Was Junia a Female Apostle?

Let’s look at Romans 16:7.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Two questions about this passage have been debated for many years:

  1. Was Junia a man or a woman?
  2. Was Junia an apostle?

Some would ask, “Who cares?” Well, the reason this is debated – even among non-scholars – is that the passage may show that women could be apostles in the early church. This would undermine those who believe that women shouldn’t teach men, or be in authority over men. If the Bible says that a woman was an apostle, as the argument goes, there’s no reason that a woman can’t be a pastor today.

My conclusions about Junia are entirely unrelated to the question of Christian women in leadership. My conclusions are – as they should be – based on the evidence, and not on some more modern argument about the implications of the text. If the text tells of a woman apostle, so be it. If not, so be it. Our doctrine and practice should come from the Scriptures. So what does the evidence show?

Unfortunately, the evidence isn’t clear.

What is an apostle? Would Junia qualify as an apostle?

If the Bible specifically said that only men could be apostles, that would settle the issue. The Bible doesn’t say that. The Greek word translated “apostle” is apostolos. It only appears in the New Testament, and it means a delegate, or a messenger, sent forth with orders. That could be anybody: a man or woman, a child, or even an angel (though the word used for an angel would more likely be angelos, which means “messenger”). Apostolos is usually applied to Jesus’ twelve disciples, but is also applied to others. For an example of how the word simply means “messenger,” see John 13:16: Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. The word translated “messenger” is apostolos. Here are more examples of apostolos in the New Testament:

  • After Judas betrayed Jesus and killed himself, the eleven remaining disciples chose a replacement. As we see in Acts 1:21-22, they had specific criteria in mind: Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. There were apparently a number of people who witnessed Jesus’ entire ministry. Junia may have been among them. They chose Matthias.
  • Paul was an apostle as well. He referred to himself as an apostle because Jesus appeared to him personally, and commissioned him personally. This is considered a unique situation in Scripture. Paul also wrote that he demonstrated “the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles” in 2 Corinthians 12:12. This suggests that apostles exhibited certain supernatural actions or abilities that could be identified by those who witnessed them.
  • Barnabas is called an apostle in Acts 14:4.
  • Titus and a number of others are called apostles in 2 Corinthians 8:23.
  • Apollos is called an apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:9.
  • Epaphroditus is called an apostle in Philippians 2:25.
  • Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1. Some find this odd, as they believe an apostle must be a follower of Jesus…but the word simply describes a person who has been sent with a message. This obviously describes Jesus (as in John 12:49).

These people are variously interpreted, in English, to have been “messengers” and “representatives” and “emissaries.” Could a woman, based on the above information, be considered an apostle? It appears so. There’s no passage that limits this to men, and nobody seems troubled by the idea that a number of women witnessed Jesus’ ministry from His baptism to his resurrection. If Junia was a woman, it seems reasonable to conclude that she might have been an apostle.

Was Junia a woman?

Ideally, we could just look up other biblical references to Junia and find out. Romans 16:7 is the only biblical reference to Junia, so we get no help there. The Greek construction of the name could be useful…if it was written after the ninth century. Because the accent marks that would tell us Junia’s sex don’t appear in ancient manuscripts, we get no help there, either. The consensus among the early church fathers appears to be that Junia was a woman. Later writers say that Junia is a man’s name, but by “later” we mean those writing in the twelfth century. We should, of course, prefer the earlier references to the later ones…so it’s preferable to consider the early consensus more reliable. Being diligent, we can also look for the name Junia in extrabiblical texts from that time period. If Junia was a common woman’s name and was never used in the literature for a man, we could say with some confidence that Paul’s friend Junia was a woman. Unfortunately, we simply don’t have much information from other documents. There are no instances of Junias (a masculine spelling of the same name) as a man’s name in Greek literature, while there are three of Junia as a woman.

While it seems safe to say that Junia was probably a woman, we can’t say it with the kind of certainty we’d prefer.

Was Junia an apostle?

Based on the definition of an apostle, there’s no textual basis for saying that a woman, including Junia, could not have been an apostle.

Why the debate?

