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Junia’s Friends

Junia’s Friends August 3, 2012

The women who are mentioned in the New Testament, not to mention the many, many names of women in the Old Testament whose names are mostly unknown to Christians today, are often scratches on the surface of a deeper story. Patient reading of such texts often yields considerable information, and I have made the case that there’s much to see in Paul’s mentioning of Junia in Romans 16:7 (see Junia is Not Alone).

Two more women, whom I am calling Junia’s friends since they join her in being ignored in Christian churches, are Philippi’s Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3). Here are Paul’s words, and I’ll offer a few brief observations.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers,whose names are in the book of life.

1. To mention the names of these two women, whose names mean “Success” and “Lucky,”  probably suggests they are close friends of Paul’s; they are at odds with one another “in the Lord” (seemingly ministry concerns); this is not confrontation of problematic women (which is a chauvinistic stereotype) but a plea by Paul to some of his friends.

2. Paul’s plea is that they agree “in the Lord,” an indication once again that they are to get along in their gospeling gifts and not just at the personal level. It is their gospel fellowship in Christ that needs to come to expression.

3. No one knows who the “true companion” is, though a case can be made it for being Luke. (See Gordon Fee’s fine commentary, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.)

4. Paul says these women “have labored side by side [Greek is syn-athleo] with me in the gospel.” These women were gospel workers “with” or alongside Paul — not behind him or below him but alongside or “with”. We can explore this at length if we want to, but this much needs to be stated here: gospel work is about preaching, teaching, evangelizing, and pastorally shaping. One cannot infer specifics of what Euodia and Syntyche did, but we know it was within this set of categories: they were gospelers.  He doesn’t say they are equals; he describes them as laborers right next to him. They did these gospel things together.

5. Yet more is said: They are “co-workers” with Paul. This is quite the description by Paul. Here are those who called “co-workers” by Paul: Timothy, Apollos, Silas, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila, Urban, Philemon, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, and Justus. That’s some pretty serious early Christian company, and Euodia and Syntyche were in this very small, significant, influential circle of co-workers.

Maybe many today don’t know who these women are; but Paul did, and God did, and God used them as gospelers in the church at Philippi, a church founded with Lydia and some God-fearing women (Acts 16:13-15). They are next to Junia, women ignored by too many churches. Time to tell their story, too!

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