Junia the Apostle

Questions have been raised about Junia’s identity, occupation, and her gender—the author not only investigates the answers but also the implications.

Nancy Vyhmeister, EdD, is a retired professor and editor residing in Yucaipa, California, United States

The name Junia appears only once in the New Testament (NT). She is mentioned in a list of friends and coworkers in Rome to whom Paul sent greetings recorded in Romans 16. Through the years, questions have been raised about her identity, occupation, and especially her gender. In this article, we will look at some of these questions and also the implications of the answers.

Junia

The Greek of Romans 16:7 reads as follows: “Greet Andronicus and Junia who are my relatives and fellow prisoners, who are recognized in/by/among the apostles and were in Christ before me.”I have placed Junia, the phrase in/by/among, and the word apostles in italics because the identity of Junia is found in the interpretation of these words.

In Greek, all nouns take on recognized endings to show their case, that is, their function in the sentence. Here both Andronicus and Junia appear in the accusative case, as objects of the active verb “greet.” A masculine noun, the object of a verb, makes the form Andrónikon, which appears in this verse. The other name, Iounian, also in the accusative, is problematic. 

The difference between the masculine Iouniān and the feminine Iounían is only an accent. In truth, the oldest manuscripts, the uncials, are written in capital letters, without accents. Hence both genders would be given as IONIAN, leaving the reader to decide which gender Junia was.

To elucidate the gender of Junia, we will consider the use of the name in antiquity, the references to Junia by early Christian writers, and the name in ancient Greek NT manuscripts as well as in Greek New Testaments.

The name Junia in antiquity 

In spite of the statement by Wayne Grudem and John Piper that Junia was not a common female name in the Greek-speaking world,Junia was a  commonly used female Roman name;  it meant “youthful.” Derived from the  goddess Juno, the name appears more than 250 times in Rome in first-century  records alone.3
There Junia is often found on tombstones.The name also appears in first-century inscriptions in Ephesus, Didyma, Lydia, Troas, and Bythinia.The best-known Junia is the half-sister of Brutus and wife of Cassius.6

Were the name masculine, it should have been Junias in Greek, or Junius in Latin. The name Junius is well attested. However, no attestation for Junias exists
in any “inscription, letterhead, piece of writing, epitaph or literary work of the New Testament period.”Some have suggested that Iouniās would have been a short form of Iounianós, but that name is not evident either.According to Linda Belleville, “Iouniās as a contraction of Iounianós originates in the Englishspeaking world with Thayer” in 1885.9 

Early Christian references

In his commentary on Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer listed 16 Christian Greek and Latin writers of the first millennium who understood Junia in Romans 16:7 to be a woman. Among these, the earliest is Origen (ca. 185–254), whose commentary on Romans was translated by Rufinus (ca. 345–410) into Latin, and quoted by Rabanus Maurus (ca. 776–856).10 In his Liber de Nominibus Hebraicis, Jerome (ca. 345–419) lists the name as Junia.11

From John Chrysostom (ca. 344–407) to Peter Abelard (1079–1142), Greek and Latin commentators on the Epistle to the Romans used the feminine name Junia. The only exceptions: Ambrosiaster (late fourth century) and Atto of Vercelli (925‒960) used Julia, a female.12

Those who want Junia to be a male have made much of the Index Discipulorum, attributed to Epiphanius (ca. 315–403), where the masculine Junias appears. However, Belleville notes that Epiphanius also calls Priscilla a male and makes her a bishop of Colophon, while her husband Aquila was bishop of Heraclea—two very different locations. “Both the gender confusion and the disparate locations call into question the overall reliability of the document,” Belleville concludes.13

Aegidius of Rome (1245–1316) was the first church writer to make Andronicus and Junia “those honorable men.”14 Interestingly, this corresponds to the time when Pope Boniface VIII, well remembered for his difficulties with Dante, decreed in 1298 that all nuns were to be permanently cloistered.15

Junia in ancient Greek NT manuscripts

Whether the scribe of an uncial manuscript meant to write Iounían or Iouniān would be immaterial. The letters would be capitalized and unaccented: IONIAN. The gender of this person must be found elsewhere.

