Also See Defining The Position (Below)
“Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also have been in Christ before me”
"It is not without significance that this, the most abstruse and difficult of all the New Testament Epistles, should have appended to it the longest list of friendly greetings. Doctrine and argument are not necessarily productive of coldness of heart.
The apostle was a beautiful example of the blending of the philosopher and the gentleman" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18). Paul was a deep thinker; he had the gift of great insight. Some of his critics were not overly impressed with Paul as a person, or with his speaking skills, but even his enemies could not fault the scope of his scholarship and the power of his pen. "His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable" (2 Cor. 10:10). Even his own fellow apostles were at times greatly confused by what he had written to the saints. "Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you ... speaking about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand" (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Nevertheless, Peter refers to this scholar as "our beloved brother Paul" (vs. 15).
Paul was extremely strong in some areas; noticeably weak in others. "Though untrained in public speaking, I am certainly not so in knowledge" (2 Cor. 11:6). Paul was brilliant, and the Lord had gifted him with the ability to express himself well through the written word. Thank God for that skill, for much of our inspired New Covenant documents were penned by this apostle who was admittedly unskilled in other areas of public ministry. Fortunately, God does not call us to possess and display perfection of expertise in all areas of Christian service, but simply calls us to personal faithfulness in those specific areas wherein He has gifted us. Some are hands, some are feet; some are eyes, some are ears; working together, however, they all form a functional body! This, for want of a better expression, is known as Unity in Diversity.
As previously noted by the Pulpit Commentary, Paul, although a scholar and author extraordinaire, did not lose sight of the value of one's interpersonal relationships. He did not consider himself better than others, thus arrogantly distancing himself from them. It is oft declared, and not without merit, sadly, that some men are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. Not so with Paul. He cherished his fellow believers and treasured their companionship. His great learning had not driven him "mad," as Festus, the governor, asserted (Acts 26:24), nor had it driven him away from his beloved brethren.
We discover, therefore, even in his most theological epistle, evidence of the value Paul placed on his relationship with a host of men and women with whom he had served the Lord in the furtherance of the gospel. Romans 16 is filled to overflowing with loving remembrances and tributes to these saints. Some we have come to know well in the course of our biblical studies (such as Priscilla and Aquila); others are lesser known, if known at all. But all were dear to the heart of Paul, and, due to his words of greeting, their names live on throughout the centuries in the sacred writings of the New Covenant. Each name represents a life lived in sacrificial service to the Savior; each name would be well worth examining in much more depth than we often do. In this current issue of my weekly Reflections, however, we will seek to better acquaint ourselves with only two of these persons: Andronicus and Junias (or Junia), who appear in verse 7 of this marvelous chapter in Paul's epistle to the brethren in Rome.
Andronicus --- This is a transliteration of the Greek word Andronikos, which means "man of victory; conqueror of men." His name appears only this one time in all the NT writings. Other than what is contained in this one verse, we know absolutely nothing about him. There are two other men by this name who figure somewhat prominently in the extra-biblical narratives, however.
The first Andronicus we encounter was a high ranking noble in the court of Antiochus Epiphanes during the so-called "Intertestamental Period" of Jewish history. King Antiochus IV, also known as "Epiphanes," was the Seleucid ruler of Palestine from 175 to 163 B.C. It was his slaughter of a pig on the altar of God on December 25, 168 B.C. that led to the Jewish rebellion better known as The Maccabean Revolt. On one occasion, when the king had gone off to another part of the empire to deal with a growing crisis, Andronicus was left in charge of the city of Antioch. As a result of some fascinating manipulation and intrigue by a man named Menelaus, Andronicus murdered Onias in a most under-handed manner. This not only infuriated the Jews, but greatly troubled many of the Greeks as well. When Antiochus returned to Antioch, he "was deeply grieved, and wept as he recalled the prudence and noble conduct of the deceased. Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his other garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment he deserved" (2 Maccabees 4:37-38).
