Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Junias Junia Julia Romans 16.7

Introduction

The question of whether the name ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in ancient Greek manuscripts of Romans 16:7 is the masculine name Junias or the feminine name Junia came up again on Facebook, and I shared some information there that I’ve been sitting on for a while. I thought I should share it here too.

But first, here’s the NIV translation of Romans 16:7.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

1. The feminine names Junia and Julia in Romans 16:7

The following is a list of every (surviving) reference to Junia made by early and medieval Christian scholars that date before the 1200s, with the exception of the reference attributed to Epiphanius which is mentioned in the second part of this article.

These scholars all took the second name in Romans 16:7 to be either the female name Junia or, occasionally, the female name Julia.[1]

  • Origen (c. 185–254) Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos, Book 10 (10.21 cf. 10:26) (PG 14.1280). (More on Origen below.)
  • Chrysostom (c. 344/345–407), In epistolum ad Romanos 31.2 (PG 60.669-670)
  • Jerome (c. 345-419), Liber interpretationis hebraicorum nominun 72.15 (CCLat 72.150) and Expositio ep. ad Romanos 16:7 (PL 30.744)
  • Ambrosiaster (c. 379), Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos (CSEL 81.480) “Julia”
  • Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393–c. 458), Interpretatio epistolum ad Romanos (PG 82.219-29)
  • Ps. –Primasius (died c. 567), Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos (PL 68.505)
  • John Damascene (c. 675–c. 749), In epistolum ad Romanos (PG 95.565)
  • Rabanus Maurus of Fulda (776–856), In epistolum ad Romanos (PL 111.1607D-1608B) (PDF)
  • Haymo of Halberstadt (fl. 840–853), In epistolum ad Romanos (PL 117.505)
  • Hatto of Vercelli (885–961), In epistolum ad Romanos 16: “Virum et uxorem intellegere debemus” (PL 134.282) “Julia”
  • Lanfranc of Bec (c. 1005-1089), Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos (PL 150.153-4) (PDF)
  • Bruno the Carthusian (c. 1030-1101)
  • Theophylact of Bulgaria (fl. 1070-1081) Commentarius in epistolum ad Romanos (PG 124.552)
  • Peter Abelard (1079-1142)
  • Peter Lombard (c. 1069-1169)

Furthermore, the Old Latin, early Syriac, and early Coptic translations have a feminine name. And the Greek Orthodox Church which uses the Greek New Testament and Septuagint as their primary texts— they know Greek!—has always regarded Junia as a woman.

On top of this, Bruce M. Metzger notes,

… (1) the female Latin name Junia occurs over 250 times in Greek and Latin inscriptions found in Rome alone, whereas the male name is unattested anywhere, and (2) when Greek manuscripts [containing Romans 16:7] began to be accented, scribes wrote the feminine Ἰουνίαν (“Junia”).”
Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition (D-Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 475.

2. The masculine name Junias in Romans 16:7

By comparison, there are very few instances where the name ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ is rendered as a masculine name in ancient texts or commentaries of Romans 16:7. It was thought that Minuscule 33, a Greek manuscript dating from the ninth century, had the name accented as a masculine name. But this idea has been disputed and overturned. Peter Lampe, for example, writes,

I am now convinced (Paris, Bib. Nation., Grec 14, p. 100 verso, 1. 1) Minuscule 33 from the ninth century places an acute accent and writes the feminine ïουνίαν, so that, contrary to Aland’s text-critical apparatus, we have a witness for the feminine variant.[2]

There is a bit of confusion over Origen (c. 185–254) and his mention of Junia(s) in his commentary on Romans. Origen’s commentary on Romans survives in Greek fragments and as an early Latin translation by Rufinus (345-410). The feminine name occurs in section 10.21 in Rufinus’ translation of Origen’s commentary, but on one occasion, in section 10.26 (PG 14.1289), the name is the masculine “Junias.”

