Part 2 in a series. You can find Part 1 here.
When it comes to figuring out who killed Junia (as in, “removed her from the record and changed her name to the male form”) we could pick any of a number of powerful men who added weight to the concept and value of male-only leadership.
In Part 1 Pederson pointed us to Giles, a bishop who wrote theological treatises defending whatever Pope Boniface (a truly reprehensible human being) wanted defended. Giles (1243-1316) may have written the first arguments making Junia a male but he didn’t sway the majority of scholars of his day.
Eldon Epp surveyed all collections of scripture available to us today and found that Junia remained a female with a female name until Alford’s 1858 edition of the Greek New Testament. Alford changed Junia to a male name but did not explain why in the notes to his text.
Other versions of the Greek New Testament kept Junia female until Nestle’s text appeared around 1927.
Then, once again, the name was changed into a male name without explanation. Epp was astounded to see that the earliest manuscripts, records of names in the first few centuries after Christ, and all translators other than Alford and Nestle indicated that Junia was a female AND an apostle.
Why the change?
We can sum up the entire argument against Junia being a female by referencing just one scholar – Joseph Barber Lightfoot. As the 19th century became the 20th, he wrote in his notes on this text that Junia MUST be Junias, or male, because Paul called her/him an apostle and only men can be apostles.
Since most translators in modern times use Nestle, Westcott, Hort, Barber, et al, they follow them in re-naming Junia “Junias.” Since 1970, this has sometimes been corrected as translators go back to the extant manuscripts and bypass the homogenized, collected, and edited editions by scholars of the late 1800s. When Epp published a chart of which translation had Junia as female and which named her Junias/Junian/Julian (sometimes with alternate readings in the notes, often without them), my jaw dropped at how clear it was that sabotage and assumptions, not Greek or history, killed Junia.
Epp lists manuscripts and collections all the way up to Baljon (1898) and they all have Junia as female, except for Alford (1858). That is 31 authoritative editions of the Greek text against 1.
Epp then traces editions from Nestle (1898) to the United Bible Society’s 3rd printing of 1998. It was the Nestle-Erwin edition of 1927 that changed Junia to male. The Majority Text compiled by Hodges-Farstad (1982) changes her back to female.
Epp then searches English versions of the New Testament from Tyndale (1525) to the New Living Translation (1996). He finds that Junia is female until the Dickinson version of 1833/7. The majority of English versions after this time refer to Junia by a male name until the New American Bible of 1970.
After 1970, as if by magic, most English versions have her as female once again.
That includes the New King James Version (the original had her as female also), New Century Version, New American Bible (1987), Revised English Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Oxford Inclusive Version, and New Living Translation.
Those still listing Junia by a male name (with or without alternative readings in their notes) are the Living Bible (1971), the NIV of 1973, New Jerusalem Bible, The Message, and the Contemporary English Version.
Epp makes a compelling case that the only reason these versions have Junia as male is because they rely on older Nestle texts, circa 1927, instead of doing the hard work of going into linguistics, history, and earlier compilations of the text.
But there might be another reason.
The power of women in the church was eroded heavily by early Christian Fathers whose misogynistic rants are embarrassing to read – truly cringe worthy.
- When Constantine organized the early church he did so with Roman eyes and attitudes. Men ruled Roman society so he assumed that was the only proper way to rule the church, ignoring the fact that there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free in the new community of faith. He ignored the daughters of Philip, Dorcas/Tabitha, Junia, Julia, a slew of Marys, Priscilla, Phoebe, and more.
- Then came Giles and Pope Boniface who stripped nuns of their powers and authority in the church, shoving them into a cloistered, separate existence.
- Martin Luther launched the Reformation but he was more anti-women than most priests of his day. He considered them nothing more than child-bearers, incubators for men’s seed.
- Victorian England made male and female roles even more rigid and defined by “decency” and “acceptable standards.”
- The American South enthusiastically championed those roles and attitudes. They became part of American fundamentalism and the text was changed to match the attitude of the times.
When the New International Version first announced a translation that used inclusive language, Americans rebelled. Articles were written, sermons preached, and threats were made so that they abandoned their plans and published it only in Europe.
It would take from the mid 1980s until 2010/2011 before they would republish the NIV using inclusive language in the US, not because the text didn’t support it, but because of opposition from the prevailing male culture of the church.
It isn’t pretty…but it’s true.
Even in the early church, some men were so heavily influenced by Greek and Roman attitudes toward women (not good!) that Paul’s endorsement of Junia and other women, calling them leaders, ministers (Phoebe, anyone?), and more would have been scandalous. So…many of them decided he couldn’t have meant that at all.
Chrysostom believed Junia was female and an apostle even though he couldn’t stand women. But a few others, (Epiphanius, for example, who also thought Prisca was a man) called Junia “Junias” because they could not imagine a woman having any prominence or power in the church. They didn’t get their attitudes from Jesus or – I dare say – Paul, but from the dominant culture of the day. Scholars today agree that “Junias” did not appear in early Christian centuries as a name, male or female. It was bias and nothing more that caused Epiphanius and Origen to decide Junia was a man (and that they should change the name found in the text to a non-existent one).
When I contemplate all I’ve read concerning these matters, I rejoice that God called us into a new community where the barriers are dropped and where we can all use our gifts to serve God. And I am troubled, wondering what cultural forces and assumptions are working on my attitudes and beliefs presently.
Much more could be said…but I have probably said enough.
I will simply say this: we are all ONE in Christ Jesus.
Our chains are gone, we’ve been set free. Jesus thought that Mary, sitting at his feet in the traditional posture of a student of the rabbi, was in the right place even though that was unheard of in his day. Instead of creating more Marthas to stay in the kitchen and cook for the church, Jesus said they belonged with him – and the men – learning alongside them as equals.
If it’s good enough for Jesus…
Now that scholars agree overwhelmingly that Junia was a woman, those opposed to women in leadership have tried to make the case that she must not have been a “real” apostle. Scot McKnight (author of Junia is Not Alone) gives the broader picture here and Suzanne McCarthy provides extensive documentation on the meaning of Junia being “outstanding among the apostles” in her Junia files (where she effectively counters Grudem and other prominent complementarian theologians).