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Jory Micah – Thesis (2)

Charlatan: Noun – a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.

Today I want to take a look at Jory’s Master’s thesis. It is currently available on her website, but I have also uploaded it to Archive.org in case she decides to remove the thesis from her website at some future point. Before we get started, I want you to remember that one of Jory’s fundamental aims is for women to be given the exact same opportunities as men regarding the Church. For those of you who are reading this and think I maybe should have gone easier on her because she is a woman… remember that she wants me to treat her the same as a man.

Remember, in my last post, I discussed her educational background. I feel that it is important since she often presents herself as and is considered credible because of this academic pedigree. She presents her thesis as a summary of her views, and uses it as a launching off point for her “ministry.” I don’t think I’ve been oblique about this, but let me state this in no uncertain terms.

Jory Micah is a charlatan who preys on the uneducated (particularly uneducated women). She teaches doctrine that is gravely in error, and in some instances rises to the level of heresy. She outwardly claims to be pro-life, but she has repeatedly advocated for pro-choice ideology, which makes her de facto pro-abortion. She is dangerous, and needs to be exposed for the charlatan that she is. She has repeatedly advocated the use of feminine pronouns in reference to the Persons of the Trinity. She has repeatedly argued that the Bible is simply a cultural artifact reflecting the human failings of the first century. She has repeatedly argued that the Scriptures we have are a corrupted version of what was originally taught. She has repeatedly argued that God’s Law, as delivered in the Pentateuch, reflects a corrupt and oppressive patriarchy.

There are two aspects I want to address regarding Jory’s thesis. I’m going to bypass the usual mechanical critiques of citations and structure, I would rather focus on the substance of the essay.

In her thesis, she makes an incredibly strong claim. Remember, this was —as the cover of the thesis itself states— submitted “In partial fulfillment of the Master of Christian Doctrine and History Degree” (Emphasis mine) which was actually a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis on Christian Doctrine and History. This is a thesis which should demonstrate that she possesses a Master of Arts level expertise in Biblical Studies, particularly in the subject of Christian Doctrine and History. As such, it is entirely appropriate to assess it to determine if it accomplishes that task. Furthermore, as highlighted in the previous post, a graduate of this program should be able to

  • Explain historical and cultural backgrounds of the biblical books and how the leading biblical themes relate to each other in the unfolding of salvation history.
  • Apply sound interpretive and hermeneutical methods to the Bible including the proper use of resources such as lexicons, concordances, dictionaries and commentaries in the broader context of spiritual development, preaching and teaching.
  • Articulate major doctrines, historical perspectives and theological issues, including those related to spiritual renewal as these bear on Christian life and mission.
  • Understand and respond to contemporary issues, particularly in relation to how, with a global perspective, the Church is able to influence societies with a Christian worldview.
  • Express a breadth of knowledge of biblical and theological issues in ways supported by informed scholarship and sound reasoning.

Strong Claims, Weak Evidence

As stated, Jory’s thesis makes incredibly strong claims. She concludes the introduction of the essay with the following statement.

Within the first and second century, it is clear that females occupied every office of leadership within the Christian Church. Their ministry was vital in its foundations and remains strategically needed within the continuous growth of Christianity today(5, Bold and Italics original)

This is the thesis of the essay. This is the statement which Mrs. Micah intends to demonstrate, and by proving plans to show that she possesses a Masters level expertise in the subject.

Let’s break this down into a few component parts.

  1. “Within the first and second century” – mechanical issues aside (it should be “first and second centuries”), this means that she will prove that by the year 199 that the following state of affairs is evident.
  2. “It is clear” – This should be manifestly obvious to anyone reading the accounts
  3. “Females occupied every office of leadership” – This means, at a minimum, she should prove that there were female Presbyters/Bishops (Pastors who teach doctrine and govern the Church), female Deacons (people who tend to the physical needs of the Church), and Apostles (those commissioned directly by Jesus to build and establish the Church)
  4. “Within the Christian Church” – The persons she points to should not be part of heretical or offshoot groups
  5. “Their ministry was vital” – This presupposes that 1-4 here is correct

Now, my expertise is in the area of Christian History, incidentally the same area of competence that she submitted this paper to demonstrate her mastery. The first part of her thesis is clearly a historical claim. She is making a statement about something that happened in history. The second part is a more subjective statement, and for the sake of this assessment, I will forgo substantial critique. However, I will note, that if the first part of her thesis (the historical reality of women in every office of leadership) fails, the second part also fails.

