WLBA 12: Junias

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.

Posted in: NET

11 thoughts on “WLBA 12: Junias

  1. Michael says:

    Hey Wayne, it’s been a while since I visited here. I am disappointed to see such a constant focus on feminist issues now. It all looks very agenda-driven.

  2. Jack says:

    Thanks for this update. It is astounding to me, shocking really, that we are still playing these games. The text, as you pointed out, is very clear. I like the way the NRSV translates this verse:

    Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

    I love the part that Junia was ‘prominent among the apostles’. That states a lot.

    Further, I don’t feel this is a (supposed) ‘feminist issue’. This is a reconciliation issue. This is a time when males should own up to their ‘conspiracy’ and admit their guilt. That is the only way we can move forward in this area.

    May God, the creator of all that is, seen and unseen, male and FEMALE, who were BOTH created in God’s image, bless you and keep you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

    + OD

  3. Apprentice2Jesus says:

    I do not find these issues “feminist” but biblical. As a white male pastor my heart has always been to instruct on what the text really does say and steer people through some very obvious biases in translation.

    Through the years I have had difficulty trying to live up to the biblical standard, though I do have a female youth pastor in my church, along with a woman on my board.

    My denomination, though founded with strong female ministers, has drifted over the years to minimize their contribution. Now, the “under 40” crowd is driving us to reconsider. HOW we are reconsidering is sad.

    Since we cannot seem to elect a woman or someone of a different ethnicity to a regular leadership position, the proposal is now to create a NEW position on the board (expand it) to have one seat that will “represent” a woman or someone under 40, then another position to “represent” the ethnic fellowships of our denomination. We can’t elect them straight out, so we create slots where we fill quotas.

    That may be a start, but I call it a poor one.

  4. Steve says:

    I am curious. Does not the analogy of faith apply here? Poor Junia has alot on her shoulders! It seems that we are going to seed on the basis of obscure texts!


  5. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Thanks for the comments. Wayne has been away. I felt I was not able to say any of this without working through the argument in a consistent fashion. It may be tedious. I regret that.

    Junia may be obscure but Pheobe is less so and it sad to me that she has been called “a great help” implying that she is only a subordinate instead of one who helps those in need out of her largesse.

    Those transalators who deny Junia and Phoebe a leadership role in the text, wish to deny women a leadership role in the church today.

    I am happpy to be labeled as having an agenda – an agenda for truth and accuracy, an agenda for equal treatment for women.

    I thnk we also need to be aware of the role which the critical text, lexicons and commentaries play in Bible translation.

  6. Michael says:

    Steve wrote, “Poor Junia has alot on her shoulders!”

    Right. I think this whole question about Junia/Junias has little importance. Even if the disputed points insisted upon by Suzanne are granted, there is no compelling reason to suppose that this “Junia” exercised authority in a congregation. Granting that the name is likely to be that of a woman, I suppose that she is mentioned here with Andronicus because she was his wife. Like “Aquilla and Priscilla,” they are probably mentioned together because they worked as a pair. And if this was the case, it is not very surprising that Paul would say “they” were “among the apostles” (in the wider sense of “missionaries”), even if Junia lacked a commission in her own right. Far too much has been made of this incidental name by Epp and others. Its bearing on issues related to women’s role in the church cannot be compared to such texts as Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Colossians 3:18, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6, etc., where the role appropriate to women receives direct attention.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy says:


    I could possibly agree with you and Steve that Junia has little importance in the complementarian debate. Although then I wonder why there has been such a fuss to prove she is NOT an apostle. But, I am also writing about Bible translation.

    How else can we explain the history of Junia unless we concede that Bible translators have had a bias against her.

    I am trying to assess what a good translation would be for these verses Rom. 16:1,2,7 and 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12 as a group.

    I feel that they should be translated in accordance with the critical text and lexicons, in accordance with the best scholarly research and the consensus. If that were done then we would have a translation that those of us on both sides of the debate could share. This would bring us together. We would have a Bible we would be happy to share and experience fellowship and reconciliation. Perhaps with a common text, we could still talk and share even if we disagreed on other things.

    That is one thing I long for. It is sad to me that Bible translations are at the centre of a sharp disagreement. What do you suggest?

    How would you translate these verses to bring about mutual trust and fellowship?

  8. Michael says:


    Regarding Romans 16:7, I have no objection to “Junia” or “among the apostles,” if readers are made to understand that “apostles” here is being used in the wider sense, something like the way we use the word “missionaries.” I think most casual readers of the Bible would need this explanation, because otherwise they are likely to think that Paul is referring to the Twelve when he says “apostles.” In a common-language DE version the word “missionaries” should probably be used here. Or a footnote.

