Junia, A Woman Apostle
pictured next to Apostle Andronicus
For many years many thought Junia(s) was a man--or if they admitted she was a woman, they discounted her as just someone highly regarded by the apostles. Recent scholars proves she was both a female and an apostle! But let's start by looking at each piece of this scripture puzzle.
"Greet Andronicus and Junia my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." NIV (The NAS and NASU both use "outstanding", the KJV uses "of note" meaning notable.)
Andronicus means "man of victory".
- Iounias-Junia , a common Latin female name meaning "youthful", a Christian woman at Rome, mentioned by Paul as one of his kinsfolk and fellow prisoners, Thayer's Greek Definitions. Also see the following pages for more proof.
- relatives - Could mean related by blood, of the same race, or of the tribe of Benjamin.
- fellow prisoners - They had once all three been imprisoned together, most likely for being Christian leaders. Paul would have gotten to know both of them very well.
- outstanding - Episemos ep-is'-ay-mos - remarkable, eminent Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
- among - En, translated "among" 97 other times in the NT, in Matthew 20:26 "to be great among you" uses the same word. Expresses the idea of being within a group.
- apostles - These were not of the 12, but apostle (meaning one who is sent) remained a spiritual gift,
- 1 Cor 12:28, and we have biblical proof that others became known as apostles as they received this spiritual gift or calling. Paul and Barnabas were apostles, Col.1:1, Acts 14:3,4.; also Silvanas and Timothy, read both 1 Thess 1:1, and 2:6.
- before -These two were "in Christ" before Paul, meaning baptized before Paul was, and thus preceded him as Christians. Andronicus and Junia had more experience than Paul!
Many mentally read this scripture and add several of their own words—"They are (said to be) outstanding among (here they substitute "by") the apostles." Changing "among" and adding the other four words totally changes the meaning of this scripture! However, these four words—said to be/by—are not in the Greek text. In studying scriptures we cannot just randomly add words or change the words that are there! For the meaning "by" Paul would have used one of two totally different Greek words—para or pros—rather than using en which implies selection from within a group.1
Paul never relied on the opinions of other apostles to back his teaching or his praise.2 He knew these two very well, having been in prison with them. Why would he be saying that others thought they were outstanding? He knew them best and he was praising them as "outstanding (or eminent) among the apostles." Paul considered them apostles just as he considered himself to be an apostle. They were part of the group called apostles, they were apostles, and were setting an outstanding example.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "Paul describes them as being prominent among the apostles, and as having been Christians before him."
The United Bible Societies Handbook Series, an acknowledged authority composed of a board of respected translators, first acknowledges that they are a male/female team, "Adronicus and Junias ... could easily have been husband and wife, or brother and sister." They acknowledge that some misunderstood the sentence, "to mean 'the apostles know them well,' but a far more acceptable interpretation would imply that these...were counted as apostles and were well known, for example, 'as apostles they are well known.'"3
Do early commentators record that Junia was a female apostle?
Dr. Leonard Swidler states, "To the best of my knowledge, no commentator on the Text until Aegidus of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine."5 So until the late 13th century, historical references all agreed that Junia was female, as did the men below.
Origen, of Alexandria who lived toward the end of the second century (c. 185-253).
See Epistolam ad Romanos Commentariorum 10, 23; 29.
John Chrysostrom, 4th century, (337-497) wrote, "Oh! How great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle! (Homily on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans XXXI).
Jerome (340-419) wrote that Junia was a female. (Liver Interpretationis Hebraicorum Nominum 72, 15.) Also Hatto of Vercelli (924-961), Theophylack (1050-1108), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) 6
"Junia" becomes "Junias"
"Without exception the church fathers in late antiquity identified Andronicus' partner in Romans 16:7 as a woman as did minuscule 33 in the 9th century which records Iounia (Greek for Junia) with an acute accent. Only later medieval copyists of Romans 17:7 could not imagine a woman being an apostle and wrote the masculine name Iounias (Junias) with an s. This later name Junias did not exist in antiquity; its explanation as a Greek abbreviation of the Latin name 'Junianus' is unlikely."13
At about the time of Pope Boniface's edict removing the freedom of nuns in 1298, copyists began writing the name Junia as Junias! Yet recent research has shown that the newly created name, Junias, didn't even exist at the time of Paul!
"This hypothetical name Junias is, however, as yet unattested in ancient inscriptions, but the female Latin name Junia occurs over 250 times among inscriptions from ancient Rome alone. Further, the ancient translations and the earliest manuscripts with accents support reading Iounian as Junia. Finally, Junias would be an irregular form. Therefore, critical scholars today increasingly interpret the name as the feminine Junia."14
Junia was a very common Latin female name and we have no record of any Roman male bearing the name Junia. But medieval copyists began copying the name with as "s" to hide Junia's sex, not knowing that the name Junias "did not exist in antiquity"! So Junia received a fictitious name, possibly at the command of Pope Boniface VIII!