I want to respond to a couple of comments about my posts on Gordon Fee. I have been explaining his views on angels and today on apostles because I see this as part of his world view which impacts on his translation work. No one, absolutely no one, can come to a text without presuppositions. It is best if one can state clearly one’s presuppositions, and it is even nicer if someone actually says that these are presuppositions, not the absolute truth. Those that claim truth and transparency are not being open about what is really going on in a translation – there are simply some things that we do not know for sure. We need to let go and live with this.
So I make no apologies, I am explaining some of what Gordon Fee brings to the Bible as a text, and I share many of his presuppositions. At the same time, he is very open to discussing this and has a great deal of humility in approaching exegesis. I am not trying to lay out new truths, I am skeptical of those who do that. I want to bring into the open some of the thinking behind a translation. Today, a little about apostles. Here is 1 Cor. 12: 27-31
- Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues [d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire [e] the greater gifts.
I have mentioned this text before and said that I thought a hierarchy was present in some way because the earlier gifts are characterized as being “greater”. However, the other approach is that the gifts are listed chronologically. That is, the apostles come first as having a foundational ministry. In “The Nature of Authority in the New Testament” in Pierce and Groothuis, 2005, Fee writes,
- Leadership roles were quite different from those of today. Apostles, prophets and teachers are given pride of place (NIV “first of all”) in 1 Corinthians 12:28. But that is very likely primarily a temporal ordering, not structural, and there is no firm dividing line between them and the workers of miracles, those with gifts of healing and so on. Interestingly, those with gifts of guidance (TNIV) are not at the top. The point of the whole chapter, after all, is that each needs the other. Apostles unquestionably were acknowledged as the leading figures in the church; but no provision is made in the New Testament for the “succession”. People designated as “pastors” (Eph. 4:11) functioned within congregations, not above them. The upshot is that we are given ministry designations, which have been carefully scrutinized (especially in Eph. 4:11) but no certain definitions. page 264
Later in this same article Fee comments on the term “teaching authority” pointing out that teacher does not occur at the top of the ministry lists and there is
- no verbal connection in the New Testament between the word teacher and the vocabulary of authority. Hence the very term teaching authority, as though authority were invested in the teacher rather than in what is taught, is an anachronism when we are discussing teaching/teachers in the New Testament.” page 265.
What I would like to do personally, along with Fee, is to simply pull back and use the term “biblical” for things that are actually in the Bible, not the accretions which have grown up around the Bible. The structures and roles that we teach are traditions, whether we like to call them that or not. We all have traditions, we have different traditions, but we look to a common biblical text. What is actually in that text? And how does our tradition interpret that?