Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blue Parakeet - What did women do in the New Testament?

Scot looks next at some prominent women mentioned in the NT and examines what they did.

Mary (the mother of Jesus)
Mary has made many protestants nervous because the Catholic over emphasis on her, but she is still an integral figure in the NT. Scot believes that her level of influence had to be at the level of teaching. If early tradition is correct, Mary was a widow. Thus, she had influence in the NT in three ways. Mary’s influence emerges in her training of Jesus and of his brother James and she was critical in the formation of our Gospels. He states that Mary taught and was involved in the spiritual formation of Jesus and James.
Scot examines Mary’s song in Luke 1.46-55. He sees these of justice for the poor and marginalized, judgment on the oppressors, holiness and God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. James carries these same themes in his letter.
Scot also asks a very pertinent question: Where do you think Luke acquired the stories he tells us in Luke 1-2? These two chapters are the birth narrative from Mary’s perspective. It is not hard to believe since Luke does discuss gathering information from eyewitnesses. There is no reason to doubt that Luke would have interviewed Mary as Luke may have visited Jerusalem with Paul. (See Luke 1.1-4 for his statement on gathering details).
I agree with Scot about Mary’s importance as an eyewitness and the song put into her mouth in Luke’s gospel was impactful not only on James but in the way Luke fashions his gospel. But also, Scot overstates his case almost putting Mary up as THE teacher of Jesus and James. He gives lip service to Joseph’s potential, but it was Mary who was the primary teacher. We do not know when she was widowed, but Joseph was a righteous man and the primary duties of teaching in the household would have been the father’s. So, while Scot provides some good points, he overstates his case for his purposes.

Junia is mentioned along with her husband Andronicus in Romans 16.7 as “outstanding among the apostles.” Thus, the inference is that a woman was mentioned as an apostle. Her being a woman was not important, but Scot feels what is important are her intelligence, her giftedness and her calling. (Once again, how do we know anything solid about her intelligence, giftedness and her calling? Not a word about these characteristics are mentioned. Overstating again).
Junia was noted as coming to faith before Paul and they were imprisoned with Paul (no doubt because they were believers and leaders among the Christians). Junia was a woman and an apostle. Scot surmises that since she was an apostle (not one of the twelve, there is a distinction that I will write about someday) she and her husband were recognized as having gifts from God. Those gifts involved such things as evangelizing, teaching, preaching, establishing and leading churches. I think this mention is very important in Scot’s case, and I agree, but once again not only does he overemphasize some things, but here he under emphasizes something important. Junia is mentioned along with her husband. At the very least she is a partner with him in his ministry and is not this lone, female apostle, but this is important that she is mentioned as an apostle.

It is important to note that Priscilla’s name is almost always mentioned first when she is listed with her husband Aquila. That was unusual in the ancient world (not impossible, but unusual). She may have had more of a prominent role in the ministry, but she may have has a more prominent social standing in the Roman world. She, along with her husband, is called Paul’s “co-worker” in Romans 16.3. Once again like Junia, she is mentioned along with her husband. But I do think it is important that Paul feels both women deserve a mention. So, we have a woman who was an apostle and another who was a fellow worker and teacher (see Acts 18.28).

I have already written at length about Phoebe (here). It is interesting that Phoebe is not mentioned along with her husband. She was both mentioned as a “deacon” and a “benefactor/patron.” She was the courier for Paul’s letter to the Romans. It was customary for couriers to explain their letters to their recipients. Phoebe may have been reading and explaining (expounding) Paul’s letter to the various house churches in Rome.

Scot closes with the statement that to tie these four women into the story of the bible, each of these women exhibits the oneness theme that begins in creation, is threatened by the fall and begins to become more and more a reality in Christ. Now, if women did all of this, why does Paul speak of silencing women in public assemblies? How does such silencing fit within the theme of oneness – of God’s work of redemption, restoring men and women into unity in Christ? Scot believes it is time to read the Bible with tradition (not through tradition) and perhaps challenge not the Scriptures but the tradition. He will look at the problem passages that seem to silence women in Paul’s writings next.


jason allen said...

Was there any discussion over the controversy surrounding whether Junia was a woman or man or just stated that it is a woman? Just curious.

billy v said...

He just stated it. From my study, it is pretty apparent that Junia is a woman (and Chrysostom seems to think so to in his commentary). One issue that was not mentioned is whether Paul actually calls them apostles or not. I surveying the material (pros and cons) once again I think it comes down to Paul claiming them to be apostles. (Again, Chrysostom seemed to think so as well).

billy v said...

Chrysostom's quote (from the late 4th century): "O how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!"