Monday, October 31, 2011

Scot McKnight on Junia – Part 1

Long-time readers know that I've followed Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, for several years now. So, naturally I wanted to see McKnight in person when he came to Fuller last week, sponsored by our school's continuing education department (and by the Burner Blog, which is produced by that department).

McKnight spoke on two occasions during his visit. The first was during our regularly-scheduled weekly chapel gathering, at which he spoke on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Although this was a challenging message worthy of commentary, I'm going to instead focus on the evening event, during which McKnight spoke about Romans 16, and specifically about the apostle Junia. The title of the lecture was "Junia is Not Alone in the Church."

To understand the points McKnight was seeking to make, I need first to give a quick overview of some of the issues regarding the translation and interpretation of verse 7, wherein Junia is mentioned. Modern translations seem to go back and forth on two basic points: 1) Was Junia a woman or a man? 2) Was Junia one of the apostles, or merely well-liked by them?

As to the first question, the ancient texts (including all early translations from the Greek to other languages, such as Latin) were nearly unanimous in giving Junia a name that was well-attested to be a female name (I'm aware of only two exceptions prior to the 5th-century, among hundreds of manuscripts and commentaries of those years). It was only in later centuries that a variation came up giving a form of the name (which appears in English translations as "Junias") — a name completely unknown in the ancient worldthat would have allowed this person to be male. By "later centuries," I mean nearly a thousand years, by even the most conservative measurements. Manuscripts started using the male version around the 9th century. However, this still wasn't reflected in translations until a couple of centuries before the Reformation, and in the composite Greek New Testaments such by scholars, this was almost unknown until the 20th century!

The second question is largely answered by the existence of the first. Although the Greek does allow for a translation along the lines of "well-thought of by the apostles," it seems that no one in antiquity actually did so. All of the ancient authorities seem convinced that whoever "Junia" was, "Junia" was an apostle. If it weren't so, there would have been no need to turn the obviously-female name Junia into the male Junias in the first place. As McKnight put it, "She was a woman. She was an apostle. Then she wasn’t an apostle, so she became a man!"

With that translational background in place, I will turn more solidly to what McKnight had to say about the matter on Wednesday.

McKnight's lecture is now available online as an e-book. Here's a link to it via Barnes and Noble, but it is sold via other outlets, if you prefer.

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