Can Jory’s essay support the weight of this strong claim? Just a few sentences later we see that not even she thinks it can.

There is a substantial amount of evidence, which strongly suggests that the establishment and growth of the Christian Church is largely due to first and second century women who were quick to take headship roles, even in the face of ongoing persecution.

Now, this may just be a stylistic choice… but we went from “Within the first and second century, it is clear that females occupied every office” to “there is a substantial amount of evidence which suggests” with literally two sentences intervening. You cannot argue that something is clear, and then say that the evidence only suggests it.

To prove her thesis, she breaks the paper into two chapters. The first is a historical discussion regarding the role of women in the Early Church. It spans pages 7-19. Remember, the foundation of her thesis statement was that it is clear that women occupied every office in the first and second centuries. This section is where she will need to prove it.

However, even a cursory glance demonstrates that she did not do that. Jory does not interact with a single second-century primary source. It is not only that she does not interact with the right second century sources… she does not interact with any at all. The closest Mrs. Micah comes is referencing a few scholars interacting with Tertullian’s objection to Christian women marrying outside the faith. In fact, the point she is making is that Tertullian reflects a growing oppression of women, but since Tertullian’s writing ministry reached its zenith around the turn of the 3rd century, this serves to prove the converse of her thesis.

Furthermore, neither the terms Bishop, Elder, Presbyter, or any of the other equivalent terms appear in her thesis. How can she hope to prove that women occupied every office if the most important ordinary office is not even mentioned in the paper?

So, right off the bat, we can say unequivocally that Jory did not prove her thesis. The second section of her paper is more or less an attempt to undercut complementarian exegesis regarding Paul’s letters. Although I’m sure there is lots of content to critique, I instead want to focus on a more serious issue in the essay.

F for Effort

While this is not a universal reality, it is a reasonable description regarding the differences between the different levels of education. In undergraduate (Associate and Bachelor) programs, you are expected to be consuming and summarizing secondary sources. As a graduate student (Master) you are expected to be analyzing and critiquing secondary sources, as well as synthesizing primary sources. At a post-graduate (Doctorate) level, you are expected to become a secondary source yourself.

The way this usually manifests is that undergraduate papers are typically summaries of secondary sources, with a very shallow synthesis or application as part of the conclusion. Graduate papers, especially theses and dissertations, are expected to use evidence to make an argument. This is one of the hardest things that Seminarians have to get used to when they start their program (I got my first grade lower than a B+ in my first semester of Seminary for this very reason). Another common difference is the depth of research. Graduate students are expected to thoroughly source their research and should be able to recognize which statements require the support of a reliable source and which ones can be made without a citation. A persistent flaw in Jory’s thesis is that she makes sweeping statements without any real support. For example, page 8 contains the following statement

In other words, houses and perhaps some other secretive spots, such as catacombs, were the only places Christians could worship and fellowship together.

The idea that the only places they could worship were houses and secretive spots is a statement that should require justification. Jory provides a source, but the citation only demonstrates that they met in catacombs, not that these were the only places they could meet. This kind of citation practice usually happens because someone wrote a sentence first, and later hunted around to add sources. Was I a professor grading such a paper, that is what I would assume to be the case. Furthermore, the idea that Christians sometimes met in catacombs is common enough knowledge that her anticipated audience (her peers enrolled in a Master level program in Christian History) would reasonably be expected to know that.

It is understandable in the first semester, a Graduate or Seminary student might not have this mastered… but by the time someone gets to the point where they are submitting a thesis, this should no longer be the case.

Jory’s thesis is little more than a long undergraduate paper in this regard. A simple comparison between the sources she cites and her content should suffice to demonstrate this.

