Was Junia an Apostle?

The identity of Junia (named in Romans 16:7) has become an item of contention in the evangelical debate over gender roles. Was Junia a female apostle? Many maintain that she was an apostle and that her life therefore becomes a basis for affirming an egalitarian view of gender roles in the ministries of the Christian church. In an important book on this question, New Testament scholar Eldon Epp makes the case that Junia was in fact a woman and that she was the first female apostle.

I would like to point out two critical reviews of Epp’s work that are worth noting. The first appears in the journal for which I am the editor, The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, and the second in Touchstone
magazine. The former is written by Mike Burer and the latter by John Hunwicke.

Hunwicke’s conclusion is worth quoting:

“We are clearly in a new age of rich mythopoeia, worthy to compete with the most imaginative that the medieval cultus of the saints could offer. The fertile need of modern feminism to provide justification and aetiology for its novel dogmas has surpassed the inventiveness even of the hagiographers whose trade it was to promote pilgrimages, shrines, and relics. What a jocose lady Clio must be.”


Eldon Epp, Junia—The First Woman Apostle (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2005)


  • Don

    So the editors of Touchstone know big words. I am not impressed.

    If you follow the primary meaning of the Greek text AND the ECF testimony, then Junia was indeed an apostle. One needs to depart from the primary meaning of the Greek and deny the ECF to think she was not.

  • Scott

    Well somebody sure likes the TR! I never knew the NA27 was a bastion of liberality. Kind of ironic that he relishes the papyrus evidence in support of an early reading of 1 Tim. Seems he would have much to learn from other “early” papyri as well!

    Utterly awful review! He criticizes Epp for constructing his argument around a bias & then precedes to read his own bias into the critique.

    Has he even read any of Gaventa’s other work? I’m sure he would effectively throw her under the bus if he didn’t assume she propped up his otherwise tendentious and weak argument.

  • John

    Great post. I was wondering if Don thinks that following the primary meaning of the Greek text makes us assume Eph 3:7 means Paul was a deacon?

  • Matt Svoboda


    Only people who want to be Egalitarians think she was an apostle. Historically, the majority of people have not believed she was an apostle. She has only got this popular since this big Egalitarian movement. If you lose your Egalitarianism you will correct your hermeneutics and all of your other faulty views that stem from your Egalitarianism. I highly recommend losing your Egal position! Good Luck!


  • Scott


    How can you not understand that all of your hermeneutical issues, and hence by extension, all of your “spiritual” problems, can be solved by becoming a complementarian. Yes Don, all of your life’s problems stem from being an egalitarian.

  • Sue

    I notice that Hunwicke did not quote from Chrysostom,

    Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): 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.
    John Chrysostom (344/54-407)(2)

    I wonder also if Denny might comment on the fact that the 19th century Vamva Greek NT has changed εν τοις αποστολοις to μεταξυ τοις αποστολοις. This implies that Vamva clearly thought she was “among the apostles.”

    I agree that we do not know the exact sense of the word apostle in this passage. However, I feel that Wallace and Burer’s article on Junia lacks sufficient evidence and does not explain why all Greek writers agree that she was an apostle. I have discussed this with both of them and they agree that their thesis needs to be defended against Belleville’s work. However, as Burer has recently published, he has not found the time to do this.

    Hunwicke’s article lacks footnotes and does not contribute any new information, or clarify any older information either. He seems unaware that from Paul to the present day all Greek writers have considered Junia to be “among the apostles.”

    I would willingly discuss the details of Hunwickes article if anyone is interested.

  • Scott


    Post #11 is spot-on! Irrespective of where one stands on the issue, Hunwicke’s review is atrociously constructed and doesn’t appropriately interact with Epp’s actual position!

  • Barry

    Denny (et al.), I am sure you are aware of Dan Wallace’s piece on this a few years ago:

    “Junia Among the Apostles: the Double Identification Problem of Romans 16:7”

    Wallace’s conclusion:
    “In sum, until further evidence is produced that counters the working hypothesis, we must conclude that Andronicus and Junia were not apostles, but were known to the apostles. To be sure, our conclusion is tentative. But it is always safer to stand on the side of some evidence than on the side of none at all.”