Fitzmyer discusses the discrepancy in Rufinus’ translation and suggests the masculine name was not in Origin’s original Greek commentary on Romans. Most scholars, including Daniel Wallace and Douglas Moo, acknowledge that the masculine name is an error. In the early 900s, Rabanus Maurus quoted from Origen’s commentary and he only gave the feminine name Junia (PL 111.1607D-1608B) (PDF). More recent critical Latin translations of Origen’s commentary only have the feminine name. (Bridget Jack Jeffries takes a closer look at Origen’s mentions of Junia here.)

Finally, the Index Discipulorum, a list of apostles attributed to Epiphanius and dated to the 4th century—though it may be pseudonymous and date from the 9th century—has the masculine names Junias and Priscas instead of the correct female names Junia and Prisca. Epiphanius is the earliest source to have the masculine name, but his masculinisation of Prisca’s name casts doubt on the credibility and validity of this evidence.

It was Giles (also known as Aegidius) of Rome (1247-1316) who seems to have been the first person who unambiguously understood Andronicus and his ministry partner to both be “worthy men.” Working from Latin texts that contained both names, Junia and Julia (Latin accusative: Juniam and Juliam), Giles went with Juliam and assumed Andronicus’s partner was a man with the name Julias. (See Aegidii Columnae Romani in epistolam Pauli ad Romanos commentaria, Lectio 52, 97, here.)

A few hundred years later, Martin Luther translated ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ as the masculine name (with the masculine article) den Juniam in his 1552 German translation of the New Testament. A masculine reading slowly gained traction and was adopted by other translators including the English translators of the Revised Version in 1881. This was the first major Protestant English Bible to make Junia a man named Junias.[3]

Conclusion

Michael Bird has observed,

There is a tsunami of textual and patristic evidence for ‘Junia’ that proves overwhelming. Despite some naughty scribes, biased translators, lazy lexicographers and dogmatic commentators, the text speaks about a woman named ‘Junia.’ Jewett goes so far as to call the masculine ‘Junias’ a ‘figment of chauvinistic imagination.’
Bird, Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016)

And James D.G. Dunn has stated,

[The female name Junia] was taken for granted by the patristic commentators, and indeed up to the Middle Ages. The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity… We may firmly conclude, however, that one of the foundation apostles of Christianity was a woman and wife.
Dunn, Romans 9-16 (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B) (Dallas, TX: Word, 1988), 894.


Footnotes

[1] Many of the names above are taken from Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s Romans: A New Translation and Commentary (The Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 1993), with additional information taken from, Eldon Jay Epp’s chapter, “Text-Critical, Exegetical and Socio-Cultural Factors Affecting the Junia/Junia Variation in Romans 16:7”, in New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel, A. Denaux (ed.) (Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2002), 227-291.
(I have checked the texts with the highlighted PG links myself.)

[2] Peter Lampe, Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries: From Paul to Valentinus, trans. Michael Steinhauser (London: Continuum, 2003),166, fn 39. In the same footnote, Lampe goes on to say that the masculine name “Junias” is “an embarrassing solution fabricated by men.” (Google Books)

[3] See John Thorley, “Junia, a Woman Apostle”, in Novum Testamentum, Vol. 38 (January 1996), 18-29, 18. (JSTOR)

Image

A second-century funerary relief of a Roman couple carved from marble. (Wikimedia)

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13 thoughts on “Junias and Junia in Early Commentaries of Romans 16:7

  1. I seem to recall that I read someone claiming that if the name had really been «Junias», then the accusative case would have been «ΙΟΥΝΑΝ», dropping the second «Ι». I have since tried to find this again, but have not been able to. So maybe I just imagined it. But if this was right, it would really be decisive.

    1. My understanding is that the Junias and Junia are identical in the accusative case: Iounian. The same goes for Nymphas/Nympha and Euodias/Euodia, etc. The only difference is accents in later Greek texts. Earlier texts were not accented.
      I write about that here: https://margmowczko.com/stephanas-man-or-woman/

      The actual masculine counterpart for Junia is Junius which is a real name. Junias was not a real name in the ancient world.

