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Monday, June 18, 2007

WLBA 13: 19th and 20th centuries

I would like to treat two different sets of Bibles in this post. And thus hasten the termination of this series. But first, many thanks to Doug of Metacatholic for a very nice commentary on the discussion, and to Michael for the ongoing dialogue in the comments to the preceding post. I will refer to these again.

The endpoint of this series will not be proof that a woman can be an ordained minister. I see that as a derivative practice. Rather we must simply focus on finding a common text.

I will openly admit that, for me, one of the consequences should be that woman is found to be of equal ability and acceptability to God in spiritual, moral and intellectual leadership. That she not be styled "the follower", the net receiver and responder. That a woman be recognized as a participant in her own right, as a sister, not as a subordinate to man.

But I would not want to go so far as to enter church polity here.

On Rom. 16:2

defender Rotherham
leader Young's Literal
leader CEV

These translations are important to show that there is a way to demonstrate basic respect for women. It is not necessary to call woman a follower, to reserve leadership to men. There is a way to be human about this debate and not look down on woman. And when I think about it, what kind of stress must it be to imagine that one must always be the leader.

We are all just people, not one set of leaders and another set of followers. That's it. Forget about resolving matters of church government for ever after. Rotherham and Young weren't threatened by women leaders, so why are people today?

Next, all the Bibles translated in the last century which have Junia as a man, and 1 Tim. 2:12 with "nor have authority over a man" were simply copying each other, or the lexicons or the critical text. They weren't out of line. They aren't of great interest to me apart from that. They are of historic relevance only.

On 1 Cor. 11:10. What that means I know not, but I sincerely doubt that thou knowest either.

6 Comments:

At Tue Jun 19, 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Suzanne, I'm confused now. In the comments of your last post, you said "Phoebe as benefactor" is one of the renderings that you regard as "not negotiable." There you are evidently referring to translation of prostatis in Romans 16:2. But now you are commending Young's rendering, "leader," as "a way to demonstrate basic respect for women." What do you really want? "Benefactor" or "leader"? They are not at all the same.

 
At Tue Jun 19, 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Benefactor seems to be an option that is more acceptable than leader. I would suppose that benefactor would be a mediating translation for prostatis. It is accurate and should be acceptable to all. I merely comment on the fact that Rotherham and Young found female leadership -of some kind - acceptable, whereas some translators today do not.

But as a translation - benefactor is good.

 
At Wed Jun 20, 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Thanks for that clarification, Suzanne.

I would like to find some more common ground here. But I do get the impression that you would characterize my understanding of the text as being disrespectful to women, in general, and it's very difficult for me to have a conversation with you under the shadow of such a broad accusation.

If I say, for instance, that the words diaconon and prostatis in Romans 16:1-2 indicate that Phoebe was a generous soul who had a ministry of hospitality in Cenchrea, without necessarily implying that she had any formally recognized authority over the congregation, am I being disrespectful in your opinion? Does it offend you? I do not want to offend you.

I do think Phoebe was a "deaconess" (not just a "servant," as in many versions), but I honestly don't think that a "deaconess" or a "deacon" ordinarily wielded authority in congregations of the first century. I think the only recognized authorities in the congregation were "elders." And I do not think that Paul would have regarded a generous patron (prostatis) as his "leader" in any important sense, although of course we know what money can usually do for a person's worldly stature (James 2:1-3). I hope it's no disrespect to Paul's friend Phoebe if we honor her ministry of hospitality, without thinking she was a person who had congregational authority, because I just don't see any indication of authority here. I think she should be respected for what she was, a deaconess and benefactor.

Having said that, I will also say that there are various ways to be a "leader" which do not depend upon having an office. Today many women are spiritual leaders. Pastors' wives are often expected to be leaders, especially of the women in their congregations, and I don't doubt that many women in the early church were leaders in that sense.

We will probably continue to disagree about women being appointed to teach and lead men, and so forth; but I wish you would not say that people who disagree with you on those points are failing to show "respect for women." Try to understand it as a way of showing respect for the Bible and its rules.

 
At Thu Jun 21, 12:26:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I think it is better to leave the entire discussion about authority aside unless it is in the text. The only verse which mentions it is 1 Cor. 11:10.

There is no need to consider it for all the other texts. We are talking about translation - not church government.

We can agree that Phoebe was a deaconess and benefactor. I would not accept "hospitality" as a good translation for this word. It does not accord with the major lexicons although it has been a translation for prostatis.

A benefactor was someone who sponsored people as a citizen might sponsor an immigrant. So it is not a matter of congregational authority but the translation must make clear that Phoebe was Paul's equal - she was not a subordinate who supplied meals.

Pastors' wives are often expected to be leaders, especially of the women in their congregations, and I don't doubt that many women in the early church were leaders in that sense.

This rather avoids my constant complaint, that the single woman missionary is treated without respect.

I think we can agree on a translation without difficulty but I must remark on the lack of sensitivity this comment shows to the single sisters in the Christian community.

However, I sense that you do not support the teaching that God has no leadership role at all for women and that they were created only to be followers and responders. I imagine there are many reasons why men would think up such a theology but I must not talk about it here.

 
At Thu Jun 21, 03:26:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Suzanne wrote: the translation must make clear that Phoebe was Paul's equal

I think you go too far when you say "the translation must make clear that Phoebe was Paul's equal." I don't see any basis here for a general assertion about Phoebe being Paul's equal.

I must remark on the lack of sensitivity this comment shows to the single sisters in the Christian community

I am sorry, Suzanne, that you were offended by my example. But I mentioned the leadership shown by many pastors' wives simply because they came to mind as I thought about the subject. I was drawing upon my own experience. It didn't occur to me to mention unmarried female missionaries, because I have no experience of them. I was not aware of the fact that you have been complaining about this.

I think it is better to leave the entire discussion about authority aside unless it is in the text. The only verse which mentions it is 1 Cor. 11:10.

I disagree. I think the subject of authority cannot be left out of any discussion about leadership, and I think authoritiy issues are at the heart of our disagreements.

 
At Thu Jun 21, 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I think you go too far when you say "the translation must make clear that Phoebe was Paul's equal." I don't see any basis here for a general assertion about Phoebe being Paul's equal.

I would agree that this is irrelevant. Let the text stand as it is with a mediating lexical choice for prostatis.

But I mentioned the leadership shown by many pastors' wives simply because they came to mind as I thought about the subject. I was drawing upon my own experience.

I hear of many male preachers who say, of course, women can be leaders, look at my wife. Essentially they are saying that their own leadership role extends to their wife. But that means no women is considered on her own merit. Women in the Bible and in church history are leaders because of who they are themselves. I can think of only one husband and wife team in the Christian scriptures.

And personally growing up, I never met a pastor's wife, there were no pastor's - only "brothers" and many missionaries, men and women, but the women had to be silent.

I disagree. I think the subject of authority cannot be left out of any discussion about leadership, and I think authoritiy issues are at the heart of our disagreements.

The entire point of the whole exercise is to establish a translation on which we can agree. Of course, we disagree about authority and many other things. But can we agree on the translation?

I don't think we can take this conversation beyond the text on this blog. Are there still points of translation outstanding?

 

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