The second Andronicus also served under the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the Commander of the garrison at Gerizim. Antiochus, who the oppressed Jews preferred to call "Epimanes" (the madman), "left governors to harass the nation: at Jerusalem, Philip, a Phrygian by birth, and in character more cruel than the man who appointed him; at Mount Gerizim, Andronicus; and besides these, Menelaus, who lorded it over his fellow citizens even worse than all the others did" (2 Maccabees 5:22-23).
Junias/Junia --- This particular individual known to Paul is also mentioned only here in all of the New Testament writings. "The sum of our knowledge consists in what is here said" (Moses E. Lard, A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans, p. 455). The major debate with regard to this second person mentioned in Romams 16:7 is over whether this individual is a man or a woman. Scholarship is very much divided on this issue, and the debate has often been extremely heated, primarily because of the implications if this is indeed a female. "As the name occurs in the accusative case, it may be either Junias, a masculine name contracted from Junianus, or Junia, a common feminine name" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 665). "It is impossible, as this name occurs in the accusative case, to determine whether it is masculine or feminine" (ibid, p. 57). "The name may be masculine, 'Junias,' a contraction of Junianus, or feminine, 'Junia.' It is the accusative form that is given" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1165).
The Masculine Theory --- Since there is some evidence to suggest that these two individuals were perhaps apostles, at least in the more general sense of that term (more about this later), some of the more conservative biblical interpreters are adamant that this individual could not be a woman. "Such an apostle would be strange indeed" (R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of Romans, p. 905). Moses E. Lard, in his classic commentary on Romans, wrote, "Junias I take to be masculine, not feminine. The joint descriptions of the two persons named seem to demand this" (p. 455). Lard may be correct in his assumption that this person is a male, but his reasoning is flawed. The fact that both these individuals are described jointly in the passage (both being said to be Paul's "kinsmen" and his "fellow prisoners") in no way demands that the individuals thus characterized must be of the same gender. After all, in verse 3 Priscilla and Aquila are "jointly described" as Paul's "fellow workers," and we all know this was a married couple (and I doubt they were a same sex couple!). The primary "arguments" of the masculine theory, quite frankly, are prejudicially based. The proponents of this theory simply don't like the notion of a female "apostle."
The Feminine Theory --- Most biblical scholars are of the conviction, as am I, that the second named individual in verse 7 is a female. Junia, after all, was a very common feminine name at that time. "All early sources attest Junia as female, especially Jerome (340-420 A.D.) and John Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.). Although the name often appears in masculine forms in English translations, they are unattested in ancient times. Junia is the only woman called an 'apostle' in the NT" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 756). Andronicus and Junia are believed by the vast majority of these biblical scholars to be yet another husband and wife team (like Priscilla and Aquila), or possibly a brother and sister team. "It is surely not at all impossible that St. Paul should include a woman among the apostles in the wider sense of accredited missionaries or messengers, a position to which their seniority in the faith may well have called this pair" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 665).
It was certainly not unusual for God to use women in very prominent roles among His people, and we find this revealed in both OT and NT historical writings. Athaliah, for example, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, reigned as queen over Judah for six years (2 Kings 11:3; 2 Chron. 22:12). Deborah, who was a prophetess of God, served as a judge over Israel for 40 years (Judges 4:4-5). We find several female prophets of God mentioned -- Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). We also see a husband and wife team of prophets -- Isaiah and his wife (Is. 8:3). Joel 2:28-29 even foresaw a time, during the Christian dispensation, when both "your sons and daughters will prophesy ... and even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days." Thus, it should not surprise us too greatly to find a woman deacon (Phoebe -- Rom. 16:1-2), a woman apostle (Junia -- Rom. 16:7), and women prophets (Philip's daughters) in the church
In Romans 16:7, the apostle Paul makes four insightful statements regarding this devoted couple. "Three things out of the four said about them create difficulty for the interpreter" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 163). The first of these four statements is that Andronicus and Junia (I shall henceforth refer to this second named individual in the feminine form, since the consensus of scholarship is that she was indeed female) are said to be the "kinsmen" of Paul. The English word "kinsmen" is the translation of several noted versions of the Bible (including the New American Standard Bible, King James Version, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, St. Joseph edition, The New Jerusalem Bible, and J.B. Phillips' The NT in Modern English). Other translations of the text read: "fellow countrymen" (Holman Christian Standard Bible, New King James Version, New English Bible, Charles Williams' The NT in the Language of the People) .... "relatives" (Easy-to-Read Version, New International Version, Hugo McCord's NT Translation of the Everlasting Gospel, The Living Bible, The Contemporary English Version, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) .... and "cousins" (The Message).