Because so many consider the idea of women in (or not in) ministry so important, and because our information about Junia is inconclusive, this information hasn’t settled the issue. We need to go back to the text. The Greek phrase translated “outstanding among the apostles” is episemos en apostolos. This can be understood in two different ways:

  1. The apostles knew Andronicus and Junia well, or
  2. Of all of the apostles in the early church, Andronicus and Junia were prominent apostles.

The text itself isn’t conclusive. I studied Greek in college, and have used Greek language tools in the decades since, but I’m no Greek scholar. It’s difficult for a layperson to draw conclusions about which translation most accurately reflects Paul’s intent, because most (including myself) lack sufficient experience with ancient Greek. Scholars differ, so we don’t really know whether Paul meant that Junia was an outstanding apostle (when compared with other apostles) or that Junia was simply well-known among those who were apostles. Apparently, this is an issue that we may never settle.

I think I should mention Daniel Wallace here. He is currently a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. His Greek grammar is a standard college and seminary textbook. He’s the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible (which appears to be a very good translation), and he is also the Executive Director for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. In other words, he is a very well-known and respected scholar. Wallace believes that Junia was probably a woman, but that she and Andronicus were simply well-known by those who were apostles. I respect his opinion on the matter, as I know nobody better able to address the question of Greek grammar. Some will disagree, and – according to Wallace himself – maybe they should. We simply can’t make a final determination at this point.

Implications: what if Junia was an apostle?

Let’s say that Junia was an apostle. What would that mean? Well, it would mean that Junia (based on the definition of apostolos) was sent, by someone in authority, to deliver a message. This could be as simple as being a witness of Jesus’ ministry (sharing the gospel with others) or it could mean being a traveling evangelist, or it could mean that Junia was a local church leader as in 2 Corinthians 8:23.

Some believe the admission that Junia was probably a woman and likely an apostle is problematic, because Paul told Timothy that he doesn’t allow a woman to teach or assume authority over a man. They consider this a universal statement of the way God wants things to be. Others believe that Paul’s instructions to Timothy were prescriptive and not universal. As evidence that God uses women in positions of spiritual and political authority over men, they cite the many women of the Bible who taught men, and ruled over them…including some women that Paul mentions specifically. Having studied the issue broadly, I can’t conclude that Paul was speaking of all women, in all situations. Judah didn’t only have kings, for example. Athaliah ruled for six years. Deborah was a prophet, and Judge over the nation of Israel. Huldah was a prophet. Anna worked in the Temple, and taught people, both men and women, about the Messiah. You may read a bit more about that here: Does God Use Women in Ministry?.

Hat tip to David, who sent in this question.

2017 Year-End Review

News about Christianity, read Christian news

2017 was another good year. Since many GodWords readers like to know about such things, I usually post a year-end review.

Where do GodWords readers live?

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaidjan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius And Saba, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curacao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European country, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guyana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe (French), Guam (USA), Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire), Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Martinique (French), Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia (French), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Polynesia (French), Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Republic of Serbia, Reunion (French), Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts & Nevis Anguilla, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tadjikistan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands (British), Virgin Islands (USA), Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

The top 17 blog posts for 2017:

I’m sometimes surprised at which topics get the most attention. You may notice that #3 and #4 are almost the same. One of my goals for 2018 is to combine posts on the same subject, creating newer and more comprehensive articles.

  1. Name Changes in the Bible
  2. What Does Jesus Mean?
  3. Can You Go to Heaven If You’re Not Baptized?
  4. Do You Have to Be Baptized to Go to Heaven?
  5. Why Don’t Christians Observe the Original Sabbath?
  6. Should Christian Women Have Long Hair?
  7. Questions that God Asked Job
  8. The Books Of the Bible (Simple List)
  9. Who’s Eating the Last Supper?
  10. Should Christians Go to Landmark Forum?
  11. I Have Homosexual Feelings. Is that a Sin?
  12. Biography Of Ishmael
  13. I Don’t Tithe
  14. Does Sin Separate Us From God?
  15. My Experience With Landmark Education
  16. A Reasonable Faith: The Ontological Argument
  17. Why Does the Bible Forbid Same Sex Marriage?

Always surprising

My collection of Ancient Documents has always gotten a lot of attention. These ancient texts aren’t new (of course), aren’t original to me (they’re in the public domain) and are certainly available elsewhere. I’m stunned, at times, by how many people download them each year. The only folks who might be interested in them are students of church history, students of theology, or other people collecting ancient documents. I’ve set a goal for 2018, to double the size of my collection.

