Junia and the Apostles

Aug 12, 2022Blog

Whether in genealogies or epistolatory greetings, most of us probably skim through name-lists in reading our Bibles. Like the credits at the end of a film, they seem not only tedious, but entirely inconsequential to us. However, as those who’ve traced Messiah’s long and crooked family tree know, such lists bear a galaxy of stories – stories of enormous consequence. So perhaps it’s of little surprise that a considerable amount of ink has been spilled recently over a long list of names found in Romans 16. At the center of the controversy is a (presumably) married couple of Jewish descent[1] in v.7:

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me (KJV).

Biased Interpretations

The case currently being made (typically by egalitarians against complementarianism) is that here stands in plain view a woman apostle, commended by none other than St. Paul himself. On the one hand, we’re told, a female leader of the highest rank has been utterly forgotten in the selective memory of a patriarchal church. Worse than forgotten, the male-dominated hierarchies of Christendom – from misogynistic church fathers, to bigoted reformers, to prejudiced modern translators – have mutilated her identity in an effort to deny or suppress a primitive Christian egalitarianism. Not only is she stripped of her apostolic credentials, it is argued,[2] even her gender has been changed![3] On the other hand, “If the first century Junia could be an apostle, it is hard to see how her twentieth century counterpart should not be allowed to become even a priest [or a pastor].”[4]

This argument, in one form or another, is increasingly resurfacing in evangelicalism’s ongoing gender debate. The question is whether this account of “Junia” and her presumed identity throughout the church’s history is faithful to the whole story.

All our interpretations of Scripture are biased, of course. None of us comes to a text without a whole host of biases, entailing a confusing mix of presuppositions, personal predispositions, and assorted prejudices. Presuppositions and predispositions are unavoidable – even necessary, if not always justified or helpful. Our prejudices, however, are tragic. They are the sad artifacts of our fallen condition. On that note, it must be admitted that despite a radical, counterculturally “pro-woman” gospel, the Christian church has been long haunted by an ancient misogyny. This is vividly illustrated in recent compilations of some of the more egregious expressions of sexism found in such luminaries as Tertullian of Carthage, Origen of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, etc., ad naseum.[5] Diane Langberg, in giving one such list, summarizes:

Much has been said [within Christendom] through the centuries about what it means to be female. Men have said most of it … Women have been labeled unworthy, unclean, unintelligent, and insignificant. We have been called hysterical, silly, illogical, and unstable.[6]

It cannot be doubted that such misogyny has informed the church’s interpretation of Scripture,[7] including Romans 16:7. Having said that, it does not follow that all readings of scripture that complicate a feminist trajectory or an egalitarian application are de facto prejudiced against women. We must be cautious in imputing bad or ulterior motives to those who disagree with our interpretation of Scripture[8] – especially with regard to the more controversial passages. The matter must be settled, if it can be at all, in the court of responsible and demonstrable exegesis, with full consideration of the canonical, historical, cultural and literary contexts of the text in question.

Bigotry, Ideology, and Informed “Hunches”

In 1977, Catholic scholar Bernadette Brooten published her “shot heard round the world” essay on Junia. Reflecting on the gradual shift in Junia’s presumed gender from female to male during the 2nd millennium of the church, she observes:

What reasons have commentators given for this change? The answer is simple: a woman could not have been an apostle. Because a woman could not have been an apostle, the woman who is here called apostle could not have been a woman.

Brooten is undoubtedly correct.[9] But the question is whether such biased reasoning against Junia’s apostleship is necessarily prejudiced … or whether it could also be justified. Some forms of bias are sheer bigotry, plain and simple. Some forms are ideologically shaped; and we all have such biases.[10] Some are informed by knowledge and familiarity with a subject, rather than mere bigotry or ignorance. That is to say, some forms of bias may be warranted.

Consider John Stott’s fair-minded commentary on Romans 16:7. He questions whether “the apostles,” among whom Andronicus and Junia(s) were possibly ranked, refers to “the commonest New Testament application of the word,” that is, to “the apostles of Christ.” Stott is plausibly biased against this reading, supposing it “impossible … that an otherwise unknown couple have taken their place alongside the apostles Peter, Paul, John and James.”[11] We must confess his reasoning here is sound, especially considering that Junia(s) – a purportedly “outstanding apostle of Christ” – makes no appearance outside of this text in any of the annals of the church.[12]

Of course, plausible reasoning is not enough. We need to consider the details of the text. Rendering to one another a judgment of charity regarding bias, then, let’s look more closely at Romans 16:7.