  • Sue


    Wallace and Burer agree openly that the one citation, Ps of Solomon 2:6, which they considered to be a close match with Rom. 16:7 was not. The cited it as ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν instead of ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.

    If a medical doctor did something like this, it would be malpractice. Even now one can see that Ps. Solomon 2:6 is cited in the NET Bible notes. The note for “well-known” Rom 2:7 is particularly laden with speculation.

    Take this line,

    “Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.”

    Episemos never has been and never will be a “word of perception.” There is no “word of perception” in this verse and so the note simply suggests to the reader something that is entirely irrelevant to this verse.

    It would greatly clear the air if someone would defend or edit the NET Bible notes.

  • Don

    On Eph 3:7 Paul was certainly a diakonos, these terms of ministry are not mutually exclusive. All believers are called to be servants and Paul was a servant-leader.

  • Don


    Many people who were not egal thought Junia was an apostle. The ECF were not egal, yet thought she was.

    The church non-egal position falls apart entirely if Junia was an apostle, so non-egals fight hard to deny she was, against the ECF and against the primary meaning of the words.

  • Sue

    I personally do not see this as an egal comp issue. It is a matter of basic scholarship. A scholarly comp would concede that the Greek says what it says and then move on to praise women who are missionaries and teachers.

    It is a matter of integrity.

  • Benjamin A

    Douglas Moo on Romans 16:7

    “But many scholars on both sides of this issue are guilty of accepting too readily a key supposition in this line of reasoning: that ‘apostle’ here refers to an authoritative leadreship position such as that held by the ‘Twelve’ and by Paul. In fact, Paul often uses the title ‘apostle’ in a looser sense: sometimes simply to denote a “messenger” or “emissary” and sometimes to denote a “commissioned missionary.”see II Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25

    “So ‘apostle’ here probably means ‘traveling missionary’.”

  • Sue

    Then Douglas Moo has a modicum of good sense not to write articles that contort the Greek.

    I was reading some early 20th century NT’s the other day, some of the lesser known and I noticed that in two of them, Phoebe was called a “protector” in Romans 16:2. I think it needs to be made absolutely clear that subordinating women is a choice as Moo points out.

    Women need to know that men have chosen to subordinate women, it is not God’s instruction to men.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides

    Divinely Inspired Biblical Instruction to husbands and wives:

    “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

    Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”

    Colossians 3:18-19.

  • Don

    The question is where does Paul fit into the 12, the answer is he does not. And Paul uses the term apostle for himself and others, and as one of the leadership ministry gifts in Eph 4.

  • Sue

    And in 1 Cor. 12.

    In any case, someone who demotes Junia on the basis of evidence that does not pass peer review, is subordinating a woman. Junia is being brought down.

    It is too bad that those who demote Junia are not asked to defend their position. Or that the NET, ESV, etc. do not edit their reading of Rom. 16:7. It is an indication that a literal translation is not really desired by all readers of God’s word.

  • Ferg

    You’re right Don, it just drives me nuts the constant ‘putting women in their place’ and the fact that no one seems to listen to you or Sue with a heart willing to hear. It’s with a head willing to argue so you don’t further the cancer of egalitarianism!
    I for one appreciate your convictions.

  • Don

    Most Pharisees say Jesus and the Way as something to eradicate. It all depends on where one stands!

    The use of inflammatory language is not helpful, for either side.

  • S. M. Hutchens

    It is clear that a good many of the egalitarian respondents here have either not read Hunwicke’s article, or have ignored his argument. His point, reduced to its essentials, is this: Junia was, and has always been considered by the Church, an apostle, but she was not, nor has she ever been considered by the Church, an Apostle–until, that is, the, er, Recent Necessity.

    Fr. Hunwicke:

    “Those who, believing her to be an apostle, are concerned to maximize the status of Junia, appear to be on the horns of a dilemma. Either they can make her out to be a leading apostle in a maximal sense of that word, together with Peter, James, John, and Paul–in which case they have a major problem explaining her almost-invisibility in the records; or they can assign to her an apostleship in a minimal sense of that term, perhaps like Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25–in which case they have not proved anything that will be of much use to them in their sociocultural agenda.”

