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Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
This morning it hit me for the first time. The Shire melody from LOTR. I always felt as if it was familiar. But I hadn't really asked myself why. Then it hit me. "This is my Father's World." Just the first line (or I'm sure it would have been immediately recognized). I wondered how many others had seen it. I found some hits on Google, including this one where there are links.
Someone takes it further and says that this tune is used in a Methodist Hymnal for hymn number eleventy-one, Bilbo's age when the movie begins.
8:01 am Pacific Standard Time
Sunday, September 24th, 2006
I am beginning a book called Great Cases in Constitutional Law. The issue of judicial activism has been raised early on, and it got me to thinking about Star Trek.
Would my readers take the Federation's Prime Directive to be a liberal or a conservative legal statement (putting aside for the moment its evolutionary assumptions)? How come?
If I don't hear from Huck or John H. on this one, I'll be disappointed.
4:12 pm Pacific Standard Time
Friday, September 22nd, 2006
Freedom is often misunderstood by people. It is especially misunderstood by liberals (though close behind them are the conservatives). There is one aspect of eighteenth century political theory that I find especially misunderstood. It is "freedom of association." Even where the principle is admitted, it is not seen how it is supposed to work. I see this especially in churches. In this post I wish to contrast how people act when they do and don't hold to the principle.
When people hold to freedom of association, it is recognized that people gather together in organizations that espouse their values. They are free to leave organizations which reject their values, or even which do not promote those values as well as they might be promoted. They can join organizations which do promote those values, or they can form new ones to do the same. This applies to churches as well as other organizations.
In a society where people recognize freedom of association, a church will tell the world what values it represents by having a label on the front. People who agree with the church's doctrines and practices will join that church. If they don't agree, they will leave. If both the church as a group and the individual members are consistent with this behavior, it makes for peace. Why? Because there will be less to disagree over if the parties in the church agree on major issues. Much disturbance is caused from two situations.
The first is where the church moves from its original position while still claiming its past identity. Members will join thinking they have signed onto one set of values when they have signed onto another. They will feel justified in fighting for the values the group was founded on. I am no Baptist, but I think that if some couple joined a Baptist church only to have the minister pressure them to have their infants baptized, they would be receiving a raw deal. What is the minister doing ministering in a Baptist church? He should leave and become a minister in a church where he can agree with its practices. Not to do so is to be a cause of strife.
The second situation which causes disturbance is where church members become convinced that the church they are in is wrong in its key doctrines, and instead of leaving to join a church they agree with, they try to convince everyone else to agree with them. Perhaps (for the sake of evenhandedness) this is the couple who is newly Baptist, not only refusing to have their own child baptized, but telling everyone else not to as well. What they need to do is to join a Baptist church.
Freedom of association makes for peace in these situations, if all parties honor it. The pastor should be allowed to leave, and respected for his honesty and integrity. If individual members wish to try to persuade him that their doctrine is right, and he is open to discussion, then discussion is fine. But there are limits. I even think that church bodies should probably have a plan to help ministers to leave without destroying their finances. It would help to keep the doctrine in line with the church body's beliefs. Ministers would not have as much incentive to remain where they are when they no longer espouse what the church body teaches. Likewise, members should be allowed to leave their churches freely for the same reason.
What happens when people ignore freedom of association is that everyone feels like their grasp on the truth absolves them from having to face up to reality. The pastor feels like since it is his job to preach the truth, he may preach his new doctrines despite the fact that they violate the church's teaching. But what about those who sit under him. Do they not have the right to go somewhere where the minister teaches what they believe? The pastor may take one of two positions. Some will take the medieval position that "Error has no rights." What this means in practice is that he has rights and nobody else does. Whatever his own position is is, by definition, right in his own eyes. If everyone follows this, what we have is anarchy. The church becomes a political minefield, as everyone is jockeying to have the congregation be the expression of their own personal beliefs. All congregations will be in turmoil. There will never be an end to it, as someone will always be discovering a new doctrinal position. I have seen situations where a Lutheran pastor was turning evangelical as I was joining the Lutheran church after exiting evangelicalism. It really made me feel like I would have no place to go. If I cannot find Lutheranism in the Lutheran church, where am I to find it?
