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Romans 16 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Romans 16 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

"Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church."
The Revised Standard Version calls Phoebe a "deaconess", which would make would make her a church leader. If the RSV translation is correct, this verse contradicts the requirement that women not be permitted to teach and that they must be silent in church. (1 Cor.14:34-35, 1 Tim.2:11-12).
Can women be church leaders?
First of all, deacons don't teach. There are two offices in the church, translated with bishop and deacon in 1 Tim. 3:1-13. The bishops (elders) teach, the deacons care for the poor.
The second thing is the Greek. The Greek work used here is diakonos. It is indeed the same word as used in 1 Tim. 3:1-13 and Phil. 1:1. So the translation in the RSV is possible.
But the question can be asked: is that translation the only one? The word diakonos occurs many times in the Bible and is usually translated with servant. For example in Matthew 22:13 the word diakonos is used, where our English reads servants. The word deacon is clearly an incorrect translation for that verse. So it should be the context that determines if deacon or servant is the best translation.
Which brings us tot the third point: is the word deacon the best translation here? Does this verse mention bishops in the same breath? Does the context say she was an office bearer? The answer to these questions is no. If we use the word deacon and take into account the next verse, we read: “...Phebe, a deacon, ... receive her ... as becometh saints.” This makes it clear she is one of the saints. Given the formula in Phil. 1:1 the word deacon is not the most appropriate. Because the text at that location clearly distinguishes between deacon and servant: “to all the saints ... with the bishops and deacons.”
According to Phil. 1:1 saints, deacons and bishops are three distinct groups. This verse and the next would say that deacons and saints are the same group, if we translate the word diakonos with deacon. Therefore for both these reasons the word servant is the better translation.

2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

"Junia ... of note among the apostles"
Was there a woman apostle? That is how some interpret this verse and use it to justify a more active role for women in the church.
Can women be church leaders?
Some translators were so upset at the idea of a woman apostle that they replaced "Junia" with "Junias." The problem with this is that although "Junia" was a common woman's name at that time, there is no evidence for "Junias" as a man's name. Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (2005), p.185
(But see here for an opposing view.)
I agree with the author of the SAB that some were upset with reading a female in this text. And we can actually identify name and date: the scholars who dreamed up the best and oldest manuscripts. And they did it in 1927. John Hunwicke in Junia Among the Apostles writes:

... with only one exception, Greek New Testaments down to 1927 continued to give her the feminine accent. ... Who, then, is guilty of the sex change? Stand up the thirteenth (1927) edition of Nestle: the standard Greek Testament beloved of twentieth-century “scientific” and “modern” biblical scholarship! Again—Yes! Not Dark Age monks; not obscurantist popes; not medieval misogynist conspirators; not pre-Enlightenment bigots; it is the brightest and the best of liberal European and North American modern scholarship that took a reconstructive scalpel to Junia’s groin. All subsequent Greek Testaments, including the influential United Bible Society editions, slavishly followed the obviously infallible magisterium of the younger Nestle without qualm or hesitation.

But regardless if Junia was a man or a woman, he or she could not have been an apostle. The only apostles in the Bible are the ones appointed to that position by Christ himself and who had seen Christ with their eyes. There were twelve apostles chosen by Christ while on earth, Luke 6:13. One was Judas who was later replaced by Matthias, Acts 1:26. Christ himself chose one more apostle, Paul, the last one, 1 Cor. 15:8-9. There are no more apostles as this office was for a specific time, and blessed with specific and unique blessings.
The meaning of “of note among the apostles” is:

were well known by, and in great account with the twelve apostles, though not of their number; they might be converted by them, and be followers of them in Judea; they are thought by some to be of the number of the seventy disciples, whom Christ himself sent forth to preach: Andronicus particularly is mentioned among them, and said to be bishop of Pannonia, or rather of Spain; See Gill on Luke 10:1; however, they might be preachers of the Gospel, and be persons of great fame and renown as such; for which reason they might be called apostles, that being a name sometimes given to ordinary ministers of the word, and to such who were messengers of the churches, 2 Cor. 8:23, as these might be, and were famous for their prudent, faithful, and diligent discharge of their office and duty.

8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.

9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.

11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

(16:17-18) "Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Shun those who disagree with your religious views. Jehovah's Witnesses use this verse to justify disfellowshipping those who disagree with the Governing Body.
As Jehovah's witnesses are not Christians, I'll leave it up to them to defend their unchristian practices. But let's examine whom the apostle Paul says we should avoid: those which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. Is that simply everybody who disagrees with us? No. The apostle is peaking about teachers in this context. Because Paul continues in the next verse with: “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” I.e. he clearly speaks about ministers, who attempt to deceive the people with good words and fair speeches.
Therefore, this text is not about just anyone who we don't agree with. Because elsewhere (Rom. 12:18): the apostle Paul says

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

"The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
Paul believed that Jesus would return and defeat Satan "shortly" -- within his own lifetime.
The apostle Paul never says that Jesus would return within his own lifetime. But he promises the Church that Satan will not win, his reign will not last, and evil will not triumph. The shortly is in God's time frame and is not unduly hastened, but this time is given so more people can hear the gospel and repent (2 Pet. 3:9):

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.

24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.