Junia: A Response to Michael Burer
- Greet Andronicus and Junia,6 my compatriots7 and my fellow prisoners. They are well known8 to the apostles,9 and they were in Christ before me.
- Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
- Or “prominent, outstanding, famous.” The term ἐπίσημος (epishmo") is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”).
The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30).
When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients.
In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.” See M. H. Burer and D. B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.7,” NTS 47 (2001): 76-91, who argue for the elative notion here.
Here are the issues.
First, by "comparative" the annotator also means that the noun modifed is "one of the group" - this use of the adjective is inclusive. By "elative" the annotator means that the noun modified is not "one of the group"- this use can be called exclusive.
Wallace and Burer set out to estabish a new rule, that when the adjective ἐπίσημος is followed by a genitive, it is comparative and therefore inclusive. Conversely, when the adjective is followed by ἐν plus the dative, it is elative and therefore, exclusive. The noun modified, in this case Junia, is no longer one of the group. According to the authors, if ἐπίσημος is followed by ἐν plus the dative, Junia is not among the apostles.
Here is a summary of my remarks in response.
1. In the lexicons, ἐπίσημος is an adjective which means "marked on" or "distinguished" as in "having a mark placed on it." Only in the Louw-Nida lexicon does it take on the additional sense of "well known." Here is the Louw-Nida entry.
- 28.31 Know (28) Well Known, Clearly Shown, Revealed (28.28-28.56) pertaining to being well known or outstanding, either because of positive or negative characteristics - outstanding, famous, notorious, infamous. εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις they are outstanding among the apostles ROM.16:7
2. I would also suggest that it is not reliable to base an hypothesis on whether a genitive or ἐν plus dative is used. Consider these instances.
- ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν Matt. 23:11 (genitive)
the greatest among you
ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν Luke 22:26 (en plus dative)
the greatest among you
In view of these examples I cannot give credit to an argument which proposes a difference based on the fact that the adjective is followed by ἐν plus dative rather than the genitive. These two constructions can be used synonymously.
However, here Wallace asks,
- would we not expect ἐπίσημοι τῶν ἀποστόλων if the meaning were “outstanding among the apostles”?
- καὶ σύ Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα οὐδαμῶς
ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα Matt. 2:6
'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; ESV
ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν οὐκ ἐγήγερται ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν μείζων Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν Matt. 11:11
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. ESV
Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαββᾶν καὶ Σιλᾶν
ἄνδρας ἡγουμένους ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς Acts 15:22
Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas,
leading men among the brothers ESV
3. The references provided in the note are also problematic. The different versions of the Septuagint render Pss. Sol. 2:6 and 17:30 in a variety of ways. What is certain is that in neither of these cases does ἐπίσημος modify a personal noun. In fact, it is in doubt whether the word is ἐπίσημος instead of its cognate noun ἐπίσημον.
However, if it is the adjective ἐπίσημος, then the modified noun is elided and the entire construction still may not have any bearing on Rom. 16:7. While there is evidence that ἐπίσημος with an elided noun can be used with a partitive genitive, and an inclusive meaning; there is little evidence of the converse, that it has an exclusive or elative sense with ἐν plus the dative.
In fact, it would be quite extraordinary for an adjective modifying an elided noun to have an exclusive sense.
- She is the best known of the teachers.
He is the best known to the teachers.
Someone also needs to bring into this discussion the fact that the Psalms of Solomon is considered to be a translation of a Hebrew poetic Vorlage.
4. I have read both studies by Wallace and Burer, listed below, and I understand that the much disputed Pss. Sol. 2:6 and 17:30 are considered to be their best evidence. The other citations, except for one from 5 centuries earlier, are all either somewhat ambiguous or not comparable. This evidence simply does not warrant the terms "not uncommon" and "frequently". Pss. Sol. 2:6, supposedly an example of an exclusive use, which they call "a very close parallel," is in dispute. If there is better evidence then the NET Bible note should be altered to reflect that.
5. There is no verb of perception involved in this Greek expression. Therefore, it is misleading to note that "in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients." The verb of perception occurs only in the English translation supplied by Wallace and Burer. In Greek, ἐπίσημος is an adjective derived either from a noun best translated as "mark" or from a verb translated as "to place a mark on."
