Monday, January 30, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 6


In the early days of Christianity, when the Church was more a movement than an institution, there was an outstanding female apostle named Junia. The Apostle Paul sent her greetings in Romans 16:7. Since the time of Martin Luther, Bible translators have tried to translate her out of existence. In earlier posts in this series, I’ve looked at three strategies they have used. The reasoning behind those strategies can be expressed as syllogisms.

A syllogism is a form of logical proof made up of three statements. The first two statements are called premises. The third statement, the conclusion is derived from the premises. If the premises are true, and the syllogism is constructed correctly, the conclusion will also be true. But, as I’ve said before, the most rigorous logic will yield false conclusions if it proceeds from faulty assumptions.

An example of a syllogism might be:

A. All Cretans are liars.
B. Bruce is a Cretan. Therefore,
C. Bruce is a liar.

If the premises, A and B, are true then the conclusion, C, is also true.

The first attempt to translate the female apostle away expressed as a syllogism would be:

A. A woman cannot be an apostle.
B. Junia is an apostle. Therefore,
C. Junia cannot be a woman.

On the basis of reasoning like this, the feminine name “Junia” was translated as a masculine name, “Junias.” The problem with this solution is that the name “Junia” is well-attested in ancient times, and the name “Junias” is did not exist. So the first solution to the Junia problem has largely been abandoned in favor of a second solution which can be expressed as follows:

A. A woman cannot be an apostle.
B. Junia is a woman. Therefore,
C. Junia cannot be an apostle.

At least three recent English versions of the Bible have adopted this solution, claiming that Junia was not “prominent among the apostles” but only “well-known to the apostles.” This translation, however, requires an unnatural reading of the Greek, one that was never, to my knowledge, used until the twentieth century. So, the second solution is unconvincing and brings us to the third.

A. A woman cannot be an apostle.
B. Junia, a woman, is called an “apostle.” Therefore,
C. “Apostle” cannot mean “apostle.”

So a footnote in the Holman Christian Standard Bible suggests that Junia was not an apostle but a mere “messenger.” The Greek word ἀπόστολος (apostolos) is translated as "messenger" in two other verses (2 Cor 8:23, Php 2:25). Context argues against this understanding of ἀπόστολος in Romans 16:7. If Junia is only a messenger, whose messenger is she?

I have stated these three solutions to the Junia problem as syllogisms to show that they all rest upon the same assumption, namely that a woman cannot be an apostle. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Junia herself puts the lie to that assumption. The premise is false and any conclusion based on it will likewise be false. Junia just can’t be translated out of existence, and I think that honesty requires Christians of every ilk to recognize that.

Churches that would deny women leadership roles can still do so, of course. They can argue that Junia may well have been an apostle but the age of apostles is past. They can argue that it has been the tradition of the Church for many centuries to reserve positions of authority for men. They can argue on the basis of other Scriptures--Scriptures that were written when the Church was on its way to becoming an institution--that women should be silent and submissive. (Of course this last argument will be difficult for those Christians who teach that the Bible speaks with a single voice.)

What they cannot do, at least not convincingly, is deny that when Christianity was young there was a woman named Junia whom the apostle Paul said was “prominent among the apostles.”

I am proud to be a part of the stream of Christianity that recognizes that both women and men can be gifted for ministry.  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

The illustration for this post is a detail from a mosaic at the Basilica of St. Appolonaire in Classe near Ravenna, Italy. I found the picture at this website.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 5


My study of Romans 16:7 has led me to the conclusion that Paul referred to a woman, Junia, as "prominent among the apostles." I have also concluded that "apostle" here means a person in a position of authority. Junia has often been translated out of existence, either by making her name masculine "Junias" or by making her "well-known" to the apostles. In the chart below, I look at Romans 16:7 in 24 English versions of the Bible. A few of the versions listed are actually significant revisions of earlier versions (e.g. NASB 1e and NASB 2e =New American Standard Bible 1st and 2nd editions).

I have tried to restrict myself to translations that were produced by committee.

The Versions are listed by year of publication. Multiple versions published in the same year are alphabetized. "X" indicates the reading of the main text; "f" indicates a variant reading included in a footnote. So, for example, the New American Standard Bible, 2nd edition uses the masculine name "Junias" in its text and relegates the feminine name Junia to a footnote. NASB 2e further calls "Junias" a "prominent apostle" and takes no notice of the variant translation "well-known to the apostles."

