Friday 6 October 2006

Junia not Junior

I suspect most readers of AW are blokes, judging from the gender balance of the comments. The old time WCG was a blokes' club with not just an all male ministry, but (and this was highly unusual) a preponderance of men over women in the general membership. This caused problems for the single men, exhorted to be maintain a high moral standard but unable to marry outside of their faith (and for most of the church's history outside of their “race” as well.)

Which is why most of the eligible bachelors scrubbed up with particular care for the Feast of Tabernacles. A chance to impress was too important to miss!

But what about the women? In some ways women have been the forgotten 50% of the Church of God. No women as preachers of course, no women as administrators, no women consulted when it came to the latest flip-flop over divorce and remarriage or make-up. For years even the by-lines in church publications were exclusively male, women apparently made inferior writers as well.

Today the new-look Tkach-WCG has, thankfully, made most of that history. They're even looking at the issue of women in ministry, though that reform is slow in coming, and you've got to suspect that, despite the advocacy of Sheila Graham and others, there is a lot of resistance. A cousin of mine, a fine and sincere man who has stood by the WCG through thick and thin, has written a paper opposing the idea.

So, let me introduce you to Junia, woman and apostle. Her story is a fascinating one. She's been hiding away in Romans 16 for nigh on two millennia, but precious few blokes seem to have noticed. Those that have, more often than not, have felt the need to perform gender reassignment: poor Junia has been shorn of her femininity and morphed into a man.

Check out Romans 16:7. “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.” (NRSV)

Compare the same verse in the NIV where Junia goes under the knife to emerge as Junias, a male.

No, this isn't a trendy new feminist re-reading of the trusty old KJV, the KJV has Junia correctly identified, as did the early church fathers (mainly composed of misogynists who'd make Rod Meredith look positively enlightened by comparison.) Even Fred Coulter's translation (gasp!) gets it right - though I doubt he thought through the implications.

Junia, a woman who was “prominent among the apostles”? What gives?

Rena Pederson comes to the rescue with “The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia.” Pederson is a Washington journalist, not a theologian, and a “moderate Methodist”, not a COG member. Her book, however, illustrates the doggedness of a journalist who knows how to go after the facts, find the people “in the know” (she has interviewed a “who's who” of Christian scholars) and then present the findings in a highly readable, accessible way. I particularly enjoyed her account of meeting with a gaggle of Vatican scholars at the Pontifico Instituto Biblico:

"Surrounded by male scholars at the table, I had the feeling that this was what it must be like to have lunch at the Elks Lodge. I had envisioned a defensive or hostile reaction from the church scholars, but the institute professors exuded a gentlemanly curiosity about my topic. As it turned out, studying the women of the church was not high on their list of scholarly pursuits. It was like asking them what they thought about hormone replacement therapy."

You won't trip over theological verbiage, but you will get a fantastic insight into how women have fared in the Christian church down through the centuries, and who knows, just maybe you'll end up agreeing with Joe Jr. that the issue really does need addressing.

Agreeing with Joe about anything is a scary thought, but he's got to be right about something occasionally. And, just quietly, I think the various COGs would be much improved if some of the wooden-minded blokes stepped aside to make way for a few multi-tasking females. Any one of the service-minded secretaries who make coffee and clean up after Dave Pack would be a definite improvement, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the one and only "female apostle" ever mentioned in early Church history, whom modern advocates of women's ordination champion (with St. Mary Magdalene, of course) as something of a patron saint. It seems most likely that the correct interpretation of the Greek is "Junia" rather than "Junias" (although Junias reportedly is a dimunitive of the masculine name Junianas), but even so there's still the matter of translation. Was Junia "prominent among the apostles," or was she someone who had "won repute among the apostles that were in Christ's service before" Paul? Grammatically it seems the latter option is more likely -- i.e., Junia wasn't an apostle, but was well-known to the apostles.

Anyway the alleged apostleship of Junia is a slender reed on which to lean to advocate women's ordination, especially in light of the clear rejection of women's ordination by the early Church. Even St. John Chrysostom, who believed Junia was a woman and said her devotion must have been great indeed for her to merit the appellation of "apostle," clearly rejected the ordination of women.

But it's also important to remember that the issue of women's ordination hinges on one's beliefs about ordination. If ordination is not a sacrament, if apostolic tradition and apostolic succession is unimportant, if being ordained is merely about having power and prominence and leadership, then of course it doesn't matter if women are ordained or not. But most Christians present and past see things otherwise, and therefore have different beliefs about whether or not Christ wants us to ordain women.

Anonymous said...

