An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 14 August 2011; Revised 23 April 2022
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are also taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek. See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Conclusion: Greetings and Final Instructions, 16:1–27
Chapter Sixteen ends the letter to the congregation in Rome in a special manner with a recommendation of one person, salutations to twenty-four specific members of the congregation, greetings from members of Paul's ministry team and the congregation in Corinth, a final cautionary exhortation about false teachers and a closing doxology of praise to God. The chapter is unique in the Besekh for the number of names mentioned, 35 total. In addition, the name of Yeshua appears five times in the chapter.
Some readers may be puzzled concerning the names. First, since the names in this chapter are apparently Jewish, why do they have Greek names? Harrison implies that many of the names in the list were Jews who had been expelled from Rome under Claudius (e.g., Aquila and Priscilla) and in consequence changed their names to prevent discrimination. However, no evidence exists that century Jews adopted Greek names to prevent mistreatment. The land of Israel had been impacted by Greek culture since the time of Alexander the Great. So, it was quite common for Jews to have a Hebrew name used with family and a Gentile name used in the Diaspora (Gittin 11b; Stern 267; Hamp 19). This is illustrated by the fact of Paul having three names: "Saulos" (Greek, Acts 7:58), "Sha'ul" (Hebrew, Acts 9:4) and "Paulus" (Latin, Acts 13:9).
Little considered by Christian commentators is that according to patristic tradition 21 of the 35 names in this chapter were among the group of seventy disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1). The list of seventy was recorded by Hippolytus of Rome and Dorotheus of Tyre. Yeshua did not recruit and send out Gentiles (Luke 10:1). The seventy were sent to towns that Yeshua planned to visit and his mission was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 10:6). The record of the church fathers should not be discounted. Indeed fifty of the seventy names are recorded in the letters of Paul (see Paul's Honor Roll of Names).
Second, how did Paul know so many people in Rome if he had never been there? However, the immediate logical answer is that besides the names of Paul's blood relatives (verses 7 & 11), many of these persons had been expelled from Rome under Claudius, which providentially made them available as co-workers for Paul and were thus met in the course of his Diaspora journeys (e.g., as Aquila, Acts 18:2) (Polhill 282). He could also have met these Jews at the customary annual feasts in Jerusalem. The aggregate numbers of Jews at the time in the world made them a clear minority and the covenantal bond between them made for a close nation.
Witherington considers the naming of names to be very special. Sixteen out of the twenty-six persons named in this first section are singled out in some way making this section seem more like an honor roll than a greeting card. Moreover, as Witherington argues effectively, the list has considerable rhetorical effect (381):
(1) These are not persons the Gentile majority in Rome can afford to ignore or treat in a condescending fashion.
(2) This list illustrates that Paul had a social network established in Rome among these people. Thus, Paul and his special emissary Phoebe must be received.
(3) The honorific details make it clear these are devoted hardworking disciples, in whose debt the Roman congregation are, whether they know it or not.
A special feature of the chapter is the prominence of seven women, beginning with Phoebe. They occupied various stations of life and all are represented as performing a valuable service for the Lord. Paul clearly esteemed them for their godly character, dependable ministry and even practical assistance. Paul's appreciation for these women should argue strongly against the assumption that Paul was sexist or opposed to women in ministry.
Greetings and Commendations, 16:1-16
Final Exhortations, 16:17-20
Greetings from Fellow Workers, 16:21-23
Closing Doxology, 16:24-27
Greetings and Commendations, 16:1-16
1― Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, being a servant of the congregation in Cenchrea;
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. I commend: Grk. sunistēmi, pres., to mention or present for approval. "Commend" is the ordinary word for "to introduce" in written correspondence of that period (cf. 2Cor 3:1). Letters of recommendation were standard for travelers, and particularly for women during this period (Shulam). In addition, it was customary to commend or recommend the courier of a letter, especially if he or she was unknown to the audience (Witherington).
to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. sister: Grk. adelphē, fem. of adelphos, lit. "of the same womb." Adelphos refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. The feminine form occurs 24 times in the apostolic writings and is generally literal, but figurative uses occur also. In the LXX adelphē translates Heb. achoth (SH-269), female sibling with at least one parent in common; also a near relative and fig. of a wife (BDB 7). Four possibilities may be considered in interpreting "sister." (1) Phoebe was Paul's wife. Paul uses the noun to refer to the wife of Peter (1Cor 9:5), but as Paul presented himself as unmarried in his Corinthian letter (1Cor 7:8), this seems an unlikely suggestion.
(2) Phoebe was Paul's blood sister. Paul did have a sister (Acts 23:16), but it is not known whether this could be Phoebe. The use of the plural pronoun "our" would seem to argue against this interpretation. In Philemon 1:2 Paul uses to the plural pronoun to greet "our sister Apphia" and "Archippus our fellow soldier." In that context "our" suggests a connection to Paul's ministry team that included Timothy. (3) Phoebe was Paul's spiritual sister, a fellow disciple of Yeshua. Adelphē is used of female disciples six times (Matt 12:50; 1Cor 7:15; 1Tim 5:2; Phm 1:2; Jas 2:15; 2Jn 1:13). (4) Like the use of adelphos "sister" conveys that she was also a descendant of Jacob. The pronoun "our" simply includes her in the group of Jewish disciples mentioned in this chapter who bring greetings. The fourth meaning is the most likely.
