Junia the female Apostle – Romans 16:7

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Was there a female apostle?  Over time English translators have offered up differing opinions.  Romans 16:7 has Paul greeting Andronicus and Junia and calling them famous among the apostles.  Because of debate over the roles of women in the church Junia’s gender and role is debated.  However there should be no debate.  She was a woman and an Apostle.

There are three fundamental questions:

  1. Was Junia a female?
  2. Was Junia famous to the apostles or as an apostle?
  3. Does apostle have any formal meaning?

Much is now often conceded by complementarians.  For example the prominent scholar Daniel Wallace accepts the weight of scholarship supports Junia being a woman and he concurs[1], as does the conservative Schriener[2].  This is not uncommon – the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is very much for “traditional” gender roles, but it is not hard to find articles within it that acknowledge Junia was female (in addition to reprinting Wallace’s article, I rapidly found another example by Burk[3]).

However some parties still dispute Junia’s gender, including high profile evangelicals like Grudem and Piper[4].  There are a few different lines of inquiry and evidence which need consideration in answering this question.  The broader context the chapter doesn’t really help as the NET notes[5] point out, some of the verses are clearly husband and wife (Prisca & Aquila Rom 16:3) other verses have lists of all female and all male names. 

Argument by complementarians has largely shifted to whether Junia was an apostle and if so was this a formal role.  From the earliest times to the Middle Ages these two facts were never doubted despite prevailing patriarchal culture.  Despite challenges from those seeking to minimize her role, recent scholarship has concluded the early understanding was correct – Junia was an Apostle.

The various challenges will be considered one a time.

A           Was Junia female?

  1. Weight of numbers of Lexicons and Bible Dictionaries point to female

The vast majority of Bible dictionaries/lexicons – including older ones – interpret the name as female as shown below:

FemaleMaleDon’t conclude
Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.Montanari, F. (2015). M. Goh & C. Schroeder (Eds.), The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek. Leiden; Boston: Brill.Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible FellowshipThayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (p. 306). New York: Harper & Brothers.Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 480). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Mounce, W. D. (2006). Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (p. 1174). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.Brannan, R. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 824). New York: United Bible Societies.Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990–). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 198). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.Moulton, J. H., & Milligan, G. (1930). The vocabulary of the Greek Testament (p. 306). London: Hodder and Stoughton.

These are a useful tool – and the weight of numbers points towards Junia being female.  But it is somewhat difficult to evaluate why they come to this conclusion.

  • External textual evidence of the names

The NET – the NT portion of which was overseen by the complementarian scholar Daniel Wallace – has the following note by Junia’s name:

The feminine name Junia, though common in Latin, is quite rare in Greek (apparently only three instances of it occur in Greek literature outside Rom 16:7, according to the data in the TLG [D. Moo, Romans [NICNT], 922]). The masculine Junias (as a contraction for Junianas), however, is rarer still: Only one instance of the masculine name is known in extant Greek literature (Epiphanius mentions Junias in his Index discipulorum 125)[6]

It should be noted that the suggestion the male name Junias occurs in the broader Greek literature is normally rejected – even by complementarians some of whom regard the claim as mistaken, dropping the number of historical examples to zero[7].  The reason for this reduction is the early commentator Epiphanius (310-403AD) mentioned in the NET notes above is a questionable source, the work mentioned suffers from:

numerous inaccuracies (including a masculine Priscas) [which] have caused patristic scholars to question the authorial attribution of Index discipulorum, especially since it was only first attributed to Epiphanius in the ninth century[8]

If you think Priscila was a man in the same passage where you claim Junia was a man perhaps you are not a great witness at all and it is disappointing that the NET notes use this example.

