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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Junia, the Apostle: Part 5

There has been a bit of discussion and some suggestion that Junia simply could not be an apostle and that should guide how we translate episemos en tois apostolois. However, this just highlights our condition as language and culture-bound humans. Why should a woman not be an apostle, and is a woman apostle incompatible with a traditional faith? Not at all, as it turns out.

This is one of those times when I just sit back and scratch my head. What is all the fuss about?

I didn't have much luck when I tried to google the expression 'equal to the apostles' or 'isapostolos' although these are established terms and even show up in wikipedia. But I simply could not bring myself to... well, you know, quote wikipedia. Go have a gander if you like. But when I googled 'egale aux apotres', then I hit paydirt.

(Please excuse lack of accents and all things decorous. I have been without my own computer for a few weeks and now that I have it back it needs to be recustomized.)

So here is what I found. Nino, the Christian, virgin and apostle.
    L'évêque de Metz, Mgr Jauffret, fort impressionné par la communauté propose à ses membres la consécration de leur vie à Dieu. Le 20 avril 1807, il donne au groupe le statut de Congrégation religieuse, et une patronne: NINO la Chrétienne, vierge et apôtre, qui évangélisa la Géorgie au 4ème siècle. Ce nouvel institut de vie religieuse apostolique appartient à la famille ignatienne.

    The Bishop of Metz, Msg Jauffret, much impressed by the community, proposed to its members the consecration of their life to God. The 20th of April, 1807, he gave to the group the statute of a religious congregation, and a patron: NINO, the Christian, virgin and apostle, who evangelised Georgia in the 4th century. This new institute of apostolic religious life belonged to the Ignatian family.

    Nino arrive en Georgie depuis les contrées d'Arménie le long du fleuve. A Myskheta, près de l'actuelle capitale Tbilissi, elle s'arrête, se fait une hutte, une croix... Trois ans durant elle vit dans le silence. Et voici qu'on lui amène un enfant malade. Elle le guérit au nom de Jésus...La Georgie, pays situé au sud du Caucase, a connu Jésus-Christ au 4ème siècle par Nino. Pour les géorgiens, elle est leur "illuminatrice", égale aux apôtres.

    Nino arrived in Georgia from the regions of Armenia along the river. At Myskheta, near the present capital Tbilissi, she stopped, made a hut, a cross ... For three years she lived in silence. And then someone brought her a sick child. She healed it in the name of Jesus. ... Georgia, a country situated in the south of the Caucasus, knew Jesus Christ in the 4th century because of Nino. For the Georgians, she is their visionary, equal to the apostles.

    Dans la tradition chrétienne, Nino est appelée Chrétienne ou Christinia. C'est le nom que donna l'évêque de Metz en 1807 à cette Congrégation de femmes-apôtres.

    In the Christian tradition, Nino is called Christian or Christiania. This is the name which the bishop of Metz gave to the congregation of apostolic women (women apostles?) in 1807.
So I really just wanted to say that men should not be too threatened by a woman apostle. It is predominantly in the reformed and western tradition, which does not have a consecrated male priesthood, that the apostleship of women is a concern. As long as hierarchy depends on a representational and traditional priesthood which excludes women on some other basis, contortions of grammar and semantics in Romans 16:7 are not necessary.

The arguments for keeping women from roles which are equal to men, are by no means the same across cultures. These tenets are not universal and natural, God-given and inspired. They are propositions sewn together to fit the occasion.

It is worth considering , however, that the distinction between priest and apostle may not be all that great. I offer this for as food for thought.
    τον αποστολον και αρχιερεα της ομολογιας ημων χριστον ιησουν

    the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
    KJV Hebrews 3:1


At Fri Nov 03, 02:05:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

For more on Nino, see this page.

This is from the website of the St. Nina Quarterly, "a publication dedicated to exploring the ministry of women in the Orthodox Church and to cultivating a deeper understanding of ministry in the lives of all Orthodox Christian women and men." There are some interesting articles there (click the "print page" links to get the full articles), including Newness of Spirit: The Ordination of Men and Women (note the significant quote from St Gregory of Nazianzus about misunderstanding grammatical gender categories, and the argument from the same saint's “what is not assumed cannot be saved.”); also In Memory – Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (a former Protestant pastor who became an Orthodox theologian and, as quoted in the other article, advocate of the ordination of women). So perhaps the Orthodox church will have women priests sometime, although doubtless only after a process even more traumatic than the one that the Church of England has been through on this issue.

At Fri Nov 03, 05:16:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Just a question, not really about Junia, but more about Nina-- would a person from the 4th cenutry really stretch the definition of an apostle? Typically, I've always read in church tradition that one of the qualifications for apostleship was to have seen the risen Christ. Therefore, by the end of the first century the apostles had all died off raising other offices in the church to greater prominence.

Clement writes in his epistle to the Magnesians 6:1, "...the bishop is to preside in the place of God, while the presbyters are to function as the council of the Apostles, and the deacons who are most near to me, are entrusted with the minstry of Jesus Christ..."

Thus the presbyters were functioning as the council of the Apostles because there were no more apostles by at least 110.

Thus, I'd be hesitant to label any individual, male or female, from the 4th Century as an apostle.

Now there is a broader meaning of apostle, "sent one," that is sometimes used for missionaries (Southern Baptists sometimes use the word in this sense for their missionaries, but I wish they wouldn't). But such usage seems distinct from the office described in the New Testament.

