Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eschatology Decompressing: Some of the Best Books on Hell

There is something of an inner-family debate going amongst the evangelical family. At the moment, the traditionalist father is somewhat uneasily passing the potatoes to the conditionalist mothers, who is eying both the father and the kids, who are patiently waiting for the aforementioned potatoes because, well, it will get to the end eventually.

You see, the debate has become far more interesting and respectable as of late, what with the father being will to pass the now cooling potatoes to the mother and all. The mother, bless her strong heart, is happy to pass the dish either way, but she is more likely to double check with the father because...

Okay this analogy has become significantly less funny to me so I shall move on. Thanks for humoring me. Anyway.

There is an abundance of materials out now concerning the evangelical debate on the nature and duration of final punishment. While it is easy to simply google the various phrases (and if you did and ended up here, welcome!), I figured it would be helpful to simply list the various texts that have some significant pull in the world between the Church and the Academy.

I shall start with universalism, mostly because Universalism hasn't gotten a fair shake amongst many evangelicals. For good reason or not, one ought to engage with the best texts on the topic and I have listed them below:

Thomas Talbott's The Inescapable Love of God has just been released and has been quite influential in some parts of the evangelical world. It even has some traditionalist scholars praising it such as Jerry Walls.

For a broader view of the family dynamic, see Universal Salvation: The Current Debate. Reasonably respectful, though there is some sniping as to be expected, since the potatoes by this time have gotten quite cold.

Robin Parry, who is a lovely fellow, has written a book on the topic that I find quite attractive--though not enough to be an Evangelical Universalist (again). I found it far more persuasive than Talbott's and it merits some consideration.

For the traditionalist side of the family table, there are many books and a few of them are helpful. That may sound like a bit of a snipe, and it is. Unlike God, I'm allowed to not play favorites.

The singular best text that was written to explicitly defend the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment is Hell Under Fire. That said, there are issues within and the best chapter is Douglas Moo's contribution on Paul. The chapters that object to annihilationism and universalism likely won't change the mind of either party, and we're inclined to keep those potatoes at our end of the table thank you very much.

However, if one is a philosophy nerd, Jerry Walls' Hell: The Logic of Damnation is helpful. It is not the kind of book you break out at the dinner table (none of these are), but if one is partial to C.S. Lewis, one might find it attractive.

Judith Gundry-Volf's contribution (entitled "Universalism" pgs956-961) in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters directly tackles the topic of Pauline Universalism. She concludes that, “universalism may perhaps be best defended as an implication of some statements in Paul.” I found her case remarkably compelling. 

For those of us who prefer large books that are heavy enough to beat a goat to death with, Edward Fudge's The Fire that Consumes (edited by Robin Parry) is the standard weapon of choice. He tackles both Testaments and does so in a persuasive manner. Richard Bauckham notes that the book "is likely to remain a standard work to which everyone engaged with this issue will constantly return."

Hans Schwarz, Eschatology, is a helpful survey of the relevant biblical, scientific and theological terrain of the current landscape. Some may bristle at his rejections of both AN and UR, and many Dispensationalists will take offense as well, but its a great text. I reviewed and praised it here.

Samuele Bacchiocchi is a 7th Day Adventist (and pretty shockingly conservative, even for many conservatives) and he defends a synthesis of physicalism and annihilationism. I find some of his work a bit too general but his larger arguments are helpful and its a free pdf. Enjoy.

Oscar Cullmann is always awesome. I recommend him highly too, even for such a slim book its quite potent. Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection from the Dead?

For a great site dedicated to the topic of final punishment, enjoy the Rethinking Hell site.

I write this post mostly due to the fact that I just finished a research paper for Dr. Oliver Crisp, and I'm so full of hell that I need to write this to decompress. Now, where are those potatoes?


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Fathers on Philippians 2:6

I was combing through some of my notes for patristics, and Philippians 2:5-11 is a fun passage to see them wrestle with. This is no way to suggest that all Fathers thought the same things about Jesus, but I found these to be most interesting. So here are some interesting quotes:

Epiphanius, Ancoratus 4.4:
"You see that he reveals Christ to be a man but not merely so, since he is the mediator of God and humanity... He is trueborn God by nature with respect to his Father, but with respect to humanity he is Mary's trueborn son by nature, begotten without the seed of a man."
Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus Against Apollinarius:
"He did not say "having a nature like that of God," as would be said of [a man] who was made in the image of God. Rather Paul says being in the very form of God. All that is the Father's is in the Son."
Origen of Alexandria, Commentary on John 20:18:
"First one may contemplate him existing in his primary form, that of God, before he emptied himself. One will then see the Son of God not yet having come forth from him, the [incarnate] Lord not yet having proceeded from his place. But then compare the preexistent state of the Son with that which resulted from his assuming the form of a slave when he emptied himself. You will then understand how the Son of God came forth and came to us and as it were became distinguishable from the One who sent him. Yet in another way the Father did not simply let him go but is with him and is in the Son as the Son is in the Father."
Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 5:
"God who is eternally wise has with him his eternal Wisdom [the Son]. He is not in any way unequal to the Father. He is not in any respect inferior. For the apostle too says who, when he was in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God."
Lucifer of Cagliari, On Dying for the Son of God 12.16:
"It was he who was and is and always shall be in the form of the Father, the true Son, immutable and unchangeable because he is God and the all-powerful Son of the Almighty, who nonetheless deigned to lower himself for our salvation, so that he might cause us to rise even as we lay prostrate."
Ambrosiaster, Epistle to the Philippians 2.6:
"Knowing that he is in the form of God, he committed no theft .... Rightly, then, he equaled himself with God. For the one who thinks robbery is the one who makes himself equal to another whose inferior he is."
Eusebius of Vercelli, On the Trinity 3.4, 7:
"You must choose one of two paths. Either there is a single inequality in the two [divine Father and divine Son or there is a single equality in the glory of divinity itself. For no one is either greater or less than his own form...This singular equality is seen not only in the concord of their willing together. It is rather in their very deity, since the form of equality is in no way divided into parts. Where there is one equality there is no discord. Where there is one equality neither is prior to the other. Neither is posterior nor subordinate, since there is no distinction in the united equality, which is the fullness of divinity."
These can all be found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Paul's epistle to the Philippians.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Egalitarian Resources on Ephesians 5:21-33