Phoebe: Grk. Phoibē, fem. name, lit. "bright" or "pure" (from the Grk. phoibos). In Greek mythology Phoebe was a Titan associated with the moon. This was also an epithet of her granddaughter, the moon goddess Artemis (BehindtheName.com). This is the only mention of this name in the Bible. "Phoebe" does not transliterate a Hebrew name, and if her Hebrew name corresponded to the meaning of Phoebe, then her Hebrew name might have been Berura, Tehora or Zaka. Thus, the name "Phoebe" would have been chosen, not because of any association with paganism, but because of its likeness in meaning with her Hebrew name. Harrison suggests that Phoebe might have been a businesswoman like Lydia.
being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). a servant: Grk. diakonos, one who renders service to another, such as in a domestic or government context, but especially of one in the service of God, the Messiah, the Messianic community and the good news. Robertson suggests that this word may come from dia (through) and konis (dust), to raise a dust by one's hurry, and so to minister (note on Matt 20:26). A rabbinic saying from approximately a hundred years before Yeshua illustrates the devotion of a diakonos: "Let your home be a meeting-house for the sages, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily" (Avot 1:4; translation by Bivin 12).
At the beginning of the Yeshua movement diakonos was a technical term denoting someone in a recognized office in the congregation and having the duty of caring for its practical affairs (Acts 6:1-6). Paul would later instruct Timothy in the qualifications of a diakonos (1Timothy 3:8–13). Most versions render diakonos as "servant," but some have "deaconess" or even "deacon." The TLV has "servant-leader." These versions recognize that Phoebe held an important office in the congregation. She wasn't just a reliable helper who waited on tables. In later Christianity there was an order of deaconesses for special work among women, but there is no evidence of such an order at this early period.
Both the CJB and OJB render diakonos with shammash, which Stern explains as the person who handles the day-to-day practical tasks of keeping a synagogue going. One might wonder how Phoebe gained an office of such importance, but we only need to consider Deborah who served as a judge (Jdg 4:4), but was unqualified by Torah rules. In both of these cases there was likely a lack of male leadership. In any event Phoebe's status is indicative of acceptance of women in ministry roles in the Body of Messiah during the apostolic era. The apostolic writings identify women who contributed to fulfilling the Great Commission.
Women singled out for recognition include Miriam (mother of Yeshua), Miriam (mother of Mark), Dorcas, Phoebe, Prisca, Junia, Lydia, Euodia, Syntyche, Nympha, Apphia, Peter's wife and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist. Women are specifically spoken of as providing financial support (Luke 8:2-3), hosting congregations (Acts 12:12; 16:15, 40; Rom 16:5; Col 4:15), performing charitable good works (Acts 9:36; 1Tim 2:10; 5:9-10), prophesying (Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9; 1Cor 11:5), intercession (Acts 1:14) and teaching other women (Titus 2:3-4). However, there is no denying the fact that the Paul imposed some strict guidelines for women that would directly impact both their selection and function in any kind of ministry (Eph 5:22-24; 1Tim 2:12; 3:1-2; Titus 1:6).
of the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, used here to denote a grouping of Yeshua's disciples. In the LXX ekklēsia translates the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). The noun qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Christian Bibles almost unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "church." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See the Additional Note below.) Two versions have "congregation" (CJB, MW, NMB), and three have "assembly" (DARBY, WEB, YLT). The TLV has "Messiah's community."
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position within, and in composition may be translated "among, at, by, in, into, on, within." Cenchrea: Grk. Kegchreai, located some seven miles from Corinth and serving as the seaport of the city for commerce to the East. Paul had sailed from this port when he went from Corinth to Ephesus several years before (Acts 18:18). It was one of the communities to which the good news spread from Corinth during and after Paul's original ministry in that city (2Cor 1:1) (Harrison). As typical of English versions "Cenchrea" seems to be an inadequate transliteration of the Greek.
Harrison suggests that Phoebe may have already been on her way to Rome from Cenchrea and stopped at Corinth where Paul was ministering. A logical inference from what is said about her, then, is that Paul is sending his letter in her care.
Additional Note: The Christian Interpretation of Ekklēsia
The English translation of "church" was first introduced in the Wycliffe Bible (1395, "chirche"). The Tyndale Bible (1525), the Miles Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Bishop's Bible (1568) rendered ekklēsia as "congregation," but the Geneva Bible (1587) returned to the word "church" and from that time this has been the word used in Christian English Bibles. As the instructions of King James to the translators of the 1611 KJV show, the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity. The English word "church" comes from the Old English cirice, circe "church, public place of worship; Christians collectively," which itself devolved from the Greek kyriakē (oikia), kyriakon doma "Lord's (house). Greek kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300 A.D. (Online Etymology Dictionary).
The word "church" is not Jewish even though sometimes Christian commentators or ministers will refer to "the Jewish church" in the context of the apostolic narratives. In the Besekh the doctrine of the ekklēsia is more about a living body whose members serve one another. Interestingly Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, uses sunagōgē or synagogue in his letter to describe the gathering of disciples (Jas 2:2; cf. Acts 22:19; 26:11). In fact, congregations in the apostolic era mirrored the synagogue in organization (Moseley 8-11).
Even though "church" is not an accurate translation of ekklēsia, the decision to use it created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots. The Christian reader of the apostolic writings should be cautious about reading modern church organization, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or the 57 varieties of Protestantism, into first century settings. In the apostolic writings ekklēsia is never treated as an institution, a building, a specific polity or even a specific size of group as the English word "church" can mean. Everywhere in the apostolic writings ekklēsia refers to either the entire Body of the Messiah, the sum total of the Jewish and Gentile believers in a particular city, or the disciples meeting together in someone's home. Most importantly, the term emphasizes a spiritual bond based on common trust in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Stern 54).