      Thorley takes a long look at the name. His article can be read free on JSTOR. But you do need to register.

  2. Thank you for this excellent compilation Marg. I liked Michael Bird’s remarks!

    1. I like lots of Michael Bird’s remarks. 🙂

  3. Is there much debate in regards to what ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις means? Could Junia be noted “among the apostles” without being an apostle herself?

    1. Hi Alex,
      Until the 2001 paper of Burer and Wallace, Romans 16:7 has usually, but not always, been understood as meaning that Andronicus and Junia were outstanding/notable among the apostles/missionaries, that is, the couple were apostles/missionaries. Native speakers of ancient Greek, such as Chrysostom, took it that way.

      “And indeed to be apostles at all is a great thing. But to be even among these of note, just consider what a great tribute this is! But they were of note owing to their works, to their achievements. Oh! How great is the wisdom of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!” Chrysostom, Homily 31 on Romans.

      And today, there are scholars at the top of their field in Greek and biblical studies who also say (despite the work of Brurer and Wallace) that the couple were notable among (Greek: ἐν) the apostles/missionaries. As one example, Peter Lampe, a foremost scholar of early Christianity, succinctly states, “The ἐν has to be translated as ‘among’ (the apostles) like in 1 Corinthians 15:12 and James 5:13-14, 19.”
      Lampe, “The Roman Christians of Romans 16”, in The Writings of St. Paul, Wayne A. Meeks and John T. Fitzgerald (eds) (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), 665.

      As with other verses in the Greek NT, there is potential for some ambiguity in understanding Romans 16:7 but, in all honesty, I can only see one reason to say that the couple was not among apostles/missionaries, and it has little to do with the actual Greek.

      I’ve read both papers (the 2001 paper and Brurer’s 2015 follow-up paper) and found that much of the actual information did not prove the proposed argument that ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις in Romans 16:7 may “almost certainly” be understood as saying that Andronicus and Junia were “well-known to the apostles” but not apostles themselves.

      I agree with what Linda Belleville has said about the 2001 paper:
      “Brurer and Wallace assume a conclusion not found in the evidence. Despite their assertions to the contrary, they fail to offer one clear biblical or extra-biblical Hellenistic example of an ‘exclusive’ sense of ἐπίσημοι ἐν and a plural noun to mean ‘well known to.’ Brurer and Wallace admit this early on, but then go on to conclude otherwise.”
      Linda Belleville, “Ἰουνιαν … ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις: A Re-examination of Romans 16.7 in Light of Primary Source Materials,” in NTS 51 (2005): 231-49, 244-245.

      David A. Shaw has written an excellent paper on Junia and, like Belleville, states that Brurer and Wallace “have not, however, been able to supply sufficient evidence to demonstrate their argument conclusively.” p.111, Shaw goes on to say, “This is not to say Rom 16:7 cannot mean ‘well-known to.’ Burer and Wallace helpfully put what evidence there is on the table but it does not support their conclusion that the phrase ‘almost certainly means ‘well known to the apostles.’’ What they have demonstrated is that both options are possible.” p.112-113
      Shaw, “Is Junia also among the Apostles: Romans 16:7 and Recent Debates,” in Churchman 127.2 (2013): 105-118. (A pdf of this paper is here.)

      Other scholars who refute Brurer and Wallace’s 2001 paper include Richard Baulkham who notes that “their evidence does not actually support [their] conclusion.” He further notes that the paper has “serious defects” and its conclusion is “highly tendentious, even misleading.”
      Bauckham in Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 172-9, 174.

      And Eldon Jay Epp has stated that “even a cursory examination of [the evidence] presented raised significant doubts about the authors’ stated thesis . . .”
      Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 73.

