God’s People, part 284: Andronicus & Junia

Read Romans 16:7

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”  (Galatians 3:28-29, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 284: Andronicus & Junia: In this single verse in Pauls epistle to the Romans, we find much modern controversy. The one thing that is not debated is that both Andronicus and Junia are Paul’s family. He is related to them and, as it worked out, they came to Christ before he did. Unfortunately, we don’t know the family dynamics back when Paul was persecuting Christians; however, we can imagine that they were not in Paul’s good graces at the time.

The first issue is this:  what was the statuses of Andronicus and Junia? Were they prominent apostles or were they well known to the apostles. The latter would mean that they did not have apostolic authority, but that they were highly regarded among the apostles. The first interpretation, however, would indicate that they were well-known and well-respected apostles.

The second modern controversy centers on Junia’s gender. As was mentioned in the previous devotion, for centuries, women’s role in serving the church have been reduced to a submissive and quiet role, silently serving in the background while men get all of the prominent positions. Thus, it is hard for those of that mindset to wrap their heads around Junia being a woman, for that would mean that she was either a well-regarded leader in the church or, worse yet, an apostle with apostolic authority. If the latter was the case, that would shatter their presumptions of Paul’s view on the role of women in the church.

Here’s the Greek:

“ασπασασθε ανδρονικον και ιουνιαν τους συγγενεις μου και συναιχμαλωτους μου οιτινες εισιν επισημοι εν τοις αποστολοις οι και προ εμου γεγονασιν εν χριστω” (Romans 16:7, Greek NT TR)

The first issue of whether or not Andronicus and Junia were Apostles, almost all translations interpret the Greek to say just that; however, there are scholars who use textual evidence elsewhere in the Bible to state that it could be that they were merely well-known to the apostles. Still, even the most scholarly conservative translations interpret the Greek in favor of Andronicus and Junia being prominent or outstanding among the Apostles, meaning that they were well-respected themselves.

Take the New American Standard Bible (NASB) for instance. It interprets the verse as such:

“Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me” (Romans 16:7, NASB).

While I am not scholar in Greek, I think it is safe to bank on the majority of Greek scholars’ interpretation of the text. It would seem that Andronicus and Junia held the position of Apostle and, as Paul himself is evidence of, there were more than just the twelve Apostles. What’s more, they were considered to be outstanding in the work they did as Apostles.

In terms of Junia’s gender, that too really should not be a controversy, as tradition and a large majority of scholarship supports Junia being a woman. First, for Junia or Junias to have be a masculine name, it needs to have the circumflex over the ultima. That probably sounds like Greek too you because, well, it is. Here’s what that would look like: ᾿Ιουνιν. Yet, in the earliest Greek manuscripts  in Pauls’ letter, that circumflex is non-existent: ιουνιαν. It only shows up in manuscripts dated to the ninth century (800s) and later.

What’s more, the earliest Christians referred to Junias as a woman. The church fathers almost universally referred to Junia as a woman, at least up until the 12th century (1100s). On top of that evidence, a study of the frequency of the name Junia(s) in non-Biblical ancient literature is helpful as well. In such writings, the name Junia is exclusively used as a feminine name; thus, the evidence points to Junia being a female and not a male.

I certainly understand if you might feel that your head is spinning a bit, as this is some scholarly, heady stuff; however, it is important for us to see how English translations are not always sufficient in understanding the meaning of what was written. In the age of information, all we need do is research it online and we have such information at our fingertips. Here’s good article that agrees with my take on Junia’s gender, but takes another opinion on the her and Adronicus’ status: https://bible.org/article/junia-among-apostles-double-identification-problem-romans-167

Here’s what we can take from today’s devotion. Andronicus & Junia were outstanding among the apostles, meaning that they were well-respected apostles, and that Junia was a woman. Even if we were to counter whether they were apostles or not, there can be little doubt that women were in leadership positions and were well-respected by Paul as such. In the 21st century, it feels that some churches and/or denominations have gone backwards in their views of women in leadership, following the dark side of patriarchy, rather than following Christ and his earliest apostles. Let us not fall into that trap, but let us follow Christ and accept all, regardless of gender, who are called by our Lord and Savior to lead God’s people.

As seen throughout Scripture, God call all people, women and men alike, to serve him. There are no false divisions in God.

Lord, forgive me for my biases. Purify me of my prejudices with the fire of your Holy Spirit and rise me up out of the ashes of sin into your service. Amen.

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