Now and Zens [3]

Last time I covered the first 6 examples of what Jon Zens calls "the overwhelmingly positive picture of Abraham’s daughters painted in the New Testament". We're going to cover some more of them today, but I want to make sure that we understand what Pastor Zens is driving at with these examples. These are his words from the essay:
This survey of New Testament highlights concerning women is important because it reveals the freedom of the sisters to function in the kingdom. In the general flow of the New Testament there are no jitters about “restrictions” upon Christ’s daughters.
Plainly, these examples are provided by him to underscore the scope of freedom of women in the New Testament. And let's continue to be clear about something: there's no argument that the New Testament calls men and women both to obedient faith in Christ. I can't think of anyone who would deny that women ought to repent and believe and be an active part of the local church – the question is rather if the New Testament describes the leadership of the local church in a particular way, and whether Jon Zens agrees or disagrees with that description.

The next 2 examples Pastor Zens provides for us are from Acts 1 and 2:
**After Christ’s ascension, 120 men and women prayed together and chose a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:14-15).

**The Spirit came upon the 120 disciples and they spoke the wonderful works of God in many foreign languages (Acts 2:1-4).
I list them together because they are directly related – the count of 120 people (men and women all together) is in Acts 1, and it is right to carry that over into Acts 2 which refers to that number and says, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place." (Acts 2:1) And to these examples, as with most of the others from last time, I say, "yes: I agree." I agree that there were both male and female believers in the earliest believers; I agree that there were women at that crucial Pentecost who were filled with the Holy Spirit and manifested the supernatural expression of speaking in a way that all men could hear in their own native tongue. Amen.

What this does not demonstrate is that women were leading the church. But Pastor Zens attempts to leverage this event to say exactly that in his next example:
**Some thought that what was occurring on the Day of Pentecost was evidence of too much wine, but Peter insisted that it was a fulfillment of what Joel prophesied would come to pass – “your sons and daughters will prophesy….I will pour out my Spirit on my male and female slaves and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). There is no suggestion that males may prophesy freely, but that females are restricted in some ways.
To understand where Pastor Zens goes wrong here, let me point at two other passages in the NT, first in Acts 16:
    As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.
Now, undoubtedly, the spirit in the slave girl was not the Holy Spirit, yes? So whatever she was doing in saying this true thing, it was not motivated by some right-spirited goal. But she was able to speak truth in spite of her condition. That is: she was able to say something spiritually and theologically true by supernatural means without being a leader or teacher in the church.

And let's be fair: what the slave girl does here is not what Acts 2 says happened at that Pentecost after the resurrection. She "had the python spirit" in her, in the literal Greek – a reference to the pagan Apollonian spirit of divination. What happened at Pentecost was "propheteuo". Does that mean, then, that these men and women were all doing, for example, what Isaiah did, or what Micah did – handing down judgment and future-telling? Does participating in "propheteuo" mean one has engaged in church leadership?

This is my purpose in examining Mt 7:
    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Clearly, the answer has to be "no: 'propheteuo' does not mean that one had lead or governed the church in some way." If even those whom Christ has never known can rightly be said to "propheteuo" (and note: Christ doesn’t rebuff them by saying "you never spoke for me", but instead rebuffs them by saying "I never knew you"), then to is too broad an assumption to think that, in this case in Acts 2, women were giving prophetic commands – especially when the specific contents of these prophetic utterances are not recorded. This is again an argument from silence, banking on what is entirely unsaid to draw a conclusion.

This same mistake is offered in Pastor Zens' next example:
**Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). We would not be wrong in assuming that there were many other sisters who had this gift, not just Philip’s offspring.
No question: Acts 21 confirms that Phillip's daughters prophecied – but what they said in prophecy is completely unknown, and the purpose or extent of such a thing is not referenced in the text.
**Paul entrusted his letter to the Romans to Phoebe, and she delivered it. She was a deacon in the assembly at Cenchrea and Paul had the highest regard for her (Rom.16:1-2). Paul recognized her as a prostatis, which carried with it the idea of leadership (cf. 1 Thess.5:12).

While other statements by Pastor Zens seem to try to speak more broadly than is warranted by the passages he has selected, this synthesis is particularly troubling. In the first place, in spite of Southern Baptist practice, the office of deacon is not particularly an office of leadership – it is an office of service. To demonstrate an economy of space here, let me refer the reader to 9 Marks Ministries' pamphlets A Display of God's Glory and By Whose Authority for an informative and clarifying discussion of what the offices of the local church are, and by what means they serve. But in that, let it be sufficient to say that I personally have no problem with letting women serve as deacons if the definition of deacon is rightly understood.

In saying that Paul calls Phoebe a "deacon" ("Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν, οὖσαν [καὶ] διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας"), and may be referring to her office, or may only be referring to her service and work among the people of God. Even if we grant that Paul is speaking of an office in particular which Phoebe held, there is simply no place to point to which says that deacons lead the church. Deacons were appointed to "serve tables" as it says in Acts 6, and again I point to the 9 Marks resources for an expanded view of this subject.

Moreover, there is a significant problem in the application Pastor Zens draws out of Rom 16:2b – "καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ." He makes the requirement of "προστάτις " that it be an office of authority or leadership (as is demonstrated in his reference to the verb "prostemi" in 1 Thes 5:12) – but problematically, while it is true Phoebe is said to be a "prostatiV" of many, she is this same thing of Paul also -- both "many" and "myself" are in the genitive case, and must be acting in the same way in this sentence relative to Phoebe's role as "prostatiV". I find it hard to believe that Pastor Zens would imply that the leadership he intends to read here being exemplified by Phoebe would be something she would have over "many people" and "Paul the Apostle", or that she would have authority over Paul. It seems to make sense, instead, to read this passage as speaking to her role as a supporter or helper, or as is suggested by its use in non-New Testament sources, as a patron or even a supplicant before God (as in some classical usage).

By substitution, pastor Zens is suggesting this reading of Rom 16:1-2 --

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a [deacon-officer] of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a [church leader] of many and of myself as well.
I am suggesting this reading:
    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a [worker and laborer] of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a [supporter (financial, material) or prayer-partner] of many and of myself as well.
I would let the reader decide which makes better sense where Paul is introducing or commending a messenger sent with a letter.

As he continues to up the ante on how women are portrayed in the NT by Paul, Pastor Zens offers this:
**Paul designated Priscilla and Aquila as his “co-workers” (Rom.16:3). The same word is used with reference to people like Timothy and Titus.
And this is true: Paul calls Timothy and Titus "sunergos" – but he also calls Epaphroditus the same thing (Phl 2:25), and it is clear that Epaphroditus was a messenger and a courier. It is hardly necessary to read "leadership" into this word.

This same sort of enthusiasm is evident in his next example:
**Junia and Andronicus (wife/husband or sister/brother) were greeted by Paul as “outstanding among the apostles” (Rom.16:7). They were his relatives and had been in prison with him. There were people called “apostles” who were not among the Twelve, like Barnabas. Junia was also among such apostolic workers. There is no reason to think that she was the only such female apostle.
The ESV renders this passage "They are well known to the apostles"; NKJ/KJV and YLT render it "who are of note among the apostles". It seems somewhat controversial to hang the kind of certainty about what this passage means when there is some debate over what this passage actually says about Junia and Andronicus vis a vis their office as apostles.

Seven more examples remain, and we will cover them the next time we come back to this essay. Thanks for your interest.

UPDATED: Wow. Unicode Greek. I hope it works on your computer; it did on mine. Thanks to reader Suzanne for her help with that one.