Minuscule manuscripts began to appear after the seventh century. In fact, uncial manuscripts were recopied in minuscule, forcing the use of accents. These manuscripts had Iounían, making Junia feminine. According to Eldon Epp, no Greek minuscule manuscripts used the masculine Iouniān.16

The UBS Greek New Testament notes at least 20 minuscule NT manuscripts that use the feminine Iounían. Among them, the oldest are 081 (from 1044) and 104 (from 1087). The latest is 2200 from the fourteenth century.17

More than once, in NT manuscripts and writings about this chapter, the name in verse 7 is given as Julia, who appears later in Romans 16:15. This can be seen in P46, an uncial manuscript from about the year 200.18 In any case, Julia is a feminine name.

Richard Bauckham surmises that Junia of Romans 16:7 is Ioanna of Luke 8:3 and 24:10. Her Roman name would be easier to pronounce, and her relation with Jesus would certainly put her as a Christian before Paul. Andronicus was either a second husband or a Roman name taken by Chuza.19

The name in printed Greek New Testaments

According to Epp’s table, 38 Greek New Testaments, beginning with Erasmus (1516) through Eberhard Nestle in 1920, use the name Iounían, indicating feminine gender for Junia. During those centuries, there is only one exception: Alford in the nineteenth century uses the masculine form but puts the feminine in the apparatus.20

From the Nestle version of 1927 through the UBS Greek New Testament of 1993, only the Hodges-Farstad New Testament of 1982 uses the feminine; the other 14 versions use the masculine, often without an alternate explanation in the apparatus. This trend is reversed with the 1994 Kurt Aland and the UBS 1998 versions, which return to the feminine with no alternate reading.21

Junia in modern language translations

The seven earliest English versions, from Tyndale (1525–1534) to the KJV (1611), all have Junia as a woman. From the Revised Version (1881) until the New Living Translation (1996), 21 English translations have the masculine, while 10 have the feminine.22 Of this tendency, Scot McKnight notes ruefully: Junia Is Not Alone; women, he says, have not taken or been allowed their proper place in ministry.23

Some recent English translations still have the masculine, no doubt because their parent translations did so, and the masculine form was in the Greek NT from which these versions were translated. Such are the French Louis Segond, the Spanish Biblia de las Américas, the 1995 revision of the Spanish Reina-Valera, the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and The Message, among others. One wonders, however, how much the translator’s bias is shown in such a translation.

Notable among or noticed by

The Greek phrase episēmoi en has been problematic to some. Is Junia one of the apostles? Or is she recognized by the apostles? The Latin Vulgata has Junia as “notable among the apostles (nobiles in apostolis).”

John Chrysostom wrote the fol­lowing on Andronicus and Junia in his comment on Romans 16:7:

Who are of note among the Apostles. And indeed to be apostles at all is a great thing. But to be even amongst these of note, just consider what a great encomium this is! But they were of note owing to their works, to their achievements. Oh! how great is the devotion (philosophia) of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation apostle!24

Very little discussion on the issue of Junia’s apostleship appears until late in the nineteenth century. William Sanday and Arthur Headlam noted in their 1895 commentary on Romans: 

Junia is of course a common Roman name and in that case the two would probably be husband and wife; Junias on the other hand is less usual as a man’s name. . . . If, as is probable, Andronicus and Junias are included among the apostles . . . , then it is more prob­able that the name is masculine.25

The adjective episēmoi refers to something that has a distinguishing mark, as in stamped precious metal. The word may be used to signal that a thing or person is considered very good, as in Romans 16:7, or very bad, as when it is applied to Barabbas in Matthew 27:16 where the NRSV translates “notorious.”26

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the word refers to something of note, a thing or person who is eminent or worthy of attention.27 The word could also be translated “notable.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains has this definition: “Pertaining to being well known or outstanding, either because of positive or negative characteristics— ‘outstanding,’ ‘famous,’ ‘notorious,’ ‘infamous.’”28

Beginning around 1900, the idea that the name was Junia, a woman, esteemed by the apostles, was cir­culated in commentaries by several authors.29 Since it was understood that only a man could be an apostle, Junia could not be an apostle, but she could be esteemed by the apostles.

