Monday, 11 July 2011

If Mary Magdalene was an Apostle, why wasn't Joseph Justus?

On Radio 4’s Sunday programme at the weekend I happened to hear Bishop Victoria Matthews speaking about women in the episcopate.
This is a subject on which debate continues (indeed rages within the Church of England at the moment) and yet where people reach different — and according to the Church of England — equally acceptable, conclusions.
During the interview, however, Bishop Matthews advanced an argument which has become almost standard doctrine amongst supporters of women’s ordination and consecration, yet which I think bears careful examination.
This is what she said when asked how she responds to Evangelical questions about her episcopal rôle:
... in terms of a woman bishop I always remind them that to be an Apostle (and a bishop is the successor to the Apostles) two things are necessary. One is to be a witness to the resurrection and the other is to be sent by Christ into the world. Now, Mary Magdalene who was the first witness to the resurrection said, “I have seen the Lord.” Tick. And Jesus said, “Go and tell my brothers.” She was sent out. So Mary Magdalene herself was an Apostle. Therefore to say ‘all the men were Apostles’ [sic] isn’t strictly true.
We will pass over the question of whether a bishop is “the successor to the Apostles” (which many Evangelicals like myself would dispute).
The problem comes in the statement that “to be an Apostle ... two things are necessary.” And the question is whether Bishop Matthews is committing the fallacy of confusing ‘necessary’ with ‘sufficient’ conditions.
One version of argument being put forward may be framed as follows:
1. It is a necessary condition of being an Apostle to be a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22) and to be sent by Jesus to give witness to that.
2. Mary Magdalene was a witness of the resurrection and was sent give witness of it by Jesus (John 20:17)
3. Therefore Mary Magdalene is an Apostle.
This, however, does not quite work, as can be demonstrated by the following example:
A. It is a necessary condition of being a bishop to be the right age and to have served the requisite number of years as a priest.
B. I am the right age and have served enough years as a priest.
C. Therefore I am a bishop.
The point is that necessary conditions are not the same as sufficient conditions. The argument for Mary Magdalene’s apostleship only works if we say that the conditions put forward by Bishop Matthews are both necessary and sufficient.
At this point we must also add that we are talking about Apostles with a capital ‘A’. In order to sustain the argument that she can be a bishop and “successor to the Apostles”, Bishop Matthews affirms that Mary was an Apostle just like the male Apostles. We are not talking here about just an ‘apostolic’ action, in the same way that local priests nevertheless exercise an ‘episcopal’ rôle, but the Apostolic office.
Now it may well be that Bishop Matthews and others believe that the two conditions she advances are both necessary and sufficient. But if that is the case, it needs to be stated more clearly, and it has some interesting implications.
First, after the Ascension, there were arguably thirteen Apostles. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene and the ‘other’ Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, both met the risen Jesus and were sent by him with a message for his brothers (Matt 27:1-10). That message could hardly have been anything other than that Jesus was risen, and the argument deems going to the disciples ‘sufficient’ as far as commissioning is concerned, so on this basis we have the eleven Apostles and the two Mary’s.
However, as we know, there was a vacancy in the ranks of the Twelve which had to be filled. And we discover in Acts 1 that there were two others present who qualified as potential Apostles, namely Joseph (Justus) Barsabbas and Matthias who, we learn, have accompanied the others from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and have been witnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:15-26).
So why are they not classed as ‘Apostles’, like the two Marys? The answer has to be that they had not been commissioned personally by Jesus to ‘go into the world’. However, that would also mean they could not have been present at the point described in Acts 1:6-11, when Jesus said to those present, “You will be my witnesses”.
If they had been present, they would have been ‘Apostles’. On the other hand, according to the argument put forward by Bishop Matthews, if these words had not been addressed to the eleven, then they would not have been Apostles, since they would not have received Christ’s specific commission.
It is not enough to argue that they were commissioned before the resurrection, so that the only thing lacking to their ‘Apostleship’ was actually to have witnessed the resurrection, since we cannot narrowly apply Christ’s teaching during his earthly ministry to just the Twelve. (At one time, for example, he sent out seventy-two ‘witnesses’ to himself.) If a commissioning before the resurrection is sufficient, along with being a witness to the resurrection itself, then the circle of Apostles is wider than the thirteen already identified.