My RSS feed has almost 6,000 users. That’s astonishing, when you consider that the majority of internet users have never heard of RSS, let alone decided to take advantage of it. I make heavy use of the feeds of other websites. Whether it’s web design (my business) or theology (my passion) or fun stuff, I probably look at a couple hundred different websites at a time. In case you’re wondering, I use Feedhuddler to funnel my feeds into Pocket. Using Pocket (on my desktop computer and mobile devices) allows me to read most articles offline, whenever I want…whether I have a WiFi connection or not. That’s important to me, as I will want to read when I’m waiting for an appointment or a teenager.

What Next?

I’d like to hear from you. What kinds of things would you like to see on GodWords? What kind of questions would you like answered? Do you want more links to other sources, or do you prefer to do your reading here? Let me know. Let’s make 2018 a great year by living for God, being transformed to be more like Jesus, and helping others learn about how much He loves them.

What did the animals eat on Noah’s ark?

Was Noah's ark real? How old was Noah? How did the animals fit on the ark?

Adrian asked a question that I’d never heard before:

If Noah had obligate carnivores (carnivores that must eat meat to thrive) on the ark, what did they eat? I have asked other people and they give me a cliche answer of ‘God told them to eat grass’ or something along those lines. But I don’t think they could survive for 40 nights and 40 days on strictly grass. Since they would die of malnutrition in a short period of time. Thanks in advance.

Thanks, Adrian. The first step to clearing up any confusion is to actually go directly to the source material in question. In this case, it’s the Bible…specifically, Genesis 6. Go read the events surrounding Noah’s ark and you’ll see that Noah was instructed by God to do very specific things. Here’s a quote (verses 19-22):

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

They were on the ark to be kept alive, so Noah brought along not just animals, but food as well. I’m not sure why those other people you asked weren’t able to just look it up, but there you go. Easy peasy.

Awesome Christian Music (or “why I’ve been away”)

Find Awesome Christian music youtube videos on Awesome Christian Music

It’s been some time since my most recent post. I’ve been extraordinarily busy at work (thanks, God) and at home. My time has been limited, so my posting has been non-existent. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard to share the Gospel, though. I’ve created a new website: Awesome Christian Music. It’s a place where I can post awesome Christian music videos for the world to see. None of the videos are my own…they’re just YouTube videos that others have posted. My goal is to promote Christian music and Christian artists.

Why? Because Christian music has helped me immeasurably. It’s taught me good theology (and helped me identify bad theology), helped me understand different points of view within orthodox Christianity, and helped me express my innermost thoughts and feelings when my own words simply wouldn’t do.

Each post has one video, and the lyrics for that song. I’ve also included links to the artist’s website and social media accounts where possible. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

A Reasonable Faith – The Ontological Argument

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Dr. William Lane Craig is one of modern Christianity’s leading minds. He’s a philosopher, a theologian, an apologist, and a teacher. He regularly debates some of the leading skeptcs and atheists in the world, and has garnered the respect of virtually everyone in his field. His ministry, Reasonable Faith, is a great resource for all kinds of useful articles and videos related to Christianity.

In this video from Reasonable Faith, Anselm’s Ontological Argument is presented. Anselm of Canterbury wrote that God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, and believed that if it’s possible that a ‘maximally great’ being exists, then that being must exist. See what you think.

Did Jesus Really Exist? Bart Ehrman Explains.

Who is Jesus? Was Jesus a real person? Why did Jesus die? Is Jesus God?

Some people doubt that Jesus actually existed. They claim that some first-century men made up a story, and that a bunch of people were fooled into believing it. I’ve heard from a lot of skeptics of Christianity, and there’s a fair number who claim that Jesus never actually existed. There are many reasons why this is silly, but we tend to believe what we want to believe.

Bart Ehrman is a well-known New Testament scholar. He’s also an agnostic atheist…that is, he acknowledges he doesn’t know whether God exists, but he doubts that God exists. His books have been popular, as his doubts encourage other doubters. His arguments are regularly parroted by those who wish to discredit Christianity, which is why I’m posting this video. If you agree with Ehrman’s conclusions about Christianity, you should also agree with his conclusions about whether Jesus really was an actual person.