Junia(s)’s Preferred Pronouns

The earliest Greek manuscripts of our text present the name in question as Iounian(Ἰουνιαν), which we might say is gender ambiguous. However, all subsequent Greek manuscripts that accent the text render the name as feminine (Ἰουνίαν). Unfortunately, both the masculine (Ἰουνιᾶν) and feminine form of the Greek name are scarcely attested in antiquity.[13] For this reason, a sizeable majority of scholars have assumed Iounian  – unlike the Greek name, Andronicus – is a transcription of a Latin name (Junius).[14] The feminine form, Junia, is quite common, though there’s no known instance of a Jewish woman by this name in the first century.[15] Some who argue for a masculine rendering posit that the otherwise unattested Junias is a shortened form of the Latin name Junianus.[16] But this, too, is conjectural. More recently, others have posited that Iounian may be a Hellenized version of a first-century-attested Aramaic name, yḥwny (pronounced yěḥunnī), which is masculine.[17] This is possible, but again speculative.

Whatever the origins of the name, it is significant that other ancient witnesses to Romans 16:7 read Junia(s) as feminine. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, renders Iounian with the standard feminine ending (Judiam), rather than the expected masculine form (Judian). Though the testimony of the church fathers to Romans 16:7 is slender, the patristic commentaries confirm the accented Greek texts and Vulgate: Junia(s) is a she.[18] All things considered, the weight of evidence favors the feminine Junia.

Renowned Apostles?

The other interpretive conundrum in our text concerns the phrase, “notable among the apostles” (episēmos en tois apostolois). There are two questions to be addressed here. First, should the phrase be understood inclusively (i.e., “outstanding among the apostles”), or non-inclusively (i.e., “outstanding in the eyes of the apostles”)? Secondly, should “the apostles” be comprehended in the narrow sense of the term (i.e., the apostles of Christ, Eph.2:20; 3:7-10; 1Co.9:1; 15:5-8, etc.), or more broadly (i.e., commissioned missionaries or messengers of the churches, e.g., 2Co.8:23; Phil.2:25)?[19]

It would appear that most Protestant scholarship has understood the phrase in question inclusively, and taken “the apostles” in the broader or “looser” sense – “little ‘a’ apostles,” we might say.[20] Of course, the determination of truth is not a popularity contest. After all, for the last century a majority of scholars insisted Junia was Junias! So let’s take a closer look.

Inclusive or Non-inclusive?

We begin by noting that all agree both inclusive and non-inclusive readings of the Greek phrase in question are possible. However, the inclusive interpretation (“outstanding among the apostles”) has been the clear favorite. It has been suggested that ever since the renowned Anglican scholar, J.B. Lightfoot, published his comments on Romans 16:7 in 1870, the great majority of subsequent commentators have concluded that the “natural interpretation” of the phrase is inclusive – and that without much argumentation.[21] Recently, however, the well-known Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace and New Testament scholar Michael Burer made the case that the particular grammatical construction involved here[22] not only may be taken non-inclusively (“outstanding in the eyes of the apostles”), but that, against the prevailing view, a non-inclusive sense is “the most natural one.”[23] Their 2001 paper was quickly challenged by Richard Bauckham (2002), Eldon Jay Epp (2002, 2005), and Linda Belleville (2005). In 2015, Michael Burer published a rejoinder to these critiques, backed by further research. In sum, his paper appears to demonstrate:

(1) The argument and evidence from our original article withstands critique. (2) Seventy-one new texts demonstrate that Paul could have readily used … the genitive [rather than the dative] to show that Andronicus and Junia were “notable among the apostles.” (3) Thirty-six new texts, all but one of which parallel Rom 16:7 exactly in grammatical structure, provide further evidence that Paul intended … to mean that Andronicus and Junia were “well known to the apostles.”[24]

If Wallace and Burer’s arguments continue to stand up under scholarly criticism, then perhaps the predominant interpretation of “outstanding among the apostles” will prove to have been wrong as well. Only time will tell. As to the argument that an inclusive reading is more probable because that is how the church fathers read it, we note that 1) their interpretations appear more mixed than is often presented,[25] and 2) it is far from unprecedented that even native speakers could misunderstand an ambiguous grammatical construction.[26]

A Female Apostle?

If a misogynistic prejudice has minimized or even denied the substantial roles of women in the early church, as many have rightfully lamented, then it is also possible for prejudice to run in the opposite direction. Some feminist reconstructions of the early church, both in terms of its evangelical ideal and its social realities, can only be described as anachronistic, if not naïve.[27] Though the apostolic church was remarkably pro-woman,[28] the historical reality remains that, “whether it was the Greco-Roman world of the first century, the early orthodox church, or fringe and heretical groups, women were restricted in their public roles.”[29]

Even if we were to conclude that Junia and Andronicus were in fact counted among “the apostles” – however we define the term – the overwhelming preponderance of historical and cultural evidence indicates that Junia’s role would not have been identical to that of Andronicus.[30] For instance, consider the ancient office of deacon. A strong case can be made that both men and women served as deacons in the early Christian communities (as Phoebe in 16:1 likely illustrates). Yet despite sharing the same title (1Tim.3:8-13),[31] from what we read in the earliest manuals of the church, female deacons fulfilled gender-specific roles distinct from their male counterparts.[32] Egalitarian scholar Craig Keener is realistic when he surmises: “Given the culture, we also cannot be certain as to the sphere of ministry; perhaps Andronicus and Junia each focused on ministry to their own gender.”[33]

What Say Junia’s Earliest Witnesses?