The claim that Junia should be rendered as the male Junias is assuming, or more accurately, inventing, a shortened name for Junianas which has zero historical evidence[9].  Fitzmyer simply (politely?) says:

The masc. name Iounias is attested nowhere else[10]

But what of the claim made in the NET that the Greek Junia only occurs three times?  This is accurate but only takes into account manuscripts.  It ignores inscriptions and taking these into account expands the count (Hartmann citing Belleville[11]).  Added to the Greek evidence is the fact that Junia is a Latin name, not a Greek one.  The Latin name is a very well attested one.  Dunn gives some indication of the scale of the difference in occurrences when the Latin is also taken into account:

the simple fact is that the masculine form has been found nowhere else, and the name is more naturally taken as Ἰουνίαν = Junia (Lampe 139–40, 147 indicates over 250 examples of “Junia,” none of Junias)[12]

These examples (in both Greek and Latin) are just in Rome alone[13] – which is where the New Testament Junia lived at the time of Paul’s letter.  But there is nothing for the male name – a name which speculated to have existed without evidence.  

An aside – Junia and Julia

Some sources (Thayer’s Lexicon[14] and Swanson’s Dictionary of Biblical Languages[15]) claim Junia and Julia (Rom 16:15) should be the same female name but there was a textual error  Metzger dismisses the variation as a minor error in only a few texts[16] and asserts Junia in Rom 16:7 is textually certain.

Another aside – Why a Latin name?

Richard Bauckham provides some 15-16 Latin names in the New Testament[17].  Agrippa, Priscilla & Acquila, Paul, Silvanus are just a few Latin names which are familiar to us.  Bauckham concurs with the conclusion Junia was female, going on to say:

There is no longer any need to demonstrate that the name that appears in the accusative as Ἰουνιαν in Rom. 16:7 is the Latin female name Junia, not the postulated but unrecorded male name Ἰουνιᾶς, which would be a Greek hypocoristic form of Julianus

How did she get the name?  There are two possibilities.  Mowcko explains one option:

Three of the most powerful aristocratic families in Rome were the Junian, Julian, and Claudian families. The women in these families were frequently named Junia, Julia, and Claudia, respectively…There was a custom of freed slaves taking on the family name of their master or mistress, and this may have been the case for Junia who is mentioned in Rom 16:7. Her husband’s name, “Andronicus,” was a common slave name, so they may both have been freed slaves of the imperial household[18]

Bauckman lists this possibility but adds another:

What has not been suggested before is the possibility that Junia in this case was chosen because it could serve as a sound-equivalent for the Jewish name Joanna.[19]

He suggests a Joanna[20] could have taken a Latin name – as a number of individuals in the New Testament appear to have done – to be more “user friendly” in the missionary work in Rome.

  • The way Latin names came into Greek identified gender

As identified in the NET notes there is a challenge in the Greek to determine gender because:

In Greek only a difference of accent distinguishes between Junias (male) and Junia (female)[21]

Of course there are accents in texts from the 8th century onwards so we have plenty of clues. 

However another compelling line of evidence negates the challenge of Greek accents.  Junia is a Latin name which moved over into a Greek text.  Such moves follow extremely predictable patterns.  Latin names were transferred into Greek following spelling conventions which clearly indicated whether the name was male or female.

In 1994 Richard Cervin published an article in New Testament Studies called “A note regarding the name Junia(s) in Romans 16:7”.  Cervin demonstrated the standard practices on how Latin names were transcribed and how those practices indicated clearly whether the name was male or female based on spelling.  Shaw summarized Cervin’s work thus:

ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16:7 is a Latin family name (Junia or Junius) that has been transcribed into Greek and this was always done according to the same rules. Feminine Latin names ending in –ia always retained that ending (e.g. Marcia → Μαρκία, Iulia → Ἰουλία, Junia → Ἰουνία). Masculine names ending in –ius are transcribed into Greek as ending –ios (e.g. Antonius → Αντόνιος, Cassius → Κάσσιος, Domitius → Δομίτιος). Accordingly, the male name Junius would be Ιούνιος. The grammatical form of this name required in Rom 16:7 would be ΙΟΥΝΙΟΝ not ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ which is what we read there. On the other hand the appropriate form of Ἰουνία would be written ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ which corresponds with Rom 16:7. The only way a male name could be in view is if there were an independent Greek name Ἰουνιᾶς, but there is not a single reference to any such name from the period.[22]

Because Junia is a Latin name the Greek clearly indicates to us – even without accents – that the person is female.

  • Early commentators and Bible translations say Junia was a woman

Some of a conservative mind may wish to paint this identification of Junia as female as a manifestation of modern thinking blinding us to Scripture.  But the facts of history point another way entirely.

