The Mystery of Junia/s

The passage Romans 16:7 presents an interesting exegetical challenge.  Paul instructed the church in Rome to greet “Andronicus” and [depending on which translation one uses] “Junias” [NASB, NIV] or “Junia” [NKJV, ESV, HSCB, NLT].  The rendering adopted by the NASB and NIV is masculine.  The rendering adopted by the NKJV, ESV, HCSB, and NLT is feminine.  The ESV and HCSB render the noun as the feminine but footnote that it may be a masculine name. The NLT adds a footnote that: “Junia is a feminine name. Some late manuscripts accent the word so it reads Junias, a masculine name. Still others read Julia (feminine).”

Looking to the Greek text does not help.  The name is in the accusative case, which is ‘Iounian.  The only distinction between the masculine and feminine forms in this “case” [the pun is intentional] is the accent.  The problem with relying on the accent mark as the indicator of gender is that accent marks did not exist in the Greek text as it was originally written.  Accent marks were not developed until later—much later—several centuries later as a matter of fact.

Daniel Wallace indicates that if the word is accented with the circumflex on the ultima (the final syllable), then it is masculine.  If it is accented with the acute on the penult (the next to last syllable), then it is feminine.  He observes that most MSS show the masculine form. This presents an oddity for Majority Text advocates since the reading adopted in both the Farstad-Hodges and the Robinson-Pierpoint editions of the Majority Text adopt the minority feminine reading. The Pickering edition of the Majority Text has no accent markings or footnotes to any variants.  The caveat here, as I noted earlier, is that accent markings were not part of the original text—having been added in the ninth century (801-900) A.D.—almost 800 years after the texts were originally written. This is why the notation in the NLT is not only misleading, but duplicitous since there were no accent markings in the original text. All accent markings [and the rules for those markings, developed in the same era, so the accent markings apparently were a matter of copyist discretion and speculation.

So the first point is that the identity of Junia/s cannot be answered or proven solely on the basis of textual considerations.

External evidences do not help either.  There are only seventeen references in the church fathers.  While most of those references, according to Wallace, identify Junia/s as female, the problem is that those references come from the post-Nicene fathers, writing in the fourth century and later, after the council of Nicea.  The ante-Nicene fathers uniformly identify Junia/s as male.

Finally, looking at secular usage of the name suggests that the masculine name Junias was unknown to the Greeks—at least no references have surfaced to date.  The feminine name Junia appears 3 times in Greek literature.  However, we must keep in mind, that although Paul was writing in Greek, he was writing to the church in Rome, where the predominant language and naming customs would have been Latin, not Greek.  The masculine name Junianus or Junianas appears frequently in Latin and Greek literature.  The nickname or diminuitive Junias does appear in Latin literature.

Wallace is therefore cautious in his conclusions in the matter:  “In the least, the data on whether Iounian is feminine or masculine are simply inadequate to make a decisive judgment, though what minimal data we do have suggests a feminine name….  Although we are dealing with scanty material, it is always safest to base one’s views on actual evidence rather than mere opinion.”

I find Wallace’s explanation to be unsatisfactory for two compelling reasons.  The first is that it fails to provide a rationale or logic for the conclusion.  It literally begs the question: Why, if the evidence is so scanty, is the evidence which supports the feminine reading of “Junia” to be viewed more favorably over evidence which supports the masculine reading of “Junias?”

The second objection I have is that Wallace has come out as one of the most (if not the most) outspoken opponents of Majority Text theory, citing the Westcott-Hort canon of text criticism that “witnesses must be weighed, not counted” frequently in paper debates to support his views.  Yet in this instance, he counts witnesses rather than weighs them.

These points aside, while I find Wallace’s summary of the data, along with his conclusions to be unsatisfactory, I would not be so bold as to summarily and catagorically dismiss it. The gender of Junia/s is simply a matter about which we simply do not have enough evidence to make a decisive statement at this time.

More crucial to the debate between egalitarians, who are for the inclusion of women in all aspects of ecclesiastical functioning (including pastoring men), and complementarians, who argue that God, in His immutable and wisdom and design, has excluded women from exercising ecclesiastical authority over adult males, is the exact nature of the phrase: episāmos en tois apostolois.

