Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Case For Junia, The Lost Apostle

"Greet Andronicus and Junia(s), my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."--Paul, Romans 16:7

The story of Junia is a sad one. Beginning in the 13th century, her memory was not only diluted, but the fact that she was an "outstanding" female apostle was hidden by medieval copyists who changed her name to the more male-sounding "Junias." Since the truth has been recovered that Junia was clearly a woman, modern-complementarian translators and scholars now try to strip Junia of the title "apostle," by concluding that she was merely known by the apostles or favored by the apostles, but could never have been deemed an apostle herself. This is a NEW interpretation. The fact that Paul was commending two apostles was never debated, only whether Junia was female or male, and even that debate did not start until the 13th century. The historical reading of this verse has always been that Junia was both a woman and an apostle. It's important to note that the early church fathers who conceded to these facts were by no stretch of the imagination "egalitarians." Many held degrading beliefs about women and their "divinely designated" position in life. But even they could not deny that Paul deemed this woman Junia to be an apostle, and an outstanding one at that.

Two Complementarian Views

1. Junia was really a man

The more hardcore-complementarians still refuse to admit that Junia(s) is a woman, even though for the first 1300 years of church history, ALL commentators of Romans 16:7 believed Junia to be a female AND the male name "Junias" did not even exist during Paul's era. On the other hand, the Latin/Roman-female-name "Junia" is found in ancient literature of Paul's time and found nearly 250 times in ancient Roman inscriptions.

The first person to expound on Romans 16:7 was the early church father, Origen of Alexandria (185-253), who understood the name Junia to be feminine. Other prominent church fathers and theologians recognized "Junia" as a woman: Jerome (340), who translated the Latin Vulgate; Hatto of Vercelli (924-961), a bishop and Greek scholar; Theophylact (1050-1108), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142), a French theologian and philosopher. Not a single commentator on the text until Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316) assumed the name to be masculine. Aegidius offered no textual or historical evidence to support his belief that Junia was a man. He simply made the passing comment about how "these two men" must have been honorable.

John Chrysostom, church father from the 4th century, made it crystal clear that Junia was both a woman and an apostle:

"To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle."

Even though the historical and textual evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of rendering "Junia" as a feminine name, complementarians like John Piper and Wayne Grudem cling to the writings of the notoriously disturbed church father, Epiphanius, to "prove" that Junia could have been a man. Epiphanius (315-403) wrote the "Index of Disciples," in which he lists Junia as one "of whom Paul makes mention [and] became bishop of Apameia of Syria." Since Epiphanuis wrote the phrase "of whom" as a masculine relative pronoun, Piper and Grudem conclude that Epiphanius believed Junia to be a man. Regardless of what Epiphanius believed about the gender of Junia, it should be noted that he also believed Priscilla was a man! He once wrote that "the female sex is easily seduced, weak and without much understanding. The Devil seeks to vomit out this disorder through women... We wish to apply masculine reasoning and destroy the folly of these women."

Needless to say, Epiphanius is hardly a credible source. His own writings prove he succumbed to the worst brand of degrading patriarchy. He so despised women that he sought to edit influential ones right out of the scriptures.

New Testament scholar Bernadette Brooten comments on the fictitious male-name Junias:

"To date not a single Latin or Greek inscription, not a single reference in ancient literature has been cited by any of the proponents of the Junias hypothesis. My own search for an attestation has also proved fruitless. This means that we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed. The feminine Junia, by contrast, is a common name in both Greek and Latin inscriptions and literature. In short, literally all of the philological evidence points to the feminine Junia."

It's important to note that not only is the male name "Junias" nonexistent within the New Testament manuscripts, but it does NOT appear even once in ANY ancient manuscripts, sacred or secular.

The feminine name Junia, however, is found in ancient Greek literature AND appears nearly 250 times in ancient Roman inscriptions.

Bible Scholar Richard Bauckman links the Latin/Roman name Junia to the Greek name Joanna. This would explain the title of apostle. In "Women in the Heart of God" by writers from Christian Thinktank, Bauckman's theory is elaborated upon:

Recent argumentation by Bauckham makes a strong case that not only is this word-noun-name feminine, but also that it is the Latin-ized version of Joanna (one of Jesus' traveling companions/disciples—cf Luke 8.3 and 24.10)! Joanna was the wife of Herod's steward, and would have had a Latin/Roman name for purposes of administration. This identification would make the most sense of the name, her relation to Rome, her being 'in Christ' before Paul, and of her apostolic status (as a witness of Jesus' deeds and resurrection—Acts 1).

