do not know how to recognize the markers of parallel syntax in Greek; finally, you have tried to appeal to reference grammars, only to discover that not only do they not contain your rule, but that the preeminent English grammar of Greek offers yet another example that contradicts your pretended rule.

        Ever since Alastair first posted on this topic on his blog, my position has been that the grammar of Romans 16:7 is inconclusive, and that we will need to know more about the Bible’s and the Jews’ understanding of the institution of apostles (in all areas of life) before we will be able to say whether certainty that Junia was one or not. I am open to the idea that she was, but I will continue to reject the idea that “en + dative” is always partitive, or that Romans 16:7 can only be understood in the way you say.

        I’m sure you have your personal reasons for your beliefs, as do I. (I am the happily married father of 6 with a wife who was a feminist and a Women’s Studies major in college before her conversion to Christ.) But neither your past trauma under complementarianism, nor the evil experiences of many under feminism have any legitimate bearing on the question of how Greek grammar works. If you have anything more to say about grammar, say it, and I will deal with it on its merits.

      • Matt,

        I put forward no such rule and I don’t recognize any of the things that you say as things that I have said. You don’t cite me at all. Your entire comment misrepresents my position. Cite me or ask for my position – please!

        About grammars, I was referring to something in the W and B article which they put forward, but I don’t want to bother finding, – and I am quite content to have you say otherwise. It makes no difference to the argument anyway.

        I can put like this. Where the referent of episemos is a person, and is followed by en plus the dative where the object of en in the dative is also personal, then person one is in a comparative or partitive relationship to group of people B.

        These are the parameters from W and B’s article. This is consistent. It is because W and B include the comparative relationship that I am doing so. i am sticking by their parameters because at the moment in Bible translation, there article is calling the shots.

        But W and B thought that Pss of Sol. 2:6 was an exception and allowed them to put forward a new rule, which stated that if en plus the dative was used, episeos was elative, then person A was in a non-partitive relationship with group B.

        So far, even the Aphrodite example, which I feel is the only one that could help W and B, doesn’t actually fit because of the way they have written the rule.

        But the main reason that I think Junia is an apostle is because native speakers of Greek, and the Greek Orthodox Church have considered Andronicus and Junia to be among the apostles, without exception.

        So that is my argument and all that stuff you say that I said – I did not say any of it!

        I have been quite clear about facts

        1) the ESV, HCSB, CEV and NET state that they are based on the Wallace and Burer article.
        2) You say the article is sloppy.
        3) Many other Bibles such as the NASB, RSV, NIV 1984 have Junia as masculine which we know has no text base or tradition.
        4) Only the NIV 2011, NRSV, NABRE, KJV have Junia among the apostles.
        5) We want Bibles that represent the Greek.

        These are the things that I am saying.

      • If you’re arguing against Wallace and Burer, why are you wasting time on my blog? No one here is defending their shoddy scholarship. When you asked about it on Alastair’s blog, I chimed in with my professional opinion that the rule they advanced cannot be sustained from the evidence they offered.

        Please don’t try to deny positing a rule. To take just one example, you said:

        To overturn the usual Greek grammatical rules for this, seems very weak. I still read it the way one would who has been trained in Greek – with an adjective, en plus dative is member of the group, and dative alone means “to” or “by.”

        There is no such rule. It is not supported by the grammar books. It is not supported by the examples in the literature, which offer so many exceptions as to make it of no force. Nor is your reading the only one available from “one who has been trained in Greek.” It would be best for you to retract your claims and admit that Romans 16:7 cannot be used for the purposes you wish. If you deny it, I will simply ban you for being a weasel.

        As for our English Bible translations, I see no reason to think that any version is anti-woman because it does not translate Romans 16:7 according to your preference. The claim is ridiculous.

  10. There are 4 types of apostles (sent out ones) in the NT, Jesus is called an apostle and is obviously in a class by himself, the 12 are called apostles of Jesus and 1 subtracts himself for this list and so 1 other gets added, Paul claims to be an apostle of Jesus but clearly does not meet the requirements of the 12, and others who are called apostles, in this latter case it can only be that a church congregation sent them out as guided by the Holy Spirit.

    The point is that Junia is in this last grouping, not in the second grouping. So the whole premise of the argument in the original post is flawed as I see it, since no one is claiming Junia is an apostle of Jesus, not even Paul.

    Also, while it is interesting to see what the Mishnah and similar say, Jesus opposed the Pharisees when ever they contradicted Scripture with their traditions, this is one of the basic themes of the NT. So yes the Mishnah, etc. provides some critical cultural context, but this does not mean that whatever the Mishnah declares to be true is what Jesus would agree is true. He might or he might not, it depends on whether it contradicts Torah/Tanakh/Scripture.

    • I don’t know how helpful your four-fold classification of apostles is. It seems simultaneously too many and too few. Is there not some unified concept behind them all? David Daube argues that there is, in his article on “The Laying on of Hands.” (It is also interesting that Jesus’ apostles are not commissioned with the laying on of hands, and Daube speculates about why this is.) Also, apostleship was a concept that could be used in all manner of contexts in Jewish life, and yes, you are correct that there were apostles of churches (Paul himself appears to be a missionary apostle of the Church in Antioch in Acts 13:3, with laying on of hands.)

      I do not agree that Paul fails to meet the requirements for being an apostle just like the 12. Jesus Himself appointed him to represent Him, no less than He appointed Peter. (Jesus also appoints Matthias, not the disciples themselves.) Paul argues this at length in Galatians 1 and in 2 Corinthians 11 (especially 11:5).

