A couple updated items on the “women’s ordination” issue.

First, Suzanne McCarthy has sent me a short commentary essay on Romans 16:7. She argues for Iounian being a woman.  This is no surprise, since only the most strident complementarians refuse to agree to that. As I noted in my initial post, I think the evidence is strongly in favor of Iounian being a woman. I noted as well that Wolters’ article raises the possibility that we still have a man here, despite the solid textual evidence in favor of a woman. I think the possibility Wolters raises is coherent, though unproven, naturally.  Suzanne takes umbrage with Wolters a bit. I’ll let you read her full paper, but here is an excerpt on Wolters:

. . . more recently Al Wolters wrote a paper arguing that the name could have been Junias, a transliteration of the masculine Hebrew name ????? Ye?unni. Wolters argues that Junias, as it was written in the minuscules, with an acute accent, I??????, could have been masculine. He proves that this is technically possible.

I argue that the accenting of the minuscules, dating from the 9th century onward, are proof of nothing at all, except that the scribes at that time thought that Junia was a feminine name. The scribes accented the word as feminine because they thought that the name was feminine. I suggest this, not because the acute accent automatically indicates a feminine name, but because all Greek and Latin writers up until the 12th century referred to Junia as a woman. The Latin name Junia was very common at the time that the letter to the Romans was written and the few Icons and images of Junia we have, portray her as a woman but never as a man.

Second, I have cobbled together a PDF of Linda Belleville’s article using screen shots, so I’m not sure about the quality. It’s the best I can do. You should all read it. I have also found a PDF of Wallace and Burer’s article, and so here is that one.  My advice for those interested is to read Grudem’s kephale article, Wallace and Burer, and Belleville. They are the major contributions.

I’ll be traveling this weekend and so I likely won’t get to my response to John Hobbins’ post.  Going to Portland, where I’ll be pretending that I made the trip for the regional ETS meeting and not to visit Powell’s bookstore. I can say this much now, though.

For me, the issue is not whether Iounian is a woman. I’m betting that’s the case. It’s also not whether the phrase in Romans 16:7 (epise?moi en tois apostolois) should be considered “exclusive” (Junia was “well known TO the apostles” [but not in that group]) or “inclusive” (Junia was “well known AMONG the apostles” [she’s an apostle]). I’m not persuaded that I should take this as inclusive, but let’s assume it (Belleville’s article does a good job of responding to Wallace and Burer here, but I’m not convinced this issue is settled by syntax, or even that the right syntactical search strategies were used).

So, let’s assume we have Junia (female) who is well known AMONG the apostles.  Frankly, I’m not sure “apostle” is a good equivalent for what we think of today as a pastor. Other than the church in Jerusalem (because that’s where the 12 were from), is any apostle depicted as what we’d think of as a pastor?  It seems to me that apostles were itinerant church planters or missionaries (and so the title/word fits) that went out to start churches, evangelizing and preaching. Once churches were established, they left and did it again.  I’d have Junia doing that with respect to the above scenario.

You might wonder how that is different than an ordained woman pastor.  Well, for starters, did Paul or any other apostle appoint other apostles in local churches the way they appointed other church leadership? I’m drawing a blank (it’s going on 1 am and I’m out of 5 hour energy drinks). That issue matters for me since the above definition of apostle would technically exclude a “stationary” (“normative” for today) pastorate — and create or allow for the sort of category, notorious among some egalitarians, of “woman missionary who isn’t actually a pastor.” But maybe that’s actually closer to the NT model than “non-missionary woman church pastor/leader staying put in a local church.” I’m fine with the former since it seems suspiciously like what the NT is describing for Junia. I’m not convinced the latter is consistent with that.  I’d have no trouble getting over that hump if the NT didn’t seem to *distinguish* apostles from local church leaders. For example, are the terms in  1 Tim 2:7 and 2 Tim 1:11 the same or different? Is Paul an apostle who happens to preach and teach, or a preacher and teacher who also happens to be an apostle?  Put another way, why doesn’t 1 Tim 3 include or focus on the office of apostle? Why doesn’t it link overseer to apostle? Seems like its exclusion or absence suggests it wasn’t considered a synonym for “overseer.” An egalitarian view presumes such an equation, but it isn’t clear to me that the presumption is warranted. Further, we know elders were appointed in the local churches, but were they apostles? (Was that expected or assumed?). In passages like Acts 15:2, 4, 6; 15:22, etc., are the two terms (apostle, elder) synonyms or distinct? I don’t know. And while we’re at it, I’m not sure elders and overseers were the same, either.  Many presume elder, overseer, pastor, and teacher point to the same person. Is apostle synonymous with any, all, or most of these? That’s what Junia is called, but none of the others, and so these questions matter for settling the issue (at least for me, anyway).

The point:  It seems to me that, although local church leaders and apostles did some of the same *tasks* that they were not considered the same *office.* I haven’t found anything that really addresses this question well. What it comes down to is that I’m looking for the right analogy, the right way to follow the NT model. I’ve just come to expect I’ll never get clarity here.

Lastly, as fascinating as the early church data are, I don’t find them helpful for this for a simple reason. When it comes to early church data, the material just shows me that some serious believers were egalitarians and others weren’t (the data does NOT suggest unanimity). Kind of like today. Back to square one.

The above is also why I don’t get bent out of shape over the issue. I see it as an issue of conscience, not necessarily doctrine — not for me to judge someone else’s conscience, but for my own conscience — to feel like I’m getting things right. But if I have to get this granular on the issue, I need to be willing to acknowledge that I might be missing the forest for the trees.  Since I know that’s possible, I feel it would be wrong to negatively judge a woman’s call to ministry, but I’d feel less than completely sincere in defending it beyond the point of asking people to just give her a break.