I wrote this as a response to a recent social media conversation and wanted also to share it with all of you.
Romans 16 refers to Junia as “outstanding among the Apostles.” For centuries this was understood as Junia being a woman. Then the grammar became too difficult. Ev + the dative is not too hard for us. We translate it frequently.
The motive for historically changing Junia’s name to a male but weird Junias was because certainly this person was an Apostle. Now that there is scholarly concensus that Junias was a woman we suddenly have a problem determining whether she was an a apostle.
A J Gordon has an interesting 1894 article that raises this point, though not quite so directly. He does point out that Chrysothom takes this to be a woman apostle. (Missionary Review of the World December 1894 p 918) The whole article is really worth reading.
All this would be less compelling were Junia unknown to us. Junia is the Romanized name “Joanna”. Were this the Joanna that Jesus healed, that supported Jesus’ ministry, that witness His gruesome death when the disciples had fled, that returned to the Tomb to face Roman guards into order to embalm His body, that receieved the angelic message to go and report the resurrection to the disciples, and who is now suffering in prison for that testimony, who could deny her the title “apostle”? She was the first of those who believed, the first of those who gave, the first of those who risked her safety, and the first of those directly instructed to preach the resurrection of Christ If the test of Apostleship is “those who were with us from the beginning” and “those sent out by Christ to preach” she has better claim to the title than Paul and certainly more worthy of the title than you or I.
God uses all kinds of people to do all kinds of things. That is a reality I hope we can all celebrate. Those who stand out among us should not be measured by their gender, but by the service. I think this is part of what these final greetings in Paul’s letters do- they are a picture of ordinary people being used by God to do extraordinary things, in the service of the Good New of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I would like to be more like Junia!