Not too long ago, I finished a new little ebook written by Scot McKnight and published by Patheos Press. It is entitled Junia Is Not Alone.
First off, the book is about 25-30 pages in normal length and it is only available electronically for the Kindle or Kindle app for a mere $2.99. I think this is an interesting pointer of where publishing is going – electronic and short. Not all books will be of this flavour. There will still remain the theological treatises that most of us don’t want to engage with or the lengthier books that we do still want to read. But these short ebooks are becoming a trend in a technological world today.
So here is Scot McKnight’s first compact ebook along the lines of something he has briefly addressed before in his book about understanding the Bible, The Blue Parakeet. In this newer title, McKnight starts out by asking why the overall church is quite silent on the reality of women in the Bible. Who has heard many teachings and sermons on Huldah or Phoebe or Priscilla or Mary (the mother of Jesus) or Anna or the enigmatic Junia? We have occasionally heard teachings on Ruth or Esther, but that is because a specific book of the Bible is dedicated to them. But what of these other gifted women?
Yes, there have been questions throughout the centuries over who this Junia, or Junias, figure is that we find mentioned in Romans 16:7. McKnight states:
When I told someone about the subject of this ebook, I was asked this question: “Who is Junia?”
I don’t doubt many people will be surprised to hear about Junia, just as they might be surprised to find there were more apostles than the 12 and Paul, or prophets still existed within the New Testament framework. It is quite easy to gloss over very important pointers that are right there in the Scripture text itself.
McKnight points out two problems that have arisen over the centuries when discussing Junia:
- We have mistranslated her name from the feminine, Junia, to some kind of masculine form like Junias.
- We have mistranslated her role from that of apostle to either some generic messenger or communicating that the apostles saw her, along with Andronicus (presumably her husband), as being outstanding people, nothing more and nothing less.
But both do a grave injustice to what is actually being communicated at the end of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. And I might add on the side that, with the ending phrase of vs7, ‘they were in Christ before I was’, I think it quite probable that this couple had a significant role in Paul’s life. They might have had some ministry in Paul’s own life like that of Priscilla and Aquila’s ministry role in the life of Apollos (see Acts 18:24-28).
Now, some might argue and ask – What is the big deal about one simple verse that mentions one couple of which it is possible that Junia’s name and role have been misrepresented? Well, first off, it is not a possibility, but a reality. We can’t avoid the misrepresentation. And McKnight shows how both church leaders of the past and scholars of the present have brought this to light.
But, even more, McKnight shows in this little book that the unfortunate mishap with Junia has also been our overall approach to women in ministry throughout church history. The early church seemed quite vibrant with plenty of women working in apostolic, prophetic, teaching and other leading roles. But we are not too aware of any such women from the 2nd century through to a millennium and a half later. Hmmm? Of course, the church in the last 100 years or more has made great strides in allowing women to be released into ministry as God has gifted and called. We can think of quite a few women with significant ministries over the recent decades and centuries. But there is still some way to go.
Of course, this means not that we simply place any woman in any role just to make a theological point. By no means! But there are Junia’s across the church today, across the varying expressions of Christ’s body in this world. They will have an effect that no man could have. These women carry a deep wisdom, gifting and anointing that must be released. We might be hesitant to open such doors, God forbid. But we know our God will be faithful to see more and more Junia’s released out of mistranslations and into gospel, transformative ministry.
And so, here is a little ebook by Scot McKnight to stir us to see more Junia’s arise amongst the people of God. Today is the day.