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.

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.

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.

The King James Only Controversy

How to understand Revelation? Is Jesus coming back? What is the mark of the beast? Is Hell real?

What is it?

The KJVO controversy is about whether Christians should consider only the King James Version of the Bible to be reliable and trustworthy. While there are a variety of views within the KJVO movement, the basic idea is simple: no other Bible will do.

The King James Only movement is largely built on the claim that modern Bibles are doctrinally corrupt…that they have strayed from responsible and accurate translation of the Greek texts. There are a variety of other claims in the movement. Here are a few:

  • The KJV is the only true word of God.
  • The KJV is the only English translation that can be trusted.
  • The KJV contains no errors.
  • The KJV was supernaturally translated by God.
  • The KJV is more perfect than the manuscripts from which it was translated.
  • The KJV contains no errors or problems with translation.
  • To understand God’s Word, everyone on earth should learn English…so they can read the KJV.
  • Any deviation from the KJV is wrong, and may create doctrinal errors.
  • Translators (and possibly readers) of modern Bibles have a sinister ulterior motive.
  • Modern Bibles are a perversion of God’s Word.
  • Modern Bibles like the NASB and NIV are part of a satanic conspiracy to lead the world astray.
  • People who use other Bibles are not Christians.

Which KJV?

There are a number of different versions of the King James Version. Most KJVO advocates do not use the version finished in 1611, but the Blayney version from 1769. Between the two are revisions from 1613, 1629, 1638, and 1762. After many years of discussing this issue, no KJVO person has suggested to me that one is better than the other. This is a serious problem for their point of view, as each differs from the others.

Errors in the KJV

Most KJVO advocates claim that the KJV is better than all other Bibles because it alone is without error. This is absurd, and demonstrably false. The errors in the KJV are too numerous to list here, but it only takes one error to prove them wrong. I’ve made note of a few that should be persuasive for anyone willing to consider the evidence. Unfortunately, I’ve never met a KJVO advocate that was willing to consider the evidence…they usually run away from it. If you’re a KJVO person who wants to discuss the evidence, please leave a comment!

Unicorns

Most adults realize that unicorns don’t really exist. KJVO advocates must overlook the nine times that the word “unicorn” appears in the KJV: in Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8, Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9, Psalm 22:21, Psalm 29:6, Psalm 92:10, and Isaiah 34:7 (read on Biblegateway). The Hebrew word is RE-EM, and probably means an auroch or other, now extinct, wild bull.

Easter / Passover

In Acts 12:4, the KJV mistranslates Pascha as Easter, rather than Passover. I’ve written more about this in Easter in the KJV.

Jupiter/Zeus, Mercury/Hermes

In Acts 14:12, the KJV says that the people in Lystra called Paul “Mercury” and Barnabas “Jupiter”. This is in spite of the fact that the Greek uses the words “Zeus” and “Hermes”. (read on Blue Letter Bible)

Don’t trust the demons

In Acts 16 we read about a young lady, possessed by a demon, who followed Paul and Silas. The demon – according to the KJV – said that they were servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. Unfortunately, this is simply wrong. The Greek (the original language of the New Testament) doesn’t say “the way of salvation.” It says “a way of salvation.” The Greek word is Hodos, which means “a way” (see the definition in context). The demon wasn’t agreeing that Paul and Silas taught the only way to be saved…it suggested that they taught one of many ways. The King James is simply inaccurate here.

Listen to the KJV translators

Most Bibles have a preface, in which the translation team explains their motives and methodology. The KJV is no different. The 1611 version of the KVJ had an extensive preface, removed from later versions. Read the full preface. In it, the translators themselves demolish the KJVO controversy:

  • They didn’t intend to make a new translation, but to improve on previous ones
  • They acknowledged that previous Bibles were “the word of God” despite containing “imperfections and blemishes”
  • They wrote that translations will never be infallible.
  • They noted the supremacy of the original manuscripts over any translation
  • They wrote that one should not object to the continual process of correcting and improving English translations of the Bible
  • They were often unsure how to translate specific words or phrases
  • They did not always translate the same Greek or Hebrew words into the same English words

Questions and Objections

But the NIV takes out stuff

The primary target of KJVO folks is the New International Version (NIV). Their claim is that the NIV translators have removed crucial words and phrases from the Bible, undermining God’s word and leading unwitting people astray. There is a very serious flaw in this argument: they invariably use the KJV as the standard. Any word or phrase that differs from the King James is then suspect.

Is this logical? Of course not. The KJV translators themselves would object to this method. They would never consider the KJV to be the standard by which all future Bibles should be judged. Instead, they would recommend exactly what the NIV translators have done: go back to the manuscripts, in their original languages, and try to improve on the Bibles that already exist.

Trickery: comparing the KJV and NIV

The KJVO folks like to compare verses side by side, to show how the NIV (or other Bible) differs from the “right Bible” – that is, the KJV. That seems reasonable, on the surface. It’s a serious problem, however. It presumes that the KJV is always right, and that other Bibles are corrupt because, well, they’re not the KJV. The proper approach is not to compare one translation or version with another, but to compare all of them with all available ancient manuscripts.

There are more scholarly ways to describe this controversy, involving more complex considerations like different manuscript families, formal vs dynamic equivalence, and so on. This article is meant as an overview…a summary of the controversy and why I believe the KJVO folks have no real argument. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them.

