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When the inerrant Bible collides with Southern Baptist seminary doctrine

The woman Junia, whom St. Paul calls “of note among the apostles” (KJV, RSV) in the Epistle to the Romans 16:7, is the subject of blogs and scholarly articles considering her genter. She has inspired at least one scholarly and one popular book affirming her womanhood.

Among recent articles, one whose struggle with the problem Junia as a female historic figure poses for Southern Baptist inerrantists, attracted the attention of Enid, Oklahoma, pastor Wade Burleson. He courteously called out Southeastern Theological Seminary’s David Jones for attempting to cast out Junia’s femininity by reducing it to a clerical error.

Jones is open about his motives for trying to erase Junia’s womanhood in an article posted by The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. If he cannot do away with the exemplary female apostle Junia, the seminary he serves may have to revise the fundamentalist/no-women-pastors theological views it teaches to students and requires teaching professors to endorse. Jones writes:

If it is indeed the proper understanding of this obscure verse, egalitarian scholars are provided with one instance in Scripture where a woman is called an apostle — and a prominent apostle no less, who may have planted churches throughout the Roman world and exercised governing authority over them. It challenges the traditional belief in an all-male apostolate, as well as the implication that complementarians have drawn from it, namely, that women should not exercise pastoral authority over men.

Burleson winnows Jones’ complex review of arguments down to a single, keystone conclusion. Burleson quotes [correctly] from Jones:

(T)he important papyrus P46, along with several other less important manuscripts and versions, reads Ioulian. Ioulian is a feminine name, equivalent to our Julia. If this reading is to be preferred, then Paul is definitely referring here to a sister in Christ and not a brother. It is unlikely that this reading is original, however … It is most likely that the scribe who copied P46 inadvertently transposed “Julia” from verse fifteen. (emphasis mine).

Thus Jones argues that the view of Junia (or “Julia”) as a woman is the consequence of a scribal error in Papyri 46.

Commenters on Burleson’s blog are [as of this writing] dismissive without observing that the broad consensus of scholarly arguments apparently favors Burleson.

Jones has strained forth a fragile interpretation of the inerrant text. It is no dishonor to Jones but a matter of fact to note that he is a signed-on-the-dotted line defender of the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

A successful argument like his may be required to keep the latter from unhorsing the former and for a time reducing two SBC theological seminaries to incoherence. Indeed, we feel Burleson has gently pointed out to us a pair of already riderless horses.

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November 11, 2009 - Posted by | Religion, SBC | , ,

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