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.
That is quite interesting, though I can’t say that the article affects much in terms of my views as a mostly-egalitarian. I’ve never really seen this passage as being that significant in either direction, at least not in an end all sort of way.
In terms of why I’m an egalitarian, it has more to do with 1 Timothy 2 and the fact that I’m not satisfied by the lexical discussion surrounding ????????? and I’m not satisfied with discussions of Ephesians 5 – the ????????/?????? question is utterly unsatisfactory in my opinion, not to mention the fact that virtually no person either side handles the passage well – all translations and commentaries place a pericope boundary where there shouldn’t be one, which has had more effect on reader’s interpretation of the passage than anything else.
I could keep going on both of those. Total, I’ve probably written a good 75 pages on these two passages in various places and times. But this is a comment box.
That should read authentein in the first set of ?’s and upotassomenoi/allelois in the second.
@Mike: I don’t think the Greek letters came through in your reply (I can’t figure out how to make Greek and Hebrew work in the blog), so if you care to transliterate what was missed, please do. I will likely post my “three questions I’d want answered” to switch to an egalitarian position, at least if I can stay interested that long. I meant it when I said it’s hard for me to get very interested in the subject.
@Mike: ah – here you go – thanks!
I will look forward to them. And I’ll see what I can do on answers.
On the article itself, Suzanne has written a post or two on the article:
I have blogged about this before. Here are a couple of thoughts, other than that I always love Al Wolter’s writing –
…. all accented manuscripts of Rom 16:7 have the reading ??????? (Iounían with acute accent)It would be a mistake to conclude from this that the scribes of these manuscripts all interpreted IOTNIAN as a feminine name.
However, I suspect that the scribes would assume that Junia was feminine for the following reason,
“Many patristic exegetes understood the second person mentioned in Rom 16:7 to be the wife of Andronicus, such as: Ambrosiaster (c. 339-97); Jerome (c. 342-420); John Chrysostom (c. 347- 407); Jerome; Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c.393-458); Ps.-Primasius (c. 6th cent.); John Damascene (c. 675-749); Haymo (d. 1244); Hatto (?); Oecumenius (c. 6th cent.); Lanfranc of Bec (c.1005-89); Bruno the Carthusian (c.1032-1101); Theophylact (c. 11th cent.); Peter Abelard (1079-1142); and Peter Lombard (c. 1100-1160).39.” (David Jones CBMW site)
There is no mention of a masculine Junias apart from Epiphanius, until 12th century, after accents were already established. I think one must assume that scribes thought Junia was feminine.
In any case, Al graciously leaves the conclusion dangling,
“This conclusion still leaves open the question whether it is more likely that the IOTNIAN of Rom 16:7 reflects a Hebrew masculine name or a Latin feminine one. The answer to that question depends largely on how one assesses the likelihood that Paul would have considered a woman to be “prominent among the apostles” (see Metzger, Textual Commentary, 475). To some, probability will still favor the quasi consensus of recent scholarship that IOTNIAN in Rom 16:7 refers to a woman. To others, the epigraphic and philological evidence for the existence of a Hebrew name Yëhunnï/??????? will tip the scales in favor of a male apostle. In my own opinion, a plausible (but not a decisive) case can be made for either position.”
It is a nice piece of writing without furthering the debate, but I am not sure that it needs to be furthered. I doubt this passage makes much real difference to anyone. Once again, I always love this kind of language detail.
@Sue: agreed on the level of importance/unimportance. I just think Wolters makes a very good case, anticipating objections very well, and laying out what seems to me a high degree of plausibility for the masculine name.
I think the most probable conclusion is that Junia is Andronicus’ wife, considering the description that goes along making them appear to share a lifetime of common features, kinsmen of Paul, in Christ before him and prisoners for the gospel.
So I don’t think this figures highly in the comp egal debate.
From the evidence provided in this article the statistical liklihood of a masculine Hebrew name vs a feminine Latin name must be rated at 100 to 1. So I have to wonder what you mean by “high degree of plausibility.” My concern is that it makes some people look as if they are willing to let ideological concerns override common sense. We are all subject to this tendency. 🙂
@Sue: Since I’m a friend of the statistician who did most of the work critiquing the Jesus tomb nonsense (Randy Ingermanson), my advice is to be cautious about using statistics (for anything). The husband and wife idea does make sense given that some of the other names are paired as such. But that’s its only basis – the GUESS that this is another pair. There is nothing that compels that conclusion other than “after the fact” extrapolation from the others. Hence the passage is really far less clear than many would suppose, so its value is quite limited.
I would not presume to use statistics, but was reacting to your use of the term “plausible” which I took a little too seriously.
If you want to say simply that it is *possible* that the name is male, yes, of course, it is possible. And whether “she” is Andronicus wife, or whether “he” is Andronicus’ male companion, it has no value as proof of women in ministry.
But likewise we could rule out of order any other text in the scripture whose exact meaning is debatable.
@Sue: agreed; the verse isn’t of much use.