      I’m not sure what Suzanne is claiming about Junia and apostleship. That a woman could be used as a shaliach (apostle) seems clear from the Jewish background. But given the dictum, repeated some 17 times in the Talmud and Mishnah, that “a man’s shaliach is, as it were, the man himself,” and the Rabbis’ insistence that a shaliach must be capable of performing all the functions and mitzvot of the one who sends him, it seems unlikely that Jesus would have appointed a female shaliach. The question of whether a church could have appointed a female shaliach is an interesting question, and I suspect that diligent research into the concept of such corporate representation might well shed considerable light on the question of females in church office. (I also suspect that Alastair’s recent posts on glory and image is relevant to this question, but I’m not in a position to put everything together in a convincing way with evidence from primary sources.)

      If we take Junia and Andronicus as joint apostles of a church, it raises some interesting questions about why there were two of them, one male and one female. Was this an attempt to represent something of the diversity of the members of the body in their corporate shaliachim? What consequences would this have for the institution of episcopacy?

      On the other hand, I’m still not convinced that we ought to adopt a partitive reading of “ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις”. It’s grammatically possible, of course, but I’d be hesitant to erect much doctrine on Romans 16:7 until one or another reading of it “pays off” and has the ring of truth about it.

    • Don,

      Even leaving the Mishnah and Talmud to one side, we have lots of biblical data on gendered representation. We have ample teaching regarding the sex of sacrificed animals, we have the pattern of Genesis 2, which I have articulated in my posts, we have the biblical focus upon the representative role of sons, we have the fact that, amidst the hundreds of examples of men in such office, there are no remotely clear examples of women ordained to positions of Church authority over men, we have the biblical differentiation between the way that men and women image and represent God (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-8), we have the exclusively male character of the Levitical priesthood, we have the fact that, despite many female disciples, all of the Twelve were men. This is all the teaching of the Scripture in contrast to the tradition. This is all primary biblical data on the subject of representative office. Somehow those arguing for women exercising authority over men have to account for all of this, and also need to present a logic of representation and representative office that justifies their position.

  11. Matt,

    For the 12, the requirements are specified as being with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. Some use this to claim that therefore apostles are no more (that is, the spiritual gift of apostle has ceased), when what it really means is that the 12 are no more. Paul does not meet this requirement to be one of the 12.

    Act 1:20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’
    Act 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
    Act 1:22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

    And yes, Paul was also sent out by a congregation, but he claims more than that, that he was sent by Jesus himself. So I think he is in his own category, since he is not one of the 12.

  12. Alastair,

    Both the OT and the NT were written in a patriarchal society that assumed certain cultural norms. God takes individuals and peoples into the Kingdom step by step, starting from where they are at and moving them further and further into the Kingdom as they let Him. For example, God used polygamists to expand the Kingdom, this does not mean that God endorsed polygamy, rather it means that God can use even areas of one’s life where we fall short of God’s best to expand the Kingdom.

    I can discuss any of the points you made in more detail, but the basic idea is that the masculinist reading of them is suspect and I think there are better readings possible. For example, 1 Cor 11 has a lot of challenges to understanding it, but the basic point is that a believing man is not to do the “head thing” in church (v. 7) but a believing woman can choose whether to do the “head thing” or not (v. 10). Whatever the head thing was, it was a cultural convention that sent a message, the puzzling part is why is a man not allowed by Paul to do something a woman can do? Most do not even discuss this aspect.

    • Don,

      The ‘patriarchal society’ card is bogus, and should be called out as such. It is a convenient way of dismissing a huge amount of evidence, without having seriously to engage with it. Polygamy is not instituted, is spoken against in several contexts, and contrasts with the original creation pattern. In contrast, male representation is divinely instituted and reinforced in many ways and contexts, both in the original creation order, and on many occasions subsequently. The logic of male representation is not merely present in the case of human beings, but also in the case of animal sacrifices, whose genders were stipulated in many cases. If the gendering of representational logic were really adiaphorous, one wonders why God should extend it to apply to such cases. Gender and representation also feeds into God’s relationship with his people, and in the imaging of God’s relationship to his people by appointed leaders (representing the Father and the Bridegroom to the bride): despite uncommon uses of female metaphors, God always identifies himself as grammatically masculine, and as Father and Husband.

      Considering the many ways in which he asserted the primacy of the Scriptures and prelapsarian created order, one would expect Jesus to argue against this male representational logic and its practice, and practice a different logic of his own. However, despite having prominent women patrons, many extremely close female disciples, and strong friendships with women, he chose twelve men to be his Apostles.

      The New Testament is also silent when it comes to challenging this gendered logic of representation. In fact, whenever the place of men and women in worship is explicitly raised, the argument seems to be in favour of clearer, rather than less differentiation. 1 Corinthians 11 is a good example of this, by either your reading or by mine.

      Do women in the New Testament and the early Church have prominent places in the life of the Church? Undoubtedly. They were some of the most visible and important figures in the Church, and were honoured as true partners with the Church leaders, not as mere subordinates. I don’t see this being disputed. I have also argued for a recovery of this situation, where the role of the clergy becomes more clearly defined, and less central and dominating in the life of the Church, and where the work of women in the Church can be given no less exalted or valued a place.

      The issue here is that egalitarianism is not arguing for a differentiated mutuality of male and female as equals, but that gender is a matter of indifference to the Church’s representative offices. They need to argue that we can entirely erase gender from the logic of representation. While Paul and others pushed for complete mutuality between men and women, for the asymmetric reversibility of relationships of dependence and priority between them, and their equal status in the eyes of God, he also pushed for clearer differentiation.

      Being an ordained minister does not give you a higher personal status than any other lay Christian. Strictly speaking, the priest does not have authority so much as he represents authority – re-presenting what was given to the entire Church at Pentecost. Ultimately the authority of the priest is the common priestly authority of the Church, exercised on the behalf of the Church, not an authority of the priest’s own. The argument for male priesthood is not in any sense an argument that men have a higher status than women, but that the biblical logic of representation is inescapably gendered.

