Saturday, May 21, 2011

N.T. Wright: Scripture is both airbrushed and the basis for women in ordained ministry



Here is a partial transcript:

"There's a lot of serious, hard-working Christian women in Chapter 16, and I don't think they were just making tea after the church worship service, either. These are people who have worked hard in the Lord and they are in apparently leadership positions."

"It seems to me that, in the Resurrection, there is a radical re-evaluation of the role of women. And it's the more interesting because in the official public tradition in I Corinthians 15, the women have been air-brushed out of the account . . ."

"In the official tradition of the church, already by the mid-50s, people are worried about them. But with the early stories which then get celebrated in the writing of the Gospels, the women are front and center. Apostolic ministry grows out of the testimony that Jesus is alive. That to me, in the New Testament, is the basis of apostolic ministry and I cannot understand why that should be problematic if you are a biblical Christian . . . So I then insist on reading I Timothy 2 in the light of that."

Thanks to Carolyn Custis James for highlighting this video from Wright in her own latest blog post.  I continue to note that, although Mrs. James declines to embrace the Feminist/Egalitarian label,  she continues to highlight the work of feminists, both secular and religious.

10 comments:

Caedmon said...

Well, I like Tom Wright, but frankly this doesn't surprise me. I am currently reading through John Piper's response to Wright on justification, and Piper makes it abundantly clear that the Great Wright and his "new perspective" may just have feet of clay.

So here. Wright cavalierly says that "it's been shown quite recently" that Romans 16:7 can't mean that Junias had a sterling reputation to the apostles; it must mean she was numbered among them. This fellow, however, apparently didn't get that memo:

http://bible.org/article/junia-among-apostles-double-identification-problem-romans-167

And that bit about Mary Magdalene? Talk about an exegetical leap.

William Tighe said...

There is also this delightful article:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=21-08-022-f

Kamilla said...

That's what happens when you start accusing the Holy Spirit of "airbrushing" the record, isn't it?

Mrs. James makes the same sort of move when she writes in her post, "Paul, the writer of Romans 16, is a recovering Pharisee and a former religious terrorist."

Such maneuvers call into question *anything* Scripture says and throws the door wide open to the sorts of apostasy we see ECUSA, PCUSA and ELCA and numerous bodies are embracing.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Again N.T. Wright exhibits lack of exegetical precision in his attempt to justify innovation.

Anonymous said...

Even if it could be demonstrated that a woman named "Junias" was named as an "apostle", that's slim evidence indeed for the existence of female apostles. One obscure verse can't be used to trump what's clear elsewhere, which is that Christ chose 12 men to be his disciples/apostles, the church named a man to succeed Judas, and Paul mentioned men specifically as those who were to be ordained as presbyters and deacons. If Junias is actually a woman and an "apostle" in the same sense that Paul is, then Romans 16:7 is the ONE counterexample.

Nor can such an obscure text be used to overturn 2,000 of tradition, which as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon points out here, MUST be rooted in the first century:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=06-01-022-f

"Torrance cites with approval George Carey’s much publicized assessment that those who oppose women’s ordination are in “serious theological error.” Well, perhaps so. But we may do well to examine the implications of that assessment. If we are in serious theological error, how did we get that way? We got that way from the previous generation of Christians. Okay, how did they come to be in serious theological error? Apparently they got it from the generation before them, and so forth. A slight difficulty arises here, however, because it is a matter of historical fact that all generations of Orthodox Catholic Christians for roughly 2,000 years have been opposed to the ordination of women. Why? Because of the supposed vestigial Manichaeism of St. Augustine and his alleged sexual hangups? Be serious. Just where did the error come from?"

"The Last Supper, that’s where. If we are in error, it is penultimately because the Apostles themselves got it wrong. And if the Apostles themselves were in error, they received that error from the One who told them what to do and how to do it. And if that Person was in error, we—those among us who believe him to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world and its only hope—have a rather serious problem on our hands."

Caedmon

Kamilla said...

From Caedmon:

One more comment: even if it could be demonstrated that a woman named "Junias" was named as an "apostle", that's slim evidence indeed for the existence of female apostles. One obscure verse can't be used to trump what's clear elsewhere, which is that Christ chose 12 men to be his disciples/apostles, the church named a man to succeed Judas, and Paul mentioned men specifically as those who were to be ordained as presbyters and deacons. If Junias is actually a woman and an "apostle" in the same sense that Paul is, then Romans 16:7 is the ONE counterexample.