    Those who wish to make her an apostle in the maximal sense are faced with the necessity, as the whole egalitarian tribe is, in this and many other places, with reconstructing a situation in the early church where the message and intentions of Jesus for the sexes were wholly misunderstood, ignored, or destroyed by the successors who claimed his authority. The Gentiles, yes: but women, never.

    It’s extraordinarily hard, isn’t it, to kick against all these pricks?

  • Benjamin A

    Apostle used in the literal meaning of the word [one sent forth] would apply to all believers (male/female) would it not? However, none of us fit the qualifications of Apostleship as defined in Acts 1:19-26. That’s something all together different that has built in requirements/parameters [one of those parameters was being male by the way]; that was unique in the early transitional period of the building of the church. So when those men died that Apostolic office died with them.

    But are we not all called to be ambassadors for Christ? Sure we are. And as Christ’s ambassadors we are sent into the world to represent Him and His gospel. Male and Female alike. Would there were more Junias, I doubt she made egalitarian issues the defining mark in her life. She was outstanding among the apostles because she was committed to gospel ministry to the lost. Might we all be found doing the same.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides

    Ferg in #26: “You’re right Don, it just drives me nuts the constant ‘putting women in their place’ and the fact that no one seems to listen to you or Sue with a heart willing to hear. It’s with a head willing to argue so you don’t further the cancer of egalitarianism!

    Ferg, you’re from Ireland, right? And an Anglican too? What do you think of the following article published by the Irish newspaper, The Independent?

    “LIBERALS are fond of brow-beating the Churches about sectarianism and disunity. These twin evils, they say with some justification, are harmful to society because they set one group against another and because sectarianism is, at the very least, uncivil.

    It now transpires that all this liberal bleating about sectarianism and disunity was exactly that, bleating. But it was also hypocritical because when it suits their agenda liberals are very inclined to use sectarian language of their own and have no hesitation adding to the already deep divisions between the Churches.


    The Church of England itself is also in crisis because of its recent decision to ordain women bishops.

    For liberals this is a matter of principle. Equality is equality. If men can be made bishops, then why not women? Likewise, if sexually active heterosexuals can be made priests and bishops, then why not sexually active homosexuals as well? The questions are unanswerable, once you absolutise equality.

    Writing in ‘The Guardian’ the other day, commentator Theo Hobson attacked the Lambeth Conference for putting unity above (his) principle.

    He was angry that the Archbishop of Canterbury and nominal head of the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams, hadn’t come down hard on the side of the liberals and strongly endorsed the decision by American Anglicans in 2005 to elect as bishop of New Hampshire an openly homosexual man, Gene Robinson.

    He asked: “Why hasn’t a tougher liberal Anglicanism emerged that says the truth of liberalism must not be sacrificed to ‘unity’?”

    Conservative and orthodox Christians are used to being lectured about the need to put aside their opposing dogmas for the sake of unity. But as we’re now discovering, liberals have dogmas of their own, or rather they have one super-dogma: equality.

    Since its beginning, the Church has taught that only men can be ordained because Christ was a man and because his Apostles were men. But liberals dismiss this argument on various grounds, the chief one being that it creates inequality within the Church. With regard to human sexuality, the Church has always taught that sex has a meaning and a purpose beyond the act itself and that it finds its true meaning only if it takes place within a permanent loving relationship and if the relationship is open to the procreation of children.

    This makes it intrinsically heterosexual. Ordaining sexually active homosexuals would radically change the Church’s teaching on sex.

    Liberals, of course, are quite happy to see that teaching change, even though the separation of sex from children, and often from commitment, has been extremely bad for children.

    It has resulted in a colossal number of children being effectively disowned by their mothers through abortion and in many more being disowned by fathers who want little or nothing to do with them.

    Apart from the general liberal view of sex, however, they insist that sexually active homosexuals must be ordained because it is an offence against equality not to ordain them.

    Having decided on these positions, liberals are then happy to employ the most sectarian language possible to describe those who stand in their way.

