December 17, 2009

A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2, Ephesus and Junia

Might the context of 1 Tim 2:12 be affected by when it was written? Consider...

The Letter we call 1st Timothy was most likely handed off in person, from Paul to Timothy, at Troas (Acts 20:6, at which point Paul must have said something like, "Kid, you got one week's head start. I'll call for the elders near Ephesus.") If so, that means the circumstances Paul wrote about had been causing Timothy problems since Paul left Ephesus (Acts 20:1, at least a year earlier than 20:6, given that Paul went to the Adriatic and back; Rom.15:19, Acts 20:2). It also means those problems probably took root and existed 'under the surface' while Paul was still at Ephesus.

One thing we know for sure about Paul's time in Ephesus is that he was there when Claudius died (Oct, 54 AD). Claudius had to die before Paul's comrades could move to Rome, before Paul could write them a letter (Rom.16). Therefore, it was during Paul's time in Ephesus that his associates from many cities (on whomever's initiative) began moving towards Rome. One of those many was Junia, a female apostle (Rom.16:7).

We don't know where Junia was from, but Jerusalem and Antioch are common suggestions. In either case, the cheapest, most convenient, friendliest road to Rome - hopping from church to church for hospitality's sake - ran through Ephesus. (There is no evidence of churches in North Anatolia by this time, at all.) Unless Junia was from Greece or Macedonia, she passed through Ephesus. She may even have lived there for a time, perhaps while Paul was teaching his disciples at the School of Tyranus.

I would argue all of that is fairly probable. As far as what follows? Well, that all depends.

Who were the would-be-teachers whom Paul wanted Timothy to rebuke? Were they all male? It seems at least two of them were (1.Tim.1:20), but the charge is unclear (1:3). Nevertheless, if the bad teachers were all men, and they were willing to oppose Paul and Timothy, just imagine what they would have thought about Priscilla and Junia. It is possible these insecure men used Priscilla and Junia as examples of why Paul and Timothy could not be followed. It is further possible that 1st Tim.2:12 was Paul's response to a rumor they started about such women.

Think about this: Jesus spent time alone with Peter. Barnabas traveled with Paul. Paul and Timothy had become as close as father and son. Since apostles were accustomed to taking on trainees, and since most apostles were men, Junia being the one known exception, it would have seemed clear that Junia must either (A) take on no disciples, or (B) take on a male disciple.

Paul's experience with Junia and Priscilla - both before he wrote 1st Timothy - is the strongest of all the evidence showing that he was progressive for his time. If his (probably male) opponents in Ephesus had been opposed to those developments, they would naturally have spent time thinking of all the ways Paul's policies might become dangerous. Had they wanted to employ it, the most damaging charge possible would be immorality.

They only needed to raise the question to cause controversy: "Would Paul allow Junia to disciple a man?"

If that concern was put out in Ephesus, it may be what Paul was responding to in 1st Timothy 2:12, when he said, "I do not allow a woman to teach or direct a man".

Judge for yourselves how likely this scenario might have been. But consider it well...


Lionel Woods said...

Elaborate for me Bill. Are you saying the statement Paul was making was actually the words of his opponents?

Bill Heroman said...

Hey, Lionel. First of all, I'm not saying "was". I'm saying "might have been". Now to answer your question: no, not quite.

I'm suggesting Paul's opponents might have insinuated that Paul's support of Junia as an apostle could lead to her taking on a male disciple.

If so, then Paul's statement could be a direct refutation of their insinuation.

Lionel Woods said...

Okay, I got you. Are you convinced that Junias was an apostle and female? Does that allow for women elders if so? In other word can a woman be an apostle but be disqualfied from being an elder because she is female. Apostle seems to be a supernatural gift while elder is something we recognize but also could be supernartual also (Acts 20). Thanks.

Bill Heroman said...

Ahem. I do not know for what this "allows". ;-)

Yes, Junia was a woman. She seems to have been an exception among the apostles, like Deborah among Israel's Judges. However, I would not assume that modern ratios of male/female church planters should mirror ancient ones. I'd take the same attitude as Paul: if she can do it, great!

On elders, I'd guess Paul intended all Ephesian elders to be male; "husband of one wife", you know. However, once again, I wouldn't necessarily make that a standard for today.

Who's qualified to be an "elder"? By Paul's standards, probably none of us.

So, should women be "elders"? I'm not even sure men should be "elders". But if men can be, women can be. Probably.

In my Ideal Church, in my dreams, I'd certainly hope the community would grow to acknowledge caring oversight among brothers and sisters in the church. Ideally, I'd say we need both male and female shepherds.

Lionel Woods said...


Nah, just joking. Can you help me understand your statement more? Let me ask another question which is more of a personal one. Would you join a church plant that had in its doctrinal statement a position that prevented women participating in oversight/teaching? And why?

Bill Heroman said...

Four quick points, in no particular order:

1. You are tireless.

2. I'm not a joiner.

3. "Doctrinal statement"???

4. I've hung out with worse.

Lionel Woods said...

Why Tireless?

Bill Heroman said...

Because your brain's like a spider monkey on crack! In a good way, of course. :-)

Lionel Woods said...

I am really struggling through this stuff bro. I want to be faithful and I want to see people grow.

A. Amos Love said...


"Who's qualified to be an "elder"?
By Paul's standards, probably none of us."

Yes, Paul does make it tough.

Do you know anyone who really cares
about the qualifications?

Never met an elder
who could fulfill the first qualification.

Bishops “must be” blameless...

It's fun to watch all the different gyrations and
excuses “elders” and “leaders?” come up with
trying to explain away blameless.

Blameless... How important is this word?

Paul was probably just joking around anyway.

Junia - who is telling the truth? Much debate.
Man or women. Apostle or just known by apostles.

Here’s a few who disagree about Junia.

Revised Standard Version

Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias,
my kinsmen and fellow prisoners:
They are “men” of note among the apostles,
and they were in Christ before me.

Phillips Modern Translation

Romans 16:7 A warm greeting too,
for Andronicus and Junias
my fellow-countrymen and fellow-prisoners;
they are outstanding “men” among the messengers...

The Amplified Bible

Romans 16:7 Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are “men” held in high esteem among the apostles...

The New Testament: Edgar J. Goodspeed

Romans 16:7 ...They are noted “men” ...

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