By etymology ekklēsia can mean "called-out ones," which refers to a corporate entity in the context of a covenantal relationship. In the Tanakh we find that the nation of Israel was called (Heb. qara, SH-7121) out from Egypt (Hos 11:1), referring to the nation's deliverance from bondage. Under the New Covenant the Body of Messiah is the result of "calling." Members of congregations in the apostolic era were referred to as "called" in order to identify them as followers of Yeshua separated from the world (Rom 1:6; 1Cor 1:2; Jude 1:1; cf. Rev 17:14). Unfortunately among some Christian interpreters "called out ones" is used in a replacement theology sense, of being called out of Israel or out of Judaism, which is certainly not the meaning intended by Yeshua or the apostles.
2― that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the holy ones, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for also she became a benefactor of many, even me.
that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. you receive: Grk. prosdechomai, aor. mid. subj., to receive to oneself in a kindly mode, to welcome. her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority of times to replace Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511). Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples.
Paul probably uses kurios as equivalent to the Heb. adōn ("Lord" in the sense of "ruler"). Expectant Jews would call Yeshua adōn because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Lordship implies all kinds of divine expectations that should be considered (Matt 7:21-23). Moreover, such a declaration in Rome, the center of Caesar worship, would be especially significant. Caesar believed he was kurios of the world and the Caesar cult, with faithful devotees scattered throughout the empire, provided a serious obstacle to discipleship. Eventually, the simple confession that "Yeshua is Lord" would create many martyrs.
in: Grk. en, prep. a manner worthy: Grk. axiōs, adv., in a manner that does honor. of the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios, set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God; holy, sacred, set apart. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadōsh (SH-6918), separate, sacred, holy (BDB 872). The plural form of qadōsh is used in the Tanakh of angels (e.g., Zech 14:5), but especially of members of Israel (Deut 33:3; Ps 16:3; 34:9; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24). The noun is translated as "saints" in most Christian versions, but many Christians would not be comfortable with that label. Other Christian versions have "God's people." Two versions have "Christians" (MSG, NLV), which is not appropriate to this context.
The appellation "holy ones" originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him (Ex 19:6). The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. The "holy ones" are those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins and separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord. They are "wholly His." The label is not intended in any elitist sense. So, to receive Phoebe in a manner worthy of the holy ones would be of the kind that her home congregation would recognize as appropriate. and: Grk. kai, conj. with three basic uses: (1) continuative, and, also, even; (2) adversative, and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive, certainly, indeed. The first use applies here.
that you help: Grk. paristęmi, aor. subj., 2p-pl., lit. "to place beside," that is, put at her disposal, make available, or be available, or be supportive. her: Grk. autos. in: Grk. en. whatever: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. matter: Grk. pragma, something that involves or presumes action by a responsible party; deed, matter or thing. she may have need: Grk. chrēzō, pres. subj., experience the lack of, need, have need of. of you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Paul does not anticipate what Phoebe might need upon arrival in Rome, such as lodging, food, etc. The needs of a visitor should be obvious and Paul expects her needs to be provided without charge.
for: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. also: Grk. kai, conj. she became: Grk. ginomai, aor. pass., "become," which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
a benefactor: Grk. prostatis, one who stands by as a supporter and so champions the cause or need of someone. Thayer has "caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources." A number of versions have "benefactor" (e.g., CSB, NABRE, NIV, NRSV). Two versions have "patroness" (OJB, TLV). The translation of "helper" of some versions (NASB, NKJV) seems to diminish the role. of many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating a high number. Paul implies that Phoebe devoted her influence and means to the assistance of Yeshua's followers, both residents of the city and travelers.
even: Grk. kai, conj., i.e., also, including. myself: Grk. egō autos, lit. "of me of myself." Paul alludes to a personal instance of assistance. Various suggestions have been made, such as tending him while he was sick. However, Paul includes himself generally as receiving help as others had received from her. A clue concerning the help may be found in Acts 18:18, which contains the only other mention of Cenchrea in the apostolic writings: "having cut the hair of his head in Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow." Phoebe's "help" may have been the provision of lodging consequent to her benefactor role, but Paul may imply that she cut his hair for him.
Making a vow to God was not a Torah requirement, but if taken God required it to be fulfilled to avoid a severe penalty (Deut 23:21-23). The only vow in the Torah that involved hair-cutting was a Nazirite vow (Num 6:2-8). The Nazirite vow was a special kind of fasting, and included abstaining from all liquid and edible products of the grape vine, avoidance of a dead body, even if a relative, and letting the hair grow. The vow generally lasted eight days. The cutting of the hair marked the completion of the vow. The Torah specified that to conclude the vow meant not only cutting the hair, but also presenting a sin offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering, a bread offering and a drink offering at the sanctuary and placing the cut hair on the fire with the sacrificial animal (Num 6:13-18; cf. Acts 21:23-26).
Josephus noted that it was common for Jews to make vows to God, patterned after the Nazirite vow, lasting thirty days and ending with hair-cutting, as an expression of gratitude when they had been raised up from sickness or delivered from danger (Wars, Book II, 15:1). Paul's vow could have pertained to sickness, but perhaps protection in danger. Pharisee tradition required that a Nazirite vow undertaken in the Diaspora had to be repeated within the land of Israel (Nazir 19b), and Paul's actions once he returned to Jerusalem seems to reflect compliance with this tradition (Acts 21:23-26). Stern rightly notes that regardless of the details of Paul's vow, he did not abandon Torah obligations (cf. 1Cor 9:20).
3― Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Yeshua the Messiah,
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection. The verbal command is given 17 times in this chapter. Prisca: Grk. Priska, from the Latin priscus, "ancient." Scripture provides no background information on Prisca, except that she came with her husband from Rome to Corinth after the expulsion order of Claudius (Acts 18:2). Luke uses only the colloquial diminutive form Priskilla (Priscilla), as he does other names (e.g., Silas, Apollos). Paul, on the other hand, uses only the formal name Priska in his references (1Cor 16:19; 2Tim 4:19) as he does others of his friends (e.g., Silvanus, Epaphroditus).
and Aquila: Grk. Akulas, the Greek way of writing the Latin Aquila ("eagle"), a male proper name. The name occurs six times in the Besekh. Gill suggests that his Hebrew name was "Nesher," which signifies an eagle, as the Roman "Aquila" does. The description of Aquila as a traditional Jew does not mean that he was not Messianic. There is no narrative of his accepting Yeshua, but his introduction here suggests a common bond with Paul. In Acts 18:2 Aquila is described as a traditional Jew and identified as a native of Pontus, a Roman province just south of the Black Sea in Asia Minor. Jewish pilgrims from Pontus were present in Jerusalem for Shavuot (Pentecost) and heard Peter proclaim the good news of Yeshua (Acts 2:9), among whom could have been Aquila.
The couple is mentioned six times in the apostolic writings and always together (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19). Four times Prisca's name precedes that of her husband, leading interpreters to conclude that either she was from a higher social class, the more gifted, the more prominent in ministry or the more dominant in the relationship. There is no way to know for certain why both Luke and Paul give her name first. In any event the repetition of their names together is a testament to their marriage and partnership in ministry.
my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. fellow workers: pl. of Grk. sunergos, joint laborers with the focus on a supportive role. Luke and Paul provide glimpses of their ministry. Paul first met the couple in Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:2). Aquila and his wife were tentmakers by trade and this common ground helps establish their relationship with Paul. They gave him lodging and no doubt assistance in his synagogue ministry there. After opposition erupted Paul left Corinth for Ephesus, taking the couple with him (Acts 18:18). Aquila and Priscilla remained in Ephesus when Paul left for Antioch. While they were in Ephesus the couple had occasion to instruct Apollos "more accurately" in interpretation and application of Scripture (Acts 18:26).
in: Grk. en, prep. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), "anointed, Anointed One," and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
The primary identification of Messiah is the King of the Jews, the son of David. Biblical prophecies speak of his rule over Israel from David's throne in Jerusalem. Yeshua recounted these prophecies to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:44-47). Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:69-75). Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
4― who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not alone do I give thanks, but also all the congregations of the nations;
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. for: Grk. huper, prep., used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something; in behalf of. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. life: Grk. pseuchę, a quality without which a body is physically dead, thus "life." The life may be physical or inner as in "soul." risked: hupotithęmi, aor., to expose to hazard. their: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person. necks: Grk. trachēlos, the part of the body of an animal or human being that connects the head and the trunk. The noun is actually singular, so it likely has a collective meaning. It is a strong word picture, perhaps an allusion to beheading, and the usual method for execution by the Romans.
There can be no certainty concerning the occasion to which Paul refers, but it could be the time when dangerous riot that broke out in Ephesus, endangering the apostle's life (Acts 19:28-31; cf. 1Cor 16:19, 2Cor 1:8-10). whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. I: Grk. egō. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. alone: Grk. monos, adj., marking a narrow limitation; alone, only. give thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, pres., to acknowledge God's grace or to give thanks. This verse and Luke 17:16 are the only passages where the recipient of the thanks is not God. The crisis event was long past by the time of this writing, but still fresh in Paul's memory. He was truly grateful for the timely assistance of Aquila and Prisca.
but: Grk. alla, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the congregations: pl. of Grk. ho ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. The great majority of versions translate the plural noun as "Gentiles," which mischaracterizes the constituency of Messianic congregations. Ethnos in the singular may refer to a specific ethnic or cultural people, such as the Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9) or Israel (Matt 21:43; Acts 24:17). In its plural form ethnos corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5, 20, 31; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; 25:23; 35:11; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3).
The plural form of ethnos here simply highlights the diversity of the congregations in the Diaspora, which included traditional Jews, Hellenistic Jews, God-fearing Gentiles and formerly pagan Gentiles. This translation might give the impression that Paul is thanking other congregations, but in fact the Greek syntax makes it clear that it is other congregations, particularly Corinth and Ephesus, who also express their thanks for the service of this dynamic couple.
5― also greet the congregation at their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first offering of Asia to Messiah.
also: Grk. kai, conj. greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp. See verse 3 above. the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. at: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to," expresses something associated with something else in terms of direction, position, or relation; used here to designate a place. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. house: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. The term implies a fixed residence. In the LXX oikos translates Heb. bayit (SH-1004), which may mean a house as a dwelling habitation, a household, or descendants (BDB 111).
As of this letter the couple was back in Rome, probably hosting a portion of the total Roman congregation. In the first century disciples met together in private homes (Acts 2:46; 12:12; 17:4-5; 18:7; 20:20; 21:8; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; and Phm 1:2) and, for large groups, in homes or halls owned by wealthy patrons (cf. Acts 19:9). Apostolic congregations did not possess the wealth for investment in real estate and structures, which began in the fourth century.
Harrison suggests that it is quite likely that their return to Rome was encouraged by Paul, so that they could prepare for his arrival by acquainting the congregation with his work in some detail and with his plans for the future (cf. Acts 19:21). However, the fact that the congregation is "in" their house, suggests that they were not recent arrivals. Rome had been their home before the expulsion of Claudius and they were no doubt happy to join the return of Jews and reconnect with family and friends.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp. Epaenetus: Grk. Epainetos, masc. name, "praiseworthy." According to Hippolytus (170-236), On the Seventy Apostles, Epaenetus was included in the group of seventy Jewish apostles sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually became the first bishop of Carthage. my beloved: Grk. agapētos, (from agapaō, to esteem or love) held in affection, esteemed, or dear. This character trait indicates one who has an interest in contributing to the well-being of another, even to the point of personal sacrifice.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. the first offering: Grk. aparchē, make a beginning in sacrifice, by offering something as first fruits to God. In the LXX aparchē renders Heb. reishit, lit. "beginning," "chief," "first of fruits," meaning the first fruits of natural products that were consecrated to the LORD, the giver of fruitfulness (Ex 23:19; Lev 2:12; 23:10; Num 15:20; 18:2; Deut 18:4; 26:2, 10; 33:21). Aparchē also translates Heb. terumah, which denotes the contribution of natural products or money specifically for the priests and Levites (e.g., Ex 25:2; Deut 12:11), similarly understood as a thank-offering to the LORD (DNTT 3:415).
