Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Junia

Hold onto your halos as we move into another full week of saintly thrills and spills! With only three matchups left in the Round of 32, we'll soon find ourselves in the Saintly Sixteen. Time flies when you're spending time with the saints. (Oh, and for those of you who didn't get Friday's results, Harriet Tubman drubbed Julie Billiart 83% to 17%).

Please know that if you haven't yet joined in the fun, it's never too late to leap into the Madness. Whether you've voted in the previous 13 battles or are just jumping in now, we welcome you. Especially as more people move into online forms of spiritual devotion in the current climate, we're glad to have you here. We just won't shake your hand.

Speaking of which, on Saturday evening Tim and Scott shared some online prayer resources and a dose of hope in a post titled Lent Madness Carries on, which you can read here. If there was ever a time for online community, that time is now.

Today it's Joanna the Myrrbearer vs. Junia in a matchup of Biblical women. Time to vote!

Joanna the Myrrhbearer
When Joanna—along with Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James; and several other women—told the other disciples they had found Jesus’ tomb empty, the Gospel of Luke tells us her words “seemed to them like nonsense.”

But Jesus always believed the women he encountered, and he believed in Joanna. Jesus believed in Joanna enough to trust her to take the news of his resurrection to his disciples.

Jesus believed in Joanna enough to invite her to follow him as a disciple and learn from him. The two angels who met her and the women with her at the tomb said to them, “He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’” (Luke 24:6-7). Then they remembered Jesus’ words—meaning they had been with him when he spoke them the first time.

Jesus believed in Joanna enough to trust his earthly ministry to her. Luke also tells us that she, along with several other women, was traveling from one town and village to another with Jesus and the disciples, “helping to support them out of their own means.”

It’s clear Joanna was wealthy. Her husband, Chuza, was Herod’s steward, according to Luke. (This is the same Herod who imprisoned and beheaded Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, and Orthodox tradition says Joanna retrieved John’s head and gave it an honorable burial.)

She didn’t just stop at giving money to support what Jesus was doing, though. She followed him to the margins. She allowed him to inconvenience her, to lead her beyond her comfortable life. She followed him to the end, when the other disciples fled and deserted him—and even after. She followed to see where his body was laid. She prepared myrrh and other spices and perfumes to care for his body after death. She carried them to the tomb early that first Easter morning, where she was surprised to meet angels instead.

And today Joanna is believed and remembered in Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

Collect for Joanna
Almighty God, who revealed the resurrection of your Son to Joanna as she faithfully came bearing myrrh to his tomb: Grant that we too may perceive the presence of the risen Lord in the midst of pain and fear, and go forth proclaiming his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Emily McFarlan Miller

Junia is known to us from a short verse at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul had not personally been to Rome, and he wrote the letter as an introduction (though it did take him sixteen chapters. Seriously, Paul, get to the point!). In chapter 16 Paul greets a series of people: twenty-seven believers in Jesus, ten of whom were women (hello, matriarchs of the faith!). These people, who were known and respected by believers in Rome, would ostensibly vouch for Paul.

In Romans 16:7, Paul writes, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” In this short greeting we learn a lot about Junia. First, she is a fellow Jew, likely married to Andronicus. She, like Paul, has suffered imprisonment. She is prominent among the apostles, i.e., the people who have encountered the risen Christ and been commissioned to proclaim the good news. Paul would not use this term lightly. He has specific ideas about apostleship and is frequently at pains to defend this category. Further, we learn that not only is Junia an apostle, but also she is prominent among the apostles. That is to say, she’s an exceptional apostle. Finally, Junia has been in Christ longer than Paul. Paul was an early believer in Jesus. This statement puts her squarely in the first generation of followers of Jesus.

In spite of Junia’s universal recognition as a woman leader in the church for the first thousand years of Christianity, in the twelfth century, doubts about her sex began to emerge. Her name was thought to be a shortened form of the man’s name, Junianus. Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible helped popularize this (quite improbable) understanding. By the nineteenth century, Junia was almost universally thought to be a man in the Western Church (the Orthodox folk knew better).

In recent decades biblical scholars have revisited the question and found unequivocally that Junia was, in fact, a woman leader. She is a reminder of the struggle that women have had to find their voice in the church. As such, here and now, in this opening round of the 2020 edition of Lent Madness we formally acknowledge Junia to be the patron saint of gaslit women.

