If you are finding this tedious think of my position. Here I am writing about something as unimaginative as the petty diminishment of women by Bible translators in my series on the Woman’s Literal Bible Assessment, the WLBA. Fortunately I am resurrecting my personal blog to save myself from this dreariness. But sometimes a boring job just has to be done.
The Junia of Rom. 16:7 was recognized as Junia, a feminine name, in the printed versions of the Greek New Testament from the time of Erasmus until 1927. In that year the Nestle-Aland text accented the name Ἰουνιᾶν so it would be masculine in form, Junias. Since the name is in the accusative case in Greek text it appears as either masculine Ἰουνιᾶν or ᾿Ιουνίαν, feminine. That means that, of course, the early texts without accents did not indicate whether it was masculine or feminine. However, no male name Junias has been known in Greek.
From 1927 until 1998, the name had been accented as masculine and entered as a possible masculine name in some lexicons. Now there is a scholarly consensus that it is a feminine name.
I do not find it surprising or out of the way that any translation from 1927 until 1998 has Junias in the masculine. In fact, the Revised versions of 1881 also had Junias. It was certain from the notes of the various Bibles texts and commentaries and from meetings for the RV translation, the N-A 1927 and the lexicons, that the only reason that Junias as a masculine was suggested was because of the belief that a woman could not be an apostle.
Eldon Jay Epp notes that it was the belief that a woman could not be an apostle which influenced translations, lexicions and critical texts. He provides this example from the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible article, 1899, by A. C. Headlam,
- There is little doubt as to whether the two [Andronicus and Junia(s)] are to be included among the apostles-probably they are … In that case it is hardly likely that the name is feminine, although, curiously enough, Chrysostom does not consider the idea of a female apostle impossible.
About more recent translations Epp writes,
- What may be more difficult to understand now is that such a socio-cultural environment, one imbued with a view of a limited role for women in the church, still could influence some editors of the Greek New Testament in the mid-1990’s to the extent that they could impose the masculine form upon an unaccented Greek name (unaccented at least for the first several centuries of Christianity) (a) when all church writers of the first millenium of Christianity took the name as feminine; (b) when there was ample evidence that the name in question was a very common female name at the time of earliest Christianity; and (c) in face of the fact that the alleged masculine forms are nowhere attested in the Greco-Roman milieu. *
Epp quotes James G.D. Dunn who writes,
- The assumption that it must be a male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity.**
If readers find fault in my concern that there is now male bias in some of the contemporary Bible translations, they need to be cognisant of the fact that male bias in Bible translation has a proven history; it is not a recently invented conspiracy theory. It did happen and it still happens.
I find it unremarkable that translations such as the RSV, NIV, NEB, NASB, and NRSV, those prior to 1998 have a male Junias. This is in accordance with the critical text, commentaries and lexicons. The translations themselves must be treated as derivative, only guilty in the second degree. But this is not a case of ambiguity, Junia was female.
About the Wallace – Burer hypothesis, that Junia was only “well-known to” the apostles, Epp comments on Belleville’s analysis, which I recreated and writes,
- So far, this leaves Burer and Wallace’s “working hypothesis” somewhat in a shambles and with exceptionally minimal data.
Burer did write to me last month indicating the intent to respond to the critique by Belleville, Epp, Bauckham and points brought up here. In the meantime, this hypothesis is undefended.
It is crucial to realize that a conservative element today does not only want to keep women from being ordained, but they want to restrict the exercise of the very qualities of leadership to men, and relegate women to being receivers and responders or followers. Thus a female apostle is less acceptable now than in the days of Chrysostom and cannot be allowed to remain in the text.
*Epp, Eldon Jay. Junia, The First Woman Apostle. 2005. Augsburg Fortress.
**Dunn, James D.G. Romans 9-16. WBC 38. Dallas. Word, 1988.