      In restricting the exercise of this represented authority to males, the Scriptures aren’t denying the prominence of women in the life of the Church. As I have argued, the Scriptures teach that if men peculiarly represent authorizing prerogative and authority, women peculiarly represent glory, and should do so prominently within the life of the Church. Those representing authority and authorizing power should do so in a manner that empowers and sets apart women for the full achievement of this.

      The whole central contention of your case seems to be that women are not in any respect inferior to men, but that point is readily granted. In attempting to prove this point, you bring forward evidence that simply reinforces my point that Paul and the NT more generally underlines the importance of the logic of differentiation, even while tackling inferiority or subordinationism. If priesthood is just a servant role of represented authority, rather than one involving the possession of a peculiar personal authority, what is the issue here? Is a differentiated logic of representation completely to be rejected, and what biblical basis do we have to reject something that is throughout the warp and woof of the Scriptures?

  13. If we are going to discuss this, I think we need to go slow. What I think you have built up is a way of viewing Scripture that is a human tradition that ends up negating some things that Scripture actually teaches while teaching some things that it does not.

    The so-called patriarchal society card is not bogus, it was embedded in their culture via the assumptions of their paradigms and God spoke into their culture in ways they could understand. So when one wants to discuss principles of the Kingdom one needs to be able to differentiate from the way they may have been expressed in a patriarchal culture to the way they apply today. We see this happening in the story of the daughters of Zolophehad in Number 27.

    On the so-called male representation order in Gen, Gen is misread in many ways by many people. From our perspective, it has many gaps and people then fill in these gaps with what they are already inclined to see. But it does not really have gaps, it just tells a different story than we want it to tell, it answers questions that we often are not asking and trying to force it to answer questions it does not. And then to top it off, kid’s versions of the story can make a real hash of it, but it can be very difficult to dispell the myths learned in childhood since they are so ingrained.

    On God, the terms used are metaphors, God is beyond us and our ability to understand. But God grants us hints in order to be able to understand anything. God is spirit and so is not gendered. God created gender, it is a part of Creation. But God did use masculine and feminine and inanimate metaphors to illustrate aspects of God. When we read God is my rock, we are not to think that God is actually a rock, we are to ask how is God like a rock in this story and what are the limits of the metaphor. And similarly for the masculine and feminine metaphors. God is said to have a womb and breasts, but never male genitals, but again these are metaphors. So yes, in a patriarchal society God marries Israel, seen as a bride; and Jesus married the church, again seen as a bride. This does not mean that Isreal or the church is actually feminine, as they are composed of both genders.

    The main point is one needs to be careful in distinguishing the cultural elements from the transcultural elements of any revelation.

    • If you are to take this accommodation approach, it would help if you were at the outset clearly to articulate the criteria by which we determine its presence. Otherwise your claims could easily collapse into question begging.

      There is a different between applying metaphorical language to oneself, and employing the language of identification. God identifies himself as Father and husband, and consistently employs masculine pronouns when referring to himself. God is obviously not a sexed being, but he represents himself as grammatically masculine, and names himself with names denoting male roles. If God consistently represents himself in this gendered way in language, in both Old and New Testaments, why should he consistently represent himself in a gendered way in his choice of persons for ecclesiastical office?

  14. You need to slow down in your claims for me to be able to follow. You use the word “identifies” so please give me some examples how you see this as different from other metaphors.

    In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is grammatically feminine, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit is female, that would be reading WAY too much into it. And similarly for Father and Word as far as I can see.

    • Anyone can apply feminine or masculine metaphors to themselves. Jesus and Paul both employ feminine metaphors of themselves (Matthew 23:37; Galatians 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:7), while it was clear that they were to be identified as masculine. In consistently identifying himself as ‘Father’, God is going further than saying that he is ‘like’ a father, but is naming himself, declaring that he is Father. Likewise, with the manner in which God employs masculine pronouns of himself.

      [The case of the Spirit doesn’t really change anything on this front: the Spirit in the Old Testament isn’t really spoken of in terms of personal agency, but in relation to God, as his Holy Spirit, just as in the New Testament the Spirit is frequently spoken of as the Spirit of Christ. However, given what I wrote in my final post on the subject, arguing that women are more identified with the Spirit’s role, I am not sure that we ought to regard the use of feminine and neuter pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit as entirely gratuitous. The agency of the Holy Spirit is less clearly defined than that of the Father and the Son, and is not ‘named’ in quite the same way – more of a description than a personal name. The Holy Spirit seems to be translucent in some respects, precisely on account of his importance, less as a distinct agency, than as the one in whom both the Father and the Son subsist. Hence, his ‘name’ is one expressive of the shared life of God – ‘Holy Spirit’ (the Son’s name is a gift of the Father, and the Father is the authorizing name of the Trinity).]

      Such self-identifiers (Father, Son, Spirit) are consistent – we speak of God’s ‘name’, not just a culturally-conditioned metaphor applied to him – as are the pronouns applied to God’s personal agency (with the qualifications above regarding the role of the Spirit). The use of ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and the masculine pronouns as identifiers mean that God clearly represents himself and his personal agency as masculine (albeit most definitely not in a crudely sexed manner). This is his revealed identity, not just an arbitrary mask behind which a deus absconditus, who could assume any identity, lurks.

      If God’s identity is represented in such a clear and settled fashion in language, then we must raise the question of his representation in the Church. If the pastor/priest is to represent the person of God/Christ in his relation to the Church in any sense then the same pattern of gendered representation should be expected (much as only a king could represent Christ’s relationship to his people in Song of Solomon, or a male prophet play the part of Hosea).

