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."

NQ

[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

ROMAN HOLIDAY

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.

PHOEBE

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]

PRISCA[10] & AQUILLA

“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.

JUNIA, THE OUTSTANDING FEMALE APOSTLE

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.

--NQ



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.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Seminarian: A Brief Post on Scripture and Abortion

This is a small section of a paper I wrote for a scholarship. I recognize that this topic is highly sensitive, so I just want to acknowledge the complexities surrounding this very tense topic. Having read a few extra books since then on this topic, I know I could add more, but for the sake of my sanity I will just post this as is. As someone who came into this pro-life, I leave relatively committed to the pro-life belief.

Thanks for reading in advance.

There is a divergent stream of thought on the issue of abortion, though this is less a problem within the church. Michael Gorman lists three positions related to this issue: the first is that “abortion is (perhaps with rare exceptions) unethical. Second, “abortion is tragic but justified in certain circumstances.” Finally, “the agent [is] sacred and capable of making a free, responsible decision without providing formal justification [in favor of abortion].[1] It has been pointed out that Scripture says little – or nothing[2] – about abortion, and this is true to a certain extent, though potentially misleading. I think a more fruitful and appropriate inquiry is to ask what does Scripture say about fetuses, babies and children? That way, implications – as opposed to didactic statements regarding controversial topics – can be addressed and Scripture may speak where it has a voice.[3] There are many contemporary examples within biblical studies that involve this type of interaction[4] but the principle I am proposing stands: implications, when there are no explicit texts, are then brought fully into the discussion.[5]

The Torah says little by way of abortion, but murder is clearly condemned (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17); the implication is that if a fetus were indeed a human person, the Torah would outlaw such practice. However, the Torah doesn’t specify person hood to this extent. In some sense, the loss of a child by accident (Ex. 21:22-25) results in a monetary fine for the offender, not the death penalty.[6] Utilizing common motifs, the narratives of the Old Testament showcase the grief and sadness when the matriarchs are unable to conceive of children,[7] and there is wonder when Isaac prays for his barren wife Rebekah and she conceives (Genesis 25:21). The actions of YHWH offer children to the women, and this is by implication a sign that YHWH is indeed involved, in some way, with the conceptual process. Regardless of the lack of didactic statements, the writers are often amazed at YHWH’s involvement in the mundane and in the bleak. This is poetically expressed in Psalm 139:13-17 and Jeremiah 1:5, where God “forms” the child. Richard Hays notes that these texts “are confessions about God’s divine foreknowledge and care.”[8] This beautiful poetry indicates not only that God is involved, but also that he knows the child before birth.[9] In Luke 1:4-44, Elizabeth’s exclamation that “the child in my womb leapt for joy” is certainly not a scientific observation, but an expression at mystery and wonder of the child within her. In short, it is a theologically rich proclamation, laden with the promise of the Messiah. This doesn’t speak directly to abortion, but it speaks to the value placed on the baby and the affirmation of divine promise.

In Didache (2.2), a post-New Testament document written roughly around the end of the first century AD, abortion is explicitly condemned, illustrating that abortion is not only known by the early church, but also believed to be an act of immorality. The Jewish belief appears to be the same. First century Jewish historian Josephus states, “the law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have done so, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind.”[10] Included within the ‘law’ code are various other rules that mirror the Ten Commandments.[11] Based on this biblical material, we can reasonably conclude that abortion is unethical.

--NQ

Recommended resources:

Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament; a moderate perspective that doesn't conclude dogmatically on the topic; however, a balanced and respectable contribution. Michael Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church; a masterful and incisive glance at our early history.

End notes.

[1] Michael J. Gorman, “Abortion,” Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, ed. Joel B. Green, 35. The nuances of the various positions are contained therein.
[2] Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 446.
[3] This is not to suggest that other theologians don’t allow Scripture to speak to the issue. However, when you have the question framed in such a way as to render it as silent, the question is begged and the conversation is stifled before it has begun.
[4] As example may be used as such: it is said that Jesus never condemned homosexual practice. This is a true statement, but it reduces implications and historical awareness for the sake of scoring rhetorical points. While Jesus never promoted/condemned homosexual practice, he consistently appealed to a male/female relationship as the basis for marriage (cf. Mark 10; par Matthew 19).
[5] Richard Hays points out that the LXX Greek translation of Ex. 21:22-15 grants personhood to the child, though there are some translational ambiguities. The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 447.
[6] The Torah does offer the death penalty for sins. A mere sample includes cursing parents (Ex. 21:17) and striking parents (Ex. 21:15), which apply to children; kidnapping (Ex. 21:16); bestiality (Ex. 22:19); prostitution (Lev. 21:9); murder (Num. 35:18-21).
[7] Sarah in Genesis 11; Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2.
[8] Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 448.

