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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Romans 16:3-5 - Prisca and Aquila

It is good to see couples serving the Lord together. In the New Testament, several couples are mentioned, although sometimes the names of the wives are not recorded, with the wife of Peter being an example of this. Usually, when both names are mentioned, the husband’s name comes first, with Philemon and Apphia being an example of this. One couple have their names mentioned on six occasions in the New Testament, and they are Priscilla and Aquila (Paul always refers to her as Prisca). Usually when they are mentioned, her name comes first.
In the next few readings I would like us to look at the various descriptions that are made of them in the New Testament, and to do so in chronological order, using generally accepted dates for the different places and events that Paul mentions about them. We will see that the period in which they were involved in the ministry of Paul is quite long. The first time we read about them is in Acts 18 and they are in Corinth about the year AD 52.
Paul was travelling through modern-day Greece, having been to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. Now he had reached Corinth alone, and was waiting there for Silas and Timothy to come and join him in that important city. Luke informs us, however, that Paul was not the only Christian who had arrived recently in Corinth. In addition, Priscilla and Aquila were there because they, with other Jews, had been commanded by the emperor to leave Rome. Paul somehow found them, and then stayed with them. Their home became one of his bases while he was in Corinth, a period of eighteen months.
Why were Priscilla and Aquila commanded to leave Rome? Luke does not say why, but scholars have put together some pieces of information from ancient history that can help us. During the reign of Claudius, about 20,000 Jews lived in Rome. At some stage they became involved in violent behaviour, and the Roman historian Tacitus connected it to conflicts between Jews who opposed Jesus and Jews who accepted Jesus. So it is possible that Priscilla and Aquila were caught up in the consequences of a dispute about the Christian faith. Whatever the reason for the exile, Jews were allowed back into Rome after the death of Claudius, which explains why Priscilla and Aquila were in Rome when Paul writes this letter.
Why is Priscilla’s name usually mentioned first? Some people think it was because she had more gifts or that she was converted first. A better answer is that probably she was of nobler birth than her husband. There was a noble family in Rome of the name Prisca and she could have belonged to them. If that was the case, she would have been a Gentile whereas her husband was a Jew. Since his name is mentioned second, it means that he was of a lower class than her. So in this couple, we see that the gospel brings about two unusual features – they were of different races and they were of different social levels, but here they were serving Jesus together.
Why are they in Corinth at that time? While every event is part of God’s providence, we don’t always see what the reasons for them are. But we can see why Priscilla and Aquila reached Corinth. It is possible that they had a branch of their firm there, but even if that was their reason for going to Corinth, God working behind the scenes had another reason, which was that they would help Paul establish a church in Corinth. Maybe they had gone to establish a new place of labour, and God used their intentions to fulfil his will that they become involved in the progress of the gospel.

What can we learn from Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth? First, they did not regard adverse providences as a reason for giving up the Christian faith. Who knows what they lost when forced to leave Rome? Yet when they came to Corinth they found themselves involved in the setting-up of a new Christian church. Second, they were prepared to use their home to further the gospel. Not only did they do so in Corinth, but we can see that they were still doing the same thing in Rome.

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