Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Junia and the C of E

(I'm not finding it easy to read this Greek. I can manage 'Hagia Iwnia' (Saint Junia) above the female figure, and presumably the one on the left is her (likely) husband St Andronicus. I'm not sure about the larger figure in the middle)

I've been neglecting this for a couple of months; I wish I could manage to post weekly, but unfortunately I haven't been well, and constant headaches make it very hard to think straight enough to manage coherent posts. The ridiculous decision of the C of E regarding women bishops has inspired me though.

My own personal position is that bishops are a nonsense. Calling a District Chair a bishop would just be a change of name, but creating an extra tier of ordination so a Chair could be an Extra Important Minister in a Fancy Purple Shirt for life would be absurd. I've come across ministers who'd love it, but what's the point? It would change the nature of the Methodist Church, from a relatively non-hierarchical denomination to a more hierarchical, top-down, less democratic one, and that I'd have to oppose if it ever comes up. Rumour has it that the Anglican-Methodist 'conversations' were originally driven by a certain minister who fancied a Purple Shirt for himself. However, it's all been going on for a very long time, and it hasn't gone very far. I can't see the Methodist Church being transmogrified into another Anglican ghetto somehow. However, if you must have bishops, why discriminate?

I saw the item about the House of Laity's narrow failure to approve the measure, and there was a clip of the inevitable stuffed shirt (you can tell this is something I feel strongly about) pontificating about how all the apostles were men. But were they?

The answer depends, as so often, on which bit of the Bible you happen to be reading. Matthew and Mark regard the Apostles and the Twelve as the same; they may not be able to agree as to their names, but there's definitely not a vagina between them. Luke varies this a little; he replaces Judas with Matthias, and offers a handy definition of an Apostle. One of the men (andrwn) who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us-- one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection. (Acts 1:21-2). So an Apostle, to him, is a man in the strict sense of the word, who's been a witness to Jesus' ministry and resurrection. John avoids using the title.

 Paul however, writing a generation earlier, takes a different view. The Twelve and the Apostles are not the same. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, he mentions that the risen Christ appeared to Cefas (Peter), then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to lots of people all at once, then to James, leader of the Jerusalem church, then to 'all the apostles', and lastly to Paul himself. The Twelve may or may not be a subset of 'the Apostles', he doesn't say. But he mentions other Apostles who are not members of the Twelve, and he lists the group as having experienced a separate appearance.

The apostles he mentions are: himself, Andronicus, Junia, Cefas (Peter), and James the LB. John, the other 'pillar' in Jerusalem, doesn't appear to be an Apostle, at least as far as Paul's concerned. The interesting one is Junia, described as 'prominent among the apostles' in Romans 16:7.

It's a woman's name. However, if you mention the fact in the wrong circles, you'll probably get into an argument. This is why I gernerally avoid conservative evangelicals, incidentally. I can't stand the wretched petty arguments. If they come looking for me, fine, I'll fight anyone, but I won't go out of my way to get into a punch-up, metaphorical or otherwise.

This is what the Anchor Bible Dictionary has to say about Junia:

JUNIAS (PERSON) [Gk Iounia (Ἰουνια)]. The only woman who is called an “apostle” in the NT (Rom 16:7). She was born a Jew, and is closely associated to Andronicus. Her name was the Lat name of the gens Junia (see the material in Lampe 1985 and StadtrChr, 66–67, 146–47, 152–53, 296). Women were often called by the name of their gens without cognomen (similar examples are Mary [Rom 16:6] and Julia [Rom 16:15]). Two groups carried the name of the gens Junia: the noble members of the famous gens, and the freed(wo)men of the gens with their descendants. The second group outnumbered the first. The chances therefore are that the Christian Junia was a freed slave of the gens. Either way, she probably had Roman citizenship: slave masters with famous gens names like “Junius/ia” possessed Roman citizenship and in most cases passed it on to their slaves on the occasion of their emancipation; the freed slaves bequeathed the gens name and the citizenship to their freeborn children. Without exception, the Church Fathers in late antiquity identified Andronicus’ partner in Rom 16:7 as a woman, as did minuscule 33 in the 9th century which records iounia with an acute accent. Only later medieval copyists of Rom 16:7 could not imagine a woman being an apostle and wrote the masculine name “Junias.” This latter name did not exist in antiquity; its explanation as a Greek abbreviation of the Latin name “Junianus” is unlikely.

This is so typical of what the church does to the Bible. It elevates it to the status of a holy book, the Word of God, what have you; according to some, its author was the Deity himself in person. It's raised up so high that it can't be allowed to say anything which doesn't suit the church. If it does, we either ignore it altogether (when was the last time you read Ps 137? Be careful, or you might have to believe that killing babies is sometimes a blessed thing), or we bowdlerise it altogether, and pretend it means something it doesn't. As we see, if the church wants to hold forth on the necessity of an Apostle being male, lo and behold! A woman becomes a man, just to suit the bigots.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I am hopping mad. Sorry about your headaches.