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
Human communication is a miraculous thing. Think about it. Words can transfer ideas and emotions from one person to another. Communicating is often a gift that we take for granted but it’s also more complicated than we often like as well. Many a fight, war, crusade, and abuse has grown from the soil of words, sometimes intentionally and sometimes through miscommunication. See, words are coupled with context, body language, idioms, and figures of speech to form a cohesive yet complex whole that we call, communication.
So what does this have to do with the scriptures? Just like any body of words, the scriptures too can be misinterpreted, and often have been. So the question is, what steps can we take as followers of Jesus to avoid injecting our own biases and contexts into the text?
When we open up a bible and read, we must do so with a sense of humility and reverence for the kind of reading we are doing. We are doing spiritual reading. It’s humbling to think that we can know the mind of God through the words open before us in a bible. That humility is key to avoiding error. The scriptures are full of ideas that go against everything in cultures and brokenness. When we read something unexpected, it should be expected. Romans 16:7 simply gives us an illustration of a text that may have been modified because of a reader’s (translator’s) context and assumptions. Junia’s name was changed in some translations to being a masculine name (Junias) and the sole reason for that change is the fact that the translator couldn’t imagine an apostle being a woman.
One practice that can help us learn to approach the scripture with the humility necessary to truly hear from the text is the practice of Lectio Divina. This simply means spiritual reading. Select a passage of scripture (maybe a few paragraphs) and read it slowly. As you read it pay attention to words or phrases that stand out to you or bother you. Read the same text a second time and focus in on those phrases that first stood out. Read the text again and then journal or write out what you are noticing and any questions you have. Finally, read the text a fourth time and just sit in silence to allow the ideas that God has brought to you to blossom.
By Aaron Bjorklund