The Greek word which has been variously translated above is sungenes. Some have tried to point out that this is "kinsMEN" or "countryMEN" and thus suggests both individuals named are MEN. However, this no more proves such a point than saying "huMANity" or "MANkind" proves that only MAN is in view in such terms. The terms in English are generic, and thus refer to either male or female. The Greek word, additionally, is of no help either, for sungenes can be either masculine or feminine in form. Thus, it too may refer to either or both. This Greek word signifies one who is either (1) a blood relative, or (2) a fellow countryman -- a fellow Jew, for example, or (3) a fellow tribesman -- a fellow Benjamite, for example. Thus, there is a great amount of speculation as to the exact nature of the relationship of this couple to the apostle Paul. The three theories are:
Blood Relatives --- Although the English translation "kinsmen" is rather ambiguous, and could easily signify any of the three meanings of sungenes, the versions which opt for "relatives" and "cousins" clearly prefer, and indeed promote, the view that these two persons were blood relatives of Paul. David Lipscomb, in his commentary on Romans, says, "It is most likely that they were members of his family, not merely that they were Jews" (p. 273). Moses Lard says much the same in his commentary, "They were Paul's real kin, according to the flesh, and not kin merely in the loose sense of being of the same tribe or of the same nation" (p. 456). However, in Rom. 16:11 Paul says Herodion is "my kinsman." In Rom. 16:21, Paul says Lucius and Jason and Sosipater are "my kinsmen." Most scholars feel it is unlikely Paul had this many blood relatives floating about that were all disciples of Christ Jesus. The only blood relatives of Paul ever mentioned with certainty in Scripture are his sister and her son (Acts 23:16), neither of whom are named (which has led a few scholars to speculate that maybe Andronicus and Junia are his nephew and sister).
Fellow Jews --- Much more likely is that Paul was referring to those who were his fellow Jews. Paul uses the same Greek word (sungenes), for example, in Romans 9:3 where he speaks of "my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites." Here he specifies the identity of his "kinsmen" -- they are the Israelites. Since Paul had earlier used this word in the context of his epistle to the Romans, declaring in this previous passage the way in which it was to be understood, it is a sound hermeneutical principle to maintain that meaning in a later use of the word in the same epistle unless there is something specific within the later passage that would override that previous meaning. There is nothing in Romans 16:7 that would suggest a vastly different understanding of the term than that given in Romans 9:3, therefore the principles of hermeneutics favor the interpretation that Andronicus and Junia are his fellow Jews (fellow countrymen). This is the view of most scholars and commentators. "The observation is correct that Paul purposely mentions Jewish descent in order to mark the connection of the Roman church with the Jewish source of its faith" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, p. 906).
Fellow Benjamites --- Some question why Paul would characterize only a few of the many people in Romans 16 as "kinsmen" (fellow Jews). It is suggested that it may be because most of the rest have non-Jewish names, thus these alone would be his "kinsmen" (fellow Jews). However, what about Mary (vs. 6)? And what about Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2)? For this reason, some interpreters feel Paul may have been singling out these few persons as being his fellow tribesmen (i.e., individuals who were not only Israelites, but from the tribe of Benjamin, as Paul was -- Philp. 3:5). "The pair are described as 'my kinsmen,' by which may be meant fellow-Jews, possibly members of the same tribe, almost certainly not relatives" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57). Drs. Conybeare and Howson suppose "the epithet to denote that the persons mentioned were of the tribe of Benjamin" (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, p. 535).