The point is that, according to the argument, you don’t have to be told you are being made an Apostle to be an Apostle. It is sufficient to see the resurrected Jesus and hear the words telling you to ‘go’. So the circle of Apostles is both restricted to those who both witnessed the resurrected Jesus and were specifically commissioned by him with words that included directions to ‘go’, and it is widened to anyone and everyone to whom this applies.
We must therefore include Joseph, Matthias and others in the group that saw the risen Christ, but exclude them from the ‘inner circle’ to whom Christ said, “You will be my witnesses.”
Thus, according to the argument, Joseph is not an Apostle, because he heard no words from Christ telling him to ‘go’, whereas Matthias is an Apostle because he was ‘commissioned’ to ‘go’ through being chosen by lot.
At this point, however, we might ask why, given that there were thirteen Apostles in the room, they did not simply pick one of the two Marys. Was it that Peter and the others did not yet understand who qualified as an Apostle? But if they didn’t, how is that we can be sure we do? Was it that to be one of the twelve, you had to be a man? There is no indication that women were considered, since if they had been then the two Marys again would have been prime candidates. Whether one likes it or not, the argument for Mary’s Apostleship specifically raises the question of gender in relation to ‘the Twelve’.
Above all, we must reiterate that, according to this argument, whilst many people saw the risen Jesus (Paul famously refers to “five hundred brothers at one time” — 1 Cor 15:6), at no point did Jesus utter words to them to the effect of ‘go and tell’. Otherwise, like the Apostles in Acts 1, the general ‘commissioning’ plus the specific witnessing of the risen Jesus would, according to the argument, make them Apostles.
We must also consider Andronicus and Junia, mentioned in Romans 16, who some argue were also Apostles. Not everyone would accept this, but if they are then we have to ask on what occasion they both saw the risen Jesus and were specifically told by him to ‘go’. The simple answer is that we don’t know, but (according to the argument) such a situation must have occurred. Of course it may have included others — again we don’t know — but it was not enough that they simply saw Jesus and, later on their own initiative, testified about him.
At the same time, however, we must also observe that ‘Apostleship’ as here defined was not a necessary condition to bearing an effective and powerful witness to the risen Jesus. By any argument, Stephen and Philip were not Apostles. Indeed, Philip needed the ministry of the Apostles to complete what he had begun in Samaria (Acts 8:5-17), with regard to the giving of the Holy Spirit.
But it is not suggested, even in Acts, that this ministry is always necessary. The word of God multiplies even where it would seem that the Apostles (including Paul) are not personally the means to that end (cf Acts 13:49; ). And when Paul encountered some disciples at Ephesus who had not received the Holy Spirit, his question did not seem to focus on whether or not they had heard the gospel from an Apostle.
Certainly by the time we read the letter to the Galatians, it is clear that the effective spread of the gospel and the accompanying outpouring of the Spirit has passed far beyond the personal reach of the very small number of Apostles we can firmly identify.
So despite the argument that Apostleship consists in seeing the risen Christ and being specifically and personally sent by him into the world, the Apostles do not have exclusive ‘rights’ either to the ministry of gospel proclamation or the ministering of the Holy Spirit.
And at this point it is appropriate to ask in what sense the episcopalian bishop is a “successor to the Apostles” as Bishop Matthews claims, for most such bishops do not, in fact, have personal evangelistic proclamation as the defining element of their ministry. Nor, in point of fact, do they have the ‘necessary and sufficient’ personal qualifications to be an Apostle. One might, at a stretch, say their consecration is the equivalent of Matthias’s ‘commissioning’, but obviously they have not seen the risen Christ, and so just as Joseph Justus was excluded on one criterion, so modern bishops are excluded on the other.
I doubt, however, that this is what Bishop Matthews has in mind. Rather, I am sure she means that her ‘Apostolic’ office consists in (and differs from the ‘priestly’ office) in overseeing and governing the church. That being the case, however, we must add a number of other qualifications to our emerging picture of New Testament ‘Apostleship’. Principally, it now means that those who (a) saw the risen Christ and (b) received personally or collectively from him a commission to ‘tell’ someone else were thereby authorised and equipped to oversee and govern the church.
Now we certainly see in Acts the Twelve exercising this function, though they seem to be assisted by a wider group referred to as ‘the elders’ (Acts 15:2 — in Jewish terms, the latter would be the normal community leaders, also found in the synagogue system). But according to the argument being advanced, we must assume that Jesus’ ‘go and tell’ command implied, though it did not specify, ‘and govern the church’.
