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Resolving the Interpretive Issues of Romans 16:7

Dennis J.  Preato
For Bio click here

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.


The purpose of this paper is to solve two major interpretive problems in Romans 16.7.  The first is concerned with resolving the gender of the person named Iounian.  Was this person a woman? The Greek word Iounian has been translated as "Junias" (male) and as "Junia" (female).   The second problem is concerned with the meaning of the phrase episemoi en tois apostolois.   Andronicus and Junia were "either highly regarded by the early church leaders (the apostles) or they were regarded as apostles themselves."1  Resolution of these issues can have important ramifications for how the church should carry out her continual mandate.   Reviewing Romans 16 will contribute to a better realization that both women and men were participants in all areas of ministry in the church.   They were ministers, deacons, leaders and even apostles.  


 Part of the interpretive problem is that the word Iounian, translated as Junia(s), appears only once in the Greek New Testament (GNT) and is shown in the accusative case with a certain accent mark.   The use or absence of such mark is a significant factor accounting for the textual variations that appear in the GNT.   The oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts contain no accents or punctuation marks.   In addition, the GNT includes early support for a female named Ioulian, translated as "Junia." According to Douglas Moo, the problem with identifying this person "arises from the fact that the Greek form used here, Iounian, depending on how it is accented, could refer either (1) to a man with the name 'Junianus', found here in its contracted form, 'Junias' or (2) to a woman with the name of Junia."2  The use of such accents mark did not occur until the 9th or 10th century.

Additionally, there is limited external data specifically discussing the gender of the person Paul refers to as Iounian.   Why is this? Probably because this issue was not a concern for those who lived in Paul's time.   The first century and early Christian community would have certainly known the gender of the person in question.   Therefore, a careful review of the evidence offered by manuscripts, writings from church leaders and scholarly research should shed more light on resolving theses issues.

Bible translators appear divided on the how they interpret Iounian.   For example, the ASV, NASB, NIV, TEV, NAB prefer "Junias" while the KJV, NRSV, NKJV, NCV, REB prefer "Junia."  Some bibles also footnote the name "Julia."  This divergence in translations only serves to highlight the problem faced by modern readers of the text.  The task is to synthesize the data and reach a conclusion on the basis of objective evidence.

1.   Evidence for Male: Manuscripts

Bibles and commentators generally utilize Greek New Testaments in their translation and interpretive pursuit.   Both the UBS4 and NA27 Greek New Testaments show Iounian accented with a circumflex accent over the alpha, which indicates "Junias" as being a contracted form of Junianus, a male name.3  Support for "Junias" is attested to by B2 , D2, Yvid., 33 and a number of minuscules dated from the 9th to 14th century.   Chrysostom is also listed as lectionary support for this position.

a.   Discussion.   Some external evidence does exist supporting a reading of "Junias." However, this support is not among the oldest available witnesses.   The majority of support for Junias comes from numerous minuscule manuscripts from mostly the 13th-14th centuries.   These later minuscules contain accent marks reflecting the writer's interpretation that Iounian was a masculine name.4 Minuscule 33 is listed as support for Junias.   However, according to Douglas Moo, this 9th century minuscule actually represents an important exception to the contracted form and supports the feminine form rather than the masculine.5 According to many scholars, including Bernadette Brooten, Peter Lampe, Leonard Swidler, Bruce Metzger and Dianne McDonnell, the male name "Junias" is unattested to in ancient writings.6  Additionally, the USB4 GNT may have incorrectly listed Chrysostom as support for a male "Junias." According to John Piper and many others, Chrysostom actually bears witness to a female Junia and not to a male Junias.7

b.   Assessment.   The manuscripts and lectionary support cited provide little justification to support a male reading.

