Who was Junia? Nothing is known about her other than her Latin name, that she was an apostle, and that she was in Rome when St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. She is listed with others in Romans 16:7, by a man named Andronicus, who with her are called apostles by St. Paul.
For many centuries, Junia was thought to have actually been a man by the name of Junias. Eldon Epp shows how this error came about and how she recovered her true gender. Most likely a copyist in the Middle Ages was copying the Letter to the Romans, saw the name Junia and knew enough Latin to know the name was feminine. He most likely thought that there was an error and decided to correct it - he would think, “How could a woman be an apostle?”, his mindset that only men could be apostles or hold any positions in the Church. Another possible reason for the gender reversal was that translators and exegetes could not accept a woman being an apostle, their mindsets being too male oriented. Epp and others refute this idea that “Junia” was a misspelling for “Junias” or some other male name. Epp (and others) reveals that Junias is not a name in Latin - there are no surviving inscriptions or anything else with that name. The name “Junia”, on the other hand, shows up on many inscriptions and other sources - the true name in Romans 16:7, and it is a woman’s name. Junia was not one of the Twelve Apostles named by Jesus; she was probably a lesser apostle, even more so than St. Barnabas the apostle is known as.
Epp has written a short book, but it covers the topic very well. He provides the overwhelming evidence in a convincing if quite academic way. He refers to several bible scholars of various denominations, presenting all the technical scholarly materials to prove that Junia was a woman and that she was declared an apostle by St. Paul. A quarter of the book is devoted to endnotes and a bibliography.
There was a fictional book by Michael Giesler in 2002 entitled Junia: the Fictional Life and Death of an Early Christian. Another book on Junia is due out in September 2006 by Rena Pederson.
Eldon Epp is the Harkness Professor of Biblical Literature emeritus and Dean of Humanities and Social Science emeritus at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and was president of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2003. He is the author of The Theological Tendency of Codex Bezae Cantebrigiensis in Acts (2005) and Perspectives on New Testament Textual Criticism (2005).
Epp calls Junia the first woman apostle; one tradition says that St. Mary Magdalene was the apostle to the Apostles. She was told by the Risen Christ to tell his Apostles that he has risen from the dead. Junia, though, is probably the first woman to have her name listed in Scripture as an apostle.
Epp’s book is recommended for academic and public libraries. People interested in the issue of women in the Church will want this book.