Skip to content

about Junia and Andronicus: what more should we say?

December 22, 2011

First, read Suzanne’s series on evidence for Junia and each of the related posts she links to therein. Now, we see there’s much old and contemporary agreement that Junia is a woman; but there’s a relatively new claim that Paul must be saying she is not marked among the apostles with Andronicus as one of the apostles but is excluded from that group and is only “well known to the apostles.”

What more should we say? Well, we should say that Paul is recognizing Andronicus and Junia as τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου. Should we then say that he’s writing that they are Jewish? The man Andronicus and the woman Junia are Jews, like Paul is a Jew?

And if it makes a difference that Paul has marked not only a man but also a woman as “among the apostles,” then what difference would his claim that they are born into the same race with him make?

To make things a little murky, as we ask the question, we know this much. We know that the name Andronicus is a Greek one and that Junia a Latin one. We also know that in 2 Maccabbees (which mentions Hannukah by the way) an Andronicus is there, and he causes tremendous unhappiness both to Jews and Gentiles (οὐ μόνον Ιουδαῖοι, πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἐθνῶν) and is justly punished for his crimes (2Mace.4.35-38). What difference might it make if Paul claims to be a Jew and further marks Andronicus and Junia in Rome as his fellow Jews?

To help ponder the question, here are a few things that others are saying:

Against Christian feminists who see the apostle as sexist and placing restrictions on women as a result of his rabbinic training, Amy-Jill Levine (1956–) points out the anachronism of the charge: that Paul belonged to no rabbinic school, and that the rabbinic literature is of a much later date. She further suggests that Paul would have been familiar with women leaders in Diaspora synagogues, and thus recognized women leaders in his churches (e.g., Phoebe the deacon and Junia the apostle [Rom 16]). One might even begin to talk of a sort of Jewish reclamation of the Jewish Paul.   [page 551]

— Mark D. Nanos, “Paul in Jewish Thought,” The Jewish Annotated New Testament


In Acts, as in Romans, it is clear that Christianity – Gentile as well as Jewish – was well-established in Rome (soon to be the most important church of all) quite independently of Paul. Though Paul had worked with some of those Christians in Rome whom he especially mentions in Romans 16 (verses 3-4, 7, 13), it is notable that all these — Prsica and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia, Rufus and his mother (cf. Mark 15:21) — had been Christians before they met Paul. The two latter pairs must have been very early members of the Jerusalem church. [page 267]

In our list of New Testament Jews with Latin names, there are seven names which are probably to be understood as sound-equivalents

5. Iunia – Joanna?
6. Iustus – Joseph
7. Iustus – Jesus (Yeshu’a)
12. Paulus – Saul
14. Rufus – Reuben
15. Rufus – Reuben
16. Silvanus – Silas [page 375]

There is no longer any need to demonstrate that the name which appears in the accusative as Ἰουνίαν in Romans 16.7 is the Latin female name Junia, not the postulated but unrecorded male name Ἰουνιᾶς, which would be a Greek hypocoristic form of Julianus. This woman, probably the wife of her fellow-apostle Andronicus, is the only Jewish woman known to have borne the name Junia, which was the female version of the nomen of a prestigious Roman family. Freedmen and freedwomen often adopted the nomen gentilicium of their patron, and [Geoffrey W. H.] Lampe [in “Iunia / Iunias” and in Die Stadtrömischen] therefore argues that Jews used the names Julius and Julianus becuase they were sound equivalents of Judah. So there is no need to postulate any connexions of the Jewish Christian Junia with the gens Junia. What has not been suggested before is the possibility that Junia in this case was chosen because it could serve as a sound-equivalent for the Jewish name Joanna. [page 381]

She adopted a Latin name, in her case a close sound-equivalent to her Hebrew name Joanna, when she needed a more user-friendly name in the diaspora, in her case especially Rome. It becomes rather probable taht the Junia of Romans 16.7 is the same person as Luke’s Joanna (Lk. 8.3; 24.10; and cf. Acts 1.14), a wealthy woman disciple of Jesus and wife of Chuza, Herod Antipas’s ‘steward’ (meaning either manager of a royal estate or manager of the estates and finances of Antipas’s whole realm). Perhaps Chuza (a Nabatean name) adopted the Greek name Adnronicus for the same reason his wife adopted the name Junia, or perhaps Andronicus was her second husband. We should also note that in Palestine Chuza and Joanna were members of Herod’s court at Tiberias, the most romanized place in Jewish Palestine, where we have already located some of the rare Palestinian instances of Jews with Latin names. Joanna might have adopted the sound-equivalent and appropriately aristocratic name Junia already in Tiberias. When she and her husband decided to become Christian missionaries in Rome, she may already have had, not only the means to support herself and a degree of acculturation to Roman ways, but also even a Roman name. [page 387]