2. Junia was merely known by the apostles

This interpretation asserts that Junia was most likely a woman, but was simply well known to the apostles or highly favored by the apostles, but was not an apostle herself. However, if this was the correct and most natural understanding of Romans 16:7, then copyists would not have stooped so low as to blatantly changing the text. This was a desperate and theologically-motivated alteration to change the gender of Junia without any textual or historical warrant. If the verse simply meant that a woman was well known by the apostles, there would have been no controversy, no deceptive tactics to mask Junia's gender in male trappings in the first place. No one on either side of the debate ever questioned whether Paul was deeming these two apostles, but only whether or not Junia was male or female. So, this new interpretation emerged as a last ditch effort in the face of indisputable evidence that Junia was, in fact, a woman. It aims to disprove the notion that a woman could ever be a rightful apostle.

A report from BBC on Adronicus and Junia pointed out:

"The most natural way to read the Greek phrase is that both were apostles; some modern interpreters have rejected this reading mainly because they presuppose that women could never fill this office."

The original Greek (nor the historical reading) does not support this complementarian interpretation. It's basically grammatical gymnastics employed to cast flimsy doubt upon the validity of a woman apostle.

The fact that Junia was imprisoned with Paul should tell us that this woman was a public figure who was considered a leader in the church. The whole point of Romans arresting and killing christians was to make an example of the boldest ones and most influential ones, so other christians would be deterred from following suit. Had this woman remained "silent" in the assemblies and never dared to preach/teach the gospel to men, it hardly makes sense as to why she would find herself behind bars. History bears witness to the fact that the large majority of christians captured, imprisoned, and martyred were public figures and leaders within the early church, men and women alike (more on that in an upcoming post).

Below are two excellent articles on Junia. Both examine the evolution of Junia's name from feminine to masculine and the original wording of this passage in the Greek. I highly recommend reading both articles to get a better grasp on the implications of the original language and the ugly reality of how Junia's gender was masked for nearly 8 centuries. These two articles take a more in depth look into the original language. They have done such an excellent job, that I feel no need to regurgitate their findings here. :)

Junia, A Woman Apostle By Dianne D. McDonnell
Junia, The Female Apostle: Resolving The Interpretive Issues of Romans 16:7 by Dennis J. Preato

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Liberal/Conservative Dichotomy

Brian McLaren is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He has a way about him, a way of making complicated issues understandable without oversimplifying them. The complexity remains in tact, but you walk away feeling as if you actually understand it. He's passionate without being arrogant. He's thoughtful and unafraid to question the "staples" of Christendom. He recently made some remarks in an interview that I appreciated. I particularly loved his response to the reporter who tried to pin him into the "liberal" or "conservative" box (because don't you know those are our only two options?) The reporter asked if he was "a liberal" and McLaren answered:

"What do you mean by the term? If liberal means you believe ... you should help the poor, and your bias should be toward peacemaking rather than war-making, then I'm a liberal. But if liberal means that government can solve all of our problems and that secularism is better than faith, and that it doesn't matter what you do in your personal life and that morality is up for grabs, then I'm not a liberal. And I could say the same thing about conservatives...When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the gospels."

And yet it makes people's head spin when they cannot classify someone into a clean-cut, clearly defined category. This is because if they cannot classify someone into some offensive, suspicious, or baggage -laden label, then it becomes much more difficult to automatically dismiss everything they have to say. People will actually have to process new or different arguments and logically and adequately refute them, or heaven forbid, concede to the fact that "others" might just have a valid perspectives.

Civilized Killing

A poem I wrote last year is getting published in a small collection of poetry from The American Poet's Society. It's always an honor to get published. So, I thought I'd repost it. :)

Civilized Killing

Ancient Arrows
Former slayers in the wars of men
Now mounted on the walls of their dens

Useless arrows
Too impractical for the modern age

There are easier ways to pierce a flesh-bound cage

Savage Arrows
Too barbaric for the modern man
You lack the dignity of the bombs in our hands

Hang, shrouded in mystery

Teach us something of our history

You are a senior citizen of war
Knocking on death's door

Lingering on life support
indulge our indignant thrill

Show us how far mankind has come
As we polish our efficient guns
Those brutal savages knew none
Of the civilized ways to kill

Hang, shrouded in mystery
Teach us something of our history

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Back In The Saddle

All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. we can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.--William Bernbach,

Well, I have been looking for a full-time job since school let out, with no luck. Out of the blue, my former editor from the Dawson Community News called and asked if I'd be interested in filling their summer internship position again this year! This is very exciting because not only is it a full-time, PAID internship, but I actually will get to do what I love, journalism. Last year was a priceless experience, and this year is shaping up to be even better. My editor said that I can pick up right where I left off, which was covering stories by myself, writing my own articles, and finding stories. There is no learning period this time around. I already know the people, the usual contacts (police, fire department, school officials, etc.), and the overall area. I get to jump right back into to covering crime, town events, feature stories, and fires and accidents (my least favorite things to do). Journalism appeals to me because I get to interact with all different kinds of people, I get to be "in the know," and I get to learn a different style of writing.