A few ancient Greek texts have a variant reading that replaces the name "Junia" with "Julia." This is not a significant, but is footnoted in some translations and is so noted in the last column of my chart.

I think that the chart shows graphically that the masculine name "Junias" was not used in English translations before the late 19th century. It was widely used through much of the 20th century but has now largely been abandoned. Three recent doctrinally biased English versions have adopted the suspect reading "well-known to the apostles." The chart shows that this is a new translational strategy.

Following the chart is a key to the abbreviations used for the various versions, including my own remarks about each one.

Click the chart to enlarge it.

* * *


GENEVA BIBLE: Historically significant as the first mass-produced English language Bible available to the general public. The Geneva Bible's marginal notes reflect Calvinist theology and have a decidedly anti-monarchical and anti-ecclesiastical bent.

KJV: Commissioned by King James I on his ascension to the throne of England, the Authorized or King James Version was intended to combat the popularity of the Geneva Bible. Slow to catch on, the KJV came to rule as the English Bible for about 300 years. Its influence can hardly be overestimated. KJV Onlyists make extravagant claims for this translation. Changes in English usage and discoveries of many ancient biblical manuscripts have rendered the KJV nearly obsolete.

ASV: The New Testament of the American Standard Version was based on Westcott and Hort's critical edition of the Greek New Testament. The ASV retained the archaic language of the KJV. Never widely popular, the ASV has largely lapsed into disuse. A curious feature of the ASV is its use, in the Old Testament, of “Jehovah” to render the name of God.

RSV: A bestseller when first published, and the center of considerable controversy, the Revised Standard Version was based on the best critical Greek and Hebrew texts available. This academic translation was made by an interfaith team of scholars that included Jews and Christians. The RSV rendered the Scriptures in modern English but retained archaic forms (“thee,” “thou,” “hast,” etc.) in poetic passages. The RSV was criticized by some for (rightly) rendering the Hebrew 'almah as “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14 and (again rightly) omitting interpolated verses (like Acts 8:37) that had appeared in earlier translations. The RSV is the version that I heard read in church as a child and I have a special affection for it.

NEB: The New English Bible, a British translation into thoroughly modern English, was printed in single-column format with verse numbers relegated to the margins. It looked, and in some measure read, like a modern novel. The NEB has now largely been replaced by the Revised English Bible (REB).

GNT: Formerly known as the Today's English Version (TEV), the American Bible Society's Good News Translation was made according to the principle of “dynamic equivalence.” Idiomatic and highly readable, the GNT has now grown a bit long in the tooth.

NASB 1e (also second edition): The New American Standard Bible was translated according to a strict principle of “formal equivalence” which often makes its English renderings forced and unnatural. Each verse is printed beginning on a new line, meaning that there are no paragraphs in the NASB. The second edition represents a considerable revision of the first. I rarely consult this version.

NIV (also NIrV, TNIV and NIV 11): The all-time bestselling English translation of the Bible, the New International Version was in some ways, an Evangelical response to the popularity of the RSV. The NIV has been criticized for its doctrinal bias (e.g. it renders 'almah as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14). For many people raised in Evangelical churches, the NIV is the Bible. The translation style steers a middle course between dynamic and formal equivalence. The NIrV (New International Readers' Version) is a closely related translation into simplified English. The Today's New International Version adopted more inclusive language and was the focus of sometimes vituperative controversy. The original NIV and the TNIV have now been replaced with a 2011 revised New International Version (NIV 11). Because of its inclusive language and more academic bias, the NIV 11 has been rejected in favor of other translations by some of the old NIV's supporters.

NKJV: The New King James Version is something of an oddity, a fresh rendering of the texts behind the KJV into more modern English. This is the Bible distributed by the Gideon Society. A formally equivalent translation, I find the NKJV useful for checking my own, rough translations from the Greek.

NRSV: The New Revised Standard Bible is my go-to Bible and the one I read in worship every Sunday. A revision of the old RSV, the NRSV uses more inclusive language. It is frequently quoted in scholarly publications. Though no translation is perfect, the NRSV is as good as any and better than most. It is, however, written at a fairly high reading level.

NCV: Written at about a third grade level, and originally intended as a children's Bible, the New Century Version is a very readable translation.

CEV: The Contemporary English Version, another publication of the American Bible Society, is rendered in simplified English and avoids using theological terms. The CEV is an easy read.

GW: The God's Word translation was largely the work of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod scholars, though it is not officially a publication of that church body. (The LCMS keys its publications to the ESV, see below). Rendered according to a dubious translation philosophy, GW never seems to have achieved much popularity.