  15. I do see God accomodating to the culture of the time in presenting revelation. If the text was going to be meaningful to the original readers, I do not see how God could have done things differently. So I see prophecy possibly being unaccomodated, but not narrative, law, wisdom, etc. or it would not serve to make those not able to be understood.

    • I think that most of us would argue for some form of accommodation. However, what you need to provide are criteria by which its presence or absence can be identified. Without these the claim of cultural accommodation becomes question begging.

    • Perhaps a concrete example might help. Why, for instance, must we celebrate the Lord’s Supper with bread or wine, or have baptism as our initiation rite? Surely, one could argue, the idea of a ritual washing is a hangover from ancient cultural ways of doing things, and can be left to one side, or replaced with something more appropriate to our own culture. Had Jesus celebrated the Last Supper in England he might have used tea and scones, or rice and saki in Asia. Why shouldn’t we feel at liberty to change these obviously cultural elements?

  16. You are using the argument Catholics use and also using their priestly terminology. I do not know where you are coming from, but I am prot evangelical charismatic. All believers are priests in the new covenant. Jesus is the model for all believers, both male and female. There are no gendered ministries, altho the genders are different and obviously complement each other in physical ways and perhaps others, as a general statement.

    God self identifies with many names. The main one is the tetragramaton often written YHVH and being in the form of the verb to be. I AM is not a gendered concept, regardless of the tense. El Shaddai is associated with fertility and is associated with a nursing breast, so the LXX euphemises it to Almighty. In other words, I think you make too much out of God’s way of describing Godself. God uses both masculine and feminine and inanimate ways of describing Godself. Just looking at one aspect of them to the detriment of others is not being faithful to the witness; one uses all of the witnesses.

    You claim that God goes further than saying God is like a father, that he is a father. I have no idea what that even means. God is not human, so any human-like description of God MUST be a metaphor. This seems so astounding obvious to me, I am clearly missing what you are claiming.

    • I am a Reformed Christian, presently in an evangelical Anglican church.

      All baptized Christians possess in common a royal priesthood in Christ in the New Covenant. However, this shared priesthood is re-presented to us by ordained members of the congregation. These people enjoy no greater personal status on this account, but minister to others the gift that Christ has given to all of us.

      God’s identity is something that becomes more clearly revealed over time, and is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ. God names himself through his actions, and in Jesus Christ this historical revelation reaches a climax.

      Once again, names function differently from descriptive metaphors. We are to address God as Father. Obviously, God’s fatherhood is not to be confused with human fatherhood, but there is an analogy, with God’s fatherhood providing the prototype for all other fatherhood. God never names himself as Mother. I can use many terms and metaphors to describe myself, but in naming myself and giving myself to be named I go much further than this.

  17. On the last supper, it was a Passover meal. If you think that the wine and bread are crucial, why not other aspects of the Passover meal? It can be discerned that it was the 3rd cup of wine at Passover that Jesus used to institute the new covenant, are we wrong if we do not use the 3rd cup of wine at a Passover celebration to celebrate communion?

    It depends on how legalistic one wants to get. I can and do celebrate a Messianic passover meal at times and other times do it differently. I can do it at church or at home, after all, the original was held in a home. If someone does not want to use actual wine, a substitute can be used. If someone is allegic to wheat, something else can be used. The principle is to act in faith to honor Christ anyway from a full blown passover to a simple act.

    On baptism, it was a Jewish mikveh bath originally. For examplle, a Jewish proselyte took a mikveh bath and on coming up was considered a Jew, after meeting other requirements. It is simply obvious to me that similar things happened in the NT examples of baptism. So baptism is a public profession of an inward faith, it is the inward faith that is what counts, otherwise it is just a dunking.

    • I take the dominical institution to be a crucial factor. While the Last Supper was a meal related to the Passover (its exact relationship can be debated, and Matt might want to weigh in here), later Christian celebrations were not related in the same manner, but derived from the distinct rites that Christ instituted.

      I don’t think that you are answering my questions here, though. To what extent must we keep with elements that were clearly cultural in origin? In terms of which criteria are you determining what should be retained, or treated as normative? As I have already stated, without criteria for determining the presence of a form of cultural accommodation that can or should be rejected, your entire approach becomes question-begging.

  18. Sure, later believer communion celebrations were Passovers, all the original believers were Jews. They were seen as being in the sect of the Way, but they were still all Jews, at least until the so-called gentile Passover in Acts 10.

    The gospels especially need to be read in their 1st century Jewish context. Jesus was a Torah observant Jew as were all his original followers. Without taking that crucial cultural context into account when reading the stories, one will miss a LOT.

    • I 100% agree with the importance of recognizing the Jewish context as, in God’s providence, providing the form of the early Church. However, the early celebrations of communion were not simply Passovers at all. They could be celebrated under very different conditions, and far more regularly. Besides, the Last Supper is not the only dominical practice that serves as background for the later celebration of communion. The joyful post-resurrection meals must also be recognized here, as perhaps should earlier miraculous feedings.

  19. Yes, it was not legalistic. So we should not be. It is a faith act and any reasonable substitution can be made in faith.

    • Which returns us to the question that you still have to answer:

      According to which criteria can we distinguish between that which is normative for us and those elements that can be rejected as cultural accommodations?

      To which I add a further question: How do we demonstrate that these criteria are Scripture’s own criteria?

  20. For example, at my church, we use grape juice and crackers or bread. All this is fine in my book. I know someone who considers herself an alcoholic and so would not take the slightest amont of liquid with alcohol in it, because in her experience, she could not stop until she was drunk. I respected her decision and would never think of serving her wine at communion or elsewhere.

  21. On what is normative and what is cultural, it is a discussion and sometimes a debate. Different faith groups can come to different conclusions. I just assume they are all trying to act in faith. I tend to not be legalistic, but others might be for various reasons; I do not think such is something to separate over, they just see it differently.