Fitzmyer tallied up some sixteen ancient commentators until the thirteenth century who all took Junia to be female – there were no exceptions to this observation[23] (once the unreliable/confused Epiphanius is laid aside) .  Another scholar Belleville added a further five early writers[24].

Some complementarians (eg Grudem) mention a reference by Origen (died 252AD) who gives the masculine Junias[25].  The claim is repeated in some Christadelphian works (eg Colin Brynes – who also mentions Epiphanius as relevant[26]). However the Origin reference is a transmission error[27] in a translation into Latin which is described as “notoriously corrupt[28].  Those like Grudem who use this witness also ignore the fact that the two other references in the same Latin translation are feminine.  The evidence now available shows:

Junias is a variant in two of three twelfth-century manuscripts that belong to a single subgroup, while earlier manuscripts have Junia[29]

This is perhaps why Wallace (the NET) notes don’t mention Origen.  It’s disingenuous for those with the capacity to check to pretend Origen said she was male. 

Most, if not all, of the early church fathers were traditional in their view of women.  Byrnes points this out saying:

The knowledge that many regarded Junia as an apostle did not cause a change of attitude to the role of women[30]

Brynes goes on to suggest that appealing to the early commentators who support Junia’s gender and role is somehow selective quoting.  This completely misses the point.  The early commentators say Junia was both female and a capital A apostle and they are hostile witnesses – doubling the value of their testimony.

In addition to the commentators, a female Junia was the norm in ancient versions which translated the Greek: 

The Old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac and Coptic translations all have a female name[31]

The United Bible Society Greek Text comments say the female name is virtually certain (and list an impressive quantity of early textual witnesses[32]

This continued to be the case in more recent times as Shaw notes:

Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament, which carried the feminine form Ἰουνίαν and was followed by every English translation until 1837 and every Greek New Testament until 1927 with only one exception[33]

While Luther promoted a male version of the name into German Protestant, in English translations at least the long understanding of Junia the woman continued pretty much until the Revised Version in 1881.  From this point many modern versions through to the late 1900s shifted to the masculine name.  This trend is now reversing to the original position that Junia was a woman (eg NIV, NRSV).

  • Conclusion on Gender

So the simple summary – Junia in Rom 16:7 is a woman as supported by:

  • The bulk of scholarship (dictionaries and lexicons)
  • Wide attestation in Rome while the male name is absent from history
  • The transfer of Latin to Greek names, including how they communicated gender
  • All commentators bar one very confused man until the twelfth century, despite them being otherwise traditional in their view on women
  • Early translations from Greek to other languages
  • Most English translations until the late 19th century

Why would people insist otherwise?  Because of presuppositions.  As Kruse states bluntly:

‘The modern scholarly controversy over this name rests on the presumption that no woman could rank as an apostle, and thus that the accusative form must refer to a male by the name of Junias or Junianus. However, the evidence in favor of the feminine name “Junia” is overwhelming.[34]

B           Famous as an apostle or to the apostles?

The tide of evidence having returned to where it was in the first 12 centuries AD – that Junia was a woman – the next line of argument put forward against Junia’s position is to argue that ‘famous among the apostles’ should be rendered by something like ‘well known to the apostles’.

On the possibility of reading the expression as ‘well known to the apostles’, Cranefield says:

While this must be judged grammatically possible, it is much more probable—we might well say, virtually certain—that the words mean ‘outstanding among the apostles’, that is, ‘outstanding in the group who may be designated apostles’, which is the way in which it was understood by the patristic commentators (it would seem, without exception)[35]

Repeating the comment on grammar and the ancient reading, Keener adds further that:

Paul nowhere refers to “the apostles” as a group to whose opinion he appeals. Indeed, the most natural and common sense of “among” a group means they are members of that group (see, e.g., Rom. 1:13; 8:29), hence here “well-known apostles,” which was how the Greek fathers (and most modern scholars) take the phrase[36]

Earlier major complementarian scholars like Moo in 1996 considered the possibility of a ‘well known to the apostles’ reading but wrote it off as unnatural[37]

In 2001 Wallace and Burer published arguing for the ‘known to’ position.  This paper appears to be the most commonly cited complementarian paper now to support the claim and is referenced in the NET notes.  However Wallace and Burer themselves acknowledge there is a paucity of grammatical examples supporting their position in their paper[38]

Wallace and Burer’s claims have been strongly refuted.  Eldon Epp’s 2005 book “Junia the first woman apostle” appears to have largely put an end to the claims of Wallace and Burer.  While Epp is unquestionably egalitarian the effect of his work has been significant.  The NET notes (Wallace is an editor) haven’t changed the claim but complementarian works now tend to reject Wallace and Burer’s claims. 