At the same time, we must argue that the ‘Apostolic’ office could be detached both from the personal witnessing of the resurrection and from the personal commissioning to ‘go and tell’ and be handed on, in the form of governance, to successors, including those who neither witnessed the resurrection nor received a personal commission.
From all this, a complex picture of Apostleship emerges.
To be in the original group of Apostles, it is necessary, but not sufficient, to have personally witnessed the resurrection. With this qualification, however, it is sufficient to be accounted an Apostle to have also received a commission from Jesus to ‘go’ with a message about him. Justus and Matthias both had the first necessary qualification, but only Matthias received the second (though not verbally from Jesus, but rather the lot falling on him). It was this that qualified Matthias, in Peter’s words, “to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside” (Acts 1:25).
Incidentally, we cannot equate the drawing of lots with the later ‘call’ of the Church, since the former action is specifically designed to exclude human intervention and leave the result in God’s hands. One way to replicate this is by drawing lots ourselves, but it is not a specific part of any current selection process.
All this further presumes that neither Justus nor Matthias, nor anyone else known to us outside the circle of the eleven who had witnessed the risen Jesus, was present on the occasion recorded in Acts 1 when Jesus said to the Apostles “you will be my witnesses”. Had they been present, they would already be accounted Apostles with the eleven and the two Marys.
However, if any similar utterances were made during Jesus’ other resurrection appearances, including for example that mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, then all those present must be deemed thereby to be ‘Apostles’. Furthermore, something of this sort must be invoked if we are to include Andronicus and Junia ‘amongst the Apostles’. There could also be others, of an indeterminable number, who were similarly Apostles on the same grounds.
All this means that it is receiving Christ’s personal commission (though this may be done collectively, not just individually) which is finally and sufficiently determinative of ‘Apostleship’, even though witnessing his resurrection is a necessary condition.
However, the resulting ‘Apostleship’ (Acts 1:25) is not confined to witnessing to others about the risen Christ. On the one hand, we find others doing the same, whose ministry is even accompanied by ‘signs and miracles’. On the other hand, we find the twelve exercising a ‘governance’ rôle in the community. The command ‘go and tell’ therefore automatically entails governance, even though this is not specifically part of the commissioning and there is no evidence of either of the Marys exercising this aspect of the Apostolic rôle.
This, however, is fundamental to the argument, since it must then be applied to the ministry of others who have neither seen the risen Christ nor been directly commissioned by him but who, nevertheless, are deemed be heirs of the Apostles specifically in their ministry of governance — Apostleship here being equated with episcope. However, this episcope does not entail a ministry focussed on ‘going and telling’. Rather, what is finally transferred to those who have neither seen the risen Christ, nor directly received his commission to ‘go and tell’, is a ministry which is not explicit in the commission but is deemed of the essence of Apostleship.
All this is terribly complicated, though it may, just, be plausibly maintained.
There is, however, a simpler solution, which is to say that whilst seeing the risen Christ was a necessary aspect of being included in the original Apostles — and the New Testament contains several indications of this — being then commissioned by him simply to tell someone else was not actually sufficient.
Rather, what was ‘sufficient’, in addition to seeing the risen Christ, was commissioning as an Apostle. Those who received this commissioning to ‘apostleship’ like Matthias and Paul, were Apostles. Those who did not, like the two Marys and Justus, were not. (This does, of course, leave Andronicus and Junia as potential Apostles, but in itself this is not germane to the alternative position being put forward here.) And what this Apostleship entailed, whilst it included ‘going and telling’, was expressed in giving definitive teaching and ruling.
Thus in Acts 2:42 we read that the believers “Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching ...”. Again, we see in Ephesians 2:20 that the Apostles form part of the ‘foundation’ of the Church (reaffirmed in Rev 21:14) and it is by teaching that the Apostles govern the Church (Eph 4:11, 14). It could, furthermore, be argued that it is handed on to a contemporary bishop who teaches the church and guards its teaching ministry (as is expected in the Prayer Book ordinal).
The question of whether this is a proper post for a woman, however, would have to be settled other than by an appeal to the ‘Apostleship’ of Mary Madgalene. On the one hand, it has to be admitted that we find no hint of her exercising such a teaching and governance rôle in the church. On the other hand, it does seem that the distinction between ‘necessary’ and ‘sufficient’ qualifications for Apostleship need to be clarified and maintained.

