Junia: A Response to Michael Burer

I guess you could call this “Not Junia Again!” I have written about Junia before but the issue is complex and difficult to cover well. Here is a little of the history. I read Romans 16:7 in the NET Bible,

    Greet Andronicus and Junia,6 my compatriots7 and my fellow prisoners. They are well known8 to the apostles,9 and they were in Christ before me.

    In the King James version,

      Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

    I then read the NET Bible note, along with the article Was Junia Really an Apostle (see page 4) by Burer and Wallace, which it cites.

      Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term ἐπίσημος (epishmo”) 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 ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30).

      When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.

      In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.” See M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001): 76-91, who argue for the elative notion here.

    I blogged about this issue here and then commented on Adrian’s blog and Michael Burer responded. I am taking this occasion to continue the dialogue. Since the NET Bible note itself has not been altered, I will comment on this first, and then on Burer’s response.

    Here are the issues.

    First, by “comparative” the annotator also means that the noun modifed is “one of the group” – this use of the adjective is inclusive. By “elative” the annotator means that the noun modified is not “one of the group”- this use can be called exclusive.

    Wallace and Burer set out to estabish a new rule, that when the adjective ἐπίσημος is followed by a genitive, it is comparative and therefore inclusive. Conversely, when the adjective is followed by ἐν plus the dative, it is elative and therefore, exclusive. The noun modified, in this case Junia, is no longer one of the group. According to the authors, if ἐπίσημος is followed by ἐν plus the dative, Junia is not among the apostles.

    Here is a summary of my remarks in response.

    1. In the lexicons, ἐπίσημος is an adjective which means “marked on” or “distinguished” as in “having a mark placed on it.” Only in the Louw-Nida lexicon does it take on the additional sense of “well known.” Here is the Louw-Nida entry.

      28.31 Know (28) Well Known, Clearly Shown, Revealed (28.28-28.56) pertaining to being well known or outstanding, either because of positive or negative characteristics – outstanding, famous, notorious, infamous. εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις they are outstanding among the apostles ROM.16:7

    At no point does this lexicon collocate “well known” with “to” for ἐπίσημος, since this does not match the Greek sense of the word.

    2. I would also suggest that it is not reliable to base an hypothesis on whether a genitive or ἐν plus dative is used. Consider these instances.

      ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν Matt. 23:11 (genitive)
      the greatest among you

      ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν Luke 22:26 (en plus dative)
      the greatest among you

    In view of these examples I cannot give credit to an argument which proposes a difference based on the fact that the adjective is followed by ἐν plus dative rather than the genitive. These two constructions can be used synonymously.

    However, here Wallace asks,

      would we not expect ἐπίσημοι τῶν ἀποστόλων if the meaning were “outstanding among the apostles”?

    The answer must be “not necessarily”. Here are a few examples of the comparative form of an adjective followed by ἐν plus dative, but there are more in the Greek NT.

      καὶ σύ Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα οὐδαμῶς
      ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα Matt. 2:6

      ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; ESV

      ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν οὐκ ἐγήγερται ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν μείζων Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν Matt. 11:11

      Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ESV

      Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαββᾶν καὶ Σιλᾶν
      ἄνδρας ἡγουμένους ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς Acts 15:22

      Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas,
      leading men among the brothers ESV

    The Greek of the New Testament does not support the thesis that ἐν plus dative renders ἐπίσημος elative rather than comparative, and consequently, that Junia is not one of the apostles.

    3. The references provided in the note are also problematic. The different versions of the Septuagint render Pss. Sol. 2:6 and 17:30 in a variety of ways. What is certain is that in neither of these cases does ἐπίσημος modify a personal noun. In fact, it is in doubt whether the word is ἐπίσημος instead of its cognate noun ἐπίσημον.

    However, if it is the adjective ἐπίσημος, then the modified noun is elided and the entire construction still may not have any bearing on Rom. 16:7. While there is evidence that ἐπίσημος with an elided noun can be used with a partitive genitive, and an inclusive meaning; there is little evidence of the converse, that it has an exclusive or elative sense with ἐν plus the dative.

    In fact, it would be quite extraordinary for an adjective modifying an elided noun to have an exclusive sense.

    For example,

      She is the best known of the teachers.
      He is the best known to the teachers.

    The first, inclusive, is grammatical without an antecedent – it is implied that she is a teacher; the second, exclusive, is not grammatical without an antecedent – for obvious reasons. What is “he”? The elided noun in an inclusive or partitive expression is implied by the surrounding context, but the elision of the noun in an exclusive phrase does not render a grammatically acceptable result. Although Wallace and Burer have proven that the first exists, they do not provide convincing evidence for the second. For this reason I question their categorization of Pss. Sol. 2:6.