I confess, I was both bothered by and loved Ephesians 5. Specifically, I was bothered by the seeming patriarchal undertones of Paul's language in v22-24, but loved how the husband was told to act in a way that seemed to defy his own interests. In other words, even when I thought this text enforced a patriarchal model for marriage (and this is different from the issue of women's ordination -- and I'm a firm supporter of both mutual submission and the ordination of women), in the applicative side of the equation, the man's 'headship' looked like he got the short end of the deal. I mean, the husband is told to give his life for his wife, where all she has to do is submit to ... letting him die for her.

Granted, my former interpretation was silly and once I examined the passage a bit more closely I changed my mind, but the point was still immensely interesting. The man is told to act in a way that a wife was expected to act. Paul, in my own opinion, is telling the husband to submit, though he does not use the specific word.

Anyway. Just a bit of back story on my thoughts. On to the real reason why you clicked the link.

Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ tackles the text in his usual masterful manner. While the chapter on Ephesians 5 is shorter and less in-depth than his treatment of other texts (though you can't really complain given that he spent more than 100 pages on 1 Cor. 11!), it is still meaty and offers several key exegetical observations such as the appositional phrasing of v23 and his treatment of that obnoxious word kephale. For a meta-study of kephale, see Alan F. Johnson's helpful (and up to date until 2009) article found in the Ashland Theological Journal.

I. Howard Marshall's contribution to Discovering Biblical Equality is surpassed by Payne, but Marshall offers several interesting theological and hermeneutical observations regarding trajectories and the issue of slavery.

Gordon Fee's Priscilla Paper's article is still a gold mine of historical insight, and I commend it to you. Its free, so that should help. The same should be said of Lisa Baumert's wonderful article as well, where she investigates the nature of biblical interpretation. Quite good!

As for commentaries, there are some. Walter Liefeld's IVPNT commentary is helpful. If one is able to get themselves past Andrew T. Lincoln's denial of Pauline authorship, his WBC commentary is helpful on a textual level (its a personal favorite commentary of mine). His commentary is the standard in the more broadly evangelical sphere.

F.F. Bruce also offers a generally egalitarian interpretation in his NICNT commentary on Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. He affirms Pauline authorship, though Bruce can never be said to be dogmatic about something for which there is some tension. An affable, able and solid commentary. You also can't go wrong with Ben Witherington III (BW3) and his socio-rhetorical commentary series. For a more expositional commentary, see Klyne Snodgrass.

For a lighter and personable post, see "Becoming an Egalitarian" from The Junia Project.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Review of Hans Schwarz's "Eschatology"

