Dianne D. McDonnell is a graduate from Arizona State University where she
received a BA in education. After over twenty years of leading church
education programs, she served as a pastor's assistant for two years. She
was ordained as a minister in 2000. For six years, she has been researching
the Biblical passages relating to women and has written a number of articles
based on that research. She occasionally does speaking engagements and has
organized and led two Conferences for Christian women-- "Equal to Serve" in 2001
in Atlanta, Ga. and "Dynamic Deborahs" in 2004 in Arlington, Texas.
When not writing articles or pastoring, Dianne paints in watercolors and oils
and loves to travel. She is married and is the mother of two adult
Junia, A Woman Apostle
By Dianne D. McDonnell
For many years many thought Junia(s) was a man--or if they admitted she was a
woman, they discounted her as just someone highly regarded by the apostles.
Recent scholarship proves she was both a female and an apostle! But let's start
by looking at each piece of this scripture puzzle.
"Greet Andronicus and Junias (Junia) my relatives who have been in prison with
me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ
before I was." NIV (The NAS and NASU both use "outstanding", the KJV uses "of
note" meaning notable.)
1. Andronicus means "man of victory".
2. Iounias-Junia , a common Latin female
name meaning "youthful", a Christian woman at Rome, mentioned by Paul as one of
his kinsfolk and fellow prisoners, Thayer's Greek Definitions. Also see
the following pages for more proof.
3. relatives - Could mean related by blood, of
the same race, or of the tribe of Benjamin.
4. fellow prisoners - They had once all three been
imprisoned together, most likely for being Christian leaders. Paul would
have gotten to know both of them very well.
5. outstanding - Episemos ep-is'-ay-mos -
remarkable, eminent Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
6. among - En, translated "among" 97 other times
in the NT, in Matthew 20:26 "to be great among you" uses the same word.
Expresses the idea of being within a group.
7. apostles - These were not of the 12, but
apostle (meaning one who is sent) remained a spiritual gift, 1 Cor 12:28, and we
have biblical proof that others became known as apostles as they received this
spiritual gift or calling. Paul and Barnabas were apostles, Col.1:1, Acts
14:3,4.; also Silvanas and Timothy, read both 1 Thes 1:1, and 2:6.
8. before -These two were "in Christ" before
Paul, meaning baptized before Paul was, and thus preceded him as Christians.
Andronicus and Junia had more experience than Paul!
Was Junia "among" as "one of" the apostles, or just highly
regarded by the apostles?
Many mentally read this scripture and add several of their own words—"They
are (said to be) outstanding among (here they substitute "by") the apostles."
Changing "among" and adding the other four words totally changes the meaning of
this scripture! However, these four words—said to be/by—are not in the Greek
text. In studying scriptures we cannot just randomly add words or change
the words that are there! For the meaning "by" Paul would have used one of two
totally different Greek words—para or pros—rather than using en which implies
selection from within a group.1
Paul never relied on the opinions of other apostles to back his teaching or his
praise.2 He knew these two very well, having been in prison with them. Why
would he be saying that others thought they were outstanding? He knew them
best and he was praising them as "outstanding (or eminent) among the apostles."
Paul considered them apostles just as he considered himself to be an apostle.
They were part of the group called apostles, they were apostles, and were
setting an outstanding example.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "Paul describes them as being prominent
among the apostles, and as having been Christians before him."
The United Bible Societies Handbook Series, an acknowledged authority composed
of a board of respected translators, first acknowledges that they are a
male/female team, "Adronicus and Junias ... could easily have been husband and
wife, or brother and sister." They acknowledge that some misunderstood the
sentence, "to mean 'the apostles know them well,' but a far more acceptable
interpretation would imply that these...were counted as apostles and were well
known, for example, 'as apostles they are well known.'"3
Why wasn't a woman among the original twelve apostles of Jesus?
A woman might well have been killed because of the moral outrage in that day
and time against a woman being one of the disciples. Traveling around
together in the three and one-half year training period demanded maleness of the
core group of disciples. The women who did travel with them were not
formally called disciples and thus could be accepted by that culture.
