Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Female Partnerships in The New Testament

Romans 16:12 says "Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord."  Both of those are universally in all Greek and English texts female names.  Both the use of the word "labour" and the context and function of Romans 16 confirm that Tryphaena and Tryphosa should be seen as missionaries.

Paul's usage of only one verb for the two means they're a missionary couple.  The other four missionary couples mentioned are all one male and one female.  Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia, Philologus and Julia are the first three, the nature of how they're related isn't specified.  But we know from elsewhere in the New Testament like Acts that Priscilla and Aquilla are husband and wife.  The Fourth is Nereus and his sister.  With the Male-Female pairs it is inferred that if how their related isn't mentioned they are probably husband and wife.

Philippians 4 mentions Euodia and Syntyche.

When he describes the ministry of Euodia and Syntyche, Paul uses a couple of the same terms he had previously applied to Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche had contended together with him “in the Gospel”.  Earlier in the same letter, Paul had also described Timothy as someone who had served with him “in the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22).  Paul goes on to refer to Euodia and Syntyche as his “fellow-workers“.  Earlier, Paul had also referred to Epaphroditus as his “fellow-worker” (Phil. 2:25).  So, according to Paul, the ministries of the women Euodia and Syntyche were comparable to the ministries of the men Timothy and Epaphroditus.

 Early church bishop and theologian, John Chrysostom (c349-407), believed that Euodia and Syntyche were leaders in the Philippian church.  Moreover, he compared them to Phoebe, a woman minister (diakonos) in Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1-2).  In his 13th Homily on Philippians he wrote:
 These women [Euodia and Syntyche] seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and [Paul] commends them to some notable man whom he calls his yokefellow; [Paul] commends them to him, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he does in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a minister of the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). (Homilies on Philippians, 13)
It is commonly assumed the conflict Paul alludes to is between the two women. However comparing to other Paulian passages I feel the disagreement is between Paul himself and the two women.  Like First Corinthians 1:10.  Earlier in Philippians 1:14-17 Paul refers to others preaching the Gospel in competition to himself.  In verse 18 we see that Paul rejoices at this.  Another perspective has been offered also.
In Philippians 4:2, Paul urged Euodia and he urged Syntyche to, literally, “think the same thing”.  That Paul addressed Euodia and Syntyche personally and individually, reinforces the idea that these women had considerable influence in the Philippian church and probably were leaders.

Were Euodia and Syntyche quarrelling?  This is the assumption most people have, and many Bible versions convey this assumption in their translations.  Paul, however, does not say, or intimate, that Euodia and Syntyche were quarrelling.  Paul simply urged each of them (literally) “to think the same thing in the Lord”.  “Think” (phroneō) is a key word in the letter to the Philippians.  In the preceding verses in Philippians, Paul had been encouraging mature people to have the same thinking as himself – that of reaching out for the goal spiritual perfection (Phil. 3:14-15).  It could well be that Paul is carrying on this thought and, using almost identical language (in the Greek), is saying, “I encourage Euodia and I encourage Syntyche to have the same thinking in the Lord ” that of aspiring to spiritual maturity and perfection (Phil. 4:2).

Chrysostom did not see any sign of a quarrel in Paul’s plea to Euodia and Syntyche; he saw only praise from Paul and wrote: “Do you see how great a testimony he [Paul] bears to their virtue?”  (Homilies on Philippians, 13)
Phillipi was a region where Women were more independent then most parts of Greece at this time.  Acts 16:12-17 even calls attention to this.

I think this information should open people's eyes somewhat.  This pattern of Female Partnerships can possibly be expanded into Extra-Biblical examples, where possible evidence of Homo-Romantic affection exists but is frequently ignored. The acts of Paul and Thecla has another Tryphena sponsor Thecla.  Perpetua and Felicity believed to have been Martyrs in 203 AD  Artemilla and Eubula in the Apocryphal acts of Paul.  Maximilla and Iphidamia in the Acts of Andrew.  Of course there are also themes in these apocryphal stories that reflect some of the problematic Misogynist attitudes of the developing Church as well.  Especially in the Acts of Thomas which features Mygdonia, Marcia and Tetria. 

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