The only downside, to this otherwise awesome opportunity, is the drive. It is so friggin' far. Over an hour each way. So, for eight weeks, I will have to rise before the sun. Those of you who know me personally already know how I loathe mornings. But I adjusted fine last summer, I know I can do it again. I'll have to get some good books on CD to fill the long drive. Then I will be set.

Anyway, I am very psyched about being a reporter again!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Prince Caspian

You come of the Lord Adam and Lady Eve. That is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar and shame enough to bow the shoulders the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”--Aslan, In Prince Caspian, the book.

We saw Prince Caspain this weekend. I must say, I went into it with zero expectations. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I quickly realized that movies NEVER live up to the books. So, this time around, I hardly thought about it and told myself it would be mediocre and just to appreciate the fact that this would the best visual experience of Narnia. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought this movie was MUCH better than the first one. I cried from start to finish, (as I did with the first one, because any moment that brings to life scenes from the books release all sorts of repressed emotions for me).

The four children return to Narnia, a year after their departure, under very different circumstances. It's 1300 years later in Narnia and a vicious human kingdom has come to power, while Narnians live in hiding. Peter is bitter and disillusioned from having grown into a man during his last trip to Narnia and then returning to his world as boy, to go from being treated as an adult king to an ordinary boy again. It's a hard pill to swallow. This development added a realism and deeper layer to his character. It also set the stage for the trials he would soon face in Narnia. A guarded-Susan distances herself from the Narnian experience, for fear of it ending like the last time. A softer Edmund shows wisdom, having learned his lesson from their last trip. And Lucy is still full of faith and hope.

There were a few scenes I wished the filmmakers hadn't tinkered with. There are such great lines in the original that did not need to be altered. They also cut some scenes I would liked to have seen. As usual, I wish Aslan was in it more. Prince Caspian's accent was annoying and there was some unnecessary "cheese" near the end. But overall, I LOVED it. It was rich with symbolism that spoke volumes. It captured the struggle between faith and doubt, peace and war, courage and revenge. I'm sure I'll see it again.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Mistranslation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12

"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."--Paul, 1 Timothy 2:11-12

Paul's letters are already difficult to interpret because they are like listening to one side of a telephone conversation, but faulty translations only further complicate our understanding of his words. There are a few key words that are conveniently mistranslated in 1 Timothy 2: 11-15.

Hesuchios/Hesuchia: Traditionalists normally translate this word as "silence" (at least in passages concerning women), but the word in all other places is translated as "peacefulness" "Peaceable" or "quietness." The word does not carry the meaning of literal silence or absence of speech, but of an atmosphere or presence in which learning should take place. Strong's Greek Dictionary defines hesuchios/hesuchias as "properly, keeping one's seat," "stillness" "undisturbed," "undisturbing," and "peaceable."

When Paul has absence of speech in mind, he uses the term "sigao." The same word is used just nine verses earlier and is translated as "peaceable," 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Hesuchios/hesuchia is translated as quiet/quietness in 1 Thess. 4:11, 2 Thess. 3:12, 1 Peter 3:4. None of these verses are about silence, as in the literal absence of speech, but a tranquil quietness or peaceable presence/environment. This fits the context much better than a literal silence, since Paul just rebuked the men in the congregation for praying while angry and quarreling. Obviously, this would NOT be the optimum environment for anyone to learn in. Thus, Paul tells Timothy to make sure the woman can learn in quietness or peacefulness, and not amid the chaos that was taking over church meetings.
Paul also instructs that women should learn in full submission. This is not a unique request asked only of women, but men are also suppose to learn in full submission to the gospel and sound teaching. The reason this command is directed toward women here is only because teaching women in the same way as men was still a revolutionary practice and still repulsive to many men, believers or not.

Now, onto the grand-daddy of mistranslations and controversy....

"...nor to have authority over [authentein] a man..."

Exousia is the normal word used for "authority," a carrying out of one's official duties. But this is not the word Paul uses here. He instead picks the word authentein and it is the ONLY time this word appears in the New Testament. Exousia, however, appears over 100 times. Other uses of authentein from the same time period show that this word does not simply mean legitimate or routine authority, but carries violent, sexual, and dominating meanings.

It cannot be stressed enough how unusual this word is, especially for Paul. Paul writes about authority quite a bit and he never uses authentein as a synonym for legitimate, godly authority. For most mentions of authority, he uses exousia. Louw and Nida's Lexicon lists 12 common ancient Greek words that are synonyms for routine or legitimate authority, exousia being the most common throughout the new testament. There are 47 words that are synonyms for legitimate "rule" or "governing." Yet Paul uses none of these words in 1 Timothy 2:11, he chooses the unusual authentein.