NASB 2e: See NASB 1e above.

NLT 1e (also Second edition): Based on the style of Ken Taylor's popular Living Bible paraphrase, the New Living Translation is a pleasure to read. Highly idiomatic, the translation sometimes shows doctrinal bias (e.g. at Isaiah 7:14 'almah is rendered “virgin” though “young woman” is a footnoted). The second edition of the NLT (NLT 2e) was a substantial revision.

NIrV: See NIV above.

WEB: Here's a curiosity. A public domain translation based on the old ASV. Its textual basis for the New Testament is the Byzantine Majority text, closer to the KJV's underlying text than the ASV's Westcott and Hort Greek text. The World English Bible is a work in progress though the New Testament is said to be complete. Where the ASV translated the name of God as “Jehovah” in the Hebrew Scriptures, the WEB uses the more correct “Yahweh.” Personally I prefer the convention of rendering God's name with Lord printed in small caps.

ESV: Less a translation and more a doctrinally biased “correction” of the old RSV, the English Standard Version was greeted with undeserved enthusiasm by some sectors of Christianity. The ESV's translation team was made up predominantly of Calvinists and complimentarians. I think that it was intended, at least partly, to give Evangelicals a viable alternative to the NIV. As you may have inferred, I do not like the ESV. Still, because it is stylistically so close to the RSV that I was weaned on, I can't help but enjoy reading it.

HCSB:The Holman Christian Standard Bible is published by the Southern Baptist Convention's Holman Bible Publishers. When the HCSB was first published, SBC president Al Mohler said, “This is an important thing for Southern Baptists to do, if for no other reason than that we will have a major translation that we can control.” The HCSB steers a middle course between dynamic and formal equivalence. Among the recent doctrinally biased translations that make Junia “noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles” the HCSB is alone in footnoting the (correct) alternative “outstanding among the apostles.” I quote here from the online text of the HCSB. The text in my copy of the Apologetics Study Bible varies.

NLT 2e: See NLT 1e above.

NET: The New English Translation has a liberal copyright policy. It is largely a product of the Dallas Theological Seminary and reflects that institution's “conservative” theology, especially in its thousands of translators' notes.

CEB: Published in the 400th anniversary year of the KJV, the Common English Bible reads at the same grade level as the USA Today newspaper. I have enjoyed reading this “academically rigorous” translation. Some of its idiosyncratic translational choices are enlightening (e.g. “the Human One” for “Son of Man”). A few are just strange (“DNA” for "seed" at 1 John 3:9). Overall, this is a worthwhile translation.

NIV 11: See NIV above.

Readers: I would appreciate your help and feedback. If you have any corrections or additions for the chart above, please make them in comments to this post. I would particularly like to know how Romans 16:7 is translated in some versions I don't have access to, in particular the Revised English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Last Chance...


First reply to this post gets it. Give me your name and address so that I can forward them to the publisher. I promise not to publish your personal information.

I'm grateful to the publishers of the Common English Bible for the opportunity to participate in this Blog Tour. I know that I have helped to promote their product, but, frankly, it has been reciprocal. They have also promoted my little blog and have not interfered, in any way, with what I have written here. I have enjoyed giving away Bibles and, I have to say I like the CEB overall. It is as good as most English versions of the Bible, and better than many.

I've been working on Part 5 in my series on Junia. It looks like it will be a long one dealing with how Junia has fared in various English translations. Watch for it soon.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 4


Making a man of Junia didn't work. Claims that she was not “prominent among the apostles” but only “well known to the apostles” are unconvincing. There remains a third possible solution to the problem that is Junia. A footnote to Romans 16:7 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) reads:

The apostles” is not always a technical term referring to the 12; cp. 2 Co 8:23; Php 2:25 where this word is translated as “messenger.”

Etymologically the word “apostle” means “one who is sent.” Close synonyms for “apostle” include “ambassador,” “representative,” “messenger,” and “delegate.” The HCSB footnote is right in saying that “apostle” has a technical meaning. In this sense it refers to certain important leaders in early Christianity—those who were sent by Christ—though not only “the 12.”

Luke 6:12-16, and parallel passages, tell how Jesus designated twelve of his disciples as “apostles.”