Likewise, I don't know how many times I have seen laity decide to "stay and fight" when they changed their minds as to the truth. They wanted to be an influence on the church for the good. This usually did the most harm to the laity in question. Joining the church that they agreed with was a relief to them. There was no need to fight.
Disbelief in freedom of association tends to stem from a utopian belief that every organization should be committed to the truth in the abstract, rather than specifying in what it believes. The trouble with this idea is, you have to have some way of determining what practices to follow. If you leave this an open question as an organization, it probably won't remain open for long. Somebody is going to get some power and use it to promote their own vision of the truth.
Imagine how hard it would be to find a good restaurant if instead of advertising what kind of food they served, everyone just said they served "the best food." You want Italian food and find a place that serves it. Only after you get settled, a new cook comes along and decides that it is time to serve Mexican food because it's better. You will never know where to go to find what you are looking for. And the cooks will never be able to be secure in their jobs as what they are able to make may not be considered "the best" by new management. If a fad goes through town, it might be that suddenly all the restaurants only serve one food. Worse yet, imagine what it would be like if the restaurants did post what kind of food they served, but the management decided that "Italian" or "Mexican" just meant "good." You try to order carne asada in a Mexican restaurant and you are served yankee pot roast. Why? Because yankee pot roast is simple, like the Mexican desert. To suggest otherwise is to ignore Mexican heritage, and who are you to lecture the chef on what is and is not Mexican? Be thankful that restaurants don't follow such a utopian dining philosophy. If they did, you would never have a real choice.
How to handle broader changes in doctrine is a problem I don't know the ultimate solution to. But I do know that it would involve going more in the direction of freedom of association than the current "for you own good" methods of bait-and-switch. At the very least, I think a church body should be able to make clear what their new stance really is. Perhaps I won't know from the term "Presbyterian" what a church teaches without knowing more about the church body. A given one may have issued a new confession. But I don't want it to be that new statements are so vague that they can mean anything and everything. This is portrayed as being broad and liberal. What it really leads to, however, is constant strife. The new General Assembly can mean a whole new set of rules to follow. Much better to admit that you don't agree. Part amicably and you can be on good terms. If you aren't willing to part amicably, it's because you think that you can wield control over another party for their own good. This is liberal. But it is the liberalism of the French or Russian sort, not the American sort.
1:58 pm Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, September 21st, 2006
I'm reading my second John Taylor Gatto book in a row. I began with Dumbing us Down, and now I'm reading The Underground History of American Education. The work in this book is impressive I think. The trouble is, Gatto offers few footnotes. He explains that it seemed "of minor value to those who already resonate on the wavelength of the book, useless, even maddening, to those who do not." I disagree with this on several counts. First, it sounds a bit like the disclaimer at the beginning of the old movie "The Song of Bernadette." "For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible." And this from a man who tells of the Jesuit who challenged him on accepting the unproven (page 211)! Yet there is more to his explanation. He calls his work a personal essay rather than a work of history.
This is in part frustrating because I would really like to know if what he is presenting is true. Where footnotes are offered, I can at least retrace his citations and see whether he has quoted in proper context. I might over time be able to get a grasp of the standard account of the history to see whether the conspiratorial account is necessary. Or what is more important to me, whether there are untold reversals in the history of education that render certain events moot. He offers enough that I have reason to believe that most of what he said happened. My question is how causal it is in relation to what we see now. For that I must know much more. Gatto does supply a short bibliography that he says will fill the reader in on much of the history. The one book of the dozen that I have read, Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, makes this promise believable.
But I'm not writing to affirm my belief or disbelief in his theses. It's far too early for that. I am writing to suggest a thought experiment. A game of "What if?"