    Someone also needs to bring into this discussion the fact that the Psalms of Solomon is considered to be a translation of a Hebrew poetic Vorlage.

    4. I have read both studies by Wallace and Burer, listed below, and I understand that the much disputed Pss. Sol. 2:6 and 17:30 are considered to be their best evidence. The other citations, except for one from 5 centuries earlier, are all either somewhat ambiguous or not comparable. This evidence simply does not warrant the terms “not uncommon” and “frequently”. Pss. Sol. 2:6, supposedly an example of an exclusive use, which they call “a very close parallel,” is in dispute. If there is better evidence then the NET Bible note should be altered to reflect that.

    5. There is no verb of perception involved in this Greek expression. Therefore, it is misleading to note that “in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.” The verb of perception occurs only in the English translation supplied by Wallace and Burer. In Greek, ἐπίσημος is an adjective derived either from a noun best translated as “mark” or from a verb translated as “to place a mark on.”

    6. Wallace and Burer are aware that there is no scholarly consensus concerning their hypothesis. Wallace in all honesty states this here. They also admit that others have expressed concern regarding their original citation of Pss. Sol. 2:6, in which they simply wrote ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, thus giving the impression that it matched the structure of Rom. 16:7, rather than ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. They had originally stated that ἐπισήμῳ was an adjective modifyng a personal noun, which it is not.

    On Adrian’s blog, Burer writes,

      We appreciate that several writers have pointed out that our translation and citation of the passage in the original piece were not the best. (In reflecting on this, neither Dr. Wallace nor I could remember who was responsible for this part of the article.) We should have included more of the Greek text, including the preposition ἐν so that readers could see that there was another way of understanding the construction.

    If Pss. Sol. 2:6 found its way into the NET Bible notes as a significant citation, then they should both have been familiar with this example.

    Burer continues,

      The English translation we gave, “a spectacle among the gentiles,” was exactly the wording given in a recent, standard English translation of Psalms of Solomon, in James Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1985), vol. 2, p. 652.

    Once again the impression is that they felt confident of the English translation they were using. At no time does Burer quote from the recent and scholarly New English Translation of the Septuagint, not yet published in hard copy but available on the internet at the time that Burer wrote this piece. This is a singular omission.

    For Pss. Sol. 2:6, this translation offers, “their neck in a seal, with a mark among the nations,” NETS, rather than “a spectacle among the gentiles.” This translation fits well with the preceding expression in the line, “in a seal,” since in Greek, σφραγῖς, “seal”, and ἐπίσημον, “mark”, can be synonymous. Therefore, I believe it is more likely a case of poetic parallelism. “Among the nations” would then refer to the location of their “harsh captivity,”

      οἱ υἱοὶ καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες ἐν αἰχμαλωσίᾳ πονηρᾷ,
      ἐν σφραγῖδι ὁ τράχηλος αὐτῶν, ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν

    Psalms of Solomon needs to be approached as a translation of Hebrew poetry, not originally composed in Greek.

    Burer continues,

      In retrospect, we now think it would be better to include the preposition ἐν before the word ἐπισήμῳ in our citation, and change the statement to “The parallels include (a) people as the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος” to reflect that here most likely the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος is a place, not people.
      We would not be willing to change, however, the basic conclusion that this passage confirms our hypothesis that ἐπίσημος plus (ἐν plus) dative personal adjunct should be best understood as meaning “well known to . . .” This is especially so for two reasons.
      First, the other use of ἐπίσημος in Ps. Sol. 17:30 uses the genitive case (different from the dative case in 2:6) to show that the prominent place was part of the earth in keeping with our hypothesis about the inclusive use of ἐπίσημος, but this instance in 2:6 uses the dative in keeping with our hypothesis about the exclusive use of ἐπίσημος. Second, point (c) in our initial assessment of Ps. Sol. 2:6 would stand, as it is very reasonable to see ἔθνεσιν here as referring to people.

    I would reiterate that the translation of Psalms of Solomon 2:6 is unresolved. It has, therefore, not yet been established that using ἐν plus the dative instead of the genitive is indicative of an exclusive sense. Nor have they demonstrated that the noun can be elided in an exclusive phrase, and so the case falls apart. Wallace and Burer are clear that the hypothesis rests on pitting the dative against the genitive. However, they do not provide data strong enough to support their hypothesis.

    On the contrary, early church fathers, themselves native speakers of Greek, recognized Junia as one of the apostles.

      Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle. John Chrysostom (344/54-407)(2)

    And here is the Greek Vamva version, 1850, which has unequivocally “among the apostles.” Please note that the native Greek translator here considered ἐν plus the dative to be equivalent to μεταξὺ (among) plus the genitive.

      ᾽Απάσθητε τὸν ᾽Ανδρόνικον καὶ ᾽Ιουνίαν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτνες εἴναι ἐπίσημοι μεταξὺ τῶν ἀποστόλων οἵτνες καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἦσαν εις τὸν Χριστόν

    There is no mention throughout church history of an alternate understanding of this expression. Overall, I believe too many problems still remain with Wallace and Burer’s hypothesis and it is far too early for this innovation to be encorporated into a Bible translation. The research is still in the preliminary stages and has not been recognized by a wider body of scholars.

    To use Wallace’s own words,

      Did God suddenly permit “more light to break forth from his holy Word,” as the old Congregationalist put it? Or is there reason to suspect that the many modern interpretations . . . are primarily the result of certain conscious or unconscious presuppositions?3

    Please note that I have not included either Burer’s full argument nor all of my counter arguments. I have provided the links and hope that people will bring up questions or point out any weaknesses in this presentation.

    On a closing note, I would like to explain that I have recreated Linda Belleville’s original research using databases now online. Belleville, Epp and Bauckham have all rebutted Wallace and Burer’s articles in a definitive manner. I have yet to see a response to their work by Wallace and Burer. Until further has been written, Junia must remain an apostle.

    Bibliography

    Internet Resources

    Was Junia Really an Apostle (see page 4) Wallace and Burer
    Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle A Review
    Junia Among the Apostles: The Double Identification Problem in Romans 16:7 Wallace
    Junia, the Apostle: Index McCarthy
    Burer enters the Junia Debate Burer
    New English Translation of the Septuagint
    NET Bible

    Books and articles which assess and discount Wallace and Burer’s Junia hypothesis.

    Eldon Jay Epp
    R. Bauckham
    Linda Belleville. Ἰουνιᾶν . . . ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις:A Re-Examination of Romans 16:7 in Light of Primary Source Materials. New Test. Stud. 51, pp. 231-249. Printed in the United Kingdom. 2005. Cambridge University Press.

    9 Comments

    1. Mike
      Posted May 29, 2007 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      Thanks! That was an excellent post! I appreciate you keeping us updated on this discussion.

    2. Suzanne McCarthy
      Posted May 29, 2007 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      I emailed Dr. Wallace and invited him to respond. However, he said that he has asked Mike Burer to do follow-ups, but he added that Burer has his hands full right now with other pressing projects.

      I note that they have not responded to Belleville, Epp and Bauckham either. If people are interested I could add quotes from Epp and Belleville.

    3. Jay Davis
      Posted May 29, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for raising the discussion of women. Here is a blog link on some comments on the idea of women, leadership and scripture.

      http://jay-davis.blogspot.com/search/label/Women

    4. metalepsis
      Posted May 29, 2007 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      One can not help but wonder if their discussion is not theologically motivated by their positions on women in ministry?

    5. Suzanne McCarthy
      Posted May 30, 2007 at 1:21 am | Permalink

      Thanks Jay,

      It was encouraging to read your posts about women in the Salvation Army. These women have been a singular beacon for women for a very long time.

      Bryan,

      Epp points out that Junia was feminine and an apostle in the major texts and translations until 1927, when it was “discovered” that she was a man, Junias. Then in the late 1990’s text criticism reinstated her, as no male name, Junias, was ever found.

      Then a few years later we have Wallace’s own story, that he felt Junia would only be an apostle if the phrase were επισημοι των αποστλων. So “on a hunch” he researched the data, which is now considered minimal, and established that it would be possible to translate επισημοι εν τοις αποστολοις as “well known to the apostles.” Three studies have discounted the data, finding only one clear example among the 20 or so Wallace cites, as possibly supporting his hypothesis – but it is 5 centuries earlier.

      Burer also writes here,

      The phrase in P.Oxy. 1408 is governed by ἐν, and the word τόποις is not in the text of the papyrus (although the editors do suggest that its omission was a mistake on the part of the original author of the papyrus); this is a nice parallel to the text in Ps. Sol. 17:30. Thus there appeared to be an idiom in Hellenistic Greek which allowed the adjective ἐπίσημος when it referred to a place to stand alone, the noun τόπος being elided

      Note that Burer is talking about a single instance of elision, which the editor believes to be a copying error, since this papyrus has other anomolies in it; but Burer labels this construction an “idiom.” But we know that in other istances of this idiom, the noun was not elided. Considering these examples come from two centuries later, it is hard to project backwards from this “idiom” which is found once with a elided noun and twice without, and thought by others to be an error, to establish the first step in this very convoluted hypothesis.

