Friday, December 22, 2006

Was Junia (Rom. 16:7) a Female Apostle?

A couple of my professors at DTS, Dan Wallace and Michael Burer, have recently been pulled into one of the blogsphere's many battle royales. I guess Wallace can't catch a break on the blogs this year. Readers of Pyromaniacs may remember one reader's warning over Wallace's supposedly questionable theology back in August. That prompted a little 7,700+ word response from Wallace defending his position on inerrancy.

Anyway, this latest dust up is over biblical feminism, women in ministry, and, specifically, the identity of Junia in Rom. 16:7 over at
Adrian's blog. Adrian Warnock has been running a series of articles containing the transcripts of his recent interview with evangelical theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem. Apparently things got a little heated earlier this month among the comments in response to Part Three of the interview. Suzanne McCarthy, who identifies herself as "an amateur linguist," wrote, "It is now well-known that Wallace and Burer misquoted Psalm of Solomon in their article. They actually mistook a noun for an adjective. In fact, Dr. Grudem's entire section on Junia is riddled with factual errors. There is absolutely no evidence and never has been for a masculine alternative." Judging by the deleted comments things must've gotten tense. This subject tends to do that to folks.

I'm still waiting back for my final grade from Wallace in our Exegesis of Romans class so let me say unequivically that it is impossible that Wallace is in error on this issue! Little joke there. In all seriousness though, I've known Wallace to be a gracious and humble guy. If he's wrong, show him where's he's wrong and if you're correct, I'm confident he'll adjust his conclusions accordingly. Just bring your A-game though. I'm just sayin'.

DTS prof Michael Burer responded to the criticism with
this post on Adrian's blog. It's not often that I get to see my DTS profs mixing it up in the blog world so I thought I'd do my part to draw a little attention to these exchanges. (Not that Adrian needs help getting people to read his blog. If he'd put a link to this post on his blog [*hint*] I'd probably get more traffic than I ever have before but it would only be a fraction of what Warnock gets each day. Good blog.)

If someone told you there were female apostles and they used Junia as an example, how would you answer them? Hopefully some of these articles I've linked to can help you with that. Enjoy!


  1. Chrysostom considered her a woman, and he made none of the conclusions about that that modern feminists do.

    Other church fathers took the name to be a man's.

    The fact that it's so important to feminists that Junia be a woman's name is instructive. They have to grasp at straws to avoid the glaringly obvious.

  2. You might like to read the full series of blogposts There is no doubt that Richard Bauckham, Eldon Jay Epp, Linda Belleville and myself have each independently on examining the data, found many, far too many, inconsistencies in Wallace and Burer's article.

    You will also find that at no time do I link the apostleship of Junia to any teaching for today on what it means for a woman to be an apostle.

    Burer made it clear that the quote was truncated and that it did not meet two of his original criteria for a close parallel. a) It was ambiguous and b) episemos/episemon did not relate back to a personal antecedent.

    If people want to introduce a completely novel interpretation into a Bible translation they must ensure that their work stands up to scrutiny and does not need to be revised on multiple points.

    It disturbs me greatly that scholars take such risks in the interests of downgrading the status of women in the scriptures. Please compare the ESV to the KJV on this point.

    PS No church fathers took the name Junia to be a man's name, except one who also took Prisca to be a man. This is discounted. Your previous commenter may have been reading Grudem, who clearly misrepresents the matter and deserves to be taken to task for publishing this kind of urban legend.

    You may think I am harsh but you must examine the data.

  3. Ms. McCarthy, I am not reading Grudem, I am reading the fathers. More than one of them took the name to be male. I won't presume they knew as much Greek as you do, but I'd say it was a fair bet.

    The Coptic synexarion remembers Junia as male. The Alexandrian fathers certainly knew their Greek.

    The bottom line is, obviously there question of who this person was was not cut and dried in the early church and isn't now. The issue neither downgrades women nor "upgrades" us, and that very terminology reveals that this is a power struggle inappropriate to the family of God, and it is not one that's being pushed by writers like Grudem. They are responding to feminist revisionism.