    As for the bias against understanding “Junia” as an “apostle,” I think that is largely justified, when we consider that commentators are trying to understand the verse in its historical context, and with reference to everything that is said about the role of women in the Bible. We don’t need to explain it in terms of some unreasonable prejudice when a commentator expresses the opinion that a female “apostle” is problematic in the context of Paul’s teaching about the role of women. You disagree with this bias, of course, but that is because you have a different “bias” concerning Paul’s teaching and the probabilities in the historical context.

    I share your desire for a commonly accepted Bible version. But realistically I have to conclude that we are not likely to have one in our lifetime. There are too many disagreements, too many versions, too much interpretation worked into the versions.

  9. Suzanne McCarthy says:


    I don’t think of the term apostles here as being one of the twelve, simply because Andronicus is not either. I don’t see that as a problem. I would be happy to think of Junia as a missionary as Paul also considered himself a missionary. So I think you and I could share a commn English translation even with modest notes without difficulty, especially for this verse.

    Put Junia together with Phoebe and the other women in this chapter, with Priscilla, Lydia and Nympha and it becomes clear that women possess the quality of leadership and that God accepts this role in women.

    I believe that we hold the King James Bible in common and we should be able to share a modern translation in common. I refuse to give up on this. Why don’t you put on the table the verses or features that are not negotiable and I will do the same.

    My preferences are:

    1.Phoebe as benefactor,

    2. Junia as prominent among the apostles (with a note that she was not one of the twelve)

    3. woman having power/authority on her head, and

    4. 1 Tim. 2:12 nor set herself up as an authority/domineer.

    These are pretty traditional and accord well with lexicons and text.

  10. Michael says:

    Suzanne wrote: I don’t think of the term apostles here as being one of the twelve … I don’t see that as a problem. I would be happy to think of Junia as a missionary as Paul also considered himself a missionary.

    I do see it as a problem, if you use the word “apostle” without telling people that the Greek word sometimes denotes a “messenger” or “missionary” sent by a congregation, who may or may not be invested with authority (e.g. Philippians 2:25). This needs to be emphasized, I think, because the word “apostle” in English carries a strong connotation of authority, being a title associated with the Twelve and with Paul. That is why I suggested the rendering “missionary,” either in the text or the footnotes.

    Put Junia together with Phoebe and the other women in this chapter, with Priscilla, Lydia and Nympha and it becomes clear that women possess the quality of leadership and that God accepts this role in women.

    In this chapter it seems that Paul commends a deaconess (yes, I said deaconess!), and in the midst of many greetings he send greetings to two missionary women, it seems, with their husbands. I think you are trying to give the impression that we have some good reason to think that these women exercised authority over men in their congregations, but we don’t have any good reason to think that. We know very little about their ministries.

    Why don’t you put on the table the verses or features that are not negotiable and I will do the same. My preferences are: 1.Phoebe as benefactor …

    “Benefactor” is fine with me.

    2. Junia as prominent among the apostles (with a note that she was not one of the twelve)

    I would prefer a note saying that she was perhaps a missionary, with her husband. I do not think “among the apostles” communicates the meaning very well. And I disagree with the idea that this Junia had a mission resembling Paul’s.

    3. woman having power/authority on her head,

    As in the KJV? That rendering is fine with me, if you will also allow the KJV’s footnote here.

    4. 1 Tim. 2:12 nor set herself up as an authority/domineer.

    I know why feminists want this rendering, and I disagree with the spin they put on it. But I will allow even this giving a bad connotation to the word authentein, if you will translate accurately the preceding words, “I do not allow a woman to teach,” and acknowledge that two activities are mentioned here, not one. The rendering in the margin of the TNIV (“I do not permit a woman to teach a man in a domineering way”) is not acceptable to me.

  11. Suzanne McCarthy says:


    I don’t see a problem.

    Rom. 16:1 could be servant or deacon(ess).

    Rom. 16:2 benefactor

    Rom. 16:7 I agree with apostle in the translation and a footnote saying this could mean an apostle.
    As an aside, I think a woman missionary, and obviously many are single, is a leader. The fact that she can only be a leader of men who are not of her own ethnicity only reflects poorly on the men of her sending community, but not on her. But I could agree with you on the translation “apostle” with a note as you suggest, however, without mantioning authority one way or another. I want women recognized for what they are – leaders who take on and carry an equal load in God’s kingdom.

    1 Cor. 11:10 I could not agree to the footnote, especially with “that is” It is interpretive and does not offer options. The RV is better but adds “sign of”. I would say to go literal and leave it alone. I don’t know what it really means but I can’t agree to something that is simply not there in the Greek and has no basis grammatically or lexically.

    1 Tim. 2:12 I will agree to a literal translation of this verse with two activities. We can agree on this. I do not permit a woman to teach or to domineer over a man. She must be quiet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s