Priscilla was the first woman we looked at in this series — and we looked at a profile of her last Thursday. Today we look at Junia. Here’s the simple overview: there was an early Christian apostle who was a woman and her name was Junia.
Do women do in your church what Junia did in hers?
Junia appears once in the NT: Romans 16:7. Here’s the 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.”
A significant problem here is the history of translation and interpretation. Put simply, Junia (a feminine name) became Junias (a masculine name), no doubt in part because: (1) apostles aren’t females; (2) therefore, Junia must be a Junias. Facts are that the name is feminine and that the early Christians all read her name as a woman (Chrysostom, eg).
Is this a husband-wife team? That is, the husband is Andronicus and the female is Junia.
They are family relatives of Paul.
And they were in prison with Paul.
Lot of this discussion hinges on the meaning of “prominent among the apostles”: Does this mean “prominent apostles” (therefore Junia was an apostle) or “regarded as prominent by the apostles”? There seems to be a near consensus today that the first understanding is correct (e.g., Doug Moo — who can’t be taken as a radical).
This leads to this point: Junia (along with her husband Andronicus, but no less true of her than him) was a prominent apostle. To whom does “apostle” refer?
1. Some think there is one group of apostles, and the Twelve are just special apostles among this group. If so, then a text like Acts 1:21-22 would apply to Junia: “1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” That is, she would have had to have been an early companion of Jesus. (This raises all kinds of interesting questions — a relative of Paul in the earliest circle of Jesus’ followers?)
And some point here to 1 Cor 9:1, in which case she had to have been a successful church planter and have witnessed resurrected Christ. “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?”
2. Others think the “apostle” here is a “missionary” and therefore Andronicus and Junia were prominent missionary-apostles (church planters). Here are the references to those other than the Twelve who are called apostle: Barnabas (Ac 14:14), James (Gal 1:19), Matthias (Ac 1:26), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), and “apostles of the churches” (2 Cor 8:23).
I prefer #2.