    In the Tradition, several women are venerated as "equal to the apostles," among them Mary Magdalene and St. Nina, apostle to the Georgians. Perhaps if feminists had been paying attention in catechism, they wouldn't feel the need to invent new apostles and other "urban legends," to borrow your phrase, in order to support their agendas, and would just get on with paying honor to the *real* women who served, suffered, and triumphed for the gospel's sake.

  4. P.S. I will say this, Ms. McCarthy- you're wrong to run about the internet saying Wayne Grudem is an enemy of women. If I'm not mistaken, he gave up his post at Trinity to move to a warmer climate for the sake of his wife's health. This demonizing of "complimentarian" teachers as women-haters is nasty and should stop.

  5. There are only two mentions of a male name, Junias, one in Epiphanius and one in a late, 12th century manuscript of Origen. Both of these are discounted.

    There are no occurences of an unambiguous male form of the name in any manuscript or reference other than this, earlier than late 13th century references.

    See John Thorley's article.

    Any attempt to make someone who was considered an apostle for 2000 years, no longer an apostle, is a form of downgrading. That is all I am refering too, no more no less.

    I am very aware of St Nina and Mary Magadalene's status as equal to the apostles. But feminists are not inventing new apostles. Junia was regarded as an apostle by the church fathers as well as in the modern Greek Vamva version of the New Testament. There is no evidence to the contrary. Erudit seems to have misunderstaood the history of Junia.

    Wallace and Burer's argument is novel and unique. Theirs is the first attempt in 2000 years to claim that the person in Romans 16:7 is not as apostle.

    I would like to mention that I have never said anything about Dr. Grudem which is close to what is suggested here. People need to quote me and they simply don't. My argument is that his books are full of statements that are unsubstantiated by data.

    Look at Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, page 54 and 55, and see if anyone can offer some explanation for what he has written about egalitarians on those pages. It is unsubstantiated and extremely offensive. He wrote this and I protest what he wrote. I have no interest whatsoever in his personal life nor have I ever commented on it beyond remarking on how much time he spends writing books against evangelical feminism. I would also like to see him take down the Statement of Concern against the TNIV.

    Dr.Grudem has begun a polemic and taken it to books, radio and the internet. Someone needs to stand up to him and point out the unchristian nature of his campaigns.

  6. You're speaking about manuscripts and data; I'm speaking about the living memory of the churches that have never stopped venerating Junia and Andronicus, and the others of the 70 apostles sent out by our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Junia, as it is written, can be either a male or female name. As I said, the Coptic synexarion remembers Junia as male, not Junias.

    It is not conservatives who are trying to make Junia into a figurehead, but the feminists. They are the ones who misunderstand- who deliberately pervert, in fact- Junia's role in the church to serve their own ends. Naturally such an extreme movment provokes a vigorous response.

  7. From the Coptic Synexarion, 23 Bashans:

    On this day, St. Junia, one of the seventy disciples, departed. He was born in Beth Gubrin (Jibrin) from the tribe of Judah. He was chosen by the Lord to be one of the seventy disciples, and received the Holy Spirit. He preached the Gospel with the disciples and suffered many hardships.

    He accompanied St. Andronicus in his preaching of the Gospel as it is mentioned on the 22nd day of Bashans. St. Junia buried St. Andronicus, and he prayed that the Lord would take him also, and he departed in the following day. St. Paul mentioned him in Romans Chapter 16.

    May his prayers be with us. Amen.

  8. Now, having posted my own church's take on the matter, I'll say again that the witness of the early church on whether Junia was a man, or was a woman and the wife of Andronicus, is unclear. To us, it doesn't matter that much which it is. It shouldn't matter to anyone else, either, but political haymaking must run with something when the catholic witness against female clergy is so overwhelming.