I should add, though, that if Pederson's book makes serious advances on the tentative grammatical study found here:

then it will be a valuable contribution to the field of study indeed.

Anonymous said...

That Junia was prominent among the Apostles is a refreshing statement whether she was ordained as an Apostle or not. I recall that at Ambassador College, Big Sandy the most important qualification for a woman to have was physical beauty and maybe some musical talent. For women students it was really kind of a "meat market." So the Overall Women's Club Monitor or whatever she was called tended to be a very attactive young woman. And of course, all kinds of evil comes about in a little closed society where a woman's worth is defined solely by her appearance. For attractive young ladies with little other merit, it was paradise. Their market value was extraordinary. All manner of opportunities would open up. I have witnessed this.


Anonymous said...

To a simple bloke like myself, a couple of thoughts come to mind.

1. Paul expressed opinions on many issues, including his strong endorsement of celibacy (I Cor. 7:1, 7-8) that most interpreters don't share or explain by citing the Sitz im Leben or sociocultural milieu. Should not a similar approach be taken regarding Paul's opinion on the role of women? After all, he believed he would live till the Parousia (I Thess. 4) but erred.
2. If Galatians 3:28 ("there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus") is to mean anything, then the distinctions that, inter alia, limited roles to, say, free male Jews, were now open to Greeks who might be slaves and, gasp!, women! To say "you are all one" but to insist in restricting access to the "important" roles in religious worship to any of these groups is, in my view and to put it mildly, pious nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"Paul expressed opinions on many issues, including his strong endorsement of celibacy (I Cor. 7:1, 7-8) that most interpreters don't share or explain by citing the Sitz im Leben or sociocultural milieu."

A bit of provincialism, perhaps. Let not forget that "most interpreters" are Catholic and Eastern Orthodox who (dissenters aside) don't object to St. Paul's and Jesus' endorsement of celibacy, nor do they believe in women's ordination.

Neotherm makes very good points, though. In Armstrongism, the New Testament teachings on women's roles and true femininity are read very selectively. The "meat market" of Ambassador College, versus the biblical emphasis on virtue and holiness over physical beauty, was a manifestation of the underlying problem in the Armstrongist doctrines about women.

Anonymous said...

Several Church of God groups have actually been remarkably progressive in the roles they allow for women.

LCG, for example, is more or less run by a woman, Mrs. Sheryl Meredith. In GCG, she sat on the Board of Directors, and the GCG/LCG split was the direct result of the other directors removing her from the Board. Once she was dumped, she went to work on her husband, inflamed his anger, fear and jealousy (three qualities of which Rod Meredith has plenty), and browbeat him into meekly complying with her wishes, which eventually led to his departure from GCG.

Today, in LCG, Sheryl Meredith wields no official power, but if you talk to ministers and others "in the know" you will discover that Rod lives in fear of incurring Sheryl's wrath. When she wants something, she does not submit in the way the Church of God has traditionally taught wives to submit, she goes to work on her husband and pushes him until she gets her way, even to the detriment of Rod's church.

No, she is not an Apostle, but she does preside over the Presiding Evangelist. That's gotta be worth something!

jorgheinz said...

There's the old adage, "generally speaking, women are generally speaking".

And this could well fit them for the ministry.Do I detect senses of outrage?

Women are also able to multi-task which the average male cannot: a unitary direction with blinkers on is for the male.Yes, men can only cope with one thing at a time, but they are able to grasp the overall situation far better than women. This fits them more for roles of leadership and supervision.

But, when you get a top woman, she really is outstanding and objective in her thinking.And, in many cases, head and shoulders above her male contemporaries.

There have been MANY famous women leaders in history. Baroness Maggie Thatcher was possibly the "best man" of her time. What about Catherine the Great of Russia?. Good Queens Bess and Victoria of Great Britain: Boudicca of ancient Britain who fought against the Romans..a fantastic general.

And so on and so forth.

But obviously God has given the male the leadership role: where, of course,the male will not take on the responsibilty of leadership, the woman stands waiting in the wings..absolute fact.And sometimes she does not even out men.

The very astute woman of the household lets the man think he is the boss.She lets him be the boss her way.

Subversive,indeed,but true.

Look at how a little girl can twist her father round her little finger and get what she wants.Daddy's little girl, indeed.

Whether we like it or not, women do rule behind the scenes..behind every man there is a good woman,as the saying goes,though this is perhaps not as prevalent as it
used to be.

So there it is guys, like it or lump it. Somehow I think you will take the former.


jorgheinz said...


