Shifting Footings

Shifting Footings January 2, 2012

The complementarians like to shift their footings when it comes to Junia. They want to find some argument on which they can stand to diminish the significance of the woman [Junia].

First, they argued she wasn’t a woman (Junia) but a man (Junias). The evidence disproved them so thoroughly even they gave in (or most of them gave in) and so they shifted to another footing to stand their argument on…

Second, they argued she wasn’t an apostle. Don’t forget this: The only reason males in the history of the church, and the motive seems to be to diminish women leaders in the church, changed the woman Junia to the man Junias was because whoever it was was an apostle. So the complementarians decided to show she wasn’t an apostle: she’s a woman alright, but only esteemed among the (male-only college of) apostles and not an apostle herself. Then that got disproven, and Eldon Epp’s long section in his book shows that this argument that Junia was only esteemed by the apostles but wasn’t an apostle herself can’t be relied on with rigor. So they shifted to another footing…

Third, they argued she was an apostle only in conjunction with her male (probably) husband. This one just didn’t work because she’s still called an “apostle” — a pair of apostles still makes her an apostle. So they shifted to another footing…

Fourth, they now are arguing that “apostle” really doesn’t mean “apostle” — it really means “missionary,” and we all know a “missionary” isn’t what an apostle is. So we don’t have to worry about women leaders, because Junia was just a missionary. To be sure, the word “apostle” undoubtedly has a narrow meaning (the twelve, Paul, etc) and it has a broader meaning (church-planting, founding, missionary). It still means “apostle” (one sent by Christ) and not only that — this term describes the highest office for the first century Christians. And Junia is in that small and highly esteemed circle.

Really, though, we are back to the major issue: she’s a woman; she’s an apostle; and she may have been a missionary kind of apostle .. but don’t forget what Paul says — she was a great apostle/missionary.

What’s next? Will “great” now be diminished too? Will this all be seen as tongue-in-cheek by the apostle?

This gets tiresome. Let the Bible say what it says. Junia was a woman; she was an apostle; she was a great apostle. Give the woman a break and give her a big clap! Saint Chrysostom surely did.

The question to ask when evaluating someone for leadership in the local church is not “Man or woman?” but “What has God gifted this person — man or woman — to do?”

Do I have a witness?

"As my conversation with Jason shows, it wasn't clear enough in Scot's reposting of this ..."

You don’t need to go to ..."
"As a general statement, that is a bit uncharitable. There are better ways of approaching ..."

You don’t need to go to ..."
"Thanks for responding Jason, it is good to talk honestly about the things that matter ..."

You don’t need to go to ..."
"A couple take aways from some of the responses here......Christian individuals who dont go to ..."

You don’t need to go to ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • We have in our church two equally gifted, in their unique ways, wonderful servant leaders in our pastors, Jack and Sharon Brown. She is not a pastor because her husband Jack is a pastor, but her gifting and ministry stands on its own in the Lord, just as Jack’s does. She would do fine if she was pastoring a church and Jack was not a pastor, but now we’re doubly blessed!

    Good points, Scot. Aren’t they operating from a premise, and trying to exegete or interpret this passage based on that premise, faulty though we believe it is. The premise that scripture forbids women in any role of leadership in which men would be under their authority.

  • John M.

    You’ve got my “witness” Scot. A hearty “Amen!”

  • Mick Porter


    It was Gordon Fee’s argument that initially shifted my opinion – same as you’ve stated, that the question is one of gifting. Would God gift someone and yet forbid them from exercising said gifting?

  • LT


    Do you really believe that those on the other side of you on this issue want to “diminish the significance of the woman”? That seems a bit uncharitable. May it not be that there are simply sincere differences that have nothing to do with any desire regarding the significance of the woman (whether of Junia individually or the woman as part of God’s creation)?

    For my part, I am a complementarian who has, multiple times, tried to make your arguments/exegesis work, and I can’t for the life of me find anyway to do it in my conscience. I have no desire to “diminish the significance of the woman,” and I doubt most others do. I simply cannot find room in my conscience to discount what seem to be perfectly clear mandates of Scripture and consistent patterns of Scripture regarding this issue.

    I wish that we could have these discussions without insinuating some sort of nefarious desire or latent chauvinism on the part of those who have sincere differences on the issue.

  • LT

    @Mick (#3),

    You say Would God gift someone and yet forbid them from exercising said gifting?

    Why isn’t the question, Would God gift someone for something that he has forbidden them to do?

    If we answer that question with a “no” (which I think is the obvious answer, and I am sure you would agree), then we are back to the objective revelation of God in Scripture, rather than some nebulous idea of determining gifting (something Scripture never commands us to do, nor gives us any methodology of doing).

  • Sean

    So, what do you do with 1 Timothy 2:11-12? Also, I am unsure that complementarians have retreated in the instances that you’ve mentioned. Saying “even if we gave egalitarians this point, then…” does not actually mean that one has actually given up on that point and allowed others to claim a victory there. It’s just making an allowance for the sake of argument. To be honest, all four complementarian arguments sound reasonable to me here. The egalitarian arguments on 1 Timothy 2:11-12, not so much.