Paul probably alludes to the feast of Reishit Katzir ("First Fruits of Harvest"), which occurs on the day after the Sabbath that follows Passover. In A.D. 30 this day coincided with the resurrection of Yeshua who is the "first fruits of those who are asleep" (1Cor 15:20). Calling Epaenetus "first fruits" characterizes his spiritual resurrection as akin to Yeshua's physical resurrection. A number of Bible versions as the NASB use the noun "convert" (HCSB, ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV), and two versions have "Christian" (MSG, NLT), both of which misrepresent the Jewish idiom.
A few versions identify Epaenetus simply as the first to believe in Asia (CJB, GW, GNB, NCV) and while accurate in terms of basic meaning the translation falls short of the Hebrew word picture. Only a few Bible versions give the literal translation of "firstfruits" (ASV, DRA, HNV, KJV, MW, NKJV, TLV). In 1Corinthians 16:15 Paul says that the household of Stephanas was the aparchē or "first fruits" of Achaia (so rendered in the ASV, DRA, HCSB, HNV, KJV, LEB, NASB, NKJV). Lastly, Paul uses aparchē in 2Thessalonians 2:13 to describe the congregation, which virtually all versions render as "from the beginning," making it a statement about predestination. However, BAG allows that aparchē should be translated as "first fruits" in this passage and some versions capture this sense (CJB, ESV, KJV, MOUNCE-NT, MW, NIV, NLT, NRSV, OJB, TLV).
Shulam points out that in the pagan world men who dedicated themselves to the service of the sanctuary or who were given to the temple as temple servants were called "first fruits" (Grk. aparchai). In contrast Paul uses aparchę purposefully as in the Torah, alluding to the "first fruits" harvest offerings to the God of Israel (as cited above) and the later idiomatic use for the patriarchs and Israel as the "first fruits" chosen from the nations (Hos 9:10; Jer 2:3). More significant is that Yeshua rose from the dead on Reishit Katzir, "First Fruits of Harvest," that fell on the first day of the week following Passover. Sheaves of the barley harvest were raised up and waved before the Lord in the temple in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. Yeshua being raised up was the initial first fruits that held forth the promise of resurrection for all (1Cor 15:20) and thus Yeshua became the "firstborn of many brethren" (Rom 8:29).
Fifty days later on Yom HaBikkurim, "Day of First Fruits," also called Shavuot ("Weeks"), sheaves of the wheat harvest were waved before the Lord in thanksgiving for the harvest while at the same time the Holy Spirit came in power and ushered in a harvest of souls who embraced Yeshua as their Messiah and Redeemer. James in his letter uses aparchę or "first fruits" to describe these first disciples in Judea (Jam 1:18). To call Epaenetus the "first fruits" declares both his participation in the saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit begun at Shavuot and his eligibility for the redemption of the body at the resurrection on the last day (Rom 8:23).
of Asia: Grk. ho Asia, the Roman province bordered on the west by the Aegean Sea and on the east by the province of Galatia and its capital at Ephesus. The important province also included the well-known cities of Colossae, Hierapolis, Laodicea, Miletus, Pergamum, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna, Thyatira and Troas. All of these cities had Jewish populations. See the map here. to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and in composition may be translates as "into, to, toward, for, among." Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above. Paul traveled through Asia on his second Diaspora journey, although he was not permitted by the Lord to minister there initially (Acts 16:6-7). On the return leg of the journey he stopped at the synagogue in Ephesus (Acts 18:19) and perhaps Epaenetus responded to the good news at this time.
Luke does not report any results of Paul's visit and it may be that Paul only sowed seed that came to fruition under the ministry of Aquila and Prisca (Acts 18:18-19). Paul's command to greet Epaenetus emphasizes him as both a testament of God's work among the Jewish people in the Diaspora and the historical point of beginning for the full harvest in Asia during Paul's third missionary journey. Afterwards Epaenetus became a faithful disciple and an effective worker for his Messiah.
The KJV has "Achaia," which is a province in Greece. "Achaia" cannot be correct since Stephanas was the first fruits of Achaia (1Cor 16:15). and Epaenetus is not named in Acts or Paul's Corinthian correspondence. the earliest MS, P46 (c. AD 200) has "Asia," as do the early major MSS - Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus and several other early versions (Murray).
6― Greet Miriam, who toiled much for you.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Miriam: Grk. Maria, an attempt at transliterating the Heb. Miryam (Miriam in English). Christian versions have "Mary." The meaning of the name is not known for certain, although some scholars say its meaning is "rebellion." The first Miriam in Scripture is the sister of Aaron (Ex 15:20) and its unlikely that the parents would have given a name to their daughter with such a meaning at birth. The best interpretation I've found is at BehindtheName.com which says that Miriam "was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love."
There are seven women identified as "Miriam" in the Besekh. Besides Miriam of Bethany there is (1) Miriam of Nazareth, the mother of Yeshua (Matt 1:16), (2) Miriam of Magdala (Matt 27:56), (3) Miriam, the mother of Jacob and Joseph (Matt 27:56), (4) Miriam, the wife of Clopas (John 19:25), (5) Miriam, the mother of Mark (Acts 12:12), and (6) Miriam of Rome (Rom 16:6). (NOTE: most scholars think #3 and #4 refer to the same person.) Thayer notes that Mariam is also an exact transliteration of Aramaic Mariam, which is used in the Targums and may explain its presence in the Besekh.