My Fellow Prisoners
The second of four statements found in Rom. 16:7 about this pair is that they were Paul's "fellow prisoners" (NASB, HCSB, KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB, St. Joseph edition, McCord, Phillips, NJB). Other translations are: "fellow captives" (NWT) ..... "comrades in captivity" (NEB) ..... "in prison with me" (NIV, E-T-RV, LB, Williams) ..... "in jail with me" (CEV) ..... "shared a jail cell" (The Message). The Greek word employed here is sunaichmalotos, which is more literally translated "a fellow prisoner of war." This word appears only two other times in the NT writings, and is used exclusively by the apostle Paul (Col. 4:10; Philemon 23). Bishop Moule perhaps captures the meaning of this word best when he writes that Andronicus and Junia were Paul's "fellow-captives in Christ's war."
There are several possible interpretations here. One meaning is that these two may actually have been physically imprisoned together with Paul on some occasion. Another possibility is that, because of their faith, both Paul and this couple experienced imprisonment. Thus, they could well be "fellow prisoners" for the cause of Christ, but not have been imprisoned at the same time or at the same location. In other words, they shared the experience of having been jailed for their faith. A more remote possibility, though one embraced by a handful of scholars, is that Paul may have been speaking figuratively -- they were fellow "captives" to the cause of Christ Jesus; fellow slaves to His divine will for their lives. Paul was imprisoned a great many times, however, thus "the expression in this case is doubtless intended to be taken literally, even though we are left uninformed as to the circumstances" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 164). At this point in his ministry Paul had experienced several imprisonments (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:23); the number being set at seven according to Clement of Rome (a contemporary of the first century apostles of Christ).
Although we may not know a great many of the specifics, this statement does say something about the character and commitment of Andronicus and Junia. It demonstrates the willingness of this couple to sacrifice their personal freedom and endure hardships for the cause of Christ Jesus. When far too many seek the "easy way out" in service to their God, not so with this pair of disciples. Thus, they are worthy of honor. "Render to all what is due them ... honor to whom honor" (Rom. 13:7; cf. 12:10). Dr. F.F. Bruce observed, "Among the honors belonging to the warfare of Christ, bonds are not to be counted the least." "To suffer together in a righteous cause has ever bound men to each other in mutual respect and sympathy. The church has always need of stout-hearted disciples ready to face obloquy, ridicule, poverty, rather than sacrifice principles" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18).
Outstanding Among the Apostles
Without doubt, the area of greatest controversy with regard to these two individuals is whether they are to be identified as "apostles." What truly makes this an area of debate, as noted previously, is that the second named person in this passage is quite likely a woman. Obviously, this does not sit well with the more conservative element of the church. Nevertheless, Paul declares both Andronicus and Junia to be "outstanding among the apostles" (NASB, HCSB, NIV) ..... "of note among the apostles" (ASV, RSV, KJV, NWT) ..... "eminent among the apostles" (NEB) ..... "outstanding apostles" (NJB, NAB, St. Joseph edition) ..... "outstanding leaders" (The Message) ..... "the most important of the people Christ sent out to do His work" (E-T-RV) ..... "outstanding men among the messengers" (Phillips) ..... "respected by the apostles" (LB, CEV) ..... "held in high esteem among the apostles" (Williams).
