This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Al Wolters responds on Junia

Al Wolters has kindly responded to my last post where I critiqued his suggestion that we might have a male Hebrew name in Rom 16:7 instead of a female "Junia". With his permission I paste Al's comments below.
Thanks for alerting me to your discussion of my JBL article on Junia/s. Here are a few brief responses:
(1) I am pleased that you do not dispute the main point of my article: that a Hebrew name Yehunni was known and used in Paul's day, and that it would have been Hellenized as Iounias, -ou.
(2) You are right that Maria could also be a Roman name, assuming that the person in question belonged to the Roman gens Maria, or was a former slave belonging to a member of that gens. However, this doesn't affect my argument, since you agree that the Maria of Rom 16:6 "was almost certainly Jewish."
(3) You write: "A man called Yehunni, after moving to Rome, would likely have taken a Greek or Latin name, such as Junius." Might he not instead, since the name Junius would imply either that he belonged to a prominent Roman gens, or was an ex-slave, have chosen to Latinize his Hebrew name as Junias, on the analogy of names like Andreas?
(4) I am intrigued by your claim that, with virtually no exceptions, "[w]hen Palestinian Christian Jews travelled to Gentile territories where Semitic names would not have been familiar, they took a Greek or Latin name." I notice that this claim contains multiple qualifiers (Palestinian, Christian, Jewish, Gentile territories where Semitic names were unfamiliar), so that the many examples of Jews who did keep Hellenized or Latinized versions of their Hebrew names outside of Palestine, but were not Christians, or lived in places like Babylon or Egypt, cannot be cited as counter-evidence. However, even with these restrictions, in seems to me (without doing a systematic search) that the apostle John (Ioannes) is a clear counter-example, since he lived for years in Ephesus.
(5) You state: "The likely original name of Junia is Joanna," following Bauckham. I would assess this claim much as you assess my argument on Junia/s: it is just possible, but highly unlikely. If IOYNIAN does represent the female Latin name Junia, then a much closer Hebrew equivalent would be Yehunni, which could also be a woman's name, and would have the advantage (in your view) of having an almost perfect Latin "sound-equivalent."
(6) It is my own view that the much higher incidence of Junia compared to Yehunni makes it more likely that IOYNIAN in Rom 16:7 is a woman's name rather than a man's. In my judgment, however, it is only marginally more likely. There are other factors (such as the preponderance of male leadership in Paul's circle) which add weight to the other side. My article was meant to show that it is not unreasonable to defend the view that Junia/s was male. As is the case with so many exegetical questions, we need to be satisfied with degrees of probability.
Here are my own responses to the points that Al makes.

(1) I am not qualified to assess your claim that "Yehunni" would have been Hellenized as Iounias, -ou. As you know, Tal Ilan, sees Yehunni as a variant of "Honi", rather than a name in its own right. One of the two men named Yehunni was designated "the smith". This might support Ilan's view since the designation would serve to distinguish this Yehunni from all the others called Honi, which was a more common name.

(2) You seem to misunderstand my point about Maria. I was merely saying that she does not provide you with a precedent of a Christian using a Hebrew name that would be unfamiliar to his or her neighbours. Maria was able to keep that Hebrew name because it, unlike Yehunni, was also a Latin name.

(4) You are right to cite John as a possible precedent. However, the name "John" was very common and therefore might not have been completely unfamiliar to his Greek neighbours (unlike Yehunni). It was the fifth most popular name in Palestine and 11th in the Western Diaspora, according to Ilan's statistics. Also, I think it is unlikely that the author of Revelation would have wanted to identify himself in his text, for fear of reprisals. This suggests that "John" was not the name by which he was normally known. It may be that he was normally known by a Greek or Latin substitute name.

(6) We do see female leaders in Paul's circle (Prisca, Phoebe, and probably Lydia, Euodia and Syntyche). It is true that the traveling missionaries tended to be male, but we must ask why this was. I am willing to be corrected, but I suspect that it would have been hard for women to get the necessary permission from their husbands/fathers to embark on missionary journeys, and that it would have been dangerous for them to travel alone, and that they might have scandalized the very people whom they hoped to convert if they had travelled with male non-relatives. These restrictions would not have applied to Junia, who travelled with her husband (Andronicus), who was also an apostle. So the scarcity of female traveling missionaries is not necessarily an argument against Junia being one.

Even if we did not know that Junia was a female name, we would still suspect that Andronicus and Junia were husband and wife. They are greeted by Paul as a two-some and are given no separate designations. They seem to have had a long association with each other, since both were in prison with him, and both were in the faith before him. Paul greets and describes them as a two-person unit, in much the same way that he does Prisca and Aquila.

So, since the name "Yehunni" was so rare, and since apostles generally abandoned their Hebrew/Aramaic names when they went to Gentile lands, I think it is highly unlikely that Paul refers in Rom 16:7 to a man called Yehunni.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Junia, a female apostle, or a Hebrew man's name?