There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world who teaches Classics, Ancient History, New Testament, Early Christianity…any related field who doubts that Jesus existed.

Bart Ehrman

Why does the Bible forbid same-sex marriage?

Is the Bible true? Are Bible translations bad? What language is the Bible?

Why does the Bible completely forbid something like a homosexual loving marriage? It seems to be rather unfair to me.

Teleskoid

[Editor’s Note] This article is based on a comment on another article.

First, thanks for writing. I’m always aware that my perspective is limited, so I really appreciate hearing from you. Second, you’ve asked some good questions. I have two points to make here.

1. While it’s a good idea to understand the basis for the instructions we’re given, the job of the disciple is to be obedient…regardless of whether we fully understand. What you’re asking for is the rationale behind the Scriptural prohibition of homosexual behavior. That’s not a bad question, but it would be a mistake to base your obedience on whether you like the reasons you’ve been given, or whether they make perfect sense to you. I don’t really understand why we’re told to pray so much…but I pray all the time, trusting that I will understand later. I very much appreciate that you want to serve God with your life! I hope that you’re able to trust God with ALL of your life, and not just with the parts you understand and agree with.

2. I do have some information that might be useful. Marriage plays a very significant role in Scripture. It’s a big deal. Considering that, some find it odd that Jesus said that we won’t be married in Heaven. I wondered why, so I did some thinking and reading on the subject. I’ve kind of kept an eye out for more info over many years.

You see, a whole bunch of things in the Bible are substitutes for other things. The Temple – the place where God dwelled with His people – wasn’t just a temple. It also pointed to a future reality, when the Holy Spirit would indwell God’s people personally. This is why we read in 1 Corinthians that we are each a temple of the Holy Spirit. The physical temple was important, but it also pointed to a spiritual reality to come. There’s even more to it: the day is coming when all of God’s people will be in Heaven, dwelling where God is. The Temple in three different formats, if you will. Do you see how that works?

It’s the same thing with marriage. Marriage is important, but it also points to a greater spiritual reality. Our marriages aren’t simply important human relationships…they point to something bigger, and more important. First-century Jews understood this, but we need a bit of an explanation to get the point. You might be familiar with this passage:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:3

Jesus is telling His disciples that He’s going to Heaven to prepare a place for them. However: what we don’t see right away, that they understood immediately, is that these words came straight from a marriage proposal. This is what a young Israelite man would say to a young Israelite woman when he wanted to marry her. He would say this, then disappear for a while. He would build a new addition on his father’s home, making room for his new bride and their future children. Then, when it was finished, he would appear at his fiancee’s house and take her with him to live there. What does this mean? We see it everywhere in the New Testament, but we seldom think it through: Jesus is the groom, and we are the Bride. Our human marriage relationships mirror our relationship with God, and point to the future reality where we will be united with Him, living in His Father’s house.

When we think about marriage solely in human terms, we find it difficult to suggest that there’s ANY marriage that God would not bless. After all, our argument goes, isn’t marriage about love? Doesn’t God want us to love each other? How could a lifelong commitment to love another person ever be less than what God wants? The answer to these difficult questions is really pretty simple: just as the Temple wasn’t simply about animal sacrifices, so marriage isn’t simply about human love. Both are important, but the most important part is that they point not to us, but to God. There were very strict rules about what happened in the Temple. This wasn’t because God needed things on earth to happen in exactly one way, but because the Israelites would better understand Him by understanding the Temple. In the same way, the prohibition against homosexuality isn’t really about us. It’s about us understanding Him, learning through the tangible things we can see about the intangible things we can’t yet see.

The Sabbath was never really about resting one day per week. The Temple was never really about sacrificing animals. The priesthood was never really about having a mediator between God and man. Marriage was never really about a man and a woman. All of these things (and hundreds more) have always been about YOU and God, and ME and God. When we get these things mixed up, we misunderstand who God is…and we find it harder to trust Him. When we find it harder to trust Him, we find it easier to go our own way. God wants everybody to be saved, and so these things are of eternal importance. There are no mistakes in God’s system. As much as we might like things to be different, there’s a very good reason for the prohibition against homosexual behavior: truly, the fate of the world depends on it.

I hope that makes sense to you. Let me know if you’d like to talk further. I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m eager to serve.