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The Junia Evidence: X transgendered again

January 8, 2012

The Junia files cannot be closed without reference to this one last chapter. In view of the fact that many complementarian scholars are not able to accept grammatically that Andronicus and Junia are only “well-known to” the apostles, there has been a reemergence of the tendency to question Junia’s gender. In 2006, Bruce Waltke mentioned to me that Al Wolters was going to propose that Junia was the transliteration for a masculine Hebrew name.

Here is Al Wolters’ paper. He proposes that if Iounian (accusative case) is a transliteration of a masculine Hebrew name Yehunni, it would be first declension, having the accent over the iota, just as a feminine name would, and as is found in the miniscule manuscripts. It would be Hellenized as Iounían and still masculine. He writes,

The foregoing has argued that it is not unreasonable, from a philological point of view, to interpret IOUNIAN in Rom. 16:7 as the Greek form of a Hebrew name.

The difficulty is that by the time accents were introduced 10 centuries after the epistle was written, all icons and literary mention of Junia had already attested to her femininity. The accent over the “i” was a result of the assumption that she was feminine, it was not the cause of our assumption that she was feminine.

However, Wolters remarks that there are two attestations to a name Yehunni, which can be Hellenized as Iounias. This is in contrast to the fact that there are 250 occurrences of the Latin name Junia, which can be Hellenized as Iounia.

But up against this evidence, Wolters comments further in a footnote,

It is beyond the purview of my blogging to persuade those who consider it unlikely that Paul includes women in roles of leadership to think otherwise. I am content to present the scholarship as we know it, and to express my desire for a Bible translation based on scholarship.

However, this issue was taken up with Wolters on Richard Fellows’ blog. Wolters wrote, as his 6th point,

(6) It is my own view that the much higher incidence of Junia compared to Yehunni makes it more likely that IOYNIAN in Rom 16:7 is a woman’s name rather than a man’s. In my judgment, however, it is only marginally more likely. There are other factors (such as the preponderance of male leadership in Paul’s circle) which add weight to the other side. My article was meant to show that it is not unreasonable to defend the view that Junia/s was male. As is the case with so many exegetical questions, we need to be satisfied with degrees of probability.

And Richard responded,

(6) We do see female leaders in Paul’s circle (Prisca, Phoebe, and probably Lydia, Euodia and Syntyche). It is true that the traveling missionaries tended to be male, but we must ask why this was. I am willing to be corrected, but I suspect that it would have been hard for women to get the necessary permission from their husbands/fathers to embark on missionary journeys, and that it would have been dangerous for them to travel alone, and that they might have scandalized the very people whom they hoped to convert if they had travelled with male non-relatives. These restrictions would not have applied to Junia, who travelled with her husband (Andronicus), who was also an apostle. So the scarcity of female traveling missionaries is not necessarily an argument against Junia being one.

Even if we did not know that Junia was a female name, we would still suspect that Andronicus and Junia were husband and wife. They are greeted by Paul as a two-some and are given no separate designations. They seem to have had a long association with each other, since both were in prison with him, and both were in the faith before him. Paul greets and describes them as a two-person unit, in much the same way that he does Prisca and Aquila.

I leave the final word to Dr. Claude Mariottini who wrote,

Junia was the name of a Christian in Rome, a person whose name is mentioned in the letter to the Romans in connection with Andronicus, as being Paul’s relatives, who were in prison with him; they were prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before he was (Romans 16:7).

However, the gender of the name is uncertain. Was Junia a man or a woman? If the name Junia is feminine, then she was probably the wife of Andronicus. However, even the various versions do not agree on how to translate the name.

Eldon Jay Epp, in his book Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), said (p. 65) that “English versions move from a consistent feminine understanding of ‘Junia’ for the first three centuries (1526 to 1833, though the 1833 Dickinson version is an anomaly), then a second, fairly consistent masculine period of about a century (1870s to 1960s, with a few exceptions), followed by nearly three decades (1970 to 1996) of alternation between masculine and feminine, but with an increasing trend of returning to the feminine.”

