Junia: a parallel? 1 Corinthians 6:4
I have found in 1 Corinthians 6:4 a possible parallel to the wording in Romans 16:7 about Junia the probable apostle. And here also the meaning is debated. Here is the second half of the verse in Greek and with my literal translation:
τοὺς ἐξουθενημένους ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, τούτους καθίζετε;
(as for) the ones who are despised in/among the church, do you seat (as judges) these?
Note that the question mark has been added by the editors of the Greek text (UBS 4th edition). There is nothing in the Greek to indicate clearly whether this is a question, a statement, or a command. So this is one of the two main issues in this verse. The other is, are the despised people here members of the church, or are they people whom the church despises? It is on this second point that we see the parallel with Romans 16:7, for in both places we have an evaluative comment about people followed with ἐν (en) plus the dative.
appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!
(The NIV marginal reading has the same wording rephrased as a question.) Fee notes (my emphasis) that:
In making the clause and ironic imperative, the NIV follows a long interpretive tradition. In this case the verb must take the meaning of "appoint judges" and the object must refer to insiders, "those of little account" within the church itself. However, this interpretation faces the nearly insuperable difficulties of having an imperative appear as the final word in a sentence, especially in an instance where irony is the intent, and Paul's use of such pejorative language - even in irony - to speak of fellow believers (see below).
It is interesting that TNIV has changed this verse significantly, and not just to remove the unjustified gender bias of "men":
do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?
Thus TNIV (not surprisingly, since Fee is a member of the Committee on Bible Translation) seems to follow Fee's second and favoured option (my emphasis):
The alternative, also adopted by a long line of scholars and translations, is to see the sentence as a question and the object as outsiders, "those who have no standing at all in the church."
Fee quotes with approval the NEB rendering:
how can you entrust jurisdiction to outsiders, men who count for nothing in our community?
A little later he continues:
The more difficult item is the object, "those held in disdain"; but this is true for either interpretation. In fact, as noted before, it is difficult to imagine Paul, even in irony, so referring to fellow believers - especially in light of 12:21-25, where he attempts to disabuse the Corinthians of viewing the body of Christ in such a way. Furthermore, the softening to "even men of little account" simply has no lexical basis.34 In the view adopted here, Paul would not mean that Christians despise the pagan judges - that, too, is a totally un-Pauline view - but that they are those people whose values and judgments the church has rejected by its adoption of totally different standards.
The problem with Fee's preference as expressed in TNIV is that it requires that ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ is read effectively as "by the church", specifying the subject of "despise". But if this verse is a true parallel (an antithetical parallel, in fact) with Romans 16:7 this interpretation is rule out. For we are forced to understand τοὺς ἐξουθενημένους, the ones who are despised, as ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ in the sense "in or among the church", and so members of it. For, if the arguments we have looked at concerning Junia are valid, the grammar, as well as consistency within Paul's theology, demands that "despised" cannot be the attitude held by or among church members, but rather the attitude held towards these members.
Given the situation in Corinth, I would be reluctant to rule out completely the NIV interpretation that this refers to church members who are despised by other church members. After all, Paul does continue "I say this to shame you" (6:5, NIV and TNIV), so he is not necessarily agreeing with their assessment. But I do see the force of Fee's objection to this understanding.
So I find myself obliged to accept, more or less, the explanation suggested in Fee's footnote 34:
One solution for this point of view is to see the word as designating believers from the pagan point of view, as in 1:28. But in such a case it would still divide the house, as it were, and the irony would be completely lost.
Well, it seems to me that ἐν (en) "divides the house" only to the extent that there is a necessary division between those chosen as judges and others. But Paul does not specify the subject of "despise"; it certainly includes outsiders but may also include the church members whom Paul so roundly condemns, even in this very chapter.
As for "the irony would be completely lost", there is no good reason to assume that there is irony in this verse, although there is condemnation. It could be a non-ironic statement or command. But it makes sense as a statement only if the despised ones are outsiders, the judges of verse 1. And Fee claims that "having an imperative appear as the final word in a sentence" is a nearly insuperable difficulty; can anyone confirm that? But if this is a rhetorical question, there must be some irony here.
So I find myself, despite Fee's comments, drawn back to something rather like the original NIV version, but without its gender bias and also without the irony signalled by the exclamation mark, so something like:
appoint as judges the "despised people" in the church.Or maybe the rather odd Greek grammatical structure can be interpreted in some kind of conditional sense, so:
if any in the church are despised people, appoint them as judges.I would be very interested in any comments on this verse, as I need guidance on how to translate it.