Romans 15-16, pt.2

Tonight, we will complete our study of Romans with Romans 15:14-16:27.  Most everyone, including the lectionary, skips over Romans 16.  However, St. John Chrysostom (349-407) says that these lists of names, and particularly the various encomium, provide us with little fragments of gold from which we can draw great riches. Within his sermon (the only sermon that I know of in existence on these verses), Chrysostom goes on to draw out the meaning of these lists.  One of his themes in this sermon from the late 4th century is the centrality that women had in the Roman church and the praise that Paul shows towards them.  In his commentary on 16:6 (“Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us.”), Chrysostom says  “How is this? A woman again is honored and proclaimed victorious.  Again, we men are put to shame. . . . For an honor, we men have in that there are such women amongst us.” And throughout this sermon, he will continue to come back to the honor Paul bestows upon the female leaders of the church.

One of the more fascinating names in the list is in 16:7. It is here that Paul commends “Andronicus and Junia who are of note among the Apostles.” As the issue of women’s ordination in even conservative churches has become an issue, this verse has been pressed into service to show that in the early church, women were Apostles and therefore had the authority to teach, preach, and preside over congregations (just like surviving 11 disciples, Paul, Barnabas, and Apollos). For example, the Junia Project is the name of an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of women in the leadership of the church based upon this and other verses.  Particularly in Evangelical churches that rely upon sola scriptura (and not tradition) the appropriate reading of this verse has immediate consequences.  The issue with the verse is how to understand that Junia is “well-known among the Apostles.”  In other words, do the Apostles think highly of her (Abraham Lincoln is well-known among historians), or whether Junia is a well-known Apostle (Ken Burns is well-known among historians)?  Interestingly, John Chrysostom teaches that she was an Apostle, like Paul.  The Junia Project provides support that Junia was an Apostle. Touchstone Magazine has a good article on the opposite view.  Witherington (pp.388, 402-05) has a more balanced view.

For those of you who volunteered, please be prepared to let me know what you found out. (If you need help, please see the attachment.) The assignments are as follows: 

    Joe and Kim: Aquilla and Prisca
    Charlie – 16:5-7
    David – 16:8-9
    Stella – 16:10-11
    Dave – 16:12-13
    Gay C. – 16:14
    Amy – 16:15

I have attached the relevant excerpt from Witherington’s Socio-Rhetorical Commentary which has a closer look at Junia and the role of women in Roman society.  I would also commit to you Chrysostom’s sermon.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is Brunswick Stew. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Galatians 3:27-28

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