Chapter 26:

Junia: Woman Apostle or Courier?

Summary:

Near the end of Romans, the Apostle Shaul greets some of his fellow workers by name. Among these are Andronicus and Junia (or Junias), who it says were “of note among the apostles.” The New King James Version (NKJV) renders Romans 16:7 this way.

Romans 16:7 NKJV
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
NKJV

However, other versions such as the New American Standard (NASB) tell us that Junia was actually a man named Junias, and that he was an outstanding apostle.

Romans 16:7 NASB
7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
NASB

While most Greek texts indicate a female rendering (Junia), most translators have historically rendered it in the male form (Junias). This is because there are many other Scripture passages which prohibit women from holding leadership roles over men. The logic was that if Andronicus and Junias/Junia were apostles, then they could only be male. However, in these gender-bending end times, a growing number of Christians ask why it is not possible for a female Junia to be named as a notable apostle. This article will seek to answer this question.

Background:

In Torah Government we saw that no matter whether we are in the Levitical or the Melchizedekian order, there are three (or four) primary offices (or roles) to be fulfilled within Elohim’s kingdom (Israel).

  1. Kingship (government, army)
  2. Priesthood (ministry)
  3. Prophetic (Yahweh’s standards)
  4. Judge (special combination of all three)

Scripture gives us several precedents for women as queens (i.e., female kings), and prophetesses. There is also Deborah. Not only was she a prophetess, but she also led the nation in war. Since war is a kingship function, Deborah filled the roles of both prophet and king, which qualifies her as a judge (and when we first meet her in the narrative, she is judging the people). Yet despite the fact that Scripture shows us women queens, prophetesses, and even a judge, there is no precedent for women serving in the priesthood. Rather, the priesthood has always been exclusively male.

In Torah Government we show how these same four offices manifest in the order of Melchizedek. While the structure looks different, the same roles remain the same. Further, just as in the Levitical order, the priestly function remains the domain of the men, as Yeshua only called males as apostles. As Yeshua is our example, the fact that He selected men as apostles should teach us something. However, since some are not at ease with this, let us look closer at the issues.

Romans 16:7 What Kind of Apostles?

When we analyze Romans 16:7 in more detail, we see there are two people, Andronicus and Junia, who were “of note among the apostles.” The simple face value meaning is that they had a good name (or a good reputation) among the apostles. As written, it does not necessarily imply that Andronicus and Junia (or Junias) were apostles—just that they were known by them.

Romim (Romans) 16:7 NKJV
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

There is also a question as to Junia’s gender. When we look up Junia’s name in Strong’s Concordance it is given as Iounias, which it translates as Junias, a man’s name. (It also incorrectly asserts that the King James Version (KJV) renders it as Junias, when the KJV reads Junia.)

NT:2458 Ίουνίας Iounias (ee-oo-nee’-as); of Latin origin; Junias, a Christian…
KJV: Junias.

While the Greek grammar gets complex, most Greek names have either male or female endings. These make it easy to identify the gender. However, Iounias (actually Iounian) is a neutral form. It can be made masculine (Iounias) by adding what is called a circumflex accent mark over the alpha (ᾶ). If there is no circumflex accent mark over the alpha (α), the name is feminine (Junia). Because most Greek manuscripts do not have this circumflex accent over the alpha, most manuscripts indicate the female reading (Junia). However, we also need to realize that these accent marks were NOT in use in the first century (but were only added centuries later). Since we do not know who added these accent marks, or what their agenda was, some scholars believe we can never truly know whether Iounian is properly rendered as a male (Junias) or a female (Junia).

[Note: We believe in a Semitic inspiration. However, while the Aramaic Peshitta reads Junia, when there are questions of analysis we use the Greek texts, because they are thought to be older than the Peshitta, and therefore more valuable for analysis.]

Reconciling with Other Passages

While most Greek manuscripts read Junia, this name was typically translated as Junias (male) until the 14th century. This is because other passages in Scripture tell us that women may not exercise authority over men. The most forceful and direct of these is 1 Timothy 2, in which the Apostle Shaul prohibits women from teaching, or from having (pastoral) authority over men.

TimaTheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 2:12-14
12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

That Shaul himself is the author of 1 Timothy 2 should speak to those who want to treat Romans 16:7 as a legal precedent for women apostleship. It is also instructive to note that although Yeshua treated women with equal respect and dignity as men, He only called men to the apostolic office. His example is also in harmony with the Torah principle that the priesthood is the domain of men. [For more discussion on apostles and the Renewed Covenant priesthood, please see Torah Government.]

Junia: Woman Apostle or Courier?

The Christian Church differs from Nazarene Israel in that the Christian Church believes the Messiah came not to show Israel how to keep the Torah correctly, but to do away with the Torah. These ask, “If Romans 16:7 tells us that Junia was an apostle, then why shouldn’t there be women apostles today? In fact, why are women not invited to the highest levels of ministry leadership?” Let us seek to answer this question.

In Romans 16:7, the word apostle is Strong’s NT652, apostolos, meaning “a delegate” Strong’s tells us this word refers especially to someone who proclaims the Good News, but that is a later adaptation. Originally the word apostolos referred to any messenger, or anyone who is sent. It does not necessarily mean that he has any authority.

NT:652 apostolos (ap-os’-tol-os); from NT:649; a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle”] (with miraculous powers):
KJV – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.