What if education had been the target of a social experiment to create a certain kind of population? What if the early theorizing for this was not, as some imagine, done by hippies in the 1960's and 70's, but by theoreticians and foundations at the end of the nineteenth century, with some of the original theories propounded at the beginning of the nineteenth century? Gatto suggests that this very thing happened. Much of compulsory schooling was concocted to Americanize immigrants who were seen as dangerous to our way of life. These were not Muslims, but Italians, Irish, Jews, and Slavs. Social Darwinism convinced many intellectuals that genetics were everything. Some people were slated to be rulers and the others followers. Inferior races would be bred out of existence. Such beliefs took a major blow after the revelations of World War II, but many of the educational theories seem to have survived.
The social experimentation was done in order to make people into interchangeable cogs in a machine. Genius was not wanted, as industrialists knew that progress could be guaranteed by lesser minds following a specifiable strategy of research. Nature would yield her secrets to anyone taught how to look. A few would be allowed to do so.
Not everyone would receive a dumbed-down training. Yet what would the elite receive? For them, school would not be arranged to kill off genius, but neither would it be arranged to foster it. What these children would need would be an education for leadership. The first thing that would be fostered would be group loyalty. Compared to that, other things were of secondary importance.
What would be killed in this scenario that had existed in earlier times in America was the idea of a meritocracy. That you could rise as far as your talents took you. But if Gatto is true, many doors are only open to the chosen few. There is little incentive to allow merit to determine social standing. The elites would rather keep their own positions secure. The benefits of allowing anyone to advance were not great enough to let go of their power. So a caste system has been created.
If this were true, and I can think of evidences that would serve either to support or refute this theory, what would be the Christian response? If we reject Social Darwinism and Gatto claims that Social Darwinism was explicit in Darwin's original vision then how do we bring a Christian anthropology to bear on our society?
Perhaps closer to the mark, if Gatto is right about how education has been overly professionalized, then how do we reverse this in church circles? Back in Plato's time, the idea that teachers were paid was ridiculed. Not because teaching was unimportant. But because once money entered the system, teaching would be professionalized, and the defense of the profession would become of greater concern than education itself. In fact, where the interests of education were opposed to those of the profession, the profession would feel justified in countering education.
I think that Bible Study and Catechesis are two ways in which Christian Education counters the dismal trends in our day. These occur on a more informal basis. It is not assumed that you "finish" the course and are now a certified expert. There is always more study to do. This goes against much modern practice in other areas. But I wonder if we cannot do more to ensure that Christian Education is able to counter current trends. When I took a seminary course on the History and Philosophy of Christian Education, I found that ancient Hebrew education was a revelation. What the father was responsible to do for his children in this area surprised me. Perhaps we need to immerse ourselves more in this history so that we don't take our culture's present ways of doing things as a given.
2:14 pm Pacific Standard Time
Friday, September 15th, 2006
I was wondering where I read this. I have told the story to people, and everyone always (rightly) wants to know where it came from. Yesterday I found a possible source: John Taylor Gatto's book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Here is the story:
Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted sometimes with guns by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.
Now here is a curious idea to ponder: Senator Ted Kennedy's office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was ninety-eight percent and that after it the figure never exceeded ninety-one percent, where it stands in 1990.
Here is another curiosity to think about: The home-schooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and a half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that, in their ability to think, children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers.
[John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, page 22.]
Gatto's book is very useful for this kind of information. But even more important is how Gatto asks some McLuhanesque ("The medium is the message.") questions about what the school teaches apart from its overt curriculum. That is, what deeper assumptions does the entire arrangement of modern schooling teach. One exampe of many is how the division of the day into one hour periods enforced by bells teaches that nothing is ever important enough to warrant more than one hour's worth of attention at a time. In effect, it reinforces the short attention span taught by television. But this is only one of many examples of compulsory schooling's "hidden curriculum."
1:27 pm Pacific Standard Time
Saturday, September 9th, 2006
CPA's comments on a recent post got me thinking about where I am with scholarship on women's issues again. Granted, the post took that discussion as a point of departure, but as with many such posts, I was more interested in what it meant for the process of thinking about the issue than any answer on the issue itself.
