Junia (pronounced JU-nee-yah) was an apostle in the churches in Rome. Paul addresses Junia by name in Romans.
Romans 16 contains a long list of people who Paul greets at the end of his letter to the churches there. Paul has never visited these churches, but he includes greetings to people who he knows in common with the Roman churches. Most people in the list, Paul greets by name. He has worked beside those he names in other places in his ministry. Two people in this list he notes were “in Christ” before him: Andronicus and Junia. And not only did Junia join the movement before him, Paul names her as “prominent among the apostles.” Junia, a woman, is an apostle. In fact, many of those named in Romans 16 as leaders in the church are women. Paul writes about them joyfully. And while some readers may find nothing unusual in this affirmation and joy, elsewhere in his letters, Paul is not as kind to women leaders (see 1 Corinthians 14:32–36; Philippians 4:1–2; see also texts written in Paul’s legacy Colossians 4:18–19; Ephesians 5:22–24; 1 Timothy 2:8–15). What part of the story are we missing that Paul’s attitude toward women should seem so different in different letters?
Facts you need to know:
- The word apostle literally means “one who is sent.” The early church asserted that only the twelve disciples and Paul were to be called apostles (see Luke 2:xxx). By the 4th century CE, church leaders decided that the name Junia in Romans 16:7 must have been an unusual male name despite the fact that there were lots of women named Junia. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Junia was recovered as a prominent apostle.
- This would have been written sometime between 54 C.E. and 59 C.E. when early Christians were facing significant persecution and prison time.
Junia does not appear to be like other apostles from scripture—Paul simply calls her an apostle without any qualifiers, conditions, or (seemingly) controversy. Could Junia have been more to Paul than just another colleague? Let’s hear about Junia and consider her place in history:
Questions for Reflection:
- What possibilities do you think were present in the Roman church for women in leadership? Why do we assume there were none rather than seeing evidence in scripture for women in leadership?
- When have you felt overlooked or misrepresented? What role did your faith play in understanding your situation? How might Junia’s story help you feel empowered in your faith journey and leadership?
- Have you ever overlooked a leader or misrepresented someone in your life? Have you thought differently about a church leader once you knew more about their faith? What assumptions do we make about what qualifications are most important for faith leadership?
Resources for Further Study:
Alden Gallimore is a student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is also a Pastoral Assistant at Peace Haven Baptist Church. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Valerie and their dog, Hagrid. After graduation, he hopes to work in both congregational ministry and chaplaincy.