Suzanne McCarthy discusses a paper by Al Wolters, who argued that the name  in Rom 16:7 could be the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Yehunni, which would make it a man's name. (JBL 127, no. 2 (2008): 397-408, available online here).

On page 398 Wolters writes:
After all, it would not be surprising if a person whom Paul numbers among his kinfolk (συγγενείς) should turn out to have a specifically Jewish name, comparable to the Μαρία of the previous verse.
Not so fast! The problem here is that Μαρία is not a specifically Jewish name. As well as the Hebrew name, we have the Latin name, Maria, which is the feminine form of Marius. For this reason Tal Ilan writes,
of the 50 Mariams recorded, only 23 are indubitably Jewish. (Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity Part III. p5)
While the Maria of Rom 16:6 was almost certainly Jewish, it is likely that she kept her original name only because it also worked as a Roman name. When Palestinian Christian Jews travelled to Gentile territories where Semitic names would not have been familiar, they took a Greek or Latin name that would be recognized there. Cephas-Peter, Simeon-Simon, Saul-Paul, Silas-Silvanus, and John-Mark are good examples. It is hard to think of exceptions to this rule. Barnabas is a special case because the name carried significant meaning (Acts 4:36), which would have been lost if he had been given a familiar Greek or Latin name. Apart from Barnabas, Paul refers to no-one in Gentile territories by a Semitic name (Jesus called Justus of Col 4:11 is no exception because he probably never existed, and his Latin name is given in any case). So Wolter's suggestion that Paul referred to the hypothetical Yehunni by his Hebrew name has no good parallels. A man called Yehunni, after moving to Rome, would likely have taken a Greek or Latin name, such as Junius, rather than transliterating his name as Wolters supposes.

The likely original name of Junia is Joanna, since it is so similar in sound. Indeed Bauckham has argued that Junia was the Joanna of Luke 8:3; 24:10 (Gospel Women p109-202). Joanna was a common name in Palestine. Tal Ilan lists 12 women of that name in Palestine out of a total of 402 women (Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity Part 1 Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE). Thus about 3% of women had that name. Wolters, on the other hand, finds only 2 men called Yehunni, which represents just 0.08% of the 2505 men listed by Tal Ilan. This figure of 0.08% for Yehunni is much less than the 3% for Joanna.

We can therefore be very confident that Junia was a woman.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Robert King on Titus-Timothy

A few weeks ago I chanced upon a book by Robert King, which argues that Titus was Timothy ("Who was St. Titus?: The Scripture Notices on the Subject Compared with Received Opinions.."). The book was published in ..... 1853! Here I will post some reflections on King's book, which is available free on-line here.

I was excited to discover King's book, but shocked that I had not come across it before, since I have worked with Titus-Timothy for 13 years. Equally alarming is that no-one else seems to have been aware of the book, including Borse, Von Lips and James Dunn, who have commented on the the Titus-Timothy hypothesis. I have found only one reference to the book: a critique in the Westminster Review of the same year, available on Google Books, here. It seems, then, that at least four people have independently come to the conclusion that Titus was Timothy, unaware of each other's work.

Why, then, has Robert King's book been so thoroughly ignored? I think there are two reasons.

Firstly, the theory that Titus was Timothy sounds bazaar to many people when they first come across it. One leading scholar, who will remain nameless, wrote to me "You don't seriously think that Titus and Timothy were the same person, do you? That would be one of the stranger ideas I have come across!". I sent him/her a link to my work on Titus-Timothy, and, needless to say, I have no reason to believe that he/she read any of it. Many have difficulty getting over their initial surprise and are unable to form a logical response. It is fascinating to read the first page of King's preface, which shows that King, too, was aware that his theory was going to struggle to overcome people's initial gut response. He wrote, "The Supposition put forward in the following pages as to the identity of SS. Timothy and Titus will naturally be regarded by most readers as a very strange and paradoxical one."

The second reason, I think, for the neglect of King's book, is that it is very badly argued. He gives a very rambling discussion, with frequent diversions, and fails to drive home his points. He takes 250 pages to say what could be said in 10, and his stronger points are lost in the verbosity.

King's main focus is on the Corinthian correspondence. He points out that the information that we have on "Titus" in 2 Corinthians is exactly what we would expect to read of "Timothy". He notices that the Titus-Timothy hypothesis explains the absence of Titus from Acts (and from Rom 16). He makes surprisingly little use of Acts 16:1-3 and Gal 2:1-5. I think he makes two mistakes that I too used to make: he assumes that Timothy was a native of south Galatia rather than Antioch, and he assumes that "Timothy" was his name from birth.

King devotes a lot of space to objections to the hypothesis, but mentions no objection that has not already been discussed on this blog. He struggled with 2 Tim 4:10. Since he accepts the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, he is forced to suggest that there were two men called Titus in Paul's inner circle.

My own summary presentation of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis is here.