Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Junia the Apostle

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I wrote this week about my experience of going back to my home church after entering doubt.  Shoulda Stayed in Bed generated quite a bit of discussion about women’s roles in the church. Most fundamentalists believe women should remain silent in church and should have no authority within the church based on scripture in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy.  There are some fundamentalists who believe according to scripture a woman should wear a covering over her head when she prays.  I’ve read that same scripture and come to the conclusion that, indeed, that is what scripture says.  I don’t know when that changed for some or exactly why.  Regardless of how you interpret scripture one thing is very clear to me.  Women, no matter what their role, are under the authority of men.  Even if a woman was given some authority within the church she was never to usurp the ultimate authority of the man at the helm.

Becky made some very poignant comments about women’s roles in the early church. She said:

I’m wondering what this preacher makes of Paul’s comments elsewhere about women praying and prohesying in the church…If someone is prohesying, are they not speaking forth the word of God? Or, did Paul get his wires crossed?


And how about women such as Prisilla teaching a man from the Scripture, Phillip’s daughters who were evangelists, Paul naming women who were co-laborers with him in the gospel, you know, things like that??


And, how do women like Deborah in the OT fit into this picture? Wasn’t she a judge over all of Israel?


What do you think?

And then later in the comments:

D’Ma, Paul names a woman, Junia, as an apostle.


But, I do agree that the entire culture of the time was quite patriarchal. The Greeks, and Romans treated women terribly.


Jesus, in His time, and culture elevated the status of women.


Becky.

I found these to be excellent points.  They really made me think and challenged assumptions I’ve had and doctrines I’ve learned within fundamentalism.  I decided I’d do a bit of research on this because, as I stated in my comments, there is always more than one way to look at any given scripture.  There is only a scant reference to Junia and here is the verse:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.  Romans 16:7(ESV)

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.  Romans 16:7(KJV)

Greet Andronicus and Junia,  my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me. Romans 16:7 (NAB)

Here is what I found:

The early church fathers are not in agreement about the gender of Junia. There even seems to be evidence that strongly suggests Junia was a male. Commentaries differ on the gender. Translations differ on how Romans 16:7 is to be rendered into English. There are different uses of the Greek word “apostello” and it cannot be demonstrated conclusively into which categorical use of the term Junia should fit. Even if Junia were an apostle in the sense of having seen the risen Lord it doesn’t mean she was in authority in the Church. Therefore, for someone to conclude that Junia was a woman apostle in full authority in the Church cannot be maintained from the Scriptures.     Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (carm.org)

 And from the God’s Word to Women website:

1.  Meaning of Apostle

Andronicus and Junia were apostles.  The only unresolved question is what did Paul mean by “apostles.” James Walters offers four distinct ways “apostle” was used in the New Testament: 1) the Twelve original followers of Jesus, 2) persons who had seen the risen Lord and been commissioned by Him (1 Cor 9.1; 15:1-11); 3) a missionary successful in church planting, labor and suffering (which underlie Paul’s arguments in 2 Cor); and 4) an emissary or missionary sent out by a particular church to perform specific tasks (2 Cor 8.23 and Phil 2.25).42  The first and fourth choice can be ruled out because they were not among the “twelve” nor was their apostleship specifically associated with a particular church or specific task.  Selecting between the remaining choices 2 and 3 is more problematic.  They certainly could have been among either or both of the remaining groups.  We simply do not know.  They may have ministered together as a married couple.  An interesting parallel would then exist with Prisca and Aquila mentioned by Paul in Romans 16.3-5a.  We do know, however, that Paul did not assign any gender-specific roles in his greeting to Andronicus and Junia, nor should the church today.  They were both equally deemed outstanding apostles.

2.  Concluding Comments

Andronicus and Junias were outstanding among the apostles probably by virtue of their apostolic sufferings, the numbers of years they had been in Christ, their labor, and their humble service for Christ.  May the eyes of all those in the Church be opened to see this important truth and its significant implication in allowing women to minister equally as they are called by God.  To do otherwise is to deny the full redemptive work of Christ.