How many of these Jews with Latin names were Roman citizens? [E. A.] Judge [in “The Roman Base of Paul’s Mission”] distinguishes the three kinds of Latin names in this respect. The Latin names that were widely adopted as Greek personal male names were the praenomina, and so persons bearing these names in the New Testament would normally not be Roman citizens. Judge therefore agrees with my statement that those Jews in the New Testament who bore these names — Marcus and Lucius — would almost certainly not be Roman citizens. The nomen, however, being the inherited family name, ‘clearly marks a person as a Roman citizen by birth.’ In the case of a woman, this would be her only name. So Judge says, of the three women ‘around Paul’ who bear a Roman nomen (Junia [Rom 16:7], Julia [Rom 16:15], Claudia [2 Tim 4:21]) that the ‘feminine form’ is ‘decisve’ for their identity as Roman citizens. However, as we have already noted, he does not seem to recognize that Junia is Jewish. We shall return to the significance of this sortly. [page 390]

In Acts 13:9 the reason [two different names for the same person are given] is that Luke is marking the point at which Saul, known by his Hebrew name in Palestine and Antioch, switched, as he embarked on his mission to Gentiles as well as Jews in the diasporea, to [Paul] his Roman name as his common usage.

In Romans 16 Paul evidently saw no need to refer to any of the persons he greets by two names, but this does not mean that none of them had an alternative name. In the case of Rufus, whom [E. A.] Judge [in “The Roman Base of Paul’s Mission”] thinks must be a Roman citizen becuase he bears a Latin cognomen and no additional, non-Latin name, we are justified in suspecting that he was Jewish precisely because Rufus was a popular name among Jews, used because of [sic] it was heard as a sound-equivalent of Reuben. The Latin and Hebrew names would be considered alternative forms of the same name, and naturally, addressing him in Rome, Paul uses the Latin version. Thus, if he was Jewish, Rufus need not have been a Roman citizen, though, like Paul/Saul, he might have been.

Finally, we return to the case of Junia. Since only the female Latin names were nomina, a Jewish woman (or her parents) wanting to adopt a Latin name could only give her a nomen. Since Junia was undoubtedly Jewish and since Paul need not have called her by both her names, if she had an additional name, we cannot tell whether she was a Roman citizen or not. With the nomen of a Jewish woman, we are in the same position as with the ccognomen of a Jewish man: we cannot tell whetehr these people were Roman citizens or not. These cases introduce a further element of uncertainty as to the real significance of the large proportion of people ‘around Paul’ who bore Latin names.[page 390]

— Richard Bauckham, The Jewish World Around the New Testament


Romans 16 also confirms the existence of a Jewish Christian community in Rome. In v.7, Paul writes: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and my fellow prisoners; they are people of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” Andronicus and Junia are thus linked with earliest Jewish Christianity. As “apostles,” they will therefore have shared in the Jewish church’s mission “to the circumcision” (cf. Gal. 2:7-9), for Paul knows of no apostle other than himself (and perhaps Barnabus) who is sent to the Genitles. For Paul, being an apostle implies, first, that one has seen the risen Lord, and second, that one has founded a congretation (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1-2), and it is therefore plausible that Paul regards Andronicus and Junia as founders of the original Jewish Christian congregation in Rome. Their status as apostles no doubt makes them the most imporant and influential members of the Jewish section of the Roman Christian community; Paul must gain their favor if his aim of uniting a currently divided community is to be achieved. [page 185]

— Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective



“a woman of the gens, or clan, Junius”; Latin
(Rom 16:7)

In Rom 16:7, Paul greets Andronius and Junia as “prominent among the apostles.” Paul describes them as relatives and states that they were in prison with him and had come to belief in Christ before he did. “Relatives” could mean fellow Jews or could denote actual blood relation, but according to either interpretation, Junia and Andronicus were Jews. We do not know their relationship to each other.

Since Junia fulfilled the Pauline criteria for apostleship (see 1 Cor 9:1), she must have claimed to have seen the risen Christ and have been engaged in missionary work. As a Jewish Christ-believer before Paul was converted, Junia may have lived in an eastern province of the Roman Empire and been among those who brought the message of Christ to the Roman Jewish community. Perhaps the Romans imprisoned Junia and Andronicus because of conflicts about this missionary work.