[9] Other texts that imply this include Job 31:15; Isaiah 44: 1-2; 49:1-6; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Psalm 22:9-10.
[10] Josephus, Against Apion, 2.202.
[11] “You shall not: murder, commit adultery, have corrupt boys, have illicit sex, steal practice magic, make potions, murder offspring by means of murder, kill him/her having been born, and desire the things of your neighbor.” Didache 2:2.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Scot McKnight reviews Rethinking Hell

Dr. Scot McKnight has been going through our book Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, and its been a real honor to read his thoughts and commentary on our book. It is quite encouraging to see how well many seem to receive the text!

So here are the links:

McKnight on John Stackhouse.
McKnight on Glenn Peoples and the basic introduction to conditionalism. Check out the comments.
McKnight on "perish" and "destruction."
McKnight on Stephen Travis.
McKnight on the famous John Stott.
McKnight on Clark Pinnock.
McKnight on John Wenham.
McKnight on Ralph Bowles and Revelation 14:9-11.
McKnight on Harold Guillebaud and the trends in Scripture.
McKnight on Philip E. Hughes and "immortality."
McKnight on Christopher Marshall and 'restoration and judgment.'

Enjoy.

--Nick Quient

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vignettes About The Rethinking Hell 2014 Conference

It’s difficult to process the amount of sheer memory that has stored itself in my mind during this past week. Much of this is recounted now, and I have little doubt that my memory is a bit shaky, like the IRS.

As Greg, Aaron, William and I packed ourselves into a rental van for a 24 hour trip to Texas from southern California, the only things I were concerned about included the following:

Don’t drink a lot because you don’t want to be the guy who has to pull over and water the bushes.

Please please please allow the AC in our car to be awesome.

And, ultimately, don’t let us break down on one of the many hundred mile long isolated stretches of desert.

But beyond that, when the four of us made it to our destination in Houston, Texas, we settled into a rather comfy routine of running around like chickens with our heads cut off. In between registration, setting up books, driving people around and trying to find the time to eat, we more or less figured out everything 

Thursday. Well, mostly. We went through our individual schedules and prayed that Chris Date would make it to Houston on time.

But, by God’s grace, Greg and I collapsed in our respective beds just before early Friday morning. Maybe around 1ish.

Friday was the easy day. Well, should’ve been. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and drank a few things and slept until noon. I spoiled myself until noon when I got up and was shuttled to the Lanier Theological Library again to, well, finish up everything. The entire Rethinking Hell group was there and it was nice to meet and greet amidst the chaos.

Then Chris Date showed up and it became a party.

Well. We shook hands and danced in a circle and plotted to sneak out the first edition of the KJV from the library. Only one of those is true, really.

Then registration happened. In between getting a ten-minute downpour that would’ve embarrassed a Seattle native, a few others and I were responsible for registering 140 people. That was intense. I worked in a movie theater for three years and I was the only idiot they brought in one Christmas morning to work the entire concession stand. If you are one of the few people to don’t go see a movie Christmas morning, it’s like being the only literate one in a room full of screaming children.

But registration went fine and I got to shake hands with a few people before the chaos diminished and William and I just sat in the dining hall while John Stackhouse gave his much-lauded plenary. Despite spending 24 hours in the same car as William, we still found time to talk about awesome things, sometimes related to theology.

Then some stuff happened and we all went about finishing up everything. Greg Stump was the Best from the West, working everything out rather nicely. So major props to him. I don’t remember much from Friday night because, well, everyone was dog-tired and everything became a game of shuffle along until you manage to crash back into your bed at the hotel.

Then 7am rolled around faster than it had any right to do so, and we were all back at the Lanier library at 8 for the entire day of breakouts, conversation, lunches, more breakouts, Glenn People’s plenary and the much-anticipated panel of 5 ‘hellions.’

As a side note, apparently I unconsciously adopted both a Texas accent and an Australian accent. I said Pee-tah instead of, well, Peter. I say this to let Peter Grice know that it wasn’t intentional; its just he has a really cool accent.

Since I’ve been asked several times about how my paper went, and I can’t say much beyond this: I enjoyed presenting it, and I got some decent pushback from Tom Talbott. I don’t remember the singular details, and being somewhat tentative in speaking off the cuff, but overall it was helpful. I enjoyed talking to a few folks afterword, which allowed me to clarify.

Amazingly, I got no pushback about my view of human anthropology. I was highly prepared to respond to almost any question, but none of the responses included that. So maybe my view isn’t that crazy.

Then Daniel, William, Joey, Glenn, Wes, Ralph Bowles and I went to legit Tex Mex. Quite good. I got myself a fruity drink and a disapproving raised eyebrow from our awesome waiter when I ordered that. It was good, my Sopa de Tortilla.

