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The Junia Evidence: V

December 19, 2011

All except one of the Greek examples so far have supported the notion that Junia is one of the apostles. In these examples, the person referred to as episemos is a member of the group of people who are the object of the preposition en. Andronicus and Junia episemoi en tois apostolois fits that pattern, these two are members of the group. However, it is usually the case that prominent people are also well known to the group of which they are members. So it is rather difficult to find examples where the people are prominent in their group, and not well known to their group.

There is one exception, It is found in Euripides’ Hippolytus, 428 BC, and refers to Aphrodite,

σεμνή γε μέντοι κἀπίσημος ἐν βροτοῖς.
Yet she’s revered and famous among mortals.

This one example fits in with another case where laws are honoured among the people. In these examples, the referent of episemos cannot possibly be a member of the group, so there is no need to disambiguate by using another construction. I am, however, not convinced that the native Greek reader of Romans 16:7 would question whether Andronicus and Junia were members of the group. In fact, we know that they did not.

Here is what Chrysostom had to say about Junia,

“Greet Andronicus and Junia … who are outstanding among the apostles”: To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles – just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that that she was even deemed worthy of the title apostle. (In ep. Ad Romanos 31.2).

There is not one mention in Greek literature of Andronicus and Junia not being among the apostles. There is, however, one reference to Junia being masculine. This was made by Epiphanius, a writer who also made Prisca masculine, so it is rightly disregarded. Although the Greek Orthodox Church does not ordain women, they do recognize Junia as a woman, and the co-worker of Apostle Andronicus.

What is important here is that Greeks thought that Romans 16:7 said that Andronicus and Junia were apostles. Their theology on women is not really an issue. We know that they don’t ordain women, but that did not affect the way they read the text. When the Archbishop Vamva came to revise the New Testament for a contemporary audience in the 19th century, he wrote unambiguously,

᾽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

The witness of Greek literature is unequivocal. Romans 16:7 ought to be translated in such a way that we can understand that Andronicus and Junia were members of a group of apostles.

In addition to knowing that the Greek Orthodox Church honoured Junia as among the apostles in an unbroken tradition, we can also trace the history of the translation of Romans 16:7.

qui sunt nobiles in Apostolis Vulgate
noble among the apostles Wycliffe

insignes inter apostolis Erasmus Calvin
of note among the apostles KJV

If it is not clear how this was interpreted, we can read Calvin’s commentary on Erasmus Latin translation. He wrote,

In the third place, he calls them Apostles: he uses not this word in its proper and common meaning, but extends it wider, even to all those who not only teach in one Church, but also spend their labor in promulgating the gospel everywhere. He then, in a general way, calls those in this place Apostles, who planted Churches by carrying here and there the doctrine of salvation; for elsewhere he confines this title to that first order which Christ at the beginning established, when he appointed the twelve disciples. It would have been otherwise strange, that this dignity should be only ascribed to them, and to a few others. But as they had embraced the gospel by faith before Paul, he hesitates not to set them on this account before himself.

Luther fully accepted that the two people named in Romans 16:7 were apostles so he translates welche sind berühmte Apostel, “which are famous apostles.” However he changes Junia’s name to Junias, masculine. As far as I know there is no Bible translation predating this century which translates in the sense of “well-known to the apostles.”

The question ought not to be “Can a woman be an apostle?” but rather “On what basis do we abandon a long-standing interpretation in the Bible?”

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
The Junia Evidence: III
The Junia Evidence: IV
Was Junia Really An Apostle by Burer and Wallace
Linda Belleville’s article
Michael Burer Enters the Junia Debate
Reassessing Junia: A Review of Eldon Epp’s Junia: The First Woman Apostle
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

17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2011 4:13 pm

    Thanks for this series, Suzanne, and for the links also to the other essays. Belleville’s article is just fantastic!