  • LT

    @Mick (#3),

    Sorry to post again, I meant to add that the fact that a woman cannot exercise authority over or teach men in the church does not mean that she cannot exercise her gifts of teaching or leadership. It seems a fallacious argument that say that a particular gifting requires that the gift be exercised in a particular place. If I had a gift of teaching or preaching, that doesn’t mean I can show up at your church and exercise it. And the fact that I can’t exercise my gift in a particular place, doesn’t diminish the gift or diminish me.

    So a woman who has particular gifts is free to exercise them (and in fact required by the Spirit who gave them to exercise them). But that doesn’t mean she can exercise them anywhere she desires.

  • scotmcknight


    That second sentence “the woman” is Junia, so I added that. I see a clear trend of shifting arguments on Junia because folks don’t want her to get a foot in the (teaching) door.

    Is there any evidence in the NT that women can exercise gifts of teaching and leadership but not in a particular place? (Which usually today means Sunday AM at 11AM from a pulpit.) The whole argument is anachronistic. If she has gifts of teaching and leadership then she can exercise those in the church, and in the church is both gathered and not.

  • scotmcknight

    Sean #6, I’ve sketched a view of 1 Tim 2 in my Blue Parakeet, and you could read Craig Keener’s stuff on Paul and women. There are adequate and compelling responses to traditionalist readings of 1 Tim 2.

  • DRT

    LT “I wish that we could have these discussions without insinuating some sort of nefarious desire or latent chauvinism on the part of those who have sincere differences on the issue.”

    Sorry LT, but that makes me laugh. Isn’t the definition of chauvinism exactly what you are doing [biased devotion to any group, attitude, or cause.]? Isn’t it nefarious [evil; wicked; sinful] to deprecate half the worlds population? I think so and that is not an exaggeration.

  • EricW

    ISTM it all comes down to whether or not your church will:
    1. allow a female to pastor or be in leadership/eldership without requiring a male leader(s) “above” her, contrary to letting males do the same without requiring a female to be above them; or
    2.a. allow a female to teach males in church, or
    2.b. allow a female to teach males in church without making her speaking/teaching subservient to a male’s control or authority, when males can teach females without having to be similarly under a female’s control or authority.

    You can parse and fine-tune and nuance the reasons and arguments all you want to, but it still comes down to the above. So: what will you and your church do, and why?

  • LT


    In answer to your question, Titus 2 is clear where Paul tells the women not only to exercise their gifts, but where to exercise them. It is as if he is answering the question you and others are raising. “If women are not to teach and exercise authority over men in the church, then can they exercise their spiritual gifts at all?” Paul replies, “Of course they can.”

    1 Tim 2 is also quite clear. And having read your defense and the defense of others, the exegetical and lexical gymnastics required to make your point is, to my mind, a prima facie case against its credibility. When you have to go to those lengths, there is a problem. To me, those arguments are so obviously strained as to be shown to be conclusions in search of premises. I think the reason why complementarianism has been so long the position of the church is obvious: It’s what the Bible teaches. And the reason it is so hard to convince to the contrary is the same reason.

    I have never seen anyone argue that the existence of or possession of a gift means that the gift can be exercised anywhere and everywhere. It has (to my knowledge) always been recognized that gifts and gifting operate in domains of life. And for proof, just consider what would happen if I show up at your church. No one there is going to grant me leadership or teaching simply because I am gifted for it. Or consider the case of a retired pastor who joins a church. He is not given elder status simply because of his gifts.

    Even if we grant that Junias was an apostle, and not just significant among the apostles, that doesn’t help a contemporary argument because apostles, whatever they were, no longer exist. So whatever might have applied to Junias no longer applies to anyone, male or female.

    So I won’t belabor this with you, since I doubt either you or I would be convinced at this point. I would only say that my problems have nothing to do with significance and everything to do with exegesis. If I could see my way clear to hold your position, I would.

  • LT

    @DRT (#9), Where have I shown any bias or deprecation towards anyone? Do you know of anyone who says that everyone with a gift has to exercise it in all possible realms? I don’t. Everyone I know of recognizes that not all gifts share equal prominence, and not all gifts are exercised in every place. And to recognize that is not chauvinism at all, it seems to me.

  • EricW

    I wrote:

    You can parse and fine-tune and nuance the reasons and arguments all you want to, but it still comes down to the above. So: what will you and your church do, and why?

    And when you get to the “why’s” that complementarianism uses to justify what it doesn’t allow females to do vis-a-vis males, based on arguments from 1 Timothy 2 or 1 Corinthians 11 or 14, etc., no amount of exegetical or lexical work can avoid the obvious: The arguments are just plain silly and embarrassing, including the argument: “Because that’s what God/the Bible says,” which seeks to avoid the argument completely.

  • John W Frye

    LT (your comments),
    So you are convinced that *your* exegesis is correct. That’s fine, but why are you so condescending toward those who also with a very fine toothed comb have exegeted the *crux interpretum* 1 Tim. 2 and come to egalitarian understanding? Just say you’re not convinced and leave your opinion about the skill of other scholars to yourself. The “song and dance” objection to egalitarian exegesis is an objection that cuts two ways. And I like your red herring as you shift away from the critical issue to the topic of where and when male and female Christians can use their gifts.