Personally, however, I doubt that Mary Magdalene qualified on either count, blessed though she was.
John Richardson
11 July 2011
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  1. John. You go to extraordinary lengths to argue the technicalites of apostleship and your heading itself is I suggest unecessarily speculative - "If Mary Magdalene was an Apostle, why wasn't Joseph Justus?"

    In reality on your own criteria Mary Magdalene was an apostle and therefore Victoria Matthew's statement must be correct. But that is not the real issue here which I suggest lies in the question - Is there sufficient NT evidence for the view that female apostles functioned normally with their male counterparts in the early church? Answer is surely: yes.
    As one writer puts it:
    "Have you ever thought about the fact that
    we have in the NT more glimpses into the service of women in the Kingdom than we do concerning most of the twelve apostles?"

    Further, "Neither the Gospel narratives nor the recorded words of Jesus EVER put restrictions on the ministry of women"

    Of course, our information about ALL the apostles is at best partial and fragmentary, but do we have sufficent evidence to support the presence of female apostles in the early church? Again, the answer is yes.
    Romans 16 abounds in examples:

    Priscilla and Aquila were Paul's co-workers (Rom.16:3) and the word 'sunergos' iis the same as used to describe the status of Timothy & Titus.

    Junia, (traditionally regarded as female), and Andronicus, whether husband/wife, or brother/sister, likewise were greeted by Paul as "outstanding among the apostles" (16:7.
    Phoebe, to whom Paul entrusted his Romans letter was a deacon at Cenchrea and Paul recognised her as a "prostatis" - i.e. prominent as a leader. (16:1,2).

    Indeed, TEN of the people Paul greeted in Romans 16 appeared to be women who "worked hard for the Lord" (16:12). Whether technically regarded as Apostles or not, the important fact is that they FUNCTIONED as spiritual leaders with him in ministry.
    For Paul then, gender appeards to be a non issue, and nowhere does the modern "problem" of gender arise in any of his letters.

    Even Jesus in Revelation 2:20-24 does not upbraid the Thyatiran church for allowing a prophetess/teacher "Jezebel", but his concern centres on what she taught, not her status as a teacher.

    I believe that the current gender debate fails to appreciate the supreme importance of Gal.3:28 which renders such gender distinctions as relatively unimportant within the body of Christ, and at the same time renders the "necessary and sufficient" qualifications equally irrelevant.
    Of far greater importance is the question - if God gifts women equally as members of the body of Christ, as we would expect from Eph.4:7-16, and on the basis that such gifts extend to "all" and "every one of us" (4:7) then we must be prepared to hear what the Lord has to say to us through his servants - male or female.
    To summarise - we should not waste more time and energy on such a non issue which is based more on a mistaken and entrenched 'tradition of the elders' than on NT evidence.

  2. John, it is a sad fact that, despite the way his disciples had seen Jesus treat women as being of equal value to men, they failed to put this into practice when it came to recognising apostleship.

    Let us not fall into the trap of believing that, while in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Slave or Free, it is OK to dismiss women as being in some way inferior to men. Instead, let us put our trust in the God who made all people equal: "male and female, he created them"

  3. Galatians 3:28 is often quoted. But the passage is introduced by 3:27, and is about baptism. All can be baptised, both men and women, and all therefore can 'put on Christ' - can become Christians. That is all the passage obviously means.

  4. Anonymous, exactly - if all can become christians and be baptised, why would God place restrictions on how they can serve him in the church?

    John, I really don't know why you have taken so much time to disprove a viewpoint that, by your own admission, is largely irrelevant to evangelicals like you and I. Is it because the real arguments for women in leadership, based on Biblical equality, are unassailable?

  5. ... largely irrelevant to evangelicals like you and I.