2.   Evidence for Male: Church Leader and Writings

John Piper and Wayne Grudem state that Epiphanius (315-403) wrote an Index of Disciples, in which he writes: "Iounias, of whom Paul makes mention, became bishop of Apameia of Syria." According to them, Epiphanuis wrote "of whom" as a masculine relative pronoun thereby indicating that he thought Iounias was a man.8 Piper and Grudem also presented the results of their computer search of ancient Greek writings looking for the name "Junia(s)."  Based on their findings, they concluded that "no one should claim that Junia was a common woman's name in the Greek speaking world, since there are only three known examples in all of ancient Greek literature."9

a.   Discussion.   Douglas Moo discusses Epiphanius and calls into question the reliability of this evidence because in the same passage, Epiphanius thought "Prisca" (Priscilla) was a man."10 This church father also wrote and believed that "the female sex is easily seduced, weak and without much understanding.   The Devil seeks to vomit out this disorder through women...  We wish to apply masculine reasoning and destroy the folly of these women" (Epiphanius, Adversus Collyridianos, Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Volume 42, Column 740 f).11

The computer search by Piper and Grudem is inconclusive regarding their statement that "Junia" was not a common name in ancient writings.   Many scholars including Brooten, Lampe, Metzger, Moo, McDonnell and Osburn claim otherwise, and state that "Junia" was a common name.   However, the real significance of Piper and Grudem's search is the fact that they could not cite any example for a male named Junias.   James Walters states: "Researchers have been unable to locate a single example of the male name Junias in ancient literature or inscriptions, either Latin or Greek." 12

b.   Assessment.   The observation by Moo and the misogynist statements by Epiphanius about women casts strong doubt to the appropriateness of this person providing any objective evidence in support of a male reading.   His beliefs toward women may have certainly colored his thinking and writings.   Therefore, we cannot conclude that this church father is an unbiased and credible witness.   The computer search performed by Piper and Grudem offers no evidence for a male reading.

3.   Evidence for Female: Early Manuscripts

According to Douglas Moo, the UBS4 and NA27 Greek New Testatments cite "Junia" as a variant reading.13 This variant reading is attested to by Codexes Sinaiticus (a), A, B*,C, D*, F,G, P.   The GNT also cites "Julia" as a variant reading.   Support for this female name is evidenced by P46, 6, itar,b, vgmss, copbo, eth, and Church Father, Jerome.

According to many scholars, Junia was a common name that appeared in Greek and Latin inscriptions and literature.   Brooten states, "the female Latin name Junia occurs over 250 times among inscriptions from ancient Rome alone."14  Peter Lampe has also discovered over 250 examples of the female name Junia.15 Bruce Metzer, editor of the GNT, likewise agrees that Junia is well attested to in ancient literature.

a.   Discussion.   Support for a female named Julia is evidenced by P46, a papyrus manuscript, dating from around a.d.  200.   This papyrus represents the earliest known and most reliable testimony in support of Julia.   The 3rd century Coptic, 4th century Vulgate, and fifth century Latin versions provide additional early support for this female name.   These early manuscripts clearly support a female named "Julia." Junia, the other variant reading, is supported by the earliest known manuscripts available.   Sinaiticus dates from the fourth century and is earliest surviving complete copy of the Greek New Testament.16 Codexes A, B, C, D date from the 4th to 5th century and represent a broad spectrum of "text types." These early witnesses, by themselves, do not clearly reveal how an unaccented Iounian should be translated.   The cumulative evidence provided by other ancient manuscripts, the existence of "Junia" as a common name in ancient times, and the lack of any evidence for "Junias" cannot be ignored.   It is not unreasonable to state, as Moo does, that these early witnesses attest to "Junia."

b.   Assessment.   The quality and age of the above manuscripts provide strong support for a female name whether it be rendered "Julia" or "Junia." The research from many different scholars clearly support that a female named Junia occurred frequently in ancient writings.