    All opposition to theological liberalism is rooted, they insist, in ignorance and prejudice, and opponents are summarily dismissed, insulted and derided as ‘bigots’, ’sexists’, ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘homophobes’.

    In any event, it is now perfectly obvious that liberals no longer prize Christian unity. Indeed, they have become its chief enemy.

    The fact is, liberals are willing to sacrifice anything and everything on their altar of equality, because they believe they are right and that they are the One True Church.”

    Excerpted from Liberal Dogmatism Killing Church Unity

  • Don

    Ben A:

    The qualifications in Acts 1 are to be one of the 12, there were apostles in the NT besides the 12.

    Apostles still exist, we often call them missionaries; they are sent out to plant churches.

  • Don

    1. The 12 may be said to have had an office, as there needed to be 12, obviously, to map to the 12 tribes. Other than that I cannot find any of the leadership ministry gifts being an office in
    any way.

    2. I see the leadership ministry gifts continuing right up to today. The 12 ended when John died, as he was the last and only Judas was replaced.

    3. So Junia was an apostle then and women can be given the gift of being apostles today. As apostles are the foremost leadership ministry, see Paul, any other leadership ministry is open to them also.

  • Benjamin A

    1. so you agree there was an Apostolic office that belonged to the 12 and that they were to be men [which would disqualify Junias and all other female contestants]. That this office is unique and not to be confused with other uses of the term apostle.

    2. i didn’t say anything about leadership ministry gifts so where you came up with this from my post 28 i will never know.

    3. the non-apostolic office use of apostle, meaning missionary, ambassador, etc, could be used to describe all believers who are called to do gospel ministry. Remember, the word apostle simply means ‘one sent forth’; so yes, Junias was outstanding among the missionaries. And you also agree that Junias wasn’t wasting her life fighting for egalitarian theology but was instead doing gospel ministry, fishing for lost souls.

    It seems you fall into the trap Douglas Moo warns about, of attaching apostolic authority (possessed by the twelve and Paul-special case [not one of the twelve] in that he saw/was confronted by the risen Christ and was especially sent to the Gentiles by Jesus; not in the general way as was Barnabas and others whom Christ did not appear to giving specific/special revelation), to everyone who gets sent to do gospel ministry.

  • Don

    The 12 were free Jewish males who knew Jesus, they mapped to the 12 patriarchs/tribes. Not many people think you need to be Jewish today to be a leader in church.

    All the 12 were apostles, but there were apostles beyond the 12. It means “sent out one”, in the Pauline cases sent out by a church, in the case of the 12, sent out by Jesus. Scripture was given to the Jews, so it was important for the 12 to be Jews.

    An apostle has the authority of the person/group that sends him/her out.

  • Sue

    The way I see it, this is not an egal vs comp issue. The question is why Wallace and Burer, the ESV, HSCB, and the NET Bibles have taken pains to use poorly handled citations from elsewhere to make the claim that Junia was not “among the apostles.”

    If male exegetes are insistent on misquoting evidence, then women have no choice but to stand up for truth. If men do not protect and provide for women truthfully, then women must appeal to truth.

  • Sue

    God’s truth calls for people to be truthful. If a man has to misrepresent the evidence to rpove that Junia was not “among the apostles” then it is not God’s truth. God’s truth is the facts, not the construct that exists in the minds of men.

    It is time that someone called to honesty those that misrepresent the evidence.

    What value does male leadership have to women if it means that men can contort the scriptures to demote women from the position they had in scripture?

    What is more important to God, truth or maleness?

  • Sue

    I understand why a woman would accept male leadership that is in accordance with the scripture. I do not understand why anyone accepts male leadership that runs contrary to truth.

  • Ferg

    TUAD – women in the church equated with homosexuality – rediculous.

    I’m Irish yes. Anglican, I don’t think so. I follow Jesus and don’t label myself. I understand you trying to understand where I’m coming from but the term Anglican bares no relevance to my life.

    All I know about the Church of Ireland is it seems to be degenerating and trying to get people in the door by appealing to the masses by demeaning there morals such as those on homosexuality. I don’t see the relevance to women in ministry even if the Church of Ireland do it for wrong reasons.
    That is nothing to do with my opinions on it.