Paul offers no other identifying information and there is no evidence to link the Miriam of Rome with the other women named Miriam in Scripture. The use of Grk. Maria in the Besekh is inexplicable since it does not appear in any ancient Jewish writings. The use of the English "Mary" in Christian Bibles began with the Tyndale New Testament (1525) and Christians have called these Jewish women by this name ever since. The choice to use "Mary" instead of the Hebrew name "Miriam" can only be to minimize her Jewish identity.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. toiled: Grk. kopiaō, aor., may mean (1) to experience fatigue as a result of exertion; or (2) to engage in fatiguing activity, toil, work hard. The verb implies some kind of diligent and repeated physical activity that benefited others. much: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 2 above. The adjective emphasizes the extent of work. for: Grk. eis, prep. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Presumptively Paul refers to the Roman congregation and it is enough that they knew to whom Paul was referring.
7― Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are notable among the apostles, who also were in Messiah before me.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Andronicus: Grk. Andronikos, masc. name, a common name in the Mediterranean world. Shulam suggests that Andronicus might have been a freedman since the name is found listed among members of the Imperial household and as the name of a slave. The name of Andronicus appears only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai, conj. Junia: Grk. Iounias, a fem. name. The name Iounias occurs only here in the Besekh. Since historically translators considered it unlikely that a woman would be among those identified as "apostles," the name was treated as masculine ("Junias"), and presumed to be a shortened form of the Latin "Junianus." "Junias" is found in a number of versions (ASV, CEV, DARBY, DLNT, DRA, ICB, TLB, MSG, MW, NASB, NLV, VOICE, and YLT.)
Others, however, were impressed by the facts that (1) the female Latin name "Junia" occurs more than 250 times in Greek and Latin inscriptions found in Rome alone, whereas the male name Junias is unattested anywhere, and (2) when Greek manuscripts began to be accented, scribes wrote the feminine Iounian ("Junia") (Metzger 475). "Junia" is found in many versions (BBE, CEB, CJB, CSB, EHV, ESV, GW, GNB, HCSB, ISV, KJV, LEB, NOG, NABRE, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, OJB and TLV). It is highly unlikely that scribes would change a masculine name to feminine in the early Greek manuscripts. Therefore, Andronicus and Junia were likely a married couple who shared ministry, just as Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2) and most of the apostles, including Peter and his wife (1Cor 9:5).
my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. kinsmen: pl. of Grk. sungenēs, connected by lineage, relative; either (1) a near relation by blood or marriage; or (2) shared tribal or national ancestry. Probably the second meaning is intended here. The couple might even have originated from Paul's home country of Cilicia. and: Grk. kai. my: Grk. egō. fellow prisoners: Grk. sunaichmalōtos, from Grk. sun, "together" and Grk. aichmalōtos, "taken by the spear" (as captive), thus fellow prisoner. Neither Luke nor Paul in their writings describe a time when this couple shared imprisonment with Paul. In his letter to Corinth Paul indicated that he suffered multiple imprisonments (2Cor 11:23). The important thing is that Paul knew and appreciated their faithful endurance for the Messiah.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. notable: Grk. episēmos, socially marked and when used in a good sense it means illustrious, notable, outstanding or prominent. The couple was highly regarded. among: Grk. en, prep. the apostles: pl. of Grk. ho apostolos, one sent by another to represent him in some way; agent, envoy, messenger. The CJB and TLV have "emissaries." In the LXX apostolos occurs one time where it translates Heb. shaluach, Qal pass. participle of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," in 1Kings 14:6. First century Judaism recognized the office of shaliach, who acted as an agent, deputy, or messenger for someone with the full authority of the sender (Jastrow 1579). The Mishnah says, "the agent is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128).
In the Besekh the term "apostle" is applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul (Acts 14:14), Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Jacob (aka "James," the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19), because they too had "seen the Lord" and been approved to speak on His behalf (John 20:25; Acts 4:33; 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). All true apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37) and equip disciples for service (Eph 4:11). The phrase "among the apostles" is ambiguous and could be taken to mean "distinguished as apostles themselves" or "well-known to the apostles." Stern favors the former, but Harrison favors the latter. However, Paul uses apostolos in reference to Timothy and Titus (2Cor 8:22-23) and Epaphroditus (Php 2:25), all of whom functioned as co-workers of Paul and congregational leaders in the Body of Messiah.
Given that the couple had begun following Yeshua quite early, they had many years to distinguish themselves in ministry and so they were well known. Junia has generally not been accepted as an apostle in Christianity, because it would appear to be an exception to the rule that the apostles were men. However, Scripture records a number of positive examples of women in leadership roles (Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Phoebe, Priscilla; and the four daughters of Philip. See the note on verse 1 above). The most satisfactory solution is that Andronicus and Junia were a married couple who performed apostolic ministry. That is, they were official messengers of Yeshua, sanctioned by the chief apostles, who took the good news to other lands. There is no sound reason to diminish their status.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. also: Grk. kai. were: Grk. ginomai, perf., 3p-pl., lit. "came to be." See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en. Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above. before: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, either (1) spatially, 'ahead, before,' (2) temporally, 'earlier than, before' or (3) in rank, before or above. The second usage applies here. me: Grk. egō. According to Hippolytus (see verse 1 above) Andronicus was among the seventy disciples chosen by Yeshua (Luke 10:1). This appointment would clearly make him a follower of Yeshua several years before Paul.