The Greek word episemos means "eminent, prominent, distinguished, outstanding, renowned." The word is used only twice in all the NT writings. The other occurrence is with reference to Barabbas (Matt. 27:16). Thus, Andronicus and Junia were a very prominent, distinguished couple -- but in what sense?! That is the central question. There are two major theories as to how best to interpret this statement:
They were regarded as outstanding apostles. In other words, they were numbered "among" the apostles, and in that group had distinguished themselves in some way. The primary meaning of the Greek preposition en, which is employed in this phrase, is "within, among" (Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek NT). If indeed this preposition is given its most common meaning, then these two were quite likely of renown within the group of apostles in the early church. In other words, they were "outstanding apostles," which is exactly how some versions of the Bible render this passage, and which was the view held by such renowned scholars and early church fathers as Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Martin Luther, John Calvin, to name just a few.
They were regarded favorably by the apostles. According to this view, Andronicus and Junia were not actually apostles, but were simply highly esteemed by those persons who were apostles. Although a few scholars do indeed advocate this position, it is most definitely the minority view, and is regarded as highly unlikely by most reputable Greek and biblical scholars. "To interpret the statement as meaning that these were outstanding in the estimation of the apostles scarcely does justice to the construction in the Greek" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 164).
Dr. A.T. Robertson observes, "Naturally this means that they are counted among the apostles in the general sense that is true of Barnabas, James, the brother of Christ, Silas, and others" (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1, "Romans in the Greek NT," p. 260). Obviously, they were not among The Twelve, nor even in the same category as Paul. However, there are many individuals in the NT writings characterized as "apostles" (those sent forth with a message) in the more general sense of that term. "Andronicus and Junia are apostles in the wider sense of delegated missionaries" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57). Dr. Hastings notes that what makes this fact "remarkable" is that the second named person is most likely a woman (ibid). In the Didache (aka: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, a mid to late first century Christian document), the term "apostle" is defined as "the traveling evangelists or missionaries who preached the gospel from place to place" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 123). If this is the significance that Paul had in mind in Romans 16:7, then Andronicus and Junia were two "of the most prominent and successful of the traveling missionaries of the early Church" (ibid).
InPlainSite.org Note: Another view is that they were simply well known to the apostles. See Below
In Christ Before Me
Andronicus and Junia became Christians prior to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Thus, they would have been among the earliest converts to Christ Jesus, as was "Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing" (Acts 21:16). I really appreciate the rendering of the New World Translation here -- "...who have been in union with Christ longer than I have." Long before Paul came to be united with Christ Jesus, these two were already "in union with" the Lord. Thus, while Saul of Tarsus was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), Andronicus and Junia were disciples of the Lord. "Seniority of faith was of importance in the Apostolic Church. It brought honour, and it may have also brought responsibility and obligation to serve on behalf of the community" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57).
Moses Lard, in his classic commentary on Romans, suggests that these two disciples "were not improbably among those 'strangers of Rome' mentioned in Acts 2:10. At that same Pentecost they may have become Christians, and there have formed the acquaintance of the apostles" (p. 456). He also speculates this "may throw no little light on the question: By whom was the gospel first preached in Rome?" (ibid). Other scholars theorize that Andronicus and Junia may have been among the early followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry, or even converts of the 70 disciples that were sent out (Luke 10). The reality, however, is that we simply don't know.
At this point, both biblical and extra-biblical history become silent with respect to these two faithful servants of the Lord. They are never heard from again. The name Andronicus does occur in inscriptions belonging to the Imperial household during the first century, but whether this was the same man is unknown. If it was, then he may well have had some impact upon the household of the emperor himself. Some speculate this might explain Paul's reference in Philp. 4:21-23, a statement he made near the end of his imprisonment in Rome -- "The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." What a tribute to this couple, and to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, if indeed they were able to impact the household of the Roman emperor!
One of the joys to be anticipated and experienced in the new heavens and earth will be the opportunity to meet some of these former disciples of Christ Jesus. There are so many giants of faith that I long to meet, and I pray the Lord gives us that blessing one day. Andronicus and Junia are definitely on my list. How inspiring it will be to one day learn the details of their service to our Father. Won't Heaven be wonderful?!! See What and Where is Heaven?