🔼The name Junia: Summary
- The Younger
- From the Latin stem iuven-, pertaining to youth or being young.
🔼The name Junia in the Bible
It's not clear whether the name Junia actually exists in the Bible, but if it does it does so in Romans 16:7. At the end of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul greets a number of people but as these names end up in the accusative form (Ιουνιαν), there's no way to tell whether his greeting was for a man named Junius (or rather Junias), or a woman named Junia. This mystery person is mentioned along someone called Andronicus or Andronica, but as Andronicus is a fairly common name and Andronica isn't otherwise heard of, it's safe to assume that this is a man named Andronicus.
All this wouldn't be such a big deal if Paul hadn't also referred to these two as "notable among the apostles". It's not clear whether A. and J. were notable among the apostles because they were lay-people and the apostles thought highly of them, or whether they were apostles themselves and were regarded highly by their colleagues. But it's theoretically possible that J. was a lady named Junia who was an apostle, and that would seriously undermine the age old dictum that women can't hold office in a church.
The text as written by Paul makes no distinction between a male or female J. and when people began to augment ancient Greek with modern accents, the large majority of copyists gave our name feminine accents. Church fathers from very early on deemed J. feminine (Ambrosiaster (c. 339-97); Jerome (c. 342-420); John Chrysostom (c. 347- 407); Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c.393-458) and the lists goes on), but Epiphanius (A.D. 315-403), bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, spoils Junia's perfect score in his book Index of Disciples, as he submits: "Junias, of whom Paul makes mention, became bishop of Apameia of Syria".
This would have been detrimental to the Junia camp if Epiphanius in the previous sentence hadn't declared Prisca to be a man as well!
Apart from Epiphanius' Index Discipilorum and a probably corrupt statement by Origin (with whom Epiphanius was at constant blows, and who refers to J. elsewhere as Junia), the overwhelming majority of scholars up to the twelfth century maintained that J. was Junia.
Moreover, the masculine name Junias is absent from extant ancient Greek records up to the first century and the feminine name Junia appears to occurs only once. In volume six of Parallel Lives Plutarch refers to Junia the wife of Cassius and the sister of Brutus (one of the men who murdered Julius Caesar), and that Junia is obvious Roman. In extant ancient Latin literature, however, the name Junia is fairly common while Junius is very rare.
Because of the controversy we'll admit that it's simply unknown whether J. refers to a man or a woman but it seems clear that if this ambivalence wasn't challenged by the aversion of some to acknowledge the usefulness of women in the church, it would certainly have been universally accepted as a feminine name.
Here at Abarim Publications we list this name as feminine, simply because it exists only as a feminine name. Whether Junia actually was an apostle doesn't seem relevant to us. The church today and the world it sits in are entirely different from those of two millennia ago. The precise nature of Junia's apostolic function relative to the church of the first century cannot possibly translate to anything implementable to the church today.
🔼Etymology of the name Junia
The Greek name Ιουνια (Junia) is most probably a transliteration out of Latin, because the name only exists in Latin, and as Paul's letter was addressed to the Romans, chances are excellent that she was Roman herself (and besides that, there don't seem to be any words in Greek that start with Ιουν). In Latin the root of this name is obvious.
Another name that jumps to mind is that of the goddess Juno, the wife and sister of Jupiter and mother of Mars and Vulcan. That name is thought to derive of iuven, which also yields the word iuvenis, meaning youth, and the syncopated form iun, which produced the familiar word iunior, meaning younger.
The name Junia could very well be explained to be a feminine version of the word we know as Junior, and as such it means The Younger.