For example Schriener (2006) acknowledges Burer and Wallace paper but accepts the weight of evidence is against their proposition and their reading “unlikely[39].  Even complementarian scholars disagree with the methodological choices made and the outcome of their work.  Also in 2006 Jewettt & Kotansky (complementarians) provide specific contemporary grammatic examples of the Rom 16:7 construction from Herodous, Plutarch, 3 Maccabees 6:1 and Josephus.   They conclude:

the adjective ἐπίσημος lifts up a person or thing as distinguished or marked in comparison with other representatives of the same class[40]

The debate is essentially over except for holdouts who wish to confuse matters perhaps because of their presuppositions about gender roles.  The grammatical reality is it highlights a “within a class” reading as Preato (2019) points out:

Greek textbooks point out that en followed by the dative normally means “in, on, among.” For example, en tois is translated as “among those” (1 Cor 2:6), and en tois ethnesin as “among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12; 1 Cor 5:1; Gal 2:2; Col 1:27; 1 Pet 2:12). Where en tois is followed by a plural noun referring to a group of people, the word en is typically translated as “among.”[41]

Praeto notes 83 translations, including ancient versions produced before there was any controversy about Junia, use the inclusive ‘among the apostles’ the list being reproduced below:[42]

•     “Awncient [ancient] Apostles” (Coverdale 1535)

•     “Distinguished among the apostles” (Berean Study Bible: BSB)

•     “Distinguished among the sent” (Julia Smith)

•     “Eminent among the apostles” (ECB, REB)

•     “Famous apostles” (Luther 1522)

•     “Held in high esteem among the apostles” (AMPC)

•     “Highly respected among the apostles” (NLT)

•     “Leaders among the apostles” (NIRV)

•     “Noble among the apostles” (Wycliffe Bible 1382, 1390, Rheims 1582)

•     “Notable among the apostles” (DLNT, Geneva 1583, 1599, Hutter Polyglot 1599, EMTV, MNT 1924, HNV, NHEB, NR06, WEB)

•     “Of note among the legates” (Murdock 1852 Syriac Peshito Version)

•     “Noted among the Apostles” (BBE)

•     “Noteworthy among the apostles” (MEV)

•     “Of note among the apostles” (ASV, BLB, BRG, DRA, Darby, GND 1649, JUB, KJV 1611, KJ21, MKJV, NKJV, OEB, OSB, Rivedu ta, RV, RSV, TMB, WBT 1833, Weymouth, YLT)

•     “Outstanding among the apostles” (CSB, EOB, Latin Vulgate, NASB, NIV, NIVUK, OJB, TNIV)

•     “Outstanding and well-known apostles” (TPT)

•     “Outstanding apostles” (NAB, NJB)

•     “Outstanding leaders” (MSG)

•     “Prominent among the apostles” (CEB, GW, ISV, NABRE, NOG, NRSV, NRSVA, NRSVACE, NRSVCE)

•     “Some of the most important … ones Christ sent out” (ERV, footnote: “Literally, the apostles”)

•     “Very important apostles” (NCV)

•     “Well known among the apostles” (GNB, GNT, Lamsa 1933, NSB, NTE)

•     “Well known among the emissaries” (CJB, JMNT, TLV, VOICE, footnote: “Literally, apostles”)

•     “Well regarded among the apostles” (NMB)

•     “Well taken among the Apostles” (Tyndale, Matthews, Great Bible, Taverner, Jugge’s Tyndale NT, Geneva NT, Bishop’s, all from the 1500s)

A few versions like the NET and ESV indicate Junia was not an apostle but known to them.  These translations tend to be late 1980s to 2000s.  They stand out of line with the historical understanding of translations going back to the fourth century Latin Vulgate through the Reformation.  ‘Well known as an apostle’ is not some late 20th century feminist inspired reading.