So the rest of the day was spent listening to Ronnie Demler’s great presentation, and meandering around the inner light that is the Lanier library. I saw books on ancient Greek, fragments of manuscripts and early editions of Bibles. Very cool. Mark Lanier is a cool cat.

Saturday climaxed in several ways. First of firsts, Glenn Peoples delivered his plenary, which was great. Insightful, provocative and entertaining. It ended with some brief Q&A and then we were off to dinner.

I don’t remember dinner, so someone from RH will refresh my mind on that. Oh wait. Wes suggested Whataburger. So I had that. Decent. Above average.

Myself and Dr. John Stackhouse
Then it was the final evening, the showdown. J. Lanier Burns (DTS), Shawn Bawulski (LLC), and Thomas Talbott (Willamette) all showed up to dialogue with Edward Fudge and John Stackhouse. It was over 90 minutes of back and forth, and it was really cool. There were some rough patches, as is to be expected when there are as many passionate people in one spot, but overall the dialogue was cordial and friendly, with things getting downright giddy in some instances (I think Dr. Burns and Edward were chuckling to themselves several times).

And Saturday ended with the tear down of all the materials and the stumble back to the hotel lobby for some … drinks. The entire RH team crowded around a small table, sipping and laughing and about ready to collapse.

Then it came to an end with a sermon by Dr. Stackhouse at Edward’s church, and our 24-hour drive back to southern California.

It was wonderful to finally meet my online friends and colleagues, and to meet some new ones. Speaking to Tom Talbott and getting his signature was pretty cool. Sharing drinks with the rest of the guys was great. The standout moments for me with often when it was just myself and another sitting down and chatting.

Whether it was with Peter Grice in the gym at Edward’s church.

Whether it was with Daniel Sinclair in the dining hall.

Whether it was with everyone else. It was great and I am so glad to have been there and done that.

Blessings.

--Nick

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Egalitarian Resources on 1 Corinthians 11

This text has vexed many interpreters, and it has designated some to regard it as an interpolation (William O. Walker is one such interpreter, I believe). That said, assuming its textual veracity seems more reasonable than not, so many commentators have sought to somehow resolve the many issues within this text. For me, this text simply was a morass of terrible reasoning on the part of Paul. 

Remember I was rather annoyed with Paul at this time for other reasons. 

What does kephale mean? How is it used here? 

How does this pericope jive with the rest of 1 Corinthians? 

What 'hangs down from the head?' 

In the words of Wayne Meeks, "The structure of Paul's argument in 11:3-16 is not one of his most lucid patterns of logic." (The Image of the Androgyne, 200, though he does acknowledge for an equality of sorts on 201). 

So, without further time on myself, I will offer several egalitarian resources that may help you with this really difficult text. I will say, on the whole, I think 'source' and 'preeminent' are both reasonable, though I favor 'source.'

As it must be said, Philip Payne's really detailed exegesis of this text has largely convinced me that 'source' is more probable. He examines every aspect of this sequence and offers a cogent and exegetically probable rendering of this text. You may consult his book Man and Woman, One in Christ. His reading is the only one that makes sense of the entire passage. If you want a condensed version, see his free Priscilla Paper's article.

Alan F. Johnson's article in the Ashland Theological Journal is helpful for one key reason: he surveys the major publications regarding 'kephale' and assesses them. He includes Grudem, Payne, Bedale and others. Its compact, insightful and he even offers his own thoughts in the end. You also have his popular commentary from IVP here; it is helpful, especially in his discussion of 1 Corinthians 11 and 15. He opts for 'preeminence' though he accepts 'source.'

Linda Belleville's book Women Leaders and the Church is deceptive. First, it is rather short and yet, it is packed with goodies. You should read the book. Second, her section on 1 Corinthians 11 is both short and sweet. She highlights major difficulties and places them within the overall trajectory of Scripture. Just get the book.  I believe she is undecided between 'preeminence' and 'source.' 

Morna Hooker's classic article on 1 Corinthians 11:10 is worth reading. Very intriguing. I cannot find the online article, so here is a google book.

Richard Cervin's first response to Grudem is worth reading for two reasons. One, he covers every example from a classical and linguistic perspective, thus bringing fresh insight. Two, he argues that 'kephale' means 'preeminence.' To be honest, he has made his case well. However, Grudem responded and Cervin did as well, though his article wasn't accepted. Having read Cervin's masterful (yet 'unpublished') second response, which is again exclusively directed at Grudem, I think 'preeminence' is a strong possibility, though I still think 'source' is better attested.