To lay out where I am, I hold the LCMS position on women in ministry, and for distinctly Lutheran reasons. I grew up Presbyterian in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which had an evangelical understanding of ministry. Ministers weren't so much "administering" anything as using innate gifts to teach and equip Christians, and the calling to do so was internal. Having a strong justice streak, equality would have made sense to me, and there was nothing in the evangelical understanding of ministry that would make a man more capable than a woman of being a pastor. Some Lutherans have stated this. And what they said about the evangelicals was true. Those who appealed to Paul's letter to Timothy as their reason to keep women out were being legalistic. That injunction was not rooted in a broader view of how things were, and in fact militated against what they believed. Their view tended to look reactionary. It looked from the outside like the "man in the gray flannel suit" just wanting to keep his world intact, with his secretary bringing him his morning coffee.
I have long had an admiration for women intellectuals. Ayn Rand and Camille Paglia fascinate me. Each received an education at a level available to few men in history, and even fewer women. Rand's education is discussed by Chris Matthew Sciabarra in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Paglia's education is discussed in many places by Paglia herself. Compare to women like this, most woman scholars strike me as weightless. They are not arguing, but "attitudinalizing", as one friend calls it. This puts me in the unusual position of believing that truly brainy writing from women is rare, but very real. This is in contrast to some others who either say it is common, something that they do not conclude from broad experience of such work, but from what their political beliefs say must be true, or who say that it is not to be found, since women just don't come as smart as men.
I'm in the same uncomfortable position with woman preachers. The truly good ones are rare. Some will feel inclined to call any mediocre sermon good if it is given by a woman. And they probably do this on an equal opportunity basis. They've never heard a good sermon by a man or a woman, so why not? My education taught me differently. Some way through seminary, I found that I could not stand hearing most people preach. I knew what my profs would say were the errors the sermon fell into. These were not errors of detail, but overall errors of approach. The text was being misused. It wasn't that minor scholarly errors were creeping in. It was that nobody should ever have thought the text meant what was being suggested, and they shouldn't have had to know Greek to figure it out.
I got to hear several women in chapel. Most were good speakers. Most struck me as true believers, and not as radicals out to use the pulpit as a political springboard. Most came from outside our seminary. Comparing what came from outside to what came from inside taught me a lot.
When someone came from outside, we got a moralistic sermon. The topic was, say, truth-telling. How we needed to be honest with the cashier at the grocery store, even if we could barely afford orange juice or toilet paper. (Those were the items! I can remember them almost 20 years later, so this woman was skillful at making her talk memorable.) After the sermon, I remember being surprised that the sermon was not more liberal. Then I realized that the preacher hadn't said anything substantive. Perhaps this was understandable. She had to play it safe, not knowing what could get a liberal preacher in trouble at a conservative seminary. So she preached morals that everyone could agree on. But this goes to show how a steady diet of just this kind of preaching is really a soft diet. It makes demands on the hearers, but they are not really divine addresses.
From the inside, we got something different. Aida Spencer preached, and she preached the text and nothing but the text. Jeremiah 12:5 came across in all its challenging bone-weariness. "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?" If she erred in allowing the text to stand too much on its own, it was not the error of someone currying favor from her hearers. My Episcopal rector at the time was liable to the same error, and it was a refreshing one. There was no application suggested. One time, I remember leaving church, thinking "If those Corinthian believers don't get their act together, St. Paul is going to come back, and boy will they be in trouble!" There was no suggestion that our congregation needed to take sin seriously, or that God would punish us. No. But those Corinthians? They were in big trouble.
As the sacramental reasons for a male ministry took hold, I found that I was honestly more bothered when I was served communion by a female assistant at the Episcopal church than I was by hearing a sermon preached by a woman preacher in chapel. Given how the preacher understood her task, she was interchangeable with a man, given the same education. Now I knew that most women did not get the same education, but I was attending somewhere where they were.