4.   Evidence for Female: Church Leaders and Writings

In commenting on Romans 16:7, John Chrysostom (347-407) states:

"Greet Andronicus and Junia...who are outstanding among the apostles: To be an apostle is something great! But to be outstanding among the apostles - just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions.   Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle."17

Chrysostom was not alone in confirming the gender of Junia as female.   Earlier commentator Origen of Alexander (185-253) understood the name to be feminine.18  Others included Jerome (340-419) who wrote that Junia was a female.   (Liver Interpretationis Hebraicorum Nominum 72,15.), Hatto of Vercelli (924-961, Theophylack (1050-1108), and Peter Abelar (1079-1142).19

a.   Discussion.   External evidence from writings of early church leaders testify that Junias was a woman apostle.   Current scholars provide additional insight.   Commenting on the gender of Junia, 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."20  Douglas Moo agrees that commentators before that 13th century were unanimous in favor of a female rendering.21 Stanley Grenz maintains that "the gender of Junia was not an issue in the patristic era ...  Origen assumed that Paul's friend was a women...Chrysostom, who was no supporter of women bishops, expressed high regard for Junia."22 Ray R.  Schulz states the Church Fathers agreed that Junia was a female apostle.23

From the very earliest times, the attitude of the "church fathers" toward women could be described as negative at best.24  Origen, Chrysostom and others were no exceptions to the prevailing attitudes.   Yet despite their negative attitudes towards women they gave testimony that Junia was female.

b.   Assessment.   The testimony by church various leaders through the 12th century provide convincing support that Iounian was female.

III.   One of the Apostles VS.  Highly Regarded

The second issue under consideration is whether Andronicus and Junia where "among" as "one of" the apostles or were simply highly regarded "by" the apostles.   Grammatically, some say both meanings are possible.   It is interesting, however, to observe that while the ten Bible translations, mentioned earlier, are evenly divided on how they translated Iounian, they are unanimous on the meaning of episemoi en tois apostolois.   For example, they are "outstanding apostles" (NAB), "outstanding among" (NASB, NIV), "prominent among" (NRSV), "eminent among" (REB), "of note among" (KJV, ASV, NJKV) and the NCV states "they are very important apostles." All these bibles translated episemoi en tois apostolois as meaning they were "one of" the apostles.   James Walthers states "virtually all" English bibles interpret the phrase as meaning they were among the apostles.25

1.   Evidence They Were Apostles: Natural Meaning

a.   Discussion.   Greek scholar, A.T.  Robertson states that the phrase en tois apostolois "naturally means that they are counted among the apostles in the general sense of Barnabas, James, the brother of Christ, Silas, and others.   But it can mean simply that they were famous in the circle of the apostles in the technical sense."26 Moo also concludes that it is more natural to translate the phrase episemoi en tois apostolois as "esteemed among the apostles" and not "esteemed by the apostles." He also states that earlier interpreters would argue against Paul meaning a woman because they had difficulty in "imagining that a woman could hold such authority in the early church.27 In this sense, such a translation would also represent the harder or more difficult one.   J.B. Lightfoot agrees that the only natural way to translate episemoi en tois apostolois is "regarded as apostles."28  Cranfield states it is "virtually certain" that the phrase means "outstanding among the apostles." Walkers, commenting on Cranfield's remarks said, "this is the way the phrase was understood by all of the patristic writers and by most all modern commentators.29 Bauer provides the normal meaning of episemoi en tois apostolois as "outstanding among the apostles."30

Aida Besancon Spencer, makes the grammatical point that "the Greek preposition en which is used here always has the idea of 'within.'"31  Greek text books point out that en followed by the dative normally means "in, on or among." For example, en tois is translated as "among those" (1 Cor 2:6), and en tois ethnesin as "among the Gentiles" (Acts 15:12, 1 Cor 5:1, Gal 2:2, Col 1:27, 1 Pet 2:12).   Where en tois is followed by a plural noun referring to a group of people, the word en is translated as "among." F.F.  Bruce adds that not only were they "well known to the apostles" but they were "notable members of the apostolic circle."32  Liddel-Scott defines the Greek word episemoi as "having a mark on" it.33  James A.  Witmer, explains that episemoi, literally means "having a mark [sema] on them," therefore they are "illustrious, notable, or outstanding" among the apostles.34  These defintions seem to describe them as one who "bears the mark" of an apostle.

b.   Assessment.   Numerous contemporary and past scholarship, lexical definitions, and grammatical construction provide conclusive support that they were "regarded as apostles."

