Although her name appears just once in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, Junia is one of the most unknown women of the Bible. Paul wrote in Romans 16:7, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Junia is the first and only woman in Scripture to be explicitly identified as an apostle.
Apostles in the New Testament were disciples of Jesus devoted to spreading his teachings abroad. In addition to the original twelve apostles, the Bible speaks of apostles who served as traveling missionaries, teaching and leading the early church as it endured persecution and struggled through religious growing pains. Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, Silas and Apollos were all apostles, as were Andronicus and Junia.
The fourth-century Bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, said of Junia, “To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! . . . Indeed how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.”
Until the Middle Ages, the identity of Junia as a female apostle was unquestioned. Every Greek and Latin Church Father until Giles of Rome acknowledged that Junia was a woman. The masculine name Junias does not occur in a single inscription, letterhead, work of literature, or epitaph in the Greco-Roman world, while the feminine name Junia is everywhere. None of the Greek manuscripts suggests that a masculine form of this name should be used, and for the first thousand years of church history, Christian theologians ranging from Chrysostom to Origen to Jerome all identified the apostle Junia as a woman. “Such a name is unknown in antiquity; and there is absolutely no literary, epigraphical or papyrological evidence for it,” After that time, various writers and translators of the Bible have begun using the masculine form of the word ‘Junias.’ Interestingly enough, nowhere in history is there an example of a man ever bearing the name Junias! (Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight)
If you’d like to read more about women in the Bible, you can purchase my book “What No One Ever Told Me – 8 Incredible Things I Learned About Women and Leadership.” at karenblankenshipbooks.com