Women Paul wrote to in Rome

Junia (Romans 16:7)

Up until recently, the huge controversy was over whether Junia was a woman, or this name was actually Junias, a man. So let’s tackle that first.

The name ‘Junia’ occurs more than 250 times in ancient inscriptions found just in Roma alone. Evidently, up until the 13th century (so, for the first 1,200 years of the church) almost all theologians and commentators on record did not question who this apostle was. She was Junia.

  1. The earliest known commentator on the book of Romans was Origen (who lived from 185-253 A.D.) and he referred to Junia as a woman.
  2. Another early commentator, Jerome (circa 347-420 A.D.) also referred to Junia as a woman.
  3. One early church father, the Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (who lived from 349-407 A.D.), who was usually no fan of women, wrote this about Junia, “To be an apostle is great. But to be outstanding among the apostles: just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.” No question in his mind that Junia was a woman, and an apostle. (thoughts taken from "The Source, by Dr. A Nyland)

Interestingly, a contemporary of John Chrysostom, Epiphanius (who lived from 315 - 403 A.D.), recorded in his “Index of Disciples” that, "Junias, of whom Paul makes mention, became Bishop of Apameia of Syria." I wonder if Epiphanius balked at the idea of a woman being a bishop? In any case, he added an ‘s’ to the name to masculinize it. Rather tellingly, he also identified Prisca/Priscilla as a man. I think there was more going on, there, than a mistake of Greek scholarship.

One fascinating theory suggest the possible original name of Junia is Joanna, since it is so similar in sound; that maybe Junia was even the Joanna of Luke 8:3; 24:10

The reason for theologians consistently agreeing Junia was a woman is simple: all the ancient Greek and Latin manuscripts commending the oustanding apostles in Romans 16:7 read either "Junia" or "Julia," both feminine names.

It wasn’t until Aegidius of Rome (circa 1243-1316 A.D.) decided, with no explanation, to simply change Junia’s name into a man’s name, that the tide changed. The one who really drove it home was Jacques LeFevre, a French theologian, who, in 1512, wrote about Junia as a man, even though in the Latin translation available to him the name was clearly feminine. By this time, the view of women in the church had been seriously eroding. Sounds like historical revisionism to me!!

Weirdly, they had to make up the name ‘Junias’ because, to date, not a single ancient manuscript or enscription makes reference to, or bears that name. Think about that. Translators and commentators who found a woman apostle unacceptable, made up the name "Junias" to substitute their own word for the Word of God. I had to pause, when that thought presented itself. Really? Would a believer, someone who reverenced God, and revered His word, really do that? Evidently, yes.

That is going to the greatest length, a scary length, to limit the role of women in the church, to be so biased, that rather than be changed by God’s word, a theologian changes God’s word, in order to support their bias.

You would think this is rare. But it really isn’t. Translators have been doing this routinely, as it turns out. The most recent example happened last year. The translation committee for the English Standard Version decided to permanently change their rendition of Genesis 3:16—I say “permanently,” because the translation team stated from here on in, the translation was never to be tampered with again. It was to remain as is for as long as the ESV is published. (Fortunately, the translation team later reversed this decision).

Here’s how that verse was changed:

Previous ESV translation of Genesis 3:16Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

New (what ESV was calling the “permanent”) text of Genesis 3:16Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

Some of you may remember the contention over these decisions. One well-known blogger wrote, “Many opponents and proponents of the ESV found themselves united in their discomfort with this wording, concerned that it reflected interpretation more than translation—interpretation meant to support a complementarian understanding of the text. It was, after all, a unique and controversial translation (though, to be fair, older editions of the ESV did offer it in a footnote as a viable alternate, so it was not completely foreign).”

I wonder how many more centuries this issue will be argued over?

Thankfully, after nearly a thousand years of wrangling over Romans 16:7, we’ve come full circle. The great majority of theologians and scholars now agree, again, Junia is a woman. Paul was commending a woman.

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.