Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some Questions

Some questions for Christians and the church about homosexuality and same-sex acts:

Non-Coital Sex
If one permits couples in heterosexual marriages to engage in sexual activity that does not each and every time include or conclude with coitus, does that not weaken the argument against sexual activity between loving committed same-sex partners? When coitus is not involved, why can't a man do sexually to or with his male partner what a woman can do sexually to or with her male partner, or why can't a woman do sexually to or with her female partner what a man can do sexually to or with his female partner?

For those who would argue that homosexual sex is wrong because it cannot be procreative, is non-procreative sex between married heterosexual couples okay? Many heterosexual couples engage in sexual activity with no intention of procreation, or with no unprotected coitus (thus preventing even the possibility of procreation, assuming no unintended semen entry). Are they permitted to do this? When gay couples engage in non-procreative sexual activity, they do it for the very same reasons that heterosexual couples do. Gay persons have the very same unconscious and unprompted feelings of arousal and sexual longing and urging toward persons of the same sex that heterosexual persons have toward members of the opposite sex, and studies seem to show that trying to reprogram or redirect gay persons' arousals and urgings to respond to opposite-sex persons is rarely if ever successful. So if the reason for "male and female" - i.e., procreation - is not a required factor for all permissible heterosexual sexual activity, why can't homosexual couples do what heterosexual couples may do? If the intent or possibility of procreation is not the determining factor or sine qua non for permissible sexual activities between heterosexuals, then why may homosexual couples not engage in sexual activities?

For those who view same-sex attraction as at best a disability or a perversion/distortion of proper sexuality, or as a less-than-ideal situation: We permit and even encourage heterosexual couples to find accommodations for sexual or physical impairments so that they can engage in sexual activity for the non-procreative benefits of love, fulfillment, closeness, bonding, pleasure (including selflessly pleasing the other), etc., that such activities achieve. If same-sex attraction is indeed a lack of, or impairment or damage to, the "normal" ability to react and act sexually toward a person of the opposite sex, why should we not have the same compassion and attitude toward persons with same-sex attraction, especially since the "accommodation" in such cases is so easy - i.e., simply let them sexually relate to a person of the same sex?

Why "Homosexuals/Homosexuality"?
I think one limits one's ability to fully think about these issues if one automatically or primarily refers to or views persons with same-sex attraction as "homosexuals" or as having a "homosexual 'lifestyle'." Why do we use this terminology to categorize and (often) stereotype such persons? Do we primarily refer to ourselves or each other by our eating preferences (omnivores, vegetarians, vegans)? Or by the means by which we get to work or school (motorists, bicyclists, public transportation riders)? Or by our residences (homeowners, home buyers, renters)? Or by our entertainment preferences? Etc. All of these are equally valid ways of classifying people, depending on the purpose of the classification. As one author pointed out, we could just as validly group together men and women who are sexually attracted to men as being "androphiles" or "androsexuals," and men and women who are sexually attracted to women as being "gynecophiles" or "gynecosexuals." I don’t primarily or even significantly view or regard myself as being "a heterosexual," and I certainly wouldn't say that I live or have a "heterosexual 'lifestyle'," as my "lifestyle" encompasses and can be defined or characterized by a lot of things, not simply or mainly by my opposite-sex attraction or sexual activity.

Christians First
It seems to me that Christians have or should have more in common with each other than with non-Christians. I.e., Christians, regardless of their sexual attraction, should first understand themselves to be brothers and sisters of/with each other and not reflexively align/ally heterosexual Christians (including themselves) more with heterosexual non-Christians than with homosexual Christians, nor align/ally homosexual Christians (including themselves) more with homosexual non-Christians than with heterosexual Christians. Maybe a first step in Christians and the church being better about these things is to stop defining members of the body of Christ as being "homosexuals" or "heterosexuals."

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Amazing Romans 16

Papyrus 46 - Romans 16:4-13
I bet people most people skim right through (or right over) Romans 16, thinking it's just a list of names.


Look at the list:

"I commend to you Phoebe" - a woman - probably the person Paul trusted to carry his letter to Rome - "a deacon(ess)" [diakonos*, a common gender noun used for both men and women, and hence could refer to an office she held, and not just a statement that she was a "servant"] - "she has been a prostatis to many and to myself, too" - i.e., a benefactor, perhaps a wealthy or powerful citizen who introduced Paul to the persons in her city, or even protected Paul and supplied his needs, etc.

"Greet Prisca and Aquila" - note that Prisca's (Priscilla's), a woman's name, comes first (as it does in most of the other New Testament mentions of this couple) - and she is a "fellow-worker" too, one who risked her own neck for Paul's life. And ... she has a church in her house.

