Monday, July 06, 2009

Junia and Michael Burer

The Better Bibles Blog has posted today on the NET Bible, and Michael Burer's three principles of Bible translation,
  1. Just because something has always been translated a certain way does not mean that it is correct.
  2. We should always value the light ancient documents shed on our understanding of the Scriptures, even for an issue as mundane as the meaning of a single, obscure word.
  3. We should always use the most up to date, accurate tools available. (In this instance, HALOT has the more accurate information as opposed to the other well-known Hebrew lexicon BDB.)
Michael authored the article Was Junia Really an Apostle with Dan Wallace. Subsequent to this article the NET Bible, ESV and HSCB have all translated Romans 16:7 as "Junia ... well-known to the apostles." My detailed response is here, please read from the bottom up.

Two years ago, I wrote a post on the BBB, at length recounting the many grammatical difficulties in the article by Wallace and Burer.

Michael Burer emailed me two years ago saying that he had been asked to respond to the work of Linda Belleville and J. Epp with respect to Junia. His response is now posted on CBMW,
    My schedule has not permitted me time to develop an in-depth response to any of these reviews. What I can say at this point is that I have not read anything in any of them that has dissuaded me from the viewpoint Wallace and I advanced in the original article. (In the next few years I hope to develop a suitable response to these critiques.)
Yes, you read it right. At least three reformed Bibles have removed evidence from the English Bible that a woman was "among the apostles" - whatever that means, and there is no reaction, just - "my schedule does not permit." This is the level of interest in defending women - yawn.

In the meantime, the Vamva version of the NT, a revision of the Greek NT done by an orthodox Greek bishop, says clearly μεταξὺ - "among." However, it appears that Americans think they know better than the 19th century clergy of Greece, they know better than the translators of the KJV, better than Luther, better than Calvin, better than Jerome, better than Chrysostom, better than ... Burer and Wallace have based their surmise, that Junia was not an apostle, on these three principles,
  1. Just because something has always been translated a certain way does not mean that it is correct.
  2. We should always value the light ancient documents shed on our understanding of the Scriptures, even for an issue as mundane as the meaning of a single, obscure word.
  3. We should always use the most up to date, accurate tools available. (In this instance, HALOT has the more accurate information as opposed to the other well-known Hebrew lexicon BDB.)
Let me address them.

1) There is little regarding doctrine that has been hidden for 20 centuries and revealed in the last few years. The two big ones are that teshuqa means that it is the rebellion of women to want to control their husbands, and this is the main cause of divorce in our day. The second is that all the early church fathers, and native speakers of Greek were mistaken regarding Junia being an apostle. She was not. How convenient!

2) Wallace and Burer's argument from the Pss. of Solomon contains several serious errors.

a) They stated that Pss. 2:6 is a "close parallel" with Romans 16:7. They now admit that it is not.

b) They argued that en plus the dative is not usually inclusive, but that a genitive would be expected. In the NT these two structures are used synonymously and there are exact examples of this.

c) They say that when used "in collocation with words of perception" it means "to." However, there is NO word of perception in Romans 16:7.

Here is how they state their main argument,
    When, however, an elative notion is found, evn plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon. In Pss. Sol. 2:6, where the Jewish captives are in view, the writer indicates that “they were a spectacle among the gentiles (ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν)

    Semantically, what is significant is that (a) the first group is not a part of the second—that is, the Jewish captives were not gentiles; and (b) what was ‘among’ the gentiles was the Jews’ notoriety.
Clearly, it says that the Jews were captives in a "place" that was among the Gentiles. It is inclusive. Episemos does not relate back to the Jews but to the place. Episemos with en plus the dative does have the meaning "among." Junia is episemos, that is, "among" the apostles.

3) When Burer and Wallace state that we should use the most up to date tools available, they may be referring to the use of a computer database search, in which snippets of lines of Greek are excerpted from the text and lined up in a list for analysis, without reference to the original context. Does this seem useful?

I posted a Response to Michael Burer on the BBB two years ago. In the comment section I posted this,

    Suzanne McCarthy
Posted May 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

Mike Burer has written to say that he will eventually be preparing a response to Epp, Belleville, Bauckham, and myself.

I have no timeline. As he intends to publish this as a paper, I appreciate that this could take some time.

And then in the spring of 2008 he posts that his schedule "has not permitted" him to look at this. But, even more shocking is that this passes without comment. Nobody cares. Nobody holds his toes to the fire. Nobody will face up to Wallace and Burer and ask "What about Junia?"

Basically, as it only affects women - let's plaster over the disagreement and carry on.


Shaylin said...

What really strikes me most about Burer and Wallace's argument is how dismissive they are of Chrysostom, in particular, for whom Paul's Greek was very much a living language. Chrysostom, who was only slightly further away from Paul, time-wise, than we are from Thomas Jefferson, understood Junia as a woman and an apostle. For me, at least, Chrysostom's statement pretty much settles the matter for good and all, and Wallace and Burer's dismissal is troubling.

J. K. Gayle said...

Clearly Michael Burer has time. And thank you for taking time (again and again) for showing the evidence.

In his CBMW review, Burer's main issue is that Eldon "Epp is loosing the traditional moorings of the text critical discipline, grounded primarily in the history of the transmission of the text as scholars could best understand and reconstruct it, and replacing it with something more tenuous—namely, the resonance of socio-cultural issues between our present day and the ancient Christian world."

