In Romans 16:7, are Andronicus and Junia apostles? AND... is Junia a woman?

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. (Romans 16:7).

  1. Does "they are prominent among the apostles" mean that they are respected by the apostles or that they are numbered among the apostles?
  2. From several commentaries and footnotes, I am reading that "Junia" is possibly a feminine noun and may also be an alternative name for Julia?
  3. How did the Church Fathers interpret this passage? Did they consider these two in prison with Paul to be apostles as well? And did they consider Junia to be a woman or a man? What does this imply for the leadership of early Christianity?
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    One question at a time please.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 0:16
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    @curiousdannii, I disagree. I think these questions are all interrelated. Any solid answer would have to address these inevitable questions if they answered any one of the above. These are just prompts, are they not? Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 0:45
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    This is an excellent question, Butterfly! I'm surprised no one has asked it yet! Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 0:46
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    See also Are Andronicus and Junia(s) apostles?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 1:09
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    To note, there's a third option for interpreting the phrase «οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις», and that is, ”Who are more illustrious than the apostles.”
    – user900
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


I'll deal with Junia's gender first. Although the Greek manuscripts are ambiguous as to her gender, Wikipedia says "the consensus among some modern New Testament scholars is that Junia was a woman" and points out that the first known reference to Junia as a male comes from Origen no earlier than the late second century, although from a late medieval copy of Origen's writing. So it seems the Church Fathers accepted Junia to have been a woman and, given the potential for scribal bias, it is even possible that Origen had also believed this. Papyrus 46, a Greek manuscript from about 200 CE, alters the name used in Romans 16:7 from Junia to Julia, which provides some support for her to be a woman, even if this spelling is not original.

Wikipedia (ibid) cites Rena Pederson, who argues "medieval translators such as the 13th-century Archbishop Giles changed her name to Junias, as a reflection of an institutional prejudice against women that stretched back to ancient Greek scholars." Stephen Finlan also writes that "Junia is clearly a female name that was changed to the male "Junias" in the Latin translations of the New Testament."

Rena Pederson (The Lost Apostle, page 164) says multiple database searches found the female name in use in Ephesus, Didyma, Lydia, Troas, Bithynia and Rome during the first century, but not one reference to the masculine form, Junias. She says "the male name was simply not a bona fide name".

According to a Christian blog, cbmw.org, the Church Fathers not only regarded Junia to be a female, but actually identified her as the wife of Andronicus. It says "many patristic exegetes understood the second person mentioned in Rom 16:7 to be the wife of Andronicus, such as: Ambrosiaster (c. 339-97); Jerome (c. 342-420); John Chrysostom (c. 347- 407); Jerome; Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c.393-458)." The site goes on to list other exegetes holding this view, but they were too late to be regarded as Church Fathers.

The Greek is also somewhat ambiguous as to whether Junia was a prominent apostle or "well-known to the apostles". There is a tendency to limit the use of 'apostle' to the twelve disciples and Paul himself, but Paul did use the term more broadly in the context of being a 'messenger' of Christ.

If Paul did regard Junia as a church leader, she would not be alone. Paul also regarded Priscilla to be a church leader, as we see in:

Romans 16:3: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus
1 Corinthians 16:19: Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 3:5-6, although possibly not part of a work written by Paul, implies that more apostles were appointed after the time of Christ:

Ephesians 3:5-6: Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.

Thus there is ambiguity in the text, both as to whether Junia was a woman and whether she was an apostle, but the weight of scholarly opinion is that Junia was a female apostle. The implication is that females such as Priscilla and Junia were leaders of the early church.

  • CBMW is not what anyone these days would think of as a feminist organisation...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 2:25
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    Thank you @curiousdanii. As you know, I always look for possible bias in any citation, in case I inadvertently introduce bias into my answers, and this particular page seemed a little bit 'feminist', but I just checked and the organisation is about 'biblical sexuality' more broadly and perhaps more neutrally. You will see I changed this. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 2:32
  • @DickHarfield, Wow! Thank you again for another incredible answer(s)! I apologize if it was such a daunting task since I had a multi-pronged question, but I appreciate the wealth of wisdom you shared with us! Thanks! Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 3:34
  • Regarding your summary, the information you provide does not seem to fit with the description that 'there is ambiguity in the text ... as to whether Junia was a woman'. Based on that you present, especially accounting for the database of names, it looks that Junia was a woman, without ambiguity. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 4:43
  • I'm not sure how consensus among some could be much less certain. "Consensus among many" or "consensus among most" would seem to be far more positive. As it is, it seems hardly better than "a few". Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 4:59

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