We do not find any evidence that authentein, in any of its forms, connotates a routine or legitimate authority until the late third to fourth centuries, far too removed from Paul's era to provide relevant meanings and contexts. And even once the word took on a less severe meaning in later centuries, THIS passage was ALWAYS been understood as Paul forbidding women to dominate a man, not simply exercise legitimate Christ-like authority. Consider these early translations:

Old Latin Version from the second - fourth century translates this verse as "I permit not a woman to teach, neither to dominate a man {neque dominari in viro}.

The Vulgate, from the second to fourth century, translates this verse as "I permit not a woman to teach, neither to domineer over a man {neque dominari in virum}.

"There is a basically unbroken tradition, stemming from the oldest version and running down to the twenty first century, that translates authentein as "to dominate" and not "to exercise authority over."-Linda Belleville

It is not until the 1500s that the verb authentein used in this verse changes from the drastically negatively-charged "to dominate/domineer" to a slightly water-downed phrase, "to usurp authority" (thanks, King James). Still different from exercising legitimate authority, but much less forceful than the violent and even sexual connotations of the original authentein. The King James version asserts that women are not to wrestle authority or seize it from men. No believer is permitted to usurp authority or act in self-interest over others. It is not until after World War II that authentein really gets the botched-translated: "to exercise/assume authority over." That's right, less than 80 years ago! So, the notion that women may never exercise godly authority within the body based on this verse is completely unbiblical, both logically and historically.

Exegetical Fallacies in Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11–15
This is by far the best article I've read on 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Linda Belleville, a new testament professor, put together a thorough and compelling paper on 5 exegetical fallacies concerning 1 Timothy 2:11-12 : Contextual/historical, Lexical, Grammatical, Cultural, and Doctrinal. She provides a thorough survey of the early uses of authenteo, in all its forms. This is a MUST read to gain a proper understanding of the egalitarian position.

Catherine C. Kroeger also put together a brilliant survey of authentein (and all it's sister-nouns/adjectives) uses from before Paul up until the third and fourth centuries. I would particularly challenge Tonya and Catrina to read these articles in full before giving me CBMW rebuttals. :)

These combined articles find that early uses of authentein (in its noun, verb, and adjective forms) collectively mean "criminal mastermind," "a perpetrator," "one who slays with his own hand," "self-murder," "women who can command domestic and sexual services from their male concubines," "incestuous sex and murder," "religious sexual orgies," "to dominate," "to control," "to restrain," and "to domineer."
Hardly the meaning we find in modern translations of 1 Timothy 2:11.

One of the earliest meanings to authentein is the act of murder or the act of violence.

Wisdom of Solomon 12:6, an apocrypha book translated into ancient Greek, considered "scripture" by both Jews and Christians until the second century AD, uses a form of authentein.

"With their priests out of the midst of their idolatrous crew, and the parents, that killed with their own hands [authentas] souls destitute of help."

Ancient Greek grammarians and lexicographers define authentein as "to dominate," "to control, restrain, and domineer." It is also classified as a "vulgar" term, possibly because of it's sexual uses.

Other notable uses of the word include:

Josephus, the famous Jewish historian from Paul's own time, used the noun form, authenten, to describe the "author" of a poisonous drink. Diodorus of Sicily wrote about the "sponsors" (authentas) of daring plans and the "perpetrators" (authentas) of a crime. John Chrysostom, an early church father, used the same word, authentia to express “sexual license” or perverse sexual practices. Clement, another early church father, linked the word with women involved in sexual orgies.

Catherine Kroeger makes an excellent analysis of the implications of the original meaning of authentein:

"Chrysostom [the early church father] uses autheritia to denote "sexual license." If the word in this context refers to sexual behavior, it puts a quite different interpretation on the entire passage. For instance, if we were to translate the passage, 'I forbid a woman to teach or discuss higher algebra with a man,' we would understand the prohibition to be directed against instruction in mathematics. Suppose it read, 'I forbid a woman to teach or talk Japanese with a man.' Then we infer that the injunction applies to the teaching of language. 'I forbid a woman to teach or dangle a man from a high wire' would presuppose that the instructor was an aerialist. 'I forbid a woman to teach or engage in fertility practices with a man' would imply that the woman should not involve a man in the heretical kind of Christianity which taught licentious behavior as one of its doctrines. Such a female heretic did indeed 'teach to fornicate' in the Thyatiran church mentioned in Revelation 2:20 (cf. 2:14f.; Num. 25:3; 31:15f.).

Too often we underestimate the seriousness of this problem for the New Testament church. A passage in 2 Peter expresses concern not only for those drawn into this error but also for the illegitimate children which it produced:

'But Israel had false prophets as well as true; and you likewise will have false teachers among you. . . . Having eyes full of adultery, that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls, an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children which have forsaken the right way ... following the way of Balaam.... They utter big empty words, and make of sensual lusts and debauchery a bait to catch those who have barely begun to escape from their heathen environment (2:1,14f.,18).'"

Others have conducted in depth word studies on authentein with similar results...