This is my second assignment for ST503 and Dr. Crisp. Its an early draft so be nice. Its my second paper to ever make it to the graduate level.  Enjoy!
A highly recommended book.
In the multifaceted world we inhabit, eschatology can encompass a multitude of disciplines: philosophy, science and theology. Hans Schwarz has offered the world an exceptionally readable volume that attempts to synthesize the best of all the aforementioned disciplines into a broad survey of the last things. He treads where many systematic theologies do not, especially in exploring various secular and progressive worldviews, seeking the truth in all of them. He largely succeeds and offers the reader his findings in three major parts.
Part one engages with the diversity and unity of both Testaments as they relate to eschatology. The historical background of the Old Testament “…was basically a death-driven culture” (32). As is often the case, existentialism and the knowledge of death are never far from each other where “…the living know that they will die but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). Schwarz notes the heightened “emphasis on the this-worldly aspect of life” (36) and because of this reality, to live seventy or even eighty years was desired above all else (Ps. 90:9-10), though these years were still a breath. Though his survey is expansive, Schwarz could have shown that the Old Testament attests to a longing for justice and that punishment of the wicked (Ps. 110:6; 139:18-20) does not happen in this life (Job 21:7; Jer. 12:1). Because of the lack of justice in this earthly existence, YHWH will act in the next life to bring judgment upon Israel’s oppressors, thus suggesting Israel and the world’s need for cosmic justice and the possibility of resurrection of the righteous and the wicked (Dan. 12:2; Isaiah 66:15-24).
Based off Schwarz’s findings in the Old Testament, he moves on to show that the New Testament has a more developed outlook on the question of eschatology with special attention placed on fulfillment in Christ. For example, Matthew “wants to show that the Old Testament promises have found their fulfillment in Jesus” (84). Schwarz then rightly insists upon continuity between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as both Testaments testify to Jesus and his mission and exaltation, though this was not as developed because the importance of Second Temple Judaism is left largely unmentioned. In regards to Jesus’ messianic understanding, Schwarz correctly claims that, “[Jesus] never delineated a chronology of life eternal nor a geography of the beyond” (80); this biblical obscurity has resulted in over two thousand years of speculation on the part of the Church, and it is indeed the most troubling aspect of Christian eschatology; especially since it lacks any sort of future details and relies on fragments to paint a broader picture. In sum, the biblical portraits are fractured and leave us to gather up the various portions. However, for Schwarz the biblical tensions are less worrisome because “Christ anticipates the resurrection of the dead through his own resurrection, thus providing us with a foundation for hope” (96). The resurrection of Jesus is paradigmatic of our future experience and this is congruent with Paul and John’s teachings regarding this matter (1 Cor. 15; John 5:29).
The End.
Part two reflects the larger debate between science, secularism and philosophy as they all relate to eschatology. Schwarz covers discussions over various theologies including process, feminist, liberationist and pluralism: the advocates comprise Wolfhart Pannenberg, John Cobb, Jürgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff among others. Each theologian’s perspective is examined and given a place at the table for a fair exchange, though not without critique. Process theology is specifically singled out and one must ask to what extent Christian doctrine is maintained amongst a pluralistic worldview—a point of view decidedly not shared by the New Testament. Because of this, Schwarz notes “Cobb’s proposal seems more akin to the Hellenistic striving for oneness as demonstrated by Platonic and Aristotelian ontologically grounded philosophy. The Christian faith, however, is characterized by individuality in unity” (169-170). This is a successful critique and could be pressed further to include the imagery of incorporation of human beings into Christ’s body, his Church (1 Cor. 12:12-28), illustrating the necessity of all Christians, American and other, citizen and immigrant, and male and female, to be one in status in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Individuality is maintained and corporatized, allowing personality to thrive within community. It is also worthy to note the claim that Scripture appears soteriologically exclusive rather than pluralistic, as the famous Shema  (Deut. 6:4) proclaims a strict Jewish monotheism. Paul also affirms (and expands) this famous text in 1 Cor. 8:4-6 to include Jesus (see Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology, Hendrickson, 2007, 88-94), making pluralism (and subsequent process thought) difficult to accept on the basis of biblical texts as the exclusive divinity of Christ is attested above all other faiths (John 14:6).
With his mind tuned to environmental concerns, Schwarz adds to the discussion concerning the ecological crisis, where “life is sustained only be exploiting the inanimate world” (195). Life feeds on life, and this appears to be an apocalyptic outcome of consumerist exploitation (196), which compounds the problem of the greenhouse effect (196-199) and overpopulation (201-202). The issue is that “humanity elevated itself into God’s place…and ‘for the glory of God’ was replaced by the glorification and deification of humanity” (205). We live in a seemingly limited creation and this brings up an ominous question: was earth meant to sustain human life forever? Human progress has taken a left turn in the dark and Schwarz thankfully recognizes that without hope, humankind has nothing left for itself: “…what can we, as Christians, actually offer in terms of the content of hope?” (243). Schwarz does not despair, and pushes on with the task of offering hope to a dying world.
In the final part of his work, Schwarz covers four controversial areas of Christian eschatology: setting an actual date for the end of all things, the millennium and its various flavors, universal salvation and purgatory. Schwarz flatly rejects any attempt to place a time to the coming of Christ as “not about outguessing the Lord but being faithful to the call” (321), and like many church fathers (Luther, Augustine) he discards the timetable method and opts for hope. In doing so, his points stands well under scrutiny as the New Testament never set a date to the return of Christ. As regards the millennium, He takes the greatest exception with dispensationalism and concurs with Dale Moody; “we could simply discard these [end times] theories as ‘undue speculation over highly symbolic teachings’” (335). The damage done by this apocalyptic teaching is not glossed over by Schwarz and it has no doubt “been misused for political and religious purposes” (336), especially within the context of modern fundamentalism which misses the purpose of apocalyptic imagery: to bring hope to those who are oppressed, “not…in a triumphalistic manner, but as a pastoral comfort” (337). Schwarz is certainly on point with this admonition, and those of us who have come out of fundamentalism will resonate because of the entrenched emphasis on the rapture and fighting culture wars instead of the necessity of justice for widows and orphans (James 1:27).
Oh Camping.
Considering the doctrine of universal salvation, Schwarz pointedly concludes “we have little biblical ground to go on for a universal homecoming or a restoration of all things to God” (337). In light of the numerous judgment texts in Scripture (Isaiah 66:24; Matt. 10:28; 25:41-46; Jude 7), one would concur that universal salvation is indeed a difficult theological proposition to embrace. However, Schwarz does not engage the strongest Universalist arguments from the basic proof texts (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10). This reveals a missed chance to answer lingering questions in the minds of many evangelicals who opt for universalism on the basis of such verses.
Because of his his rejection of universalism, Schwarz is committed to the two-fold outcome of human destiny. Unfortunately, Schwarz leaves himself open to criticism from another side in the Christian debate as Annihilationists (or Conditionalists) would affirm the twofold outcome of eternal judgment and share his views of an eternal punishment. However, Schwarz rejects annihilationism in favor of eternal conscious torment (395-97; 402) by means of a question: “how can there be an annihilation of anybody if there is no escape from God, since God is everywhere, even in death and beyond death?” (396). The question is a non sequitur and one could answer it this way: as it took a divine act of creation to impute life into that which was lifeless (Gen. 2:7), so it is also a divine act of destruction when God destroys both body and soul (Matt. 10:28). Human finitude is evident in that only God is immortal (1 Tim. 6:16) and any life given to us is derived from the Creator, a sentiment that Schwarz explicitly affirms (257). Thus any eternal life, a phrase that seems restricted solely to the elect (e.g. Matt 19:16; 25:46; John 3:15-16, 36; 10:28; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:23; Gal. 6:8), is denied to those not in Christ.
Curiously, while Schwarz mentions Oscar Cullmann several times throughout his book (73n, 119, 140), he betrays no awareness of the annihilationist arguments in Cullmann’s Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? (Wipf & Stock, reprinted 2000). Cullmann’s words are powerful: “For Christian (and Jewish) thinking the death of the body is also destruction of God-created life. No distinction is made: even the life of our body is true life; death is the destruction of all life created by God” (Immortality, 11). Scripture seems to suggest death (Ps. 68:2; Is. 66:24; Luke 13:3,5; John 3:16; Rom. 6:23) and eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:9) as the end result of the wicked—not their eternal torment.  To suggest the traditional doctrine of eternal torment seems to promote a vision of final eschatological dualism, one that does not seem to fit comfortably into Schwarz’s theological vision of “the completion of the universe” (404).
@thenakedpastor. Wonderful art.
Eschatology must be seen not as despair, but as hope. Proleptic anticipation, which views the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the commencement of the event of new creation, is the operative lens by which Schwarz concludes his volume. We see everything in light of Christ, and we “anticipate proleptically this future along the avenue which the Christ event provides” (407). Schwarz has written a truly magisterial book and there is much to commend. His depth is illustrated by his familiarity of diverse theologians and his ability to faithfully represent their perspectives even though he may passionately disagree is a model of charity. The chapters relating to science, ecology and scientific reason were especially insightful, bringing material to light to readers who otherwise would not have known about external worldly developments. Because of this inclusion, theologians will now be able to further benefit the church, allowing us to both engage and learn more as we progress in mutual respect towards the future. While a reader may dispute his interpretation on certain doctrines (such as his lack of engagement with annihilationism and universalism), his irenic tone epitomizes Saint Paul’s admonition in Rom. 12:9-21, especially since we are called to “love one another with mutual affection” and we “extend hospitality to strangers.” 
It took everything in me to not jump back to old habits by giving this 4.5 stars. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hopped and Bothered: Angry Orchard Iceman