  • Benjamin A


    It seems you too have fallen prey to what Douglas Moo warns against.

    Again, he wrote, “But many scholars on both sides of this issue are guilty of accepting too readily a key supposition in this line of reasoning: that ‘apostle’ here refers to an authoritative leadreship position such as that held by the ‘Twelve’ and by Paul. In fact, Paul often uses the title ‘apostle’ in a looser sense: sometimes simply to denote a “messenger” or “emissary” and sometimes to denote a “commissioned missionary.”see II Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25

    Since Junias was a missionary, or known especially by the missionaries, what exactly are you fighting for?

  • Benjamin A


    Thank you for your post 44. Although we all already knew you felt that way, it’s nice of you to continually remind us.

  • Truth Unites.. and Divides

    Ferg: “TUAD – women in the church equated with homosexuality – rediculous.”

    Actually, the article writer was saying that ordaining women under the liberal superdogma argument of equality logically leads to the ordination of GLBTs.

    Furthermore, the openly homosexual Bishop V. Gene Robinson confirms this. He said that ordaining women establishes a beachhead for gay priests to gain acceptance and ordination:

    I had said to them, ‘It’s too dangerous for you to come out as gay to your superiors, but I believe that if you work for the ordination of women in your church, you will go a long way toward opening the door for the acceptance of gay priests,” Robinson said.

    An excellent and refreshing piece of honesty by Bishop Robinson in admitting and confessing that there is a slippery slope between women’s ordination and gay ordination.

    WO —> GO

    TUAD’s general dictum:

    If WO, then GO.

    No WO, no GO.

    (WO = Women’s Ordination. GO = GLBT Ordination)

  • Don

    Moo can have his concerns and I can have mine.

    No one is saying Barnabas the apostle is like John the apostle. Barnabas was sent out by a church and John sent out by Jesus. This does not mean that Barnabas had no authority, he had the authority of the church that sent him. This is the way it works.

  • Sue

    The question is not female leadership. The question is about what the text says. That is the starting point. It seems that some people want to make this about female leadership and they do not care about the text.

    Let’s start with the text.

  • Sue

    Since Junias was a missionary, or known especially by the missionaries, what exactly are you fighting for?

    I am fighting for people to read the Bible the way it is.

  • Sue

    You’re right, Don. I did not even notice that he had called Junia “Junias.” I realize that she is not all that important but it is interesting to note that the manuscripts have been altered for Prisca and Nympha early on. There has been an effort throughout history to alter key verses relating to women, either in the manuscripts or in translation. That is why male leadership must be tested against the truth. So women have to take the lead on this.

  • Truth Unites... and Divides

    Sue: “So women have to take the lead on this.”

    “To the woman he said,
    “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
    with pain you will give birth to children.
    Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

  • Truth Unites... and Divides

    Sue: “That is why male leadership must be tested against the truth. So women have to take the lead on this.”

    Like Eve eating the FORBIDDEN FRUIT?

    That worked out real well, didn’t it?

  • Sue

    Sue: “That is why male leadership must be tested against the truth. So women have to take the lead on this.”

    Like Eve eating the FORBIDDEN FRUIT?

    That worked out real well, didn’t it?

    Then Tuad, you are saying that truth itself is irrelevant.

    If God’s word says that Junia is a female apostle, men are within their rights as leaders to say that she is not.

    This is some form of Christianity!

  • Kathy

    ‘Sue: “That is why male leadership must be tested against the truth. So women have to take the lead on this.”

    Like Eve eating the FORBIDDEN FRUIT?

    That worked out real well, didn’t it?’

    ‘Don Says:
    November 1st, 2008 at 9:58 am
    According to non-egals, the man in the garden was supposed to be the leader, that worked our real well, didn’t it?’

    I got a chuckle out of this one. 🙂

  • Kathy

    First the issue was ‘was the person a woman?’ Now the issue is, ‘in what way was the woman an apostle?’ At least ground is being made for what the scriptures say. What will it be next?

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