What I am NOT saying

I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, I recommend it. One could read the KJV and learn all they need to know about being in a right relationship with God. I’m not criticizing the KJV here. I’m only criticizing the idea that the KJV is in any way superior to every other quality Bible. I agree with the KJV translators: it’s good, but not perfect. Those who claim that the KJV is better than any other Bible must not only claim it, but also demonstrate it. Simply put: they cannot.

A Higher Authority: Church vs Bible

Do I have to go to church to be a Christian? Do I have to be baptized to go to Heaven?

Is the Church over the Bible, or is the Bible over the Church? That’s the question Michael J. Kruger addresses, in response to an article by Friar Stephen Freeman. In his article, entitled There Is No “Bible” in the Bible, Freeman lays out what appears to be a very poorly constructed argument. Kruger’s article addresses Freeman’s main flaws better than I might, but I’d like to focus on one point in particular.

Freeman makes the following claim: The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a rather late invention. There are examples of bound folios of the New Testament dating to around the 4th century, but they may very well have been some of the earliest examples of such productions. This isn’t just a bad argument, it’s ridiculous. By claiming that books are a modern invention, Freeman suggests that Biblical authority is a modern, Protestant invention as well.

First, the word book isn’t all that new. In fact, the Christian Scriptures are referred to as ta biblia as early as 223 AD. John Chrysostom wrote of ta biblia as early as 388 AD. These are well before the Reformation, and can’t be considered, as Freeman claims, a “by-product of the printing press”.

It’s easy to make crazy claims. It’s so easy that one can search the internet and find almost every claim imaginable. Unfortunately, many people are easily swayed by such claims, and are quickly led astray by claims that don’t deserve an audience. Take the time to read both articles, and think through the evidence, and come to your own conclusions.

Should Christian Women Have Long Hair?

Should women have short hair? Can Christians cut their hair?

I do not cut my hair because I believe the bible says not to. This may seem silly, but I would like to style my hair by putting lots of layers but keeping it looking long. I am 54 and look 20 years older with long hair but feel like it is wrong to cut it in any way. I know one Pastor says never ever cut your hair and others just do not care one way or the other. What do you think? Thank you for your help and God Bless.

Doreen

Doreen:

Thanks for writing! Clearly, your question isn’t exactly about hair, but about how to understand what the Bible teaches. I commend you for wanting to do the right thing, and hope that I can clarify the situation for you.

It’s important to ask the simplest questions first: does the Bible teach that women shouldn’t have short hair? Certainly not. If we look at Numbers 6, we’ll see the following:

“If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite…no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long…when the period of their dedication is over…they are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.” (vv. 2, 5, 13, 18)

As you can see, both men and women made this vow. They grew their hair as a symbol of their dedication to God, then shaved it all off. If women aren’t supposed to cut their hair, they could never take part in the Nazirite vows. Women took the Nazirite vow and shaved their heads, and that was good. In case anyone thinks that this is an ‘Old Testament vs New Testament’ thing, I refer you to Acts 21 .

If women shaving their heads to take part in an important vow to God was good, why would it be bad for you (or any other woman) to cut your hair?

Those who teach that it’s wrong for Christian women to cut their hair generally refer to several verses in 1 Corinthians 11 . “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as having her head shaved.” (v.5)

If Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth weren’t about the length of a woman’s hair, what was he talking about? Look at v5: a woman was expected to cover her head during prayer, or when she prophesied. Paul likens a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered to one who has her head shaved. The Greek word used is KEIRO…the same word use to describe the shearing of sheep.

Paul’s instructions had nothing to do with cutting your hair, and everything to do with living in Corinth. Corinth was a city where many pagan gods were worshipped, including Dionysus. One of the names used in ancient Macedonia (Greece) for Dionysus was “Pseudanor”. It means “false man”, as in “effeminate man”. He was pictured in art from that time as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked androgynous youth. Literature described him as womanly or “man-womanish”. Because of this, worshippers of Dionysus would often engage in cross-dressing, where men would grow their hair and wear women’s clothing…and women would cut their hair and dress in men’s clothing. These women were known, for hundreds of years prior to Paul’s letter, as “imitators of men”.

That is why women having short hair was a big deal in Corinth: everybody would assume that they worshipped Dionysus instead of worshipping Jesus Christ.

Paul didn’t teach that women should have long hair. He taught, as was the custom of the day, that women should cover their heads while praying or prophesying. Keeping their heads uncovered at those times would have been considered shameful…as shameful as having people assume you worshipped a pagan god.

I don’t know where you live, but it’s unlikely that cutting your hair will confuse your neighbors and convince them that you worship Dionysus, or make you look like a man. That’s what Paul was saying, clearly…so please feel free to cut and style your hair.

While you’re at it, you might take a moment to read another article: Should Christians Separate from the World?. From where I stand, those who teach that you shouldn’t cut your hair are guilty of misrepresenting God, making it harder for others to trust Him.

Were Cain and Abel Twins?

Were Cain and Abel twins?

I have heard that Cain and Abel were twins. If this is true, how would I find this in the bible? Thank you.

Doreen

That’s an interesting question. The Bible doesn’t specifically say either way. Cain was born first, and Abel after…but Genesis 4:1-2 doesn’t tell us how long after: Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

The Hebrew word used in the text is YACAPH, which has more than one meaning. One meaning is ‘to do again’ and another is ‘to add’. It could be that Abel was born in a separate pregnancy, or that the one pregnancy had two births. Without more information from Scripture (which we don’t have), we simply don’t know.

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