    The ultimate criteria is to follow the Spirit, but this can look different in different people. Yes, we are to try our best to be faithful and to rightly divide the word of God. If I see you in overt sin I can believe you are not following the Spirit, but failing that, how would I know?

    • The nebulosity of your description isn’t really helping me here. Your definition of being ‘legalistic’ seems to be a rather idiosyncratic one, referring to working in terms of a closer identification between cultural form and scriptural norm.

      On what particular basis do you oppose our following of the Spirit (the direction that the overwhelming majority of the people of God have taken over history) in the direction of not ordaining women to the priesthood?

  22. Perhaps you can give me your answer to the question as you understand it, so I can see what you are looking for.

    • Here are a few examples of the considerations in terms of which I would work.

      1. Is this practice enjoined upon people, or is it merely described and legislated for?
      2. How consistent is this form and the appeals to it in Scripture?
      3. What are some of the theological connections involved in this practice? What would be some of the effects and implications of its removal? What would it change?
      4. Does this practice derive its rationale from a state of affairs that no longer pertains under the new covenant?
      5. Am I being selective in my approach to the scriptural evidence?
      6. If we are dealing with something divinely instituted, how did God reveal himself through this?
      7. Would alternative forms of practice have been tolerated within the broader context? For instance, most ancient cultures had no problem with priestesses representing their deities, so why did God have an all-male priesthood?
      8. Is this an aspect of the Mosaic law that has been terminated through Christ’s fulfilment of the Law?
      9. Can I apply the principles that I am applying here consistently across the whole body of Scripture, or is this merely a piecemeal approach to achieve desired results?
      10. Is my rationale for this truly scriptural, or merely one for my own c
      cultural convenience?
      11. How strong was this particular cultural form? When God goes further than expected in following a cultural form something is probably up.
      12. How is this fulfilled in Christ and the life of his people? Paul teaches that all previous writings of Scripture were written for our instruction: what are we to do with this particular text?
      13. How has this practice been treated over the history of the Church and the people of God? If it has been universally accepted across many cultures until recently, I am probably more conditioned by my culture in my wish to reject it than the original command or practice was by the culture into which it was given.
      14. Can study of the original historical context help me to understand the place and purpose of this practice?
      15. Is this practice expressive of the original creation order?
      16. Is this practice expressive of God’s own self-revealed character?
      17. How does this practice relate to what has been revealed of the eschatological state?

      Many more could be listed, but that’s for starters.

  23. On not ordaining women, the first thing is that I do not see ordination in the NT. I see the Spirit giving ministry serving gifts to whomever. SOME of those ministry gifts are leadership gifts, these might be recognized by a congregation as a deacon. Some of those in turn might be also recognized as being able to teach and would be recognized as elders for a congregation.

    Why do Catholics insist on celibacy? Because they have traditions which end up negating Scripture. Why do some in the chuch not recognize women as leaders? Because they have traditions which end up negating Scripture.

    • You don’t see ordination in the NT? How do you believe that people are appointed to representative office? What does laying on of hands mean? Is the NT practice in regard to church offices a pure creation ex nihilo, unrelated to anything that preceded it in biblical or subsequent Jewish practice? How did early Church government relate to that of the synagogue? What positive evidence can you provide for your position, or is it an argument from silence?

      Where is the positive evidence that women are now qualified to exercise representative ministry, and that the representative logic of the Old Testament (which still seems to be present in the New) is nullified?

      What exact Scriptures are being negated in the opposition to women exercising positions of leadership over men?

  24. Don,

    Thanks for the discussion. I will bow out at this point, as I have largely stated my position already, and it is past my bedtime.

    I still don’t believe that you have presented any positive biblical evidence for your position, and that is largely an argument from silence and question begging in character. Your approach to following the Spirit is extremely vague, as is any scriptural norm for the Scripture’s appropriation. Your subjectivizing of all normative criteria through your diminishing of the Spirit’s explicit and objective guidance in Scripture makes public discourse concerning these norms nigh on impossible.


  25. Church leaders in the NT are not in an office, at least those who are not one of the 12. The 12 can be seen as being in an office as there needed to be 12 to map to the 12 tribes.

    A congregation recognizes a gift from the Spirit operating in someone, that is how leaders get identified. Yes, there is a laying on of hands to signify this recognition.

    The positive evidence for women in leadership are all the women in Scripture who were leaders. This includes Junia, but also Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, the wife of Isaiah, Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary and Martha, and Mary the mother of Jesus.

    • Don,

      To prove:
      That Scripture mandates women exercising positions of representative authority over men in the cultic community or Church.

      Evidence produced:
      Junia – Not a single shred of evidence that she exercised authority over men in the Church. As Matt has made fairly clear, there isn’t even a watertight claim for her apostleship.

      Miriam – A prophetess, who led the Israelite women in song at the Red Sea. Was later temporarily cursed with leprosy for speaking out against Moses’ supreme prophetic role. We read nothing of her playing a role of representative leadership over men, either in relation to, or apart from, the context of Israel’s cultic practice.

      Huldah – A prophetess, briefly mentioned, consulted by Josiah’s men following the discovery of the Book of the Law. Is obviously held in incredibly high esteem as a prophetic voice, but clearly doesn’t exercise representative authority over men in the cultic community.

      Deborah – A woman who judges Israel. I commented on Deborah’s case in my original blog post on the subject of women’s leadership. The text highlights the exceptional character of her role. Deborah governs differently from the other judges. She does not lead directly, by her own command, as the other judges usually do, but by the relaying of the commands of God. She goes to effort to make Barak take the reins of leadership by himself, as Barak performs the role of military leader and deliverer more characteristic of the judges. Once again, it seems pretty clear that Deborah played no role in exercising authority or playing a representative role over men in the practice of the cult.