This is further confirmed by two church fathers who are often cited in support of the claim that Junia was an apostle of Christ. Origen of Alexandria provides us with our earliest commentary on Romans 16:7. Evidently understanding Junia to be a woman,[34] he appears to offer both an inclusive and non-inclusive interpretation as possible readings.[35] If the inclusive reading is accurate, Origen hypothesizes, “perhaps” Andronicus and Junia were among the 70/72 disciples sent out from Jesus (Luke 10:1-20)? Yet as jarring as it might seem to us,[36] he elsewhere – even here in his comments on the immediately preceding verse[37] – delimits women’s roles in the church along traditional lines:

Origen evidently confined women’s teaching to other women, for he cited 1 Tim 2:12 and said that it is inappropriate for women to teach men and exert authority over men. Second, he repeatedly stated that female prophets of old (such as Deborah, Huldah, and the daughters of Philip) never spoke publicly in assemblies.[38]

According to Origen, then, if Junia was counted among “the apostles,” this was to be understood in the broader sense of the term, e.g., one of the seventy.[39] Moreover, it is clear Origen would have supposed Junia’s role to be gender-specific, i.e., focused on teaching and discipling women. This is essentially the standard Protestant interpretation summarized above. Yet however we read Origen’s commentary on Romans 16:7, it appears highly implausible that he understood Junia to be a foundational apostle of the church, as some have recently argued.[40]

The second father, and the most remarkable on this question, is John Chrysostom. In his 4th century commentary on Romans, Chrysostom writes:

“Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles: To be an apostle is something great! But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom [philosophia] of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the appellation of apostle.” John Chrysostom (Homily 31)

This extraordinary comment has been often quoted to suggest that even the misogynistic Chrysostom could not avoid the plain meaning of Paul’s text, and was forced to admit the existence of this outstanding woman apostle.[41] However, there are three points of Chrysostom’s text that are especially illuminating to consider here.

First, note the peculiar manner in which he affirms Junia’s apostolic standing: “how great the wisdom of this woman that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” Imagine Paul were commending to the Romans the relatively unknown (to us) apostle Bartholomew, declaring him “outstanding among the apostles.” Wouldn’t it be an odd way for us to respond to this approbation by commenting, “how extraordinary this man’s devotion, that he should be deemed worthy of the appellation of apostle”? This suggests not only that Chrysostom finds its astonishing that a woman would be honored with this title, but that such a title was itself honorary. It is given to her, he supposes, not on the basis of her apparent commission from Christ, or her status as an eye-witness of the resurrection, but according to her “great wisdom.”[42] In other words, Chrysostom construes her inclusion within this distinguished circle as titulary.[43] Such honorary use of religious titles was not uncommon in the world of antiquity.[44]

Secondly, and more decisively, is the broader context of Chrysostom’s statement. Like Origen, Chrysostom qualifies the ministerial functions of women in his earlier comments about Mary in Romans 16:6. He specifically states that her many labors, which were great and praiseworthy, could not have included public teaching, since Paul elsewhere forbade it (specifically referencing 1Timothy 2:12).[45] To turn around, then, and interpret Chrysostom as saying in the same breath that Junia’s supposed apostleship was essentially identical in function to that of Peter and John, or even that of Barnabas and Timothy, is simply bewildering.

Finally, and along the same lines, is another comment Chrysostom makes before turning to Andronicus and Junia. Summarizing his observations regarding the numerous women listed in Romans 16:1-16, he wonderfully writes:

A woman again is honored and proclaimed victorious! Again, are we men put to shame. Or rather, we are not put to shame only, but have even an honor conferred upon us. For an honor we have, in that there are such women among us, but we are put to shame, in that we men are left so far behind by them. … For the women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way, they went travelling with them, and also performed all other ministries.[46]

Amen! How powerful were women in the early church! And how blessed was the church to have them!  At the same time, Chrysostom’s framing of their roles alongside the apostles suggests not only a shared ministry, but also a distinctive one. The last line, Andrea Hartmann writes, “Admittedly can be interpreted in terms of gender-related tasks, meaning the women were serving the apostles by cooking, washing, mending, etc. or sharing their labor for the gospel by specifically ministering to women who the apostles as men could not reach.”[47] Whether the women were simply providing practical support for the apostles, or sharing more substantially in their work through pastoral care and teaching of other women, a “complementarian” reading of Chrysostom here is the most plausible, all things considered.

Conclusion

It is not to be doubted that Junia’s slow transformation over the centuries into Junias was driven in great part by an “androcentric” lens that has systemically minimized and overlooked women in the church. This is truly lamentable. But as I’ve attempted to show, a misogynistic bigotry isn’t the only bias shaping the church’s reading of Romans 16:7. There are cogent and compelling reasons to question the recent claim, “We may firmly conclude…that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity was a woman and wife” (James Dunn).

