Even before we knew we were going to have a baby, Emily and I had often discussed potential baby names. Did we want to go with something traditional? Perhaps a name already in our family? Or something new and hip? We chose not to learn the gender of our child, so we really had to come up with two names. Right down to the day Emily went in to labor we were not sure of a boy’s name. It had been narrowed down to a few options and we could not land on one.
But we had a girl’s name picked out for months. It was a name we both loved: Junia.
On April 28, 2011, we were blessed with a girl – Junia Elizabeth Hershey.
When we told our family and friends the name, without fail they asked two questions:
Do you mean Julia?
Where did you get that name from?
It comes from the Paul’s letter to the Roman church: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Romans 16:7).
Junia was outstanding among the apostles. In other words, she, like Paul, was an apostle of Jesus Christ. The apostles were leaders in the early Christian movement, teaching, preaching, spreading the gospel and providing leadership to the infant church. Junia was the only woman mentioned in scripture who was one of them (perhaps there were other women apostles who did not get a mention).
A few hundred years later one of the great church leaders of the day, John Chrysostom, wrote this about Junia in his commentary on Romans: “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” (In ep. ad Romanos 31.2 – copied from Scot McKnight’s book Junia is Not Alone, but you can also find it here.
But over the years the female “Junia” was changed to the male “Junias“. Why did this happen? It is quite simple – since it was common knowledge that women could not be church leaders then it is obvious this leader Paul mentioned could not be a woman!
Thankfully, most Bible translations today once again give Junia her rightful name and gender.
So in choosing the name “Junia” for our daughter, we did not choose it just because it is a pretty name (though, it is that). We chose it because Emily and I hope Junia will grow into a strong and powerful women who loves and serves Jesus in whatever capacity and vocation to which she is called.
Besides being inspired by my lovely daughter Junia, the timing of this post is inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality series of which you can read the fifth entry here: Who’s Who Among Biblical Women Leaders.