At daybreak, [Jesus] called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter; his brother Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called a zealot; Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6: 12-16 CEB)

In the first chapter of Acts, after the death of Judas, the eleven remaining apostles seek a replacement to fill out their number. Peter says:

Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22 CEB)

Paul refers to himself as an apostle (see Romans 1:1 among other places) and apparently means this in the technical sense as he defends his right to the title in 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians 1-2. Perhaps Paul needed to defend himself because he was not one of the twelve and had not “accompanied [them] during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among [them].”

The HCSB footnote is right, however, that there is a non-technical use of the word “apostle.” It can refer to a messenger or delegate who is not a leader of the church, a representative of someone other than the Christ. A look at the two passages referenced in that footnote is instructive. First, from Philippians:

I think it is also necessary to send Epaphroditus to you. He is my brother, coworker, and fellow soldier; and he is your representative [“apostle” in Greek] who serves my needs. (Philippians 2:25 CEB)

This Epaphroditus was apparently sent from Philippi to assist Paul in some way. Now Paul is sending him back. I think that Paul is being playful when he calls Epaphroditus “your apostle.” He means something like “Just as I am Christ's apostle to you, Epaphroditus has been your apostle to me.” Clearly, though, Paul does not mean that Epaphroditus is an apostle in the technical sense. Now, the passage from 2 Corinthians:

If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and coworker among you. If there is any question about our brothers, they are the churches’ apostles and an honor to Christ. (2 Corinthians 8:23 CEB).

Here Paul is presenting the credentials of a group of people whom he is sending to Corinth to pick up an offering which they will then take to the church in Jerusalem. The “brothers” are evidently not apostles in the technical sense, but representatives of the churches, that is, delegates of the congregations that sent them.

Does this mean that Junia and her pal Andronicus might be apostles in the non-technical sense, mere “messengers” or “delegates” like Epaphroditus and “the brothers?”

I don't think so.

In the two instances where Paul uses the word “apostle” in the non-technical sense, he supplies a possessive pronoun. He tells us whose apostles these are. Epaphroditus is “your [i.e. the Philippians'] apostle.” The “brothers” are “the churches' apostles.” It is clear that they are not “Christ's apostles.” They are not apostles in the technical sense.

When Paul refers to himself, or other church leaders, as apostles in the technical sense he may use a possessive pronoun (cf. at 1 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:7) or, more often, not (1 Corinthians 9:1 et al.). It seems that apostles are assumed to be Christ's apostles unless otherwise specified.

In Romans 16:7 Paul refers to Andronicus and Junia as “prominent among the apostles” without a possessive pronoun. If Junia is not Christ's apostle, then whose apostle is she?

The illustration accompanying this post is Junia from Luba Lukova's Biblical Women portfolio. I found it here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bible Giveaway

The end of the Common English Bible Blog Tour is coming near. I only have a couple more of these to give away.

The first person to reply to this thread gets a free paperback copy of the CEB.

Leave your name and mailing address. I promise that I will not publish your personal information.


Friday, January 13, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 3


Part one of this series can be found here. And part two here.

I have a friend who claims that there are more than 500 English translations of the Bible. I sincerely believe that every Bible translator intends to render the Scriptures as clearly and accurately as possible. I include in this assessment the translations that are based on poor textual evidence (e.g. the New King James Version). Likewise the weird translations that “restore” Hebrew names to the Greek New Testament and even the most egregiously denominational “translations” (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation). I’m not being charitable in my assessment of translators’ motives. It’s just that, apart from outright fraud, I really can’t imagine why anyone would create a Bible translation that did not, in their own estimation, accurately and clearly render the meaning of the original.

Having said that, I want to point out that every translation reflects the biases of its translators. The venerable King James Version was biased toward ecclesiastical and monarchical language. It was produced in part to counter the anti-monarchical and anti-ecclesiastical biases of the popular Geneva Bible.

Among modern translations, some choose to use inclusive language, others are gender specific. Some are translated using dynamic equivalence, others are formally equivalent. These are intentional choices made by the translators.

I would suggest that some Bible translations have a doctrinal bias and others have an academic bias. All other considerations aside, I prefer a Bible that is academically rigorous to one that is doctrinally “correct.” This is because I believe that doctrine should be derived from Scripture, not translated into it.

Among other things, an academic translation will render the Hebrew ’almah as “young woman” at Isaiah 7:10 and a doctrinal translation will say “virgin.”

For the best part of the twentieth century even the most academically biased translations rendered the name of an apostle in Romans 16:7 with the masculine “Junias.” This is because they based their translations on critical editions of the Greek New Testament. The latest critical editions of the Greek Testament have, for reasons I’ve discussed before, restored the feminine name “Junia” to this verse.

Why did the earlier editions say “Junias?” I can only speculate, but I suspect the scholars who produced those editions honestly believed a woman could not be an apostle. After all, the Church, for most of its history, has denied women roles of leadership. Some Christians still do.

Today it is more and more recognized that the Apostle Paul’s churches practiced a surprising gender equality. Only later in the New Testament period, when Christianity became less a movement and more an establishment, were women excluded from leadership roles. An interesting, popular level book that covers some of this information is Crossan and Borg’s First Paul. I recommend it with some small reservations. Read it critically.

Since it is now more difficult to deny that Junia was a woman, recent doctrinally biased translations have resorted to a different strategy to deal with the problem of a female apostle. They’ve demoted her. They say that Andronicus and Junia were not “prominent apostles” but “well-known to the apostles.”

Some of the recent versions that adopt this translation are the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible and the New English Translation.

The arguments for this translation involve technical points of Greek grammar. My own grasp of Koine Greek is good enough to follow the discussion, but not to contribute to it. (If you are interested in the techinical matters, Suzanne McCarthy has done an excellent job of dealing with them at the BLT blog). Still, I find the argument that Junia was only “well-known to the apostles” unconvincing for at least three reasons:

First, the argument is circular. Like the argument that Junia was not a woman, this strategy is based on the unproven assumption that a woman could not be an apostle.

Second, the translation “well-known to the apostles” strains the Greek. The normal way to read the Greek is that Andronicus and Junia were “prominent among the apostles.” As far as I can ascertain, the earliest English translation to adopt this strategy was the English Standard Version in 2001. Before that, no one tried to claim that Andronicus and Junia were “well-known to the apostles.”

Third, arguments that Junia was not an apostle strike me as disingenuous. If the names in Romans 16:7 were both unambiguously masculine, say “Andronicus and George,” no one...absolutely no one...would try to suggest that George was only “well-known to the apostles.”

To sum up, the argument that Junia was not a woman has largely been abandoned. Academically biased translations of the Bible say that Junia was “prominent among the apostles.” Doctrinally biased versions say that she was only “well-known to the apostles,” an unconvincing translation that strains the Greek.

There remains a third solution to the problem of Junia. Stay tuned.

 I found the picture of St. Nina accompanying one of Suzanne McCarthy's excellent posts at the BLT blog. I'm participating in the Common English Bible Blog Tour. Come back next week for a chance to get a free copy of the Common English Bible, a translation that gives Junia the respect she deserves.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 2


To read Part 1 of this series, click here.

In Romans 16:7, St. Paul gives a shout out to the apostles Andronicus and Junia, two persons who are otherwise unknown. Andronicus is a man’s name. Junia is a fairly common Latin woman’s name. This being the letter to the Romans, the appearance of a Latin name is not terribly troubling. The appearance of a female apostle on the other hand....

Christians who do not allow women positions of leadership in their churches have used at least three strategies to deal with the problem of a female apostle. The first is simply to deny that Junia is a woman.

Personally, I favor the ordination of women. I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which allows both women and men to serve in every office in its congregational, synodical and churchwide expressions. My concern here is not to defend my position or the ELCA’s but rather to raise a question of honesty in biblical translation.

Do we read our doctrine out of Scripture, or do we allow our doctrine to shape the translation of Scripture?

Martin Luther was not a fan of women’s ordination. The reformer wanted to restore the catholic church to what he thought was a pristine, biblical theology. In his reforms, Luther did not try to do away with all tradition, only those traditions that stood in the way of the clear proclamation of the Gospel. The catholic church in Luther’s time had no tradition of ordaining women, so Luther’s churches did not ordain women. Luther’s commitment to Christian freedom made him admit that, in theory, under dire circumstances, women might serve as pastors. He did not, however, think that feminine voices were suited to preaching. That’s about as enlightened as Martin Luther got on the subject.

When Luther translated the New Testament into German, he added a masculine article to Junia’s name and referred to Junia and Andronicus as “men of note among the apostles.” Effectively, he gave Junia a sex change. Or at least a grammatical gender change.

Luther was not the first person to do so. That distinction would belong to a 13th century commentator named Aegidius of Rome. Let that sink in. It was not until the 13th century that Junia was called a man. Until that time every translator and commentator agreed that Junia was a woman.

It really isn’t that hard to change Junia’s gender. It’s as easy as changing an accent mark in the Greek text. Accent the name one way and it is the feminine Junia. Accent it another way and it becomes the masculine Junias. Since accent marks were not used in Greek manuscripts until the 10th century, how can we know which form the name should take? To the impressive evidence of ancient translators and commentators that Junia was a woman, we can add the fact that the masculine name Junias is unknown from ancient documents.

Junia was a common name. The name Junias didn’t exist.

From the time of Tyndale until the latter half of the 19th century, every English translation of the New Testament used the feminine name Junia in Romans 16:7. Then, probably because they did not believe that a woman could be an apostle, translators began using the masculine name Junias. In 1927, Nestle's critical edition of the Greek New Testament accented Junia's name as if it were masculine, relegating the feminine form to a footnote. Later editions dropped the footnote. For most of the twentieth century English translations, including the Revised Standard Version and the 1978 New International Version, said “Junias.”

The most recent critical editions of the Greek New Testament have restored the feminine name Junia to Romans 16:7 and newer English translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version and the 2011 revision of the New International Version have followed suit. Even those translations made by “conservative” (read “masculinist”) translation committees, such as the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the New English Translation, and the English Standard Version, translate Junia's name in its feminine form. (These three versions use a different strategy to solve the problem of Junia. Watch for my next post).

In short, the evidence that Junia was actually a woman is overwhelming.

Arguments that she was not a woman are based in circular reasoning: “Our doctrine says that women cannot be apostles. Junia was an apostle. Therefore Junia was not a woman.” The premise that women cannot be apostles is unproven, and, in fact, Junia herself is a counter-example. Giving her a sex change, or even a grammatical gender change, is unwarranted. It's a matter of reading doctrine into translation.

Some resources: Eldon Epp has written a short but thorough scholarly book titled Junia, the First WomanApostle. Scot McKnight has recently published a highly accessible e-book titled Junia Is Not Alone. Suzanne McCarthy has an impressive series of blog posts about Junia on the BLT blog. I have used all of these sources in preparing this series of blog posts.

I got the picture of St. Junia the Apostle, here.

Since I am participating in the Common English Bible blog tour, I should point out that the CEB renders Romans 16:7 correctly: “Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” This has been a long post, so if you have read this far and are the first person to reply to this post, you can be the winner of this week's CEB giveaway!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Junia? Pt. 1


I’ve said before that the Apostle Paul’s letters are high context documents. That is, they assume a great deal of shared knowledge between the writer and his intended audience. Some of that knowledge is, after a span of nearly two millennia, lost to us. For example, in the sixteenth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul wraps things up in his customary way with a series of personal greetings to various individuals. For most of those individuals, the little that we know of them is to be found in Romans 16. This is the case with Andronicus and Junia.

Say hello to 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 CEB)

Andronicus is a male name and Junia is a female name. Some commentators speculate that Andronicus and Junia were a married couple, but this is purely a conjecture.

When Paul calls Andronicus and Junia his relatives, he may mean that they are Jewish, like himself. Some translations (e.g. the New Living Translation and the New International Version) reflect this interpretation. It is an interpretation nonetheless. Andronicus is a Greek name, but that doesn’t mean much. Some Jews had Greek names.

Paul seems to suggest that he, Junia and Andronicus were in prison, possibly together. The details of their imprisonment are unknown and, to be honest, I wonder if Paul wasn’t using the term “fellow prisoners” in some metaphorical sense.

Paul says that Andronicus and Junia were “in Christ before” he was. It is probably safe to assume this means that they had adopted the Christian faith before Paul did. Probably.

That is all that we can know about Andronicus and Junia. That, and the fact that Paul calls them “apostles.” Therein lies the problem.

If you don’t see the problem, God bless you!

Some Christians do not allow women roles of leadership in their churches. This can range from reserving ordination for men alone, to denying that women can even read theScriptures aloud in the assembly. For such Christians, the idea that Junia, a woman, could be an apostle, is problematic.

Looking at the Bible as objectively as possible, I think that there are passages in both testaments that affirm women in leadership roles, and passages, especially in the New Testament, that express the equality of men and women in Christ. There are also passages that say women should be silent and submissive to men (1 Tim. 2:12). In other words, the biblical witness is mixed. Junia becomes a problem for those Christians who insist that the Bible is one inerrant thing.

In my next few posts, I intend to discuss some of the flawed solutions that have been applied to the problem that is Junia.

The icon of Junia, along with Andronicus and Athanasius, came from wiki. For the record, I believe that qualified women and men should be allowed to serve in any position of leadership in the Church. That's the way it is in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.