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Female Apostles?

A correspondence about Junia, whom some presume is a woman apostle in the Scriptures:

Hi Derek,

I listened to your interview with Rena Pederson who asserts that Junia was an apostle of Christ.

Referring to the Bible passage in question, most translations are very similar to this one (this passage is the only reference in Scripture to Junia):

“Greetings also to Andronicus and Junia, fellow Jews who were in prison with me; they are well known among the apostles, and they became Christians before I did” (Romans 16:7 GNB).

You asked Rena, “If you can’t resolve that translation debate with certainty, how can we know for sure that she was an apostle?”  Rena, when responding to the specific question, then spoke only of Junia’s name and that it was decidedly female. But she did not answer the question concerning Junia’s position, which I suspect was, or should have been, the main thrust of your question.

It is presumed that Junia was an apostle because it says she was of note, well known, or esteemed by, or among, the apostles. The language does not warrant a conclusive interpretation by any means that she was an apostle. Other presumptions are made that she was among the leaders because imprisoned with Paul and because she was among the earliest believers, even before Paul. Again, entirely unjustified, whether presumed by a layman or the highest of scholars.

It is also noteworthy that Andronicus is not generally presumed to be an apostle, even without debate as to his sex.

Was it Junia’s reputation as a faithful or devoted believer among the apostles or was it her position as an apostle that Paul was referring? Rena did not answer that question and sadly, you did not pursue it. She was off the hook on that one.

Is there a logical, reasonable, deductive way of determining whether Junia was an apostle or not, if not by this passage, then by taking the testimony of the Bible in its entirety? The answer is “Yes.” While I would grant that Junia was a woman, it does not take much examination by the pattern of custom, law, principle, tradition, testimony and practice in both Old and New Testaments, recorded in almost any translation of the Bible, to determine that Junia, being a woman, could not be fairly concluded to be an apostle.

For example, the record is that Jesus chose 12 men as apostles. Then after His resurrection came others, on record in the Book of Acts – Matthias, Paul, Barnabas and Silas, all male apostles. Is there a discernible pattern here, concerning sexual orientation?

When Paul speaks to Timothy and to Titus, both men, of the qualifications of deacons and elders, they were to be male. Furthermore, in the Old Testament, the priesthood was entirely male. If lesser callings were male, and the greatest of callings, that of apostleship, were male, how can we then reasonably presume to have a woman rightly called to be an apostle?

Among other spurious arguments, one may argue, as many do, that the Scriptures were tampered with by patriarchal and other influences. If that were so, there is very much that would have to have been changed. Reliable records, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, among others, however, persuade us that the Bible is very much the same today as it was thousands of years ago. Let naysayers prove the tampering. Why should we believe their unfounded suspicions or feel compelled to prove them wrong on that point? Where is the evidence to warrant our energies to counter such premises? The onus is on them to prove their allegations.

Victor Hafichuk

Paul adds:

It is not even clear that Junia is a woman. But even if Junia were a woman, the Scripture doesn’t say she is an apostle, but rather was well known to the apostles.

This from John Hunwicke at

M.H.Brurer and O.B. Wallace, who hail from the Lone Star State, argue the Junia was probably a female, but not an Apostle. This is how it goes. Romans 16.7 calls Andronicus and Junia ‘episemoi en tios apostolois – notable in/among the apostles.

Does this mean:

(a) notable members of the group of the apostles; or
(b) not apostles themselves but well known among (i.e. to) the apostles?

(a) is much the more fashionable translation at the moment. Of course, it has its problems. If Andronicus and Junia were ‘prominent’ members of the apostolic band it is odd that we hear nothing else about them; and odd that Paul, who is probably listing for the Roman Christians people who could put in a good word for him, didn’t give them a more prominent billing on the list. So ‘Apostles’ would have to mean a different, lesser category then the Twelve.

But this is not what Burer and Wallace discuss. They examine what in extant Greek literature (60,000,000 words) the usage episemos en… means And their conclusion is that (b) is right: in other words, Andronicus and Junia were not apostles but were a couple whom the Apostles (i.e. the leaders of the Jerusalem community) knew and – Paul implies – approved of. If Paul had wanted to say ‘notable members of the group of the Apostles’ he would have used a different construction: episemos with the genitive case: ‘episemoi ton apostolon’ – well-known of the apostles.

So, oops-a-daisy, there wasn’t a woman apostle after all!” [END]

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