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The Junia Evidence: VIII what Sherlock Holmes had to say

January 1, 2012

I have recently become aware of a new principle of interpretation. This principle has been cited to me several times and it seemed familiar enough – so it should be. Here is the principle and its original context,

when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth

And here is its context, from The Sign of Four, chapter 6,  by Conan Doyle,

“How came he, then?” I reiterated. “The door is locked; the window is inaccessible. Was it through the chimney?”

“The grate is much too small,” he answered. “I had already considered that possibility.”

“How, then?” I persisted.

“You will not apply my precept,” he said, shaking his head. “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. When, then, did he come?”

“He came through the hole in the roof!” I cried.

Is it possible that Junia was only well-known to the apostles, however improbable? I suppose one could say yes, it is possible. It is highly improbable given the evidence and the witness of Greek literature – but possible. The next question then is whether it is possible for a woman to be an apostle. If it is impossible for a woman to be an apostle, then the improbable must be the truth. I have found this to be a common theme. Some have tried to prove to me that within the cultural context of the Bible, an apostle has authority and it is impossible for a woman to have authority, therefore a woman cannot possibly be an apostle.

However, the tradition of the early church is that certain women were “equal to the apostles.”  So Mary Magdalene, the one woman who appears in every gospel to be sent by Jesus to announce his resurrection, is routinely called “equal to the apostles.”  She was “sent”  by Christ to witness his resurrection. Phoebe was sent by Paul to carry his letter. Although I am not claiming that she was an apostle, clearly she was only a deacon of her church, nonetheless, she was able to be the emissary of a man.

Perhaps the best example of how authority worked for women is in the story of Saint Nina (or Nino).

Nina was a relative of St. George the Great Martyr and Juvenal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Her parents belonged to the nobility in Cappadocia and since they both were tonsured in the monastic state, Nina was educated under the tutelage of Patriarch Juvenal. Hearing about the people of Georgia, the virgin Nina, from an early age, desired to go to Georgia and to baptize the Georgians. The All-Holy Mother of God appeared to Nina and promised to take her to this land. When our Lord opened the way, the young Nina, indeed, traveled to Georgia where, in a short period of time, she gained the love of the Georgian people. Nina succeeded in baptizing the Georgian Emperor Mirian, his wife Nana and their son Bakar, who, later on, zealously assisted in Nina’s missionary work. During her lifetime, Nina traveled throughout Georgia, mainly to convert the entire nation to the Faith of Christ, exactly at the time of the terrible persecution of the Christians at the hands of Emperor Diocletian. Having rested from her many labors, Nina died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D. Her body is entombed in the Cathedral Church in Mtzkheta. She worked many miracles during her life and after her death.

From another source we can learn that Nina was the daughter of the Roman General Zabulon, and we can read the words addressed to her by the Emperor Mirian, “O. my mother! teach me and make one worthy to invoke the name of your great God, my Saviour!”

Saint Nina, living in the 3rd and 4th century, derived her authority from the fact that she was the daughter of a general, the niece of a patriarch, the relative of a martyr, a virgin and had received a vision and message from the Mother of God. Her authority was expressed by her preaching, miracles of healing, teaching and baptising the emperor Mirian of Georgia and his family. In addition, she was addressed as mother by the emperor. While all narratives regarding Nina may be partly legendary, they do provide some insight into the extent to which it was considered acceptable for a women to bear authority and both teach and baptise men. Although these women bear the title “equal to the apostles”  rather than “apostles,” I do not see this as proof that a woman cannot be counted among the apostles. I do not think that Sherlock Holmes would consider it utterly impossible for a woman to be an apostle, and we are not left with only the improbable. We can accept that the linguistically probable solution, that Junia was among the apostles, is the real solution.

Of course, some will add that the scriptures themselves forbid a woman from bearing this authority. Later.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2014 2:48 pm

    I know I’m commenting on an old thread, but I think part of the resistance to accepting Junia as an apostle is that complementarians have no Holmes (or preferably Spock, who would have no Victorian presuppositions) to simply analyze the evidence and come to a conclusion without being swayed by bias.


  1. The Junia Evidence: IX what the trial lawyer said « BLT

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