I thought I’d use this to sort of switch gears away from the inspiration /inerrancy discussion we’ve been having for the past several months (for newbies, here’s a link to get started on following that subject). I still have to post my “final” Bellingham Statement for review (actually, to draw some external bloggers into the discussion), but I’ll get to that soon.
A recent article in the Journal of Biblical Literature appeared that, to me, undermines one of the pillars of the egalitarian position (the egalitarian – complementarian issue concerns ordination of women and related topics). Egalitarians are in favor of such ordination, and take a more flexible (“feminist” – but that is used pejoratively in the discussion) position on things like male headship in marriage and the church. Complementarians, naturally, take an opposing view. Here are summaries of both positions if this is new to you. Recently fellow biblioblogger John Hobbins had a series of posts on forging a middle ground that are worth your time. Here’s one of John’s posts.
Personally, this is an issue I can’t get too worked up over. I’d be classifed a complementarian, since I have to say I’ve never come across an unambiguous exegetical argument in favor of the egalitarian view. Arguments on that side (and the other, at times) tend to be hermeneutical. At any rate, I have questions I’d need answered that I’ve not seen addressed in egalitarian literature (but I can’t say I’ve read in this issue exhaustively). For me, I think the individual will have to “answer to God” for whatever position is taken. If my daughter wanted to go into the pulpit ministry, I’d tell her my reservations but let her conscience and her discerning of the Spirit’s direction be her guide. In other words, I hold out the possibility that there may be coherent answers to my questions and good exegetical arguments I haven’t seen. I’d also pray she’d be better in the pulpit than much of what I’ve heard in my lifetime, which sadly wouldn’t be too high a mountain to climb.
So what is the article about? One of the egalitarian defenses of female elders/pastors is that the Iounian of Romans 16:7 should be translated Junia (a woman) rather than Junias (a man). The difference between the two concerns different accent marks, which the oldest Greek manuscripts (and so the original uncials) lacked entirely. This is a famous text-critical issue that is heavily on the side of the female rendering (and I would agree; there is basically no TC defense of the male form). Below is a screen shot of what Metzger’s textual commentary says on this word. The point is that THIS argument, while not proving anything in the debate (it never addresses how “apostle” should be understood, for example), at least seemed secure for the egalitarian side — until the recent article I’ve linked for you here surfaced. It’s a model of careful scholarship, and argues quite forcefully that Iounian is a retroversion of a Hebrew or Aramaic MALE name. If you have reasonable facility with the Hebrew and Greek alphabets and transliteration, you should be able to digest this. I hope some egalitarians will chime in! Enjoy.