As noted above, though “apostle” is typically used by Paul in its official and narrow meaning, it strains the bounds of credulity to suppose that Andronicus and Junia, “a couple who on the most favorable estimate, occur once in the middle of a list and have left in history and tradition no other evidence of their existence, still less of their apostleship, and least of all of their leading role in the apostolic group,”[48] should be understood as “outstanding among the apostles” in the technical or narrow sense of the term. Assuming an inclusive meaning of the phrase, “notable among the apostles,” the most historically plausible explanation is to understand “apostles” according to its broader use, and as entailing a differentiation of male and female roles. Far from a modern innovation, such an interpretation is consistent with the historic understanding of the church.[49] Of course, it is also very possible that Paul’s meaning was non-inclusive, and that Andronicus and Junia were notable to the apostles, preserving the “commonest New Testament application of the word” (John Stott).

Whoever Junia was, we can all agree that she was an extraordinary woman, worthy of high, apostolic praise. We desperately need more women like her in the ministries of our churches (and men like Andronicus). Have we put up unnecessary barriers to women on their path to serving the church? What barriers might persist among us?

Often it’s not simply what we teach, but what we emphasize that shapes our cultures. Whether by some misogynistic bent or cultural-war reflex, the church has all-too-often highlighted texts curtailing women’s roles in public ministry (e.g., 1Tim 2:12; 1Co 14:34-35; 1Co 11:3-16; etc.) while sidelining those that speak to the crucial role women played within the apostolic teams (e.g., Ro 16:1-16; Phil 4:2-3; John 20:11-18; Acts 16:13–15; 18:26; etc.). Having said this, it would be a grave mistake to pit one group of texts against another, as though the Word of God was incoherent or self-contradictory. Rather, following the example of the church fathers,[50] we must integrate our understanding of texts like 1 Tim 2:12 with texts like Romans 16:1-7. We must hold them together. I submit that a biblical complementarianism will honor the gendered boundaries of ministry, as articulated by the apostle Paul; it will also be embodied in rich and robust gospel-partnerships with a multiplicity of women ministers,[51] whether official deacons, missionaries, church staff or lay leaders, as regularly practiced by Paul and his teams.


[1] Most scholars agree that “my fellow kinsmen” (συγγενεῖς μου) is a reference to their shared Jewish ethnicity. 

[2] In her controversial book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth, Beth Allison Barr writes: “Most people who attend complementatrian churches don’t realize that the ESV translation of Junia as “well known to the apostles” instead of “prominent among the apostles” was a deliberate move to keep women out of leadership (Romans 16:7),” 69. Similarly, Linda Belleville contends, “The sole basis [of this first reading over the second] is a theological and functional predisposition against the naming of a woman among the first-century cadre of apostles.” “Ἰουνίαν … ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις: A Rexamination of Romans 16.7 in Light of Primary Source Materials,” NTS 51 (2005): 248.

[3] James Dunn charges, “The assumption that [Iουνίαν] must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity (see, e.g., Schlatter, Lietzmann, Althaus, Gaugler, Michel, Murray, Schlier),” Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 38b: Romans 9-16, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1998). Most colorful is Scot McKnight’s indictment of a “sex-change operation by redaction” in Junia Is Not Alone (Englewood, CO: Patheos, 2011) 91.

[4] Bernadette Brooten, “Junia … Outstanding Among the Apostles (Romans 16:7),” Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declarations, ed. Leonard Swidler and Arlene Swidler (New York: Paulist, 1977), 143. In her fiery post, “The Apostle Junia” (accessed 8/6/22), Church History PhD candidate Bridget Jack Jeffries declares, “There is a female apostle in the Bible named Junia … Anyone who opposes the ordination of women needs to reconcile their theology of ordination with that fact.” See also Barr, Making of Biblical Womanhood, 67.

[5] Tertullian, “And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die.” De Cultu Feminarium, 1.

Origen, “Men should not sit and listen to a woman . . . even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since it came from the mouth of a woman.” Fragments on 1 Corinthians

John Chrysostom writes, “. . . the [female] sex is weak and fickle . . .” Homily 9 on First Timothy. “God maintained the order of each sex by dividing the business of life into two parts, and assigned the more necessary and beneficial aspects to the man and the less important, inferior matter to the woman.” The Kind of Women who ought to be taken as Wives.

St. Augustine comments, “. . . the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one,” De Genesi ad literam Book 11.42. Or again, “. . . woman was given to man, woman who was of small intelligence and who perhaps still lives more in accordance with the promptings of the inferior flesh than by superior reason. Is this why the apostle Paul does not attribute the image of God to her?” De Genesi ad literatum 11.42

St Albertus Magnus wrote, “Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good,” Quaestiones super de animalibus XV q.11.

Similarly, St. Aquinas (echoing the Aristotle) wrote, “As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. Such as that of a south wind, which is moist, as the Philosopher observes” (On the Generation of Animal 4.2).” However, Aquinas adds, “… as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature’s intention as directed to the work of generation,” Summa Theologica, Vol. I, Q. 92, Art. 1, Reply to Objection 1.