    6. David Lang
      Posted May 30, 2007 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      Suzanne,

      You asked me to comment on this post and I want to honor that request. I find your arguments against Wallace and Burer’s hypothesis to be very persuasive. My impression is that they are stretching to find some objective, grammatical justification for taking the phrase “outstanding among the apostles” as meaning “notable” or “well known” to the apostles.

      On the other hand, I think one could argue for the “well known to the apostles” reading without any solid grammatical “rule.” The relatively literal old KJV rendering “of note among the apostles” captures the ambiguity of the phrase. Are Andronicus and Junia of note as apostles, or merely spoken well of within the apostolic circle? Just as Wallace and Burer fail to give some objective proof of the “well known” rendering, so I’m doubtful that anyone can produce solid proof of Andronicus’ and Junia’s apostleship. I just think the expression is not sufficiently clear.

      That said, I think the burden of proof must be borne by those who wish to argue that Andronicus and Junia were not apostles, since the apostleship reading is certainly less difficult and more widely attested (universally so?) among the church fathers.

      If the apostleship reading is correct, I find it just as problematic that Andronicus is named as an apostle as well as Junia. Since much of the New Testament gives a fairly narrow definition of apostleship, how are we to understand the nature of Andronicus’ and Junia’s apostleship?

      Are they apostles on a par with the Twelve and with Paul, bearing the same “apostolic authority”? Are they apostles in the sense of being witnesses to the life of Christ and early “church planters”?

      Obviously, egalitarians are likely to prefer the former understanding of apostleship, because it bolsters their view of the acceptability of women in positions of ecclesiastical authority. On the other hand, those complementarians who acknowledge Junia’s apostleship are likely to prefer the latter view that this is a kind of apostleship with a lowercase “a.” The result is a kind of presuppositional impasse.

      I think this is why Wallace and Burer are trying to find an objective way to avoid the impasse. Are their arguments “theologically motivated”? Absolutely. Do egalitarians interpret this verse in a way that is “theologically motivated”? Without question. The challenge is to acknowledge our motivations and presuppositions long enough to test them against the teaching of Scripture.

      Ultimately, I think Romans 16:7 is a draw. Both camps can interpret it in a way which is consistent with their understanding of Scripture, and neither camp can use it to prove their understanding of Scripture.

      At any rate, that’s my take on the Junia debate. I think you’ve done an excellent job of looking at the lexical and grammatical data and pointing out the weaknesses in Wallace and Burer’s hypothesis. When you focus your attention on those kinds of critiques, you are usually very persuasive. It’s only when you assume malicious intent on the part of complementarians like Wallace that I think you sometimes misread them.

    7. Suzanne McCarthy
      Posted May 30, 2007 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      David,

      I appreciate your candid response. I feel our views are very close on this verse.

      I have never made any theological arguments out of Junia’s apostleship, whatever that may be. I prefer a translation that is ambiguous if consensus cannot be attained. I know others don’t agree with this, But I believe that ambiguity could bring about greater cooperation on Bible translation.

      I think this is why Wallace and Burer are trying to find an objective way to avoid the impasse. Are their arguments “theologically motivated”? Absolutely. Do egalitarians interpret this verse in a way that is “theologically motivated”?

      There is an enormous difference here. You correctly note that egalitarians may *interpret* this verse in a certain way. I understand that. My intense concern is that complementarians are *translating* the Bible in a way that is theologically motivated.

      I really don’t know how to appropriately express how much this concerns me – so I won’t right now.

      I would personally not support an egalitarian translation of the Bible, if it departed from the literal and traditional understanding of the Greek.

      I don’t think the inclusive language issue is the real crux here, now that I have seen Grudem allow his endorsement on the NET site. It is the translation of certain verses.

      I will post once more on this. In the meantime, I want to thank you for your very balanced response.

    8. Alastair
      Posted May 30, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Have the NET Bible folks commented on this one recently then, Suzanne? I’m a big fan of the NET and I am hoping they will edit the notes here.

    9. Suzanne McCarthy
      Posted May 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Mike Burer has written to say that he will eventually be preparing a response to Epp, Belleville, Bauckham, and myself.

      I have no timeline. As he intends to publish this as a paper, I appreciate that this could take some time.


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