Dr. David H. Scholer sites Leeland Edward Wilshire's exhaustive study of the word authentien.

"Wilshire is the first to use the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) computer database, which contains virtually all three thousand ancient Greek authors from Homer to A.D. 600. The database showed that authentein and its cognates occurred about 330 times and over a large number of centuries almost exclusively meant “a perpetrator of a violent act, either murder or suicide.”

But there is no evidence from the first century that authentein means ordinary or legitimate authority. Nothing exists until the late third and fourth centuries to suggest other meanings, and even then, the verse in question still translates authentein as "dominating men" or "domineer over men."

Paul is not allowing a woman to teach others to dominate men, to teach the domination of men, nor to dominate a man themselves, but to be peaceable (heshucias). This verse has nothing to do at all with mature, trained christian women exercising their spiritual gifts and serving the body through teaching, preaching, or leading. These were women led astray by false teaching, whom Paul is correcting in these verses and who must start at the beginning with full submission to the gospel and sound teaching.

He ties in the creation story to draw a correlation between Eve being deceived by the voice of false teaching and these women. It is a reminder to the church of the devastating effects of false teaching and deception.

I know someone is going to say, "Well, if Paul is forbidding dominating others as opposed to holding mere authority and it's wrong for all believers to dominate each other, why does Paul only address this to women?" Consider that HERE IN THIS LETTER, Paul is correcting the ones exhibiting specific behaviors. Consider that Paul only tells the men to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing. Now, just because he only directs the men here in this verse, does that mean women shouldn't lift up holy hands? Does it mean women are free to be angry and constantly disputing in or out of church? Of course not. But the men in the body were the ones exhibiting this behavior, so Paul only addresses them, even though it's inappropriate for all believers to behave that way. Likewise, he only addresses the women about dominating and seizing authority through false teachings, possibly sexual ones, because they were the ones doing it in this instance.

Consider this reality of ancient Greek culture pointed out by Catherine Koeger:

"Virtually without exception, female teachers among the Greeks were courtesans, such as Aspasia, who numbered Socrates and Pericles among her students. Active in every major school of philosophy, these hetairai (high-class, intellectual prostitues) made it evident in the course of their lectures that they were available afterwards for a second occupation. But the Bible teaches that to seduce men in such a manner was indeed to lead them to slaughter and the halls of death (cf. Prov. 2:18; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18). The verb authentein is thus peculiarly apt to describe both the erotic and the murderous."

It becomes overwhelming clear from the the well-documented culture of Ephesus coupled with the original word meanings used in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, that this mandate is not a prohibition against all women teaching/preaching/leading in the church. It's simply absurd to keep gifted and qualified women from teaching the truth of the gospel, leading church bodies in the ways of Jesus, or simply contributing their gifts by vocally participating in the gatherings of the entire body because of a verse that was originally a disciplinary action against women at Ephesus. who were lead astray by false teaching.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Forbidding Women Teachers Or False Teachers?

"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." ~Paul, 1 Timothy 2:9-15

In the last post, I briefly relayed some of the difficulties of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In this post I aim to place these verses within their cultural and situational context. Not only do these verses make much more sense viewed in this light, but they fit within the larger context of 1 Timothy and the rest of the Bible.

As shown in a previous post, the prevailing theme of 1 Timothy is standing against false teaching. But what were these false teachings? Even though we do not have Timothy's letters to Paul explaining the details of the situation at Ephesus, there is an ample amount of context clues, historical evidence, and other biblical records to reconstruct the basic scenario at Ephesus at the time of Paul's letter. Let's start with context clues:

In 1 Timothy 1:3-4, Paul tells Timothy to put a stop to certain "men" (the Greek word here is tisin and means "ones," not men. It's gender neutral) from teaching false doctrines and to rebuke them for devoting themselves to "myths" and "endless genealogies." In 1 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul describes those who have turned aside to fruitless discussions, "wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." Paul then launches into a corrective teaching on the proper use and purpose of the law, sin, the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of the Lord, and takes great care to point out that God is King, eternal, invisible, and the only God. It is obvious Paul is countering the false teaching Timothy is battling in Ephesus by reiterating the true teaching of the gospel.

Ephesus was a decadent Asian city, whose focal point was the fertility goddess, Artemis. The Romans called her Diana. Artemis is said to be the twin of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and Leto. The cult of Artemis was particularly alluring for women because Artemis was believed to protect her female worshippers during and after childbirth. Plus, women were viewed as superior to men, possessing secret divine knowledge. Men were drawn to this cult as well because sex was part of the worship rituals, where men would receive divine knowledge through engaging in sexual rituals with female priestesses.