Remember, all of the twelve apostles were Jewish males. Did that mean that
from then on all apostles or leaders had to be Jewish? There were no
American apostles or Canadian apostles, did that mean that Jesus would never
later call American or Canadian ministers to serve him? The twelve were
selected in a specific time period and to have a woman apostle in the original
twelve would have brought about persecution and accusations of immorality.
Jesus never said anything that would exclude later female apostles in the group
that Paul was a part of. After the twelve we see that there was at least
one women, believed to be married, who was called to be an apostle—Junia.
As early believers, she and her husband may well have been among the 120
disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15.
Is there proof that the term "apostle" continued beyond the
See number seven on the chart for scriptures proving that others were called
apostles in addition to the original twelve and Mathias. Men such as Paul,
Barnabas, Silvanus and Timothy were all later apostles. Also see
We also find other scriptural proof that there were many that were called
apostles in the New Testament beyond the twelve. 2 Cor. 8:22-24 is
translated "messengers of the churches" but it is the same Greek word,
apostolos, Strong's 652, and could be translated as "apostles of the
churches"! In Phil 2:25 Epaphroditus is also called an apostolon or
apostle, but once again it was translated "your messenger" rather than apostle.
Do early commentators record that Junia was a female apostle?
Dr. Leonard Swidler states, "To the best of my knowledge, no commentator on
the Text until Aegidus of Rome (1245-1316) took the name to be masculine."5 So
until the late 13th century, historical references all agreed that Junia was
female, as did the men below.
Origen, of Alexandria who lived toward the end of the second century (c.
See Epistolam ad Romanos Commentariorum 10, 23; 29.
John Chrysostrom, 4th century, (337-497) wrote, "Oh! How great is the
devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the
appellation of apostle! (Homily on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the
Jerome (340-419) wrote that Junia was a female. (Liver
Interpretationis Hebraicorum Nominum 72, 15.) Also Hatto of Vercelli
(924-961), Theophylack (1050-1108), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) 6
How did Junia become known as a male?
The change took place in approximately 1298 which was during the reign of
Pope Boniface VIII (Benedict Gaetani, reigned from 1294-1303). You will
remember that the first person to record the two as "men" was Aegidus in Rome, a
contemporary of Pope Boniface VIII. The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on to
tell us that this pope was accused of infidelity, heresy, simony, gross and
unnatural immorality, adultery, magic, loss of the Holy Land, death of Celestine
V, and more. When King Philip IV of France brought these charges against
him five archbishops, 21 bishops and some abbots sided with the king! 7 This
evil man had persuaded the pope before him, Celestine V, to resign, and then
following his own election as pope, imprisoned the elderly man until his death.
One famous quote from Boniface VIII is, "It is altogether necessary to salvation
for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff."9
A papal decision that dealt directly with religious women was the papal bull
known as Periculoso, which was the first word of the Latin text. This
decree of 1298 announced that all nuns, no matter their rank, or what rule they
observed and no matter where their monasteries were located—all nuns were to be
perpetually cloistered! Unless a nun became contagiously ill, she could not
leave her monastery or invite "unauthorized persons" into the monastery.10 Once
they had been free to come and go on their own religious business and
ministries, now nuns were to be totally separated and no longer free to come and
go as they wished. This was a milestone decision and transformed
monasteries into virtual prisons! One order of nuns threw the bishop delivering
this decree out of their convent and tossed the edict along after him! One
reason given for this decree was for their safety, but soon afterwards many safe
monasteries out in the country were closed and relocated to cities, so this
reason did not really seem valid. Boniface may well have wished to limit
the power and influence of the women of the church. Many nuns protested
but the edict remained and continues to this day. Nuns never regained the
freedom they had before the edict of 1298.
Monasteries of women were famous for producing their own copyists and
illuminators of manuscripts.11 Therefore these nun bible copyists and educated
nuns among them such as Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) who wrote Herald of
Divine Love, would have been able to cite Junia as an apostle from the biblical
record of Romans. Did Boniface VIII also rule that Junia would henceforth
be considered a male? Conclusive evidence eludes us, but we do know that
at about the same time as this edict against nuns, medieval biblical
commentators began referring to Junia as a male! The first person Dr. Swidler
sites to do so is Aeigidus of Rome. If this is the same man as AEgidius
Colonna, the Archbishop of Bourges who helped Boniface write one of his major
papal bulls—then we have a direct link to Boniface VIII.12 Another shocking
change occurred at about this same time.