When we look up the reference at Strong’s NT:649, we find the word apostello. An apostello is someone sent out on a mission. However, it can also refer to someone who is set at liberty (i.e., released), which again does not imply that he has pastoral authority.

NT:649 apostello (ap-os-tel’-lo); from NT:575 and NT:4724; set apart, i.e. (by implication) to send out (properly, on a mission) literally or figuratively:
KJV – put in, send (away, forth, out), set [at liberty].

Because the church knows there are different kinds of apostles, it refers to apostles like Shaul as, “authoritative apostles.” This distinguishes them from messengers and couriers (who do not have pastoral authority over the body). Messengers and couriers were in widespread use in ancient times, and there was a great need for people (especially the priesthood) to keep in contact. Thus, some believe Romans 16:7 refers to a husband-wife courier team, who were well-known by the apostles.

Romim (Romans) 16:7 NKJV
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

If Andronicus and Junia were couriers, then Junia can be a woman, and there is no conflict with 1 Timothy 2, as she would not exercise pastoral authority over men.

The Context of Romans 16

There are several clues found in the context of Romans 16 which strongly support the idea that Andronicus and Junia were couriers. For example, when Shaul begins to close his epistle to the Romans in chapter 16, he starts off by greeting Phoebe, a deaconess. Then in verses 3 and 4 he greets Priscilla and Aquila, his fellow workers. Then he greets the assembly that is in their house, and then Epaenetus, and then Mary, finally getting around to Andronicus and Junia in verse 7. This ought to cause us to ask several questions.

Romim (Romans) 16:1-16
1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant [deaconess] of the assembly in Cenchrea,
2 that you may receive her in Yahweh in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Messiah Yeshua,
4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
5 Likewise greet the assembly that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Messiah.
6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Messiah before me.
8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in Yahweh.
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Messiah, and Stachys, my beloved.
10 Greet Apelles, approved in Messiah. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in Yahweh.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in Yahweh. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in Yahweh.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in Yahweh, and his mother and mine.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.
15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
16 Greet one another with a set-apart kiss. The assemblies of Messiah greet you.

First, the Apostle Shaul was very aware of protocol. if Andronicus and Junia were authoritative apostles (like Shaul), the protocol would have been for Shaul to greet them first (even before Phoebe). However, Shaul greets them after Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquila. This seems to indicate that Andronicus and Junia were less prominent in Shaul’s mind than Phobe, Priscilla, and Aquila were.

Second, Shaul does not give Andronicus and Junia the same kind of praise as he gives Phoebe, Priscilla, and Aquila. Yet if Andronicus and Junia were authoritative apostles of such great prominence, why would Shaul not praise their actions more than the praise that he gives to a deaconess and his two fellow workers?

Third, much has been written about how Shaul lists the wife Priscilla before the husband Aquila in verse 3. This may indicate that Priscilla was more prominent than her husband Aquila. (We discuss Priscilla and Aquila in more detail in “Gender Roles in the Kingdom”, in the Covenant Relationships collection). Yet if Andronicus and Junia were a husband-wife team as Priscilla and Aquila were, and Andronicus is listed first, it may have meant that Junia was not as prominent.

Fourth, let us notice that in 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Shaul speaks of himself and two other authoritative apostles (Silvanus and Timothy) in the first person. This tells us he self-identified as part of that group (i.e., authoritative apostles).

Thessaloniquim Bet (2 Thessalonians) 1:1
1 Shaul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the assembly of the Thessalonians in Elohim our Father and Yahweh Yeshua Messiah…

However, in Romans 16:7, Shaul speaks of Andronicus and Junia in the third person. This seems to imply that he did not see them as belonging to the same group as he did. Had they been notable authoritative apostles like Yaakov (James), Kepha (Peter), or Yochanan (John), why would he refer to them in the third person? Would he not have referred to them in the first person, indicating that they all belonged to the same group (authoritative apostles)?

Finally, there is the argument from silence. If Andronicus and Junia were such outstanding authoritative apostles, why do we never hear about them anywhere else, as we do with Timothy, Titus, Yaakov, Kepha, etc? And if there had been an authoritative woman apostle in the first century, who had authority to make binding decisions for the body, wouldn’t Shaul have given special instructions to her, as a woman? And wouldn’t there be volumes of ancient commentary written on her?

Conclusion: Andronicus and Junia were Couriers

In this article we have seen that most Greek manuscripts do not have a circumflex accent mark over Junia’s name, indicating that she was a female. However, these accent marks were not in use in the first century, but were only added centuries later, by people we do not know, and whose political and spiritual motivations are not known to us. For these reasons, it can never be proven with absolute certainty whether Romans 16:7 refers to a male named Junias, or a female named Junia.

We have also seen that if Junia was indeed a woman, that she could not have been an authoritative apostle (as Shaul), because it would mean she have held pastoral authority over men, which is prohibited in 1 Timothy 2, and other places.

We have also seen that no matter whether Romans 16:7 refers to two men, or to a man and a woman, either way it is highly unlikely that they were authoritative apostles, because the context of Romans chapter 16 does not seem to ascribe to them the kind of prominence that they would have had, were they outstanding authoritative apostles. The picture that Scripture supports is that they were faithful messenger-type apostles, who served the body as couriers.

For more information about how the body of Messiah is properly organized in Renewed Covenant times, please see Torah Government (v2.2 and later).

For more information about how Yeshua honors both men and women in the roles assigned to them in Torah, please see “Gender Roles in the Kingdom” (included in the Covenant Relationships collection).