Skip to content

The Junia Evidence: VII and Syriac as commentary

January 1, 2012

In my most recent post on the Junia evidence, I was confident that in the case of Pss. Sol. 2:6, Bible Works had mistaken episemon, the noun, for the adjective, episemos. But now I am going to turn over a new leaf, and consider whether there is a possibility that it could be the adjective episemos after all, and what that would mean. Then I am going to present evidence from the Syriac translation of Pss. Sol. to see what it can add to this. I hope that in each post on Junia I am adding new material.

In this post, Dr. Grudem provides the Brenton translation of Pss. Sol. 2:6  (I include Pss.Sol. 17:30 as well),

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 among the gentiles.

καὶ τὸν κύριον δοξάσει ἐν ἐπισήμῳ πάσης τῆς γῆς

and he will glorify the Lord in [a place] visible [from] the whole earth

In this case, the word episemos would be an adjective modifying an elided (omitted) noun meaning “place” . (This was not proposed by Burer and Wallace, who claimed rather that episemos was an adjective modifying the Jewish captives, which is impossible.) I had not been able to find any evidence that there was an idiom in which topos “place” is elided after episemos, and I still can’t find that. However, I did find, in the footnotes of Burer and Wallace’s article, page 87, some other phrases which may have influenced Brenton’s translation.

καὶ τεθήτω ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῷ ἁγίῳ ἐν τόπῳ ἐπισήμῳ 1 Macc. 11:37

and set upon the holy mount in a conspicuous place.

καὶ στῆσαι αὐτὰς ἐν περιβόλῳ τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τόπῳ ἐπισήμῳ 1 Macc. 14:48

and that they should be set up within the compass of the sanctuary in a conspicuous place;

It seems likely that Brenton supplied the word “place” because of the seeming similarity of the phrases, although there is no known Greek idiom where “place” is elided. However, even if we consider this to be a possibility, it still does not provide evidence that Junia was not among the apostles. According to Brenton’s translation, it appears that each place modified by episemos is found within the place referred to by the object of the preposition en. For example, the Jewish captives were in a place that was among the Gentiles. The “conspicuous places” in Maccabees were on the holy mountain, and within the compass of the sanctuary. In each case, en plus the dative indicates an inclusive use. In the case of Pss. Sol. 17:30, using the genitive case, the place that was visible from the whole earth was most likely above the earth, in the heavens or on the clouds, clearly not inclusive.

So, episemos, as an adjective with en plus dative indicates inclusive use, and episemos with genitive indicates exclusive use – at least in these examples. This is the direct opposite of what is stated in Burer and Wallace,

In sum, our examination of episemos with both genitive modifiers and en plus dative adjuncts has revealed some surprising results – surprising, that is, from the perspective of the scholarly consensus. Repeatedly in biblical Greek, patristic Greek, papyri, inscriptions, classical and Hellenistic texts, our working hypothesis was borne out. The genitive personal modifier was consistently used for an inclusive idea, while the (en plus) dative personal adjunct was almost never so used. Yet to read the literature, one would get a decidedly different picture.

After reviewing all the data in this article, I agree with Bauckham, Belleville and Epp (Epp page 77) that except for one exception, all examples with en plus dative, whether impersonal or personal, found in Burer and Wallace’s article, are inclusive. The evidence is overwhelming that with en plus dative the use is either locative or partitive, that is, inclusive, in spite of Wallace and Burer claiming “almost never so used”. With the genitive, however, episemos was also usually inclusive and Pss. Sol. 17:30 seems to be an exception.

Therefore, if one considers episemos in Pss. Sol. 2:6 to be an adjective, this confirms that with en plus dative, episemos in inclusive and Junia is a member of the group of apostles.

But Pss. Sol 2:6 and 17:30 do not need to be interpreted in the way that Brenton has done. Kurk has provided a link to  Les Psaumes de Salomon, by François Martin, which seems to provide the base for the New English Translation of the Septuagint. Martin includes in the notes, the relevant Syriac translation.

Garçons et filles subisssent une captivité rigoureuse, leur cou porte un stigmate, une marque distinctive parmi les païens. (Martin, page 258)

et leur cou, le joug scellé des gentils a été placé sur lui (Syriac)

The sons and daughters were in harsh captivity, their neck in a seal, with a mark among the nations (NETS)

Il glorifiera le Seigneur a la vue de toute la terre (Martin, page 358)
with the note that this comes from the Hebrew nokah kol ha’eretz and could be similar to the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.

Ils glorifieront le Seigneur ouvertement dans toute la terre. (Syriac)

And he shall glorify the Lord in the mark of all the earth. Note: perhaps sight (NETS)

In this case, the Greek is assumed to be episemon, a noun, and each verse is treated as if it were a translation of a Hebrew original. However, the Syriac translation is made from the Greek, and does not reflect a known Hebrew original. It should be treated as commentary on the text, and adds insight from the Aramaic (Syriac) tradition.

In any case, whether the word in Pss. Sol. is a noun, episemon, or an adjective, episemos, there seems to be no liklihood that these  examples from Maccabees or from Psalms of Solomon support the notion that Andronicus and Junia were only known to the apostles, but not among the apostles. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of Andronicus and Junia being members of the group of apostles, and that is how it has always been understood in Greek literature.

I do need to soften my previous approach with the understanding that Bible Works listed episemos as an adjective for the Brenton translation of Psalms of Solomon because that is how it is translated in that version. I hope that I have gained from this following up on this. I can only add that it is best not to lose touch with the wider and longer history of interpretation, including in our research works from French, German, Latin, Syriac and other relevant traditions. For me, these posts are not so much about Junia, as they are about what resources we can access when looking at a much debated exegetical point.

But regarding Junia, there does remain one single example, from classical Greek, which supports the notion that the referent of episemos may not be a member of the group. I will look at that one example next time.


I would like to add that in a recent exchange on this blog with a complementarian, he responded with this comment,

Suzanne, I hold a PhD in Greek, and I agree that the Wallace/Burer article is overreaching to try to make Pss. Solomonis 2:6 match Romans 16:7 in every respect. I agree with you that it is completely irrelevant because the word in the verse is probably the dative of the επισημον (as a Hebraic parallelism with εν σφραγιδι earlier in the verse). Thus, it is not even an instance of the construction in question.

I appreciate the fact that he was open enough to agree with me on this.

Matt continues to make a plea to reconsider Wallace and Burer’s point with different evidence, and you can follow this link. I have not cited the rest of his comment since it did not include evidence but lead to his blogging later here,

I give him full credit for this example,

Θέλω πρακτικὸς εἶναι καὶ ἐπίσημος ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἢ παραβαίνειν ἐντολὰς καὶ εἶναι
αὐτοῖς βδελυκτός.

“I want to be ready for action, and ἐπίσημος among the brothers, rather than to transgress the commandments and be repugnant to them.”

with my own comment that surely the speaker is among his own brothers and this has to be inclusive. The long comment thread related mostly to our disagreement on this issue.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: