Men and Women in Ministry: Was Junias a Female Apostle?
In Paul’s greetings to the saints in Rome , he includes the following:
“Greet Andronicus and Junia [or Junias], my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me” (ESV; Romans 16:7).
Some translations render this, “well known among the apostles,” thus implying that both Andronicas and Junia were themselves apostles. There are several questions that must be addressed.
First, is Junias masculine or feminine? If feminine, then they are most likely husband and wife. Recent examination of extensive Greek literature outside the Bible gives little help. The word Junias turned up only twice as a woman's name and only once as a man's name. If Junias is a woman, do we have reference here to a female apostle? If so, it would be difficult to restrict women from holding senior governmental authority in the local church insofar as the office of apostle in the New Testament was the pinnacle of spiritual authority.
Second, how should we translate the passage: “well known to the apostles” or “well known among the apostles”? The latter would suggest that Andronicus and Junias were themselves apostles, well known in that unique circle of believers. The former would suggest that the apostles, such as Paul, knew these two people quite well.
The point has been made that "since Andronicus and Junias were Christians before Paul was, it may be that their longstanding ministry (reaching back before Paul's) is precisely what Paul might have in mind when he says 'of note among the apostles.' They may well have been known among the apostles before Paul was even converted" (Piper/Grudem, 80).
However, recent analysis of the grammar of this text (see M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junias Really an Apostle? A Reexamination of Romans 16:7,” New Testament Studies 47 :76-91) has demonstrated that this particular construction should be rendered “well known to the apostles.” There is, therefore, no support for the idea that Junias, whether male or female, was herself/himself(?) an apostle.
Third, we must take into consideration how the word “apostle” is used in the NT. It is actually used in four senses: 1) of Jesus as The Apostle; 2) of the original twelve (with Matthias having replaced Judas Iscariot); 3) of Paul and perhaps 5 or 6 others (Silas, Barnabas, James; cf. 1 Thess. 2:6; Gal. 1:19; 1 Cor. 15:7; Acts 14:4,14); a technical use of a restricted group; and 4) a general use of many individuals who were "sent out" by a church as a delegated representative or messenger (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25). If it can be demonstrated that Andronicus and (his wife?) Junias were "apostles", and given the nature of the grammar this is highly unlikely, it would likely be only in this fourth sense.
Thus I find no support in this passage for the suggestion that women held the apostolic office in the NT and thus exercised spiritual authority over the entire church body.