Shifting Footings

by Scot McKnight | February 01, 2012

Complementarians often shift their footings when it comes to Junia (Rom. 16:7). They want to find some argument on which they can stand to diminish the significance of the woman.

First, they argued she wasn't a woman (Junia) but a man (Junias). The evidence disproved them so thoroughly even they gave in (or most of them gave in) and so they shifted to another footing...

Second, they argued she wasn't an apostle. Don't forget this: The only reason males in the history of the church, and the motive seems to be to diminish women leaders in the church, changed the woman Junia to Junias--a male name--was because whoever it was was an apostle. So the complementarians decided to show she wasn't an apostle: she's a woman alright, but only esteemed among the (male-only college of) apostles and not an apostle herself. That was disproven (Eldon Epp's long section in his book shows that this argument that Junia was only esteemed by the apostles but wasn't an apostle herself can't be relied on with rigor). So they shifted to another footing...

Third, they now argued she was an apostle only in conjunction with her male (probably) husband. This one just didn't work because she's still called an "apostle"--a pair of apostles still makes her an apostle. So they shifted to another footing...

Fourth, they now argue that "apostle" really doesn't mean "apostle"--it really means "missionary," and we all know a "missionary" isn't what an apostle is. So we don't have to worry about women leaders, because Junia was just a missionary. To be sure, the word "apostle" undoubtedly has a narrow meaning (the twelve, Paul, etc.) and it has a broader meaning (church-planting, founding, missionary). It still means "apostle" (one sent by Christ) and not only that--this term describes the highest office for the first century Christians. And Junia is in that small and highly esteemed circle: she's a woman; she's an apostle; and she may have been a missionary kind of apostle but don't forget what Paul says--she was a great apostle/missionary.

What's next? Will "great" now be diminished too? Will this all be seen as tongue-in-cheek by the apostle?

This gets tiresome. Let the Bible say what it says. Junia was a woman; she was an apostle; she was a great apostle. Give the woman a break, and give her a big clap! Saint Chrysostom surely did. The question to ask when evaluating someone for leadership in the local church is not "Man or woman?" but "What has God gifted this person--man or woman--to do?"

Do I have a witness?

This article originally appeared on the Jesus Creed blog, January 2, 2012.

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