1 Corinthians 14:33b-37 (thoughts from the comments)

roleofwomenBefore moving to chapter 15, which is a dramatic change in subject, I thought I’d post some thoughts I wrote in the comments for the benefit of those who don’t read the comments (although everyone really should, as the readers often post remarkably excellent material).

This is really way too long for a single post, but I just can’t bring myself to extend this PepperdineStairsdiscussion for another week — especially since so many participants are at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures (and I’m insanely jealous but my L4/L5 vertebral joint needs fusing, and those of us with really bad backs do not do well at the Stairmaster Lectures (surgery set for May 27)).

So here are thoughts (edited and corrected) in addition to those in the main posts, prompted by some great questions from the readers.

Cultural or counter-cultural?

I was asked in a Facebook comment how Paul decided when to follow culture and when to be counter-cultural — an excellent question. Here’s how I understand Paul’s thinking:

1. Gospel matters can’t be compromised. Therefore, circumcision cannot be required for salvation of Gentiles, even though this offended some of the Jews. The gospel cannot be diluted for the sake of culture/reputation.

2. Outside of the gospel, as a rule, the church must meet the higher of two standards of morality: Jesus’ standard and the surrounding culture’s standard. For example, even today, female missionaries in Muslim countries generally cover their hair, because to do otherwise would be to appear immodest — although the Bible has no such rule. Freedom is sacrificed for the gospel.

Sometimes culture and scripture align, so that both require the same thing. When culture changes, suddenly the scripture seems problematic. For example, scripture has always opposed gay sex. Culture changes but scripture does not. The higher standard applies.

Sometimes it’s the other way. Culture required that married women not speak to other women’s husbands. The higher rule applied. But our secular culture has changed so that neither the Bible nor culture now requires such a rule.

But within the church, well, it has developed its own extra-biblical, internal culture, and so to the highly churched — those whose personal cultures are largely church culture — it still feels wrong for women to speak in the assembly because hearing a woman speak in the assembly is contrary to experience and has been preached for generations as sinful. But biblically, it’s not. Culturally, it was in the First Century and that rule has been and is true in some other times and places, but not in the contemporary U.S.

How can Paul push to liberate and not liberate at the same time?

Monty asked,

If you say, “Okay, you men can ask questions of the speaker (a common thing for men to do as you said) but you wives just ask your husbands at home; how is that liberating?”

Well, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean Paul wasn’t pushing in a liberating direction. I commend to your reading Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. It’s not an easy read, but it’s very insightful, and the general thesis is easily stated.

The Bible deals with slaves in an increasingly liberating way. Torah treats slaves much better than in surrounding countries. The NT treats them even better — so much so that many churches had slave elders. The trend is against culture and toward liberation — but with full liberation only to be accomplished by the church centuries later. But who today would argue that emancipation wasn’t required by “Love your neighbor” as Jesus taught it?

On the other hand, homosexual conduct is strictly forbidden in both the OT and NT even though it was largely approved in other Ancient Near East countries. The NT is just as strict as the OT. There is no discernible trend toward liberalization. Hence, we cannot argue that the Bible is pointing us toward approval of gay marriage. The Bible has pushed against culture toward prohibition, not liberalization.

So where do we find women in the church? Well, the case is much more like slavery than homosexual conduct. The Torah isn’t exactly the Equal Rights Amendment, but women are treated much better than in surrounding culture. We see even greater freedom and, more importantly, respect for women in the Gospels and in the NT. We even have a woman apostle in Junia. The trend is toward overcoming Gen 3:16 and establishing the “one flesh” relationship as in Gen 2 — but the goal is not fully realized because the culture wouldn’t tolerate such a change so fast. But just like slavery, the trendline is easily discerned, and over time, as we’ve treated our wives and daughters better, we’ve known in our bones that this was right.

The Golden Rule is plain enough, not to mention Joel 2, 1 Cor 11 and 12, Rom 12, etc. The direction that God wanted us to travel is clear when we look at the entirety of scripture.

Why does Paul refer to “shame”?

I don’t believe Paul issued arbitrary commands. I believe his instructions were always rooted in something else — the gospel, Gen 2, Torah, etc. And I think this is because he routinely gives the reasons for his instructions. In this instance, he says the reason is the requirement for women to submit “as the Law also says.” Therefore, that is the reason. He didn’t just make it up.

So we easily find a reason for wives to submit to husbands in the Law (Gen 2). We do not find the least support for wives being silent around their husband in the Law. It’s just not there. Hence, Paul skipped a step in explaining his logic.

The reason for silence is either it’s “because I said so” or “because cultural norms require this to avoid appearing shameful.” And lo and behold, he refers to the shamefulness of this conduct! And “shame” in an honor/shame culture is, obviously enough, cultural.

Hence, there is no reason to adopt the “because I said so” theory. We can, based on the scriptures and not assumption, see culture as driving Paul’s decision.

Those who insist that Paul makes up the rule out of the clear blue sky because somehow or other silence in an assembly honors the Law’s requirement to submit base their theory on assumption not scripture — because no scripture justifies that result. I mean, why is that silence is how submission must be shown? And why only in the assembly? There is no answer either in logic or the scriptures.

Why doesn’t Num 30 demonstrate that women should be silent in the assembly?

Num 30 certainly evidences the submission of wives to husbands and daughters to fathers in the Ancient Near East culture. It says nothing about about women in general submitting to men in general.

More importantly, it says nothing about silence. In fact, it assumes that daughters and wives will make vows in the presence of men — by speaking out loud.

The command to submit applies inside and outside the assembly, inside and outside the church. So why does submission require silence on in the church’s assembly? There’s nothing in Num 30 about silence.

Why does Paul say “as in all the churches”?

Monty asked,

And my final question(s) is why does Paul go there with “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” What is so “shameful” about an equally liberated woman speaking (asking questions as you say) in church, and why does he even say as in all the churches? Is he really saying “as in all the churches” it is a shame for women to ask questions in the same manner as men do?

First, remember that Corinth was part of an honor culture, and so honor/shame is the standard by which people lived. We covered this in the Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible series — and it’s really important (and a marvelous, very accessible book).

I would add this. I think much of Jesus’ teaching was specifically against the honor/shame culture of Judea. “Turn the other cheek” is the exact opposite of that culture. I don’t think Paul was any fan of honor/shame either, but sometimes you have to explain it terms that the audience can understand. So this is accommodationist language. He’s saying,”The problem arises due to how the culture of Corinth sees women. And in that culture, a woman questioning a man married to another woman is shameful (the opposite of honorable). You’re losing face! People see you as bad in a culture where life is all about how others see you. You are bringing shame to the gospel in an honor/shame culture. You of all people should know better!”

Remember also that 1 Cor was likely the first epistle we have of Paul’s (some say 1 Thes came earlier). Either way, the church was very young and very immature. There weren’t that many congregations, and the ones that existed were largely Jewish or Jewish with God-fearers (Gentiles who’d been YHWH worshipers before Paul arrived). See the excellent In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity, which is another great read. This book describes the Jewishness of the early church. Thanks to German dominance of Christian thought in the last two centuries, this had largely been forgotten, but in fact the early church was very, very Jewish — for centuries. And Paul was a Jewish rabbi.

The early church started in Jerusalem, spread to Antioch (in Syria), Damascus, and through the Jewish diaspora. Most churches were Jewish or culturally Jewish or had Jewish members. Fully Gentile churches wouldn’t arrive for quite some time — which is why Paul is constantly dealing with Jews and Gentiles having to get along in the same congregation. (My guess is that the first entirely Gentile church was in Rome, and then only after the Jews were expelled by Claudius Caesar in about 51 AD). And even that was temporary.

So, yes, Paul was very concerned with Jewish sensibilities. And if churches he planted were seen as grossly immoral by the Jews back in Antioch and Jerusalem, he’d have to deal with that — and the circumcision issue was already a brewing fight and one he’d fight the rest of his career. That one was too big to yield on. But Greek and Roman sensibilities were also offended by women who spoke to the wrong men — making the problem even bigger. How could he plant churches in Asia Minor if his supporters in Antioch saw him as tolerating immorality and the Gentiles also saw him as promoting immorality?

When female missionaries go to Muslim nations today, they cover their hair in a scarf. Why? Because the Bible requires it? No, because they seem immoral to act otherwise. They yield their freedom for the sake of the gospel. They just have to be careful not to yield the gospel for the sake of the gospel! And so Paul couldn’t yield on circumcision, because requiring it as a condition to salvation contradicted the gospel itself.

Why did Paul’s instruction focus on women?

Monty asked,

My other question(s) have to deal with the 1 Corinthian passage. If as you say, the passage is mostly about maintain order and proper etiquette in the assembly as women are exercising their gifts, then why the special admonition to the women? Why not just say, “OK everybody wait their turn, speak one at a time, and ladies if you have a question, just ask your husbands at home.” Why say as in all the churches of the saints women should be silent in the churches? What makes a woman inferior where she can’t ask questions? After all, didn’t the cross make everything equal between the sexes?

Because it’s an occasional letter written to deal with particular problems, not a legislative enactment designed to give a rule for all cases and circumstances.

