Friday, April 23, 2010

Review of Eldon Epp “Junia”

I have recently come across a rather “robust” review of Eldon J. Epp’s book Junia Among the Apostles in Touchstone Magazine by John Hunwicke in Oxford. Some valid points are made by Hunwicke such as how Rom 16:7 gets routinely used as a bit of an egalitarian battering ram and the genuine grammatical ambiguity of Rom 16:7 itself. Still, I think that IOUNIAN was a woman and she was regarded as an apostle (Chrysostom’s comments still echo in my mind on that one), though I’d probably see “apostle” in the lesser sense of messenger (Phil 2:25; 2 Cor 8:23). What is more, I don’t think the Belleville writes with the same rhetorical force as Epp and I don’t think she has this big “socio-cultural agenda” that Hunwicke imputes to so many. If Hunwicke wants to take on so many who go for the alternative reading from his own, he should also have included Richard Bauckham’s discussion in Gospel Women.


  1. Thanks Mike,
    That is a very entertaining review, which also score some good points.

  2. Bird: "If Hunwicke wants to take on so many who go for the alternative reading from his own..."

    Given that Hunwicke also supports the accentuation of Junia as feminine, what apparently is meant is "alternative interpretation" as regards what the feminine name might imply.

  3. By what criteria can we differnetiate between two meanings of "apostle", as in the sense of "messenger" rather than "apostle"? I've heard this distinction often asserted, but I see no reason (as of yet) to enforce this distinction. Any suggestions?

  4. Is it appropriate to regard the reference to Junia as an "apostle" in the lesser sense of messenger (Phil 2:25; 2 Cor 8:23)? “Outstanding among the apostles presupposes a recognizable group of ‘apostles.’ As far as we know, there was no such recognizable group of “messengers.” Phil 2:25 specifies Epaphroditus as "your messenger." It carries no implication that there was a recognized category of believers known as "messengers," nor do the "messengers" mentioned in 2 Cor 8:23.

    Paul repeatedly defines an apostle as one who encounters the risen Christ (1 Cor 9:1; 15:8; Gal 1:1, 15–17), receives from Christ a commission to preach the gospel, and endures the labors and sufferings of missionary work (Rom 1:1–5; 1 Cor 1:1; 15:10, as Andronicus’s and Junia’s imprisonment with Paul attests) that bears fruit (1 Cor 9:1; 15:10) and is certified by “signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:11–12). “Outstanding among the apostles” implies that Adronicus and Junia were revered missionaries recognized in the churches as having authority as ministers of the gospel (cf. Did. 11:3–6). This is the way it was understood by the patristic commentators, apparently without exception.

    Paul, of all people, was not impressed with name dropping. He is not the type to encourage status based on: “even the apostles think they are outstanding!”

    Furthermore, the meaning of ἐπίσημος as “notable, remarkable” (LSJ 656), “of exceptional quality, splendid, prominent, outstanding” (BDAG 378), applies naturally to those distinguished among the wider group of apostles in the early church, but it is not natural to suppose that the apostles were known to have a consensus of judgment that particular people, including Andronicus and Junia, were outstanding (cf. Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 423).

    Every example of ἐν meaning “in the eyes of” listed in BAG (258, I. 3) follows the set phrase, ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς (αὐτῶν), and there is no mention of “their eyes” in Rom 16:7. The “in the eyes of” defense by Michael H. Burer and Daniel B. Wallace (“Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 [2001]: 76–91), has been thoroughly answered by Epp (Junia, 69–78); Bauckham (Gospel Women, 165–80); and Linda L. Belleville, “Ἰουνιαν … ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις: A Re-examination of Romans 16.7 in Light of Primary Source Materials,” NTS 51 (2005): 231–49). Cf. Richard S. Cervin, “A Note Regarding the Name ‘Junia(s)’ in Romans 16.7,” NTS 40 (1994): 463; Cranfield, Romans, 2:789; Dunn, Romans 9–16, 894–95.

  5. It is worth reading Michael Burer's response to the critics of the original article. This new study (from 2015) in JETS has 107 (!) new examples of the word ἐπίσημος with genitive and dative that had not been considered previously.