According to Epp (p. 66), the following versions have adopted the feminine (Junia) reading:

Tyndale, Cranmer, Great Bible, Geneva Bible, Bishops Bible, Rheims (“Julia”), King James Version, Weymouth, Lamsa (NT), New American Bible, New King James Version, New Jerusalem Bible, New Century Bible, New American Bible, Revised English Bible, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), Oxford Inclusive Version, New Living Translation.

In addition, other English versions not included by Epp which translate the name as feminine include the Bible in Basic English, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Today’s New English Version, and the Webster Bible.

According to Epp (p. 66), the following versions have adopted the masculine (Junias) reading:

Dickinson, Emphasized Bible, Revised Version (1881), Rheims (American Edition), American Standard Version (ASV), Goodspeed, Complete Bible (1903), Modern Reader’s Bible, Moffatt,
Ronald Knox, Revised Standard Version (RSV), Phillips, Amplified New Testament, New English Bible, New American Standard Bible (NASB), Jerusalem Bible, Good News Bible,
Living Bible, New International Version (NIV), The Message, Contemporary English Version.

In addition, other English versions not included by Epp that translate the name as masculine include the Darby Bible, the English Standard Version, God’s Word to the Nation Version, New English Translation (NET), and the Young Literal Translation.

Bruce K. Waltke, in his book, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), p. 241 said: “Al Wolters of Redeemer College (Hamilton, Ontario) in personal communication makes a convincing philological argument that Junia (Gr. Iounia) in Rom. 16:7 is a Jewish name; Yehunniah (“Yah is gracious”). If so, the name is masculine, not feminine.”

The basis by which Wolters and Waltke claim that the Jewish name Junia is masculine is not made explicit. The implication of their statement is that since the Jewish name Yehunniah is a theophoric name, that is, a name that includes the name of a god, then, the bearer of the name must be a man.

Although masculine names bearing the name of Yah, such as Obadiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, were common in the Old Testament, a few names of women also include the name of YHWH, usually shortened to Yah.

The most prominent name of a woman bearing a theophoric name in the Old Testament was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri, king of Israel (2 Kings 8:26). Another woman with Yah in her name was Abijah, the wife of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:24). Other women with theophoric names were Jecholiah, the mother of Azariah, king of Judah (2 Kings 15:1), Michaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah and the mother of Abijah, king of Judah, and Noadiah, the prophetess (Nehemiah 6:14).

Thus, if the argument that Junia is the name of a man because the name bears the name of YHWH, then the argument is not very strong. The fact is, that recent studies have revealed that Junia is a feminine name.

In his commentary on Romans (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), James E. Edwards wrote (p. 355):

“Andronicus and Junias (v. 7), both Greek names, were doubtlessly Jewish since Paul calls them my relatives (literally in Greek, “fellow-countrymen”). Depending on the Greek accenting of Iounian (a form of the name which unfortunately obscures its gender), the name could be either male (Junias) or female (Junia). The name is normally presumed male (so NIV), but a recent study reveals over 250 examples of it in Greek literature, not one of which is masculine! This seems to be early incontrovertible evidence that the name is feminine (Junia), which would make the pair husband and wife (or perhaps brother and sister). If the name is feminine, then Paul’s referring to Andronicus and Junia as outstanding among the apostles, who were in Christ before I was, is very significant. It would indicate that (1) apostles refers to a group larger than the original Twelve, (2) among whom was to be counted a woman, (3) and probably a wife, (4) who had been an apostle before Paul was (emphases his).”
So, the evidence points to the fact that Junia was a woman and that Paul called her an apostle. As Peter Lampe (Anchor Bible Dictionary 3:1127) wrote:

“Without exception, the Church Fathers in late antiquity identified Andronicus’ partner in Rom 16:7 as a woman, as did minuscule 33 in the 9th century which records iounia with an acute accent. Only later medieval copyists of Rom 16:7 could not imagine a woman being an apostle and wrote the masculine name “Junias.” This latter name did not exist in antiquity; its explanation as a Greek abbreviation of the Latin name “Junianus” is unlikely.”
Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

The Junia Evidence: IX what the trial lawyer said


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