We know from indisputable historical findings (such as ancient temple ruins, writings, and graves) and the biblical account in Act 19: 11-41, that the city of Ephesus was dedicated to the fertility goddess, Artemis. The passage in Acts reveals the exact brand of paganism running rampant in Ephesus, even causing confusion among believers. The teachings of this goddess-cult caused so much confusion and hostility among the assemblies and the city that violent riots broke out. People were fiercely passionate about The Lady of Ephesus and flew into a blind rage when Paul rejected her divinity. Artemis was the fertility goddess and protector of women (keep that in mind for later). The female-focused cult of Artemis taught female superiority and dominance based on their claim that women were descendants of mythological Amazon women. These women enslaved the men and forced them to build the city. In order to prove this myth, followers would create lengthy genealogies in attempt to prove they were true descendants of the goddess herself or the amazon women who supposedly founded the city. Could this be what Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 1:3-4?Artemis' temple was so stunning and brilliantly designed that it became one of the seven wonders of the world. So, this is no little unknown, undocumented cult with gaps so wide that it would be impossible to reconstruct the culture and setting of Ephesus at the time of Paul's letters.

Entering into the Ephesian cultural-mix is gnosticism. Gnostic teachings ran rampant during the first century, which were famous for infusing christian and pagan beliefs together to comprise one of the first heretical teachings to infiltrate the early church. As christian and pagan beliefs intermingled, Gnostics taught that Eve, contrary to the Genesis account, actually liberated the world by eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They called Eve "the illuminator" because they believed she became enlightened when she ate the fruit and paved the way for others to become enlightened, too. They also taught that Eve was created FIRST and Adam received life from her. For the Gnostics, Eve became a salvation-figure.
Between the cult of the Artemis and the gnostics, it was widely believe that:

1. Eve was created first and received special knowledge when she ate the from the tree of knowledge.

2. Women prophetesses or mediators could share or pass on their "divine knowledge" through rituals mixing sex and worship.

3. The legend claimed that ancient amazon-warrior women, far superior to any man, founded the city of Ephesus and erected Artemis' temple. Therefore Ephesian women were these amazon-warriors' descendants and inherited their special knowledge and superiority.

4. Artemis' name means "safe." Allegiance to her meant she would keep women safe during and after childbirth.

Coincidentally, the passage in question (as well as other parts of 1 Timothy) refutes all of these teachings. When you look at these four beliefs in relation to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, suddenly we can see that Paul is not citing creation to teach women's inferiority, to put more blame on Eve, or to justify an all-time exclusion from teaching, but to correct the bizarre false teachings some Ephesians had embraced with the truth of scripture. He retells the events of creation to reveal what really happened so believers could easily recognize these false teachings circulating about the creation account. These verses do not mean all women must not teach because Eve was created second or because she became deceived, as the church has taught for centuries.

Let's go verse by verse:

Verses 9-10 admonishes women to dress modestly and appropriately for women professing godliness. He tells them to avoid braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothing. This is another context clue that hints toward the women of Ephesus being influenced by the cult of Artemis, for the priestesses would wear elaborate, braided hairstyles and adorn themselves with extravagant jewelry and attire. Paul makes a curious statement when he classifies this type of extravagant attire as inappropriate for women "professing" godliness, which could mean he questioned the sincerity of these women's faith to begin with.

Verse 11 is particularly liberating for women at this time. Most modern readers take "Let a woman learn..." as Paul granting mere permission for women to learn, but the original Greek is phrased as a command that women BE TAUGHT. This was a major battle in the first century, since traditional male Jews and Greeks did not find any value in educating women and viewed it as a disgrace. Paul insists that they be allowed to learn (this would be imperative if false teachings were to ever be overcome, too). Of course, women, who have never before learned the scriptures, would not be qualified to teach and would be more susceptible to deception and false teaching. It's not because they are women, but because of the patriarchal prejudices that kept them in the dark for centuries.

Verse 12-14 Paul says he does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man (we'll analyze the actual word meanings in the original language post). This makes perfect sense, if women are indeed the targets and spreaders of these false teachings consuming and dividing the Ephesian church. Paul follows his ban on women teachers by reiterating sound teaching that counters the false teaching. For Adam was formed first, not Eve, like the cult of Artemis and the gnostics taught. He then points out that Eve became deceived and sinned. This is hardly the basis upon which to claim female-superiority and divine knowledge. Eve did not do a noble thing or liberate the world; she was tricked into violating the command of God. It's important to note that Paul is not arguing for male superiority, just refuting female superiority by pointing out the facts of the creation account. He is not implying that because Eve was deceived all women are prone to deception or because she was created second that women may never be entrusted with the ministry of the word. Directly after refuting this false teaching, he moves onto the childbirth subject.

Verse 15 , This strange verse about women being "saved" through childbirth should actually read a woman shall be "preserved" or "kept safe" through childbirth. It becomes especially meaningful and relevant in light of the fact that the women of Ephesus looked to Artemis to keep them safe through childbirth. In a time when massive amounts of women and babies died in childbirth, we can easily see how the cult of Artemis would be tempting, even among Christians. Here, Paul admonishes women to continue in the faith of Christ and to put their lives in His hands.

