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)


  1. ""I commend to you Phoebe" - a woman - probably the person Paul trusted to carry his letter to Rome - "a deacon(ess)" [the masculine term diakonos is used, hence it likely refers to an office she held, and not just a statement that she was a "servant"]"
    No. The Greek for this reads διάκονον -- a feminine version of the term.

    1. I revised the wording of my post to reflect that it is a common gender noun.

  2. How is Romans 16 so amazing again?