Angry Orchard — Iceman

Well, its been a while since I’ve blogged and to make up for it, here is a beer/cider review. I'm also thinking about doing a podcast in the future so there is that. :)

Alcohol content: 10%.

It pours almost with the consistency of maple syrup. The fragrance is astounding. Beyond the spiced and sour apple, you get brown sugar, vanilla, all-spice, toffee, caramel and a hint of cedar and oak. Its a sticky sweet, like a ripe pear, sticking to the roof of your mouth. The acidity does not drown out the alcohol burn, and the sweetness never compromises the flavors.

Its an astoundingly sweet and rich concoction. There’s even a bit of honey in the finish. Well worth your time.

Buy if: you have no excuse. For a good price, get it at Costco. Its roughly $3 cheaper.

Overall: my favorite hard cider. Period.

5 Hops out of Five.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jezebels, Fundies & My Wife's Review of a Truly Terrible Book


My wife reviewed a truly terrible book this weekend, mostly because a friend piqued her interest. Not in the sense that 'this book will change your life' but 'how this book will destroy your marriage.' Yes. It is that bad. I had to hear about it all weekend as my wife's gasps and eye rolling couldn't dissuade her from sharing the contents of this slaughterhouse piece of hearty half-fiction. Check it out.
While there were many things I found disturbing—the way the author approached Scripture was more than disconcerting—and while the author claimed to believe the Bible was the highest authority, so much of what she did was read things into the text (as she did with the letters she received) instead of taking things out of the text.
Very frequently, the author would lift out single verses from their context and apply them to whatever point she was making. This gave the appearance that her view was biblical when—in actuality—there was very little in the text to support her claim. At other times she would tell the reader what the biblical narrative taught—only it wasn’t to be found—anywhere—in Scripture.
For example, look through the beginning portion of Genesis and see if you can find it say anywhere that Satan decided to target Eve because he knew Adam could not be deceived or that males have a natural resistance to Satan and that women are naturally naïve (107-108). 1 Timothy 2:13-14 does indeed tell us that Eve was the one who was deceived but it does not claim that all women are or that God made them this way or that Satan was looking for this. After all, if women were more easily deceived overall why would God command that women teach other women and children? Isn’t that just a wreck waiting to happen?
Did Eve leave Adam’s side to confront the Devil’s logic alone as this author claims? Not according to Genesis 3:6.
This was just one example, but you can see it everywhere in the book. The author tells you that the picture God creates of a woman is one without armor, “because he intended for her to stand behind her husband’s armor” (108). All of this is linked to her understanding of Genesis, and none of this is actually in the Bible.
The author often leaves out important bits of scriptural information that would better clarify the situation.
For example, on page 96 she tells us that God appointed Adam (man) to rule the planet. Does the Bible say this? Yes. Throughout chapter 8 (75) men are represented as made in God’s image. Are they? Well, yes. However, the Bible says women are also appointed to rule over the planet and women are made in God’s image as well.
For the entire post, try to enjoy it here.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

In Christ: Galatians 3:28 And the Equality of Women

The main claim to this explosive text is thus: its chief concern is soteriology, not church status.[1] It, thus, has no (or limited) social implications. One needn’t look far into one of the type/anti-types to see how this would be a problem. Take for example slavery. Klyne Snodgrass has shown that such a bifurcation is unwarranted by the context, and that the same (or similar) arguments were made by slave owners when abolitionists appealed to this text.[2] So the issue is not that Christian men and women can be saved. Paul wouldn’t have balked at that, as he already assumed that Greeks could be saved; this was, after all his mission as “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:3). The “gar” (for or because) in v26 and v27 show that Paul is giving reasons against excluding Gentiles, slaves and women from life in the church. Indeed, “in Christ” is a key distinction of life (especially in Galatians 1:22) in the body of Christ[3] and of the New Creation (see 2 Cor. 5:17-19). This includes the declaration in 5:6 that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumsion has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” This is an explicit statement about life in the church, and what the loopholes were for a Greek to become in the church. Of interest is Michael Gorman's statement in Apostle of the Crucified Lord (pg210) that, "it is certainly within the realm of possibility, for instance, that Paul's opposition to circumcision is at least partially motivated (or confirmed) by its exclusion of women."