  • scotmcknight


    Quite the slip to call Junia “Junias.”

    1 Tim 2: somehow women have to be silent (if that is what it means; see Tom Wright’s new translation; see Keener, see Padgett) but not totally since women can exercise the gifts of prophesy and prayer in public in 1 Cor. So, it is not total silence. So we have to nuance it.

    Titus 2 isn’t as compelling to me as it is to you: older women can teach; it doesn’t say they can only teach younger women, nor does it say where they are to teach them. You can infer what you do and I would say it is plausible; but plausibility and probability are not the same.

    I would say the same for your contextual framing; it’s possible. Hardly compelling.

    The examples you give are not the sort we are talking about: “showing up” breaks the analogy into sui generis, not the sort we are talking about in Paul’s letters, where the women are not apparently traveling (by the way, traveling prophets and teachers did just show up and they got to exercise their gifts, under discernment, and only for a limited time). They are part of the community/church. Teaching requires students not time or location; prophesying simply doesn’t work as women prophets for women audience. (Are you arguing that?) Public prayer is in … we could go on. Factor in these things:

    1. House churches and home groups.
    2. Meetings at all sorts of times and for all sorts of reasons.
    3. Smallish circles…

    The Sunday morning sermon just doesn’t work to explain the NT evidence.

  • DRT

    LT, as you no doubt know, in biblical times they felt men and women were different. We all know that.

    But now, what differentiates men from women? Seriously, on what basis does one person get to do something over another. Saying it one more way, do I have to know what genitals someone has to know what they are permitted to do, and if so, what is it about having those genitals that would possibly substantiate us differentiating between two people?

    There is irrefutable proof that there are people who are applying logic on both sides of the issue. Scot is one, you are another. One must be wrong. What do you think god’s basis would be for your position? What is different between men and women?

  • Given the requirements to be an apostle given in Acts, how could she possibly be an apostle? She’s never once mentioned in the rest of the NT; how’d she spend all that time following Christ around Gallilee and not get mentioned once?

  • DRT

    This is from Pamela in the other thread today:

    …..My take is scriptural i see Jesus telling Mary “go and tell the disciples including Peter (who is head of the church) that I am alive” John 20, Mark 16 Also the gospel is given to to women first: Mary mother of Jesus, Elizabeth her cousin, etc… “jesus rubukes the men for not believing the message sent by the women” seems to me there are still many men not believing the message of women today, what a shame!

    LT, clearly the scripture is not 100% clear on this! You are therefore choosing your position intentionally, and that is bias and a deprecation of women. Isn’t that right?

    I should let Scot debate this, but I the thought of some joker saying my daughter can’t do something simply because she does not have the right sex organs makes absolutely no sense to me. And if you say that your argument does not involve sex organs, then show me some reason that Jesus would want her not to have the same pursuits because of her sex organs.

  • ChrisB, the requirement given in Acts 1:21-22 is not for apostles in general (of which there were many), for one in particular to replace Judas among the Twelve. Not even the Saul/Paul, who claimed to be an apostle and is widely acknowledged as such, would not have fulfilled the requirement in Acts 1 because he was not with the others “beginning from the baptism of John to the day that He was taken up from us.” Saul/Paul did not come to know King Jesus, and King Jesus did not reveal Himself to Saul/Paul until after the Ascension. So if that requirement did not prevent Paul from apostleship, there is no reason to think it would have prevented Junia.

  • Matt

    One significant commentator does something similar to #4 but with Deborah and what it means to be a “judge.” i.e., Deborah is not a judge in the same sense that the others are. My response: You’re right, she’s BETTER than the rest.

  • Jeremy

    @DRT – She’d have a tough time becoming a father if that was her inclination, and that seems to me a more appropriate analogy for the issue here. It’s been my belief that the role of pastor/apostle has a fatherhood element to it and mothers simply can’t be fathers (and vice versa). That’s not to say that the role of motherhood in the church is without any authority, but it is of the same pattern we see with Christ and the church, husband and wife, etc.

  • EricW

    @Jeremy 22 wrote:

    It’s been my belief that the role of pastor/apostle has a fatherhood element to it and mothers simply can’t be fathers (and vice versa).

    Don’t overlook 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. There the apostle sounds more like a caring and life-giving-and-sacrificing mother than a father. Also Galatians 4:19.

  • Jonathan

    I want to ask this question again:

    What is “complementary” about “complementarianism”?

    Complementarianism says that men and women are complementary, that men complete women and women complete men. This implies that there are things men are permitted to do and women are not, irrespective of gifting and interest, and also that there are things women are permitted to do and men are not, irrespective of gifting and calling.

    My question is: from the complementation perspective, what are these things which women are permitted to do, and men are not, irrespective of gifting and calling?

    As far as I perceive, the answer is “nothing”. Men’s functions are a superset of women’s functions.

    If that is correct, it seems to me that “hierarchalism”, “patriarchy”, or “male preeminence” are more accurate terms than “complementarianism”.

  • T

    I’m not a greek scholar, so whenever these discussions come up, I’m always thinking more in terms of function and practice. Here’s a question I always have: If a woman prophesies, and the church and I (a man) believe the prophecy to be from God, what do I do with this prophetic word?