I will take the opportunity to comment on Richard Pinelli's "edict" about men wearing ties to services, as this is the nearest blog space for doing so.

Ties are wonderful decorative apparel,putting that finishing touch to a man's pure, double-breasted,heavy weight woollen suit.
They and the suit are specially recommended for wearing to church in the Summer.Sweating males and wafting odours emanating from the axillary region. Wonderful stuff.
It adds decorum to services.

Tie designers FLOG off their wares without any concern for men's comfort...they and proponents of its use should be KNOUTED.

Of course, many CHOKES have been made about ties but they cannot be repeated here on such a respectable blog as yours.These be for the yokels amongst us,only.

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Since men do not like anything which rocks their well anchored boat of leadership, it will not make much difference in this world whether Junia was male or female or an apostle .
It will go into the circular file as does anything regarding women except criticism.
I remember one minister in the WCG who stated that Mr Armstrongs suggestion was his command. The subject was colored shirts at services. Of course Mr Armstrongs very strong opinion on letting go of football esp on Thanksgiving Day made no dent on this man. But colored shirts, which he would not have worn anyway was a "command" to him.
Same with makeup and things effecting women. As long as it was no skin off their teeth it was fine to bind burdens on others.(this was especially true of the original divorce and remarriage doctrine which was evil and oppressive to say the least and destroyed many families, not to mention discouraging "little ones" in the faith.

Anonymous said...

Female involvement in religious practices was repressed, beginning with the birth of monotheism on the world scene. The minute Moses borrowed "El" from the Canaanite pantheon, and began instructing his followers to stop worshipping the other gods and goddesses, the entire female gender was relegated to a marginalized role. Many of the Mosaic "laws" in Leviticus are highly sexist, and even convey the idea that women are "unclean".

In fundamentalist form, any of the monotheistic, Torah-based religions reduce women nearly to the status of a house pet, such as a cat or a dog. Yet historically, women have generally been the ones who have instilled good ethics and morality into each new generation. They are oft described as being the conscience of humanity. In most families I've known, if religious training is a part of family life, it is the mother who has introduced it, and perpetuates it amongst the children.

I could say much about societal evolution, but the Bible inerrantists who control religion's "official" positions on women's role in the church don't believe that humankind's further evolution is in any way desirable. They choose to dwell on the word of primitives, who were just barely a step above "hunter-gatherer" as an eternal paradigm, not realizing that the primitives were simply reflecting the social practices of their day.

To borrow a motto (from the UNCF) "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." This is not a Bible verse, but you might say that it is implied in the parable of the talents.


Anonymous said...

To add to your reference Jared:

The feminine name Junia, though common in Latin, is quite rare in Greek (apparently only three instances of it occur in Greek literature outside Rom 16:7. The masculine Junias (as a contraction for Junianas), however, is rarer still: Only one instance of the masculine name is known in extant Greek literature (Epiphanius mentions Junias in his Index discipulorum 125). Further, since there are apparently other husband-wife teams mentioned in this salutation (Prisca and Aquila [v. 3], Philologus and Julia [v. 15]), it might be natural to think of Junia as a feminine name. (This ought not be pressed too far, however, for in v. 12 all three individuals are women [though the first two are linked together], and in vv. 9-11 all the individuals are men.) In Greek only a difference of accent distinguishes between Junias (male) and Junia (female). If it refers to a woman, it is possible (1) that she had the gift of apostleship (not the office), or (2) that she was not an apostle but along with Andronicus was esteemed by (or among) the apostles. As well, the term “prominent” probably means “well known,” suggesting that Andronicus and Junia(s) were well known to the apostles (see note on the phrase “well known” which follows).

2 tn Or “kinsmen,” “relatives,” “fellow countrymen.”

3 tn Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term ἐπίσημος (epishmo") is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”). The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30). When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). 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. In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.” See M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001): 76-91, who argue for the elative notion here.

Gavin said...

(Apologies to everyone who finds this sort of thing tedious.)

Interesting comments "Anonymous", but note what N.T. Wright (the prominent conservative theologian and bishop of Durham) says:

"...Junia, in verse 7, is an apostle: The phrase "well known among the apostles" doesn't mean that the apostles know her and Andronicus (probably wife and husband), but that they are apostles, that is, they were among those who saw the risen Lord. She has the same status as all the other apostles, including Paul himself." (Paul for Everyone, p.134)

Pederson deals with the question about the Greek phrase on p. 39 of her book. She even cites Burer and Wallace, who you mention, both of whom are (my words not hers) hardline fundamentalists awaiting the rapture, faculty members at Dallas Theological Seminary.