The phrase “male and female” is the exact phrasing of the LXX translation of Genesis 1:27, which talks about the creation of male and female in the image of God. What follows in the first creation account is not spiritual authority or church government, but the tending to the garden and the enjoyment of God’s creation. According to F.F. Bruce, "In Christ, Paul believed and affirmed, there was neither Jew nor Greek", whatever distinctions might persist in the world at large. The middle wall of partition between them had been demolished by the work of Christ; Paul would not stand idly by and see it rebuilt, whether as a religious or social barrier.”[4]

Although Bruce has primarily a race relationship in mind here, it isn't difficult to apply the same social difference to slave/free and male/female. Philip Payne argues that there are two reasons why there must not be race/class/ gender-based hierarchy in the church: “One...the identical expression ‘there is no...’ introduces each pair, and second, because each of the three statements is absolute with no qualifications.”[5] The parallelism of each phrase is identical; thus to break the social implications set by Paul[6] here would not only break his argument, but render him inconsistent. What is more powerful is the idea of Law, and the social implications that came with it. Philip Payne lists nearly 50 theological, literary, and cultural reasons why this marvelous text can’t and shouldn’t be divorced from life in the church.[7] I will cite the most potent ones below:[8]
  • Colossians 3:10 describes God creating the new self, in which there is no ranking in practice by ethnicity or economic status.[9]
  • The Holy Spirit works in all believers (Rom. 8:14; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:16, 22, 25; Eph. 3:1; 5:18).
  • In Galatians 3:29, “heirs of Abraham according to promise” refers to the Abrahamic blessing to all nations. All seven blessings in Genesis 12:1-3 are about relationships with people.[10]
  • As far as we know, there was no dispute at that time that Gentiles, slaves, or women could become Christians. Rather, Galatians addresses treatment of Gentiles as second-class citizens.
  • Paul typically uses the Greek conjunction between Jew and Greek and slave and free, “oude” to join two elements to convey one idea. Paul did not intend two 
separate ideas, “there is no Jew in Christ and there is no Greek in Christ,” since there are Jews in Christ and there are Greeks in Christ. Each pair makes a single point: in Christ there is no Jew/Greek division and no slave/free division... Nothing in the text limits their application to standing before God.
Many manuscripts include “male and female” in v11 of the Colossians 3 parallel.[11] Another argument to consider is an education one. Contrast again the statements by Rabban Gamaliel: "Before God all are equal: women and slave, poor and rich..." (Midr. Rab. Exod. 14,15). "Whether Israelite or Gentile, man or woman, male or female slave -- according to their works the Holy Spirit dwells also upon him." (Tanna Elialm R. 9). The structures are similar, touching on each group: women, slaves, poor and rich. The second statement is nearly identical:

Tanna Elialim R. 9 [Gamaliel] -- Galatians 3:28 [Paul]

Israelite/ Gentile -- Jew/Greek
Man/Woman -- Slave/Free

Male Slave/Female Slave -- Male/Female[12]

The structure is so similar that it is nearly impossible that Paul wouldn’t be influenced by it, especially given his established background. Three distinct pairs are presented and thus refuted by a claim of unity via the Divine will.
This is a controlling text for Paul as it perfectly reflects the image not only of Gamaliel, but this text comes early on before any "prohibitive" text. Also included is the direct inference from the text from Gamaliel, showing that Paul is indebted to a tradition that has been around before him.[13] Thus unless Paul is of two minds, each text ought to be weighed in light of this text. Galatians 3:28 closely resembles the Jewish prayer "Thank God I am [not]... heathen... bondman...woman," following the same order as: Gentile, slave, woman.[14] This shows that Paul is aware of how his theology of race, class and gender dictates his practice, and how the churches of God ought to behave. To disregard the final clause is not only disruptive of the context, but it categorically denies what Paul and Gamaliel affirmed. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each another" (Gal 5:25-26). F.F. Bruce notes, “Paul states the basic principle here [Galatians 3:28]; if restrictions on it are found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, as in 1 Cor. 14:34f...or 1 Timothy 2:11f., they are to be understood in relation to Gal. 3:28, and not vice versa.”[15]

How the Church acts upon spiritual admonitions will always trickle down to the pulpit, to the children’s ministry, and to those who volunteer to serve coffee. In other words, spiritual commands are always practically motivated and demand action within the Church. Paul is not giving wayward nor abstract principles; he is concerned with the dust, grime and blood that keep the Church alive. Race, gender and status presuppose personal relationships and any barrier that inhibits these relationships is done away with in the command to become one "in Christ."