      See also, Eldon Jay Epp in “Text-Critical, Exegetical, and Socio-Cultural Factors Affecting the Junia/Junias Variation in Romans 16,7,” in NT Textual Criticism and Exegesis: Festschrift J. Delobel (ed. A. Denaux; BETL 161; Leuven: Leuven University/Peeters, 2002), 227–91.

      I’m not aware of rebuttals to Brurer’s 2015 paper. It’s more of the same and, in a Facebook comment, Linda Belleville made the remark that it is not worth responding to.

      But there’s more to it than just the grammar and vocabulary, we need to understand Paul’s intent. I’ll expand on this comment and turn it into a blog post.

  4. It is always a privilege to inform and teach the willing learner, but you must be sooooo tired of repeating this information to the willfully ignorant and stubbornly, persistent. Bless your heart and mind for your willingness to share your knowledge and repeat this information for the benefit of both the searching newcomer and the recalcitrant resister.

    1. It can be tiring. But I feel that almost every interaction, especially ones with detractors, sharpens my knowledge and strengthens my resolve. I’m still genuinely and keenly interested in the ministries of New Testament women. So it’s fine. But I don’t ever want it to become simply a debate, or worse, a game where the most eloquent “wins.”

  5. I love the idea of Junia as a woman apostle as much as the next young lady. But isn’t it the cardinal sin of biblical interpretation to take one verse or passage and emphasizes it so as to override passages and themes that are clearer and more common in the Bible?
    I think that is what N. T. Wright is doing when he says this passage/verse proves that women can be ordained bishops in exactly the same way that men have been.
    As a Catholic probably the best way to look at this is that Paul consecrated Junia to a special office that is in parallel to his Apostolic office minus the ability to consecrate the Eucharist. At the very least God wants women to know that they can occupy church offices and secular offices that are of the same value and power as the original apostles.
    Thank for this post Marg

    1. Hi Dana, While I agree with you that God wants women to know that they can be ministers, there are several things that I see differently from you.

      I don’t know what N.T. Wright says about Junia and I can’t speak for him, but there are several verses in the New Testament that show women were episkopoi (overseers) of house churches in the first century.

      I don’t think the example of Junia has anything to say about episkopoi (overseers, bishops). She was an apostolos, an apostle or missionary. There’s no indication she was an episkopos, either a supervisor of a local congregation or a bishop of a network of churches. Even the English word “bishop” and what the word represents is more relevant for churches from the late first century onwards.

      Similarly, I don’t think “offices” is the right word for ministries in the mid-first century. In the early decades of the church, most ministers, both men and women, just did what they could without formal titles or official positions.

      The idea of “consecrating the Eucharist” is a formal ritual that was not yet in use in the mid-first century. No one in the church in Rome, male or female, was “consecrating the Eucharist” at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. And the ritual is not in use in many churches today.

      On the other hand, I have no doubt that women as well as men facilitated and led communion, or the Eucharist, in some mid-first-century house churches.

      I have more about church life in the first century here:
      https://margmowczko.com/the-first-century-church-and-the-ministry-of-women/

      1. Thank you for the article and reply. In my religious tradition (Catholicism) several of your statements are not sound. I am sure from a scholarly perspective you have done your homework on the way life was lived back then. However, Catholics have to go with the working assumption that the “communion suppers” were in fact the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the “overseers” and “ministers” from 1 Timothy chapter 3 were in fact ordained priests and deacons.
        In my reading and understanding of scripture and tradition it seems as if the biblical term “apostles” and “overseers” are referring to the same persons. Indeed, some Catholic theologians including Robert Spitzer have suggested that an apostle is simply another biblical term for a Catholic Bishop.
        Is it possible that Paul is treating Andronicus and Junia as the same person? Meaning that Andronicus could be an apostle and Junia could be considered one in the same person with Andronicus because of their marriage? Is there a grammatical way that you could tell if Paul means to say that both are apostles or perhaps a married apostle and ministry partner in Roman 16:7? I ask this to evaluate the meaning of Junia’s apostleship against other explanations including that Andronicus and Junia were a married couple.