Paul stated the universal rule: Wives must be in submission to their husbands, just as he said in Eph 5, which we should read in light of Gen 2 correctly exegeted. The application of that rule is that, when wives are asking questions of men married to other women, in that culture, they appeared grossly immoral. And that injured the cause of the gospel.

If the men had been acting in ways that appeared grossly immoral in that culture, Paul would have called the men down. In fact, I imagine that it was the men who were mainly responsible for most the problems that he deals with in chapters 1 – 10 and 15.

If 1 Cor is an occasional letter, why does it apply to us today?

Much of the NT is fairly characterized as “occasional letters,” that is, letters written to deal with particular problems confronting a particular congregation. As a result, as serious scholars, we are required to distinguish between the “occasional” part and the eternal part.

When my grandchildren fight, and my grandson is hitting my granddaughter, I say, “Stop hitting your sister!” because on that occasion, the problem is that my grandson is hitting his sister.

Now, if someone were foolish enough to think that I am Moses on Mt. Sinai issuing Torah-like laws, I might be read as saying that’s it wrong to hit your sister but okay to hit your brother. After all, I said nothing against hitting brothers. I might even seem sexist.

But common sense tells you that the reason I spoke harshly to the brother is because, on that occasion, he is the one who was the problem. The general rule is that we do not hit each other, brothers or sisters. The occasional result is that my grandson may not hit his sister. I didn’t have to announce the general rule, because he already knew it. He just chose not to obey it.

In 1 Cor 14, the general, eternal rule is that wives must be suitable complements/helpers to their husbands. In the Corinthian church, the problem was that the wives were asking questions of men not their husbands in a way that in that time and place was considered immoral and disrespectful to their own husbands. The passage reminds us of the important general rule, which is always true, but the occasional result only applies in similar situations.

On the private/public distinction

Monty wrote,

Jay wrote, “The public/private distinction is nonsense.” If so, then the argument over the distance between the years between the two letters and the difference in the different Greek words in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 used probably (IMO) wouldn’t be as great an obstacle to overcome as it is made out to be. Just maybe progressives would piece that puzzle together with the 1 Corinthian 14 passage as conservatives are accused of.

If we throw out the assumption that this is NT Torah and read the two epistles as the occasional letters that they are, then we don’t have to import 21st Century church concepts into the First Century. Their meetings were private. Their meetings were also their classes. And they met in homes. It was all private. There was instruction in true public, as when Paul spoke on Mars Hill and surely the equivalent philosophers’ debating places throughout the Empire. And the apostles taught in the Temple when they could. But the assemblies were private.

If Paul spoke in a synagogue, it was open to the circumcised only — only Jews and proselytes — and so hardly “public,” although it’s conceivable that Paul would call it “public” as the crowd might largely include non-believers in a given setting.

So the Priscilla distinction would have to be stated in terms of: In the assembly/Not in the assembly rather than In private/In public — but it’s really hard to see how Torah could create one rule for the Christian assembly and another for outside the assembly when there was nothing comparable to the Christian assembly in the Torah. (The synagogue only shows up 1,000 years later).

To say that you understand the text, you have understand each step of Paul’s logic. Hence, we have [Torah requires Submission] and [Submission requires Silence (sigao) in the assembly]. Both steps have to based on some good reason — not just “because I said so.”

How does Torah require Submission? Well, I’ve suggested that it’s about husbands and wives and Gen 2. This happens to fit with the Num 30 passage mentioned in another comment (wives’ vows must be approved by their husbands) and with “ask their own husbands at home” and Eph 5 — which all speak of submission of wives to husbands. Even Gen 3:16, if it applied (and it doesn’t) but if it did, speaks of husbands and wives. I can’t imagine where we’d find authority for all women to be in submission to all men in the Torah. It’s just not there — and no one has suggested a remotely plausible explanation. So we follow the evidence.

On the other hand, as we learned in the series on Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes, our language betrays our worldview, and the ancient world assumed in their speech that all women were married, even though it plainly wasn’t true. The same is true of modern German where a crowd is addressed “Frauen und Herren” – wives and men. “Frau” means “wife.” So the inexactitude of Greek in this regard reflects a cultural bias inherent in the language, and so it’s really no surprise that Paul doesn’t bother to give separate rules for single women, divorced, and widowed. He was worried about an abuse going on among married women. (Just as we in church often speak of “families” utterly ignoring single people as though they don’t exist. It’s our culture coloring our speech, and we are unaware of it. But ask some single people …)

So Torah requires a wife to be a suitable helper/complement to her husband. How does this require silence? And why only in the assembly? Why not over the kitchen table a la Priscilla and Apollos?

Well, the Torah contains no such law. But the culture required that married women not speak to other women’s husbands outside that woman’s home. That’s a fact. And so the true command of submission (to be a suitable helper) requires, in that culture, that wives not question men married to other women. And that fits the facts and the Torah and is consistent with Paul’s words without contradiction.

It leaves us unclear about the boundaries of speech for a female prophet in the assembly, but the prophetesses weren’t asking questions of a man. A female prophet said what the Spirit prompted her to say, and we can be confident that the Spirit was just as concerned and sensitive to local cultural concerns at Paul. He had the same Spirit.

How can we separate 1 Tim 2 from 1 Cor 14 when both require silence?

Monty asked,

I’m not sure why (and maybe I’m completely wrong) but I feel that if the 1 Timothy passage seemed to suggest that instead of prohibiting women from being loud, for you said, “silence in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is hesuchios, meaning “in quietness” that if it seemed to suggest women should speak up (in the home and in the church) and be boisterous leaders and teachers of men (maybe quiet teachers) – you really can’t separate the two you seemed to suggest.

Hesuchios, used in 1 Tim 2, means in tranquility or quietness. It is not the same as sigao, used in 1 Cor 14, and refers to becoming silent to let someone else speak. That being the case, in 1 Tim 2, Paul instructs women to be sober and tranquil in the classroom (which was likely also the assembly — the Sunday school is a 19th Century invention). He does not tell them to be silent in that passage. He does prohibit teaching and usurping authority (authenteo, which means “domineer”).

Does that mean that men could rude and boisterous? No. It means that it was the women who needed to be called down. If we read the text as NT Torah, then it’s odd that men aren’t prohibited from domineering, as Jesus prohibits all domineering by all leaders for all time by all people. But if we read it as an “occasional letter,” that is, a letter written to deal with problems arising in a particular place at a particular time, then the problem goes away.

Just so, men are to “lift holy hands” in prayer because the men needed to be reminded to do so, not because women could not pray. Women were to dress modestly, not because men may be ostentatious peacocks but not women, but because women were the problem at that time and place. In other settings, Paul might tell men not to wear jewelry but instead to adorn themselves with good works.

In 1 Cor 14, isn’t Paul really addressing a lack of female authority to speak, which connects it with 1 Tim 2?

1 Cor 14 says nothing about authority. You are incorporating that concept from 1 Tim 2, which is talking about something else altogether. Asking questions of the speaker is not an act of authority. It’s how people learn. It’s the act of a student.

For that matter, reading from the Moses Seat in the synagogue was a privilege available to any male 14 or older. If a child read and offered his understanding of Isa 61, he was not speaking with any sort of authority. He was just part of the community sharing his ideas — and subject to questioning in order to discuss and interpret as a community. We impose our own hierarchical ways on what was a much more community-centric system in both the synagogue and the church.

Just so, even in today’s Churches of Christ, most Sunday school teachers have “authority” to call on members or to run the classroom, but their doctrinal teaching isn’t authoritative for the church. No one has to agree with them — and, trust me, I’ve been disagreed with plenty of times. I have no more “authority” as a Bible class teacher than my powers of persuasion and the Spirit provide — which often is very little.

A guest speaker in the pulpit also carries no authority other than the privilege of speaking. If the church disagrees, well, they can disagree. In most Churches of Christ, only the elders have the authority to decide doctrine or much of anything else. The preacher only has authority by delegation from the elders. And if he goes outside their authorization, he’s exceeded his authority and nothing is binding on the church. He has no inherent authority to bind the church just because he stands behind a pulpit and talks. (The Baptists would see it otherwise, but we are not they.)

On the other hand — and this is very important — if a female prophet were to speak by the power of the Spirit, then her speech would indeed be authoritative — by God’s own authority. And this was plainly allowed.

And so you can’t make 1 Cor 14 makes sense by analyzing it in terms of female authority. That’s just not what the passage is speaking to.

So what do you make of this passage —

(Joe 2:28-29 ESV) 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

Now, there had been a few — a distinct minority — female prophets before Pentecost. So what changed? Merely giving the Spirit of prophecy to a few, rare women would have been no change at all. The change seems to be that women began to receive the gifts of the Spirit just like the men. And when we read in Acts, Rom 12, and 1 Cor 11 and 12 about gifts of the Spirit, we see no distinctions between men and women. Now how odd would it be to say that women who carry the mark of the Kingdom by being gifted this way must be silenced in the assembly. And yet they’d be speaking and teaching and acting with authority. Indeed, that seems to be the very point of Joel’s prophecy — that women would speak as real prophets on God’s behalf in numbers that would astonish the ancient world.

