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The Junia Evidence: II

December 15, 2011

Denny Burk’s Complementarian Cover-up
The Junia Evidence: I

This is a continuation of the evidence that Junia was likely among the apostles. This is not intended to defend egalitarianism, but to promote the much broader goal of making us ask ourselves how grounded in scholarship modern Bibles really are. It is largely in response to the NET Bible note for Romans 16:7, rather than in response to any particular blogger. At this point, I have dialogued with few bloggers who defend the NET Bible note, but it remains immensely influential.

For example, Dan Wallace on the writes the following about the development of the NET Bible note,

There are a few places in which the NET editors have disagreed with the present scholarly consensus on the meaning of a given text. This is never a cavalier decision, but always has some substance behind it. Take, for example, another passage from Romans. In the last chapter, the apostle almost sings a litany of greetings to several friends. In 16.7 he says, ajspavsasqe jAndrovnikon kaiV jIounivanejpivshmoi ejn toi’ ajpostovloi. There are two issues in this verse: (1) is jIounivan a man’s or a woman’s name? and (2) does ejpivshmoi ejn toi’ ajpostovloi mean “outstanding among the apostles” or “well known to the apostles”? There is a growing consensus on this first issue—viz., jIounivan is a feminine name. The NET Bible thus reflects this consensus and translates it as “Junia.”20 There is an even stronger consensus that ejpivshmoi ejn toi’ ajpostovloi means “outstanding among the apostles”—i.e., that Andronicus and Junia were apostles and were excellent examples of such. But the expression seemed odd:

…  two of the editors did some research in extra-NT Greek on ejpivshmo followed by (ejn +) dative and ejpivshmo followed by the genitive. Using TLG, the published volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Tebtunis papyri, and the digitized collections of papyri from Duke University and the University of Michigan—a grand total of more than 60 million words of Greek literature from Homer to 1453 CE—an exhaustive examination of all such collocations was undertaken. And the results were startling: almost always, when ejpivshmo was followed by a personal noun in the genitive, the idea was a comparison from within (“outstanding among…”); but when ejpivshmo was followed by (ejn +) dative—as is the case in Rom 16.7, the idea was elative, with no internal comparison taking place (“well known to”).

In this case, the scholarly consensus was found to be due to an off-handed comment by J. B. Lightfoot in his commentary on Galatians (!) that was picked up by other scholars who then claimed that Lightfoot had proved the Greek idiom in Rom 16.7 to mean “outstanding among”! Because Lightfoot was a good grammatical exegete, no one questioned his opinion on that score, and no one did any research on the construction in any Greek literature, as far as we could tell. Thus, when we examined the data, we were surprised to find it so uniformly against Lightfoot’s supposition. (my emphasis)

So my examples now are simply to show that Lightfoot was well grounded in Greek and the data is not uniformly against his supposition. I would like to show that an adjective with en plus the dative typically means “among” so “among the apostles” should not seem odd.

Fortunately we can test from looking at examples from the New Testament to see if there is a significant difference between using the genitive case or en plus the dative case. Do these two make a difference of meaning, or not? Consider these instances.

ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν Matt. 23:11 (genitive)
the greatest among you

ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν Luke 22:26 (en plus dative)
the greatest among you

In view of these examples I cannot give credit to an argument which proposes a difference based on the fact that the adjective episemos is followed by ἐν plus dative rather than by the genitive. These two constructions can be used synonymously.

However, here Wallace asks,

would we not expect ἐπίσημοι τῶν ἀποστόλων if the meaning were “outstanding among the apostles”?

No. Here are a few examples of the comparative form of an adjective followed by ἐν plus dative.

καὶ σύ Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα οὐδαμῶς
ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα Matt. 2:6

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; ESV

ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν οὐκ ἐγήγερται ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν μείζων Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν Matt. 11:11

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ESV

Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαββᾶν καὶ Σιλᾶν
ἄνδρας ἡγουμένους ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς Acts 15:22

Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas,
leading men among the brothers ESV

The Greek of the New Testament indicates that using an adjective with en plus the dative is very common for expressing when one person is among (and a member of) a group of other people, as Junia was.

There is every indication that ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις actually means “prominent among the apostles.” She is a member of the group. Here is the 19th century Greek Vamva version, also scholarly. Note the unambiguous use of metaxu. I would rather throw in with the Greeks than with a recent American interpretation.

᾽Απάσθητε τὸν ᾽Ανδρόνικον καὶ ᾽Ιουνίαν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτνες εἴναι ἐπίσημοι μεταξὺ τῶν ἀποστόλων οἵτνες καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἦσαν εις τὸν Χριστόν

I want to be clear that my interaction is with the Burer and Wallace article because it is the article which underlies the translation of Romans 16:7 in the ESV, CEV, and NET Bibles. It cannot stand up to scrutiny.

But what of other Bibles? The NIV 1984, RSV, NASB, all have Junias, masculine, instead of Junia. This is no longer accepted as scholarly either. Only the KJV, NRSV, NIV 2011, and HCSB have Junia among the apostles. The growing popularity of the ESV, and its endorsement in my congregation a few years ago, along with the distasteful criticism of the TNIV and NIV 2011, caused me to interact with these texts to find out which one had the most scholarly foundation. I could not agree with the ESV had used a literal or scholarly translation for Romans 16:7.