[1] Wayne A. Meeks argues against both views, saying that Paul envisions a type of androgyny here. This has becomes a mildly popular view in more mainline scholarship, but it bears several problems: for one, it is likely that Paul wouldn’t erase distinctions (especially in light of spiritual gifts and the application therein) on the basis of gender. Also, given Paul’s preoccupation with unity and the diversity of the body of Christ, it seems at odds with his generally conservative view of human sexuality. Finally, Paul’s other writings (Eph 5:21-33) do suggest distinctions based on ontology, but the issue isn’t about the subordination of women, but the genuine mutual complementarity of the sexes. It is about what enhances, not what is beneath.
[2] Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Galatians 3:28: Conundrum or Solution?” Women, Authority & The Bible, 162- 165.

[3] This is just a sampling from Romans: 6:23; 8:1; 8:39; 12:5; 15:7 and especially 16:3 and 16:7, where Paul mentions fellow “co-workers” and “apostles” in Christ. See also 1 Cor. 1:30; 10:16; 15:22. 2 Cor. 1:20-21. Eph. 1:1-13 includes spiritual blessings to the holy people, as well as hope and the Holy Spirit. We are also created “in Christ” to do good works in 2:10.
[4] F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 178.
[5] Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ, 97.
[6] Who elsewhere talks about the two becoming one in Ephesians 2:13-14, and what is more problematic for those who exclude women is Paul’s own confrontation with Peter in Galatians 2:11-14? Peter did discriminate on the basis of race, and Paul said he was acting contrary to the Gospel. Would Paul, based on his own theo-logic, be mistaken to act in the same way as Peter? I think the answer is more than obvious.
[7] Another factor to consider is that the reference to baptism in 3:27 indicates not just a spiritual standing, but more prominently that Greek, slaves and woman are now inaugurated into the new community of God.
[8] These applications may be found in “Galatians 3:28’s Application of Paul’s New Creation Teaching to the Status of Women in Church” in Priscilla Papers special edition 2012, 11-16.
[9] My note: this is a direct parallel passage to Galatians 3:38, as is 1 Corinthians 12:21. This suggests a baptismal formula within the early Jewish-Christian communities, as Galatians 3:27 infers baptism.
[10] Even if this were only in salvific terms (which I think is false), it still presupposes the interaction among believers in the body of Christ. Thus, even if a complementarian wants to suggest that Gal. 3:28 is merely about soteriology, the very nature of soteriology presupposes the reconciliation between not only God and 
humanity, but humanity within itself. We are to work out our faith in the context of the Christian community, and with fear and trembling.
[11] The Vulgate, Hilary (d. 367), Ambrose (d. 397), D*, F G 629. See n.40 for Philip Payne’s masterful article.

[12] Interestingly, Gamaliel distinguishes between genders in regards to slaves. Though the ordering is different, the principles are clear and explicit: there is no division within the Christian communities.
[13] There is evidence of women leaders of synagogues. See Belleville, Women Leaders and the Church, 28- 29. These references are before, during, and after the time of Paul.

[14] Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ, cites variations on the prayer, 84 n.7.

[15] F.F. Bruce, Galatians, 190.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Apostles, Deacons & The Women of Romans 16


Paul speaks strongly to the Jew/Gentile division in the Church of Rome with a particular emphasis in ch9-11 which culminates with the idea of universal mercy and the mystery of God’s ultimate plan (11:32-36).[1] While these three chapters have over 400 years of sordid and divided history in the post-reformation age, they aren’t the main focus of this paper. We will instead be focusing on the women mentioned in ch16. As we will see, the women listed by the Apostle Paul indicates his inclusion of women in all aspects of church life.


The final chapter of Romans is most pertinent to the contemporary gender debate,[2] beginning with the very first verse, which commends “our sister Phoebe, a deacon (diakonos: minister, patron, servant) of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.” (NRSV).[3] There are numerous indications that this chapter is intended as a letter of recommendation. For one, this was a common way of recommending someone in the Greco-Roman world,[4] the New Testament era (2 Cor. 3:1) as well as in Second Temple Judaism (1 Macc. 12:43; 2 Macc. 9:25).

Second, the honor of being named first indicates (many times) priority,[5] and Paul’s use of the term “adelphe” (sister) is indicative of two things: one, Paul views her in the Body of Christ, implicitly assuming their shared unity in the Gospel of God, and that he views her highly enough to showcase her personal involvement in his life.

Simply, Paul trusts her, and he makes it plain that the Church is to follow in his stead, for she has been a leader (or patron) of many, including Paul. It is most likely that Phoebe is the first recorded “deacon” in the churches of God within the New Testament. “Help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a great help (prostatis) to me” lexically enforces the notion that she was akin to a leader/patron/champion of Paul.[6] Many complementarians concede that Phoebe was a deacon in the church[7] and that this most likely refers to a position of leadership.[8] If Phoebe was indeed a deacon as well as a leader, which would likely require not only financial benefaction, but also spiritual guidance.[9]


“Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the convert [first fruits] in Asia for Christ.” Romans 16:3-5 (NRSV). There is an implicit connection between Luke/Acts and Paul, with Prisca and Aquila being mentioned numerous times already.[11] This wife and husband couple is so close to Paul, that they even risked their lives for him. Four of the six times in the New Testament, Prisca is named before Apollos, which is unheard of in ancient patriarchal culture.[12] In fact, this same culture would’ve largely found fault with this. For example, in Democritus in his Sayings 111, “To be ruled by a woman is the worst insult for a man.” Also Pseudo-Lucian’s (Am. 38 8:210-11) says, “Let women be ciphers and be retained merely for child-bearing; but in all else away with them.”