  2. December 23, 2011 5:29 pm


    Have you read my post on Junia? It is titled: “Junia, the Apostle: Man or Woman?” Here is the link:

    Claude Mariottini

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 23, 2011 7:05 pm

    Yes, I even commented on it once upon a time. But I will link to it in an upcoming post.

  4. Sarah Rasmussen permalink
    February 20, 2014 6:50 pm

    Sorry to dig up old discussions, but I have some (probably dim-witted) questions on the Hippolytus example.

    1. What is the difference between ka)phi/shmos and e)pi/shmos, and does it matter here?

    2. Is e)n brotoi=s a common idiomatic expression, and does that matter here?

    3. You’ve probably already seen this, but Euripides also uses the phrase, “ka)phi/shimos e)n brotoi=s” in line 379 of Hecuba. The context seems to be about noble birth, but I can’t work out exactly how to translate it.

    deino\s xarakth\r ka)phi/shimos e)n brotoi=s e)sqlw=n gene/sqai,…

    ???Terrific mark, distinguished(?) among mortals for a birth from good [stock].???

    Anyway, this seems to be an inclusive use of the phrase, depending on how wrong I am.

  5. Sarah Rasmussen permalink
    February 20, 2014 7:19 pm

    Or perhaps,
    Terrific engraver, [who causes certain people to be] marked out among mortals to be born from good [stock].?

  6. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 21, 2014 11:23 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    This is a very interesting example in Hecuba. However, I haven’t had more than a few seconds to look at it so far so I will have to get back to you on this in the next couple of days. I have been travelling and just need to read this over and organize some thoughts.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 22, 2014 11:32 am

    Here is a good literal translation of the lines from Hecuba by Eurpidies, done by R. Mongan,

    It is a strong impress, and one distinguished among mortals,
    to be sprung from illustrious ancestors,
    and the name of nobility advances still higher with the worthy.

    δεινὸς χαρακτὴρ κἀπίσημος ἐν βροτοῖς
    It is a strong impress, and one distinguished among mortals,

    ἐσθλῶν γενέσθαι,
    to be sprung from illustrious ancestors,

    κἀπὶ μεῖζον ἔρχεται
    and advances still higher

    τῆς εὐγενείας ὄνομα τοῖσιν ἀξίοις.
    the name of nobility with the worthy.

    I had not actually noticed this citation before so thanks very much! I see it is in the lexicon. Yes, Polyxena is very much a noble among mortals, more noble than most mortals, as she willingly goes to her death where she will be sacrificed to Achilles. She is a princess, of noble birth and character among mortals. She is outstanding among mortals.

    κἀπίσημος the added kai simply means “and.” kai + episemos = kapisemos

    I might try as a translation,

    “A powerful imprint and remarkable among humans,
    to be of good birth,
    and the noble name is greater with the worthy.”

    It’s not that clear, but the princess was of noble birth, and even better was of noble character. She was outstanding above and beyond our expectations.

    So the question remains, why does Euripides use the same phrase episemos en brotois for Aphrodite. Well she certainly was outstanding among mortals! She was noticeable as being more beautiful and exceptional. I think the use of this phrase for Polyxena does show that it is an inclusive use, not exclusive.

    Another try,

    A powerful and outstanding feature among humans, to be of good birth,
    And the name of nobility is greater for those who are worthy.

  8. Sarah Rasmussen permalink
    February 23, 2014 7:47 pm


    Thanks so much for your response!–and for all the great translation help!

    I’ve really been puzzling over the Aphrodite example, lately. The native Greek speakers among the Church Fathers just seem so sure that Junia is an apostle, as though it doesn’t occur to them to interpret that phrase any other way, even though they’re among the first people I would have expected to assume the worst about Junia. Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on them, but I would have expected that if there were any way at all for Chrysostom et al to interpret Romans 16:7 in a different way, they would have.

    That’s why the Aphrodite example seems so strange to me. It seems to allow interpreting Romans 16:7 in a different way.