So how do we reconcile Joel with Paul in 1 Tim 2? And in 1 Cor 14? We should at least confess that it’s a difficult thing and — please, oh, please — avoid the temptation to say that the answer is “clear” and “obvious.” I mean, it’s only clear if you don’t bother to read it in context with Joel, Acts, Rom 12, and 1 Cor 11 and 12. Those passages force us to think about it — and I’d hope we’d give it the serious reflection that the scriptures merit.

Clearly the elders had authority. And in the early church, they were male. But they were ordained in the same cultural milieu that led to 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2. There’s a very real tension here that requires resolution beyond “I just do what it says.” Because you don’t. If you did what the Bible says, you’d also —

(1Co 12:20-25 ESV) 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Who lacked honor and respect in that culture? Among others, women — most certainly. How did God deal with that? He gave them the same gifts the men had, just as prophesied by Joel. Would he then have us say to them that we have no need for their gifts in the assembly? How does that correct the lack of honor that was being corrected by the Spirit?

Ben Witherington’s thinking on the passage and Hab 2:20


Thank you so much for sharing that insight. When your comment hit my computer, I had Witherington’s commentary on 1 Cor open on my desk, looking at his thoughts on this very passage. I’m a fan of his work.

He rejects the interpolation theory and also the theory that these are words of the Corinthians that he is repudiating. Rather, he considers Paul to be addressing inappropriate questioning by women — likely women prophets. He concludes, much as I do, that Paul was definitely not requiring that all women be silent in all assemblies forever. He says that c.11:1-16 plainly gives them permission to speak. “Paul is correcting an abuse of a privilege, not taking back a woman’s right to speak in the assembly, which he has already granted in ch. 11.” Page 287.

The Hab 2:20 suggestion is new to me and bears some thought. “Silent” in the Hebrew is hacah, similar onomatopoeia to our “hush!”

(Hab 2:18-20 ESV) 18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

It’s an ironic declaration. Idols cannot speak, but God can (as he is doing through Habakkuk). Thus, while the idols stand mute, the entire world should stand mute in the presence of God — the God who speaks.

Yahweh is approached in silence, a fitting response to his holiness and majesty, and a token of one’s respect for his being – dependency upon his grace and submission to his will (cf. Ps. 46:10; Isa. 41:1). This silence is requested not only of Judah but of all the earth, who will ultimately acknowledge God as the true giver of knowledge (cf. Ps. 22:27; Isa. 2:2–3). This contrasts with the frenetic activity of man to create ‘speaking’ gods, and the tumultuous cries of worshippers to make dumb idols respond. Lifeless idols approached in clamour are silent, while the living God, approached in silence and reverence, speaks.

David W. Baker, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 27; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), n.p.

The thrice repeated sigao! that culminates Paul’s discussion may well be a reflection of this thought. God, unlike the pagan gods, isn’t approached with a cacophony of babbling and shouting, as though he needs to be awakened from his sleep. YHWH is approached with reverent silence, because he lives, he hears, and he responds. True prophets speak in response to his prompting, not their own.

To return to Witherington’s commentary,

In light of the discussion of pagan prophecy above, it is very believable that these women assumed that Christian prophets or prophetesses functioned much like the oracle at Delphi, who only prophesied in response to questions, including questions about purely personal matters. Paul argues that Christian prophecy is different: Prophets and prophetesses speak in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, without any human priming of the pump.

Conflict & Community in Corinth, p. 287.

Was Paul referring to Num 12 (Miriam struck with leprosy) as “the Law”?

The Num 12 argument seems very weak. Miriam wasn’t punished for daring to speak but for criticizing God’s chosen leader for his people. It’s interesting that God let Aaron remain unpunished, but this seems more likely due to his status as high priest and the need for him to continue the service at the tabernacle, not his gender. The text does not speak in terms of gender.

Their guilt pronounced, sentence immediately followed. For her sacrilegious talk Miriam came out with ‘leprosy’ (cf. 2 Kgs 5:27; 2 Chr. 26:19). Aaron was spared, perhaps because as high priest his role was vital to the divine economy.

Gordon J. Wenham, Numbers: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale OTC 4; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1981), n.p.

Does Gen 3:16 speak in terms of male dominance or just male spiritual leadership?

The Hebrew word is mashal. It next appears in —

(Gen 4:7 ESV) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

We should “spiritually lead” sin? Or dominate and overcome sin?

(Gen 24:2 ESV) And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,

We really don’t know what kind of authority the chief servant had in that culture. So we move to —

(Gen 37:8 ESV) 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Say what you will, the sense of “rule” is that sentence is not “spiritual leadership like that of a loving husband” but the kind of dominance that one would fear.

(Gen 45:8 ESV) So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

(Gen 45:26 ESV) And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them.

Joseph had so much authority that he converted Egypt to a feudal system in which Pharaoh owned every tract of land in the country. He was able to exact taxes. He was a wise ruler, but one with virtually unlimited power, which he used to destroy private property rights of an entire nation. (Joseph saved the people from famine-induced starvation, but he didn’t have to keep title to the land when it was all over. After all, he acquired the land in exchange for grain he’d obtained from the same people.)

(Exo 21:8 ESV) If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her.

Here, mashal refers to power to sell a slave girl to foreign masters.

(Deu 15:6 ESV) For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

As I recall, when Solomon consolidated Israelite rule over their neighbors, they were conscripted into slavery (1 Ki 9:21).

So I’m just not seeing “loving spiritual leader” in mashal. It’s a harsh word used of despotic rule.

Now, the key here is that you just can’t make a case for “loving spiritual leadership” from Gen 3:16 unless that’s what the word means. And it’s just not. In the Torah, it’s not ever used of a loving, spiritual, gentle leadership. It’s used of the rule of Ancient Near Eastern kings — who were absolute in their power. Some ruled well. Some ruled poorly. All had absolute power over their subjects.

Regarding Foh, I agree with her conclusion:

Contrary to the usual interpretations of commentators, the
desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife
(more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her.
Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship.
This desire is a result of and a just punishment for sin,
but it is not God’s decretive will for the woman. Consequently,
the man must actively seek to rule his wife.

This has become the accepted interpretation of most commentators in the last several years — and I think for good reason. Gen 3:16 is not what God wants in a marriage but the result of sin.

On the other hand, to the extent Foh concludes that, to please God, a husband must seek to mashal his wife, I think Foh is dead wrong. I see in Gen 2 a partnership, a complementation, a one-flesh, united relationship, not a hierarchy. The dominance of wives by their husbands is a curse, not a command.

Does “the Law” refer to the Oral Law rather than Torah or the OT?

Alan wrote,

Apparently also there were similar standards related to the conduct of women based on the Law which were accepted in Paul’s day, since he states that women “must be in submission, as the Law says.”

It’s conceivable that “Law” refers to the oral law, but we have the oral law in the form the Mishnah and Talmud today. And I’ve read countless commentaries, blogs, comments, etc. on this topic, and I can’t recall anyone citing a particular command in the Mishnah or Talmud as a likely candidate for Paul’s statement. I don’t think we can assume an oral law for which there is no evidence.

I’ve found this in the Babylonian Talmud —

It is written: “None of you shall approach to any that are near of kin to him.” From this it was said one must not stay in a separate room with any woman in a hostelry, though she be his sister or daughter, because of public opinion. For the same reason one must not converse with a woman in the market, not even with his wife. For the same reason a man shall not walk behind a woman, even though she be his wife. This was deduced from the following analogy of expression: It is written in the passage of illegal unions, “Ye shall not approach,” and here is also written, “Thou shalt not approach,” from which it is to be inferred that one shall not approach such things as can cause him to sin (or cause people to talk about him).

Abo 1:5 MISHNA E. Jose b. Johanan of Jerusalem was in the habit of saying: “Let thy house be so wide open that the poor may enter it as were they inmates there; and do not hold too much discourse with woman.” The sages have cautioned against talking too much with one’s own wife. An inference can then be made with regard to talking with the wife of a neighbor. Hence the wise man said The man who does talk overmuch with woman causes evil unto himself, makes himself insusceptive of the words of the Thora, and in the end will be an heir to Gehenna.”

It has been said: “And prolong not converse with a woman.” It means not even with his own wife, much less with the wife of his neighbor; for he who holds much discourse with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the teaching of the Law, and finally he is doomed to Gehenna.

The rabbis taught: All are entitled to be counted read among the seven on Sabbath, even a minor and a woman. The sages, however, said: A woman should not read in the Torah for the honor of the congregation.

A man may be left in the street to hold an oration over him, but not a woman; the greatest man of the city may accompany a man, but he is not to be troubled for a woman. R. Jehudah said: He may; the funeral meal is taken over a man, but not over a woman. Said R. Jehudah: If she has little children, the meal is taken with them.

I see nothing here akin to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 14 – except a clear cultural stigma against women speaking with other women’s husbands. But nothing that says, “Don’t talk in the synagogue.” The prohibitions are general.

I think it’s likely true that women were not allowed to speak in the most First Century synagogues, but there is no such command in the Oral Law. It would have been true due to the Jewish cultural treatment of women.

If you check the other references to nomos in 1 Cor, which I just did last night, you’ll find that every other reference is to the Torah, not the oral law. Given how little regard Jesus had for the oral law, it really seems unlikely that Paul would be enforcing it on the early church. This is especially so given that the Jews living west of Jerusalem did not learn Hebrew, studied the Septuagint, and were not much influenced by the rabbis. The rabbis were only active in Palestine and Babylon, where the scriptures were studied in Hebrew and the oral law was enforced as though from God himself.

Doesn’t the fact that Tertullian repeatedly cites 1 Cor 14:33b-37 as authority and binding tell us that the text is ancient and authentic?


You quite right that Tertullian enforces a very conservative interpretation of these verses, but he is the earliest to do so and only a Third Century writer.

The hypothesis that that these verses were not in Paul’s original letter helps to explain why none of the Apostolic Fathers—Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Polycrates—or Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Shepherd of Hermas, the Gnostic Gospels or second century pseudepigraphae, Tatian, or Clement of Alexandria or Hippolytus ever make reference to them. Clement of Alexandria has it in his head that both men and women should “embrace silence” at church, but extols Miriam as Moses’ associate in commanding the host of Israel as a prophetess, which together implies his text of I Cor 14 did not have vv. 34-35. Tertullian (Bap. 15.17) [early 3rd century], then, is our first Christian writer to clearly show his awareness, not to mention wholeheartedly acceptance of, this pseudo-Pauline policy of feminine silence.


So it seems that the Tertullian argument actually cuts the other way. I mean, the entirety of the Apostolic Fathers have no knowledge of this text that’s been preserved for us.

Reflecting on the eta argument


First, let me thank you for introducing the eta argument into the discussion. I was not aware of it until Price mentioned it. And I’d entirely missed the fact that the KJV honors the argument —

(1Co 14:36 KJV) What? [eta] came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

(1Co 6:19 KJV) What? [eta] know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

(1Co 6:16 KJV) What? [eta] know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

Interestingly, the more recent translations seem to have uniformly preferred to translate as “or.” I wonder what happened in Greek studies to shift the translators’ opinions? In fact, in each example in 1 Cor of the eta construction I gave this morning, you can substitute “What?” for “or” and get good, even better, sense. Paul plainly uses the eta to mark a false choice between a good and a bad alternative — and the bad alternative always deserves at least a “What?”

The double eta construction in 14:36 is surely intended to be even more emphatic.

On the other hand, I don’t buy the argument that “Law” in 14:34 is local law because Paul routinely uses “law” to mean Torah throughout his writings, and in very parallel ways in 1 Cor — 9:9-10; 9:20; 14:21; and 15:56. That’s every use of nomos in 1 Cor. All seem to plainly reference Torah. Hence, if it’s Paul speaking in those verses, I take him to be speaking of Gen 2.

The dialogue argument is true in principle. No one disputes that there are several passages in which Paul quotes the Corinthian position — with no indication of when the quote begins in the Greek. (Translators add quotation marks based on their own exegesis.) The general rule is that it’s from the church, not Paul, when it’s contradictory to Paul’s position stated in the immediate context (it would seem to me). And there is a strong case for just such a contradiction in these verses. And Pappiott’s work is surely helpful to your thesis.

I’ve argued in earlier posts that Paul speaks in gender-neutral terms in the preceding chapters, making his reference to silencing women something of a shock to those who read Greek and who don’t come to the text with a hierarchical bias. If that’s right — and I’ve not yet seen a refutation — then that passage may well be a quotation from the Corinthian congregation.

I have to say that my own inclination (but I’m still thinking all this through) is to conclude that Paul is speaking to a temporary cultural issue, evidenced by his reference to “shame” in an honor/shame culture and the emphasis he places on wives speaking to their “own” husbands (NASB correctly translates the Greek idios). It’s about not speaking to another woman’s husband — which is entirely concordant with First Century cultural attitudes.

But I agree that it’s entirely possible that the Corinthians were the ones worried about shame and a woman’s own husband — and so Paul is actually meaning to contradict a Corinthian teaching. My trouble with that reading is many grammatical. Throughout 1 Cor, Paul’s use of eta marks a false choice between Paul’s position and a ridiculous position. Hence, the choice Paul wants us to consider is —

(1Co 14:35-36 ESV)  35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.  36 Or [eta] was it from you that the word of God came? Or [eta] are you the only ones it has reached?

To me, Paul plainly wishes us to reject the choices given us in v. 36, so that we are forced to accept the choice he offers in v. 35 (in that particular time and place, not forever). And so I can’t agree that v. 35 is the Corinthian position. I therefore conclude that it’s Paul’s position for that occasion.

Why not just go with the clear sense of the text?

John F states,

I don’t mind being “stuck” with scripture’s clear wordings.

This is a purely subjective standard. Many would consider Gal 3:28 very clear indeed regarding the role of women. Those who disagree will mount an elaborate argument about inheritance rights under the Torah, declaring this is really what Paul is addressing (for example, Cottrell’s book on the role of women). In fact, both sides have no lack of “clear” authority and of elaborate argument. “Clear to me” means nothing but “my opinion is right.” Both sides see themselves to be clearly right. Hence, the claim of clarity is meaningless.

Rather, the far, far better test is whether a proposed interpretation fits into the larger scriptural principles — the grand narrative of the entirety of scripture, the chesed/grace of God, salvation by faith, the atonement, the work of the Spirit promised in Deut, Jer, Isa, Eze, Joel, etc. and fulfilled in the church, etc. And it’s really hard to find a justification for silencing women in these great, overarching doctrines. It’s easy to find reason to respect women as co-equal creations of God and as expected to use their Spirit-given gifts in furtherance of the Kingdom. It’s easy to find the submission of a suitable helper/complement to her one-flesh husband who left his family to be joined to her as one.

So I personally seek clarity in reading this Bible through the lens of the overarching doctrines — the ones that flow throughout the pages, chapters, books, and testaments. So I’m all for clarity, but not clarity separated from the context of the entirety of the holy text.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, Role of Women, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to 1 Corinthians 14:33b-37 (thoughts from the comments)

  1. Alan says:

    Jay wrote:

    It’s conceivable that “Law” refers to the oral law, but we have the oral law in the form the Mishnah and Talmud today. And I’ve read countless commentaries, blogs, comments, etc. on this topic, and I can’t recall anyone citing a particular command in the Mishnah or Talmud as a likely candidate for Paul’s statement. I don’t think we can assume an oral law for which there is no evidence.

    I previously responded with references from John Gill and Adam Clarke quoting the rabbis on the subject.

    I find it fascinating that Jews have been going through the same sort of re-thinking of ancient teachings and practices. In the time of Paul, women as rabbis would have been unthinkable.



    Up until the haskalah [Jewish enlightenment] the Jewish enlightenment, the idea of women rabbis would have seemed farfetched.

    And quote:

    The role of women in the rabbinate has been hotly debated within the Jewish community. The first female rabbi ever to be ordained was Regina Jonas of East Berlin. On December 25, 1935, Rabbi Dr. Max Dienemann, head of the Liberal Rabbis Association of Offenbach, ordained Jonas to serve as a rabbi in Jewish communities in Germany. In the United States, the Reform movement ordained its first female rabbi in 1972, the Reconstructionist movement in 1974, and the Conservative movement in 1985. The Orthodox movement has yet to officially accept women in its rabbinate, although a few Orthodox women have been ordained in some seminaries.

  2. laymond says:

    Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and

    let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and

    over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that

    creepeth upon the earth.
    Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created

    he him; male and female created he them.
    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created

    them; male and female he created them.

    So I don’t see where it is written that one sex is inferior to the other, If they both

    were created in the image of the same God, one could not be superior to the

    other. seems God placed them on even footing.

    Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy

    conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to

    thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

    It seems to me here, because of the femail’s disobediance to God ( her sin,) the

    woman was given a subservant position to the man, as punishment for her sin.

    Jhn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that

    whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    1Jo 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if

    any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
    1Jo 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for

    the sins of the whole world.
    If woman was held inferior to man for so many years because of sin, wouldn’t it

    make sence that Jesus death for forgiveness of sins of the world, placed woman

    back on even footing with their male counterpart.?

  3. Dwight says:

    Laymond, Wasn’t Adam created first? Wasn’t Eve to be his helpmate? Didn’t Adam sin too? Didn’t Adam sin by eating the same apple? If God is fair in all things, then man and woman should have been cursed equally with the same curse. Right? Take your case to God. The reality is that God makes the rules and some of them don’t seem fair. I mean a certain person (Abraham) was given the blessing and his family after that, while the gentiles were denied. If Jesus forgave the sins of all, then all were sinless when Jesus died, then all were saved and they didn’t really need Christ after that. This is news to me. Your argument of “wouldn’t it make sense” has no scripture and you would think there would be some trace of this going on, but there isn’t. After Jesus died, the apostles didn’t choose a woman as Judas replacement. I’m not against your argument, but it has no representation in the scriptures and there is actually enough scripture that counters it. There is no argument that all recieve the blessing of Jesus…salvation equally, but that doesn’t change our roles/functions with that context. Paul was unfairly put in chains and yet look at what he did.

  4. Alabama John says:

    God refers to Jesus as His son. Both are presented through out the bible as male. Why is Mrs. God never mentioned nor Gods daughter?

    The sexes are made different and think different.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Ala. John,

    There are actually several passages in which God speaks of himself in feminine terms. And you’re doubtlessly familiar with —

    (Mat 23:37 ESV) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

    Jesus compares himself to a hen, not a rooster. Why? Because he felt toward Jerusalem as a mother. That hardly makes Jesus female. He was fully incarnate and therefore gendered. But he was no embarrassed to express himself in feminine terms – which I can’t imagine the typical American male being willing to do.

    Where did Jesus get this image? Well, from God,

    (Isa 66:12-13 ESV) 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

    God speaks of himself as the nursing mother of Jerusalem. So God expresses his feelings toward his beloved people as both a father and a mother.

  6. Alabama John says:


    I think Jesus is saying he as a male would use the protective “act” as a hen or woman, not being one.
    Jesus miraculously provided food for a multitude which was considered womans work but that didn’t make Jesus think of himself as a woman.
    Many men give a milk bottle to children but that act doesn’t make them be feminine, just helpful, loving, and caring as a woman.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    I entirely agree that the Jewish culture was anti-female to the point that they surely insisted women be silent in the synagogue. Where I don’t agree is that this is taught in the Old Testament or Torah. Nor do I find it in the Talmud or Mishnah, although the Oral Law contains many anti-female statements — which is exactly what we’d expect to find in the culture in which Paul lived.

    None of that goes to show that the “Law” directly requires silence. It requires submission of wives to husbands. It was the culture in which Paul worked, esp. the Jewish culture, that required silence as the way to show submission. And so, because submission is biblical per Gen 2, Paul commanded the wives to show submission in culturally appropriate ways.

  8. laymond says:

    Dwight said, “After Jesus died, the apostles didn’t choose a woman as Judas replacement.”

    You are right, the men chose another man. but who was the first person Jesus chose (after his resurrection ) to carry his message to others, A woman.

  9. John F says:

    “We even have a woman apostle in Junia” to -make this a statement of fact is to make an overstatement.-

    Rom 16:7 tn Or “Junias.”

    sn The feminine name Junia, though common in Latin, is quite rare in Greek (apparently only three instances of it occur in Greek literature outside Rom 16:7, according to the data in the TLG [D. Moo, Romans [NICNT], 922]). The masculine Junias (as a contraction for Junianas), however, is rarer still: Only one instance of the masculine name is known in extant Greek literature (Epiphanius mentions Junias in his Index discipulorum 125). Further, since there are apparently other husband-wife teams mentioned in this salutation (Prisca and Aquila [v. 3], Philologus and Julia [v. 15]), it might be natural to think of Junia as a feminine name. (This ought not be pressed too far, however, for in v. 12 all three individuals are women [though the first two are linked together], and in vv. 9-11 all the individuals are men.) In Greek only a difference of accent distinguishes between Junias (male) and Junia (female). If it refers to a woman, it is possible (1) that she had the gift of apostleship (not the office), or (2) that she was not an apostle but along with Andronicus was esteemed by (or among) the apostles. As well, the term “prominent” probably means “well known,” suggesting that Andronicus and Junia(s) were well known to the apostles (see note on the phrase “well known” which follows).

    w tn Or “kinsmen,” “relatives,” “fellow countrymen.”

    x tn Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”). The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which
    is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [
    “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30). When, however, an elative notion is found,
    y tn Or “among the apostles.” See discussion in the note on “well known” for these options.
    (from The NET Bible®)

  10. John F says:

    “The Bible deals with slaves in an increasingly liberating way. Torah treats slaves much better than in surrounding countries. The NT treats them even better — so much so that many churches had slave elders. ”

    I’ve not seen this comment before. Would you be kind enough to offer source?

  11. Alan says:

    Jay, the apostle Paul wote through inspiration that the Law requires that a woman be in submission. So I accept that as true. It certainly seems likely that he was referring to Jewish law, since he does so often, and since we don’t have examples of him using secular law to prove a point. We don’t know exactly what part of the Law he meant. We don’t know whether it was explicit or an implied requirement. We don’t know whether we possess a copy of the referenced document today or not. But the absence of evidence is not evidence. The fact that the inspired apostle said the Law requires it is enough.

    Paul was a Pharisee. He knew the Law.

  12. laymond says:

    Alan, we as Americans are not concerned any more with ancient Jewish laws, than we should be by the laws of sacrifice from Moses. We should be concerned only with American law, and the spiritual law of God, which Jesus called to our attention. Look at Jewish society today if you think Jewish women hold their tongue, well you better look again.

  13. laymond says:

    I never cease to be annoyed, when people say they follow Jesus Christ, Who by the way, is still alive today. Then they start telling me what Paul, a dead Jewish preacher said. Who by the way was speaking to people of his own time. Do you think Paul reached more people than Jesus did, ?no. Billy Graham personally talked to many more people than did Paul. Yet we never hear Billy mentioned from the pulpit of a CoC preacher.

  14. John F says:

    Laymond, of course we hear Billy quoted from cofc pulpits, most often critically

  15. Jay Guin says:


    We’re talking past each other. Paul said that the Law requires submission. You are right. I agree. Have never said otherwise.

    THe question is why submission requires silence in the assembly. And it doesn’t — not per se. It requires submission, as Paul says.

    (1Co 14:34 ESV) For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

    The grammar is quite exact. The clause “as the Law also says” modifies the clause “should be in submission.”

    I just checked Leedy Greek NT Diagrams for the diagramming of the sentence, and it agrees with the translation. Hence, we look to “Law” for submission and easily find it. Not even a little controversial.

    But why does submission require silence? Paul does NOT say that the Law requires silence. He says that submission requires silence — it’s a second-level step in his logic. And the reason he gives is in the very next verse: “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.” “For” indicates that this is the explanation for what precedes (“gar” in the Greek).

    “Shameful” is a reference to the views of others in an honor/shame culture. It just is.

    BDAG (the premier NT Greek lexicon) defines “shameful” as —

    1. A term esp. significant in honor-shame oriented society; gener. in ref. to that which fails to meet expected moral and cultural standards

    In short, the GRAMMAR says that Paul is giving a cultural reason for silence in response to a scriptural requirement to be in submission.

    The Law (Gen 2 in my opinion) requires submission. This requirement is not in dispute. The culture (according to the APOSTLE PAUL) tells us how submission plays out — in silence — because that how the people of that age outside the church thought.

    The church would be DISHONORED in an honor/shame culture had they acted otherwise — and that would have hurt the cause of the Gospel.

    Now notice that I’ve not ONCE referred to preconceptions or assumptions or the Equal Rights Amendment or Women’s Liberation. Every argument comes straight from the Greek text. And it’s really quite clear — if you are willing to accept the historicity of the surrounding honor/shame culture and the ill-view of women in the surrounding cultures. And if you disagree with my view of history, then you’re going to struggle explaining why Paul spoke in terms of “shame” in any other kind of culture

  16. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    I’m very upset with myself because I can’t find my copy of Early Christians Speak by Everett Ferguson. I must have lent to a friend or son — which would have been stupid of me and just like me. That’s one source. I need to rethink my lending policies.

    There is this commentary: https://books.google.com/books?id=IA5ZKjhosv4C&pg=PA627&lpg=PA627&dq=slaves+christian+elders&source=bl&ots=NbO14vjUxG&sig=Mysd0JJ9lhOQyKTmycRUR04Kc0M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qGhNVZvCKoPvoASvu4GAAw&ved=0CDsQ6AEwBTgo#v=onepage&q=slaves%20christian%20elders&f=false

    ANd this blog: http://www.morethancake.org/archives/5353

    Third Century bishop of Rome had been a slave and was freed by his predecessor bishop by buying his freedom.

    He tells us that Callistus was originally a slave in the household of a rich Christian called Carpophorus.

    “CALLISTUS (1),” A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, 143.

    Pope Leo forbade the ordination of slaves, which indicates that slaves were being ordained —

    Among his disciplinary directions were regulations forbidding the ordination of slaves (Ep. iv.), which, though justified on the ground that they are not free for the Lord’s service, are couched in language breathing more of the Roman patrician than of the Christian bishop (cf. “quibus nulla natalium dignitas suffragatur,” “tanquam servilis vilitas hunc honorem capiat,” “sacrum ministerium talis consortii vilitate polluitur”).

    “LEO (5) I.,” A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, 653.

    Marcellus, another Roman bishop, was a slave —

    Marcellus (3), bp. of Rome probably from May 24, 307, to Jan. 15, 309, the see having been vacant after the death of Marcellinus, 2 years, 6 months, and 27 days (Lipsius, Chronologie der röm. Bischöf.).
    This pope appears as a martyr in the Roman Martyrology, and in the later recensions of the Liber Pontificalis, a story being told that he was beaten, and afterwards condemned to tend the imperial horses as a slave.