  9. Thank you Erudit for posting this. It is interesting to see how the story of Junia has changed over the centuries.

    As I said there is no ancient evidence for a male Junia. All scholars agree on this.

    For this reason, Wallace and Burer emphatically reject a male Junia and this is why they so strongly support an alternative interpretation for 'of note among the apostles'.

    It is important that people realize that I stand in the Tyndale - King James tradition and Wallace and Burer are the innovators. I am hardly a feminist but a traditionalist in terms of translation. I stand for historic research in translation.

    All the church fathers agreed that Junia was female until the 13th cuntury. If you can find any evidence for a male Junia before this I would be interested.

    Present day references are of interest certainly, but have no bearing on the historic record.

  10. Look at you Jeff - you got blogspotted without my help. 'Course now the whole world knows you're a big dork trying to score points with a prof. Good luck with that.

    Miss you around the office. Hope you're doing well.

  11. For what its worth, I heard back from Wallace and he says they "were wrong in seeing Ps Sol 2.6 as having a personal referent, but not wrong in seeing episemos as an adjective."

    Glad to see some discussion over this while I was away.

  12. "'Course now the whole world knows you're a big dork trying to score points with a prof. Good luck with that."

    Ha ha! Well, I ended up with a B in that class so I don't think I helped my case very much! Actually, I'm thrilled to have earned a B in there. Good to hear you're holdin' things down over at FBCN.

  13. Thanks Jeff for the additional comment from Wallace.

    Since the recent New English Translation of the Septuagint sees episemon in Ps of Sol. 2:6 as a noun, I must argue that this is ambiguous and is no support for the Junia debate. This quote from Psalm of Solomon should be dropped from the discussion altogether, to be honest.

    Certainly there is nothing here to warrant changing 2000 years of tradition. Wallace is having a lot of fun, but this should have been kept out of the NET Bible altogether. There is a difference between speculation and producing something of interest in the academic community, on the one hand; and making a contribution to Bible translation, on the other hand. There should be a modicum of respect for tradition.

  14. Sorry to come back to this late.
    Thank you Erudit for posting this. It is interesting to see how the story of Junia has changed over the centuries.

    As I said there is no ancient evidence for a male Junia. All scholars agree on this.

    "Changed over the centuries"? The Coptic church was founded by St. Mark the Apostle. Our synexarion was formalized later, after the Muslim invasions, but is based on a much earlier oral tradition. Scholars of history should take oral history into account, too, not just obscure textual references. If anyone has changed anything, the Orthodox are the last I would suspect of it. We consider Tradition to be holy. You can't just change it on a whim, or on a linguistic theory.

    So as far as a modern scholar asserting that Junia was male, it is not a matter of "changing 2000 years of tradition." It is, rather, someone interpreting conflicting evidence differently than you do.

    Those trying to change 2000 years of tradition are the ones who would make something Junia's possibly having been female that it doesn't mean.

  15. I will add that we are in communion and share a saints calendar with the Syriac and Armenian Orthodox churches. I will try to do some research to confirm that they, too, venerate Junia as male, which I assume they do. It is not so easy to find such things out, because as I said, this is not a burning issue in the Orthodox world.

    These are some of the oldest churches in the world. Ms. McCarthy, you appear to have overlooked them in your research. If you keep asserting "all the early fathers agreed Junia was female," as you do here and do on your own website, you are perpetuating a falsehood, as you are now aware. Repeating it doesn't make it so.

  16. Erudit,

    There is not one single shred of written evidence for a male name Junias earlier than the 13th century. You cannot say that I am spreading a falsehood unless you have proof that what I am saying is not true. Please take this back. I am constantly surprised that people slander me for defending 2000 years of written tradition.

    There never was a male Greek name Junias, and all the Coptic and Armenenian chruches cannot make this so. There is no written evidence whatsoever.