    Or let’s take a more specific instance. There is a woman I know, she’s at least 30 years my senior. She’s spent much of her life in the ministry, both home and abroad (with her husband, till he went off the deep end and abandoned her and their kids). Having known her and her younger children for several years, she is easily among the people I most highly respect for her character, wisdom, kindness and strength. When I started a small group with lots of college students, she was one of the first people I wanted in the group (for their sakes). When I had career decisions to make, she was one of the few whose prayerful counsel I most wanted (and valued when given). Having said all this, I never thought once about not seeking her help because of her sex. Would complementarians say that I should not do what I did? I undoubtedly treat her and her words as given “with authority.” In other words, when she speaks, I listen, as do all the experienced Christians who know her. Is letting this woman teach and advise me (a man) wrong? If not, is it merely because she has no “office” these days (off the mission field)? Is the office forbidden but the function totally fine? Or is it because I sought her ought and she was not “forced” upon me by some title (as if there aren’t always people with titles whom we don’t seek out for help or whose words don’t carry authority with us)?

  • You have a witness here, waving her white hankie and hollering, YES!


  • Jeremy,

    God is also referred to with motherly characterstics (a mother hen gathering her chicks) so your point becomes moot. You would be saying God could not be the head either.

    Having read Scot’s latest Junia is Not Alone booklet, I would encourage it to be read. It is very helpful to see the progression of the views.

    It always amazes me the hoops one must go through to negate what is said in Scripture (daughters prophesy, women evangelists, female leaders, Junia a great apostle, etc.) to make them fit a gender view. If one truly reads with an open mind and lets Scripture speak to our hearts,(but this is impossible when we have preconceived mindsets) we know something is wrong with negating half the population from certain positions. I’ve said this before: if women can teach children who are more vulnerable to false teachings, why can they not teach men who should be more discerning? Makes no sense from a developmental or spiritual argument. Nor from a Biblical one.

    I once was complementarian, and I was subjugated in so many ways. I found freedom when I learned through my OWN exegesis that God cared as much about me as he did the men in my life… maybe more 🙂

    Plain and simple, in my experience complementarianism is bondage, mutuality is freedom. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty… now if this were only true in the church.

  • Jonathan, I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing complementary about complementarianism. But since it is the name they prefer, I try to be charitable and use that distinction.

  • PLTK

    Re #24 and #25: A strong AMEN! #24 speaks to my own issues with the complementarian perspective when applied to men/women’s roles in the church. While you could potentially argue for complementarity in marital relationships, I can’t see how this fits with roles in the church (if you want to argue they are equal but different). Clearly only one sex is limited by the rules and by definition they are not complementary. #25 speaks to the inconsistencies in how churches apply these rules. To be honest, churches that try to more whole-heartedly implement the rules (i.e., women should have long hair, head-coverings, no jewelry and not talk) are at least attempting to consistently apply Paul’s rules. In the church I currently attend women can do anything but be a head pastor. Why? Who really knows… there is some sort of convoluted reasoning about Jesus only had male disciples, but that isn’t a logically derived or consistently applied rule (he only had Jewish disciples… he seemed to give priority to fishermen–wouldn’t that would be a hoot!).

    As T comments (#25) in his example, we have so many inconsistencies in our application of these rules. Women can be missionaries (teaching those heathen males is okay) but not local ministers. (Really, can we sustain any logical difference between the typical role of a missionary and a minister? Many missionaries ARE pastors to congregations in the places where they live.) They can be community pastors (as in my church) but not a lead pastor. They can speak to a small group of both men and women, but not in front of the main congregation on Sunday morning. Heck, they can speak to the whole church as long as it is not on Sunday morning. We can invite a woman in to speak, as long as they don’t do so on a regular basis. The inconsistencies are rather revolting and speak to hidden attempts to hang on to privilege rather than really listen to and apply the Bible.

  • Elizabeth

    I am a regular reader of this blog and last week I read Junia is not Alone. All I want to say is a huge and heartfelt thank you to Dr McKnight for being a wise and courageous voice on this issue and so many others facing the church today.

    I am just very, very grateful. Thank you for following your calling to study, teach, research, challenge and write – and thank you for the tone with which you do it all.

    – Another witness hollering ‘AMEN!’

  • David Dollins

    Excellent article Scot! This is an example of why the NIV 2011 may be the best all-purpose Bible translation yet.

  • Nadine

    Aside from ignoring the excellent scholarship in writings on this subject by the likes of Craig Keener, Richard Bauckham, Stanley Grenz, Deborah Gil, etc.,its always seemed to me that complementarians use a “plain language” approach which can be fatally flawed. Usually, it means a plain understanding in contemporary terms. In other words, what I understand those words to mean now. The problem is this doesn’t work very well which is why we rely so much on Greek scholars and early church historians. As an example, anyone who has taken a class in Shakespeare is going to learn that some words and phrases do not have the same meaning as their contemporary equivalents. Also, it seems to me that complementarianism in its not very well hidden denial of the spiritual equality of women is at least a little gnostic. (See the Gospel of Thomas.)