    “MARCELLUS,” A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, 689.

    Saint Patrick began life as a slave.

    He became the slave of Milchu, the king of Dalaradia, the commencement of whose reign the Four Masters assign to 388, so that the very earliest year for St. Patrick’s birth would be 372. Dalaradia was the most powerful kingdom of N.E. Ireland. It extended from Newry, in the S. of co. Down, to the hill of Slemish, the most conspicuous mountain of central Antrim. In the 7th cent. traditions about his residence there were abundantly current in the locality, as indeed they are still. He lived near the village of Broughshane, 5 or 6 miles E. of Ballymena, where a townland, Ballyligpatrick, the town of the hollow of Patrick, probably commemorates the position of the farm where he fed Milchu’s swine (cf. Dr. Reeves’s Antiq. of Down and Connor, pp. 78, 83, 84, 334–348) After 7 years he escaped, went to Gaul and studied under Germanus of Auxerre. He remained for a very long period, some say 30, others 40 years, in Gaul, where he was ordained priest and bishop. He then returned to Ireland, visiting England on his way.

    “PATRICIUS (10),” A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, 805.

    Clearly, the early church bought the freedom of slaves at every opportunity, and many former slaves became bishops (and hence elders). Several commentators believe it all but inevitable that some slaves serves as elders. Barclay’s commentary on Philemon argues that Philemon became bishop of Ephesus. And it would so consistent with early Christian attitudes ..

    And while I can find my copy of Webb’s book, it has no topical index and it’s late on Friday and I’m tired.

    I actually thought this was common knowledge. I was taught as a high schooler at the North Highlands Church of Christ in Russellville, Alabama. I think by my dad based on Ferguson’s Early CHristians SPeak, which is one of the first serious books about Christianity I ever read, other than the Bible itself. Oh, well …

  17. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    There is no example of Junia being used as a male name in all of history.

    EVERY ancient manuscript has the name in the feminine form. The manuscript evidence is without variation (earlier than the 13th Century, going from memory). The case for Junia is FAR superior to the case for the authenticity of 1 Cor 14:34-37. There is NO material manuscript evidence against her being female.

    Scholars are increasingly reaching a consensus that the Greek shows her to be an apostle.

    Osburn’s Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity gives the evidence. The case is quite powerful.

    Here’s some commentaries from conservative authors —

    he modern scholarly controversy over this name rests on the presumption that no woman could rank as an apostle, and thus that the accusative form must refer to a male by the name of Junias or Junianus.103 However, the evidence in favor of the feminine name “Junia” is overwhelming.104 Not a single example of a masculine name “Junias” has been found.105 The patristic evidence investigated by Fàbrega and Fitzmyer indicates that commentators down through the twelfth century refer to Junia as a woman, often commenting on the extraordinary gifts that ranked her among the apostles.106 The traditional feast of Saints Andronikos and Junia celebrates admirabilem feminam Juniam (“the admirable woman Junia”),107 which suggests that while some medieval copyists of Romans assumed a male name,108 the church as a whole had no difficulty on this point until later, particularly after Luther popularized the masculine option.109

    Robert K. Jewett and Roy D. Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary on the Book of Romans (Hermeneia 66; ed. Eldon J. Epp; Accordance electronic ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), n.p.

    The honorific expression ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις should be translated “outstanding among the apostles”127 rather than “remarkable in the judgment of the apostles,”128 because the adjective ἐπίσημος lifts up a person or thing as distinguished or marked in comparison with other representatives of the same class, in this instance with the other apostles.129 The Latin equivalent is honoratus, the acknowledgment of the distinction and honor earned by another.130 Thus τὸ ἐπίσημον was used to refer to the badge distinguishing one shield from another (Herodotus Hist. 9.74), the flag or figurehead that identifies one ship in comparison with an otherwise identical ship in the same class (Herodotus 8.88), or the device stamped on a coin to distinguish it from another (Plutarch Thes. 6.1).131 The adjective is used by 3 Macc 6:1 to identify Eleazar as ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς χώρας ἱερέων (“remarkable among the priests of the country”) and by Josephus to describe Mary of Bethezuba as “remarkable (ἐπίσημος) by reason of family and fortune” (Bell. 6.201). A striking confirmation of this interpretation is provided by Chrysostom’s comment about Junia: “Even to be an apostle is great, but also to be prominent among them—consider how wonderful a song of honor that is!”132

    Robert K. Jewett and Roy D. Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary on the Book of Romans (Hermeneia 66; ed. Eldon J. Epp; Accordance electronic ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), n.p.

    The second of these names might be either masculine (Junias, a shorter form of Junianus) or feminine (Junia, as in AV). But, since there seems to be no certain occurrence of the form Junias, the feminine Junia is to be preferred. This couple (perhaps husband and wife) were Jewish by birth (Paul calls them his ‘kinsfolk’); they had shared one of Paul’s frequent imprisonments (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23), possibly in Ephesus. Moreover, they were ‘of note among the apostles’, which probably means that they were not merely well known to the apostles but were apostles themselves (in the wider, Pauline, sense of the word), and eminent ones at that.

    F. F. Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 6; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), n.p.

    They are man and woman, perhaps husband and wife or possibly brother and sister. This is the more interesting in that they are “of note among the apostles,” presumably meaning that both of them were witnesses of the resurrection (which fits, of course, with their being “in Christ” before Paul). Junia is thus one of the female “apostles,” the only one so called; though presumably others, such as Mary Magdalene, were known as such as well.

    N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), n.p.

    Next come Andronicus (the name means “man of victory”) and Junias. NIV thus makes the second name that of a man, but this seems unlikely.27 The patristic commentators seem to have taken the word as feminine (“Junia”) and understood the pair to be man and wife.

    Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), n.p.

    Andronicus and Junia are also outstanding among the Apostles, 30 which might mean that the apostles held them in high esteem or that they were apostles, and notable apostles at that. The former understanding seems less likely; it “scarcely does justice to the construction in the Greek” (Harrison).31 It is fairly clear from the New Testament that there was a wider circle of apostles than the Twelve, and it would seem that this couple belonged to that wider circle.

    Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), n.p.

    That’s four out of the first four commentaries I checked. How many more do you want? What I said is back by the consensus of the best, conservative, scholarly commentaries that can be found.

    Not a one argues that Junia was male. The early church fathers uniformly considered her female. And Chrysostom, hardly a women’s libber, praised her as being among the apostles.

    The case to the contrary is sheer wishful thinking, and it’s time we respected the text for what it says.

    So let’s look at the NET Bible translator notes a little more closely —

    The feminine name Junia, though common in Latin, is quite rare in Greek (apparently only three instances of it occur in Greek literature outside Rom 16:7, according to the data in the TLG [D. Moo, Romans [NICNT], 922]). The masculine Junias (as a contraction for Junianas), however, is rarer still: Only one instance of the masculine name is known in extant Greek literature (Epiphanius mentions Junias in his Index discipulorum 125).

    “Though common in Latin.” This is a letter to the church in ROME! LATIN is the native tongue of Rome. Even though she is a Jewess, why would we imagine that she has adopted a COMMON ROMAN FEMALE NAME while living in Rome? That the name is common in the city where she lives in the language spoken by the residents SUPPORTS the claim that she was female. (I’m a fan of the NET Bible notes, but this is just as contrary to the evidence as can be.)

    The commentators cite to Moo’s commentary in the NICNT series. Here’s what he says,

    7 Paul now sends greetings to two fellow Jews, who, as Paul’s description indicates, had considerable stature in the early church. Andronicus is a common Greek name, so he must have been a “Hellenistic” Jew. The identity of Andronicus’s “partner” is a matter of considerable debate. The problem arises from the fact that the Greek form used here, Iounian, depending on how it is accented, could refer either (1) to a man with the name Junianus, found here in its contracted form, “Junias” (cf. NIV; RSV; NASB; TEV; NJB); or (2) to a woman with the name of Junia (KJV; NRSV; REB). Interpreters from the thirteenth to the middle of the twentieth century generally favored the masculine identification.31 But it appears that commentators before the thirteenth century were unanimous in favor of the feminine identification; and scholars have recently again inclined decisively to this same view.33 And probably with good reason. For while a contracted form of Junianus would fit quite well in this list of greetings (for Paul uses several other such contractions), we have no evidence elsewhere for this contracted form of the name. On the other hand, the Latin “Junia” was a very common name. Probably, then, “Junia” was the wife of Andronicus (note the other husband and wife pairs in this list, Prisca and Aquila [v. 3] and [probably], Philologus and Julia [v. 15]).
    In addition to their natural relationship (“kindred”), Paul shared with Andronicus and Junia also a spiritual relationship, in both ministry and suffering. For they were Paul’s “fellow prisoners.” Implied is that their imprisonment, like those of Paul’s that we know about, were for the sake of the gospel. But whether they were in prison with Paul at the same time37 or simply shared with him this kind of experience in the service of the Lord is impossible to say. In two relative clauses Paul draws the attention of the Roman Christians to the stature of this husband and wife ministry team. The first description might mean that Andronicus and Junia were “esteemed by the apostles.” But it is more natural to translate “esteemed among the apostles.”39 And it is because Paul thus calls Junia(s) an “apostle” that earlier interpreters tended to argue that Paul must be referring to a man; for they had difficulty imagining that a woman could hold such authority in the early church. Yet it is just for this reason that many contemporary scholars are eager to identify Junia(s) as a woman, for Pauline recognition of a female apostle would support the notion that the NT places no restrictions on the ministry of women.
    But many scholars on both sides of this issue are guilty of accepting too readily a key supposition in this line of reasoning: that “apostle” here refers to an authoritative leadership position such as that held by the “Twelve” and by Paul. In fact, Paul often uses the title “apostle” in a “looser” sense: sometimes simply to denote a “messenger” or “emissary” and sometimes to denote a “commissioned missionary.”42 When Paul uses the word in the former sense, he makes clear the source and purpose of the “emissary’s” commission. So “apostle” here probably means “traveling missionary.” Since Paul, in the second relative clause, acknowledges that they were “in Christ” before him, we might infer that Andronicus and Junia were among those early “Hellenistic” Jews in Jerusalem44 and that, like Peter and his wife (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5), they moved about in the eastern Mediterranean (where they encountered and perhaps were imprisoned with Paul), seeking to bring men and women to faith in Christ.

    Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 921–924. (And now the commentaries are five for five — and all disagree with the NET Bible translators on the meaning of “outstanding among.” I’m not sufficiently expert in Greek to personally evaluation their argument, but EVERY commentary I’ve checked — and they are the most respected and influential of them all — disagree.

    I agree with all that Moo says. She obviously was not among the 12, but as I’ve said many times in the past, Paul refers to many fellow missionaries who were witnesses to the resurrection as “apostles.” We’ll return to this issue early in 1 Cor 15.

    By the way, John Calvin, hardly a modern egalitarian, says,

    In the third place, he calls them Apostles: he uses not this word in its proper and common meaning, but extends it wider, even to all those who not only teach in one Church, but also spend their labour in promulgating the gospel everywhere. He then, in a general way, calls those in this place Apostles, who planted Churches by carrying here and there the doctrine of salvation; for elsewhere he confines this title to that first order which Christ at the beginning established, when he appointed the twelve disciples. It would have been otherwise strange, that this dignity should be only ascribed to them, and to a few others. But as they had embraced the gospel by faith before Paul, he hesitates not to set them on this account before himself.2

    John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 546.

    Calvin does not address her gender, but strenuously argues that the Greek says she’s an apostle. John Calvin!

    In addition, “from the time accents were added to the text until the early part of the twentieth century, editions of the Greek NT printed the feminine acute accent and not the masculine circumflex,” and that is so from the texts of Erasmus (1516–35) to that of Westcott and Hort (1881: Ἰουνίαν). Moreover, there is no known evidence for the existence of the masculine name “Junias,” whereas the feminine name “Junia” has been found over 250 times in ancient Roman inscriptions. Another important point is that some 16 commentators of the first Christian millennium understood the name to be “Junia.”23 In light of the overwhelming evidence, the person must be understood to be “Junia,” and she and Andronicus can be considered a married couple.

    The NRSV departs, rightly, from other modern versions (ASV, RSV, NIV) by having the name of the second person mentioned as the feminine “Junia” (as in the KJV), rather than the masculine “Junias.” Early Christian writers, such as Origen (A.D. 185–254), Chrysostom (A.D. 347–407), and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (A.D. 393–466), wrote without hesitation that at this place Paul refers to a woman named Junia, and Chrysostom considered her an apostle: “Think how great the devotion of this woman Junia must have been, that she should be worthy to be called an apostle!”42
    But when Paul says that Andronicus and Junia are “prominent among the apostles,” there are two possible meanings. One is that they are prominent within the circle of apostles, of which they are a part (the inclusivist view). The other is that they are highly esteemed by the apostles, but that they are not themselves to be counted among them (the exclusivist view). The word translated here as “prominent” is ἐπίσημος, which appears only one other place in the NT (Matt 27:16), meaning “notorious” (modifying “prisoner” and applied to Barabbas).
    There are good reasons for affirming that Andronicus and Junia are to be included within the circle of “the apostles” (the inclusivist view). First, that there were persons designated as “apostles” beyond the circle of the Twelve—Paul himself being one of them, as well as James the brother of the Lord (Gal 1:19) and Barnabas (1 Cor 9:5–6; Acts 14:14)—is indisputable, based on evidence from elsewhere (cf. also 1 Cor 15:5, 7; cf. 4:9; 9:5; 12:28; 2 Cor 8:23; Eph 4:11). In that light, it is not surprising that Andronicus, Junia, and several or even many other persons could have been considered apostles. Second, the fact that Andronicus and Junia were of Jewish background and were “in Christ” (Paul’s familiar designation for Christians; cf. Rom 8:1; 16:7; 1 Cor 3:1; 2 Cor 5:17; 12:2; Phil 3:8–9) even before Paul’s own call to apostleship speaks in favor of their being among the originating circle of apostles that Paul refers to in his list of those to whom the risen Christ appeared, and whom he calls “all the apostles” prior to his own call as an apostle (1 Cor 15:7–8). Since Paul seems to have considered himself to have been the last apostle commissioned by the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:8), Andronicus and Junia would certainly qualify within the time allotted, in Paul’s view, for the commissioning of apostles. Third, the phrase was understood in the inclusivist sense in patristic commentaries (see below). Fourth, if the term is used in this case as a reference to a nameless third party (“the apostles”) in the exclusivist sense, it would appear that Paul is thereby excluding himself also from that same circle of apostles, which very thing he would never do. But if he means to include Andronicus and Junia as prominent within that circle, of which he himself is a part, he would be complimenting them as “insiders” from one who is an “insider” himself. Fifth, the best explanation for Paul’s mentioning that they are “prominent among the apostles” is that they are apostles themselves. Why would Paul otherwise refer to their prominence? There seem to be two possibilities, but neither is satisfactory. One possibility would be that Paul is telling his readers here, in so many words, that Andronicus and Junia were highly regarded by “the apostles” and could therefore be trustworthy references for him, if anyone should need their evaluation regarding him. Yet that is not a likely reason for the comment concerning them. He has already spoken of them as having been imprisoned along with him. Being personally known to this couple would be of more value as a reference for him than would their standing among “the apostles.” And in the wake of the incident at Antioch (Gal 2:11–21), it is questionable whether Paul would want to defer to the opinions of such persons as Peter, James, and John (if they are counted among “the apostles”) regarding the couple. The other possibility is that Paul is simply being complimentary concerning Andronicus and Junia; they are highly regarded by “the apostles.” In favor of this, they could have been residents of Jerusalem at the time of their conversions, and were perhaps even converted through the preaching of “the apostles” there. They could thereafter have been commissioned as missionaries to Rome, or perhaps they could have become missionaries on their own initiative. Or, again, it is possible that Andronicus and Junia were simply known to “the apostles,” had captured their attention as outstanding, and were thus regarded highly by them. Although a compliment along these lines cannot be excluded as a possibility, other considerations mentioned already weigh heavily in favor of Paul’s inclusion of them among the circle of apostles, which is a view expressed already in the first half of the twentieth century by various interpreters, and has been shared widely among others since the latter part of the twentieth century.

    Arland J. Hultgren, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI;Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2011), 574–575, 581–583.

    So what is that? Seven out of seven major, respected commentaries — including Calvin.

    PS — The 18th Century Clarke’s Commentary says Junia is likely female. Again, hardly influenced by contemporary attitudes on the subject.

    And that’s 8 out of 8.

    And thanks for pushing me to look more deeply into the question. Always enjoyable learning more about Paul’s words.

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay how then do we understand the communication while selecting Mathias to replace Judas wherein that the qualifications of an Apostle would not be necessary later. Has the Bible record been amended to allow for more than The Twelve Apostles?

  19. Jay Guin says:

    Read 1 Cor 15:1-7 or so. Paul plainly distinguishes the 12 from “the apostles.”

    Then check Strong’s and notice how many Paul calls ” apostle” who are not among the 12.

    Then read the quoted text from the commentaries. In fact, Paul used “apostle” in at least two senses.

    But you need to review the texts yourself. See for yourself.

  20. R.J. says:

    Grammatically the line “as in all the assemblies of the Saints” can either be taken to conclude a phrase or start a new one. But contextually, the evidence I believe weighs heavily on the former. Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul routinely concludes a thought with similar universal statements(e.g. “as I teach in all the churches”). Never is it the other way around.

  21. R.J. says:

    Also the text would be a run-on sentence of repetition if taken in the latter sense. Just think…

    “As in all the assemblies of the Saints, women are to be silent in the assemblies.

    Some translations that take this view attempt to smooth it out with “assemblies-congregations” or “churches-assemblies”. But the same Greek word is applied twice by Paul-Ekklesia.

  22. Jay Guin says:


    I didn’t cover that issue in this series, but I agree with you. I think the NIV and KJV get it right.