It's thus very likely that the couple was present with the 500 persons who witnessed the resurrected Yeshua (1Cor 15:6). Perhaps they were among the pilgrims in Jerusalem that witnessed the signs and wonders wrought by the Spirit and responded to Peter's preaching. A few versions inaccurately translate the phrase as "they … became Christians before I did." (GW, GNB, PHILLIPS, TLB, NOG, WE). Paul never uses the label "Christian" to refer to himself or anyone else in his writings. Eventually Andronicus would be appointed as the first bishop of Pannonia, which lay in the western half of modern Hungary.
8― Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Ampliatus: Grk. Ampliatos, from the Latin amplio, "increase the size" or "magnificent." The KJV has Amplias, but the earliest and best MSS attest Ampliatos. Ampliatus was a common slave name. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. beloved: Grk. agapētos. See verse 5 above. Paul admits to a personal regard for this man that indicates a background of association. One commentator thinks it possible that this is the same Ampliatus named on a tomb in the Catacomb of Domitilla (the niece of the emperor Domitian) in Rome, saying it was a person "specially esteemed" (Osborne).
According to church tradition this Ampliatus is the same as Amplias who was in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and who was appointed bishop of Odyssus (Hippolytus), a town also known as Lydda of Odyssopolis (Diospolis) in Judea. He died a martyr. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 2 above. The qualification indicates that Paul's affection arose as a result of their common love for Yeshua. The unique character of the Body of Messiah is that the love of God and transforming work of the Spirit brings together people from many different backgrounds who would not ordinarily associate with one another.
9― Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Messiah, and Stachys my beloved.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Urbanus: Grk. Ourbanos, masc. name, from the Latin Urbanus, "refined" or "elegant" (Harrison). The KJV spells the name Urbane, but the TR does have Ourbanos. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. fellow worker: Grk. sunergos. See verse 3 above. The noun implies that Urbanus had provided some kind of practical assistance to Paul in the past. The plural pronoun "our" alludes to his involvement with others associated with Paul in ministry. According to Hippolytus this Urbanus was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and whom the apostle Andrew ordained as the first bishop of Macedonia. in Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Stachys: Grk. stacus, masc. name, perhaps related to the same word meaning the head or spike of a cereal plant containing its seed. The name is Greek and uncommon; it has been found in inscriptions connected with the imperial household (ISBE). According to Hippolytus this Stachys was also included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and whom the apostle Andrew ordained as the first bishop of Byzantium. Byzantium was a Greek city that later became known as Constantinople and finally Istanbul. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. beloved: Grk. agapētos. See verse 5 above. This is the same description used of Epaenetus and Ampliatus.
10― Greet Apelles, the approved in Messiah. Greet those of the household of Aristobulus.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Apelles: Grk. Apellęs, masc. name, of Latin origin, a fairly common name across group lines. According to Hippolytus this Apelles was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and was appointed as the first bishop of Smyrna. Whether this is the same overseer addressed in the letter to Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11 cannot be determined with any certainty, but in the letter the overseer is exhorted to be faithful until death. Apelles was eventually martyred for his faith. the approved: Grk. dokimos, meeting a standard for exceptional worth or character. This was Paul's desire for Timothy (2Tim 2:15) and for himself (1Cor 9:27) (Harrison). in: Grk. en, prep. Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. of: Grk. ek, prep., "out from within," and may be used (1) of a location to denote exit; (2) of separation from the midst of people; or (3) of the origin or source of people. The third usage applies here. the household: pl. of Grk. ho, lit. "the ones" [i.e., belonging to]. The usual Greek word for household (oikos) does not occur in the Greek text, and the preposition ek ("out of") would indicate family members (Marshall), although some commentators include employees and household servants in spite of the omission of oikos (Harrison). of Aristobulus: Grk. Aristoboulos, "best-counseling."
Lightfoot in his commentary on Philippians identified Aristobulus as the grandson of Herod the Great, who lived in Rome as a private citizen after his two brothers were appointed as kings by Caesar Claudius (Hyrcanus of Chalcis and Agrippa of Judea) (174-175) (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, 1:1-3; 12:1-2). The date Aristobulus died is uncertain, but he was still living in the time of Caesar Claudius (c. AD 45 (Josephus, Ant., XX, 5:2). Of him Lightfoot offers this scenario:
"Now it seems not improbable, considering the intimate relations between Claudius and Aristobulus, that at the death of the latter his servants, wholly or in part, should be transferred to the palace. In this case they would be designated Aristobuliani, for which I suppose St. Paul's ek tōn Aristoboulou to be an equivalent. It is at least not an obvious phrase and deserves explanation. And, as the household of Aristobulus would naturally be composed of a large measure of Jews the gospel would the more easily be introduced to their notice." (175)
Harrison says that if Lightfoot is correct, Aristobulus was either not a believer or had died before Paul wrote, since he is not personally greeted. Those addressed would then be his slaves and employees who had become believers. Against this interpretation is that in Scripture the use of the word "household" (Heb. bayith, Grk. oikos) generally includes the person to whom the household belongs, unless the context specifically says otherwise (cf. Gen 20:18; 50:4). When God told Jeremiah to speak to the "bayith of the king of Judah" (Jer 21:11), we would not assume that the king was excluded from the prophetic word.
When Paul reported in 1Corinthians 1:16 the immersion of "the oikos of Stephanas," we can assume that Stephanas was included in those immersed, just as happened in the case of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33). Paul makes clear that Stephanas was not dead or absent (1Cor 1:15-17). Paul instructs Timothy, "Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the oikos of Onesiphorus" (2Tim 4:19), and Paul clearly indicates that Onesiphorus was not dead or absent (2Tim 1:16). Thus, if Paul implied oikos when he says "the ones of Aristobulus," the head of the household must be included.