  • Re #18, Epaphroditus in Phil 2:25 is their apostle, in the Greek, and he wasn’t with Jesus. And, Paul labels as apostle a number of unnamed people in II Cor 8:23. “Apostle” certainly extends beyond the “12”.

  • T


    There are well over 12 apostles mentioned in the NT. Few of the 12 get any mention after the gospels, and some in the letters aren’t in the gospels.

  • Paul Johnston

    Some related thoughts.

    Is it instructive that the origional Aposltes were only men? Our Lord could have made this a non issue from the beginning, had he included women among the twelve. Were our Lord’s choices intentional in some way, or just an oversight?

    And if we can change what we hold as tradition what should be the catalyst? A politically inspired praxis like feminism; it’s methodologies and values? What political ideology does Jesus make His priority?

    In the “upside down” world that is our faith, if the teaching is sound, why should not teaching be a matter of personal offense to those not given the responsibility? Would your sacrifice in this regard not be pleasing to the Lord? Can your gifts not be utilized in other works of God? How do you read scripture on these matters?

  • Paul Johnston

    A final thought. In accordance with natural law, biologically speaking, men and women are wholly complimentarian.

    This reality is entirely self evident and requires non of semantic mistrust, skepticism and feigned cordiality reflected in comments #24 and #28.

  • scotmcknight


    I don’t know how it can be instructive that they were only men. That approach is inferential, and inferences in these matters often mirror nothing more than one’s premises rather than extend one’s premise. Here are some facts: some women taught; women led; women prophesied. The male-only apostleship therefore doesn’t diminish, then, the QED (should women be encouraged to exercise their leadership/teaching gifts?).

    The tradition argument: I respect it; it works however without infallibility. Unless, of course, one’s Tradition has settled the matter, in which case there is no QED in this matter.

    The last paragraph assumes a traditionalist view and extends it to say women ought to see whatever they do — apart from teaching? — as service? Well, we could go on…

    you typing on a phone? Lots of typos here.

  • Mick Porter

    @LT, you say that we are back to the objective revelation of God in Scripture. Fee’s argument is that, given the experiential evidence, we should revisit our understanding of Scripture to see if we may have missed something. The Scriptural precedent for this is Acts 15 – the church had a view of where Gentiles might fit in, Peter and Paul and Barnabas provided contrary evidence, and the church revisited their understanding of Scripture.

  • Fish

    What I find interesting is how gender is disappearing outside the church. There are teens who refuse to put themselves in either the male or female category.

    Imagine a society where people are not put into boxes based on their gender, where women can be CEOs and men can stay at home with the kids, and such arrangements not be an exception.

    To me, it’s very similar to how we used to put people into boxes based on their skin color, and we learned better.

  • Trav

    You have a witness!

  • Amen, Scot. And thanks so much.

  • LT

    Wow … I wasn’t going to get involved in this deeply. Pardon the length. I am responding to everyone at once, so feel free to skip it all. 🙂

    @John Frye (#15): (1) Assuming I am being condescending (something not true at all), are you equally concerned with the condescension of others? (2) The critical issue of when and where is not a red herring at all. It is the issue. I believe some women have teaching gifts and some have leadership gifts (assuming leadership is a gift), and I believe they would be sinning not to use them. I also think 1 Tim 2 could not be clearer that they cannot use them over men. It is hard to imagine a more difficult way for God through Paul to say that it is okay that women teach and exercise authority over men, if that is what He meant to say.

    @Scot (#16): (1) I don’t know of anyone who thinks 1 Tim 2 requires total silence, but you are more versed than I in that. I think it is silence as opposed to teaching men and exercising authority over men. (2) I don’t think the Sunday morning sermon is the only issue. It is broader and it strikes me as odd that there is such a scarcity of the type of stuff you are talking about in the NT. But again, I won’t belabor that.

    @DRT (#17): (1) of course men and women are different. That’s hardly groundbreaking, and even in this age, more and more sociological studies are bearing that out by people with no proverbial dog in this fight. (2). It is completely misleading to say this is about genitalia. (3) I think God’s basis is given in 1 Tim 2 when he tied the issue to creation (man created first; woman deceived). He could have tied it to first century culture, women being naïve in the church, etc. But he did not. Why? Why, in your mind, did God reach all the way back to creation to make his point?

    @DRT (#19): (1) Quoting Pamela using a personal conversation as a basis for egalitarianism is not all that compelling to me, and it shouldn’t be to you either, IMO. (2) Again, sex organs are not the issue. Gender differences are far more than that. (3) I am choosing my position not intentionally but in response to what I believe Scripture teaches both in precept and example, and that is not the same as bias or deprecation. So in answer to your question, No that isn’t right.

    @Jonathan (#24): (1) “complementary” deal with the completing role of men and women towards each other. There are things that men and women do that the others do not. Culture has borne it out for centuries and modern sociologists are showing this all over again. So as a complementarian, I completely and unequivocally reject terms such as heirarchalism, patriarchy, or male preeminience.

    @T (#25): Your example is a great one because it clearly defines difference. Seeking personal counsel from an experienced person is not the same as teaching men or exercising authority over men in the church. So your example is not even relevant to the discussion.

    @Nadine (#32): I don’t know any egalitarian who denies the spiritual equality of women. That was a Corinthian tactic where people with certain spiritual gifts did not deny the spiritual equality of others without them, and became proud in their gifting.

