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The Junia Evidence: III

December 16, 2011

Here is a list of some of the recent posts on the topic of Junia and apostleship. It does not in any way exhaust the field.

Junia is not alone
Junia Is a Woman, and I Am a Complementarian
Denny Burk’s Complementarian Cover-up
The Junia Evidence: I

The Junia Evidence: II
Was Junia Really An Apostle by Burer and Wallace
Due Diligence on Junia and Apostleship
Matt Colvin on Junia and Apostleship
 Some Lengthy Thoughts on Women’s Leadership
A Closer Examination of Junia, The Female Apostle

I perceive this issue to be important because it sheds light on how Bible translation decisions are made. I do not intend to discuss the ordination of women, or of anybody else in this series. But it is crucial for us to understand what information impacts on different Bible translations.

In brief, the NET, ESV, HCSB and CEV all interpret Romans 16:7 as if Junia was only well-known to the apostles on the basis of material presented in the article by Burer and Wallace. I have argued in my first two posts called The Junia Evidence, that the evidence does not fit the conclusions of the article. I shall continue to do this. Many other Bibles have reassigned Junia’s gender, without a text base for this, and only a very few list Junia as “among the apostles” – KJV, NIV 2011, and NRSV.

I continue to support the notion that there is a cover up on the issue of Junia and apostleship. Denny Burk, a spokesman for CBMW, reinforces the position that the Burer and Wallace article provide the scholarly basis for modern translations. He writes,

there are serious and weighty arguments in favor of the translation that Junia was not one of the apostles but that she was “well known to the apostles” (ESV, NET). In 2001, for example, Daniel Wallace and Mike Burer defended the translation “well known to the apostles,” and the results of their research were published in “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” New Testament Studies 47 (2001): 76-91. McKnight relies on Epp’s response to the Wallace/Burer proposal, but Burer has recently responded to Epp’s book and has shown the continuing strength of his and Wallace’s original thesis that Junia was “well known to the apostles.” Wallace and Burer’s argument cannot be easily brushed aside.

I will argue further here that Burer and Wallace’s argument ought to be brushed aside, and ought not to form the basis of any Bible translation. In their article they write about evidence for ἐπίσημος,

The inscriptions can likewise be examined quickly. An idiom noticed in several inscriptions is even more relevant. In TAM 2.905.1 west wall. coll. 2.5.18 we read the description of a man who is “not only foremost in his own country, but also well known to the outside population” (οὐ μόνον ἐν̣ τ̣ῇ πα̣τρίδι πρώτου, ἀλ̣λὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔθνει ἐπισή̣μου *).54 Here the person who is ἐπίσημος is called such only in relation to outsiders (πρῶτος is used in relation to his own countrymen). It is not insignificant that evn plus the dative personal noun is used: the man is well known to a group of which he is not a member.

I need to note first that this inscription was a reconstructed fragment and is found as the following,

οὐ μόνον ἐ]ν̣ τ̣ῇ [π]α̣τρίδι πρώτου,
ἀλ̣λὰ [καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔθ]νει ἐπισή̣μου

Burer and Wallace translate this as,

not only foremost in his own country,
but also well known to the outside population

But we can see from New Testament usage what these two phrases mean. First, ἐ]ν̣ τ̣ῇ [π]α̣τρίδι, and then [καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔθ]νει ,

εἶπεν δέ· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν
ὅτι οὐδεὶς προφήτης δεκτός ἐστιν
ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ. Luke 4:24

And he added, “I tell you the truth,
no prophet is acceptable
in his hometown. NET Bible

τὴν μὲν οὖν βίωσίν μου [τὴν] ἐκ νεότητος τὴν ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς γενομένην
ἐν τῷ ἔθνει μου ἔν τε Ἱεροσολύμοις
ἴσασιν / ἴσασι πάντες [οἱ] Ἰουδαῖοι Acts 26:4

Now all the Jews know the way I lived from my youth,
spending my life from the beginning among my own people
and in Jerusalem. NET Bible

In fact, we can see that en plus the dative does refer to being a member of the group, of one’s own hometown, or one’s own people. There is no justification for Wallace and Burer’s translation which goes,

not only foremost in his own country,
but also well known to the outside population

A much better translation, supported by usage and translation found in the NET Bible, would be,

not only first in his hometown,
but also prominent among his own people

In fact, it appears that the translation of patris as “own country” is not well-founded at all, and not a very good translation of the Greek. It seems to be a simple misunderstanding that patris means home country in Greek instead of hometown. This does not look like an error that someone who is familiar with Greek would make.

In my view, anybody who has any level of competency in Greek, would recognize that this article ought not to influence a Bible translation. The fact that several Bibles still reference it for their translation of Romans 16:7 is highly irregular. I am not sure if this is really a cover up, or simply an indication of a massive failure of scholarship in evangelical circles, but it is clearly inappropriate. This calls into question the fidelity of the NET, ESV, HCSB and CEV.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 17, 2011 12:21 am

    This post provides additional information from the TAM database to indicate that the person was in fact, prominent among his own people.

  2. Francesco permalink
    December 17, 2011 1:33 am

    The NABRE also has “among the apostles” as well as those other ones.

    The footnote to the verse also makes it clear that ‘Junia’ is a woman’s name.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 18, 2011 2:19 am


    Thank you for this. I didn’t know that. Excellent!

  4. January 14, 2017 2:07 pm

    Thank Suzanne for your valuable and well-researched articles about Junia’s apostleship. I’m a Theology student in Argentina and my dissertation will deal with Romans 16:7 and the female apostleship of Junia. I’ve been studying this subject for the last year and I’m firmly convinced that Ἰουνiαν is the accusative of a female name. Yet, the evidence for an inclusive interpretation of the phrase ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις seems to be weak in linguistic grounds (the exclusive view seems even weaker to me though when looking at the big picture). The stronger argument in favor of the inclusive view comes from the unanimous interpretation of Romans 16:7 as inclusive by all known commentators during the first fifteen centuries of Christian literature.
    Now, regarding the interpretation of this kind of inscriptions (Wallace and Burer provided five of them), I believe that they are exclusive. There’re several biblical parallels to ἐν τῷ ἔθνει that are clearly exclusive (see Acts. 10:35; 15:12; 21:19; Romans. 1:5; 1:13; 2:24; Romans. 15:9; 1 Corinthians. 5:1; Galatians. 1:16; 2:2; Colossians. 1:27; 1 Peter. 2:12).
    Although the article you wrote in the link you provided proves that this particular inscriptions is inclusive, I believe the construction ἐν τῷ ἔθνει should be taken as exclusive unless the context proves us otherwise. But, I might be wrong. Maybe Jewish ethnocentrism explains the biblical usage of ἐν τῷ ἔθνει as exclusive. I’m eager to read your thoughts.

    PS: Apologies for any mistakes in my English.


  1. The Junia Evidence: IV « BLT
  2. The Junia Evidence: V « BLT
  3. The Junia Evidence: VI and the reliability of software « BLT
  4. BLT
  5. The Junia Evidence: VIII what Sherlock Holmes had to say « BLT
  6. The Junia Evidence: IX what the trial lawyer said « BLT

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