Now, since women were obviously the primary targets of this pervasive teaching and the most vulnerable members of the church (since new christian female converts, whether Jewish or Greek were not schooled in the scripture), it makes perfect sense for Paul to forbid women from teaching at a church that was overrun with false teachings, false teachings that just happen to be tailor-made for attracting women. Of course,women who had never received proper teaching would first have to learn before they could teach. The requirements were the same for men. They had to be trained in "the way" and then were sent out to teach others. Women had been shut out from such learning under Judaism and most Greek religions. When we consider the "catch-up" game women had to play under their new found freedom in Christ, is it any wonder why Paul would command the Ephesian women who "wanting to be teachers of the Law...they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions" (1 Timothy 1:6-7) to first learn in total submission to sound teaching and stop teaching themselves? One cannot teach before they have been properly taught themselves.

While Paul's words are inspired, they were inspired for this particular situation at Ephesus. It distorts the inspired words of scripture to rip them out of their specific context, the crisis at Ephesus, and transform Paul's disciplinary solution to a culture-specific problem into a blanket prohibition against all women teaching for all times in all places.

Next post will examine the original Greek words of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Modern translations are misleading to say the least.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Women: More Easily Deceived?

Do you not know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of that [forbidden] tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. On account of your desert--that is, death--even the Son of God had to die."--Tertullian, early church father.

"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." ~Paul, 1 Timothy 2:9-15

The Problems

This is the main verse cited to bar all women from obtaining any "official" positions in the church that would put them "over" men or have any say in the decision-making aspects of church government: no teaching, no preaching, no leading, or anything that could be construed as having authority over men. However, if we are to use this verse to exclude women from the "top" levels of ministry, we must also embrace the reasons this verse seemingly cites to justify women's exclusion, which are:

1. Eve was formed second

2. And was the one who was deceived, falling into transgression

Then to top it off, Paul declares that despite this fact that "woman" was deceived, "she" will be saved through childbearing..." All this taken literally implies women are easily deceived and therefore should not be allowed to teach men, lest we ruin them as Eve did with Adam (which is the longstanding 'traditional' interpretation of this verse) and that women obtain salvation through childbirth. The last line (if taken literally) is heresy. Women are saved by the blood of Jesus, just like men, not through bearing children. Other translations remedy this puzzling choice of words by making the verse say women will "survive" or be "kept safe" through childbirth. But even this reading begs the question, is Paul really promising that christian women will never die during childbirth, even though countless have, especially during this time? And if all women ARE somehow more prone to deception than men, why are they admonished to teach at all? Why would they be allowed to teach other women and children? Would they not just pass on their deception to other deception-prone subjects?

It is Paul's reference to the creation order that convinces complementarians that his forbidding women to teach or exercise authority over a man is universal and all-time binding. Are all women prone to deception because of Eve? Was Eve created with an inherent lack of discernment, thus all women inherit this trait as well? Are women, covered in the blood of Christ, to be eternally held accountable for the failure of our ancestral mother?

Fortunately, the cultural and historical context of 1 Timothy is one of the easier to reconstruct. Ample evidence exists both in other biblical passages and in historical/archaeological evidence to shed light on the environment of Ephesus and the nature of the false teachings plaguing the infant-christian church of Ephesus. Oddly enough, the nature of these false teachings directly correlates to the descriptions and commands given in 1 Timothy, especially 2:9-15.

The next post will expound upon these false teachings and how it brings out a clearer meaning to Paul's letter to Timothy. Without a contextual understanding, Paul's words seem harsh, ludicrously stereotypical, and border on heresy, for all are "saved" by grace through faith, not through childbearing. If we want to bar all women from teaching based on this passage of scripture then we must also believe the reason for their exclusion is because Eve was the first deceived, first to fall into transgression, and all daughters of Eve take after her, therefore must not teach. The literal reading irreversibly ties the prohibition against women teaching with Eve's deception, not just the fact that she was formed after Adam.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Backdrop of 1 Timothy

"It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows."~Miles Coverdale

Before we delve into the internal problems of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, I want to note the context of 1 Timothy as a whole. Many scholars compare reading the letters of Paul to listening to one side of a telephone conversation. Since we do not have the letters written to Paul or know for certain the entire context or the exact matters he is addressing, it can be difficult to extrapolate the original intent and application of Paul's words and instructions. Plucking obscure verses out of their original context to establish universal all-time binding mandates without acknowledging the the full range of probable and possible meanings is a lazy and foolish practice. Just because taking the face value reading is the easiest method, doesn't mean it is the right method or the most accurate method.