Martin Luther wrote, “Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children,” Table Talk (LW 54:8). Commenting on the creation account, he writes: “For woman seems to be a creature somewhat different from man, in that she has dissimilar members, a varied form and a mind weaker than man. Although Eve was a most excellent and beautiful creature, like unto Adam in reference to the image of God, that is with respect to righteousness, wisdom and salvation, yet she was a woman. For as the sun is more glorious than the moon, though the moon is a most glorious body, so woman, though she was a most beautiful work of God, yet she did not equal the glory of the male creature.” Commentary on Genesis, Chapter 2, Part V, 27b.

[6] Redeeming Power (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2020), 95-96.

[7] As have prejudices of ethnocentrism and antisemitism … and an innumerable array of self-regarding, self-centering and self-justifying biases.

[8] An ad hominem type fallacy is prevalent here on both sides, e.g., “you’re a culturally compromised egalitarian, or worse, a despiser of biblical authority, and therefore you’re suppressing the text’s natural meaning.”

[9] E.g., Renowned text-critic, Bruce Metzger, commenting on the Greek text of Romans 16:7, writes: “Ἰουνίαν; On the basis of the weight of manuscript evidence the Committee was unanimous in rejecting Ἰουλίαν (see also the next variant in ver. 15) in favor of Ἰουνιαν, but was divided as to how the latter should be accented. Some members, considering it unlikely that a woman would be among those styled “apostles,” understood the name to be masculine Ἰουνιᾶν (“Junias”), thought to be a shortened form of Junianus (see Bauer-Aland, Wörterbuch, pp. 770 f.). Others, however, were impressed by the facts that (1) the female Latin name Junia occurs more than 250 times in Greek and Latin inscriptions found in Rome alone, whereas the male name Junias is unattested anywhere, and (2) when Greek manuscripts began to be accented, scribes wrote the feminine Ἰουνίαν (“Junia”). (For recent discussions, see R. R. Schulz in Expository Times, iic (1986–87), pp. 108–110; J. A. Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible Commentary, 1993), pp. 737 f.; and R. S. Cervin in New Testament Studies, xl (1994), pp. 464–470.)  The “A” decision of the Committee must be understood as applicable only as to the spelling of the name Ἰουνιαν, not the accentuation,” Textual Commentary on the Greek NT on Romans 16:7. So despite its lack of nuance, Barr is not entirely off-base in writing, Junia became Junias because modern Christians assumed that only a man could be an apostle,” Biblical Womanhood, 67. However, such logic in interpreting Romans 16:7 wasn’t unique to modern readers, as we’ll see.

[10] Brooten’s own ideological bias is evident in the conclusion of her paper, published in a book entitled, Women Priests, cited above in fn.4.

[11] The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994) 395-396. Similarly, E.E. Ellis writes, “They have sometimes been identified as ‘apostles of Christ,’ but that meaning is precluded by the descriptions: (1) This otherwise unknown couple could hardly be described, in comparison with Peter, James or even Paul himself, as ‘outstanding among the apostles of Christ.’ (2) Also, if they were “apostles of Christ,” the phrase “who were in Christ before me” would be a meaningless redundancy (cf. 1 Cor 15:8),” History and Interpretation in New Testament Perspective (Society of Biblical Literature, 2001), 91.

[12] Aside, of course, from commentaries on Romans 16:7. Regarding ecclesiastical lists of the apostles, Esther Yue L. Ng writes, “Actually, the early Church Fathers either stated that they did not possess a list of the 70 or 72 disciples sent by Jesus (e.g. Eusebius) or treated them as male. For instance, one such list from Pseudo-Hippolytus only recorded male names (including Andronicus but not Junia); Clementine Recognitions compared these 70 disciples to the 70 elders chosen by Moses, and these elders were certainly men (Exod 24:1). By the 4th century, Epiphanius explicitly stated that the apostles were male. As for Eusebius, though he did mention the names of some biblical women, he never mentioned Junia nor suggested that there were female apostles,” “WAS JUNIA(S) IN ROM 16:7 A FEMALE APOSTLE? AND SO WHAT?” JETS, 63.3 (2020), 524-25.

[13] A search of all Greek writings from Homer to the 5th century AD through the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, containing 2,889 authors and 8,203 works yielded only three instances of the name: one in Plutarch, clearly referencing a woman named Junia. The other two refer to the person in question from Romans 16:7 (pseudo-Epiphanius and Chyrsostom), one of which names them Iounias, and refers to them with a masculine pronoun (Index disciplulorum, 125.19-20). See Grudem, Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), 79. It should be noted, however, that the pseudo-Epiphanius’ Index disciplulorum is historically dubious. The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae classfies it as “spurious”, explaining the “[the] authenticity of the work is generally rejected” (p. 128, 152). Hence its witness is moot. 