Among the early church writings there was no doubt about the reading.  The people closest to Greek grammar – because they were Greek – understood Junia was famous as an apostle (per Keener quoted previously).  The most commonly cited example is John Chrysostom (whose attitude to women appears to have been generally negative) but of Junia writes:

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 of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle[43]

There is no question how he understood the grammar of Romans 16:7.

Amongst the Christadelphians some very much against expanded gender roles have recognized the state of the debate eg Colin Brynes who wrote:

there are sufficient parallel passages with the same structure to accept the translation, ‘well known among the apostles’ thus making Andronicus and Junia apostles.  Given that this will be an ongoing debate, we can say at this stage Junias should be Junia and therefore a female and that possibly Andronicus and Junia were apostles[44]

C            Apostles – formal or informal?

Complementarians resist (albeit increasingly accept) Junia was female.  They often then debate whether Junia was known by or as an apostle.  Both of these two positions are very hard to maintain so a third line of argument has developed on the significance of “apostle”.  Eg Schriener:

Even if Andronicus and Junia are identified as apostles, we should not conclude that they were apostles in the same sense as were Paul, the Twelve, Barnabas and James, the brother of Jesus. The term apostle (apostolos) is not always a technical term (2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25), and Andronicus and Junia were likely itinerant missionaries if they are called apostles here. The word apostolos is used of such traveling missionaries in the Apostolic Fathers (Did. 11.3–6; Herm. Vis. 13.1; Herm. Sim. 92.4; 93.5; 102.2). Such apostles did not have the same kind of authority as did Paul, the Twelve, Barnabas or James, the brother of the Lord. Given the patriarchal nature and the practical necessities of life in the ancient world and given our interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11–14, Junia probably exercised her ministry particularly toward other women.[45]

Note the final few sentences.  Schriener’s position is shaped by the patriarchal context of the ancient world and him preferencing his understanding of 1 Tim 2:11-14 over the clear meaning of Rom 16:7.  So he invents a limited apostle role so he can fit Junia into his presuppositions.

Similarly Moo accepts Junia was a female and famous as an apostle but limits the title:

Paul often uses the title “apostle” in a “looser” sense: sometimes simply to denote a “messenger” or “emissary”[46]

Demonstrating a lack of a singular complementarian position Jewett and Kotansky offer another alternative suggestion (after again concluding Junia was a female apostle):

A more debatable question is whether Andronikos and Junia functioned as evangelists or emissaries of a particular congregation, or as witnesses to the resurrection. Since Paul gives no evidence that they had been associated with a particular congregation, in contrast to Phoebe in 16:1–2*, and since his usage of “apostle” is oriented to resurrection witness unless otherwise indicated, it seems likely that he ranked them among “all the apostles” who laid claim to being witnesses of the resurrection[47]

What does the evidence say?  The word apostle appears many times in the NT of various people:

  • Of the 12 apostles.  This is the use in the gospels and then into Acts (with the exception of the comment by the Lord that the apostle is not greater than the appointer in John 13:16)
  • Of Barnabas Acts 14:14
  • Of Paul both as a title he applies to himself often and Luke gives him in Acts
  • It was a position claimed by used by false teachers that Paul (ironically?) labels “super apostles” 2 Cor 11:5 (for use of false teachers/authorities see also Rev 2:2)
  • Used of some of Paul’s co-workers and emissaries who came with his authority. Eg 2 Cor 8:23 (where it is possibly referring to Luke)
  • Of Epaphroditus as the Philippian apostle/messenger to Paul Phil 2:25
  • Of Jesus in Heb 3:1

There is scant evidence for an apostle being an unofficial or insignificant messenger in the NT as some of the above commentators suggest.  1 Cor 12 and Eph 4 flatly contradict the idea.  While we know very little about the office its existence and primary authority is clear.  It extended beyond Paul and the 12 to include Barnabas and at least some of Paul’s co-workers.

