Thursday, February 16, 2012

A short thought on Euodia and Syntyche

Larry Hurtado makes some interesting observations this morning about women in Acts, but even before I checked my blog reader (!) I had been reading Philippians and among other things was struck by the Euodia and Syntyche bit (Phil 4:2-3).
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.  Yes, and I ask you, loyal Syzygus, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
No I don't think I've noticed this passage coming up in the complementarian/egalitarian debate (perhaps I just didn't notice), but it seems to me highly relevant.  Firstly, in pleading with the two women Paul is hardly assuming either their submission or his inherent gender based authority. Secondly in saying they contended at his side (along with Clement and others) he is presumable referring either to their joining with him in preaching and evangelism or their participation on Paul's side with internal disputes within the church - all of which render highly problematic the suggestion that Paul did not allow women to teach or have authority.

Let me know what you think :-)


  1. I noticed this at Larry Hutado's blog as well. No, I don't recall this coming up before in the egalitarian/authoritarian debate. And, your inferences seem to be in order (at least to me).

  2. Hi Jonathan,
    Check out
    It's pretty rare to find something new in this debate, but I think Alastair Roberts has some new, interesting and very long things to say.


  3. Whoops. Here's the link to Alastair's blog.

  4. Hi Craig, welcome to the blog, thanks for your comment, i notice you have a rather impressive website yourself.

    Hi Ali, thanks for the links I'll check it out sometime, although I probably need to post on some other issues too, Craig's website got me thinking i should relly try and engage the whole homosexuality debate at some point.

  5. More from Hurtado on Acts,

    And Ali, what about the passage! ?? :-)

  6. The passage? I've never seen how Phil 4:2-3 has to refer to female elders or recognised teachers of men. I have never had a problem with women teaching informally, evangelism, teaching women, prayer support, and ministering and helping minister in many different ways. I also have never had a problem with high-profile women in a church.

    I also struggle with the sudden elevation of anything a woman is linked to in the Bible to the "status" of authority and teaching men. It's a strange flattening out by raising everything to the same "level", instead of reducing everthing to the lowest common denominator.

    Lastly, I have never understood biblical authority to involve, "You do what I say or else!" Paul is exercising authority in the way Jesus and the rest of the apostles and leaders exercised it - by appealing to people, trying to convince, working with, not lording over.

  7. So, Jonathan, what do you think of what I think of the verse?

  8. Well Ali, I am a little confused by you, if Biblical authority is only about appealing to people and convincing them then in what way are women not to have authority over men, are they not allowed to appeal to others or convince them of something?

    I did not elevate anything in the passage above to some sort of arbitrary status, I merely pointed out it was hard to reconcile with female submission in church and the idea of female silence in church. Your comment hasn't yet shaken that opinion. But I do appreciate and note your point that merely mentioning passages with women in does not replace proper exegetical work. :-)

  9. I'm a little surprised by your confusion! :)

    Here's some passages that may help - Philemon 1:8, Luke 22:24-27 (and parallels), 2 Cor 10:8-11, 1 Peter 5:1-3 and so on. I don't understand biblical authority to never be exercised with more assertiveness, but the general way it is exercised by Jesus and others in the Bible was to teach, persuade and appeal - not to demand or lord it over someone (maybe demons, but that's another matter :) ).

    Note: having authority and exercising authority are not the same thing.

    Out of interest, how do you exercise authority in your role as pastor? Do you insist that people in your church do what you say or persuade and appeal? Do you solve disputes in your church by asserting your authority over them? Is that what you think Paul should do? After all, he is an apostle, so gender aside, he has authority over those women in Philippians.

    Surely you can appreciate that submission and silence can be far more nuanced than, "You must always submit to everything I say" or "You must always be silent and never say a word anywhere to anyone in any circumstance". Not recognising nuance in the opposing position (eg. suggesting men have total authority over every woman and all woman are to submit always to all men) yet allowing it in yours (eg. in your exercise of authority and submission) is a great way to try and win arguments, but doesn't advance discussions past straw men.

  10. Hmm, that last paragraph, methinks, could have been written better. Perhaps delete the last sentence and rephrase the first so it doesn't include incredulity. Sorry about that. To be honest, I blame the amount of tea I've been drinking for such intemperance... :)

  11. don't fret, i am happy with robust debate, and sure i often stoop to all sorts of logical falacies in pushing my own agendas, happy to have them exposed!

    as a pastor, more particularly as a baptist pastor I have only two types of authority, the authority that comes from speaking the truth to people and the authority that people allow me to have over them due to the relationship they have with me. In extreme cases church discipline is necessary, but that is not excercised by me (an individual) but by the elders on behalf of the congregation. there is also a certain level of power that comes from being the one who organises things, e.g. who gets to preach etc. but mostly i try to operate from a position of weakness and vulnerability.

    With regards to nuance I concur, except that I would push further and say if those commandments about women are not to be taken as absolute and universal then why take them as anything other than contingent and situational?