[14] “It seems that up to 2008, scholars almost without exception regarded Ἰουνίαν as a Greek transcription of a Latin name, since Junius was a common Latin nomen gentilicum (hereditary surname), and women belonging to this family either by heredity or as a slave or freedwoman often bore the personal name Junia. … Many scholars have noted that the Latin feminine name Junia and the corresponding Greek name Ἰουνία appear often (250 times) in texts and inscriptions, whereas there is no attestation for Junias as a masculine Latin name, nor Ἰουνίας as its corresponding Greek name,” Esther Yue L. Ng, “WAS JUNIA(S) IN ROM 16:7 A FEMALE APOSTLE?,”JETS, 519, 521.

[15] “According to Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, there is no evidence of Jewish women named Junia or Julia in literary texts or inscriptions in first-century Palestine. In the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, only two inscriptions in Palestine mentioned women named Julia, and the name Junia still did not appear. As for Jews that used Aramaic or Arabic in Syria and Mesopotamia, from 330 BC to AD 650, there is no literary or epigraphical source that mentioned Jewish women named Junia or Julia. However, for the same period of history, Jews in the Western Diaspora apparently had different tastes or rules in naming women: Ilan’s database has 29 Jewish women named Julia, some of whom were active in the first century; four were named Juliana. As for the name Junia, three cases were cited by Ilan: (1) in Rom 16:7; (2) on an inscription in Rome from the 3rd–4th century AD; (3) on an inscription in Rome of uncertain date and doubtful Jewish identity,” Ibid. 521-22.

[16] “Scholars also generally agree that the masculine Latin name Junius would be transcribed into Greek as Ἰουνίος with as the accusative case and not Ἰουνίαν. It has been suggested that if referred to a male in Rom 16:7, his Latin name might have been Junianus, shortened in Greek as Ἰουνιᾶς in the nominative and in the accusative. This may be the reason why the United Bible Societies placed Ἰουνιᾶν in the Greek text in their 1966 to 1993 editions,” Esther Yue L. Ng, Ibid., 519.

[17] Al Wolters, “ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ (Romans 16:7) and the Hebrew Name Yěḥunnī JBL 127.2 (2008): 397-408. See also David P. Scaer, “Was Junia a Female Apostle? Maybe Not,” CTQ 73.1 (2009): 76. This hypothesis could also account for the Latin Vulgate’s feminine rendering, Judiam. See Esther Yue L. NG., Ibid., 520-21. Some have argued that Junia was the Latin name the of the early Jewish believer, Joanna (Bauckham, Witherington). However, Luke tells us that Joanna was married to a man named Chuza (Luke 8:3), making an identification with this woman attached to Andronicus questionable.

[18] Brooten: “The earliest commentator on Romans 16:7, Origen of Alexandria (e. 185-253/54), took the name to be feminine (Junta or Julia, which is a textual variant), as did Jerome (340/50-419/20), Hatto of Vercelli (924-961), Theophylact (c.1050-c.1108), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142). In fact, to the best of my knowledge, no commentator on the text until Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine. Without commenting on his departure from previous commentators, Aegidius simply referred to the two persons mentioned in Romans 16:7 as “these honorable men” (viri). Aegidius noted that there were two variant readings for the second name: Juniam and Juliam (accusative in the verse). He preferred the reading Juliam and took it to be masculine,” Junia, 141. The two clear counter-examples cited from pseudo-Epiphanius (Index of Disciples)– referring to both “Junias” and Prisca(!) with masculine pronouns – and a likely corrupted version (dated from the 12th century) of Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen’s Greek commentary on Romans – identifying Junia with the masculine Latin Junias – are both of questionable historical reliability.

[19] As Douglas Moo writes, “many scholars on both sides of this issue are guilty of accepting too readily a key supposition in this line of reasoning: that ‘apostle’ here refers to an authoritative leadership position such as that held by the ‘Twelve’ and by Paul. In fact, Paul often uses the title ‘apostle’ in a ‘looser’ sense: sometimes simply to denote a ‘messenger’ or ‘emissary’ and sometimes to denote a ‘commissioned missionary.’” “The Epistle to the Romans,” NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 923.

[20] Moo is representative here (923-24). In support of his reading, he cites Calvin, Godet, Lightfoot, Michel, Käsemann, Cranfield, Wilkens, Fitzmyer (Jesuit scholar), Meeks, and Schlier. To this list we might add Sanday and Headlam, Mounce, Kostenberger, Thistleton, Schreiner and as already noted above, Stott and Ellis. Some notable, reformation-era exceptions are Martin Luther (who understood Junia(s) to be a man), Peter Martyr Vermigli and Theodare Beza (who both interpreted the phrase non-inclusively).