Nor can such an obscure text be used to overturn 2,000 of tradition, which as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon points out here, MUST be rooted in the first century:



http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=06-01-022-f



Torrance cites with approval George Carey’s much publicized assessment that those who oppose women’s ordination are in “serious theological error.” Well, perhaps so. But we may do well to examine the implications of that assessment. If we are in serious theological error, how did we get that way? We got that way from the previous generation of Christians. Okay, how did they come to be in serious theological error? Apparently they got it from the generation before them, and so forth. A slight difficulty arises here, however, because it is a matter of historical fact that all generations of Orthodox Catholic Christians for roughly 2,000 years have been opposed to the ordination of women. Why? Because of the supposed vestigial Manichaeism of St. Augustine and his alleged sexual hangups? Be serious. Just where did the error come from?



The Last Supper, that’s where. If we are in error, it is penultimately because the Apostles themselves got it wrong. And if the Apostles themselves were in error, they received that error from the One who told them what to do and how to do it. And if that Person was in error, we—those among us who believe him to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world and its only hope—have a rather serious problem on our hands.

TaiPod said...

It seems to me that a lot of angst and "deep feeling" about this issue has come of the idea that the only good, valuable work in the church is the official ordained work (that is, leading a church, eldering, deaconing, etc.) The truth of the matter is that there is a GREAT DEAL of work to be done for the lay person, both male and female- ever so much more than making coffee (although, we can all admit that it IS an important job). In fact, if women were actually DOING all the things that scripture calls them to do as women, I doubt they would find time or energy to worry about that work not receiving official recognition or having official titles. Why else do you think that Scripture admonishes against idleness? When people are idle, both spiritually and physically, that's when they have time to sit around and mope that they haven't been given a more glorious calling!

Schütz said...

There is also the rather curious fact that Dr Wright (whom I greatly admire except for his blind spots - and this is one of them) overlooks what he himself knows full well: 1 Corinthians is one of the earliest surviving Christian texts. The "creed" at the start of 1 Cor 15 is (by its nature) even older, perhaps going back to a few years after the resurrection itself. By contrast, the Gospel stories - in which the women feature - are quite late, at least around twenty years later than 1 Corithians, anyway.

So how can Dr Wright justify talking about about 1 Cor 15 as if it is a "later" tradition and the Gospel accounts as if they were earlier? Doesn't make sense to me.

Gary said...

As with Schütz, I admire Wright except for his blind spots. He's done a terrible job on this issue and seems to bypass credible exegesis (see here for his essay).

As far as Rom 16:7 goes, it's difficult to figure out the meaning of episemoi en tois apostolois. Wallace wrote an article (which someone else cited), but it's got its share of problems. Linda Belleville wrote a response to it that is worth noting. Wallace needs to make a rejoinder to her response.

But, honestly, it's hard to nail down some of the way the early church worked. What was meant by "apostle?" It seems to function both in the sense of Apostle (capital-A, meaning the Twelve plus Paul), and in the everyday meaning of representative (not quite messenger, though the two overlap).

Is there a way that a representative, say ... a letter-carrier like Timothy or Epaphroditus, could be distinguished even though not an elder or a deacon? Yes. They both count as apostles in the sense of representatives. They are trustworthy enough to understand Paul's words, carry the letters to the church it needs to go to, and if need be clarify what the writer meant.

This would be a position of prestige, for sure. But the authority is a delegated authority.

Also, why should it be so unthinkable that churches would honor women who do something other than leadership? The most memorable person I know outside of my young adults class isn't the preacher or songleader. It's Evelyn, our greeter who passes out the handouts each Sunday. She is remarkable for being extraordinarily sweet and encouraging, even though I'm practically a stranger, I feel like I'm her grandchild.

Would that not be worth mentioning in a letter, given that the population of Christians was far smaller than it is now?

I think this is a more reasonable explanation, one that is in accordance with the historic Christian position.

Mary Magdalene is blessed to be the first to proclaim the resurrection. But then again, if the message needs to be told, and she's the only one there to be commissioned, what else would Jesus do? Say "too bad you're not a man. Why couldn't it have been Peter out here crying? I guess I'll have to appear to him, too."?

Silliness.

Anonymous said...

No He wouldn't, because He has no problem with using women to spread His news.