In suggesting the word apostle had a loose unofficial sense, complementarians point to a number of passages which are considered below:

  • 2 Cor 8:23 – “If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; if there is any question about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ”

    This passage applies the title to Paul’s delegates – possibly in this case particularly to the unnamed brother (traditionally Luke).  Paul’s delegates came to congregations not as informal messengers, not as a loose apostles, but as official endorsed messengers from Paul with authority.  Eg Titus came to Corinth and was received with obedience, fear and trembling 2 Cor 7:15.  As Paul’s emissary Titus could appoint elders and sort out problems Tit 1:5.  Timothy likewise as Paul’s emissary had an authority/leadership role 1 Tim 3:1, 1 Cor 4:17, 1 Thess 3:2.

    Rather demonstrate a loose use of apostle the term is used of Paul’s co-worker – a group that definitely exercised significant formal authority over congregations.
  • Phil 2:25 “But for now I have considered it necessary to send Epaphroditus to you. For he is my brother, coworker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to me in my need”

    The word messenger is the Greek apostle.  Is this a loose sense of the word?  No Paul is portraying Epaphroditus as an officially endorsed messenger of the congregation acting on behalf of the congregation as their representative.  Paul is putting formality around the man not using the word to indicate a casual or unimportant commission.  Paul might have been exaggerating the role of Epaphroditus to emphasise the value the congregation provided though him to Paul.  In which case the word is still carrying far more than an informal meaning.

1 Cor 15:5-7 “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles”

Jewettt and Kotansky reference 1 Cor 15 to claim any witness to the resurrection was a ‘small a’ apostle.  This doesn’t work with the context.  The 500 witnesses in v6 are not called apostles.  There are two groups of apostles, v5 the twelve apostles and v7 a group associated maybe with James.  The passage demonstrates there were many witnesses to the resurrection who were all willing to talk about it, but only some of these were designated apostles. 

The passages demonstrate Paul saw the office/title of apostle as broader than just the 12 plus himself.  As Keener says of the role:

Paul does not hand out the title lightly; he applies the title explicitly only to a handful of leaders in his day, besides the Twelve and (often) himself (1 Cor. 9:5–6; Gal. 1:19; cf. 1 Thess. 2:5 with 1:1). But neither does he restrict the title to the Twelve; in fact, he clearly distinguishes it from them (1 Cor. 15:5–7). Even Luke, who usually restricts the term to the Twelve, allows it for Paul and Barnabas in at least one passage (Acts 14:4, 14)…a survey of every use of “apostle” in the NT (a survey I have done but can only summarize here) includes in most cases special authority that stemmed from a special commission and message (rather than purely administrative authority), a ministry that typically included signs and wonders and broke new ground for God’s kingdom (whether in founding the Jerusalem church or other churches).[48]

To this Blomberg adds that apostles as missionaries has an

an authoritative role of Christian leadership that includes teaching doctrine to adult men and women, but it was not designed to be an office of local, ongoing church administration and instruction. Properly functioning missionaries should, in fact, be appointing (or perhaps even ordaining) elders to perform this task, thus working themselves out of a job so that they can move on to a new location (Acts 14:23).[49]

It’s hard to dodge the term apostle carrying significant weight….

Paul uses the term apostle of himself to convey his authority, his leadership role rather than his witness to the resurrected Jesus.  Twice he provides a list of roles which makes clear the supremacy of the apostle function:

It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers Eph 4:11

And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues 1 Cor 12:28

So the role of apostle was at the top of the list in terms of authority.  We know for sure that at least the gift of prophecy and tongues were given to women (despite how some read 1 Tim 2:11-15).  It is arbitrary to insist women were not appointed by God to the other gifts/roles in the list as well – especially when we know for sure one woman was called an apostle.

In the early church post 1st century documents like the Didache demonstrate the title of Apostle continued demonstrating it had cache and regulations were put in place to prevent abuse by those claiming the office:

Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. 5 He shall stay <only> one day, or, if need be, another [day] too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet.[50]

It appears at least for these Christians that apostles were travelers and somewhat similar to the false apostles Paul mentions in 2 Cor 5:11 who came in proclaiming their authority and used the financial resources of the community.  Congregations in Paul’s day and later could only have been open to this deception if the term apostle was a recognized office independent of the 12 and Paul.