  17. The name as written in Greek can be either male or female.

    The synexarion is based on the teachings of the fathers. It is evidence. You obviously consider it unreliable, but I'm not sure how you can do so when you're obviously not familiar with it. As a truly impartial researcher, one should consider all the sources.

  18. Erudit,

    Brooten writes,

    "What can a modern philologist say about Junias? Just this: it is unattested. To date not a single Latin or Greek inscription, not a single reference in ancient literature has been cited by any of the proponents of the Junias hypothesis. My own search for an attestation has also proved fruitless. This means that we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed....

    The earliest commentator on Romans 16:7, Origen of Alexandria (e. 185-253/54), took the name to be feminine (Junta or Julia, which is a textual variant),(4) as did Jerome (340/50-419/20),(5) Hatto of Vercelli (924-961),(6) Theophylact (c.1050-c.1108),(70 and Peter Abelard (1079-1142).(8) In fact, to the best of my knowledge, no commentator on the text until Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine."


    No one has seriously contested this. Not even Wallace. Grudem says that Junia could be Junias, but in his footnotes, he admits that it is not credible. So Grudem uses the big print to mention a male Junias, and the small print to admit that this is not accurate.

    If you have any evidence prior to 13th century, that would indeed be interesting!

    The only reason that the idea of a male name Junias has arisen is because some groups could not accept a female apostle. But there never was a male name Junias, it is fictitious.

    The synexarion must have a date. Maybe you could find it for me. To me it looks like a website.

    In any case, oral history is interesting but it cannot refute written evidence. I appreciate the fact that you cannot believe that some churhes have represented this apostle as male because of their own bias against a female apostle but sadly that is what happened. Wallace, who is a text critic knows very well that Junia is a woman and that is why he has tried to question the rest of the verse. Of course, Burer has had to admit that their evidence is not quite what they thought it was - so many contortions of the original text, just to make sure a woman could not be an apostle. I assure that that is what the Greek said and once again, I defend the translation tradition of 2000 years.

    Personally I have never commented on what it means for a woman to be an apostle. I only comment on the strange case of so many men trying to contort the plain Greek.

  19. Suzanne,

    Getting back to the original language, I take it that you would disagree with Wallace & Burer when they say "ἐπίσημος plus (ἐν plus) dative personal adjunct should be best understood as meaning “well known to" If so, why do you prefer "distinguished among," if that is indeed have you translate this verse?

  20. Jeff,

    I wrote 16 posts on this topic. I don't know if I can give you the short version or not.

    First, "well-known" for επισημος is unsupported by any lexicon, except the Louw Nida, which makes it clear that Rom. 16:7 means "well-known among". So there is no lexicon support for Wallace and Burer.

    There is no translation support in 2000 years. It is a completely novel understanding.

    The modern Greek version says "among". The Greek fathers understood it to mean "among". They understood that Junia was an apostle, although they did not necessarily attach any leadership to this. They simply mention that she was an apostle. They did not argue against this. This is what I want - the traditional respect which was given to women in the scriptures. Is that unreasonable?

    It is not that I want some new recognition for women, (although I do not deny that I do) but I am especially discouraged by men who remove honour that women had for two millenia. Why?

    Burer admits in his post on Adrian's blog that the grammatical "close parallel" is ambiguous and is not a close parallel. I have examined every other piece of evidence they offer and there is only one reference, from classical Greek, in which we see an unambiguous exclusive use of επισημος This is simply not enough to counteract the understanding of native Greek speakers, ancient and modern, and the entire tradition of the church.

    Believe me, if it was not obvious that the phrase meant "famous among", then the Eastern churches would not have taken up their recent interpretation that Junias was a man.

    You would think that in this world where God has given us a mission, where women are missionaries along side men, that men would have something better to do with their time than attempt to disempower women.

    I understand men like W & B to be preoccupied with putting women back in a box. That is not what Christianity is about. It is an embarassment to belong to this kind of Christian community.