My friends were all over the map on the issue of women in ministry. To be honest, more were at least mildly for it than against it, as I didn't hang out much with the conservative Presbyterians. (With the exception of Dr. Gordon, I think they were humorless.) I knew that I was still undecided. As such, I was welcome in all circles, and got to hear what people really thought. This was quite interesting.
One conservative Presbyterian said that he thought a major problem with women in ministry was how ill-equipped they were. The interesting thing was that he immediately listed a possible exception. Now what made this interesting to me was that this told me he was registering an empirical observation, and he wasn't just making a blanket statement to bolster something he already held. As I had heard his possible exception preach, and would often see her in the library studying, or compiling research for the prof whose T.A. she was, it was a believable exception. It led me to ask myself what the world would look like if my friend were right. Whether women should or should not be in ministry, was it possible that perhaps only a few were receiving the education they really needed?
In another circle, I got to hear one of the feminist women's opinions of a conservative Baptist friend. Now this was an affable guy. Someone it would be difficult to hate. She knew he was against women in ministry, and she said something like, "It's hard to believe that such a nice guy could be so evil." Uh oh! This sounds like Hilary Clinton on a right winger. Evil? At base? Now of course most people can understand this term in a theological sense such that it applies to everyone. But when someone speaks like this, they're usually making a character judgment. I reserve the word for the viscious. Those who cause pain on purpose. Not those who merely have lapses in morality due to weakness. I myself don't apply it to the women who want to go into ministry for the sake of ministry. (I do apply it to women who go into the ministry as a political springboard.)
This goes into another fact about where I am on this subject. My view on this subject has to do with the Lutheran distinction between priesthood of all believers and Holy Ministry, and with some sacramental views having to do with imaging. If I am wrong on these, they don't just alter where I am on women in ministry, but where I am on church polity, who calls the shots, parachurch organizations, and any number of other things. This will be like a move in an Othello game. It won't be the turning over of just one piece. Whole rows of pieces will be turned over. I know it's the same for the women. I'm not primarily interested in convincing them of whether or not women should be in the ministry. I'd probably rather work on one of the other pieces that may result in whole rows of other pieces turning, one of which may be women's ordination.
Whichever group is ultimately right on this issue, the places where you will see the worst practice is where women's ordination is new. There are reasons for this. Reinstituting any practice usually means bringing in a whole new set of problems with which people are not equipped to deal. Learning how to handle these things takes time. I can see this in church meetings in the LCMS. A woman from a WELS church was newly convinced of her right to speak, having been silent in church her whole adult life. Did she know how to exercise this right with self-restraint? Not on your life! Now I have been in Presbyterian session meetings where men and women handled themselves quite well. Perhaps forty people got their say, and nobody was rude to anybody. Contrast this with a woman casually accusing the pastor of false doctrine in a Voters Assembly, or speaking out of turn in council meetings where she was not a member (Other guests, both male and female, tended to be much more circumspect.), and you can see why I was tempted to use the Viriginia Slims slogan on her, "You've come a long way, baby!" This says little of whether the practice in question is right. But it does show how high the stakes are, either way. Whether these are the difficulties of anarchy or the difficulties of emancipation, they are difficulties to be faced.
And here is perhaps the reason this was worth turning into a blog entry, other than just giving background on my earlier years wrestling with this issue. Perhaps the overarching motif we need to consider all of this under is the motif of repristination. Repristinators are trouble to the status quo. Both orthodox LCMS people and the more conservative of the femiists who
believe in women in ministry believe in some form of repristination, whether they are right about former practice or not. And both groups run afoul within their ranks when people disagree over whether the Bible or early church history is paramount. They also tend to underestimate just what kinds of trouble will be unleashed when their suggested practices are reinstituted after long disuse. What kinds of hard-gained generational wisdom has made such practices workable in the past where they have been used? We might do well to consider this.