Collect for Junia
Almighty God, whose Son, the risen Christ, sent forth your apostles Andronicus and Junia to proclaim the gospel and extend your reign: send us forth in your Holy Spirit, that women and men may minister as one in faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

David Creech


Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Junia

  • Joanna the Myrrhbearer (62%, 4,508 Votes)
  • Junia (38%, 2,734 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,242

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Joanna the Myrrhbearer: school of tsar’s izographs, c. 1700. [Public domain]
Junia: [Public domain}


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162 comments on “Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Junia”

  1. When assessing today’s holy bout
    This saint’s stats should impress any scout.
    She’s got faith and got fitness:
    At the Tomb she stood witness.
    So I say: don’t demur, bear her out.

      1. Junia was mine. We have denied her her gender for so long, I figured it was only right that she wins the Golden Halo. Also she is one of the few women who had a leadership role in the church in the New Testament.

    1. Hilarious! But I'm sure you, as an expert on musicals, know "Under the Sea" was sung by Sebastian, not Ariel!

      I'm sorry the premiere performances of "Something Rotten" were cancelled. I hope I still get to see you perform in it!

      1. That was part of the joke. She only knows one song from "The Little Mermaid"!

        The Playhouse will return in after thCOVID-19 thing passes. And I can't wait to do Something Rotten!

    2. Sorry to be so out of the loop - what is that picture with the woman and the cat - “it means little or nothing in my young life Jeeves...”

  2. We generally don't learn much, if anything, about Jesus's women followers, so it's nice to hear about them here. Another good source, by the way, is the podcasts by 2 Feminists, 2 Feminists annotate the Bible and 2 Feminists Annotate the Beatified (2FAB). In this match-up, I choose Joanna, because we know more about her, and I'll give her a bonus point for actually knowing Jesus personally. But it is enlightening to see how much we can know about a person from a single mention in the Bible.

        1. Our hagiography writers provide wonderful and ample information to help us decide our vote. How about some serious discernment rather than voting based on favorite names or your occupation? Why have the lengthy write-ups? I think I shall stop reading comments. Most are so spiritual and insightful, but others, to me, are the same way people choose March Madness winners. I’m out. I’m sure many of you will be glad.

          1. Like you, I found the image baffling when I first ran into it on Facebook. It appeared repeatedly with different captions. I take it the cat is named Smudge and is from Canada. No idea who the ladies are, other than part of a joke in search of a punchline. Michael's meme-ry is by far the funniest I've seen paired with it.

          2. When one is torn between the two and cannot reach a decision, sometimes the tie broken by a coin toss and other times by having a friend or family member with the name.

            I want to vote for both. I cannot. I might vote for Junia because I was born in June, but then my name has the same meaning as Joanna . . . decisions decisions.

            Be calm and wash your hands properly with soap whilst (if you can) staying at home all y’all.

        2. Favorite names, pets, occupations, colors are the way many people choose teams for their March Madness brackets. They have no benefit of the wonderful information we are given to digest and discern. It seems Lent Madness and the insightful hagiographies provide a more meaningful way to vote. Just my opinion.

  3. Both of these women have been under-recognized through the centuries, and I'm so glad to read about them here. Joanna gets my vote for a special reason. Her faithfulness extended into the most serious troubles and beyond death. I've heard a few too many people say, "I don't do hospitals." and "I don't do funerals." So Joanna gets my vote.

  4. Thanks for this matchup today. Junia was thought to be a man for centuries. Please don’t overlook her story. She is one of the “prominent apostles” and Paul says she was “in Christ before I was”. Don’t overlook her today. Junia all the way!

      1. Hi Beth. Good to see you at Lent Madness! I have participated in a Women at the Cross program and told a very moving monologue of Joanna. But I had to go with Junia. I think it was "gaslit women" that hooked me. Here's to Junia! Papered over - as Mary Magdalene was slandered - by the church.

      1. If you are “gaslit”, it means you are deceived and made to think you are unreasonable, irrational, hysterical, or even crazy. The application here is not precisely accurate, but I love it anyway. As a former gaslit woman, and a feminist, I gotta go with Junia.