In 1994, the Textual Commentary to the UBS Greek New Testament noted the following: “Some members [of the UBS Committee], considering it unlikely that a woman would be among those styled ‘apostles,’ under­stood the name to be masculine.”30

It is immediately apparent that the crux of the issue is the understanding of the preposition en, which can be variously translated as “in,” “among,” “on,” or even “with” or “by.”31 The word denotes location and means and  is normally followed by a word in the dative case, as is tois apostólois here.

Which meaning does en have here? Are Andronicus and Junia recognized as being apostles? Were they notable among the apostles? This is the inclu­sive view. Or are they recognized by the apostles as notable outsiders, not as apostles? This is the exclusive view.

In 2001, Michael Burer and Daniel Wallace presented a reexamination of Romans 16:7. They proposed that Junia was a woman and that she and Andronicus were admired by the apostles. After noting what they per­ceived to be an error of those who took the inclusive position, they found evi­dence for their own exclusive position in the study of ancient documents.32 Episēmoi en toīs apostdlois must mean “notable to the apostles.”

Three major responses to their paper came from Bauckham, Belleville, and Epp.33

Bauckham analyzed the study by Burer and Wallace and challenged their findings.34 Belleville replicated the study of Burer and Wallace and gave biblical evidence to show their error. She showed that the preposition en plus the dative is normally inclusive. For example, Matthew 2:6: Bethlehem is by no means least “ ‘among the rul­ers of Judah’ ” (NRSV). She also found Hellenistic parallels of the phrase episēmoi en toīs, which clearly are inclusive. In Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead 438, she found one exact parallel to Romans 16:7: “Most distinguished among whom were our rich country­man Ismenodorus and. . . .”35 Further she found instances of poor research techniques and mistaken reporting.36 Belleville’s conclusion was clear: Junia was a woman and one of the apostles.37 In 2002, Eldon Epp wrote an extensive article that became the basis for his 2005 book, Junia: The First Woman Apostle.38 In it he made a well-documented case for Junia as a woman and one of the apostles.

The apostles

The question of who are these apostles arises. Obviously, these are not the Twelve. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul makes reference to the spiritual gift of apostleship. Had Andronicus and Junia received this gift? We know very little except the meaning of the word apostolos: “one who is sent.” If Andronicus and Junia were sent or commissioned, who sent her?

Whatever the specific meaning of the word, apostles make up a spe­cial group of people who carried out Christ’s mission, much as Paul did. Richard Bauckham suggests that Paul refers to apostles of Christ, like himself, who have been commissioned by the risen Christ, and who, together with the Twelve of the Synoptics, form a larger group.39 Origen stated that Andronicus and Junia were among the seventy-two sent out by Jesus.40

John of Damascus (ca. 675?–749) noted about Junia: “To be called ‘apostles’ is a great thing. . . . But to be even amongst these of note, just consider what a great encomium this is.”41

Ute Eisen points out: “In the Liturgikon, the missal of the Byzantine Church, Junia is honored to this day . . . as an apostle, together with fifty-six male apostles and the two ‘like to the apostles,’ Mary Magdalene and Thecla.”42

Craig Keener observes the following:

It is also unnatural to read the text as merely claiming that they had a high reputation with “the apostles.” Since they were imprisoned with him, Paul knows them well enough to recommend them without appealing to the other apostles, whose judgment he never cites on such matters. . . . Paul nowhere limits the apostolic com­pany to the Twelve plus himself, as some have assumed (see especially 1 Cor. 15:5-11). Those who favor the view that Junia was not a female apostle do so because of their prior assumption that women could not be apostles, not because of any evidence in the text.43

Conclusion

It is difficult to complete this study without finding that Paul is referring to a woman named Junia, who, together with Andronicus (probably her hus­band), was part of the NT group of apostles. Paul recognized her as one of the apostles, a woman who was willing to suffer for the gospel she was busily spreading.

