We’re going to talk about two more women who are mentioned by Paul in Romans 16. Phoebe the Deacon, and Junia the Apostle.
Phoebe | Deacon of the early church
Phoebe is mentioned in Romans 16:1-2 by Paul. He names her as a deacon of the church in Cenchrae.
Cenchrae is a coastal town near Corinth, and historians believe that Phoebe would have liked been the one who delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans. Theologians also believe that Phoebe not only delivered the letter but would have also been the one to share and explain the letter to those hearing it.
It is likely she was a wealthy and independent woman, as noted by Paul calling her benefactor/helper of “many – and of me also.” This depicts Phoebe as one who not only ministered, but generously supported others who were ministering.
Junia | Apostle in the early church
Junia was another woman who served alongside Paul as well as Andronicus.
Late 1800 translations of the Bible changed one letter in her name so that it became a masculine name; Junias. The reason for changing this is unclear, whether it be for political reasons or a simple mistake, but what we do know is that it was simply incorrect. Junias was a near non-existent name during those times, whereas Junia was rather common.
Years later, this name change would be corrected in many translations, as translation and historical record were re-examined, but it has definitely added to the confusion in the conversation about women in ministry.
Junia was called a co-laborer, fellow prisoner, and named outstanding among the apostles by Paul (Romans 16:7). This depicts Junia not simply as an apostle, but as someone so faithful to the gospel to have been imprisoned for it.
Junia and Phoebe are examples of women who not only led and ministered in the early church, but whose lives were faithfully committed to the gospel.