    But they're not irrelevant precisely because people who call themselves "evangelical" keep propounding them.

    Is it because the real arguments for women in leadership, based on Biblical equality, are unassailable?
    Which equality are you taking about? Equality of value or equality of role? The two are obviously different in the NT and until this basic distinction is recognised the proponents of "equality" won't ever be properly addressing the issue.

  6. David, I believe the NT supports both equality of value and equality of role. I also believe that that equality of value requires equality of role, especially if the roles in question are leadership ones.

    Those who restrict leadership to men and say that there is still equality of value are nearly always men themselves - the women who are limited in role are far less likely to see themselves as being equal in value. Men are happy to see the Bible as supporting male-only leadership because it doesn't affect them (and gives them power), women will question whether this is a correct interpretation because they are the ones who are restricted by it.

    [Incidentally, some may take exception to my view that equality of value requires equality of role. Don't bother trying to show I'm wrong here, because it's not central to my views on women in leadership. I believe that the Bible explicitly teaches equality of role within the church for men and women]

  7. Great post, John, thank you. One of the features of egalitarianism is that its proponents put forward multiple different arguments for their view. They almost never critique each other's arguments on behalf of WO, but when someone who disagrees does, then you get a response like Ian S's - which I've encountered more along the lines of, 'that argument you've critiqued isn't my argument so why did you critique it?' They'll never critique it themselves, but will object if you do.

    @Ian S - you say that your view that equality of value requires equality of role "is not central" to your argument so no-one should address it. Yet in both comments you've made so far, it was the first thing you said, and in the second comment was also the subject of a six line paragraph. That's a lot of photons spilled on something not that important to your argument. Of course, as it is "not central" to your argument you can spend all that time on making sure it is said in the thread and then have it go unanswered.

    @graham wood; you said:
    "In reality on your own criteria Mary Magdalene was an apostle and therefore Victoria Matthew's statement must be correct."

    John explicitly shows that is the opposite of what he is arguing in his post, concluding towards the end of his argument:

    "Those who received this commissioning to ‘apostleship’ like Matthias and Paul, were Apostles. Those who did not, like the two Marys and Justus, were not."

    As for the rest of your argument, all you've established is that women have gifts and can serve (and few would argue with that). Unless you think that only priests and bishops and teachers can serve then it does little to establish whether or not there are certain offices in the Church for which gifting might be a necessary, but not sufficient, criteria. You'd need to move off Gal 3 and move into the pastoral epistles to address that.

  8. @Battersea Boy, you said:

    "it is a sad fact that, despite the way his disciples had seen Jesus treat women as being of equal value to men, they failed to put this into practice when it came to recognising apostleship."

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Aren't the apostles treating women the way the saw Jesus treat them? Jesus treated women as being of equal worth and dignity but chose no women to be part of the Twelve. I don't think there's any evidence that they were even part of the seventy-two or so.

    2. A high view of Scripture would tend to lead us to think that where the NT describes the behavior of Christ's apostles post-resurrection, and doesn't critique it, it is being held up as a model, not as something to criticize.

    On your reading of the choice of a man to replace Judas among the twelve as a failure to act on Jesus' example, then we could argue the same for Paul with Peter. Paul was in the wrong in Galatia when he opposed Peter to his face, because Paul failed to act out Jesus' example of going to the lost sheep of Israel over Gentile dogs.

    If your hermeneutic is right with the apostles and women, then it should have relevance to non-gender contexts, such as Paul's stand on Gentile believers.

    A better way to read Scripture is to be very hesitant about second-guessing a Scriptural account of the apostles' behavior that Scripture itself does not critique.

  9. May I just take up Gal 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

    This verse is key to those who argue for women in church leadership.

    Not only is the context of Gal 3:28 that of Baptism, the point is also about unity. It is not about equality.

    Paul is speaking about our unity in God’s eyes, with the status as those adopted as his Sons through our faith-union with Christ. But he does not mean that Gentiles should pretend to be Jews, nor that gender has been abolished!
    See here the parallel in 1 Corinthians 12:3 where the church is one body, “for we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” But, importantly, in this chapter there are different members who have different roles – a head is not a foot which is not a hand etc. Unity co-exists with different functions.