Gordon D. Fee's commentary on 1 Corinthians is not as in-depth as Payne on 1 Cor. 11:2-16, but he covers many of the major bases. His use of a chiastic structure is helpful. He accepts 'source' as the key translation of 11:3. See also his work in Discovering Biblical Equality ch 11. 

Other egalitarian commentaries include Anthony Thiselton, NIGNT commentary and his 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical & Pastoral Commentary, David Garland's commentary, Ben Witherington's commentary, and F.F. Bruce's (dated) commentary.  

For several great websites, see again The Junia Project, Christians for Biblical Equality, Adam Omelianchuk, Margaret Mowczko and J.W. Wartick. Tell them I say hi.

Hope this helps a bit.

--Nick

Egalitarian Resources on 1 Timothy 2

The one nice thing you can say about the evangelical debate over women in ministry is that there is no shortage of material to read. Having read over a dozen books combined on both sides as well as dozens of journal articles, I figured it was time to put forth some resources that helped me sort out the tension within Scripture. While I would prefer to just dump everything here, I think I'd like to add a little more commentary to each section, so that is what will be happening.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 is the standard text that the debate begins with, at least in my experience. Call it a trump card text, or in the words of Gail Wallace, the "1 Timothy 2 Bomb;" a sadly apt appropriation of a term. That said, I'll post some articles and some books that have helped position this text within its historical-grammatical context. This post is by no means exhaustive, so if you have materials you want to add, just comment or tweet me.

Before we even step foot into this landmine field, start with Alan Padgett's "What is Biblical Equality?" If this is your first time reading, start there. If you are familiar with the gender debate, still start here.

First, of course, is Philip Payne's book Man and Woman, One in Christ. The book will appear in every single post because it is that good. However, the relevant pages are 291-444. What makes Payne's work so helpful is that it is a direct engagement with heirarchalist exegesis, and is incredibly detail oriented. He deals with every facet of the entire passage, including extensive word studies, and concludes that the passage doesn't exclude women from ministry.

If you want something less technical, yet historically aware, Allison Young's CBE post on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is quite good. She draws only from Linda Belleville, but this is fine because Belleville is pretty awesome. For Belleville, you can find her work in the chapter “Teaching and Usurping Authority: I Timothy 2:11-15,” Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy.

John Jefferson Davis' article "First Timothy 2:12, The Ordination of Women, and Creation Narratives" is helpful for at least two reasons. While Payne deals extensively with the creation accounts, Davis offers a more concise summary that is as helpful as Payne's is extensive. Second is that Davis teaches at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which is significant in that GCTS is a top school in evangelicalism and is egalitarian friendly(ish). So that's cool. He also deals briefly with the homosexuality charge that is often leveled at egalitarians.

Kate Bushnell is really good. You should read her. Like, now. Get on that.

For several great websites, see The Junia Project, Christians for Biblical Equality, Adam Omelianchuk, Margaret Mowczko and J.W. Wartick. I don't agree with necessarily everything, but they are committed Christians and very lucid thinkers.

There are several egalitarian commentaries that offer cogent explanations of the 1 Timothy 2 text. They include I. Howard Marshall , Gordon D. Fee and Philip Towner (technical and popular).

Enjoy. Keep reading.

--Nick

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Athanasias and the Incarnation

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 5.28:
Every one is by nature afraid of death and of bodily dissolution; the marvel of marvels is that he who is enfolded in the faith of the cross despises this natural fear and for the sake of the cross is no longer cowardly in face of it. The natural property of fire is to burn. Suppose, then, that there was a substance such as the Indian asbestos is said to be, which had no fear of being burnt, but rather displayed the impotence of the fire by proving itself unburnable. If anyone doubted the truth of this, all he need do would be to wrap himself up in the substance in question and then touch the fire. Or, again, to revert to our former figure, if anyone wanted to see the tyrant bound and helpless, who used to be such a terror to others, he could do so simply by going into the country of the tyrant's conqueror. Even so, if anyone still doubts the conquest of death, after so many proofs and so many martyrdoms in Christ and such daily scorn of death by His truest servants, he certainly does well to marvel at so great a thing, but he must not be obstinate in unbelief and disregard of plain facts. No, he must be like the man who wants to prove the property of the asbestos, and like him who enters the conqueror's dominions to see the tyrant bound. He must embrace the faith of Christ, this disbeliever in the conquest of death, and come to His teaching.
What I find interesting about this is Athanasius' emphasis on the fear of death. He speaks about physical manifestation of nature. Fire. Burning. Bodily dissolution. Very fitting imagery.

When the body dies, it decays. It 'stinketh.' The brain shuts down. The flesh corrupts. The bones begin to rot. To fear this, in some sense, is the human experience. We all die. We all see corruption. 

And yet, this is not the end.

--Nick