Recently, I posted on how political agendas can create differences in Bible translation. Today, I want to look at a famous example of how different Bibles chose to translate the same passage. The passage in question is Romans 16:7. Note the underlined name, Junia.
Here it is in the Wycliffe translation, one of the oldest English translations of the Bible done in 1392.
Greet well Andronicus and Junia, my cousins, and mine even-prisoners, which be noble among the apostles, and which were before me in Christ.
The Geneva Bible translated in 1598 renders this verse as
Salute Andronicus and Junia my cousins and fellow prisoners, which are notable among the Apostles, and were in Christ before me.
The King James Bible, 1611, renders it
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
So far, there is agreement. However, when you get to other English translations, the name Junia is changed to the masculine name Junias.
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1946 renders it
Greet Androni′cus and Ju′nias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) in 1971 rendered it
Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
The Message Bible of 1993 translates the name as
Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders.
The earliest English translations render the name as female. Some of the modern English translations chose to render the name male. Is this because of some new discovery? Sadly the answer is more political than linguistic.
In Greek, the name is Ἰουνιᾶς (Iounias)
Bruce K. Waltke, in his book, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), p. 241 said: “Al Wolters of Redeemer College (Hamilton, Ontario) in personal communication makes a convincing philological argument that Junia (Gr. Iounia) in Rom. 16:7 is a Jewish name; Yehunniah (“Yah is gracious”). If so, the name is masculine, not feminine.”
They imply that since the Jewish name Yehunniah is a theophoric name, a name that includes the name of a God, then, the bearer of the name must be a man.
Although masculine names bearing the name of Yah, such as Obadiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, were common in the Old Testament, a few names of women also include the name of YHWH, usually shortened to Yah.
The most prominent name of a woman bearing a theophoric name in the Old Testament was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri, king of Israel (2 Kings 8:26). Another woman with Yah in her name was Abijah, the wife of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:24). Other women with theophoric names were Jecholiah, the mother of Azariah, king of Judah (2 Kings 15:1), Michaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah and the mother of Abijah, king of Judah, and Noadiah, the prophetess (Nehemiah 6:14)
So, choosing to form the name Iounias as masculine because it is theophoric isn’t a very strong argument.
However, forming the name as feminine seems to have better evidence supporting it. In his commentary on Romans (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), James E. Edwards wrote (p. 355): Andronicus and Junias (v. 7), both Greek names, were doubtlessly Jewish since Paul calls them my relatives (literally in Greek, “fellow-countrymen”). Depending on the Greek accenting of Iounian (a form of the name which unfortunately obscures its gender), the name could be either male (Junias) or female (Junia). The name is normally presumed male (so NIV), but a recent study reveals over 250 examples of it in Greek literature, not one of which is masculine!
Why chose to make Iounias masculine? The reason is that she is mentioned as being noteworthy among the apostles. This would mean that there was at least one female apostle. In our modern patriarchal culture, this simply cannot be allowed. Women are to be subservient to men. Fundagelicals take a few verses out of context to “prove” that a woman being subservient to men is a Biblical mandate. However, this verse shows women not only as equals but in a position of authority over men.
Today good Christian women are denied leadership roles, forbidden to use their God-given spiritual gifts, because of a politically and culturally motivated translation choice. Make no mistake; the changing of a female apostle’s name to a male name is a choice. So much for the sacredness of the Bible and the “plain reading” when groups of translators choose to alter the textual meaning to keep one group of people subservient.
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