Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Apostle Junia

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7)

First, let me get an obvious joke out of the way: A female apostle is not an epistle. (ha ha)

Can a woman be an apostle? Many Christians might be surprised to find that Paul recognized a woman as an apostle in his letter to the believers at Rome. Junia is a woman’s name, and she is named, along with Andronicus (who might have been her husband), as of note among the apostles.

Some theologians and Bible commentators, finding the conclusion that Junia was a female apostle hard to accept, try to avoid it in two ways. First, they say that Junia was a textual corruption of the name Junias, which is supposed to be a contracted form of the male name Junianus. But early records from those days do not show any such name as Junias, and only very scant reference to the name Junianus — but there are plenty of instances of the female form Junia.

The second way they try to avoid the conclusion that Junia was a female apostle is to say that Adronicus and Junia were not actually of note among the apostles (that is, as being themselves apostles), but were merely well known to or highly regarded by the apostles. But the Greek construction more naturally means “among.”

Consider also this comment from John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century. He understood the Greek language very well, seeing that it was his native language. Concerning Junia, he says:
Oh! how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle! (from his homilies on Romans).
For Chrysostom, there was neither ambiguity nor embarrassment. He celebrated Junia as an apostle and lauded her devotion.