Romans 16:7, The First Woman Apostle?

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

//Yesterday, I wondered whether Paul taught that men were granted a divine right to lord it over women. Let’s put things in perspective today with a look back at the church in the time of Paul.

According to the book of Romans, women seemed to hold positions of leadership in the early church, even being considered “apostles.” But this equality between the sexes quickly fell into disfavor in the Church. Author Eldon Jay Epp writes in his book, Junia: The First Woman Apostle, about how Junia’s role was buried through mistranslation and editing of her name so that it was rendered as a man’s name instead. To preserve male authority, Junia became Junias, a man’s name, in Latin, and remains this way today—see today’s verse in the NIV. The gender debate is nearly over, however: that she was a woman is seldom contested today among Christian theologians.

Instead, those who would deny female leadership now focus on the meaning of “apostle.” Did the term mean the equivalent of Paul, Timothy and Silas? Or should the translation read not “well-regarded apostles” but “well-known to the apostles?”

The debate continues, but my own position is settled. Junia may be the only named woman “apostle” in the Bible, but she is hardly the only woman in a position of respect, even leadership. You can read also about Phoebe, Prisca, Tryphaena and Tryphosa.

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