5:04 pm Pacific Standard Time
Friday, September 8th, 2006
Earlier today I stumbled across a blog where someone started series of comments making allegations about a respected Christian leader. The individual was accused of slander. The individual responded by saying the charges were of things that were public record. Perhaps some were. But what struck me as I searched some links was that some of the so-called evidence was not the kind of thing that would hold up in a court of law. And it got me thinking.
I was involved in a real church fight over a year ago. It produced a lot of wear and tear on a lot of people. I worry about friends who went through it, some of the time. At rare moments I worry about our opponents. One thing that struck several of us at the time was just how confusing it all was. We never knew when we were being paranoid by imputing motives to people that were not there, or when we were being naive, assuming the best where we ought not to. I figure I won't know until the Last Day.
The other thing that struck me was how poorly suited most of us were to be in a church fight of any kind. We didn't really know what we were doing. When talk of Matthew 18 came up, it wasn't always clear how to apply it, given the nature of the controversy. Now this was something that at least in the first century could have had a lot of cut and dry applications. In fact, in our own century there are many cut and dry applications, when the question is open sin that all can agree upon and individuals walk into the matter early on. But there are others where things are not cut and dry. When certain matters cannot be dealt with publically, and parties use it to their advantage. When the parties are in a conundrum over pastoral authority, how does a pastor use the authority he believes he has without creating a bigger problem? Such authority is just the point that is at issue. The pastor must use personal judgment based upon knowledge not available to everyone.
It was confusions generated in this crisis and having this crisis in mind as I entered the world of blogs that led me to some conclusions. Most of us are ill-suited to fights. And I'm not sure that this is a matter of immaturity. Those who seem to enjoy them usually strike me as immature. God's Word offers us some commandments and guidelines that pertain to such situations. But how we make applications of the Word to new communications environments like the Internet is a difficult problem that will probably take decades to come to terms with. This makes me really uncomfortable when I see people attempt to carry on church controversies in cyberspace. Come on! These are difficult enough in more traditional congregational environments where the guidelines have simpler application. But, to offer merely one example, what is "the testimony of two witnesses" when the witnesses are known by screen names?
One blog I was on this morning was citing an alleged myspace place as evidence against someone. I hate to tell you, but these places can easily be fabricated. I've had it done with my own screenname before. (Thankfully my personal name was not used!) The site was filled with profanity. Mostly sodomy and humor about condoms. My own reaction was to chuckle, knowing that anyone who knew me would know that it wasn't really "my space," and then to request to have the whole site pulled. (It was a pastor friend's wife who discovered this site and alerted me.) Yet this kind of thing was being offered as evidence. I'm sorry. In a court of law with some technical experts and cross-examination, perhaps this could count as evidence. Under normal circumstances it cannot.
Now to put the best construction on this, perhaps those who cited it themselves found that everything had the "ring of truth" to it. My problem with that idea is that their own children may have been zealous and decided to help along the parents' case by putting up plausible postings. "Oh, but surely our children wouldn't do that!" Perhaps. But those who stumble across your case in cyberspace have to evaluate a group of parties, all of whom they ought to assume are innocent. It is just as plausible to strangers that the so-called good kids are guilty as the so-called innocent ones. To outsiders, you're all strangers, and everything we know about you is on the same level of questionable as other things they find online.
My point is not to discuss how we evaluate online arguments over guilt and character. My point is that we should flee them. Both sides in such controversies should be avoided online. Not because they are morally questionable for going online. But because online is not the place to deal with this kind of matter. At least it is not so in our time. Perhaps there will later be structures in place that make what we find more reliable. Until then, however, this kind of matter needs to be dealt with on the congregational level. It may still be dealt with badly. But the damage won't perhaps be so widespread.
[Note: Don't try to guess whose controversy I am mentioning anonymously. If you comment on it, I will remove your comment, not because of an opinion of who is right, but because I think this is a bad venue for such discussions.]