Most of the references to Junia being a female apostle are strongly refuted.  Let it be understood that I am not personally taking a stand on the issue. I simply don’t have enough information to do so.  This is just one small example of Christians under the guidance of the Holy Spirit coming to radically different conclusions. Whose doctrine is right?  The plain reading of the text leaves a lot in question.  In fact it doesn’t even call Andronicus or Junia apostles.  It takes an argument from silence to make it say that they were or some sort of oral tradition. 

What does it mean to be an apostle?  Again from carm.org:

  1. There are apostles who were only among the 12. They performed miracles. Some wrote scripture.
  2. Paul was an apostle (unique?) specifically commissioned by Christ. He performed miracles and wrote scripture.
  3. Barnabas is an apostle. He performed no miracles, wrote no scripture.
  4. Jesus is called an apostle. He performed miracles
  5. There are apostles in the sense of simply being sent. They are messengers. They perform no miracles.
  6. It could be possible that anyone who was involved in Christ’s ministry before his death and saw him after his resurrection could be referred to as apostles.
  7. There are false apostles.

So there are varying degrees to which one might even be an apostle up to and including false apostleship. Excluding all the possibilities in this list except 5 and 6, Junia could be an apostle.  I’ll ask all of you what Becky asked me:  What do you think?  My question:  Does knowing the answer make any difference?

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You can read the texts of the two views on the apostleship of Junia by clicking on the links provided.


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8 thoughts on “Junia the Apostle

  1. That particular passage is pretty ambiguous; I'm not sure you can say anything more about it than, "Paul refers to Junia, which appears to be a feminine name, as an apostle, but does not specify what he means by using the term in this context."If you want another interesting bit of history, taka a look at The Abbess Hilda of Whitby. She held considerable power in her area of the church, and was in charge of a community of men and women. To be sure, Christianity in the British Isles was something of a tradition unto itself at that point, but none of her contemporaries seem to have considered her authority unBiblical.

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  2. I'd not be taking CARM's word for it on Junia. Try an odler post from Scott McKinght on this: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/03/a-woman-in-the-footnotes.html#more

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  3. @Michael Mock,I agree the text is ambiguous. It doesn't really refer to Junia as an apostle, just that she was well-known among them. I personally don't think a judgment can be rendered from that simple statement.=======================================================@phil,I enjoyed the post by Scott McKnight. Thanks! I hope I made it clear in my post that I wasn't taking a position one way or the other. I also included a contrasting opinion showing her full apostleship. I'm not relying on CARM. I wanted to highlight the gross disparity of interpretations among those claiming to be taught by the Holy Spirit. I think I did that pretty well. Two completely opposing opinions out of one teeny tiny obscure verse. Not even a whole passage, not even in context. Just one little verse. This is why I doubt. Not because of women's roles in the church, because of disparity in interpretations. Make sense?

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  4. "This is why I doubt. Not because of women's roles in the church, because of disparity in interpretations. Make sense?"OK, gotcha. ;)Funnily enough I never thought the role of the spirit was supposed to be "interpretation of scripture", but conviction of sin and development of character… you know peace, patience, kindness, charity, self control… they are supposed to be the fruits of the spirit after all. As far as I can tell, none of the fruits of the spirit is "correct doctrine"…

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  5. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject. The role of the Holy Spirit, as I understand it, is to do all those things you ascribed to Him. In addition to those things he also intercedes for us with the Father and teaches us all truth.But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13

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  6. well there you go..HS is not doing a very good job it would seem.

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  7. phil,Maybe HS is napping in the copy room. 🙂

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  8. Here's an 8 minute podcast about junia you might enjoy. It's by mark goodacre, a nt professor who i've been listening to a lot lately. http://podacre.blogspot.com/2009/09/nt-pod-12-junia-first-woman-apostle.html

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