      The wife of Isaiah – Described as the ‘prophetess’. Commentators are divided on whether she was called one merely on account of Isaiah’s role. Beyond her bearing of children to be the prophetic signs that God promised Isaiah, we don’t know much about her. Not a shred of evidence that she exercised authority over men.

      Phoebe – A servant of the church at Cenchrea, presumably playing a role in its more general ministry. Probably a wealthy patroness of Paul and the bearer of the epistle of Romans. Once again, not a shred of evidence that she exercised authority over men in the community of the Church. As a servant of a church, who could be spared for a considerable length of time to bear the epistle for Paul, it is even more unlikely that she had an office of leadership over men. More likely she was a travelling businesswoman. Unlike in the case of the recommendations of persons such as Timothy, Paul does not speak of Phoebe exercising any form of authoritative ministry in relation to the Roman church in Romans 16:1-2, but merely requests that the Romans provide assistance to her in whatever her business is.

      Priscilla – Always spoken of in connection with her husband Aquila. They were both tentmakers, and helpers and co-workers of Paul’s. They invite Apollos to their house to explain the message of Jesus more fully to him. A church meets in their home. Once again, not a shred of evidence that she exercises authority over men in the church. As a husband and wife team, it is more likely that Priscilla’s work was primarily among women, the pattern that we see more generally in Scripture, and more especially in places like the pastoral epistles. The idea that a woman, alongside her husband, playing a role in informally teaching a man about the gospel in a private setting provides any sort of evidence for the exercise of an authoritative Church leadership position over men is rather bizarre.

      Mary and Martha – Prominent characters in the gospels. Are treated as full disciples of Jesus and sit at his feet to learn from him. Are hostesses to Jesus, and are the sisters of Lazarus. While Mary and Martha may be proof that Jesus didn’t think of women as second class disciples, once again they did not exercise authority over men in the Church.

      Mary, the mother of Jesus – Held in the very highest honour of all women. Spoke the Magnificat. Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to, and raised Jesus. Jesus performed his first miracle at her request, though seems to reprimand her for this. Jesus relativizes their relationship, by stressing the priority of the relationships of the community of faith over those of flesh. Present at the crucifixion, and later taken into the house of the disciple Jesus loved. Present at the Day of Pentecost. Her eyewitness testimony seems to underlie several crucial gospel narratives. While the Scriptures are silent regarding any later role that she played, tradition, for what it is worth, tells us that she remained a key figure, teaching and spiritually guiding the women. Once again, there is not a shred of evidence that she exercised representative authority over men in the Church.

      Can you see the problem here?

    • Don, neither in Scripture nor in extra-Biblical Jewish sources is the laying on of hands done to signify “recognition of a gift from the Spirit operating in someone.” That simply is not what the ritual was intended to accomplish.

      See Daube, “The Laying on of Hands”, to which I allude in this old post.

  26. You certainly have a concept of “representative leadership” that involves “authority over men” that somehow or other a woman supposedly cannot fill. This is not the way leadership is done in the new covenant.

    I think you have a paradigm grid that distorts Scripture by trying to make it answer a question that is never asked nor answered in Scripture. In other words, you have invented a question that is simply the wrong way to think about church leadership. Exactly because of this invented question, you then work very hard to show that women never meet it. The solution of course is to unask your invented question, and not to look at Scriture in this way.

    Authority over others is not something that is invested in a person in the new covenant. We see Jesus explaining this.

    Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
    Mat 20:26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
    Mat 20:27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
    Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    There are 2 things that gentile rules do “lord it over them” and “exercise authority over them”. Believers are not to do either of these things. Now it turns out that the leaders of the institutional church DID do these things, but not because they were following Jesus.

    1Co 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

    A believer is to follow a church leader that follows Christ, per Paul. There is no injunction to follow a church leader that does not follow Christ, in fact we are told to obey God and not man.

    Act 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

    This is simply so essential a teaching that if one does not accept it, then I do not see how one can claim they are following Jesus.

    • Don

      Jesus clearly condemns lording over others and teaches servant leadership. However, he gives certain people leadership over others (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), leadership to which people are expected to submit and which they are expected to obey. These leaders are charged with the task of guardianship and have to keep account for the souls of those entrusted to their care (e.g. Acts 20:28). They have to attack false teachers, ensure that people are being taught the truth, uphold the boundaries of orthodoxy, and lead the Church in the exercise of Church discipline. As Hebrews 13:17 declares:

      Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

      What I am asking you to prove is that women were included in this role of priestly/pastoral guardianship over the souls of men committed to their charge, that they could represent Christ’s rule over his Church, and that they could initiate the process of Church discipline. This is what you have still failed to provide me with.

  27. It may or may not surprise you that the translation choice of “obey” is not a very good choice in Heb 13:17. A translation is a human endeavor and is subject to mistakes.

    The Greek word is peitho and here is Thayer.

    Thayer Definition:
    1) persuade
    1a) to persuade, i.e. to induce one by words to believe
    1b) to make friends of, to win one’s favour, gain one’s good will, or to seek to win one, strive to please one
    1c) to tranquillise
    1d) to persuade unto, i.e. move or induce one to persuasion to do something
    2) be persuaded
    2a) to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe: to have faith: in a thing
    2a1) to believe
    2a2) to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person
    2b) to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with
    3) to trust, have confidence, be confident

    The idea is that a member of a congregation is to “allow oneself to be persuaded” by a leader, if this is possible. This means listening to their understanding of something, for example a sermon. A member is to submit to the elders also, but all believers are to submit to all other believers, per Eph 5:21. The special submission to the overseers is because they have responsibility for order in the worship service. So one should not be disruptive. For example, if they teach something you think is wrong, go to see them one on one after the service and sit with them and discuss it, and allow them to convince you, if possible. Of course, an elder can give you permission to contradict him in public, one of mine has done that, but again not to be disruptive.