    Wallace and Burer should retract their article, admit that their premise is ambiguous at best, and put some honest scholarship into the note for Rom. 16:7 in the NET bible. They say that they do not intend to disempower women, then they ought to act accordingly.

  21. "I wrote 16 posts on this topic. I don't know if I can give you the short version or not."

    Sorry, I've been out of touch with a lot of this while I was out of town over the holidays. I assume the 16 posts are what you referred to in comment #2 here when you said, "You might like to read the full series of blogposts"? I'll check them out when I have a chance. Thank you for your contributions to this thread thus far (you too, erudit).

  22. The only reason that the idea of a male name Junias has arisen is because some groups could not accept a female apostle. But there never was a male name Junias, it is fictitious.

    The former is conjecture and the latter is inference.

    I have given you one example of a church that both accepts the idea of women being apostles- has ensured that they are remembered as such, in fact!- and yet asserts Junia was male. The Coptic Church has no such motive as you ascribe.

    I continue to be amazed at the modern superstitious faith in paper. I have already explained the history of the synexarion- it is the hagiography of the Coptic Church. Would you say that writings collected at CCEL or any other digital database are "just a website"? Or would you assert that the Scriptures didn't exist prior to the date of the first extant manuscript?

    Your conclusion that this addition of Junia as a male apostle must be some recent change on the part of the Oriental churches is laughable to anyone familiar with Orthodox hagiography, or the Orthodox mind in general. The lives of the saints is read in our liturgy among the readings of Scripture. It is Scripture to us. And it has the same roots- the teachings of the fathers of the church as remembered in both written and oral history. You can't just change something like that, no matter what the political climate of the day. These are matters of reverence. The reason the synexarion is available as a website is not for purposes of idle curiosity or historical research (and I'm beginning to regret that I've subjected it to such...), but so that the faithful everywhere can remember and venerate our saints as has always been done. I'm afraid you won't be able to lump in the Oriental Orthodox with modern evangelical complementarian rabble-rousers.

    Having said all that, as far as I'm aware, there is no extant formal Coptic hagiographical text (ie, a full collection of the lives of saints in manuscript form) prior to the early medieval period. This is likely due to the severe pressure on the Egyptian church from the Arab invasions. There may well be earlier texts from Armenian or Syriac, but this would require some research.

    I'm also not claiming that the synexarion is "inerrant" in the way moderns think of it. The fact that Eastern fathers like Chrysostom considered Junia female is telling, certainly. It's possible that there was another Junia that is being confused by the fathers (that did sometimes happen with other saints), or the ambiguity on the part of the fathers is based on the fact that the name as written can't grammatically be determined. The fact that we have no written evidence of a male with that name is not to say that there was none. Are you willing to say that we know all there is to know about the ancient world, down to this detail?

    But I'll repeat, the Coptic Church has no motive to "downgrade" Junia. We venerate many female saints- among them mighty missionaries, ascetics, martyrs, and rulers. Most Orthodox Christians are scarcely aware of this debate, and it wouldn't matter much if they were. The Copts have remembered it this way since the beginning, and they're not going to stop now.

    I'll take that as note to self and make this my last comment on the subject.

  23. Erudit,

    It is certainly an interesting point that the Coptic church finds Junia to be Junias. I am not sure how that happened. But I just want to state that the common position of conservative scholars is that Junia is female. So if I think Junia is female it does not make me a feminist but puts me in the same camp as Wallace.

    Junia being "among the apostles" is also the most common schanlarly opinion - not a "feminist" position.

    I represent the most common and ancient of translation traditions, not a modern feminist position. I don't think anyone can find a place where I draw any conclusions from this, except that it is the most standard scholarship that Junia was a female Greek name, never a male name, and that she was called an "apostle."

    End of story. Nothing feminist about this.

  24. Oops, my famous typos!!

  25. I've come a bit late to this discussion, but it seems to me that the meaning of the word "apostle" in the context of this passage is important.

    One thing that Chrysostom was certainly not saying was that Junia was one of the Twelve Apostles.