Elizabeth Hooton Warren, 1600-1672 (public domain)
By Spencer D Gear
When traditional evangelicals, who are against women preachers/pastors, speak out, they can make statements like this:
“Andronicus and Junia were probably not called apostles in Romans 16:7. This is the only verse where these “two men” are mentioned. They are said to be Paul’s kinsmen and fellowprisoners and were “of note among the apostles.” Does this mean, as some say, that they were noteworthy apostles? Someone could be “of note” among the apostles without being an apostle. It could mean that the apostles had noted them as significant servants of the Lord. Also, if they were apostles of note, they were some of the more important apostles. But this is the only verse of the Bible where these two men are ever mentioned. Certainly, they are not being called apostles here.”
1. A prominent Greek lexicon
That is not how the eminent Greek lexicon of Arndt & Gingrich sees it. While it is given a masculine definite article, ho, their assessment of the Greek material is:
Junias (not found elsewhere, probably short form of the common Junianus); a Jewish convert to Christianity who was imprisoned with Paul Ro 16:7. The possibility, from a purely lexical point of view, that this is a woman’s name, Junia; ancient commentators took Andronicus and Junia as a married couple, is probably ruled out by the context (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:381).
So to be so adamant that you put in bold and underline that Andronicus and Junia are ‘two men‘ is hardly in keeping with the Greek lexical possibilities.
The late Greek exegete and commentator, Australian Leon Morris, has a different take to you. I remember hearing Leon Morris speak when he would pick up his Greek NT and exegete and expound the Scriptures as he spoke from the Greek text alone. I recommend a read of his commentary on Romans 16:7 (Morris 1988:533-534). His conclusions are:
- Junias: The patristic commentators seem to have taken the word as feminine, Junia, and understood Andronicus and Junia as husband and wife.
- They were Paul’s kinsfolk, probably fellow Jews.
- They were fellow prisoners of him, in jail together or they shared the same fate as he.
- ‘Outstanding among the apostles’ might mean that the apostles held them in high esteem or that they were apostles, and notable apostles at that. The latter understanding does more justice to the Greek construction.
- This couple seemed to have belonged to the wider apostolic circle (the circle of apostles was wider than the 12 according to the NT).
- As for a woman being an apostle, Morris wrote: ‘We should bear in mind Chrysostom’s comment: “Oh! how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!”’
2. A prominent church father
A leading Greek exegete and commentator does not agree with the view that Andronicus and Junia were ‘two men’.
John Chrysostom, Courtesy Wikipedia
The fuller quote from John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, (with the link to his writings) is:
“And indeed to be apostles at all is a great thing. But to be even amongst those of note, just consider what a great encomium this is! But they were of note owing to their works, to their achievements. Oh! how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!” (Chrysostom, Homily on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans XXXI).
Chrysostom’s dates were ca. AD 347-407 (Cairns 1981:141). So by the 4th century his understanding was that Junia was a female apostle, and a noteworthy one at that. Could it be that Chrysostom got it correct and some have got it wrong since then? Could it be that the opposition to women in public ministry is unwarranted? Could gifted women have been closed down by the male chauvinism in the ministry? I write as a male and I’ve read a lot against women in ministry by males. I am not of that view.
3. A minimised view of the ministry of an apostle and a response
Contemporary Greek exegete and commentator, Donald Moo, downplays the role of an apostle outside of the original 12 apostles of Jesus. He wrote in his commentary on Romans:
The identity of Andronicus’s “partner” is a matter of considerable debate. The problem arises from the fact that the Greek form used here Iounian, depending on how it is accented, could refer either (1) to a man with the name Junianus, found here in its contracted form, “Junias” (cf. NIV; RSV; NASB; TEV; NJB); or (2) to a woman with the name of Junia (KJV; NRSV; REB). Interpreters from the thirteenth to the middle of the twentieth century generally favored the masculine identification. But it appears that commentators before the thirteenth century were unanimous in favor of the feminine identification; and scholars have recently again inclined decisively to this same view. And probably with good reason. For while a contracted form of Junianus would fit quite well in this list of greetings (for Paul uses several other such contractions), we have no evidence elsewhere for this contracted form of the name. On the other hand, the Latin “Junia” was a very common name. Probably, then, “Junia” was the wife of Andronicus (note the other husband and wife pairs in this list, Prisca and Aquila [v. 3] and [probably], philologus and Julia [v. 15])….
In two relative clauses Paul draws the attention of the Roman Christians to the stature of this husband and wife ministry team. The first description might mean that Andronicus and Junia were “esteemed by the apostles.” But it is more natural to translate “esteemed among the apostles.” And it is because Paul calls Junia(s) an “apostle” that earlier interpreters tended to argue that Paul must be referring to a man; for they had difficulty imagining that a woman could hold such authority in the early church….
But many scholars on both sides of this issue are guilty of accepting too readily a key supposition in this line of reasoning: that “apostle” here refers to an authoritative leadership position such as that by the “Twelve” and by Paul. In fact, Paul often uses the title “apostle” in a “looser” sense: sometimes simply to denote a “messenger” or “emissary” and sometimes to denote “a commissioned missionary.” When Paul uses the word in the former sense, he makes clear the source and purpose of the “emissary’s” commission. So “apostle” here probably means “traveling missionary” (Moo 1996: 923-924).
Has Douglas Moo overlooked something significant in the hierarchical order of the ministry of apostles after the 12 apostles of Jesus? See 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (ESV),
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Butearnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Gordon Fee PhD
Greek exegete, Gordon Fee, disagrees with Douglas Moo’s perspective and explains that Paul
illustrates that diversity [of ministry gifts] by means of another considerable list (cf. vv 8-10), which has several remarkable features: (1) He begins with a list of persons (apostles, prophets, teachers), whom he ranks in the order of first, second, third. (2) With the fourth and fifth items (lit. “miracles” and “gifts of healings”) he reverts to charismata, taking two from the list in vv. 8-10. These are both prefaced by the word “then,” as though he intended the ranking scheme to continue. (3) The sixth and seventh items (lit. “Helps” and “guidances”), which are deeds of service, are noteworthy in three ways: (a) they are the only two not mentioned again in the rhetoric of vv. 29-30; (b) they are not mentioned again in the NT; © they do not appear to be of the same kind, that is, supernatural endowments, as those on wither side (miracles, healings, tongues)….
That leads to the further question, Does Paul intend that all of these be “ranked” as to their role or significance in the church? To which the answer seems to be No. He certainly intends the first three to be ranked. One might argue also for the rest on the basis of the “then … then” that prefaces the next two. But that seems unlikely…. The gift of tongues … is not listed last because it is least but because it is the problem. As before, Paul includes it because it is a part of the necessary diversity; but he includes it at the end so that the emphasis on diversity will be heard first.
Why, then, does Paul rank the first three? That is more difficult to answer; but it is almost certainly related to his own conviction as to the role these three ministries play in the church. It is not so much that one is more important than the other, nor that this is necessarily their order of authority, but that one has precedence over the o0ther in the founding and building up of the local assembly….
(1) First, apostles…. It is no surprise that Paul should list “apostles” first. the surprise is that they should be on this list at all, and that he should list them in the plural…. For Paul this is both a “functional” and “positional/official” term. In keeping with the other members on this list, it is primarily “functional” here, probably anticipating the concern for the “building up” of the body that he has already hinted at in v. 7 and will stress in chap. 14. Most likely with this word he is reflecting on his own ministry in this church; the plural is in deference to others who have had the same ministry in other churches (Fee 1987:618-620).
Thus, Gordon Fee understands the role of an apostle to be the ministry gift for the founding of churches. Surely such a role is necessary and continues today! And Paul to the Romans (16:7) affirms that that can be the role of a female apostle.
An eminent church father of the fourth century, John Chrysostom, does not agree that Junia was a male. He not only supported the view that she was a female apostle, but also was a noteworthy apostle. He is closer to the time of the apostles than those of us in the 21st century. Did he know more about this issue of supporting women in public ministry than contemporary church folks?
The role of an apostle is hierarchically fist in order (not of authority) in the founding of local churches. This role continues in the 21st century.
See my further articles on women in ministry:
- Women in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages
- Women in ministry in I Corinthians: A brief inquiry
- Must Women Never Teach Men in the Church?
Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).
Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, rev & enl edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Fee, G D 1987. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Moo, D J 1996. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Morris, L 1988. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company / Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Women preachers’, DeaconDean #145. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7707393-15/#post62296957 (Accessed 31 January 2013). I have been interacting on this site as OzSpen.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.