    @Scot (#37): Women should absolutely be instructed to use their gifts … all of them, in the way that God has commanded them.

    @Mick Porter (#38): Fee’s argument is fine, but there is nothing new in our experience that would cause us to look back, and having looked back at Scripture, there is no reason to think we missed anything. The reasons for change had to virtually be invented after having been missed for all these centuries. Remember, the early church was countercultural in its treatment of women as equals in the church, and there is no incontrovertible evidence of women teaching men or exercising authority over men in the church.

    So thanks to all. Have a great night and a great new year.

  • I’m standing there, right next to Sarah Bessey, waving a white flag and shouting, “Glory, Hallelujah.” Thanks Scot.

  • T


    I’d like to make it clear that she did teach me, and, further, that I was giving her “authority” to teach men and women in our college group.

    But I’d like to know the difference, practically speaking, between a woman prophesying to mixed company and her teaching them. I’d also like to know the difference, practically speaking, between a woman of great influence on men and women in a church, and one with “authority.” Is it merely the title? I’m seriously asking how folks who are opposed to women in leadership (over men) see these things.

  • E.G.

    @LT: “So as a complementarian, I completely and unequivocally reject terms such as heirarchalism, patriarchy, or male preeminience.”

    But, how can you reject them when complementarians *must* practice these?

    A male-only leadership situation is, by definition, hierarchical, patriarchal, and wallowing in preeminence. There is no way that you can logically deny that fact.


    Frankly, we will not be having this debate in about 10 years because the ardent practitioners and preachers of this failed model of community are at the far end of the age spectrum. They will either literally die out or their voices will die out with less and less influence in local churches. The few younger (mostly) men who persist will be drowned out by the shift that’s now happening in evangelicalism – a shift that has been to long is coming, but that is now becoming an avalanche.

    Everything in God’s time.

    In the meantime, however, we need to speak out against this error.

    Thanks to Scot for doing this. Keep it up. Amen.

  • EricW

    I could no more support a church that second-classed women vis-a-vis men when it comes to functioning in the church, the Body of Christ, than one which did the same to a person of a different ethnicity or nationality than the basic or dominant one of the church or its denomination.

    But while I don’t think there’s necessarily a domino effect from Egalitarianism, I suspect that some gay Christians might see the Biblical rejection of them and their relationships by both Egalitarians and Complementarians as stemming from arguments that are little better than those used to support Complementarianism/Patriarchal Hierarchicalism.

  • @LT

    I’d just like to say thank you for your level-headed responses on this thread. While I disagree with your position, I respect the way you’ve handled yourself and given everyone an opportunity to hear from another perspective.

  • Sue

    The real issue is about whether we can trust a translation. If a translation uses illegitimate means to diminish the status of women, can we trust it? And if a man wrongly proposes that Junia was a man, or not a member of the group of apostles; and a woman rightly proves that Greek literature has testified to her femininity for 2000 years, as Linda Belleville has done, who do we trust – the man or the woman?

  • Val

    Thanks Scott and Amen. It is so hard for some to see what is obvious. If the writers went to such lengths to switch Junia to a man, they knew she was a serious threat to their views. That they switched the scripture to fit their biases shows how little regard they had for the Bible as the inspired writings in the first place.

    Sad to see this happen to the Bible, glad you are showing us how to correct it.

  • RJS

    E.G. (#45)

    We will still be having these debates in 10 years time. But they will be tailing off … and in 50 or so they will be looked back on the way debates about race are, with lingering hold-outs, but a cultural transformation.

    The biggest transformation will come because of the role women play in leadership positions in so many other areas of society and the just plain normalness of these positions and roles.

    The societal change in perspective from 1950-1980 was enormous, the change from 1980-2010 almost as large (larger in the actual realization). From 2010-2040 we will see women in leadership and teaching become simply normal in our larger society. The church will adjust.

  • JohnM

    RJS #50 – “The church will adjust.” To what is normal in our larger society. Ironically that sounds just like a conservative critique. 🙂 Think about it.

  • RJS

    John M,

    The church adjusted to the abolition of slavery and the decreasing prominence of racism. It did not often lead, although some individual Christians certainly did, and based their position in their faith. I do put this issue on the same footing. You can say that it plays into a conservative critique … in a sense it does. But I think it is also a move to the true teachings of Jesus (and Paul).

  • E.G.

    Thanks RJS. Good analysis.

  • Amos Paul


    Amen on that. It is sad how few Christians led the charge in abolition, civil rights, etc. Yet, some did. And, looking back, I think it’s pretty clear that most (all?) of us agree that they were *right* to base their positions upon their faith.

    My local church sees women in ministry and enviromentalism as issues Christians either need to get (rightfully and faithfully) behind, or be left behind by.

  • Amos Paul


    And, sorry for the double post, but I must also add–when one addresses “conservative” and “liberal, we must make clear what we are being ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ about. I do not think these terms are entirely helpful in social or political discussions unless they are given specific definition and context in terms of whatever conversation is going on.

