Saturday, 8 February 2014
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,… Romans 16:3
Priscilla and Aquila are noted in several places in the book of Acts and in Paul’s other epistles. To get a full grasp of who they are, here are the verses which speak of them –
“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.” Acts 18:1-3
“So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.” Acts 18:18
“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” 1 Corinthians 16:19
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” 2 Timothy 4:19
These comments show the nearness of them to Paul’s heart. They met Paul after having been ordered out of Rome. When they met him, they immediately became friends. They worked together because they shared the same profession, tentmakers. In Acts 18;11 it says that Paul remained in Corinth for “a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” And then in Acts 18:18 (above) is says that “Paul remained a good while” after that. In other words, they spent several years of their lives together at Corinth and became fast friends.
It should be noted that some scholars (and translations such as the Latin Vulgate) place her name here as “Pricsa” rather than “Priscilla” as it is written in 2 Timothy 4:19 (above.) They claim that this is the true reading of it. Probably, the different spelling of her name is given as a term of familiarity, like a nickname.
When writing to Timothy, who was Paul’s protégé and who doubtless knew her very well, Paul used the more endearing term “Prisca” because Timothy would use that name too. However, in Acts and in Paul’s other formal greetings the name “Priscilla” is used. This then would be comparable to saying “Greet Jim Blanchard for me when you see him” when speaking to a mutual friend, but saying “I and James Blanchard greet you heartily in the Lord” when writing an official letter to another church. This easily resolves the confusion which scholars and translators pick up on when speaking of Priscilla.
Another point concerning these two is that Priscilla is mentioned first, thus leading many scholars to state that she was “probably as being the more prominent and helpful to the Church” (Jamieson-Faucett-Brown), or that it “seems to imply that she was the more efficient” (Peoples New Testament), etc. This is an unnecessary conclusion. In 1 Corinthians 16:19 (above) the salutation reads, “Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord.” The chosen order by Paul probably reflects 1) the person who was most on his mind at the time, 2) the linguistic style for the situation. In other words, we would say “Tom, Dick, and Harry” rather than another order because it is the customary use of the names. To Paul, it appears that the order is less important than we tend to infer.
Understanding who these two are and their importance in the life of Paul, we can then understand his greeting to the Romans. He says they are “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” Together they had spent at least several years working and sharing in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul remembered them with affection and noted them first out of all of the people he will refer to at the church at Rome.
Life application: In our generation today, the art of letter writing has almost been lost. Before the advent of the internet, correspondence was transmitted slowly and care had to be taken to contemplate the words that would be written. Letters began with salutations appropriate to the intended recipients and it ended with carefully worded thoughts, reflections, or greetings. Today, emails between even the closest of friends often disregard simple greetings. Make an effort to slow down and use care when writing notes. There is a last time for all things, including sending letters to others. Someday either you or your correspondent will be gone. Consider this as you send your heart and feelings across the miles and through the airwaves.
Lord, in this busy world, I have lost some of the affections I once had. I used to take time to write letters to those I love. Now, a short and abrupt email or a text with careless abbreviations suffices. Help me to remember that an extra moment of typing can mean a great deal in the life of another – “Dear,” “Sincerely,” and “With love” don’t take that long. You spent 1600 years of history to author Your love letter to me. Help me to spend a few extra seconds on others. Amen.