On page 16, Jory engages in a discussion regarding Phoebe. Phoebe is of particular importance because the term διακονος is applied to her in Romans 16:1. Of Phoebe, Jory says this

The role of Phoebe in the early Christian Church has been long debated.  Due to the Apostle Paul’s terminology in Rom. 16:2, some scholars have gathered Phoebe to be a deaconess.  Their findings, however, are based on mistranslation of the Greek time era for which the word deaconess came into existence.  The word deaconess was not created within the Greek language until the third to fourth century and was used to describe females who functioned with much less authority than first-century male diaconates.  Those who have tried to discredit the authority of Phoebe in the early Church have been doing so by explaining that original biblical text entitles her a deaconess, as defined in the third to fourth century.   Those who have under-qualified Phoebe as a deaconess have done irresponsible research since the term did not exist in her lifetime.(16)

At the end of the sentence, Jory provides the following citation.

Caroline F. Whelan, “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church,” JSNT 49 [1993]: 67.

With the accompanying full citation in her Bibliography

Whelan, Caroline F. “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church.”  Journal for the Study of the New Testament 49 [March 1993]: 67-85

This article is available for free. Let’s take a quick look at how the two compare

The role of Phoebe in the early church long has been the subject of debate. The lack of understanding concerning Phoebe’s role often reflects our lack of understanding of the terminology used by Paul to describe her-διακονος and προσταις-both of which have been largely misunderstood and hence mistranslated. In discussions of Rom. 16.2, for example, διακονος is frequently taken as synonymous with the later office of deaconess (third to fourth century) which, in comparison to the first-century male diaconate, had a very limited function.  In fact, the English translation Of διακονος as deaconess is not only misleading in its connotations, but it is also linguistically incorrect. In the first three centuries CE there was no Greek word for deaconess.

The two paragraphs are identical in content, follow practically the same order, and the first sentence is nearly verbatim. While it may not fit the technical definition of plagiarism, it certainly is nothing more than a summary of another person’s work. Furthermore, the footnote placement makes it appear as though the citation belongs with only the final sentence, rather than the entire paragraph.

This pattern becomes even more apparent when one observes the overall structure of Jory’s second chapter and the overall fabric of another article that Jory makes use of.

The beginning of Jory’s second chapter is a summary of the women who served in leadership roles in the Biblical accounts. The first is Apphia, and like the previous example, the entire paragraph is a summary of a section in an article by Wendy Cotter. Again, the points made, and even the order that they are made in are virtually identical. She then proceeds to discuss Chloe, Prisca, Euodia and Syntyche, Phoebe, and finally Junia. Although she draws on the work of Keith Gerberding, the vast majority of citations in this section are from the previously cited Cotter article.

I wonder what happens if we go back to that article and observe the structure used there.

Cotter begins by talking about Chloe, moves on to Prisca, then discusses Euodia and Syntyche, closes her discussion with a conversation regarding Phoebe. Same outline. It seems as though this section of Jory’s thesis is actually just a summary of the work of Cotter. Let’s compare some specifics.

Paul addresses the two women as if they were part of a team of male and female evangelists, in which he was involved. While it is obvious in the text that the two women are disputing over something and Paul hopes they will make peace, he sings their praises as those who have worked side by side with him. (Jory)

Paul joins both in his praise, “They have labored side by side with me, Clement and the rest of the fellow workers whose names are written in the book of life” (Phil 4:3). Paul’s description suggests that Euodia and Syntyche belonged to a team of men and women evangelizers. (Cotter)

Again, it may not technically rise to the plane of plagiarism, but it definitely something that should not have been acceptable in a master level program.

I could continue, but I think I’ve made my point. Jory’s thesis just does not deliver. It does not prove the point she claims it will, nor does it meet the standards of academic writing for a program of her level.

This post started out with the definition of the word charlatan. A charlatan is someone who pretends they are something they are not, especially regarding skills or knowledge. It is evident from this very cursory look at this thesis demonstrates that she is a charlatan. She presents herself as an academic expert in respect to Christian history, but the simple errors found in this thesis show that this simply is not the case.