    In Colossians 3:11 Paul says that in Christ “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (interestingly, very similar to Galatians 3:28). Yet in Colossians 3:22, Paul tells slaves to obey their masters, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." In verse 18, he tells wives to submit to their husbands, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." So, in Colossians Paul stresses both the unity of men and women and their different roles.
    Therefore, because of the context of Galatians and the parallels in 1 Corinthians and Colossians, Galatians 3:28 can’t be taken to mean absolute equality of roles within the church. Rather, given our unity in God’s eyes, we are free to be who we were created to be.

    Ro Mody, Bournemouth

  10. Stephen Bazlinton12 July 2011 at 21:18

    Ro Mody:

    'Rather, given our unity in God’s eyes, we are free to be who we were created to be.'

    you are so correct and that of course is the essence of Paul's arguement in the difficult passage of 1 Cor ch11 v2-16! This set in the context of 1st century pagan Corinth. We need to know how to apply this in 21st century post-modern western world. Paul rejoices in the the difference of gender and goes back to creation to underline his arguement. The church needs to rejoice in gender and not unisex.

  11. @ Mark Baddeley,

    I said what I did because I am sick of people arguing that men and women are of equal value to God, yet God does not allow women to occupy leadership roles in the church. This is little different to the totally discredited view that all of mankind is equal before God, but enslaving some people-groups is acceptable.

    Yes, I do believe that there are multiple arguments for women in leadership. I often use a Wesleyan quadrilateral approach, and this gives many compelling arguments in favour. But Scripture is obviously the most important, and I would refer you to the recent publication "Women and Authority: The Key Biblical Texts" by Ian Paul, for a good discussion of this subject.

  12. Ian S wrote,

    "I said what I did because I am sick of people arguing that men and women are of equal value to God, yet God does not allow women to occupy leadership roles in the church."

    Its not a matter of "argument". Christ chose twelve apostles, all men. He clearly valued women, but chose none to be leaders. By doing that, Christ showed that he did not accept the modern fallacy that if the church does not ordain women, it somehow undervalues them.

  13. @Ian S,

    So you spent, relatively speaking, a lot of space addressing the argument that equality in value does not equal equality of role and then said no-one should bother responding because it is not central to your argument. And you did this not because it is not central to your argument but because you are sick of the other view. Do you wonder why some of us find it hard to trust the words said by our noble opponents on this? Forget promises made by one synod and not kept by a later synod once the political numbers have shifted. What you said was hardly the best way to express the real reason for your stance. "Is not central to my argument" does not usually mean "I'm sick of people saying it". I'm not saying you did this with an ill will (indeed I think you didn't say it with deliberate dishonesty), but its effect wasn't as straightforward as it could have been.

    And some of us are sick of people arguing your position that equality of value must be linked to what we can and can't do. At a time when the value of the disabled is being threatened by selective abortions and the introduction into law of the idea of a 'wrongful life' it staggers me how Christians don't see that egalitarianism is part of the conceptual framework behind these moves.

    If I only have equal value if I can do everything you can do, then if I can't do everything you can do then it follows that I don't have equal value. And disabled people, stupid people, people with no gift of teaching will never be able to do everything. In the desire to 'promote the dignity' of intelligent, gifted, educated women, you throw the less intelligent, the disabled, the ungifted under a bus.

    Yes egalitarianism helped give a reason to get rid of slavery. Full marks for that. But look around you and see the battles to be fought now, not the battles of a century ago. Egalitarianism has ceased to be the friend of today's powerless and disadvantaged groups. We need to argue that worth is not linked to function, not that it is.

    We need to stop arguing that everyone should have the opportunity to be one of the 'beautiful people' if they just try hard enough because only the 'beautiful people' have value, and start reclaiming the classic Christian (and biblical) view that all are one in Christ Jesus - male and female, slave and free, intelligent, less intelligent, disabled. Our worth is not found in what we are able to do or not do, it is found outside ourselves in Christ.

  14. I'd just like to point out to Ian S that Ian Paul's "Women and Authority: The Key Biblical Texts", which he has commended to us, actually appeals to the 'Mary Magdalene' argument used by Bishop Matthews (see pp 11-12). Ian Paul quotes with approval Ruth Edwards' Discovering John: "Mary's insant recognition of Jesus ... and the fact that he entrusts her with a message for his 'brothers' are sure evidence that she is intended to be understood as a model of faithfulness. Her message to them, 'I have seen the Lord' (20.18), marks her out as an apostle (cf 1 Cor 9.1."