11:17 am Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Scott Hafemann was my professor for a class at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary called "Interpreting the New Testament." NT Interp was one of the most difficult courses at the school. In fact, I heard a rumor that some student from Harvard Divinity School got special permission to apply the course to his doctoral work, only to quit the course when it proved too difficult. In any case, that story was believable to Dr. Hafemann's students.
One of the lines from one of the introductory lectures was, "Never trust anyone about anything important." What did he mean by this? He meant that while reference works were invaluable aids, when you needed to prove something, an expert's opinion was only as good as the evidence behind it. You had to be able to find such evidence on your own. The process of finding evidence made you better at evaluating evidence presented. In any case, you could not cite a reference work as authoritative and leave it at that. Perhaps the expert had his own axe to grind on the matter.
Dr. Hafemann was clear that we would not always have time to do exhaustive work. He wanted to teach us as much as he could so that we would know what exhaustive work might entail so that when we needed to make a case that could bear a lot of weight, we would know how to do so.
Compiling what was called an "Historical Context Text Collection" was a formative experience for me. I was doing work on the tenth chapter of First Corinthians which discussed the Lord's Supper. I was able to locate other passages on cultic meals in several works. Yet I found that what really interested me was looking up different uses of specific words. Especially in the Septuagint and works from the Loeb Classical Library that had good lexicons available for them. Here I could see for myself how terms were used in other contexts. I did not have to rely on a lexicon to tell me what a term meant.
Now in a sense, I value lexicons more than I used to. They save time finding different uses of terms. But when you go off the beaten path and check several lexicons for uses of terms, you get different results from when you use Bauer alone.
It is also interesting to see how terms are translated on the facing English pages in the Loeb Classical Library. Again, it is possible that the translators did not do as much work on individual terms as our theologians have. But their translations may have recourse to familiarity with a broad array of works where scholars are not answering divisive questions.
Beyond showing me how to do my own work, this class taught me a lot about how to read the scholarly work of others. When I begin reading a case, I have an ideal of what the work should look like. Now in many cases, there are aspects to any discussion that prove central to those in the know. I am always happy to run into these. But I still have some idea of what should be there and is often missing.
Today the question was regarding Junia, the proposed female apostle of Romans 16:7. I had heard about her long ago when MiMi Haddad, a friend from Gordon-Conwell was laying out her case for women in ministry. (MiMi and I naturally fell together as she was also from California, and roomed in the same house off campus with my friend David and the philanthropist who boarded students there.) I had the impression, which remains with me, that the case for "Junia" rather than "Junias" was a good one. I had not, however, heard about the other side of the question.
Today I was looking for good Modern Greek vocabulary, and ran into "Junias", the month of June, and it reminded me of the question. I started looking things up. The other major question as to what the words rendered as "among the apostles" meant came to the fore. If the proper name is rendered "Junia", there is still a question as to whether the verse states that she was an apostle. And it was here that my ideal of what a good case came to mind. What should we want to see when we read about something like this?
What we don't want to see is the citation of an expert to end all questions. I have seen this done on blogs, and it is not good. "So-and-so from such-and-such university says it should be rendered as x." So what? What I want to see are numerous examples from other works which show how similar uses of the term are translated, where the contexts demand such translation. I found this done in some measure by Daniel B. Wallace and Michael H. Burer. They discuss other places where the Greek word often rendered as "known" is found with the Greek word rendered as "among" or "to" and is used with the dative. I still want more (I'm greedy!), but they do know what the case is supposed to look like. Their rival, Eldon J. Epp is said to discuss such questions as well. If so, then I'm looking forward to reading him. (His discussion of the switch from Junia to Junias would be fascinating by itself, even if it didn't cinch the women in ministry argument.) My point here is not to say which side offers the correct reading of the verse, so much as to say that much argumentation on both sides is wanting in a particular way, though the different scholars do have strengths with regard to other matters. I would like to plant the seed so that my readers would be on the lookout for the presence or absence of such material in this and other exegetical cases, and not feel satisfied by a simple quotation from a lexicon.
2:33 pm Pacific Standard Time