At Fri Nov 03, 08:01:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Rick, the Orthodox churches don't call Nino, or Junia for that matter, an apostle, but an "isapostle" i.e. one equal to the apostles. So they make the distinction which you do.

I am puzzled by your use of the quotation from Clement. If presbyters had replaced apostles, does that imply that the bishop had replaced God, and the deacons Jesus Christ? I suspect that Clement's real meaning was that they did this work as local representatives rather than as replacements. Anyway, Clement is not inspired Scripture, but is describing church practice which may already have deviated from what is right.

Your "church tradition that one of the qualifications for apostleship was to have seen the risen Christ" starts to look a but thin already with Paul (if Paul's vision decades after the resurrection counts as seeing the risen Christ, then why shouldn't Nino's centuries later?), not to mention Barnabas as well as Andronicus and Junia. Also there is no mention in Ephesians 4:11 that there would be no more apostles while the other offices listed here (except perhaps prophets, but see Adrian Warnock's blog and mine for strong arguments against the cessation of prophecy) continue until the goal of vv.13-15 is reached - which was not acheived by 110 and will not be until the very end.

Of course it is quite a different matter whether the church recognises anyone as an apostle and gives them that name. Maybe the Orthodox churches are wise not to, and to use instead "isapostle", because of the continuing danger of confusion between the continuing apostolic ministry and the authoritative teaching of the original Twelve. But I would suggest that the Orthodox isapostles and many church planting missionaries, whatever they might be called, are doing the work of apostles as defined in Ephesians 4:11. I would also suggest that it was in this sense that Andronicus and Junia, as well as Barnabas and perhaps Paul, were called apostles.

At Fri Nov 03, 09:36:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Peter, I'm not one to defend Clement. Personally, I think the language about the bishop presiding in the place of God is a bit strong, and no doubt led the overemphasis on the bishop's authority that developed later on, especially in the Catholic church. He doesn't say that presbyters replaced apostles or that deacons replaced Jesus Christ. Rather the presbyters were functioning in the position that the apostles had filled previously because they were no more. And of course deacons (the name of which implies service) were carrying out the hand on ministry that Jesus had performed while on earth.

My only point is that in church tradition, the official role of apostle seems to have ceased by the end of the first century. Perhaps you are correct that this is why the Orthodox tradition uses a separate word.

Your reference to your church tradition...starts to look a bit thin is really not my tradition. I didn't come up with it, and technically, yes Paul's vision of Christ qualifies him. But just because someone had seen the risen Christ didn't qualify them for apostleship. Evidently there was more than that. Paul referred to himself as "called to be an apostle" (κλητὸς ἀπόστολος) in Rom 1:1. And his reference to Andronicus and Junia includes the statement that they were "in Christ" before him (πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν Χριστῷ). Who knows, maybe they saw the actual risen Christ before the ascension even. There were obviously more than the original 12 disciples. The Orthodox tradition even states that the 70 who went out (I believe referring to the passage in Luke 10 although there is a variant and many bibles state "72") were also "official" apostles.

By the way, I'm not a cessationist in regard to spiritual gifts, but I would close the door on the office of apostle as ending with the first century.

I'd love to discuss this more, but my friend Andrew passed away last night and I will be leaving town in the morning to officiate his funeral services. I may be offline for a few days.

At Fri Nov 03, 09:42:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

I am ready, instantly, to jump into any discussion of 1 Tim 2, apostles after Paul, or cessationism. I believe that to do so this early in this series of posts is a mistake in process, though.

Suzanne is still looking at every grammatically possible rendering of Romans 16:7, and comparing their reasonability. I think we all suspect that she is driving toward the conclusion that Junia was among the apostles, but shouldn't we wait to see how confidently she can carry this assertion before we start trying to find counter-scriptures?

At a process level, if we compare scripture to scripture, we are doing a good thing, but it must be done in order. If we bring in counter-references before we have seriously looked at this verse, aren't we in danger of missing what this verse has to say? The process is first to look at Romans 16:7 in reasonable depth, and then to let 1 Tim 2:12 inform our understanding of Romans 16:7 and vice versa.

If the common interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12 is accurate, then Romans 16:7 will not contradict it. Let's let Romans 16:7 speak for itself for a while, and bring in the battering rams later. There will be plenty of time.

At Fri Nov 03, 11:36:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rick, thanks for your response and clarification. I'm sorry to hear about your friend Andrew. I hope the funeral goes well.

It seems a very strange idea in Clement for presbyters to be functioning in the role of apostles. Whether we understand apostles as primarily authoritative teachers or primarily pioneer missionaries, their role was very different from that of presbyters who in those early days assisted bishops and maybe led minor congregations. I suspect that Clement is giving an analogy rather than suggesting any kind of real replacement.

Codepoke, I agree with you. Let's let Romans 16:7 speak for itself, rather than look at it with presuppositions derived from our interpretations of other passages. Then we can compare all the passages and see what kind of consistent picture we can put together.

At Fri Nov 03, 12:22:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I really want this story to speak for itself. I don't have too many preconceived thoughts about apostles.

I am driving at a more open-ended conclusion. I am enjoying the research into how people have thought about apostles and women and so on, so I will just drift through this and see where it goes.

I am sorry to hear about Andrew. I should also mention that Wayne is not well and would appreciate your prayers.

At Fri Nov 03, 06:31:00 PM, Blogger Marvin Cotten said...

Another relevant post is at

Okay, it's my blog.


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