On the other hand the Anchor Bible Commentary notes that the majority of leading Pauline scholars interpret the phrase episemoi en tois apostolois to mean "those of mark (numbered) among the apostles. Bible translations which agree include: NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, REB, NKJV and NCV.

Anonymous said...

Ah, so it would appear that Pederson's book doesn't really contribute any advance on the current state of tentativeness about the meaning or interpretation of "well-known among the apostles."

Anyway, the fact that Burer and Wallace are fundamentalists is no more helpful in resolving these technical grammatical and translation issues than is the fact that Wright is a member of a church that has departed from the steadfast Christian doctrine that it is only possible to ordain men. Those facts probably influence their opinions, but to determine the truth of the matter all we can do is look at the evidence from the ancient Greek manuscripts, and in this case that is an unfinished project.

Anonymous said...

I posted this on another forum.

= = =

I looked up the word "Junia" and it is referenced to #2458. The Greek is "Iounias" or Junias. Apparently the KJV is wrong and the NIV is right. Sorry girls, but there's no way a guy like Paul would ever countenance a female apostle.

Personally, I think it would be rather cool to prove that Junias was actually a Junia. That could have put a big dent in the misogynistic ACOGs theology. But alas, my "bible study" for today does not demonstrate that.

= = =

- Stinger

Anonymous said...

Sting old chum/chummette, ya gotta stop using those 19th century Bi-bull helps. Strongs is just soooo 1890 dude. The Greek name is feminine. Check the United Bible Societies text (USB4, 1993). No, not 1893, 1993. Definitely feminine, indisputably feminine, absolutely feminine.

Time to give your Armstrong era reference tools an upgrade ;-)


Anonymous said...


N.T. Wright’s post post- modernist thinking as a bishop in the Church of England is refreshing at times. While Junia(s) and Andronicus may have seen the risen Lord in person, Wright does tell us how this makes them apostles. Nor within your quotation of page 134 does he offer any real support of how Junia(s) is supposed to have acquired the same status as the Apostle Paul himself, other than through the liberal frame of political correctness.

Rena Pederson joins the growing crop of feminist liberation writers capitalizing upon finding theological, linguistic and historical consensus for radically restructuring Christianity using the slightest available pretext. What are we to expect next, a fictionalized biography of the life and times of the Real Junia? In any case, the data on whether jIounian is feminine or masculine are inconclusive enough to make a decisive judgment.

While appreciated, your cumulative citation to scholars of the problem of 16:7 doesn’t necessarily make the group’s interpretation the sole interpretation or the only possible one, as you would probably allow room for. Modern translation into languages other than ancient Greek can be biased by hidden scholarly agendas about Andronicus and Junia(s), well-known among the apostles.

Anonymous said...

"Definitely feminine, indisputably feminine, absolutely feminine."

Ah, how comforting it must be to have an Armstrongian level of certainty about a question that the scholars have not yet resolve. As Dr. Daniel B. Wallace says in the paper to which I linked in an earlier comment:

"In the least, the data on whether Iounian is feminine or masculine are simply inadequate to make a decisive judgment, though what minimal data we do have suggests a feminine name. Although most modern translations regard the name as masculine, the data simply do not yield themselves in this direction. And although we are dealing with scanty material, it is always safest to base one’s views on actual evidence rather than mere opinion."

Bear in mind that those are the words of a respected scholar whom Gavin deprecates as a hard-line fundamentalist awaiting the Rapture.

jorgheinz said...


You might care to scribe an article about the rights of women in the Old and New Testaments, as I know there are some die-hard and wrong assumptions around.

Perhaps, " it was not so from the beginning" could be the by-line


Anonymous said...

Re; the letter about ''Junia''. Finally, Jared the Catholic gets something right when he said, "Junia wasn't an apostle, but was well-known to the apostles''. Praise be, there may be hope for him yet!!!

Doug Ward said...

New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham brings up an interesting possibility in his book _Gospel Women_ (Eerdmans, 2002). Perhaps Junia is the Joanna mentioned in the Gospels.

This identification certainly seems possible. Junia would be a good Latin version of Joanna. Paul indicates that Junia was a fellow Jew who came to faith in Jesus even earlier than he did, and Joanna fits that too.

The one questionable detail is the identity of Andronicus.
Luke 8 says that Junia was married to Herod's steward Chuza. One possibility is that Chuza became a disciple of Jesus too and Andronicus was a Roman nickname that Chuza had. Or perphaps Chuza never became a follower of Jesus but divorced Joanna when she shamed him by following Jesus around, and Andronicus subsequently married Joanna.