The lexical domain of the adjective episāmos shows the word has both a comparative sense meaning “prominent or outstanding among a given group,” and an elative sense in which no comparison is suggested.  The question then becomes:  Is this adjective being used in the elative or the comparative sense? Wallace notes that when a comparative sense is intended, the adjective is used with the genitive case.  In such a situation, we should expect to read episāmos en tōv apostolōn. Wallace notes that the grammatical construction which appears in this passage uses the dative, which suggests to him that this is a non-comparative use of the adjective.  Thus, the phrase which has been translated “who are of note [prominent] among the apostles,” would be more accurately rendered as “who are of note [well-known] to the apostles.” Moo, in his commentary on this passage, asserts the egalitarian position, finding that this passage fully supports the feminist ecclesiology—that women were fully functioning as apostles in the technical sense of the word, equal with the Twelve.

Moo’s comments and logic are unconvincing.  Far from marshaling evidence to support his interpretation of the passage, he simply states the claim without providing a shred of linguistic or other evidence support his position.  Moo asserts that, in order for Wallace’s understanding to be correct, Paul would have used the preposition hupo + the genitive instead of en + the dative.  Again, no evidence is presented which would explain why the construction proposed by Moo should be expected.  To this reader, such a presentation implies that Moo sees himself as being an inerrant interpreter of scripture—beyond question or refutation.

Wallace on the other hand, provides examples from apocryphal literature which shows that the comparative sense of one object (or person) being notable among other like or similar objects/persons forming a larger group of which the object/person being compared is part always involves the preposition + the genitive plural.  Conversely, when the adjective episāmos is used in the elative (non-comparative) sense, it is used in collocation with the preposition + the dative plural, as it is found in Romans 16:7.

Wallace is circumspect in his findings, noting that more research is required, but concludes that even if it is accepted or proven conclusively that “Junia” is correct over “Junias” as a translation, there is no solid textual basis which requires that we acknowledge her as an apostle invested with ecclesiastical authority.

Other evidence which is suggestive that women were not functioning in ecclesiastical authority is the silence of Scripture.  While women play a prominent role in the narrative (Priscilla, Lydia, Lois, Eunice, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Julia, Euodia, Syntyche, Claudia), there is no mention anywhere in the New Testament which suggests these women ever held a position of ecclesiastical authority. I cannot assert this strongly enough: there is no evidence in the New Testament that women held positions of ecclesiastical authority in the first century church.

It is conceded that such is an argument from silence;  but coming from a tradition which insists that the silences of Scripture is an area which must be respected as fully as those things about which Scripture speaks, I assert that it is valid to claim that if Scripture does not plainly show women functioning as elders and apostles in the New Testament, then it is a dangerous heresy for egalitarians to demand acceptance for women as elders and to anathematize those who disagree with them.

Returning to the issue of the gender identity of Junia/s, it is instructive to look at the other descriptions Paul applies to Andronicus and Junia/s.  Paul calls them “fellow prisoners,” a term he used in only two other instances—referring to Aristarchus in Colossians 4:10, and to Epaphras in Philemon 23.

In these two references, Paul’s fellow prisoners are men.  This suggests that one line of study for background would be to investigate Roman penal practices.  The question would be:  What did Paul mean by the term “fellow prisoners?”  Did he mean simply that those so designated were or had been imprisoned for their faith?  Or, as the contexts suggest in Colossians and Philemon, is this Paul’s term for those who actually shared prison facilities with him?  If the latter is the case [as I believe it is], those who advocate for the feminine “Junia” must be able to prove that the Roman practice was to house men and women together.  To my knowledge, this has not been done.  As conceded, a lack of evidence is not proof to the contrary, but it certainly argues convincingly that those who use this passage as a foundation stone for an egalitarian ecclesiology and polity are constructing their doctrinal position on an exegetical and hermeneutical foundation of sand.

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About davestheology

I found a book that was kind of worn, But to my surprise, not a page was torn; It had a title, that I could not read, "Red Letter Edition" was all I could see.
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