Good night – it’s my birthday! I will not be arguing the subordination of women with any of commenters on this post. I give myself the night off! Give me a present, don’t try to offer women restrictions tonight.

Thanks to Matt and Alistair for persisting in this discussion. This conversation began on Denny Burk’s blog.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Chad permalink
    December 15, 2011 6:21 am

    Just a quick note: the 2009 revision of the HCSB has Junia as “noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles,” which sounds (to me, at least) more like “well known to” than “outstanding among.”

    Perhaps it represents a way between the other two?

  2. December 15, 2011 9:57 am

    First, Happy Birthday!

    Second, what outstanding examples among the pages of the ESV!

    Third, it may be a good day to compare the ESV, NET, HCSB, and CEV translations of ἐν (en plus dative), translations all well known to us.

    Rom 16:7 –

    “well known to the apostles” ESV
    “well known to the apostles” NET
    “noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles” HCSB 2009 (ht Chad)
    “highly respected by the apostles” CEV

    Matt 2:6 –

    “by no means least among the rulers of Judah” ESV
    “in no way least among the rulers of Judah” NET
    “by no means least among the rulers of Judah” HCSB
    “very important among the towns of Judea” CEV

    Matt 11:11a –

    among those born of women … no one” ESV
    among those born of women, no one” NET
    Among those born of women no one” HCSB
    “no one [∅] ever born on this earth” CEV

    Matt 11:11b –

    “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven” ESV
    “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven” NET
    “the least in the kingdom of heaven” HCSB
    “whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven” CEV

    Luke 22:26 –

    “the greatest among you” ESV
    “the one who is greatest among you” NET
    “whoever is greatest among you” HCSB
    “The most important one of you” CEV

    Acts 15:22 –

    “leading men among the brothers” ESV
    “leaders among the brothers” NET
    “leading men among the brothers” HCSB
    “two leaders of the Lord’s followers” CEV

    These translations not only depart from the usual way of translating Rom 16:7 when compared to other translations but these translations also depart from their own usual way of translating the New Testament ἐν (en plus dative). Hmmm. What would motive that special attention to Junia?

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 15, 2011 10:19 am


    Thanks for bringing the HCSB version to my attention. As you can see it does not even pretend to be literal. The NET, ESV, HCSB and CEV are not literal in translating this verse. I also claim that the perponderance of the evidence does not support their shift in translation from the previous tradition which lasted 2000 years.


    Thanks for looking into this. I do feel that Romans 16:7 has received special treatment.

  4. December 15, 2011 10:26 am

    Happy birthday!

  5. Deb W. permalink
    January 5, 2012 8:56 am

    I don’t think this is the correct place to ask this, but I would be interested in your take on some of the hyper-complimentarian positions regarding the eternal subordination of Christ.

    Denny Burk tried to argue in the last issue of CBMW that Jesus the Son is eternally subordinate from God the father, by using Phil. 2:6. He is arguing specifically against Erickson, who is an egal.

    But my understanding is that the historical view of this particular passage SUPPORTS the fact that Christ was fully equal with the Father in eternity, but laid aside his right to equality, so that he could submit to the Father in the incarnation.

    John Calvin on Phil. 2:6-8 “The consideration of the divine grace and wisdom herein the apostle proposeth unto us, Phil. 2:6-8 . . . Adam being in the form–that is, the state and condition–of a servant, did by robbery attempt to take upon him the ‘form of God,’ or to make himself equal unto him. The Lord Christ being in the ‘form of God’–that is, his essential form, of the same nature with him–accounted it no robbery to be in the state and condition of God, to be ‘equal to him;’ but being made in the ‘fashion of a man,’ taking on him our nature, he also submitted unto the form or the state and condition of a servant therein. He had dominion over all, owed service and obedience unto none, being in the ‘form of God,’ and equal unto him–the condition which Adam aspired unto; but he condescended unto a state of absolute subjection and service for our recovery. This did no more belong unto him on his own account, than it belonged unto Adam to be like unto God, or equal to him. Wherefore it is said that he humbled himself unto it, as Adam would have exalted himself unto a state of dignity which was not his due.”

    Would you be interested in addressing Burk and others’ false view of the trinity? Thanks!

  6. January 5, 2012 3:22 pm

    Deb I did a post on eternal subordination a few years back Wayne Grudem and heresy.

    Idea for the post came from Suzanne so you are asking at the right place. This post also links back to other conversation on her site.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 5, 2012 7:07 pm

    Yes, this is a topic I am very concerned about so I will post about it soon.


  1. The Junia Evidence: III « BLT
  2. The Junia Evidence: IV « BLT
  3. The Junia Evidence: V « BLT
  4. The Junia Evidence: VI and the reliability of software « BLT
  5. The Junia Evidence: VII and Syriac as commentary « BLT
  6. The Junia Evidence: VIII what Sherlock Holmes had to say « BLT
  7. The Junia Evidence: IX what the trial lawyer said « BLT
  8. Harpagmos I: Preview « BLT
  9. Answering objections to Junia, the female apostle in the Bible – Walking With A Limp

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