    The normal word for authority is exousia and for obey is hupakouo.

    In other words, one needs to be more discerning than you have been in the area of obedience and authority in the church. But now that I have given you this info, you can choose to do it.

    • Don,

      Your reduction of our relationship to Church leaders to one of merely ‘allowing ourselves to be persuaded’ by them is unwarranted by Scripture. Obviously, allowing ourselves to be persuaded is part of what is involved in submission and obedience to our leaders. Persuasion is also the primary form of rhetoric that characterizes the rule exercised by leaders under the new covenant, and the term for obedience is a softer one, reflecting the character of the relationship that is in view. However, the souls of the church members have been entrusted to the care of these leaders. As those who must give account for each person, they are in some sense put ‘over’ those persons.

      I suspect that greater attention to the New Testament metaphors of such leadership is helpful here. In particular, the dominant metaphor is that of being shepherds of a flock put in your care (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28; John 21:15-17). The task of the shepherd is one of tending and serving the flock, exercising oversight, and guarding against attacks upon them. In this capacity, the shepherds represent Christ’s own role in relation to the Church as the chief Shepherd (John 10:1-16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). The oversight that the shepherd enjoys is one in which he himself acts under authority (of the Chief Shepherd), but as a representative and representation of that authority. He ministers the oversight of the Chief Shepherd, as one who must give account for his charge.

      The role of the shepherd relative to the sheep is not domineering or dictatorial, but one of serving oversight for the well-being of the flock. They don’t lord it over us, or subdue us to their personal domination. Nevertheless, the shepherd is most definitely ‘over’ the sheep. The shepherds also have a unique charge from the Chief Shepherd, one that is not given to the flock in general, and in our submission to them, we are submitting to the one whose authority in relation to us they represent. Submission to their leadership, primarily exercised through persuasion (although they also have a punitive rod that they can employ when Church discipline is required), will always involve a form of obedience.

      The role of these shepherds clearly extends considerably beyond the bounds of the worship service: such a restriction is entirely without biblical basis. The shepherds are entrusted with the spiritual health of the community and its members. The fulfilment of such a charge will necessarily involve the exercise of an office over others.

      Given the way that you view church roles, I can well see why women’s ordination seems persuasive to you. If the office of pastoral oversight were merely akin to that of an exalted Bible study leader, I would probably support women’s ordination too.

      I will leave discussion of the Greek to Matt, should he choose to weigh in.

    • It is an etymological fallacy to suppose that every middle instance of πείθομαι involves persuasion. Here’s LSJ’s 2nd entry for the Passive and Middle of πείθω:

      πείθεσθαί τινι listen to one, obey him, Il. 1.79, etc. ; τοῖς ἐν τέλει βεβῶσι π. S. Ant. 67 ; τοῖς ἄρχουσι, τῷ νόμῳ, X. Cyr. 1.2.8, An. 7.3.39 ; “μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν” Pl. Ap. 29d : sts. c. dupl. dat., ἔπεσι, μύθοισι π. τινί, Il.1.150, 23.157 : without dat. pers., “ἐπείθετο μύθῳ” 1.33, cf. Od. 17.177 ; γήραϊ πείθεσθαι yield, succumb to old age, Il.23.645 ; στυγερῇ πειθώμεθα δαιτί let us comply with the custom of eating, sad though the meal be, ib.48 ; νῦν μὲν πειθώμεθα νυκτὶ μελαίνῃ, of leaving off the labours of the day, 8.502 ; ἀδίκοις ἔργμασι π. Sol.4.11, 13.12.
      b. with Adj. neut., σημάντορι πάντα πιθέσθαι obey him in all things, Od. 17.21 ; ἅ τιν᾽ οὐ πείσεσθαι ὀΐω wherein I think some will not obey, Il.1.289, cf. 4.93, 7.48, Hdt. 6.100, etc. ; “πάντ᾽ ἔγωγε πείσομαι” S.Aj.529 ; “πείσομαι δ᾽ ἃ σοὶ δοκεῖ” Id.Tr. 1180 ; “οὐ . . πείθομαι τὸ δρᾶν” Id.Ph. 1252 ; “μύθοις . . πεισθεὶς ἀφανῆ” E. Hipp. 1288 (anap.), cf. Lys.22.3 : rarely with Noun in acc., χρήμασι πεισθῆναι [τὴν ἀναχώρησιν] Th.2.21 (s.v.l.).

      The verbs ὑπακούω and πείθομαι are loose synonyms. “Obey” is a good — no, the best — translation of πείθεσθε in Hebrews 13:17.

      While it is true that the consent of the governed is the ordinary mechanism by which rule is carried out in the church, so that, e.g. Paul refrains from commanding Philemon, nevertheless he notes that he has the right to command him (ἐπιτάσσειν, Philemon 8)! Paul also commands the rulers of the church in Corinth to excommunicate the man who “has his father’s wife.” This is not a matter of persuasion.

      • A man having his father’s wife is in public serious sin. Paul is obeying Christ by pointing this out to the church. So the church is obeying Christ thru Paul. If Paul had said to toss the man out for picking his nose in church, the church should NOT have obeyed Paul. That is, Paul’s authority is not vested in his person, it is vested as he follows Christ. Now I agree that since he had a direct line to Christ at times, he is to be taken seriously and soberly.

        The subtext of Philemon is “Free Onesimus!” which only the owner could do legally. The cultural background was that Onesimus was a runaway slave and Philemon had the right under Roman law to have him crucified or have him suffer any lesser punishment. This is how the letter needs to be read. Paul is pulling out all the stops so that Philemon will CHOOSE to free Onesimus. But one can ask, on what authority would Paul be authorized to command Philemon to free Onesimus? It can only be on the authority of Christ, following the principle of loving one another as oneself.