If we accept the standard belief that ancient women were elevated by their husbands’ status,[13] then the reverse would most likely entail something quite unique.[14] It is entirely plausible that Prisca is the dominant evangelist, and this would showcase the fact that class meant little to Paul in the calling of all people to proclaim the Gospel of God.[15] In Acts 18:2, Aquila is named first in the context of a traveling journey; ministry doesn’t appear to be in the picture. In Acts 18:18, Prisca and Aquila accompany Paul, but the description appears neutral. However, if the three of them were together, it is most unlikely that they would be discussing only the weather. Acts 18:26 shows Prisca and Aquila together explaining the word of God to Apollos “more accurately.” This is active ministry (accompanied by the Way reference in 18:25; 19:9; 19:23 as well as Paul’s inference that he persecuted this “Way” in 22:4, putting both men and women in prison.) Paul’s three references include two priority placements of Prisca, and one of Aquila.

The most convicting aspect of these few verses is the revelation that a church was a home, the place of dwelling. The church that meets in “their” house (plural) (v5) indicates a shared view of property, but also of ministry. Those who would exclude women from ministry fail to account for this data, especially in a time where ‘church’ as we know it often took place under the cover of night, in secret and in tenement houses. For Paul, Prisca and Aquila, ministry wasn’t bound by a location; instead it was a community of called people, born again into the image of God, reflected in the desire to convert the whole world for Him. Ministry in the home and in the ‘church’ was shared mutually, given to us by Paul. An interesting side note: to invite someone into your home then (and to some extent now) is to break bread and fellowship. To eat with one another in the time of Paul was to set aside difference, which is why Paul reacted so strongly against Peter, who withdrew from the table of Gentiles (Gal 2:11-14). Imagine how strongly Paul felt about this, and how little this seems to matter to God’s church. Imagine what is now at stake, especially when we not only refuse to break bread with the “other” but with one another.


Unanimously for the first one thousand years of church history, Junia was a woman[16] and most contemporary scholars echo this fact.[17] Church fathers who confirm these are Origen of Alexandria (185-254), Ambrosiaster (375) who used the variant (and very common female name) Julia; Ambrose (339-397); Jerome (345-419); Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-458); Pseudo-Primasius (who died ca. 567); John Damascene (675-749); and most importantly John Chrysostom (344/345-407) who said what deserves to be quoted in full: “Greet Andronicus and Junia...who are outstanding among the apostles”: To be an Apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles – just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” (Ep. Ad Romanos 31.2). Chrysostom’s argument renders that objection vacuous. He explicitly gives it the name laden with meaning, “title.” This was reserved for the ‘elite’ of the apostles, and he includes her in this range.[18] As we will see in Richard Bauckham’s study, this objection is furthermore not to be taken seriously. Bernadette Brooten notes that, “To date not a single Greek or Latin inscription, not a single reference in ancient literature has been cited by any of the proponents of the Junias hypothesis. My own search has also proved fruitless. This means that we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed.”[19]

Richard Bauckham has offered us an enormously attractive reading of this text.[20] His main thesis is that Junia[21] is the same Joanna from Luke 8:3 and 24:10. To be “in Christ” not only indicates church life, but as Bauckham argues, Joanna was a patron of Jesus. The two women are one and the same. He gives several reasons: the practice of [Jews] adopting Greek names was well established before the Roman occupation,[22] and when Jews did adopt these names, they chose sound-equivalent (nearly identical) names.[23] A common example is that the Greek name Simon is a sound equivalent to the Hebrew name Simeon.[24] He gives several examples of this, contrasting Greek with Hebrew, but quoting only two will suffice: Jason – Jesus (Yeshu’a) and Julius/Julianus – Judah.[25] That both Luke and Paul are aware of each other could indicate a shared knowledge of those ‘in Christ.’ Also of note is that this is likely of Paul as well, for he was called Saul in Acts, and that “Luke can call John Mark retrospectively, ‘John whose other name was Mark,’ when in Luke’s narrative he is still in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12, 25) is a valuable clue.”[26] It is clear that it would not have been outside the range of plausibility’s that Joanna could’ve adopted a Greek name for missions work, and that Luke and Paul would’ve known her.[27] This would then make Joanna an eyewitness to Jesus, having served with him in his earthly ministry (Luke 8:3) and having proclaimed his resurrection to the male apostles (Luke 24:10).[28] She would be an Apostle of the Apostles.

This would give Joanna apostolic authority, and would actually place her over Paul, as he never witnessed the earthly Jesus or his resurrection. The fact that Joanna/Junia’s husband isn’t mentioned in Luke indicates that she may have been his source of spiritual conversion and calling.[29] Bauckham’s revelatory and powerful historical sketch deserves careful attention but the concluding paragraph is especially poignant:

“It was because of their apostolic labors in Rome for more than a decade, while Paul was founding churches in Asia Minor and Greece, that Paul, writing to the Christians of Rome in the mid-50s, was able to call Junia and her husband “outstanding among the apostles.” Christians in Rome were often suspected of being politically subversive, and from time to time their leaders were arrested. When Paul wrote his letter, Junia and Andronicus were imprisoned. We know no more of them, but perhaps, some years later, the evangelist Luke spent many hours with Junia, hearing from her the version of the Gospel traditions as she had been long telling them.”[30]

One can only imagine the honor of hearing the stories of one of the most outstanding women God has given to the world, and what a debt we owe to her.[31] Christian history, it seems, is built off the deeds of such women.


For further resources, see Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ; Linda Belleville, Women Leaders and the Church; Christians for Biblical Equality; The Junia Project; Ronald Pierce (a prof of mine), Discovering Biblical Equality.

