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The Junia Evidence: IV

December 18, 2011

The purpose of this post is to respond to evidence put forward by Mike Burer after Belleville, Epp, Bauckham and myself took exception to the original article by Wallace and Burer. As I have mentioned, their article continues to provide the basis for many modern Bible translations. I also present my own counter proposal for understanding Pss of Solomon 2:6 and 17:30.

First, Burer wanted to defend the use of Pss. of Solomon 2:6 in the Junia article, claiming that episemos was an adjective meaning “visible among the gentiles” and supports the translation Andronicus and Junia, well-known among the apostles. He presents the citation in the following manner,

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

the sons and the daughters in painful captivity, their neck in a seal,
in (a place) visible/notable/prominent/infamous among the gentiles
(or: with a mark among the gentiles)

For my part, I believe that episemos, in this verse, is a noun meaning “mark” or “brand”, and this is translation Greek, representing a Hebrew Vorlage, where episemos is in parallel with the Greek word for a “seal” and refers to bondage. But Burer argues otherwise. He claims that episemos is an adjective modifying an elided noun meaning “place.”He draws a comparison with this verse  in Pss. of Sol. 17:30,

καὶ ἕξει λαοὺς ἐθνῶν δουλεύειν αὐτῷ ὑπὸ τὸν ζυγὸν αὐτοῦ
καὶ τὸν κύριον δοξάσει ἐν ἐπισήμῳ πάσης τῆς γῆς
καὶ καθαριεῖ Ιερουσαλημ ἐν ἁγιασμῷ ὡς καὶ τὸ ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς

And he will have gentile nations serve him under his yoke
and he will glorify the Lord in (a place) visible from the whole earth
and he will cleanse Jerusalem to be as holy as she was from the beginning (literally, he will cleanse Jerusalem with sanctification as even [at] the beginning)

My argument once again, is that episemos refers to a “mark” or “brand”, and is in a parallel construction with the Greek word for “yoke” and once again refers to the bondage of the whole earth. I do not agree with the translation “in (a place) visible from.”

I would like to draw your attention to the way that the scholarly and literal New English Translation of the Septuagint has rendered these two verses.

The sons and daughters were in harsh activity,
their neck in a seal, with a mark among the nations.

He shall have the peoples of the nations to be subject to him, under his yoke
And he shall glorify the Lord in the mark of all the earth,
And he shall purify Ierusalem in holiness as it was at the beginning
(in the sight of)

(While the NETS adds this note, I see it as simply trying to make something comprehensible out of this. It does not represent an accepted way to translate episemos.) Burer suggests that “in the mark” just doesn’t make sense, but the author of “To the Reader” for the NETS translation of the Psalms of Salomon treats this book as a translation of a lost Hebrew Vorlage that has produced at times, a stilted, awkward and problematic Greek text. He adds that the “Greek text also contains renderings in which the translator apparently attempted to express the meaning of the Hebrew at the expense of achieving a clear Greek reading.”

I am convinced that in the first instance, in Pss of Solomon 2:6, episemos refers to a mark of bondage, perhaps a brand on the forehead, and is in parallel with “seal;” and in Pss. of Solomon 17:30. episemos, a mark of bondage, is in parallel with “yoke.” This seems to be the obvious solution. It doesn’t seem to make sense in Greek because it is a translation from Hebrew.

However, Burer did not consider this option and introduced several other examples which he felt would further his claim that episemos is an adjective modifying an elided noun “place.” These are examples from the Oxyrhynchus papyri.

P.Oxy. 1408 “the most important [places] of the nomes” τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τῶν νομῶν
P. Oxy. 2108 “the most conspicuous places in the villages” τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τόποις τ[ῶ]ν κωμ[ῶν]
P. Oxy. 2705 “the well-known places of the nome” τ[οῖς ἐπι]σήμοις τοῦ νομοῦ τόποις

The editor of these documents notes that the elision of the word for “place” in P.Oxy. 1408 was likely a mistake made by the writer and does not represent a known Greek idiom. We are then left with the fact that there is no recognized idiom in Greek  in which the word “place” is elided after episemos, and Burer’s suggestion that this has happened in Pss. of Solomon 2:6 and 17:30, and thus the construction forms a grammatical parallel for Romans 16:7, must be disregarded.

Burer continues to claim that because the partitive genitive ocurrs in the three examples from the P. Oxy. that therefore, en plus the dative must contrast with this, and not be partitive or indicate membership. However, we have seen that these two constructions – genitive and en plus dative – normally act in a synonymous manner after an adjective. Surely Burer is aware of these parallel verses. The genitive does not contrast with en plus dative.

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

Burer’s argument at this point has become too twisted to trace and should simply be put to rest without further ado. It is disappointing to see that Pss. of Solomon 2:6 remains in the NET Bible notes, and forms the basis of the ESV and HCSB translation for Romans 16:7.

Burer had let me know by email that he would be working on this issue and intended to defend the Junia hypothesis when he had time. However, he has since published this review of Eldon Epp’s book on Junia, but it is notably lacking in any evidence to defend the original article by Wallace and Burer. Burer notes the critiques of the article by Belleville, Epp and Bauckham, and then he responds,

My schedule has not permitted me time to develop an in-depth response to any of these reviews. What I can say at this point is that I have not read anything in any of them that has dissuaded me from the viewpoint Wallace and I advanced in the original article. (In the next few years I hope to develop a suitable response to these critiques.)

It is almost impossible to believe that, given this remark, the NET Bible note has not been revised to indicate that “well-known to” has tentative status only. I despair of honestly regarding exegesis relating to women in the Bible in certain circles.

Junia is not alone
Junia Is a Woman, and I Am a Complementarian
Denny Burk’s Complementarian Cover-up
The Junia Evidence: I

The Junia Evidence: II
The Junia Evidence: III
Was Junia Really An Apostle by Burer and Wallace
Linda Belleville’s article
Michael Burer Enters the Junia Debate
Reassessing Junia: A Review of Eldon Epp’s Junia: The First Woman Apostle
Due Diligence on Junia and Apostleship

Matt Colvin on Junia and Apostleship
 Some Lengthy Thoughts on Women’s Leadership
A Closer Examination of Junia, The Female Apostle

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 2:00 pm

    Will Burer also be providing proof that he is 1,500+ years old? I assume he intends to claim this so that we might know that when he contests the Church Fathers in their reading of Greek he does so as one who, like they, used Koine Greek as a spoken language of normal discourse.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 18, 2011 5:13 pm

    Mike Burer does not need to do anything because a certain segment of Christianity has decided that they will only use Bibles which contain bias against women, and Burer and Wallace have kindly provided this. This pushes educated women to the margins of Christianity.

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