Monday, December 15, 2008

From "Apostolos" to "Episkopos"

I have discussed Junia at some length over quite a few posts. And I stumbled onto something else I wanted to share with my readers.
Junia was a female apostle, possibly one of many—although she was the only one we’ve read of explicitly mentioned in Scripture as such. However, reading Romans 16:7, it is clear that she had an authoritative role in the churches and possessed quite an amount of spiritual authority over the churches at Rome. However, while pondering Junia’s apostleship, something hit me. I kept thinking back to the Eleven apostles (minus Judas, of course, who was the Twelfth), contemplating what an honor it must have been to Junia to read of Paul greeting her the way he did. I can imagine that if I were Junia, I would have thought about the original Twelve disciples often, and dreamed about how blessed I would have been to have been given the apostolic office by God, while at the same time, amazed at how I was “passed the torch” by the original apostles of old. Thinking about Junia’s “spiritual ancestors,” something flashed across my thoughts and I ended up grabbing my NASB translation as well as my UBS text of the “Reader’s Greek New Testament.” To find out where my mind took me (which is a scary thought in and of itself), turn to Acts 1:16-20. The disciples, along with the others, totaling 120 persons, are all in the Upper Room, and Peter is speaking about Judas’s apostleship. Let’s get in on the event:
“Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and receive his share in this ministry…For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it’; and, LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE’” (Acts 1:16-17, 20).
Peter tells the gathering that Judas was one of them, but fell from his ministry because the Holy Spirit, speaking through David in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, foretold that Judas would do the very thing he did.
I grew up a reader of the King James Version (KJV), so I always read the King James, and, although I was confused at times, tried to make sense of the version. Reading Acts 1:20 in the King James said, “And his bishopric let another man take.” Did you notice the word “bishopric”? Peter, by so speaking, calls the apostolic office a “bishopric.” Immediately, my mind went to 1 Timothy 3, as I remembered that the KJV always began 1 Tim. 3 with the words, “If a man desires the office of a bishop…” I looked at the New American Standard translation to see what it could tell me, and it called the “bishopric” of the KJV an “office” or “position as overseer.” Immediately, I opened my “Reader’s Greek NT” to see what the original language could tell me, and I found this: the word for “bishopric” or “office of overseer” in the Greek is the word “episkopein.” The word used here, “episkopein,” in Acts 1:20, is the same word used for the office of a bishop in 1 Tim. 3:1. That got me to thinking, “If apostles are overseers, how is it possible for them to become pastors?” All this because of one little word…and our favorite female apostle, Junia!
Now, in order to answer this question, we’ll have to do a little Bible digging. In any case, I began to take notice of leadership in the early church. Acts 15 tells us of a letter sent from the Jewish churches to the new Gentile believers in Antioch. Verse 22 says, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and elders, with the whole church…” The only leadership in Acts 15 consisted of the apostles and elders. While the elders were there to teach and preach, they were not pastors. Although elders are overseers (and so are pastors), an elder is not a pastor (while a pastor is an elder). There is a difference between the offices of elder and pastor—but the apostles served in the pastoral role in the early church here in Acts 15.
Look in Acts 16. Paul selects Timothy to travel with him through the cities, so they could deliver the decrees of covenant from the church in Jerusalem to the new Gentile churches. Acts 16:4 says, “Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem…” The apostles and elders decided what decrees to issue to the new Gentile churches. They served, then, in the capacity of leadership for the Jerusalem church. The apostles, as leaders, would have served in the pastoral role.
Reading further into the New Testament, we can see how fellow workers with Paul, such as Timothy and Titus, served in the apostle/pastoral role. In Acts 18:19, Paul departed from Timothy (and company) and went to Cenchrea (accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila). It is after his departure to Macedonia that we read of 1 Timothy 1:3—“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.” Timothy is left at Ephesus to oversee the church and straighten out issues in the church at Ephesus. First, Timothy has got to put an end to the false teaching. Next, Timothy has got to serve in a pastoral role. He has got to give guidance to the church for a while, make sure that everything is going as orthodox as it can. Paul writes to Timothy, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching…do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Tim. 4:13-14). We read these words in verse 16: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” In 1 Tim. 5:19-20 (regarding elders), “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses…those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning” (NASB). These instructions to Timothy are what a pastor does today. Thus, it is no secret that 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are referred to as “The Pastorals.” They are called “The Pastorals” because Paul gives Timothy and Titus pastoral advice regarding what to teach and how to conduct themselves while at these churches (or while establishing them). Although Timothy serves as a pastor, his service is not for long—in 2 Timothy 4:9 Paul says, “Make every effort to come to me soon.” And in 2 Tim. 4:11-12? “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” Notice that Timothy is not supposed to stay at Ephesus; he was only there in the beginning to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:3-4a).
With Titus, the situation was a little different. While Timothy had to deal with existing elders at Ephesus, Titus had to appoint elders himself: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Titus was supposed to appoint elders, which is what an apostle would have done. Apostles were supposed to create churches and establish leadership, but then move on to other churches, where there were immediate needs. Apostles could also come back to other churches to maintain a watchful eye on their progress in the faith. Notice, in addition, that Titus doesn’t stay on the island of Crete after all of his work: “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there” (Titus 3:12). Titus, like Timothy, was supposed to serve a set purpose at the churches, but then move on to other needs in other churches. While neither are labeled an apostle outright in the Scriptures, both seem to do the work of apostles.
Last but not least, I wanna comment on the apostolic office: it involved a lot of work. Some time ago I spent time discussing Ephesians 4:11 (also found in 1 Corinthians 12:28) about the ministries of the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The apostles, having the greatest tasks of all the others, had to be skilled in many of these ministries. In Timothy’s case, he was an apostle (1 Tim. 1:3), a pastor (1 Tim. 5:17-22), a teacher (1 Tim. 4:11), and an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). In addition, many prophecies had been made about Timothy’s giftedness to the body of Christ (1 Tim. 1:18). Titus was an apostle (Titus 1:5), a teacher (Titus 2:15), and a pastor (1:13, 2:15). In Titus 1:13, Paul makes it clear that as Pastor, Titus’s job is to punish those who are teaching falsehood, deal with them publicly so others won’t do the same. This is indeed a job for the pastor alone.
Apostles had a hard job to do. In the case of Timothy and Titus, they had to prepare themselves for a number of things. But according to Peter’s own words in Acts 1:20, the apostolic office was a “bishopric,” a pastorate, a ministry with a pastoral role of caring for and watching over the churches of God. Junia, then, by being an apostle (Romans 16:7), would have had a job of the same caliber as Timothy and Titus, although she was heavily involved in the churches at Rome.

The next question becomes, then, “how could Junia (a woman apostle) be a woman pastor, a female “episkopos”? that is something I will address in future discussion on the Pastorals.

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