"Junia" becomes "Junias"
"Without exception the church fathers in late antiquity identified Andronicus'
partner in Romans 16:7 as a woman as did minuscule 33 in the 9th century which
records Iounia (Greek for Junia) with an acute accent. Only later
medieval copyists of Romans 17:7 could not imagine a woman being an apostle and
wrote the masculine name Iounias (Junias) with an s. This later
name Junias did not exist in antiquity; its explanation as a Greek abbreviation
of the Latin name 'Junianus' is unlikely."13
At about the time of Pope Boniface's edict removing the freedom of nuns in 1298,
copyists began writing the name Junia as Junias! Yet recent research has shown
that the newly created name, Junias, didn't even exist at the time of Paul!
"This hypothetical name Junias is, however, as yet unattested in ancient
inscriptions, but the female Latin name Junia occurs over 250 times among
inscriptions from ancient Rome alone. Further, the ancient translations
and the earliest manuscripts with accents support reading Iounian as Junia.
Finally, Junias would be an irregular form. Therefore, critical scholars
today increasingly interpret the name as the feminine Junia."14
Junia was a very common Latin female name and we have no record of any Roman
male bearing the name Junia. But medieval copyists began copying the name
with as "s" to hide Junia's sex, not knowing that the name Junias "did not exist
in antiquity"! So Junia received a fictitious name, possibly at the command of
Pope Boniface VIII!
Apostle is listed as one of the Spiritual gifts given by God.
God Himself gives the ability to do these jobs, "And in the church God has
appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers
of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others,
those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of
tongues." 1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV
Apostle is listed first by Paul as one of the most important of the spiritual
gifts because these individuals are responsible for evangelizing, setting up
churches, organizing them, handling the problems that arose, ordaining elders
for each church and generally coordinating, supervising and serving a number of
congregations. Again, it is God that gives these individuals the
ability—as a spiritual gift—to do a certain job. Ordination was usually
done long after the person was already getting the job done through the leading
of God's Holy Spirit. You will notice that Stephen was performing miracles
and preaching even though his ordination had been to deacon, see Acts 6:1-10.
Since Junia was given this highest spiritual gift along with her husband
Andronicus, it is obvious that women can also be given the calling (spiritual
gift) of serving God as a prophet, teacher, or any of the other spiritual gifts.
In the scriptures that explain spiritual gifts there is no indication that any
gift is limited to males only. Both men and women are to work together
using whatever talents, abilities and spiritual gifts they have been given by
God to serve, in a servant manner, the people of God.
1 Aida Besancon Spencer, Beyond the Curse, page 102.
2 Galatians 1:18-24
3 United Bible Societies Handbook Series, (1961-1997) for Romans 16:7
4 Thayer’s Greek Definitions 652 apostolos—a delegate, a
messenger, one sent forth with orders a) specifically applied to the twelve
apostles of Christ b) in a broader sense, applied to other eminent Christian
5 Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women, Westminster Press
(1979) p. 299
6 Charles Trombley, Who Said Women Can’t Teach, Bridge Publishing (1985)
7 Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, article on Pope Boniface VIII
8 New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 edition, Vol. 2, article on Pope
9 From papal bull, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 1302, as quoted in The
Encyclopedia of Religion, 1995, Vol. 1, PP 288-289.
10 Elizabeth M. Makowski, Canon Law and Cloistered Women, http://cuapress.cua.edu
11 Book review of Women in the Days of the Cathedrals by Regine Pernoud,
translated by Anne Cote-Harriss, p. 2. Online:
12 Catholic Encyclopedia, (1913), “Pope Boniface VIII”
13 “Junia”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (1992), Vol. 3, p. 1127
14 Women in Scripture, editor Carol Meyers, (2000), article “Junia” by
Bernadette J. Brooten, p. 109
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