      2. See the link below for a good explanation of "gaslighting" -- "gaslit" means that someone has been the victim of gaslighting. The term has become popularized because of the current political climate and the strange world in which we now find ourselves where a large number of people question what used to be considered fact or reality because of the pronouncements of the president and his supporters.

    1. That is what got me. To be a woman and a believer had to carry some very serious consequences at that time. Junia may even become a popular girl's name!

  5. “She is a reminder of the struggle that women have had to find their voice in the church. As such, here and now, in this opening round of the 2020 edition of Lent Madness we formally acknowledge Junia to be the patron saint of gaslit women.”
    That resonated with me. But I don’t mind at all if Joanna wins this round. Women in the Bible ROCK!!!

  6. I did not know about Junia so thank you for this post. But, I have to vote for Joanna today. Even though she was the wife of Herod's steward which might have placed her at risk of reprisal from Herod, she trusted Jesus enough to follow him and serve him.

  7. I had to vote for Junia. Being a woman who struggled for recognition in a male dominated church and society, she speaks to me as I am certain she does to many of my colleagues.

  8. A shout-out to Father Tim, his associate rector Jacqueline Clark and their vestry IT wizard Dave Clinton:

    The front page of the Metro section of todays Boston Globe carries an article on yesterday's virtual service at St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. Although the bulk of the article is behind a paywall, you can see a great photo at

    The Facebook Live stream of the service is at

    May God watch over you, your congregation and your community, Tim.

      1. More technical wizardry! That link works fine, so everyone can now read the article.

        Congratulations to you and your team. Between limericks, I hope to be able to get a livestream up for our church by next Sunday.

      2. Thank you, Fr. Tim--Would love to enjoy your church & you all in person 🙂
        & Big Tx for all you & Scott are doing for everyone thru LM!! Humor really helps
        (a fan in OR)

  9. I agonised over today's vote. It's so hard to choose between these faithful women, both long overlooked. I have always had a soft spot for Junia who suffered the indignity of being represented as a man by men convinced that women could not be apostles. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Junia in Paula Gooder's book 'Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian,' however today my vote goes to Joanna because her collect speaks to the pain and fear generated by the pandemic. May we both perceive and bear witness to the presence of the Risen Lord.

  10. This is a tough one. How could I not vote for the woman who buried John the Baptist's head? But you had me at "patron saint of gaslit women." I think of how we could have had the most qualified woman in presidential history in charge of this pandemic and instead we're chained to the Grifterandsons demoniac. And my candidate won't even be on the ballot by the time my state finally gets to weigh in on the nomination process, because there's "no one left," certainly no people of color and certainly no women. Being able to claim reality and not be manipulated out of one's capacity to perceive accurately and form independent judgements is the basis of resisting gaslighting. So to reclaim Junia, and all those who have been buried by propaganda or bullying or contemptuous neglect, I vote for her. And a fig for thee, oh Devin (and Death). Go sue another cow. I'll write my candidate in.

    1. I'm talking about the primary, not the general election. Never fear; I will be at the ramparts in November. I'm no "Bro."

  11. I'm still stinging from the elimination of Photini last year, so I'm glad to see two such significant women from the New Testament in today's matchup. Oh, but why against each other? You won me over to Junia with "patron saint of gaslit women."

  12. Junia was the only woman named as an Apostle in the. Ew testament. She was the special person for my dear friend the late Rev. Kathryn Piccard of the diocese of MA so of course I had to vote for her. She is not well know in the western church but is much better known in the eastern church. Vote for Junia as she really does need to ha e mor recognition.

  13. Three Wise Men attended Jesus at his birth and brought gold inscence and myrrh. Three Wise Women attended Jesus in death and brought inscence and myrrh, for the gold had been spent on the poor. I vote for one of the Wise Women in Joanna, because out is always the women that are there at the end and in honor of the people in my life that I have taken to that door and then washed their bodies after in preparation for the next ritual. It is not a small thing for her to have been prepared to do, but one of great love and bravery.

  14. This is one time I'm glad to have read the comments before voting. I was inclined to vote for Joanna, the faithful follower of Jesus and one of the women intending to care for his body after the Crucifixion. She is worthy. However, further reading of comments and reflection caused me to choose Junia. As the first woman pastor of two different churches, I know what it's like to be both celebrated and denigrated for being a woman! If Paul thought she was prominent among the apostles, that's an excellent opinion and very convincing. Please forgive my ignorance of the term "gaslit woman" and enlighten me. I looked it up in my online dictionary, and I'm still confused, as it seemed to refer only to a movie I never saw where a husband tried to convince his wife that she was insane. When I don't know something, I'm not too proud to admit it and seek to learn.

    1. My understanding of gaslighting is to affirm that something that is not true is, in fact, true. When people put forth that Junia was a man even though she was a woman, people believed the falsehood. I think there are many current instances that are not relevant to saintly discussions

    2. I recently saw a live production of the play "Gaslight" and I really could feel for the poor woman doubting her sanity. Even I, in the audience, doubted it for a while and wondered if she was being histrionic. That phrase made up my mind to vote for Junia.

  15. I have already voted for Joanna, but very interested in the term ‘gaslight’ - one who holds the light of the world? Someone please explain ! St.Celia I wait each day for your words, and I agree whole hearted with your feelings re the state of your election! Too bad more woman are not taken serious, especially in this 2020! Be safe everyone Covid 19 is much more serious than anything else going on in this world WE ALL LIVE ON!

      1. Wow what a read, always amazed that one if never too old to learn, I will be 77 Easter Sunday! I now understand about some of my friends and family a little better, thanks for the education!

  16. Our two contenders were and are amazing women! I hope that many more people will join in our merry group of Lent Madness fanatics and vote. I hope as well there is a lot of intergenerational voting. Speaking of which, I think of Oliver who in the past years voted and shared with fellow voters his reasons for voting. I hope, Oliver, you are still voting. Also I hope people his age and younger are voting too!!!

  17. She 'allowed Him to inconvenience her, to lead her beyond her comfortable life.' Oh, yeah. . . Need we say more about a holy soul? Emily, you brought up touchstones for all who would follow the Lord.

  18. I wish I could have been Junia's Campaign Manager! Look at what Paul said about her. She and Andronicus (husband? friend? brother?) were his relatives and captives with him in prison. Then Paul added two more accolades/credentials for them. They weren't just "prominent" among the apostles", but the bettie translation of the Greek word is that they were "notable among the apostles." They had priority, as well. "In Christ before me." What a story Junia had to tell. She also remained a "she" in all the manuscripts until some 13th century scribe, maybe with the slip of a pen, turned Junia into Junias. Thankfully it got corrected before it was her time to be included in Lent Madness!

  19. Tough decision today! I am so thankful for both of them but in the end my vote went with Joanna because she supported Jesus financially, followed him to the margins, allowed him to inconvenience her and lead her beyond her comfortable life, and followed him to the end when the other disciples fled and deserted him—and even after

  20. I struggled with this match-up, but I finally chose Junia, who is, as far as I can see, the only woman actually named as an apostle in the New Testament. The fact that she was recognized as such by Paul, and that Paul regards her as a friend also weighed in on my choice. (By the way, David Creech, I concur with you "get to the point, Paul!" comment. The Great Apostle drives me dippy with his digressions, and had he been one of my students, he would have earned an F for his convoluted writing style.)

    Now,will someone, anyone, please explain what "gaslit women" are? I'm in my eighties and I have never heard that term before. (Does it have anything to do with the classic Charles Boyer-Ingrid Bergman film 'Gaslight'?)

    1. Yes, the term "gaslighting" is derived from the plot and activities in the movie "Gaslight." An excellent black and white movie, and if you can find and stream it, a good one to watch if you've finished your work for the day. Not to give away the plot to anyone who hasn't seen it - remember to pay attention to the flames of the gaslights as you watch!

  21. To really understand gas lighting watch the 1944 movie "Gaslight"with Charles Boyer and Katherine Hepburn. Be entertained and terrified. I give the movie 5 stars and I vote for Junia.

    1. That would be Ingrid Bergman, not Katherine Hepburn. Also featuring an 18-yer-old Angela Lansbury in her film debut. All three were nominated for Oscars; Bergman won Best Actress.

      Three of my favorite actresses…

  22. No slight intended to Joanna, and I wish I could vote for both, but the 'gaslighting' gets me too! I'm sure there were as many women as men, as active, in the early church, but the culture did not facilitate remembering them. However, Mary Magdalene got the Golden Halo already, and she was with Joanna, probably most of the time, including helping with the burial and meeting angels at the tomb. So I guess it's Junia's turn.