Thursday, July 16, 2009

Phoebe as "Deacon" and "Leader"

At the recent PCA assembly in Florida, I an informed that there was a spirited debate between two big-hitters in the American Pressbie scene, Tim Keller and Ligon Duncan, about women Deacons. Well, over at SBL Forum, there is an interesting article by Elizabeth McCabe on "A Reexamination of Phoebe as a “Diakonos” and “Prostatis”: Exposing the Inaccuracies of English Translations".


Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Mike,

I remember well that a couple of years ago you posted about women patrons. I think this is a more likely interpretation for Phoebe. However, this means Phoebe is Paul's provider and defender.

I have written a couple of posts on this here.

The first one is in response to McCabe's article.

I do feel that there is strong evidence that Phoebe was a deacon, but that prostatis refers to her personal relationship with Paul as his provider/champion/defender, just as Jerome, and Chrysostom, and others have had female providers.

For me, I don't see this as evidence for or against women's ordination as full clergy, but as a solid demonstration of two things -

-women held office
-women were providers

Erlend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erlend said...

I can't comment on McCabe's treatment of diakonos, but I was quite disappointed with her discussion of prostatis. Phoebe is said to be a prostatis of an individual- Paul. That is not the parlance of leadership- you lead a community, not a person. Exegetically it is problematic as well. Paul tells them to help Phoebe as she has been a prostatis towards him. ‘Help Phoebe as she has been a leader, or ‘Help Phoebe as she has helped to me’. The construct breaks down if you read leadership into the word.

McCabe's argument centres around listing philological evidence of prostatis/prostates indicating leadership, when it is was also used widely, primarily in the epigraphical evidence granted, to describe generous benefactors. The verbal form is also used in a papyrus to describe the help a son gave his father.

McCabe refrains from mentioning anything about this and just lists evidence of prostatis indicating leadership. This is hardly fair to readers of her work and paints only half of the picture for them. Furthermore, all of the the points she made have been thoroughly detailed in numerous (to my count 12) discussions since at least the 1980’s and have been (rightly to my mind) been abandoned when the philological and exegetical evidence for prostatis' indicating patronage is set alongside it.

I see this article is an abridgement from a chapter in a forthcoming book, so I will anticipate that McCabe will presents a more rounded engagement with the evidence.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I agree with this assessment. However, there is strong evidence that she did not bring in. The temple officers were prostates in the LXX. But once again, Phoebe is the prostatis of Paul, an individual.

Perhaps more interesting, and not supplied by McCabe, is the fact that Christ was addressed as prostates and boethos is a prayer in 1 Clement.

1 Clement 36:1.

Αυτη η οδος, αγαπητοι, εν η ευρομεν το σωτεριον ημων, Ιησουν Χρστον, τον αρχιερεα των προσφορων ημων, τον προστατην και βοηθον της ασθενειας ημων.

This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation; even Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations, the champion and defender of our weakness. tr. Charles Hoole 1885

Rotherham translated this for Phobe as defender. To put women in the place of being the "help" sounds a little girl fridayish. I think succourer in the KJV is better than "help."

My concern is that Bible translation by men, dishonours women. Men dishonour women and cannot claim that as leaders in the church, they have given women the honour women ought to have. Think of Junia also, Nympha and so on.

So, men cannot claim that they have any right to be the exclusive leaders of women. They have betrayed women in a significant way.

Anyway, I have an article on this which was published in the Ecumencial Review Oct. 2008. Champion and Defender, the other side of the word.

I'll make this available by email soon, and if someone wants to put it up, I will see what I can do about that.

Paul said...

re: software...garbage in; garbage out.