On 01/17/2008, he insists (in his comment about his "hope" to get to Belleville's "sometime this year") that the issue of Junia "is more a question of appropriate grammatical meaning as opposed to literalness or non-literalness"

Hopefully, if ever he does comment publicly on Belleville's article, he'll acknowledge what she does: "The shift to the masculine ‘Junias’ is largely due to accenting in modern editions of the Greek NT." This, it seems, has much to do with literalness (as is with the case of the questioned preposition "ἐν.") What he calls "the force of the construction" is highly interpretive, not definitively grammatical. The "reconstruction" seems to be Burer's, not Epp's nor Belleville's nor, as Shaylin rightly notes, Chrysostom's.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I think some theologians are great at reconstructing the text.

I am glad you are back, Kurk, but I couldn't comment on your blog, since the comments are closed to all except "administrators of the blog."

Thanks for your support Shaylin.

J. K. Gayle said...

Reading your blog (and others' too) is about as "back" as I want to be (while I'm working elsewhere offline on other projects). Thank you for continuing to blog! I really would love any comments anyone wants to make over at my old blogs. Thanks for encouraging me to open comments up again. (I just did.)

believer333 said...

jkGayle, where are your blogs?

Brant said...

Suzanne, I have read your blog off and on for some time and always with interest. I appreciate your point of view.

My ability with Koine Greek is sufficient for me to sight-read large swaths of the New Testament, and to dope out the rest of it with the help of lexica and grammars. I am able to understand the detailed arguments concerning Junia, but I don't have the guns to refute them based on the Greek.

However, I have long thought that the arguments against Junia's apostleship are, on the one hand, disingenuous and on the other, circular.

They are disingenuous because, if Romans 16:7 said, "Greet Andronicus and Fred..." rather than "Greet Andronicus and Junia..." no one would argue that Fred was not an apostle.

They are circular because they begin with the assumption that a woman could not be an apostle, therefore, they conclude, either Junia was not an apostle, or she was not a woman.

I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a church body that has been served by female pastors from its inception. I have known many women clergy and believe that my church and my personal spiritual life have both been enriched by their ministry.

God bless.

Pastor Steve said...

So overall, I take it that you do not care for the NET translation?

believer333 said...

Suzanne, you wrote:
" There is little regarding doctrine that has been hidden for 20 centuries and revealed in the last few years."

I appreciate that bit of information as I've not thought much about it before, and it is a point that is somewhat comforting to believers trying to get their 'feet' in understanding Scripture. And I would like to confidently say that to my Bible Class in Foundations when we get to Bible Study Tools in the next few weeks.

In Burer's first principle he wrote:
"Just because something has always been translated a certain way does not mean that it is correct."

My first impression is that he was speaking of translating a Hebrew or Greek word properly in our English Bibles. And frankly there are dozens of words that by themselves (not thinking of making a doctrine new or old) that this would hold true about. I think of the words translated as ruler that should be leader, or words that should be translated willing to be persuaded (or some such) instead of obey, and so on. The KJV coined many errors that Bible translators have been slow to correct IMO.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually, that is not true. I am ambivalent on this. The notes are often fantastic, the concept is great.

And sometimes the notes are quite fair on the women issue. For example, the note on 1 Tim. 2:12, I think is good, if I remember correctly, - I would have to check - but the note on 1 Tim. 2:15 is excruciating. Really, what woman in labour thinks of giving birth as a synecdoche for submission to the male. No, usually women have other things to think of in the moment.

But then the note for 1 Cor. 14 is good also, although I don't agree with all of it.

So, I am glad you asked. I do like to use the online NET Bible for the notes. But in the cases where I think the translators are biased against women, then it is troubling.

Clear as mud, but I am glad you asked.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Oops, my previous comment is for Pastor Steve.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I guess the issue is whether there are words that affect doctrinal issues. For example, the expression "a one woman man" is something I am not sure about. I don't know if we have new insight into that or not.

Also regarding homosexuality. Do we really know something new about those words. I agree, however, with the point that we need to understand the role of homosexual relations in a patriarchal society. First, homosexuality is prevalent in patriarchal societies, and it is often the case of an older more powerful man, and a younger man or boy. But this has always been known to those who are familiar with Greek and Eastern cultures. Is this new information?

Anyway, on something like this, I am just voicing an opinion. Perhaps someone will convince me otherwise.

Steve said...

Thanks! But aside from the notes, do you feel that they have achieved an accurate translation? I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I am truly interested in your take on ESV onlyism. It is clear that there is a male bias in modern evangelicalism, but it seems that headship and the scanty evidence for women apostles or elders makes it difficult to support. Thanks for any comments!

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I think most of the notes are excellent, and the translation is accurate - except for where male bias creeps in. It is somewhere in between the traditional language and a more informal language, sometimes mixing stylistic levels of language.

flacius1551 said...

If it's any consolation, BBB's refusal to take gender issues seriously and their decision to block you from commenting have made me stop reading them. They are obviously not scholars to be taken seriously if they block out important information in making their translations just because it isn't convenient to them.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

It's not that exactly. There are some commenters who take a particular offense to my view on gender language, so I think they wish to keep this topic to a minimum.

I still read the BBB myself.