        Peter was a leader of the early church, but Paul opposed him to his face when Peter was wrong. We are to go and do likewise.

  28. Of course a sheherd’s oversight extends beyond a worship service. There is pastoral counseling, for example. A leader mainly leads by example. They lead by serving. There is a lot of misunderstanding of what is called servant leadership, I prefer the term servant servantship, that is how a leader is to lead. In no way does being a leader give them a right to tell someone else to obey them, that is a sign of being in a cult.

    You seemm to have a fatally flawed understanding of what it means to follow Christ. A church leader is ONLY to be followed when they follow Christ, if they are not following Christ (for example in a teaching), then they are not to be obeyed, in fact their teaching needs to be repudiated. In other words, we are to obey Christ, first, last, and always. If a teacher (male or female or even kid) teaches Christ, it is because it is the message from Christ that it is to be obeyed. If they do not, then they are not to be obeyed. Not doing that is a sign of being in a cult, think Jim Jones. Just because he was supposedly a church leader, would you obey when he asked you to drink the Kool Aid?

    You are thinking too much like the world, the institutional church in the West got its ideas on authority from the Roman empire, not from Christ.

    The basic reason that you cannot find a woman with authority over a man is that NO believer is to have authority OVER another in the new covenant from the reason of being in the new covenant. Anyone that teaches differently should be repudiated most strongly as they need to repent.

    • Whoa, whoa. Where did anyone say anything about mindless following?

      The leadership of the pastor is not about the exertion of an autonomous authority, calling persons to obey them, but a representation of Christ’s authority over his flock. As he is a shepherd, we must respect the office that the pastor has been given over us, whether or not we believe that he is to be followed in all things. We owe such honour to all figures that have authority with relation to us, even to those who are wicked (e.g. Matthew 23:1-3), purely on account of their office.

      Once again, the authority of the pastor is not an autonomous personal authority that he possesses, but the authority of God that he represents, both in his fact office and in the content of his teaching and example. As regards his particular person, the pastor has no more authority than any other baptized Christian.

    • There is no office of church leader, that is another of your misunderstandings. Again you show you are thinking like the world.

      What all believers have (or at least ought to have) is a ministry based on their spiritual gifts (and perhaps natural gifts) they have been given by God. Some of these are recognized as leaders, not to fill an office, but because they are good examples for others to follow.

      Also, all believers are to follow Christ, and thereby to show Christ to others. It is just that a leader has shown that he or she does this consistently and therefore is a good role model. Any representation is only valid to the extent that they actually are following Christ to the extent that they actually put on Christ. They do not get to claim to be representing Christ in some inherent way and especially not when not following Christ. This is why the idea of a leadership office in a church is so damaging to the truth of the new covenant.

      • NET 1Ti 5:17 Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.

        Obviously, there might be elders who do not provide effective leadership and they are not worthy of double honor.

      • The problem with your position is that you don’t recognize the manner in which shepherds of the Church can act authoritatively in the name of Christ, in a manner that the average believer can’t. For instance, on occasions Paul feels quite able to directly command people to do things in Christ’s name. He does not need to get their consent before doing so, or even provide an argument for the position that they are to weigh before submitting to it (2 Thessalonians 3:4-15). Obviously, the authority that Paul is exercising here is not autonomous – it is subject to the authority of Christ, the Chief Shepherd, as it is in his name – but it is equally clearly an authority over the members of the Church.

        If Paul’s words were not according to Scripture, the Church shouldn’t follow them. However, the authority of his office, as one able to act authoritatively in the name of Christ in a manner that others cannot, would still remain. No one is stating that all decisions of elders are worthy of honour. However, their office never ceases to be one over us. We are the flock and they are the shepherds, who represent the Chief Shepherd’s leadership of us.

  29. It seems clear to me that you want to hold to the unbiblical idea of an office for a new covenant congregation leader. Since there is no such animal, I cannot show you are verse about this, but since it is your assertion, you are on the hook to show why you might believe in such a thing. I claim that being a leader is a spiritual gift based on Eph 4:1-16 and is recognized as such (or possibly given) thru the laying on of hands. (There are also other purposes for laying on of hands.)

    ANYONE can act authoritatively in the name of Christ when they put on Christ. Contrarily NO ONE can act authoritatively in the name of Christ when they are not putting on Christ. The latter is a sham and if presented would need to be exposed as a sham. To act in the name of someone in Hebrew thought is no more and no less than acting like them. So it is simply obvious that if a pastor is NOT acting like Christ, then he has zero authority.

    Paul is a special case, as are the other authors of Scripture. WHEN they wrote the text, they were inspired by God; in that process of composition, they were guided by the Holy Spirit to write authoritatively. But they cannot claim to ALWAYS be following God or ALWAYS be acting in the authority of God, only Jesus could claim that. No one other than Jesus should ever claim that. And a leader is only to be followed when they are following Christ.

    Paul was also the spiritual father to the church as Thessalonika. But everything Paul wrote is consistent with Scripture/Torah.

    If anyone might want to claim that they has the Spirit inspired authority to be writing Scripture today, at the very least I would want to see the signs and miracles that accompanied the authors in the NT and I would also want to compare it with the existing revelation as if there was anything not consistent with it, then it would need to be rejected, just like any prophecy or interpretation of a tongue today.

  30. […] the Junia Debate Reassessing Junia: A Review of Eldon Epp’s Junia: The First Woman Apostle Due Diligence on Junia and Apostleship Matt Colvin on Junia and Apostleship  Some Lengthy Thoughts on Women’s Leadership A Closer […]

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