In Roman’s 16:7, St. Paul added the name Junia, which is a woman’s name, on his list of apostles. Does it mean there were women apostles? Find out.
The problem here is that we don’t know who this biblical person is. Actually, not all translators are convinced that she is bearing her name as Junias, a man. So let’s begin with Paul’s list in Romans. At the end of his letter, Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia[s], my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are well-known among the apostles and they were in Christ before me.”
But what does Paul mean when he says apostle? Most delicate among these questions is this, does bible recognize a woman with a title traditionally reserved for a selected group of men? Some early manuscripts read Julia, as clearly female. Until the 12th century, when the Church fathers overwhelmingly preferred the female designation. In that case, John Chrysostom wrote, “Oh! How great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of the apostle!”
Moreover, a 13th-century commentator by name Aegidius of Rome took side with fourth-century Jerome, assuming a male name. Martin Luther later agreed, and by the 20th century, most translators had turned over Junia’s gender.
Word search has it that out of 58 English translations now in use, 43 calls her Junia, and 15 go with Junias. The New Revised Standard Version, Good News Bible, even King James use Junia. Why does the name matter?
To Paul, gender carried a big meaning. When he was writing to Roman Christians, Jews, and Gentiles who had a celebration of the Eucharist in separate house churches. He hits home to them his message that, in Christ, there’s no room for divided camps. No more Jew nor Gentiles, no male versus nor female, no free citizen over slave.
Chapter 16 of Romans is an example of this teaching. Where Paul sends this letter by special courier, Phoebe, his sister in Christ, whom he describes as a deacon. Paul moves into his greeting the names of Jews (such as Mary) and Greeks (such as Epaenetus).
He gives a commendation to his great friends Prisca and Aquila. Paul does not usually put Prisca’s name ahead of her husband’s, which was a show of his esteem for her. And somewhere in this chapter, Paul mentions a couple, Andronicus and Junia, who possibly are blood kin but certainly siblings in Christ.
To Paul, apostles is a good example of a ministry in motion, one highly fruitful and often full of suffering. Did Paul intentionally describe both this man and this woman as apostles? If at all they weren’t.