1 Timothy is a NOT a letter to a church, but a personal letter, giving instruction to Timothy. Paul is instructing Timothy on how to handle the onslaught of false teaching that had broken out in the church at Ephesus. Explicit instruction about and attention given to the topic of false teaching comprises 35 percent of 1 Timothy. Paul writing in this letter indicates that Ephesus was in total chaos, rebellion, and that false teachers need to be silenced (1:3-7, 18-20; 4:1-8; 5:20-22; 6:3-10, 20-21), widows were going around saying things they ought not (5:13), even the elders of the church were in such sin that they needed to be publicly called out in front of the entire body (5:20), and others had rejected the faith altogether (5:15). Men became angry and were quarreling (2:8) and women were dressing provocatively (2:9) (which history shows the dress Paul describes here is shockingly similar to the dress of pagan temple prophetesses). False doctrine was creating envy, evil suspicions, and constant friction (6:4-5). This was not a healthy, mature, grounded body, but an infant church quickly exchanging the gospel of Jesus Christ for false teachings. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

In the next posts, we will examine the kind of false teachings that were most likely infiltrating the church at Ephesus by deciphering some of the context clues within 1 Timothy, Acts, and other historical accounts. The precise nature of these false teachings bring revelatory meaning to the verses that seemingly bar women from all teaching in the presence of men. It also illuminates Paul's appeal to the creation order. After that, we will will look at the original language of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to examine the original wording and meaning of these verses.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Are Women Allowed To Teach Men?

"Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths." ~Lois Wyse

Alright. I'm back and ready to delve into the women series yet again!

We left off at the three interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 which if taken literally at face value, would silence women altogether in public gatherings of the body. For those just tuning in, you can read three alternate interpretations here: Silent Women Part 1, Silent Women Part 2, Silent Women Part 3.

When we consider the larger context of the Bible and internal problems of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, we can conclude a woman's utter silence in church gatherings is not what the scriptures are mandating. Now, we move onto the amount of authority a woman can exercise within the body. We know she can speak, but can she teach? Can she preach? Can she pastor? Can she lead prayer, songs, and ministries?

The "big guns" for the complementarian position on this matter is 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which taken at face value would bar women from not only teaching, but holding any position of "authority" over men. Division exists within complementarian-camps about just how far to apply this verse. Does this verse bar women from not only teaching the scripture to men, but from holding ANY teaching position in which they would instruct men? Should christian women be forbidden from becoming college professors at co-ed universities? Or public speakers? Should they be judges, senators, governors, or hold other political offices?Should christian women hire male employees if they run their own businesses? Extreme complementarians would assert that christian men should NEVER put themselves under a woman's authority in any setting: church, home, business, school, and so forth and that christian women should never aspire to obtain any position in the church, home, and business, political, and educational realms that would make them the "boss," "expert," "teacher," "instructor," or "leader" over men.

On the other hand, more moderate-complementarians claim this verse only applies to church and home. So, a woman may teach a man math or history in a college class, but cannot teach on scripture in a co-ed adult bible class. She may "share" a testimony or encouraging word, but cannot teach, pontificate, or expound upon the Bible. A woman may have authority over her male students or employees, but never in the church. In the church, she may never hold any position other than backup singer, nursery worker, or in solely women and children ministries.

As much as I appreciate moderate-complementarians' attempts to make 1 Timothy 2:9-15 a little less restrictive, there are no such convenient qualifiers found in the text itself. So to arrive at the moderate-complementarian conclusion, other interpretative tools must be explored, such as cultural and historical factors, who Paul is writing these words to and why (context), the original language, and so forth. When they do this, they arrive at their moderate-understanding and when egalitarians do this, we arrive at our equality-understanding. We can debate which interpretation is the stronger, more logical, and more probable, but neither side adheres to a completely face-value-type interpretation. So, I make this friendly reminder to discourage the inevitable comments from the "just take the bible for what is plainly says" crowd.

The next couple of posts will examine this perplexing verse by consulting the original language and the enlightening historical and cultural factors at play which are congruent with the larger context of 1 Timothy.

Is this verse a command/corrective measure to a specific church body encountering a specific problem or a universal command to keep women in an eternally subordinate position in all aspects of life?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ahh...Goofy, but Brilliant

Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, nailed the mainstream media's insatiable appetite for sensationalism, catch-twenty-two's, and double standards in this satirical-bit from last night's show. It's funny, don't be offended. :)

As the media indulges in the "mint-chocolate chip" subterfuge of the moment, can the rest of us get back to discussing real issues and not guilt by association. Yes, Wright crossed the line and squandered the opportunity to be a sane critic of Babylonian-esqu aspects of America, but must Barack Obama account for all of this? He came out and denounced the comments. Can't we hold him accountable for ISSUES. All the candidates are guilty of "association" with the "wrong" people. There are plenty of reasons voters can justifiably disagree with Obama and vote for someone else, and I respect that. But the mainstream media is doing a grave disservice to republicans, democrats, and everyone in between by continually distracting us with fake controversies and under-reporting the real issues that plague our country.