Sunday, 10 November 2013

Forgotten Heroes - Rom 16:1 - 16 Part One

In recent years our remembrance of those who have fought in wars has been expanded to include a variety of groups previously overlooked: bomber command, the land army, home guard have all received recognition after largely being 'forgotten' for many years.

The church is not immune to forgetting whole groups of people either. Romans 16 gives us a significant list, but we only have to read a few verses and we should start thinking seriously about the text.

V7 Junias or Junia? Male name or female? The ancient Greek is Junia, i.e. female. The fact is Paul cites a prominent female apostle - why do many English translations give her a sex change?

V1 Phoebe, a deacon. Yet the 'deacon' word elsewhere is translated 'minister' in association with Timothy and even Paul himself. Furthermore her 'help' (or 'benefactor') in Greek actually means a leader who uses their resources for the benefit of many (the same word is even used of the emperor).

V3 puts Priscilla first in the Mr & Mrs. Unusual in our culture, unheard of in ancient times! Luke did the same in Acts 18 where she helps correct Apollos' teaching and doctrine. Note she and her husband in partnership had a church in their house, in other words they were 'house-church leaders'.

The list goes on - in fact 10 out of 28 people mentioned are women. They are not all necessarily leaders, but clearly some are.

We could look elsewhere. 1 Cor 16 has another mysterious sex change: Stephana (female) to Stephanas. Another person with a church in their house: her and her group worthy of being submitted to. Hmm, v17 says 'men' when no such word is in the Greek.

Chloe in 1 Cor 1 had people belonging to her. It was her group who saw through the factions business highlighted in the next few verses.

Nympha in Col 4 also hosts a church. She and one other are the only people to receive greetings in the chunk of names in that chapter. Why single her out? Presumably she was important for the church in the area.

In Phil 4 Paul wants Euodia & Syntyche to stop arguing. They were important to him and the gospel work. Presumably in some kind of leadership.

Here's the deal. Paul mentions these people generally as 'co-workers' with himself, and uses exactly the same Greek words and language for women and men. In fact he doesn't make a big deal out of leadership positions (e.g. elders/deacons), but he does 'big up' specific people - both women and men.

Shouldn't we consider them equally too?

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