A Female Apostle Was Junia a man or a woman? -- By: Dennis J. Preato

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 017:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: A Female Apostle Was Junia a man or a woman?
Author: Dennis J. Preato


A Female Apostle
Was Junia a man or a woman?

Dennis J. Preato

Greetings to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives, who were in prison with me. They are very important apostles. They were believers in Christ before I was. (NCV, Rom. 16:7 )

Was the Junia mentioned in Romans 16:7 a man or a woman? The Greek word Iounian has been translated either as “Junias” (male) or as “Junia” (female). And what is the meaning of “outstanding among the apostles”? These questions influence how the church should carry on her mission. The answers may indicate that both women and men in the early church participated in all areas-- as ministers, deacons, leaders, and even apostles.

Two views: male or female

The word translated Junia(s) appears only one time in the Greek New Testament, and the Greek form used, Iounian, depending on how it is accented, could refer either to a man with the name “Junianus,” found here in its contracted form “Junias,” or to a woman with the name of Junia.1 The use of such accent marks did not occur, however, until the ninth or tenth century.

There is a limited amount of data regarding the gender of this person that Paul refers to as Iounian. Why? Probably because the issue was not a concern for those who lived in Paul’s time. The early Christian community would have known the gender of the person in question.

Bible versions differ on how they translate the Greek. The American Standard Version (ASV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV), Today’s English Version (TEV), New American Bible (NAB) all refer to this person as Junias, while the King James Version (KJV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New King James Version (NKJV), New Century Version (NCV), and Revised English Bible (REB) use the name Junia.

Evidence of early manuscripts

The majority of support for the name Junias (male) comes from manuscripts dated in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These contain accent marks reflecting Iounian as a masculine name.2 But manuscripts from this late date do not provide justification to support a male reading.

How about earlier church writings? John Piper and Wayne Grudem state that Epiphanius (A.D. 315 to 403) wrote an Index of Disciples, in which he writes, “Iounias, of whom Paul makes mention, became bishop of Apameia of Syria.” According to Piper and Grudem, Epiphanuis wrote “of whom” as a masculine relative pronoun thereby indicating that he thought Iounias was a man.

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