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The Junia Evidence: VI and the reliability of software

December 28, 2011

I have found that Junia is not only an interesting topic of research herself, but that she is also a handy person around which to organize other thoughts and principles. I hope that my upcoming posts on Junia will contain enough new material, of general application, to be found useful to the reader. So this post is going to be about the reliability of Bible software.

To summarize the preceding posts, the evidence that Junia is among the apostles is based on

1) the unbroken witness of Greek literature from the New Testament era up to the present
2) the unanimous tradition of translating Andronicus and his partner as “among the apostles” in all Bible translations until the 21st century
3) the near universal agreement that Junia was a woman (I will touch on this in a future post)
4) the overwhelming weight of grammatical evidence that the person in the grammatical construction. translated in the KJV as “noted among the apostles,” was a member of the group. There is one exception to this, which suggests to me that the dialogue on Junia could continue into the future.

What is striking about this case, is that the article on which the reading “Junia …. well-known to the apostles” is based, cannot be defended. Therefore, the reading “well-known to the apostles” has no published scholarly foundation.

I have thought a lot about how something like this could happen, and I think it would be worthwhile picking apart more of the argumentation on this issue. In 2006, Wayne Grudem wrote a response to a comment of mine on the Wallace and Burer article. I had written,

“It is now well-known that Wallace and Burer misquoted Psalm of Solomon in their article. They actually mistook a noun for an adjective. In fact, Dr. Grudem’s entire section on Junia is riddled with factual errors.”

(First, let me just say that when I used the phrase “riddled with errors” I was engaging in the time-honoured game of pingpong. I was returning Grudem’s serve. “Riddled with errors” was a phrase that Dr. Grudem used several times for the work of other respected scholars in his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. I was just picking the phrase out of his book and offering it back to him, in, what seemed to me at the time to be allowable irony. I now regret responding to him in kind, but I admit that that is what I did.

But here is the point. Wallace and Burer did cite episemos as an adjective in their article. However, in the New English Translation of the Septuagint it is considered to be the noun episemon. I hold to that view. But this difference of opinion was not mentioned in the W & B article. And in Mike Burer’s discussion in this post, he fell short of providing adequate rationale for considering episemos an adjective. (See note below. ) So why did Dr. Grudem, and Wallace and Burer, consider episemos to be an adjective in Pss. Solomon 2:6? Here is a clue. Dr. Grudem put it like this,

4. Bible Works parses episemos in Psalms of Solomon 2:6 as an adjective, which makes most sense in the context. This gives Burer and Wallace’s meaning, that the Jewish captives were “a spectacle visible among the gentiles.” This argues that McCarthy is wrong to say “they mistook a noun for an adjective.” Did Bible Works also mistake a noun for an adjective?

Now it is five years later. I can only say that, on reflection, “Yes, I believe that Bible Works mistook a noun for an adjective.” That is my assessment. And there is a world of students out there using software – to learn Greek, to understand the Bible better, and to defend their choice of Bible Version. I mention this because, in my view, reliance on software needs to be rolled back. Who wrote the software? Think about it. That person is a fallible human being, just like anyone else. There is no Bible verse “Software who art in code, hallowed be thy text.”

I’ll demonstrate another case where software falls down. On this site, there is a clickable lexicon for each word. The meaning for diakonos, the word used for Phoebe in Romans 16:1, is listed in this way,

διάκονος,n  \{dee-ak’-on-os}
1) one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master,  a servant, attendant, minister  1a) the servant of a king  1b) a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him  by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and  distributes the money collected for their use  1c) a waiter, one who serves food and drink

Nothing wrong with that. It is gender inclusive and concise. But at the side of this entry one can read “Case A, Number S, Gender F.” This means that the word is accusative case, singular and feminine. I have often seen the argument that since the word used for Phoebe’s office is feminine, that means that she was filling a feminine role.

I was puzzled about this for a long time because I was not aware that the word diakonos was feminine. Why not? Because I was more familiar with an entry like this, from Thayer’s Lexicon – “masculine/feminine noun.” The word is considered to be of common gender, and there is no lexical difference between the feminine and masculine forms of the word. There is only one form, which may be modified by a masculine or feminine adjective, depending on the gender of the person referred to. The entry on Greek Bible would not make that information available to the reader. Consequently, I have often read posts about women being “deaconesses”, that mention the fact that this word is feminine. I conjecture that this may be another software-derived misunderstanding. While you can parse the word diakonos as functioning grammatically like a feminine noun, the lexical entry ought to record that it is a noun of common gender.

Note:

For those who still wonder why I persist in claiming that episemos is a noun in Pss. of Solomon 2:6, let me offer Mike Burer’s explanation. He wrote about this citation (τοῖς ἐπισημοτάτοις τῶν νομῶν),

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. This makes a great deal of sense when applied to Ps. Sol. 2:6: “their neck with a seal in a [place] well-known to the nations.” Understanding this idiom to be in play allows one with warrant to interpret ἐπισήμῳ in that text as an adjective, not as a noun, even though it is preceded by ἐν.

How can one possibly say that “thus there appeared to be an idiom” (which allowed the adjective episemos to stand alone, with the noun topos elided),  just after admitting that the editor of the text thinks that the word topos was elided as a mistake? This makes no sense to me. I don’t know how such an argument can be used in the undertaking of Bible translation. It just seems speculative and iffy. It feels as if one has wandered into an alternate reality.

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
The Junia Evidence: IV
The Junia Evidence: V
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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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2011 1:43 pm

    Suzanne,

    Is there a modern Greek translation of Psalms of Solomon 2:6? Does the Pesshita contain an Aramaic translation Ps. of Sol?

    I notice that Kenneth Atkinson, who translates the ancient Greek into English for the NETS Septuagint, has read and referenced many other English translations before his own.

    Likewise, Atkinson says he read the 1911 French translation by François Martin. It’s worth our seeing that, outside the familar English translations (which all but Grudem and Wallace and Burer read as having a noun for ἐπισήμῳ), the French translation by Martin also considers this Greek word a noun:

    Garçons et filles subissent une captivité rigoureuse; leur cou porte un stigmate, une marque distinctive parmi les païens.

    (I do think that Paul/Saul in Rom 16:7 and the writer and LXX translator of Ps. of Sol. have concerns related to inclusiveness “among” the Jews and the Gentiles.)

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 28, 2011 5:47 pm

    Fantastic! I found, on page 110, towards the bottom of the page, the explanation for Martin’s translation of Pss. Sol. 2:6. He writes,

    “Some nouns seem to be a second translation added to the first, as an explanation, as in the Septuagint.”

    So he translates,

    Garçons et filles subissent une captivité rigoureuse; leur cou porte un stigmate, une marque distinctive parmi les païens.

    Sons and daughters suffer a harsh captivity, their neck bears a stigma, a distinctive mark among the Gentiles.

    In his understanding, episemon, (mark) is in apposition to seal. It is an explanation of the word for “seal.” So in effect, he understands the phrase to be “a seal, that is a mark.” That makes sense.

    About the use of the dative, Martin continues,

    “The noun in the dative, serves as a circumstantial complement, without preposition, with the imprecise meaning of “with” or “by.”

    He then continues,

    “The article is frequently omitted, in front of a noun, as in Hebrew and the Septuagint.”

    More later … this is great!

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