    Tom Wright has also used the same argument. It does therefore warrant being addressed in some detail in the contemporary debate.

  15. Mark, you write !In the desire to 'promote the dignity' of intelligent, gifted, educated women, you throw the less intelligent, the disabled, the ungifted under a bus."

    I'm sorry but that's just nonsense. You wouldn't consider it necessary to make the argument that only men with the gift of teaching and preaching should actually teach and preach. It goes without saying. But to hold to that doesn't "throw under a bus" those men with no gift for either.

    All Ian and those of us who share his views are saying is that some women (not all, just like the men) have teaching and preaching gifts that the church needs and should not be denied. Fern Winter, London

  16. I would just like to point out that, as often happens on the internet, this thread has gone way off topic. The topic (the clue is in the title) is not "Should women be ordained as Anglican bishops or priests?" nor even "Were there any women Apostles?" (note what I say about 'Junia', above) but "Does the increasingly common argument deployed by Bishop Matthews, but also Tom Wright, Ian Paul and Ruth Edwards, to name a few, actually work?"

    I see a couple of 'Noes'. Are there any 'Ayes'?

  17. @Fern Winter,

    It's not WO as such that has the effect I'm saying. Much of the effect I was pointing out is occurring in secular society, not so much among followers of Jesus. WO can be argued for many reasons - such as the 'Mary was an apostle' argument (at least a token nod there to John's attempt to pull this back on topic :) ), or how Graham Wood argued for it.

    But almost all supporters of women's ordination believe the view that equality of value must mean equality of role. Both battersea boy and Ian S made it fairly central to their arguments. And just how important it is can be seen from the fact that that was their response to John Richardson's post which had nothing to do with that issue (somewhat better attempt to link this back on topic).

    My point that you quote has nothing to do with women's ordination as such. It was aimed solely at the idea that equality of value must mean equality of role. As that seems to be a cardinal principle in the women's ordination movement it has implications for that question. But, like the post, it was addressing just one argument used in support - an argument derived from secular notions of equality and so much bigger than this question (which is why I disagree with you that "all" Ian S or anyone else is saying by using this principle can be kept to just this question), not the question of women's ordination directly. I am pointing at the negative fruit of that principle and asking supporters of wo to rethink that principle.

    As John says, both the principle and my response to it is way off-topic, so I'm happy to leave it there for someone to defend the idea that Mary really was an apostle.

  18. Mark,

    I think that proponents of WO would argue along the lines that equality of value means equality of authority rather than of role. One could argue that men and women are unequal in so far as one can bear children and the other cannot. However I don't think they would have any problem with that as male and female roles are different in this respect yet have equal value.

    No - what sticks in their craw is the issue of equality of authority and its relation to headship. This is where the real issue lies.

    Chris Bishop

  19. JPR,

    My apologies. My post above can look like it was meant to be an argument against ordination of women generally, which would be right off your topic. My intention had been only to say, in response to IanS, that just because a church doesn't ordain women it doesn't automatically mean that it devalues the role of women in the church. Or at least, that's how we see it.

    On the topic, I agree with you: I don't think scripture means to tell us that Mary Magdalene was an apostle. That seems to be drawing the bow so long that it breaks!

  20. Apostle the Greek word for messenger; one sent to deliver a specific message to a specific audience. The disciples were 12, reduced to 11 who were individually called by Jesus to follow him, witness his public ministry and receive his private teaching. The disciples became known as the Apostles because they were sent into the whole world with a specific task Mark 16:14-20 and Matt 28:16-20. You can call Mary an apostle, she was given a message to deliver. She was not given the commission which the disciples received from Jesus. If there is a problem, it is the appointment of Matthias. Perhaps this was a mistake. He is not recorded as achieving anything. There is no evidence of this precedent of topping up the number of apostles being subsequently followed.

    West Yorkshire

  21. David, whilst I would agree that every Apostle was a messenger, I would disagree that every messenger was an Apostle.

    Thus Philip is a non-apostolic messenger - as are we!