  23. Larry Cheek says:

    If there were more Apostles, can we determine their appointment? I have never found scripture to explain to the church in general (or us) what we are to expect from an apostle who is not one of the Twelve. Shouldn’t there be some kind of authentication process that would allow the common Christian or even the Leaders, Elders whom we appoint to be able to authenticate that an individual is to be honored as an apostle?
    There is a place in scripture that identifies that there were false apostles, and warns about submitting to them.
    2Co 11:3-4 ESV But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (4) For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

    2Co 11:12-15 ESV And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. (13) For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (15) So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
    Jesus communicates about the church being able to properly discern by tests the claims of men.
    Rev 2:2-3 ESV “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (3) I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

    Are all the tests included in the scriptures somewhere?

    It is very easy to lookup all references to the word (apostle and all its forms). I did and definitely have not located a description that would give me a clue that there were other apostles. The verses which you directed me to are not rendering the concept to me that you have expressed. I checked many translations while pursued this. Possibly, I have been so blinded that I cannot see what you are attempting to make me aware of, could you be more specific?

  24. Jay Guin says:


    Paul refers to several not among the 12 as apostolos. Here are the verses —

    (1Co 15:3-7 ESV) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    Notice that Paul distinguishes “the twelve” from “James, then to all the apostles.” Hence, in Paul’s vocabulary, “apostle” is broader than the 12 (at least at times), but ALL the apostles saw the resurrected Jesus before the conversion of Paul.

    Grammatically, he appears to includes James (Jacob), brother of Jesus, as an apostle, although he was not among the 12.

    (1Co 15:8-9 ESV) 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

    We next find Paul referring to Andronicus and Junia as apostles and, very consistent with 1 Cor 15, converted before Paul.

    (Rom 16:7 NRS) Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

    THis takes us to —

    (2Co 8:23 NET) If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; if there is any question about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.

    “Messengers” translates apostolos. By 2 Cor Paul has expanded the term, because it seems clear that Titus was a Gentile and not a witness to the resurrection. Rather, he is a missionary serving under the direction of Paul. It’s plural, and so Paul seems to wrap his entire entourage with this term.

    In Gal, Paul again refers to James, the brother of Jesus, as an apostle —

    (Gal 1:19 ESV) 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.

    In Philippians, Paul refers to Epaphroditus as an “apostle” (rather than “messenger”), and we know very little about him except he was part of Paul’s missionary entourage.

    (Phi 2:25-26 ESV) I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.

    So we find Paul using the word in at least 3 senses —

    * The 12 (but often including James, brother of Jesus, who appears to have chaired the apostles/elders in Jerusalem and died a martyr). Paul placed himself in this same category.

    * The early missionaries who were witnesses to the resurrection.

    * Paul’s circle of missionaries.

    This is often hidden by the translators, but is not a controversial conclusion, although it opens up several lines of inquiry.

    More to come …

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Continuing regarding apostles —

    The exact nature of “apostleship” in the early church is obscure. In Acts 1:21–26, the qualification for Matthias, chosen an apostle after Judas’s death, is that of being an eyewitness: he was present with Jesus from the time of John the Baptist through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “Peter and the apostles,” centered in Jerusalem, are the recognized leaders and guiding force of the development of the church according to the early chapters of Acts. Paul also claims to be an eyewitness to the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1; 1 Cor. 15:8), and he claims to be an apostle even though he had not been a follower of Jesus during the time of Jesus’s ministry on earth (Gal. 1:1; 11–12; cf. Acts 14:14). The designation of Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7) as apostles seems to use the term in a more general sense that no longer includes being an eyewitness to the ministry and/or resurrection of Jesus as a qualification (see also 1 Cor. 12:28–29). In Heb. 3:1, Jesus is the “apostle,” the one sent by God.

    Philip L. Shuler, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated), 2011, 40.

    So here’s my take:

    1. Jesus appointed 12 apostles. The word refers to “someone sent” and could be translated messenger or emissary. They were charged with spreading the gospel, esp. the fact of resurrection of Jesus.

    Matthias replaced Judas, because the number 12 was important — an obvious parallel to the 12 tribes, implying that the church, led by the Twelve, is Israel transformed by the Messiah.

    The brother of Jesus, James, was really Jacob. For some reason, it became customary to translate “Jacob” in the NT as “James.” And Jesus’ brother chaired the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Of course, James/Jacob was named after the Patriarch Jacob, whom God renamed “Israel.” And we had 12 apostles led by Jacob/Israel — deepening the symbolism of the church as the new Israel.

    2. Paul was a full-fledged apostle — but he was commissioned for the Gentile world, making the symbolism of 12 + Jacob/Israel much less important. And Paul argued vigorously that he was the equal of any of the 12.

    3. Early on, the church also named several witnesses to the resurrection as “apostles,” as they were charged to spread the good news of the resurrection. The early church often referred to Mary Magdalene as “apostle to the apostles” as she brought them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

    In Paul’s early writings, he appears to consider being an eyewitness to the resurrection as an essential mark of being an apostle — either the core group or the larger group of witnesses.

    4. Later in Paul’s career, members of his missionary entourage were sometimes called “apostle,” even though it would seem clear that not all were witnesses to the resurrection. Perhaps Paul was training a second generation of mission leaders and giving them this title to give them the respect and authority needed to continue to do mission work. Maybe.

    5. However, the earliest uninspired writings we have do not continue to refer to church leaders or missionaries as “apostles.” The term quickly was limited to essentially the 12 + Paul. In fact, early elders and bishops make a point to distinguish themselves from the 12.

    However, over time, the bishops (elevated by this time above elders) claimed to stand in the shoes of the apostles — with lists drawn up showing “apostolic succession” from the original apostles to the bishops of the church. The Pope came to be known as successor to Peter, the first “pope” of Rome.

    6. The Protestant Reformation largely rejected apostolic succession as a doctrine (the Anglicans and Methodists being notable exceptions).

    7. Recently, many have argued that the office of “apostle” as described in Eph 4 was intended to be an enduring office, with the apostles to be charged with missionary/church planting work. It’s not uncommon for the head of a church planting or missionary organization to refer to himself as an “apostle,” but rarely in the sense of the original 12. Rather, such a claim typically means that he intends to carry on a missionary work like that of Paul’s — training missionaries and overseeing church planting efforts from place to place, rather than being a located missionary — who builds a church and then pastors the church much like a 3d Century bishop.

  26. Dwight says:

    The text doesn’t say, ““As in all the assemblies of the Saints, women are to be silent in the assemblies“.Some translations that take this view attempt to smooth it out with “assemblies-congregations” or “churches-assemblies”.”
    “Let your[d] women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” church here is ekklesia or congregation, but the context is within the assembly, as when Paul says, “If the whole church (congregation) come together…” and this would require them to speak above men and over men. it is hardly redundant as Paul states that a woman should keep silent in the assembly and in all other assemblies due to “shame”. So to argue that it is purely a symbol of submission is wrong, it is an action of submission and to do otherwise is shameful. IT is not shameful to the church, but to the woman. And then it clearly argues what a woman should do instead. We have plenty of examples of women speaking outside of the assembly, but none where they are speaking in the assembly or over a man and this should tell us something. A woman might have been an apostle, but was not one of the twelve, and yet what did the apostles do…they taught others, as the disciples did, and many had spiritual gifts, and yet no example of them teaching over men or speaking out in the assembly.
    Again this is an exercise in excuses.
    One argument is that it refers to “as the law says”, and it is argued that we are not under the law so not applicable. Well Jesus stated that adultery was sinful, he lived as a Jew and the law said that adultery was sinful, then under this reasoning adultery must not be sinful. Just because the law is referenced, doesn’t mean that it is not applicable if they, Jesus or the apostles, are saying t is. If they say something is to be done, then it is applicable. When Jesus stated, “God desires mercy rather than sacrifice”, even though it is a OT principle doesn’t make it not applicable. When Jesus states, “Though shalt love the lord they God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” from the OT, it is none-the-less true. The OT law being referenced only adds weight as something that God wanted in the past, but isn’t being used to negate a statement they are putting forth.

  27. Jay is correct that some who accept the role of apostles in the church today see them basically as missionaries or church planters. This is in line with the work of apostles, but should not be seen as the only work apostles can do. Apostles such as Jesus’ brother James appear to have had a governmental role of some sort, while Paul’s work included looking after the sheep even in his absence, as the pastoral nature of much of his writing bears out. He appears later to have shifted from planter to waterer; from an evangelistic role to one whose authority and influence is received by a number of churches.

    I do see some groups using the term apostle to mean the leader of a group of congregations, substituting this term for the more traditional “archbishop” or “district superintendent” or “president”. I think this is a poor use of the term apostle.

  28. Larry Cheek says:

    You have brought out the point that I was driving at very well. That point being, that being an eyewitness was a decisive qualification of an Apostle. I have encountered several leaders of churches to whom the congregation claim their leaders to be Apostles. These men have fully embraced that title and they most times display that their authority equals the authority of the 12, with direct communications with the Godhead including the powers of miracles and healing. Of course I have never been in a position to experience the evidence of these actions, it must demand a greater faith in them than I can muster.
    These men seem to me to match the communications about false Apostles.
    Thanks for the deeper explanation.

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