The evidence demonstrates Paul was calling Junia an apostle – a formal office of authority and recognized as such in the community.

D           Conclusion

In considering Junia, complementarians are in a tight space.  They have to deny at least one of the gender, inclusion in the role or significance of the role.  Otherwise they have another Deborah like data point which doesn’t fit into their reading of 1 Tim 2:11-15 and worse than Deborah – an exception admitted without concern or explanation by the author of 1 Timothy.

As an example of the dismissal, Colin Brynes’ summary comment is:

The Junia/s argument is week because it is based on a disputed, single and incidental text.  If women were normally apostles, we might reasonably expect to see wider evidence of this throughout the NT.  That type of evidence is lacking.[51]

Contrary to this statement – the text is not seriously disputed.  It wasn’t disputed for centuries.  His comment “we might reasonably expect” betrays the weakness of his position as he is arguing from (near) silence and based on his expectation rather than the data.  We don’t need multiple positive cases for the one case to be true.  We know the names of one male prophet and 7 female ones in the NT.  Is this in any way relevant to the likely distribution of the gift?  No.  Just as the positive existence of one female apostle does not inform us on the number that may have existed.  More importantly, God’s principles act consistently.  One appointed woman is plenty of evidence that God’s principles are not being interpreted correctly by complementarians.

Until the Middle Ages it was taken as given that Junia was a female Apostle.  From the 1850s this position was changed in English bibles – in a time when society was still patriarchal.  With recent scholarship the motivated readings of the 1850s onwards have faded and her position been restored.  There is no serious question now about Junia’s gender and Apostleship, loud resistance to the evidence in a few quarters is not meaningful dispute. 


[1] Wallace, D. B. and B., Michael H. (2001). Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Reexamination of Romans 16:7. New Testament Studies Vol 47 (1).

[2] Schreiner, T. R. (2006). Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (pp. 400–401). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

[3] Burk, D. (2012). Editorial: Junia Is a Woman, and I Am a Complementarian. The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Spring and Fall 2012, 17(1), 3.

[4] Grudem, Wayne. Piper, John (1991) Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway), p. 79–80

[5] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

[6] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

[7] (2011). Themelios, 36(3).

[8] Belleville, L. L., Blomberg, C. L., Keener, C. S., & Schreiner, T. R. (2005). Two Views on Women in Ministry. (S. N. Gundry & J. R. Beck, Eds.) (Revised Edition). Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan.

[9] Moo, D. J. (2018). The Letter to the Romans. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Second Edition, p. 938). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[10] Fitzmyer, J. A., S. J. (2008). Romans: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 33, p. 738). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[11] Hartmann, Andrea. “Junia – A Woman Lost in Translation: The Name IOYNIAN in Romans 16:7 and its History of Interpretation” Open Theology, vol. 6, no. 1, 2020, pp. 646-660. https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2020-0138 visited 24/7/21

[12] Dunn, J. D. G. (1988). Romans 9–16 (Vol. 38B, p. 894). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[13] Caldwell, K. N. (2012). When Phoebe, Pricilla and Junia Arrive at Ephesus Three Women who Defied Three Prohibitions. Ashland Theological Journal, XLIV, 50.

[14] Thayer, J. H. (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (p. 306). New York: Harper & Brothers.

[15] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[16] Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 476). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

[17] Wedderburn, A. J. M., & Christophersen, A. (2002). Paul, Luke and the Graeco-Roman world: essays in honour of Alexander J.M. Wedderburn (Vol. 217, p. 202). London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press.

[18] Mowczko, M. (2018). Wealthy Women in the First-Century Roman World and in the Church. Priscilla Papers, 32(3), 5.

[19] Wedderburn, A. J. M., & Christophersen, A. (2002). Paul, Luke and the Graeco-Roman world: essays in honour of Alexander J.M. Wedderburn (Vol. 217, p. 214). London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press.

[20] Some speculate this might be the Joanna of Luke 8:3 – once married to Chuza, Herod’s steward.  Herodians would be highly likely to have a Latin name alongside their local Jewish one.  While this would also explain a Latin name there is no evidence to connect the two just speculation.