        1. Hi Dana, Paul says several things about Andronicus and Junia. He doesn’t just say they were among the apostoloi. If only Andronicus was the apostle/ missionary, why does Paul refer to both Andronicus and Junia as fellow prisoners? I believe the couple were apostles or missionaries, not just Andronicus. And the grammar supports this.

          Paul typically treats couples as couples, not as one person.

          The purpose of my website is to discuss what the Bible says about certain topics. While I am interested in what the Roman Catholic Church says on these topics–and some of my favourite scholars are Catholics–I am not especially interested in refuting the beliefs of Catholicism.

          I will say, however, that the role of episkopoi and male and female diakonoi in 1 Timothy 3 (and elsewhere in the New Testament) are quite different from the roles of bishops and deacons from the second century onwards. During the first and second centuries there was considerable variety in how churches organised themselves and celebrated the Eucharist (or Communion). The idea that the Eucharist/ Communion is a sacrament was a second-century development.

          Commenting on the episkopoi and diakonoi greeted in Philippians 1:1, Madigan and Osiek write,

          . . . Episkopos carried none of the connotations that the word “bishop” does today, or even after Ignatius of Antioch. It is a term borrowed from management functions, meaning supervisor or overseer. Neither does the term diakonoi, carry the connotations that it would acquire in the next century. What is clear, however, is that these terms in Phil 1:1 need not be understood as referring to an all-male group, in light of Rom 16:1-2, where Phoebe has the same title. Moreover, the importance of Euodia and Syntyche in Phil 4:2 . . . may suggest that these two women are among the episkopoi, probably leaders of house churches.
          Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek (eds. and transl.) in Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005), 11.

          (Carolyn Osiek is a Roman Catholic and I love her work! I am unfamiliar with Kevin Madigan.)

          Catholic tradition may refer to apostoloi and episkopoi (overseers) as having the same role. But the New Testament seems to indicate that apostles were missionaries and overseers were usually hosts of local churches. No New Testament church was led by an apostle, with the exception of the church at Jerusalem. Rather, local churches were cared for by episkopoi, diakonoi, and presbyteroi. However, visiting apostles, teachers and prophets did have input in local congregations.

          I’ve written about the 1 Timothy diakonoi here: https://margmowczko.com/phoebe-a-deacon-of-the-church-at-cenchrea-part-5/

          1. Yes, thank you, what you said about both Andronicus and Junia being apostles makes logical sense. I appreciate that you are not trying to rebut Roman Catholic beliefs. However, in order for our scriptural basis for sacraments and understanding of the sacraments to be consistent we (Catholics) must be consistent with how we understand the scriptures. Even if the term “sacrament” was not developed and the idea is not fully articulated until the 2nd century it is easy to believe that the sacrament was always there. An essential part of something being a sacrament is tracing it to an “institution by Christ”. If it was only created in the 2nd century it wouldn’t be a sacrament.
            For example, it seemed clear to me that Paul’s companion Luke writes down the story about how his companion became an “apostle” in Acts 12:24-14:28.
            • The Apostolic title is only present after the act of ordination in Acts 13:1-3.
            • He links the ordination with the “prophets and teachers” of Antioch
            • Paul proves the fact that he has received Orders by ordaining “presbyterous” (Acts 14:23)
            • The prophets and teachers are linked with 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11
            Catholics have a long and well-founded tradition of considering the seven in Acts 6:1-7 as the first deacons. Since almost the same pattern happens in Acts 12:24- 14:28 it is reasonable to link them all together as the sacrament of holy Orders. Likewise, the “episkopoi” would represent a different application of sacramental vocations of the apostles and prophets and the “diakonoi”. would represent a different way of expressing the vocation of the “teachers”.

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