[21] Lightfoot writes, “Except to escape the difficulty involved in such an extension of the apostolate, I do not think the words [in question] would have been generally rendered, ‘who are highly esteemed by the Apostles.’” Daniel Wallace and Michael Burer comment, “Although Lightfoot offers no support other than that the inclusive view was adopted by the Greek fathers, his reputation as a careful grammatical exegete was legendary…,” M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001), 80. Douglas Moo offers a more substantive attempt to justify his conclusion that “it is more natural to translate ‘esteemed among the apostles” with the following footnote: “With a plural object, en often means “among”; and if Paul had wanted to say that Andronicus and Junia were esteemed “by” the apostle, we would have expected to use a dative or upo with the genitive,” Ibid., 923, fn.39. However, see Wallace and Burer, 85ff.

[22] ἐπίσημοι + ἐν + dative plural noun.

[23] Specifically, “the collocation of ἐπίσημος with its adjuncts shows that, as a rule, ἐπίσημος with a genitive personal adjunct indicates an inclusive comparison (“outstanding among”), while ἐπίσημος with (ἐν plus) the personal dative indicates an elative notion without the implication of inclusion (“well-known to”),” Burer and Wallace, 76.

[24] Michael Burer, ἘΠΙΣΗΜΟΙ ἘΝ ΤΟΙΣ ἈΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΙΣ In Rom 16:7 As “Well Known To The Apostles”: Further Defense And New Evidence. JETS 58 (2015): 731.

[25] See David Huttar, “DID PAUL CALL ANDRONICUS AN APOSTLE IN ROMANS 16:7?” JETS (December 2009), 760-778.

[26] Yii-Jan Lin, who argues against Burer and Wallace’s thesis, contends “that the “ἐπίσημος plus ἐν plus dative construct is ambiguous. Inclusivity or exclusivity [i.e., non-inclusivity] is assigned to it, or any other related example, based on subject and group. The context, not construction, determines whether one takes an inclusive/exclusive reading.” Matt H. Hamilton, “Junia as a Female Apostle in Romans 16:7: A Literature Review of Relevant Sources from 2010 to Present,” Eleutheria, Vol.6, Iss 1, June 2022. Of course, egalitarians are quick to question Chrysostom’s grasp of Paul’s meaning in 1Tim 2:12-15, especially as summarized in his comment: “The woman taught once, and ruined all,” (Homily 9 on 1 Timothy).

[27] E.g., John Elliot writes, “The claim that the Jesus movement was egalitarian involves flawed reasoning and an anachronistic, ethnocentric, and ideologically-driven reading of the New Testament. Feminist scholars including Mary Rose D’Angelo (1992), Amy-Jill Levine (1994), and Kathleen E. Corley (1998), are likewise rejecting the egalitarian theory, objecting, inter alia, to its lack of historical support and its isolation of Jesus from his Israelite matrix,” in “Jesus Was Not an Egalitarian. A Critique of an Anachronistic and Idealist Theory” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology, p. 90 (32.2.2002). Or again, Charles Cosgrove writes: “Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels treats women in ways that go against the status quo; his practice transgresses the cultural norms and boundaries that define gender relations and women’s proper roles in societyLikewise, Paul counts women as his partners, as patrons, as prophets, and apostles; and he teaches his churches that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. Nevertheless, there are no direct prophetic admonitions or arguments in the Gospels or Paul’s letters calling for new social relations between men and women. Apart from Gospel stories that might be taken as exemplary for Christians (e.g., Jesus with Martha and Mary), instructions on discipleship and community life do not include calls for egalitarian gender practice.” Appealing to Scripture in Moral Debate: Five Hermeneutical Rule (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 187. Regarding the supposed egalitarianism of Paul, Richard Hays, throwing no little shade toward the apostle, writes, “In his missionary work he joyfully acknowledges the contributions of female colleagues, fellow “workers in the Lord.” Yet in some passages, such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, he insists — with labored and unpersuasive theological arguments — on the maintenance of traditional markers of sexual distinction; despite the ingenious efforts of exegetes at the end of the twentieth century, it is impossible to deny the hierarchical implications of such symbolic markers.” The Moral Vision of the New Testament:  A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (HarperSanFrancisco; 1996), p. 55.

[28] As Karl Barth notes regarding Paul’s commendation of a certain “Mary” in Romans 16:6, “To praise the woman because of her labors among the readers of the Epistle would be altogether foreign to the context, and would, moreover, also be in itself quite exceptional,” The Epistle to the Romans (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 535, fn.3.

[29] Esther Y. L. Ng, “WAS JUNIA(S) IN ROM 16:7 A FEMALE APOSTLE?,”ETS, 531-32.

[30] Let alone Paul, Peter, John, etc. The church fathers consistently appealed to 1 Cor 14:34–35 and 1Tim 2:12 in differentiating male and female roles, explicitly stating that women never publicly taught men in the church nor should (see Esther Y. L Ng, “WAS JUNIA(S) IN ROM 16:7. A FEMALE APOSTLE,” 528-30). Furthermore, “Even … Tertullian who turned to Montanism [an “unusually egalitarian” charismatic movement with two prominent female leaders, Maximilla and Priscilla] stated that a female prophet who often saw visions in his church would only relate to the church leaders in private after the service concerning what she actually saw. Similarly certain church manuals or orders restricted the sphere of the ministry of women (including widows, virgins, and deacons), such as serving women alone, or leaving to male leaders the responsibility of teaching deeper doctrine. Furthermore, even in apocryphal writings outside the orthodox church, the ministry of certain prominent women was still carried out within constraints. For instance, Thecla in the Acts of Paul apparently only preached to women, such as the rich woman Tryphaena and her maidservant,” Ibid., 530.