[21] Biblical Studies Press. (2005). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.

[22] Shaw, D. A. (2013). Is Junia Also among the Apostles? Romans 16:7 and Recent Debates. The Churchman, 127(2), 109.

[23] Fitzmyer, J. A., S. J. (2008). Romans: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 33, p. 737). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[24] Caldwell, K. N. (2012). When Phoebe, Pricilla and Junia Arrive at Ephesus Three Women who Defied Three Prohibitions. Ashland Theological Journal, XLIV, 49.

[25] Grudem, W. (1996). Willow Creek Enforces Egalitarianism: Policy Requires All Staff and New Members to Joyfully Affirm Egalitarian Views. Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2(5), 4.

[26] Byrnes, Colin (2011). God Christ Man Woman. Christadelphian Scriptural Study Service (page 90)

[27] Fitzmyer, J. A., S. J. (2008). Romans: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 33, p. 737). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[28] Moo, D. J. (2018). The Letter to the Romans. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Second Edition). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[29] Belleville, L. L., Blomberg, C. L., Keener, C. S., & Schreiner, T. R. (2005). Two Views on Women in Ministry. (S. N. Gundry & J. R. Beck, Eds.) (Revised Edition). Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan.

[30] Byrnes, Colin (2011). God Christ Man Woman. Christadelphian Scriptural Study Service (page 92)

[31] Shaw, D. A. (2013). Is Junia Also among the Apostles? Romans 16:7 and Recent Debates. The Churchman, 127(2), 108.   See also Thorley, J. (1996). Junia, a Woman Apostle, Novum Testamentum38(1), 18-29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/1568536962613568

[32] Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. (Eds.). (2014). The Greek New Testament: Apparatus (Fifth Revised Edition, p. 546). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; American Bible Society; United Bible Societies.

[33] Shaw, D. A. (2013). Is Junia Also among the Apostles? Romans 16:7 and Recent Debates. The Churchman, 127(2), 109–110.

[34] Kruse, C. G. (2012). Paul’s Letter to the Romans. (D. A. Carson, Ed.) (pp. 563–564). Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos.

[35] Cranfield, C. E. B. (2004). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (p. 789). London; New York: T&T Clark International.

[36] Keener, C. S. (2005). Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective. In S. N. Gundry & J. R. Beck (Eds.), Two Views on Women in Ministry (Revised Edition, pp. 215–216). Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan.

[37] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 923). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[38] Burer, M. H., & Wallace, D. B. (2001). Was Junia Really an Apostle? Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 6(2), 6–7.

[39] Schreiner, T. R. (2006). Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (p. 401). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

[40] Jewett, R., & Kotansky, R. D. (2006). Romans: A commentary. (E. J. Epp, Ed.) (p. 963). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[41] Preato, D. J. (2019). Junia, a Female Apostle: An Examination of the Historical Record. Priscilla Papers, 33(2), 12.

[42] Preato, D. J. (2019). Junia, a Female Apostle: An Examination of the Historical Record. Priscilla Papers, 33(2), 11.

[43] Walters, J. (2007). “Phoebe” and “Junia(s)”—Rom. 16:1–2, 7. In C. D. Osburn (Ed.), Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity (Vol. 1, p. 185). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

[44] Byrnes, Colin (2011). God Christ Man Woman. Christadelphian Scriptural Study Service (page 90)

[45] Schreiner, T. R. (2006). Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (p. 401). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

[46] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 923–924). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[47] Jewett, R., & Kotansky, R. D. (2006). Romans: A commentary. (E. J. Epp, Ed.) (p. 963). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[48] Keener, C. S. (2005). Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective. In S. N. Gundry & J. R. Beck (Eds.), Two Views on Women in Ministry (Revised Edition, p. 215). Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan.

[49] Blomberg, C. L. (2005). Women in Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective. In S. N. Gundry & J. R. Beck (Eds.), Two Views on Women in Ministry (Revised Edition, p. 151). Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan.

[50] Niederwimmer, K., & Attridge, H. W. (1998). The Didache: a commentary (p. 175). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

[51] Byrnes, Colin (2011). God Christ Man Woman. Christadelphian Scriptural Study Service (page 93)

Author: Daniel Edgecombe

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