Friday, November 17, 2006


I sometimes wonder at how blind we can be. And I do include myself among the group of people who can blind themselves to what is because of what they want reality to be. One of the instances is in the case of Junia. For several thousand years the apostle Junia was considered to be a woman. But then she suddenly changed genders.

The textual commentaries and greek testaments all started referring to her as a man. And there are many today who still do the same. The evidence from the greek is clear – Junia is only found as a woman’s name. The evidence from the early church is clear – they refer to Junia as a woman. Yet in the 19th century Junia became a man and some would like to keep her as such.

Today we often conflate the word apostle with the twelve disciples of Jesus who are apostles, but in the early church it is clear that the office of apostle includes those who are not among the twelve. For one prominent example look at how Paul referred to himself in scripture – there are more than a few references – and clearly Junia is not the only one called apostle in Romans 16. Yet she is mentioned as prominent among the apostles.

I think that phrase about Junia being the one who is prominent among the apostles may be the point that sticks in the craw for some people. And by some people I mean those who do not consider women as equal to men. My experience is that every time talk begins of how women and men have different roles it soon becomes clear that the ‘roles’ of women are seen as less valuable than the ‘roles’ of men. And that is not scriptural.

Paul writes in Romans to men and women. Junia is not the only woman of prominence in the church. Paul writes of there no longer being male or female in the realm of God. The old roles have passed away and we are to treat each other as equals. We will have different gifts but those gifts are valuable no matter who bears them. And the gift and call is what we should be looking at rather than whether they are jew or greek, barbarian or civilized, male or female, or any of the other distinctions that are unrelated to what a person can actually do.
Our translations of scripture are sometimes blinded by our prejudices. This is clearly seen in the case of Junia. But we are called to go beyond our prejudices to see each other as God sees us. And that is as one who came to save the world rather than to condemn us or label us.

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