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Fellowship of suffering

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

Such is the praise heaped upon Andronicus (male) and Junia (his wife?) that, through the ages, translators have tried to force a sex change upon Junia, rendering her Junias, the male form of a name that didn't exist! Why go to all that bother? Well, how else to cope with no less an "influencer" than Paul lauding her (and Andronichus) as "outstanding among the apostles"?

Paul offers at least three reasons for the high regard in which he held this couple: they were fellow Jews; they had suffered imprisonment alongside him; and they had been on the road of discipleship longer than he had. Now, given that Paul's conversion occurred within three years of the death and resurrection of Jesus, this raises the possibility of Andronichus' and Junia's conversion as having occurred during the lifetime of Jesus himself.

Such tantalising glimpses of Jesus' female devotees is suggestive of a community whose inclusiveness was both ground-breaking and counter-cultural. What inspiration might that offer us today? Does it sweep us into post-modern Scotland's interpretation of inclusiveness, which is driven by the gender recognition agenda, or does a different understanding of inclusiveness beckon, perhaps embracing those currently outcast from society like migrants, drug addicts and those at odds with popular culture?



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