    I wonder if one of the problems is not that I’ve been anthropomorphizing Aphrodite too little, but rather that I’ve been anthropomorphizing her too much. Maybe it would be more appropriate to group Hippolytus 103 with the examples which have inanimate objects as referents, particularly considering that the servant and Hippolytus are discussing a particular physical statue, rather than just the goddess in the abstract.

    There’s also the question of Euripides’ usage of ἐν βροτοῖς. It doesn’t seem quite as locative as ἐν plus some specific group of people. Its use seems almost redundant in the Hippolytus example, unless perhaps the servant is trying to emphasize that Aphrodite’s fame is worldwide. That’s part of why I wanted a better handle on how Euripides used ἐν βροτοῖς in Hecuba. If worldwide-ness is not the intended emphasis, then perhaps the phrase is added for contrast–between outstanding gods and lowly mortals, or between outstanding nobility and the remaining masses? Admittedly, the ἐν βροτοῖς phrase seems slightly more locative in Hecuba.

  9. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 23, 2014 8:37 pm

    All native Greek speakers for 2000 years have consider Saint Junia an apostle along with her husband Andronichus. They don’t seem to make a big deal of it one way or the the other.

    In the 19th century in the Vamva Greek NT the word en was revised to metaxu which means in an unambiguous way “among.” I just don’t think there is any other wy to read this in Greek except “among.”

    Regarding Polyxena, she stands out even among humans and among those of noble birth because of her noble character. Aphrodite is human like in form but stands out among mortals for her beauty and divine nature. She stands out as greater than mortals. Polyxena is more than noble. If Junia were not an apostle she would be less than an apostle and would not stand out among apostles.

    If Jesus were among the apostles, he would stand out among the apostles even tho he was not an apostle.

    The key is that the person stands out in some way, is distinguished and remarkable in comparison to the group she is among. Well, that’s my sense. Have you read my other posts on this. There are many other examples. I’ll try to pull out the good ones tomorrow.

  10. Sarah Rasmussen permalink
    February 24, 2014 7:36 pm

    Yes, I think I’ve read pretty much everything you’ve written about Junia on BLT, BBB, and your Bookshelf, along with most of the things you’ve written on those blogs related to women and Bible translation. (I like your work!) I hadn’t written comments before, because it seemed like most of the people who comment on these blogs were experts. But after your January posts, I decided that maybe I shouldn’t stay shy forever.

    “If Junia were not an apostle she would be less than an apostle and would not stand out among apostles.”

    That makes sense. It definitely seems like “well-known” is a potentially misleading translation for episemos, because the term “well-known” could give the impression of mere familiarity, without imparting the sense of standing out, being distinguished. If you stand out or are distinguished, you necessarily have to bear some sort of comparison with the group in which you are distinguished. But that’s not necessarily true of something which is merely “well-known.”

  11. Sarah Rasmussen permalink
    February 24, 2014 7:50 pm

    I suppose we still have cases in which the group among which a person or entity is distinguished is not the same as the group of people observing that distinction. For example, Aphrodite stands out among mortals, but she is also presumably distinguished among the gods. In the case of Junia, however, if she is not distinguished as an apostle, then it is quite unclear what could be the second, implied, group in which she _is_ distinguished. Are she and Andronicus distinguished as members of the church in Rome, or as Christians in general? Somehow, these seem like odd comparisons to make, as either would somewhat demean the rest of the church in Rome by comparison.

  12. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 28, 2014 8:08 am


    Thanks for the encouragement. I am writing a book containing most of the information from my blog posts, and am on chapter 10. It’s coming along but life is busy.


  1. about Junia and Andronicus: what more should we say? « BLT
  2. The Junia Evidence: VI and the reliability of software « BLT
  3. The Junia Evidence: VII and Syriac as commentary « BLT
  4. The Junia Evidence: VIII what Sherlock Holmes had to say « BLT
  5. The Junia Evidence: IX what the trial lawyer said « BLT

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