    I genuinely think that women in ministry is *good progress*, much like abolition and the civil rights movement were. However, labelling this position ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ misses the entire point. C.S. Lewis once said that for any notion of progress to make any sense at all, a set standard must be consistently held to check changes against to see if they’ve gotten ‘better’. If there is not standard, then there is no progress–merely change.

    As someone who believes in these examples of progress, I believe they are only progress because they positively check out against my values based in my faith (that is, God) that the church has ‘conservatively’ attempted to hold for 1,000s of years. It just so happens that more people than not these days are beginning to realize that the ‘conservative’ values of the church universal do not support complementarianism and that this position must, then, be ejected. This is progress.

  • Paul Johnston

    Scot you say…”I don’t know how it can be instructive that they were only men. That approach is inferential, and inferences in these matters often mirror nothing more than one’s premises”.

    The Lord only chooses men as Apostles, further the Apostolic communities only choose men as leaders of these communities going forward, and you see only inference. No intentionality? The probability of these being “unintentional” outcomes, seems unlikely. I am simply asking then what the intentionality might be? Curiously, to me at least, you read to be politely dismissive of the facts regarding the initiation of the Apostolic community by Christ and it’s immediate and ongoing succession, yet at the same time you take an anecdotal sentence of St. Paul’s, that may or may not reference the Apostolic participation of the person Junia, Julia or as believed by no less an authority as Origen, the man and later Bishop, Junias, and use this as the grounds to justify the egalitarian position?

    To me, drawing that conclusion, is hardly even inferential. It sounds mostly wishful.

    In your understanding of scripture does the weight of exegesis on the QED advanced here, support or refute the egalitarian position?

  • scotmcknight

    Paul, Thanks. Here’s the point: the text does not say “men” or “men only.” Men are chosen by Jesus; that does not mean only men can be apostles. Junia was a woman; she is called an apostle; a great one at that. You can use Origen if you wish; he was wrong on this account. There is no man’s name “Junias.”

    I’m not dismissive; I’m sticking to what the Bible does say and it does not restrict apostleship to men; in fact, it includes one female.

    What you say about “men” could be modified to “Jewish” men too. That, too, is implicit in the apostolic twelve.

    My point about Junia is not really about egalitarianism. It’s about the gender of the one named Junia, and some inferences flow from that … but egalitarianism is fought on other grounds.

  • EricW

    The trajectory of the Gospels and the New Testament is one of no differentiation by sex of how and who the Spirit moves in gift-wise and in terms of placing in positions the church (the New Creation) or the Scriptures would call gifts or offices or positions or functions. Not or no longer “male and female.” One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of all. God become human and took on and atoned for human sin and was crucified as the Last Human and rose as the New Human, the Second Human. Complementarianism is stuck in Old Creation/First Human realities. But it, like the Old Covenant, was nailed to the cross and died and was buried, not to be raised again in the New Creation.

  • EricW

    Correction: “The trajectory of the Gospels and the New Testament is one of no differentiation by sex of how and who the Spirit moves in gift-wise and in placing persons in what the church (the New Creation) or the Scriptures would call gifts or offices or positions or functions….”

  • DRT

    RJS#52, bravo for not backing down to the claim that what you are doing feeds into a conservative critique. I personally am tired of not being allowed to be bleeding heart simply because someone says that is bad. Likewise I don’t think we should back down to the conservatives who accuse people of having society lead the church in some manners when it is appropriate for society to do that when the church is lagging.

  • DRT

    Amos Paul#55, I view myself as someone who ascribes to a progressive worldview, but Tom Wright has an interesting critique that he makes of that worldview in his Simply Jesus book. He is bringing it up to show that our worldviews can be wrong, or quite different, since he is trying to get the reader to put themselves into a first century worldview.
    It’s on page 31, and basically says that over the past couple of hundred years folks feel they are to make progress

    ….history is the story of progressive freedom, and we must go forward and make the next one happen, and the next one after that. Despoite all the tyrannies of the last century, people today still believe this myth of progress, as evidenced by the numberous proposals you read or hear that begin “Now that we live in this day and age…” or “Now that we live in the twenty first century…”. Those phrases signal the presence of some kind of “progressive” agenda. People who think like that are actors in a play whose script they already know. The believe themselves call to take the drama forward toward a supposed libertarian utopia.

    That really made me think, and continues to make me think about my progressive worldview. Not that I am ready to give it up, but I think my view needs some tweaking.

    For most of my life I felt we should be, and are, making progress. But I am less thinking that now…though I believe we still must try.

  • Sue

    There is no evidence that Origen thought Junia was a man. I believe that there may be one instance in a 10th century or later Latin translation of a text by Origen where the name appears as a masculine.

  • JohnM

    RJS #52 (and others) The church did in fact lead somewhat more in the civil rights movement, and much more in the abolition movement, than you seem to think. If we need full engagement by all members before we can say ‘the church did’ then the church never did anything.

    The questions, prompted by your phrasing: Do you generally recommend the church adjust to the surrounding culture? Why or why not? When you say the church is becoming more egalitarian by adjusting to the culture can you not imagine how that sounds like a tacit admission that Christian egalitarians do not in fact base their position in their faith?

    You might just want to reconsider how you say it in the future, but you might also want to consider the implications of how it did occur to you to say it.