2.   Evidence for a Women Apostle: Church Bishop

Fourth century bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom wrote a series of homilies.   On Romans 16.7 he "noted: 'Oh how great is the devotion of this women that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!' (The Homiles of St.  John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, 11:555; Wm B.  Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956)."35   Chrysostom praised Junia as an apostle.   He also praised other women.   It is significant to reflect on his following comment in reference to Paul's greeting of Mary in Romans 16:6:

How is this? A woman again is honored and proclaimed victorious! Again are we men put to shame.   Or rather, we are not put to shame only, but have even an honor conferred upon us.   For an honor we have, in that there are such women among us, but we are put to shame, in that we men are left so far behind by them .  .  . For the women of those days were more spirited than lions.   (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol.  51, cols.  668f.)36

a.   Discussion.  Chrysostom's writings provide us with important insight into the ministry of women in the early church.  Junia was an apostle and was not the only woman so honored by the early church.  Chrysostom's statements about these women are particularly convincing especially in light of his misogynist views toward women.37

b.  Assessment.  Chrysostom provides credible objective evidence that Junia was an apostle.

3.  Evidence for Highly Regarded

Some interpreters, have taken the phrase episemoi en tois apostolois to mean that they were "held in high esteem" by those who were apostles.  John Piper and Wayne Grudem simply say they may have been held in high regard or that they were "of note among the apostles" meaning they were well known before Paul was converted.  Thomas Schreiner states that if Junias was a woman apostle, then tension would be created because "apostles were the most authoritative messenger of God." He implies that women could not serve God in this manner.  He states Roman 16.7 is unclear, but does not attempt to explain why he says this.

a.  Discussion.  Piper and Grudem offer no exegetical evidence to support their opinions and conclude "we cannot be certain."38  Their remarks are only opinions and are not based on any objective evidence.  Schreiner provides no objective evidence to support the claim that Junia(s) was only highly regarded other than his own subjective opinion.39  James Walters states: "It is highly unlikely that Paul would have recommended this pair to the Roman Christians by saying they were "outstanding in the eyes of the apostles." Paul's comments on one's reputation in Galatians 2:6-9 would seem to argue against him trying to bolster the Roman Christians' opinion of the couple.40  Craig Keener casts serious doubt upon any such  interpretation, saying, "Since they were imprisoned with him, Paul knows them well enough to recommend them without appealing to the other apostles, whose judgment he never cites on such matters, and the Greek is most naturally read as claiming that they were apostles."41

b.  Assessment.  There is no exegetical evidence offered or available that could substantially justify that "highly regarded" is the most probable and natural reading of this passage.


Junia was a female apostle.  This is the preferred view.  The evidence is authoritative, compelling, diverse, and objective.  Junia has been demonstrated to be a woman based on the testimony of early manuscripts, recorded statements of various church leaders through the 12th century, and research performed by many other scholars attesting to the name Junia or Julia existing in ancient times.

The evidence for a male reading was based on later manuscripts subject to the interpretations of scribes who thought Iounian was a male and to the statement by one early church leader who was also mistaken as to the correct gender of Prisca.  Computer-generated searches could find no example of a male Junias in ancient times nor is there any evidence proving that Junias was ever a contracted form of a longer name.
Junia and Andronicus were apostles.  Numerous contemporary and past scholarship, lexical definitions, grammatical construction, and scriptural examples all provide the strongest support that episemoi en tois apostolois, naturally meant they were "outstanding among the apostles," just as Chrysostom so elegantly declared.

1.  Meaning of Apostle

Andronicus and Junia were apostles.  The only unresolved question is what did Paul mean by "apostles." James Walters offers four distinct ways "apostle" was used in the New Testament: 1) the Twelve original followers of Jesus, 2) persons who had seen the risen Lord and been commissioned by Him (1 Cor 9.1; 15:1-11); 3) a missionary successful in church planting, labor and suffering (which underlie Paul's arguments in 2 Cor); and 4) an emissary or missionary sent out by a particular church to perform specific tasks (2 Cor 8.23 and Phil 2.25).42  The first and fourth choice can be ruled out because they were not among the "twelve" nor was their apostleship specifically associated with a particular church or specific task.  Selecting between the remaining choices 2 and 3 is more problematic.  They certainly could have been among either or both of the remaining groups.  We simply do not know.  They may have ministered together as a married couple.  An interesting parallel would then exist with Prisca and Aquila mentioned by Paul in Romans 16.3-5a.  We do know, however, that Paul did not assign any gender-specific roles in his greeting to Andronicus and Junia, nor should the church today.  They were both equally deemed outstanding apostles.