References:

1 Author’s translation.

2 Wayne Grudem and John Piper, “An Overview of Central Concerns,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 79–81. Grudem and Piper claimed they found only three occurrences of this name in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database, whereas Linda Belleville found seven. See Linda Belleville, “’Iounian .. ’epísēmoi ’en toīs ’apostólois: A Re-examination of Romans 16.7 in Light of Primary Source Materials,” New Testament Studies 51 (2005): 231–249.

3 Joyce Salisbury, Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001), s.v. “Junia.”

4 Linda Belleville, “Women Leaders in the Bible,” in Discovering Biblical Equality, ed. Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 117.

5 Ibid.; see also Belleville, “Re-examination,” 241.

6 Belleville, “Re-examination,” 234.

7 Belleville, “Women Leaders,” 117.

8 Eldon Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005)26–28.

9 Belleville, “Re-examination,” 239.

10 Joseph Fitzmyer, Romans, vol. 33 of The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 737, 738.

11 Jerome, Liber de Nominibus Hebraicis, Migne Patrologia Romana, column 895, accessed May 14, 2013, www .documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0347-0420,_ Hieronymus,_Liber_De_Nominibus_Hebraicis,_MLT.pdf; there Junia is wrongly listed under the epistle of James, but the footnote indicates that the name really appears in Romans.

12 Ute Eisen, Women Officeholders in Early Christianity: Epigraphical and Literary Studies, trans. Linda Maloney (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), 47.

13 Belleville, “Re-examination,” 235.

14 Bernadette Brooten, “Junia ... Outstanding Among the Apostles,” in Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, ed. Leonard Swidler and Arlene Swidler (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), www.womenpriests.org /classic/brooten.asp.

15 Eisen, Women Officeholders, 47, who footnotes Brooten, “Junia . . . Outstanding Among the Apostles,” 141–144; Elizabeth Makowski, Canon Law and Cloistered Women: “Periculoso” and Its Commentators, 1298–1545 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1999); Dianne McDonnell, “Junia, a Woman Apostle,” The Church of God, accessed August 26, 2012, www.churchofgoddfw.com/monthly/junia.shtml.

16 Eldon Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 45.

17 United Bible Societies, The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), 564.

18 Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1971), 539.

19 Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 109–202.

20 Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle, 62, 63.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., 66.

23 Scot McKnight, Junia Is Not Alone: Breaking Our Silence About Women in the Church Today (Englewood, CO: Patheos, 2008), e-book.

24 John Chrysostom, Homily 31 on the Epistle to the Romans, on Romans 16:7, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, n.d.), vol. 11, accessed August 26, 2012, www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf111.pdf.

25 William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, vol. 32 of International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895), 423. The same reading remains unchanged in much later editions, including a 1962 printing.

26 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–1976), s.v’Episēmos.

27 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed. (1986), s.v.

28 “Notable.” 28 Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988–1989), vol. 2, no. 28.31.

29 See the list in Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle, 106n1 to chapter 4.

30 Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 322.

31 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. “en.

32 Michael H. Burer and Daniel B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” New Testament Studies 47 (2001): 76–91.

33 Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women; Linda Belleville, “Re­examination,” 231–249; Eldon Epp, Junia.

34 Bauckham, Gospel Women, 172–180.

35 Ibid., 246.

36 Belleville, “Re-examination,” 242–247.

37 Ibid., 248; see also, Belleville, “Women Leaders,” 119, 120.

38 Eldon Epp, “Text-Critical, Exegetical and Socio-Cultural Factors Affecting the Junia/Junias Variations in Romans 16, 7,” in New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel, ed. A Denaux , Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 161 (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2002), 227–291; Epp, Junia, 45.

39 Bauckham, Gospel Women, 179, 180.

40 Pederson, The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 36.

41 Belleville, “Re-examination,” 235, quoting John of Damascus, Paul’s Epistles 95.565.

42 Eisen, Women Officeholders, 48; Rena Pederson, likewise, indicates that Mary Magdalene and Thecla were both considered apostles; see The Lost Apostle, 48, 49, 61–75.

43 Craig Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 242, quoted in Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1997), 195.

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Nancy Vyhmeister, EdD, is a retired professor and editor residing in Yucaipa, California, United States

July 2013

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