End notes:

[1] Grant Osborne, Romans, offers a magnificent explanation of these contentious chapters. For something more focused, Brian Abasciano, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis.
[2] The firestorm for most exegetes involves this chapter, and Paul names many women who seem to be in positions of influence and power.
[3] The primary influences of this section involve the commentaries of Ben Witherington III, James D.G. Dunn and C.E.B. Cranfield. Special attention is paid to Eldon J. Epp wonderful study on Junia in the manuscript tradition, Junia: The First Woman Apostle, as well as the study of Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women.
[4] Pseudo-Demetrius (Epistolary Types 2) is a good example. Certain phrases stand out: “You will do well if you deem him worthy of a welcome both for my sake, and his, and indeed for your own.” Notice the thematic consistency between this type of language and Paul’s letter to Philemon.
[5] Most likely, this would indicate some sense of social standing; however, since Paul is less inclined to elevate one’s societal status, this more probably refers to her level of influence within the Christian communities.
[6] LSJ 1526-27 has numerous examples for the feminine form of “prostatis”: one who stands before... leader, chief, ruler, administrator, patron, guardian, champion.
[7] For example, Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 460-61; Charles C. Ryrie, The Role of Women in the Church, 88, 140.
[8] James D.G. Dunn, Romans, 2:885-890; Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women, 310-11; Philip B. Payne, “Libertarian Women in Ephesus: A Response to Douglas J. Moo’s Article, ‘1 Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance’,” Trinity Journal 2 NS (1981): 169-97, 195.
[9] Ben Witherington III says “Paul calls Phoebe and those with Philologus “saints,” which is probably a code word for Jewish Christians.” Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 380.
[10] Many modern translations usually render her name Priscilla. I have chosen to be as faithful as I can to her original context, thus the name will be rendered Prisca. This diminutive form of her name is supported by p46 as well as other early manuscripts. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the New Testament, 475.
[11] Paul has already mentioned them 1 Cor. 16:19, using the same language. See especially the greetings to the “church in their house.” The only difference is that Aquila is named first. Paul will also mention Prisca and Aquila in 2 Timothy 4:19. Acts 18 presents Prisca and her husband working together, instructing Apollos.
[12] Witherington also notes that her being mentioned first “has also been explained on the basis of her being of higher social status than her husband or more prominent in the church.” Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 385. While it is not impossible that women in the ancient world would be wealthier than their husbands, the evidence would expect the reverse. When mentioning their active ministry, it appears that Prisca took the initiative.
[13] Plutarch (Advice to the Bride and Groom. 14, Mor. 140a), “The wife ought to have no feelings of her own, but she should join with her husband in seriousness and sportiveness and in soberness and laughter.” (19, Mor. 140d): “A wife ought not to make friends of her own, but to enjoy her husband’s friends in common with him.”
[14] If they shared the same religious belief, cultural custom would demand that she share in his conversion. However, given that Christianity wasn’t a religion of “force,” it may indicate that whoever converted the other, it developed beyond the cultural assumptions of male/leader and female/subordinate; seen in Aristotle, Pol. 1260.a.23- 24 who says, “the courage of command [is male] and the other [woman] is that of subordinate.” What we have here instead is an early Christian witness towards an egalitarian marriage.
[15] Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:5; 14:5, 31.
[16] Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle documents this, citing Linda L. Belleville’s findings as well, 32-33.
[17] Other scholars who confirm this are C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans, 2:788-90; James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, 894; Peter Lampe, “Junias,” ABD 3:1127. He identifies over 250 examples of Junia in ancient literature, while finding none of Junias; Richard S. Cervin, “A Note Regarding the Name Junia(s) in Romans 16:7,” NTS 40 (1994): 464-470; Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels, 165-186; Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, 241-242. Grant R. Osborne, Romans, 406-408, who notes that if “they were among the “apostles” of 1 Cor. 15:7, that would mean they had probably been followers of the Lord himself.”
[18] As does John of Damascus (ca. 675-749), who writes “and to be called “apostles” is a great thing...but to be even amongst these of note, just consider what a great encomium this is.” (Commentary on Paul’s Epistles 95.565).
[19] Bernadette Brooten, “Junia...Outstanding Among the Apostles,” 142.
[20] Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels, 165-86. His work is cited favorably by Witherington, Payne, and Epps.
[21] He argues forcefully for the now vastly mainstream (in line with patristics, a nice link between tradition and modern exegesis) view that Junia was indeed a woman, and is to be counted as ‘outstanding among the apostles.’
[22] Gospel Women, 182.
[23] Ibid, 182.
[24] Ibid, 182. Bauckham favorably cites N. Lewis, Y. Yadin, and J.C. Greenfield, eds., The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters, nos. 21-22.
[25] Ibid, 182.
[26] Ibid, 185.
[27] Considering that Paul wrote Phoebe a letter of recommendation, it isn’t difficult to imagine he did the same for others.
[28] As well as other women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and others that sadly go unnamed.
[29] Considering that he isn’t mentioned, it is possible that he hadn’t been called into Christ yet. Assuming also, as many scholars do, that Andronicus is indeed her husband. I see no issue either way and haven’t personally decided. If he wasn’t her husband or relative, then the relationship would be best explained as two members of the Body of Christ.
[30] Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women of the Gospels, 194-198, 198.
[31] That Paul would include not only her, but the mother of Rufus (who was ‘a mother to me also’) but also Tryphena, Tryphosa as ‘workers in the Lord’ v12, Mary “who worked very hard among you” in v6. TDNT 3:829 notes that the Greek word for “worked hard” means “missionary and pastoral work...of the highest esteem.”