[31] Lynn Cohick writes that we should “assume, unless warranted otherwise, that a title carries the same meaning and responsibilities whether attached to a man or a woman,” Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 214. It would appear that in this case we are warranted otherwise.

[32] See Didascalia (3rd century) and the Apostolic Constitutions (4th century). Cf. Clement of Alexandria’s comments regarding the roles of the apostles’ wives in 1Cor 9:5 (Strom. 3.6.53.3–4). Cf. the “office” of widow in 1Timothy 5:9-16; and the general pattern reflected in Titus 2:12.

[33] “Romans,” New Covenant Commentary (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009), 187. However, noting  Acts 16:13–1518:26, he highlights the fact that such a general division of labor would not have been cut and dry.

[34] Commentary on Romans, 10.21.1-27; 10.26.1-7, 10.39.41-47. Cf. the likely corrupted version of Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen referenced in fn. 17.

[35] See David Huttar, 763-71. See also Ng, 527-28.

[36] Valintin Fàbrega, in “War Junia(s), der hervorragende Apostel (Rom 16.7), eine Frau?,” JAC 27 (1984), 60, understood Origen’s second interpretation here to presuppose a male identity for Junia(s) because of the imagined implication, and so “seemed to be surprised that Origen did not clarify his self-contradiction,” Ng, 524, fn.28.

[37] “In his exposition on Rom 16:6, Origen referred to Mary’s labor along gender lines (alluding to Titus 2:4–5; 1 Tim 5:10),” Ng., 531. To be specific, Origen writes: “Paul is teaching here that women too ought to work for the churches of God. They work when they teach children how to behave, when they love their husbands, when they feed their children, when they are modest and chaste, when they keep a good household, when they are kind, when they are submissive to their husbands, when they exercise hospitality, when they wash the feet of the saints, and when they do all the other things which are allotted to women in the Bible.”

[38] Ng., 524. See also https://womeninthechurch.co.uk/2015/03/16/origen-on-1-corinthians-14-re-montanists/ (accessed 7/31/22).

[39] Huttar cites Eusebius’ repeated distinction between the twelve apostles and the uncatalogued “seventy disciples,” 772-72. See also Recognitions of Clement 1.40.

[40] E.g., Brooten, Junia; Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, “Missionaries, Apostles, Co-workers: Romans 16 and the Reconstruction of Women’s Early Christian History,” Feminist Theology: A Reader (Lousiville, KY: Westminster, 1990), 57-71.

[41] Andrea Hartmann, “Junia – A Woman Lost in Translation: The Name IOYNIAN in Romans 16:7 and its History of Interpretation,” Open Theology 2020; 6: 650.

[42] Perhaps this is what he’s getting at when he says of them, “But they were of note [among the apostles] owing to their works, to their achievements.” 31.3. Similarly, speaking of Mary in Rom 16:6, he describes her work as “carrying on the race Apostles and Evangelists ran.”

[43] Chrysostom’s use of “appellation” (προσηγορίας) here is also suggestive along these lines. Interestingly, within Eastern Orthodoxy a number of women (e.g., Mary Magdalene, Thekla, Helena and Nina) are praised as “equal to the apostles.”

[44] In Greco-Roman Jewish communities, for example, women and even children could carry the title, “ruler of the synagogue,” though it is clear they did not function as such. See Tessa Rajak and David Noy, “Archisynagogoi: Office, Titles and Social Status in the Greco-Roman Synagogues,” JRS 83 (1993): 75–93; Riet Van Bremen, The Limits of Participation: Women and Civic Life in the Greek East in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods (Amsterdam: Gieben, 1996); Lee Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 390–402, and 406 (on the title “Mother” [Mater] of synagogues).

[45] Homily 31.2 (Migne, PG 51.668)

[46] Ibid.

[47] Hartmann, 650.

[48] John Hunwicke, “Junia Among the Apostles,” Touchstone (October, 2008). It is also noteworthy that none of the fathers evidence any knowledge of Junia and her presumed “great works/wisdom” apart from Paul’s reference here in Romans 16:7.

[49]As Esther Y. L. Ng concludes, “Evidently, even early Church Fathers holding the “inclusive” view did not treat the apostolic ministry of Junia as identical with that of male apostles. “WAS JUNIA(S) IN ROM 16:7. A FEMALE APOSTLE,” 531.

[50] Note Origen’s (PG 14.1280) and Chrysostom’s (PG 51.668) exposition of Romans 16.

[51] I’m using “ministers” here in the biblical sense of the term, and less its technical, ecclesiastical sense.

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