It is written:
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7)
Here, Paul tells us about a person named “Junia.” Other translations of the Bible render this person’s name as “Junias” (masculine form of the name). Is this passage referring to a man (Junias), or a woman (Junia)? The textual and historical evidence clearly favors the translation of this word as “Junias.”
“Some traditionalists question the female gender of the Greek name Iounian in Romans 16: 7. Yet there is no reason to read Iounian in any way but feminine. Both older versions and translations (Vulg., Syr., Copt., Wycliffe, Tyndale, Great, Geneva, Bishop, KJV, Rheims, Webster, Reina-Valera, Weymouth, BBE) and more recent revisions and translations (NRSV, REB, Revised NAB, NKJV, NCV, NLT, GWT, NET, ESV, CSB, TNIV) render Iounian as the feminine Junia. And rightly so. The masculine name Junias simply does not occur in any inscription, on any tombstone, in any letterhead or letter, or in any literary work contemporary with NT writings. In fact, “Junias” does not exist in any extant Greek or Latin document of the Greco-Roman period. On the other hand, the feminine “Junia” is quite common and well attested in both Greek and Latin inscriptions. Over 250 examples to date have been documented in Rome alone. 40 Add to this the fact that none of the early versions of the Greek NT considered Iounian as anything but feminine. For example, the Vulgate (the standard Latin translation of the Western church) has “Junia . . . well-known among the apostles.” Plus, the only variation in the ancient manuscripts is also feminine (“ Julia”). The fact is that no translation or commentary prior to the Middle Ages understood Iounian as other than feminine.” (James R. Beck, Two Views Of Women In Ministry, 39 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
What is fascinating is that the text says that Junia was “of note among the apostles.” This could mean two things.
First, that Junia was such an worker of the Lord that she was often the focus of the Apostles’ commendation and conversation.
Second, it could be implying that Junia was herself “an apostle” of some sort. We need to remember that the word “apostle” was used in the New Testament-not only of the twelve Apostles of Christ-but also in a general sense of those who were “sent out” for missionary and benevolent work by the churches. For example:
Acts 14:14-But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out…
2 Corinthians 8:23-If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers (Greek, apostles) of the churches, the glory of Christ.
Philippians 2:25-Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger (Greek, apostle) and the one who ministered to my need;
So even if Junia is considered an “apostle” of the churches, it simply means that she had been “sent out” by the people of God to teach His Word and minister to those in need.
Which translation is preferable? The Greek implies that she was, indeed, a “sent out” servant of the church who taught the Gospel and minister to those in need. As Moo points out:
“With a plural object, ἐν often means “among”; and if Paul had wanted to say that Andronicus and Junia were esteemed “by” the apostles, we would have expected him to use a simple dative or ὑπό with the genitive. The word ἐπίσημοι (“splendid,” “prominent,” “outstanding”; only here in the NT in this sense [cf. also Matt. 27:16]) also favors this rendering (cf. esp. S-H ).” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle To The Romans, 940, footnote 39 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Junia was sent out by the church to help in carrying out the Great Commission, as all Christians are commanded to do (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). While the method of her teaching is not specified, it is clear that she was teaching the Word of God to the lost and that she continues to serve as a powerful example of the work and ministry of women in the Lord’s church.