— Bernadette J. Brooten in Carol L. Meyers’s, Toni Craven’s, and Ross Shepard Kraemer’s Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament


Romans 16 has been cited by most interpreters as a decisive passage proving that a significant portion of the Roman congregations was Jewish. Paul’s Jewish co-workers Prisca and Aquila (Acts 18:2) are present. Further, Paul had referred to his fellow Jews as “compatriots” (συγγενής) in Rom 9:3 and employs the same word in Rom 16 for Andronicus, Junia (v.7), and Herodion (v.11)…. Interpreters have concluded that at least five of the people mentioned in Rom 16:1-16 must be Jewish: Prisca, Aquila, Andronicus, Junia, and Herodion. [pages 90-91]

Other evidence may suggest a Jewish identity for Andronicus, Junia, and Herodion. Paul describes Andronicus and Junia as “in Christ” prior to himself. The timing of their conversion during the early stages of the Christian mission increases the likelihood that they were Jewish. On the other hand, the possibility of a mission to the gentiles prior to Paul denies any firm conclusion. [page 100]

If Andronicus and Junia were apostles in the narrower sense of having seen and been commissioned by the Lord [Jesus Christ], they were likely Jewish. [page 98]
— A. Andrew Das, Solving the Romans Debate


Paul, like Walt Whitman, loved to contradict himself. In the same book of 1 Corinthians, he permits women to give sermons and prophesy in the church, provided they wear a veil. More telling, Paul speaks frequently of many women as his founding companions in the churches, his most trusted collaborators; he appoints women to keep new missions in order; and in Romans he notes that he has asked Phoebe (Rom. 16.1) a deacon (an ordained minister) in the church located in Cenchrea, an eastern port of Corinth, to carry his letter to the Romans to Rome. Deacon Priscilla (Rom. 16.3) is associated with the same [Corinthian, Cenchrean] church, and he promotes one of his colleagues to his own missionary status, saying about Junia, later Saint Junia, that she and her companion Andronikos are “outstanding among the messengers [apostles]”:

Greet Andronikos and Iounias [189],
Who were in prison with me, Oustanding
Among the messengers, even before me
They were working furiously for the Mashiah.
–ROM 16.7

From Paul’s time, and in large part because of Paul, women were ordained to preach and hold high administrative offices. Those were his [pro-woman Jewish] actions nearly two thousand years before anything like them was beginning to be permitted in Protestant churches, and more frequently in Jewish synagogues. But insofar as Paul contributed to silencing and separating women, he was following the practice of not only earlier Jewish temple customs but also Hindu, Buddhist, and later Muslim hierarchies. [page 628]

189. Junias from the Greek Ἰουνιᾶς (Iounias). Junias may be Junia or Julia, and the pair a couple. It is said the Junias was a Christian Jew and Andronikos a gentile, and both were imprisoned for their faith. [page 694]

–Willis Barnstone, The Restored New Testament: A New Translation with Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Thomas, Mary, and Judas

And, so, if it makes a difference that Paul has marked not only a man but also a woman as “among the apostles,” then what difference would his claim that they are born into the same race with him make?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 4:59 pm

    A nit-pick: 2 Maccabbees (which mentions Hannukah by the way)

    2 Maccabees 1:18 mentions the rededication of the temple on the 25th of Kislev, but the miracle it describes is not the Chanukah miracle, but a separate story — Nehemiah’s relighting of the altar. The miracle of the lights and the name “Chanukah” do not appear in the New Testament or Christian Deuterocanon although there are also indirect references at 1 Maccabees 4:36 and John 10:22. The books of Maccabees are useful for details of the military campaign, though.

    The main Jewish sources are the Talmud (particularly BT Shabbos 21b) and Megillas Antiochus. Josephus gives accounts of the campaign as well, although his description tends to follow the books of Maccabees.

  2. December 22, 2011 5:15 pm

    You are absolutely correct. Thanks for the correction and clarifications. Especially this week, these are important.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 22, 2011 8:30 pm

    Hi Kurk,

    I think it’s important to include Al Wolters’ paper. He suggests that if the name is a transliteration of a Hebrew name, it could just as easily be a transliteration of Yehunni (less common than Johanna, of course, and not in the Bible) . This could be a male of female name in Hebrew.

    Click to access Iounian%20as%20a%20mans%20name%20in%20Rom%20167.pdf

    However, I don’t think that Wolters’ would disgree that all readers at the time would have understood the name to be feminine. So the overwhelming liklihood is that it is a woman’s name unless we have a concept of God inspiring a passage whose truth would not be discovered for 1500 to 2000 years.

  4. December 23, 2011 3:15 pm


    Thanks for bringing in Wolter here. The “the Hebrew name Yĕḥunnī” needs to be considered for the one who we call Junia, and he makes a good case for its plausibility.

    I guess my point is that Paul (Rom 16:7) marks this individual as remarkable. I think it’s very important to consider how Paul marks her: as one of his race, as one imprisoned for his same cause, as one of the apostles like him, as one who had come to belief in their messiah before him. If he’s not intended to so mark her as remarkable, then what? Which of the designations could be read out of the Greek?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: