ἀσπάσασθε Ἀνδρόνικον καὶ ᾿Ιουνίαν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν Χριστῷ.Attention has focused on two elements here, the identity of Junia, now universally taken to be a woman, and the translation "prominent among the apostles" (NRSV) vs. "well known to the apostles" (NET Bible). I am not persuaded by the latter translation for the reasons given by Eldon Jay Epp, Linda Belleville, and blogged in detail by Suzanne McCarthy (see Programme Notes), but there is a small element I would like to add to the discussion, Paul's use of the term "the apostles". I think it is one of those occasions where attention has been so focused on those other points of translation and interpretation that we may have missed something else in the passage.
The question I would like to pose is whether Paul is more likely to have used the term "the apostles" if he were saying "prominent among the apostles" (NRSV) or if he were saying "well known to the apostles" (NET). The former is, I think, far more likely. In that former translation (NRSV), "the apostles" works simply as a descriptor. It tells us about Andronicus and Junia's status as (prominent) apostles. It makes sense and is perfectly Pauline. In the NET translation, on the other hand, "the apostles" is used in a less obviously Pauline sense. Now he is appealing to the authority of an external group labelled as "the apostles". He does not say that Andronicus and Junia are esteemed by "us apostles" (cf. 1 Cor. 4.9) or by "all the apostles, including me", as we might have expected if this were the sense of the passage. He continually refers to himself in Romans 16, and three times in this verse, 16.7, "my relatives", "my fellow prisoners", "in Christ before me", yet on the NET translation, he appears to give authority to a group called "the apostles" that does not obviously include him.
It is difficult to imagine Paul using the term "the apostles" in the way necessitated by the NET translation, as a group external to Paul who confer their esteem. It's an Acts-style usage but not a Pauline one.