2.  Concluding Comments

Andronicus and Junias were outstanding among the apostles probably by virtue of their apostolic sufferings, the numbers of years they had been in Christ, their labor, and their humble service for Christ.  May the eyes of all those in the Church be opened to see this important truth and its significant implication in allowing women to minister equally as they are called by God.  To do otherwise is to deny the full redemptive work of Christ.


1  Stanley Grenz, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, (Downers Grove: InterVaristy, 1995), 93. 2  Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 921; James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)-Rom.  16:1-2,7," in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity: Volume I, ed.  Carroll Osburn (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1995), 186. 3  Douglas Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 922. 4  Ibid. 5  Ibid. 6  James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)-Rom.  16:1-2,7" in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity: Volume I, ed.  Carroll D.  Osburn (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1995), 186. 7  John Piper and Wayne Grudem, "An Overview of Central Concerns: Questions and Answers," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds.  J.  Piper and W.  Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 80. 8  Ibid, 79. 9  Ibid, 80. 10  Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 922. 11  Ronald L.  Dart, "The Christian Woman" [on-line article], available from http://www.abcog.org/woman.htm; accessed 9 October 2001. 12  James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)," 186. 13  Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 922. 14  Bernadette Brooten, "Junia," Women in Scripture (2000):109; quoted by Dianne D.  McDonnell, "Junia, A Woman Apostle" [on-line article]; available from http://www.churchofgoddfw.com./monthly/junia.html ; accessed 8 February 2002. 15  James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)," 186. 16  David Alan Black, New Testament Textual Criticism, A Concise Guide, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 19. 17  Bernadette Brooten, "Junia ...  Outsanding among the Apostles (Romans 16.7)"[on-line article], available from http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/brooten.htm; accessed 2 February 2002. 18  Ibid. 19  Dianne D.  McDonnell, "Junia, A Woman Apostle" [on-line article]; available from http://www.churchofgoddfw.com/monthly/junia.shtml; accessed 8 February 2002.  This article includes discussion of how Junia become known as a male during the papal reign of Boniface VIII. 20  Ibid. 21  Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 922. 22  Stanley Grenz, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology, 95. 23  Ibid. 24  Dart, "The Christian Woman", accessed 9 October 2001. 25 James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)," 186. 26  Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol.  4: Epistles of Paul, (Hiawatha, Iowa: Parsons Technology, Inc., 1997), electronic edition. 27  Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 923. 28  Walter Schmithals, The Office of Apostle In the Early Church, trans.  John E.  Steely, (New York: Abingdon Press, 1969), 62. 29  James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)," 186. 30  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., trans.  William F.  Arndt and F.  Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 298. 31  Aida Besancon Spencer, Beyond the Curse, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985), 104. 32  F.F.  Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 298, 388. 33  Liddel-Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, 7th ed.  (Hiawatha, Iowa: Parsons Technology, Inc., 1997), electronic edition. 34  John A.  Witmer, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminay Faculty: New Testatment, (Hiawatha, Iowa: Parson Technolgy, Inc., 1997), electronic editon. 35  Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Woman, (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1979), 299. 36  Ibid, 295. 37  Ibid, 343. 38  John Piper and Wayne Grudem, "An Overview of Central Concerns: Questions and Answers," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 80. 39  Thomas R.  Schreiner, "The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds.  John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 221. 40  James Walters, "Phoebe and Junia(s)," 187-188. 41  Craig S.  Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), 242. 42  James Walters, 188. 

Dennis J.  Preato, Master of Divinity, magna cum laude is a graduate of Bethel Seminary, San Diego (June 2004).  A condensed version of this paper was published in "Priscilla Papers" Volume 17, Issue 2, Spring 2003. 


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