  • RJS


    I meant my statement to be a matter-of-fact observation. Maybe I’ll be wrong, this is just the way I see both the church and our broader society moving. So much has changed over the last 30-50 years.

    Most major American denominations split over the issues of slavery and race. I don’t think all need to go along before we can say that the church played a role, but I don’t think we should ignore the actual history either.

  • DRT

    JohnM, it seems you are saying that the church should not do something if society led the way. That is simply nonsensical.

  • Mike Sangrey

    For what it’s worth, I’ve often thought the whole egalitarian vis-a-vis complementarian discussion to have been laid on the wrong foundation. All the discussions bear evidence of this. Also, the “definition” of ‘apostle’ is one of the bricks also laid on that same wrong foundation.

    The Biblical dynamic of authority within the church is not correctly understood. So, it seems to me the real root cause of the subjective exegetical twists has to do with the assumption that authority means someone gets to tell others what to do. Scripture teaches something different. Basically, where I’m coming from, is if a 10 year old girl teaches or tells me something that is Biblically true and a highly respected male church leader of considerable experience and age tells me the opposite, I’m going with the child. And I realize there are lots of important questions that can be fired at that simplistic characterization. However, the illustration, all things being equal, shows that authority doesn’t rest upon the gender (or several other areas) of the person who is right. I think Jesus illustrated this, though not with the gender motif, in the beginning of Mat. 18.

    We seem to think that ‘apostle’ means, “top dog who gets to tell everyone else what to do since Jesus gave them the job.” This is contrary to Paul’s argument in Phil. 3:2ff where the so-called top-dogs (yes, the word ‘dog’ there carries a bit different connotation) are measuring themselves by the wrong thing. Paul’s measure is “knowing the crucified Christ.” I think we, in our world, would have stressed “knowing the Lord” and thus placed the discussion within a different metaphor–a wrong one. It’s the prominence of suffering and serving that Paul holds up as an example to “the mature ones” (ie. the church leadership).

    We’ve so-called “balanced” this view of top-dog leadership by using euphemisms like, “servant leadership” which in practice invariably seems to mean, “I serve by making the decisions and telling you what to do, you serve by doing what I tell you.” I’ve even heard another expression in reference to the pastor, “chief among equals.” I have no idea what that means. Though I’ve noted that in practice the two sides of the phrase ebb and flow in succession, depending on context.

    My point is so many seem to bristle at a woman in leadership simply because we have this assumption about what leadership, and its requisite authority, means. I really don’t think it means what we think it means. I still have difficulty articulating what I think it means, but I’m convinced it doesn’t mean the way we live it. And the way we live seems to me to undergird all these comple/egali discussions.

    I’ve been struck by the detail and length of Paul’s explanation of his qualifications for Apostleship. It’s like, you know, he’s trying to make a point. 2 Cor. 10:1-12:10 makes very explicit that Paul’s Apostolic qualifications rest on his weakness. What would happen if we approached the Junias discussion from THAT viewpoint?

    I’ve been struck by John 13:3-4. Verse 3 states that Jesus is Lord. Absolute Lord. There are no exceptions or contradictions to his authority. Authority is his. Period. So, what does he do? See verse 4. He washes feet! That’s not setting an example. Don’t empty its force by such dismissal. That’s authoritatively, in an absolute sense, requiring–by that act–his disciples’ pure devotion and adherence to the crucified Christ agenda. Pick up your cross. One can’t let God wash your feet unless you unreservedly desire to obey him. Ironically (or perhaps not), adhering to such a servant principle fosters duplication in an ever expanding church. Building a church on a hierarchical authority motif fosters power struggles and back biting. All the negatives the NT books speak against. That drives things in a totally different direction.

    What if the discussion swirling around respective gender roles got gripped by such a different view of authority? What type of complementarian/egalitarian relationships would develop?

    I’d love to see that discussion. I think it would help me.

  • DRT

    Mike Sangrey, your comments would work equally well in the Sermon on the Mount discussion today.

  • JohnM

    DRT #65 – Short answer: No, it’s not nonsensical.

    Longer answer, it is especially not nonsensical to the extent one expects the church to be counter cultural. It is especially not nonsensical when the question involves issues, such as church leadership, that are stricty the church’s business.

    Now I believe that even in a fallen world not all features of human culture are degenerate and human nature is not totally depraved in the sense of being totally perverse in all aspects all the time. However, if something is the right thing to do, especially in an area in which the church claims to have spiritual guidance and a prophetic voice, then the church should reach that conclusion independent of whatever is going on in society.

    If I’m understanding RJS in her clarification though, she was describing more than prescribing when she talked about adjusting to the larger society. I would just suggest whenever that’s what we the church find ourselves doing the realization should give us pause for thought.

  • RJS


    On this particular issue I think the church should change.

    There are other issues where I think the same trend may be at play, but where I don’t think following our culture is right. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, history has certainly shown that the church can move in wrong directions.

  • Scot,

    Thank you. To the men out there who disagree with the egalitarian stance, what if it were you who in spite of being “gifted” had men telling you for years that they would not come to your Bible Study because you are a woman, but if I would just write out my thoughts so they could read it they would appreciate it. Of course writing is not teaching…. So that is fine. Semantics.