"Greet Mary" - another woman.

"Greet Andronicus and Junia" - a woman - one who is "well known to the apostles" or "outstanding among the apostles" - i.e., possibly a woman apostle. John Chrysostum and the Early Church Fathers took the Greek to mean that she was an apostle.

Dan Wallace reports that a massive computer search of Greek literature shows that the construction of the phrase overwhelmingly favors the translation "well known to the apostles." See Innovations in the Text and Translation of the NET Bible, New Testament - II.B.2. Also see Junia Among the Apostles: The Double Identification Problem in Romans 16:7 and Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7.

A discussion (June 3, 2002ff.) on B-Greek cites Eldon Jay Epp, "Text-Critical, Exegetical, and Socio-cultural Factors affecting the Junia/Junias Variation in Romans 16,7," pp. 227-291 in New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel, Edited by A. Denaux, BETL 161, Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2002, in opposition to Wallace's conclusions, however. (I can't find this discussion in the B-Greek archives now.) And Suzanne McCarthy has a seven-part rebuttal to the Wallace-Burer position: McCarthy vs Wallace (and Grudem)

Whether or not an apostle, the name is "Junia," i.e., a woman, and not a shortened version of the male "Junianus" - an apparent fiction invented by those who found the idea of a woman apostle hard to accept. "Junias" (the Greek form - accusative case) was considered to be a woman at least until the 13th century, as Douglas Moo writes in his acclaimed commentary on Romans. (Epp - see above - apparently argues for the name being masculine.)

"Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa" - also women.

"Persis" is a woman, as the description of her as "the beloved" is in the feminine gender.

"Greet Rufus the chosen one in the Lord and his mother - and mine also." Now, if this is the same Rufus who was the son of Simon the Cyrene, who carried Jesus's cross, since Cyrene is in Africa, Simon and hence Rufus were likely Black - and Paul is claiming Rufus' mother as being like his own mother. So now we have another praiseworthy woman, and an African one at that.

"Greet Julia" - another woman ... "and Nerea's sister" (a woman).

Not to mention that, as Moo points out, Paul identifies three, and possibly five separate house churches (vv. 5,14,15; cf. also vv. 10,11).

(I originally wrote and/or last edited this June 23, 2002 when I used to have a Web page, though I have updated/added the links.)

διάκονος, ου, ὁ, ἡ (s. διακονέω, διακονία; Trag., Hdt. et al.;ins, pap, LXX; TestSol 6:10 L, for δράκοντας; TestJud 14:2; Philo,Joseph., Just., Tat., Iren., Hippol.) gener. one who is busy with someth. in a manner that is of assistance to someone
 one who serves as an intermediary in a transaction, agent, intermediary, courier (cp. Jos.Ant. 1, 298 of Rachel who brought Jacob to Laban; s. also Ant. 7, 201224 al.Jos.Ant. 8, 354 Elisha isἨλίου καὶ μαθητὴς καὶ δ.; Epigonos is δ. καὶ μαθητής of Noetus inHippol., Ref. 9, 7, 1). Of a deity’s intermediaries: gener. θεοῦ δ. (Epict. 3, 24, 65 Diogenes as τοῦ Διὸς διάκονοςAchilles Tat. 3, 18, 5 δ. θεῶνcp. PhiloDe Jos. 241Jos.Bell. 3, 3542 Cor 6:41 Th 3:2 (cp. 1 Cor 3:5) s. below; Tit 1:9b v.l.Hs 9, 15, 4δ. Χριστοῦ 2 Cor 11:23Col 1:71 Ti 4:6 (cp. Tat. 13, 3 δ. τοῦ πεπονθότος θεοῦ); of officials understood collectively as a political system agentἡ ἐξουσία the (governmental) authorities as θεοῦ δRo 13:4, here understood as a fem. noun (Heraclit. Sto. 28 p. 43, 15; of abstractionsEpict. 2, 23, 8; 3, 7, 28). W. specific ref. to an aspect of the divine message: of apostles and other prominent Christians charged with its transmission (δ. τῆς διδασκαλίας Orig., C. Cels. 1, 62, 30) Col 1:23;Eph 3:7δ. καινῆς διαθήκης 2 Cor 3:6δ. δικαιοσύνης (opp. δ. τοῦ σατανᾶ2 Cor 11:15. δ. τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τ. εὐαγγελίῳ God’s agent in the interest of the gospel 1 Th 3:2 v.l. (for συνεργός); cp. δ. χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (if Timothy provides proper instruction he will be considered an admirable transmitter of the gospel tradition) 1 Ti 4:6;δ. ἐν κυρίῳ Eph 6:21Col 1:25 indirectly as δ. ἐκκλησίας; of Christ as God’s agent δ. περιτομῆς for the circumcision=for descendants of Abraham, Ro 15:8. Cp. Phoebe Ro 16:1 and subscr. v.l.; of Tychicus as faithful courier Col 4:7 (Pla., Rep. 370e ‘intermediary, courier’; of Hermes, s. G Elderkin, Two Curse Inscriptions: Hesperia 6, ’37. 389, table 3, ln. 8; Jos.Ant. 7, 201224 al.).
 one who gets someth. done, at the behest of a superior,assistant to someone (the context determines whether the term, with or without the article ὁ, οἱ is used inclusively of women or exclusively) Mt 20:2623:11Mk 10:43; of all 9:35Pol 5:2. Of table attendants (X., Mem. 1, 5, 2; Polyb. 31, 4, 5; Lucian, Merc. Cond. 26; Athen. 7, 291a; 10, 420e; Jos.Ant. 6, 52J 2:5, 9. Of a king’s retinue Mt 22:13.—Of Jesus’ adherents gener.: those in the service of Jesus J 12:26. Satirically, ἁμαρτίας δagent for sin Gal 2:17 (cp. the genitival constructions in 1 above; cp. Tat. 19, 2 of divination as instrument or medium for immoderate cravingsπλεονεξιῶν  δ.). One who serves as assistant in a cultic context (Hdt. 4, 71, 4 ‘aide, retainer’; Pausanias 9, 82, 2 ‘attendants’) attendant, assistant, aide (the Eng. derivatives ‘deacon’ and ‘deaconess’ are technical terms, whose mng. varies in ecclesiastical history and are therefore inadequate for rendering NT usage of δ.) as one identified for special ministerial service in a Christian community (s. Just., A I, 65, 5; 67, 5; Iren. 1, 13, 5 [Harv. I 121, 6]; Hippol., Ref. 9, 12, 22) esp. of males (the δ. as holder of a religious office outside Christianity: IMagnMai 109 [c. 100 b.c.]; IG IV, 474, 12; 824, 6; IX, 486, 18; CIG II, 1800, 1; 3037, 4; II addenda 1793b, 18 p. 982;Thieme 17f; MAI 27, 1902, p. 333f no. 8, 22) Phil 1:1 (EBest, Bishops and Deacons, TU 102, ’68, 371–76); 1 Ti 3:8, 124:6Tit 1:9a v.l.Phlm subscr. v.l.; 1 Cl 42:4f (Is 60:17); Hv 3, 5, 1Hs 9, 26, 2IEph 2:1IMg 2; 6:1; 13:1; ITr 2:33:17:2IPhldins; 4; 7:1; 10:1f; 11:1; ISm 8:110:112:2IPol 6:1Pol 5:3D 15:1.—Harnack, D. Lehre d. Zwölf Apostel: TU II 1; 2, 1884, 140ff, Entstehung u. Entwicklung d. Kirchenverfassung 1910, 40ff; FHort, The Christian Ecclesia 1898, 202–8; Ltzm.ZWT 55, 1913, 106–13=Kleine Schriften I, ’58, 148–53; HLauerer, D. ‘Diakonie’ im NTNKZ 42, ’31, 315–26; WBrandt, Dienst u. Duienen im NT ’31 (diss. Münster: Diakonie u. das NT, 1923); RAC III, 888–99; JCollins, Diakonia ’90 (p. 254: ‘Care, concern, and love—those elements of meaning introduced into the interpretation of this word and its cognates by Wilhelm Brandt—are just not part of their field of meaning’.) Furtherlit. s.v. ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος.—Since the responsibilities of Phoebe as διάκονος Ro 16:1 and subscr. v.l. seem to go beyond those of cultic attendants, male or female (for females in cultic settings: ministra, s. Pliny, Ep. 10, 96, 8; cp. CIG II 3037 διάκονος Τύχηἡ δ. Marcus Diaconus, Vi. Porphyr. p. 81, 6; MAI [s. above] 14, 1889, p. 210; Pel.-Leg. 11, 18; many documentary reff. in New Docs 4, 239f), the reff. in Ro are better classified 1, above (but s. DArchea, Bible Translator 39, ’88, 401–9). For the idea of woman’s service cp. Hv 2, 4, 3; hence Hs 9, 26, 2 may include women. Furtherlit. s.v. χήρα b.—Thieme 17f. B. 1334. DELGM-MTWSv. (BDAG)