6. Wallace and Burer are aware that there is no scholarly consensus concerning their hypothesis. Wallace in all honesty states this here. They also admit that others have expressed concern regarding their original citation of Pss. Sol. 2:6, in which they simply wrote ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, thus giving the impression that it matched the structure of Rom. 16:7, rather than ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. They had originally stated that ἐπισήμῳ was an adjective modifyng a personal noun, which it is not.
On Adrian's blog, Burer writes,
- We appreciate that several writers have pointed out that our translation and citation of the passage in the original piece were not the best. (In reflecting on this, neither Dr. Wallace nor I could remember who was responsible for this part of the article.) We should have included more of the Greek text, including the preposition ἐν so that readers could see that there was another way of understanding the construction.
- The English translation we gave, “a spectacle among the gentiles,” was exactly the wording given in a recent, standard English translation of Psalms of Solomon, in James Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1985), vol. 2, p. 652.
For Pss. Sol. 2:6, this translation offers, "their neck in a seal, with a mark among the nations," NETS, rather than "a spectacle among the gentiles." This translation fits well with the preceding expression in the line, "in a seal," since in Greek, σφραγῖς, "seal", and ἐπίσημον, "mark", can be synonymous. Therefore, I believe it is more likely a case of poetic parallelism. "Among the nations" would then refer to the location of their "harsh captivity,"
- οἱ υἱοὶ καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες ἐν αἰχμαλωσίᾳ πονηρᾷ,
ἐν σφραγῖδι ὁ τράχηλος αὐτῶν, ἐν ἐπισήμῳ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν
Psalms of Solomon needs to be approached as a translation of Hebrew poetry, not originally composed in Greek.
- In retrospect, we now think it would be better to include the preposition ἐν before the word ἐπισήμῳ in our citation, and change the statement to “The parallels include (a) people as the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος” to reflect that here most likely the referent of the adjective ἐπίσημος is a place, not people.
- We would not be willing to change, however, the basic conclusion that this passage confirms our hypothesis that ἐπίσημος plus (ἐν plus) dative personal adjunct should be best understood as meaning “well known to . . .” This is especially so for two reasons.
- First, the other use of ἐπίσημος in Ps. Sol. 17:30 uses the genitive case (different from the dative case in 2:6) to show that the prominent place was part of the earth in keeping with our hypothesis about the inclusive use of ἐπίσημος, but this instance in 2:6 uses the dative in keeping with our hypothesis about the exclusive use of ἐπίσημος. Second, point (c) in our initial assessment of Ps. Sol. 2:6 would stand, as it is very reasonable to see ἔθνεσιν here as referring to people.
On the contrary, early church fathers, themselves native speakers of Greek, recognized Junia as one of the apostles.
- Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle. John Chrysostom (344/54-407)(2)
- ᾽Απάσθητε τὸν ᾽Ανδρόνικον καὶ ᾽Ιουνίαν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτνες εἴναι ἐπίσημοι μεταξὺ τῶν ἀποστόλων οἵτνες καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἦσαν εις τὸν Χριστόν
To use Wallace's own words,
- Did God suddenly permit “more light to break forth from his holy Word,” as the old Congregationalist put it? Or is there reason to suspect that the many modern interpretations . . . are primarily the result of certain conscious or unconscious presuppositions?3
On a closing note, I would like to explain that I have recreated Linda Belleville's original research using databases now online. Belleville, Epp and Bauckham have all rebutted Wallace and Burer's articles in a definitive manner. I have yet to see a response to their work by Wallace and Burer. Until further has been written, Junia must remain an apostle.
Was Junia Really an Apostle (see page 4) Wallace and Burer
Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle A Review
Junia Among the Apostles: The Double Identification Problem in Romans 16:7 Wallace
Junia, the Apostle: Index McCarthy
Burer enters the Junia Debate Burer
New English Translation of the Septuagint
Books and articles which assess and discount Wallace and Burer's Junia hypothesis.
Eldon Jay Epp
Linda Belleville. Ἰουνιᾶν . . . ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις:A Re-Examination of Romans 16:7 in Light of Primary Source Materials. New Test. Stud. 51, pp. 231-249. Printed in the United Kingdom. 2005. Cambridge University Press.