The identification of this Aristobulus as the grandson of Herod the Great is speculation, although a number of commentators have adopted Lightfoot's interpretation. Yet, we should give equal consideration to the tradition of Hippolytus that this Aristobulus was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and later appointed as the first bishop in Britain.
11― Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, the ones being in the Lord.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Herodion: Grk. Hrōdiōn, masc. name. The name may imply that he was a freedman of the Herods or a member of the household of Aristobulus, the grandson of Herod the Great (ISBE). In any event, according to the tradition of Hippolytus this Herodion was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and later appointed as the first bishop of Tarsus. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. kinsman: Grk. suggenęs, connected by lineage or related, thus an Israelite. See the note on verse 7 above.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. those of the household: Grk. tous ek tōn. Paul uses the same idiomatic expression as in the previous verse, lit. "the ones belong to," probably meaning family relations (Marshall). of Narcissus: Narkissos, masc. name, poss. from the flower of the same name. Narcissus was a common name, especially among freedmen and slaves (ISBE). Lightfoot suggests this historical scenario to identify Narcissus.
"Here, as in the case of Aristobulus, the expression seems to point to some famous person of the name. And the powerful freedman Narcissus, whose wealth was proverbial ... whose influence with Claudius was unbounded, and who bore a chief part in the intrigues of this reign, alone satisfies this condition.... As was usual in such cases, his household would most probably pass into the hands of the emperor, still however retaining the name of Narcissus. He was put to death by Agrippina shortly after the accession of Nero [i.e., 54 AD] … about three or four years before the Epistle to the Romans was written. As was usual in such cases, his household would most probably pass into the hands of the emperor, still however retaining the name Narcissus. … These Narcissiani I suppose to be designated by St. Paul's ek tōn Narkissos." (175)
However, as noted in the comment on Aristobulus, there is not sufficient reason to suppose that the greeting does not include Narcissus. Since the name was a common one Lightfoot's hypothesis is not convincing. We should also consider that this Narcissus may be the same as the Narcissus identified by Hippolytus as one of the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and later appointed as the bishop of Athens.
the ones: pl. of Grk. ho. being: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 2 above. The qualification suggests there were members of the household of Narcissus that were not followers of Yeshua. The phrase "being in the Lord" denotes continuing faithfulness.
12― Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, those toiling in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has toiled much in the Lord.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Tryphaena: Grk. Truphaina, from truphē, "dainty." and: Grk. kai, conj. Tryphosa: Grk. Truphōsa, from truphaō, "luscious." These two women were likely sisters. It was not uncommon then, as now, to give daughters names with a certain resemblance (cf. Jean and Joan). Harrison suggests that possibly they belonged to an aristocratic family, given the meaning of their names. If so, their commitment to become followers of Yeshua led them to put aside any tendency to live a life of ease. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. toiling: Grk. kopiaō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. The present tense indicates on-going activity. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 2 above.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. Persis: Grk. Persis, fem., a common name for a female slave, "the Persian." the beloved: Grk. agapētos. See verse 5 above. This is the same descriptor lauded of Epaenetus, so the use here does not imply any romantic connection between Persis and Paul. who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. See verse x above. has toiled: Grk. kopiaō, aor. This is the same verb used of the two sisters preceding. The verb tense indicates a significant activity that occurred in the past. much: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse x above. The adjective suggests a range of work that outshined others. Harrison suggests that Paul may have known about her practical ministry from correspondence. in: Grk. en. the Lord: As with the sisters Persis toiled to build the Kingdom of God.
13― Greet Rufus, the chosen in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Rufus: Grk. Rouphos, masc. name, from the Latin rufus, "red." He is mentioned in Mark 15:21 as the son of Simon of Cyrene who assisted in carrying the cross. Harrison suggests that on the supposition that Mark's narrative was composed at Rome, the mention of Rufus in his book (Mark 15:21) may be explained because of his being well known to local readers. According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Rufus was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop in Thebes, Greece. Thebes was a short distance north of Athens.
the chosen: Grk. ho eklektos, favored with select status, chosen. Since eklektos is normally used in reference to the whole body of Messiah (e.g., Col 3:12), the noun probably carries the general meaning of being distinguished above others. Harrison suggests that perhaps the incident involving his father carrying the cross-beam for Yeshua brought him fame among believers at Rome, but it is more likely that Rufus was recognized for his own service. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: See verse 2 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. mother: Grk. mētēr (for Heb. ima) refers to a biological female parent, although occasionally the word is used fig. of a surrogate mother or one like a mother (Matt 12:49; Mark 3:35; John 19:27).
The mention of the mother probably indicates that the father was deceased. and: Grk. kai. mine: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The mother of Rufus remains unnamed, but she was apparently very special to Paul. The addition of "and mine" cannot refer to his own mother. Harrison suggests that she evidently perceived his loneliness after the loss of his family when he became a disciple of Yeshua (Php 3:8) and resolved to be a mother him. Her presence in Rome made him look forward with special anticipation to his visit. On the other hand, it's also possible that Paul accepted some responsibility toward her as John did of Miriam the mother of Yeshua (John 19:27), even though Miriam had other sons.
14― Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Little is known of the five men listed in this verse other than Paul's summary identification, although church tradition as ascribed significant service to them. Asyncritus: Grk. Asugkritos, masc. name, from a Greek work meaning "without comparison, incomparable." According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Asyncritus was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop of Hyrcania. Hyrcania is a territory on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, which at the time was part of Media.
Phlegon: Grk. Phlegōn, masc. name, from a Greek word meaning "to be aflame." According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Phlegon was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop of Marathon, Greece. Marathon, a short distance northeast of Athens was the site of the famous battle in which the Athenians defeated the Persians in 490 BC.
Hermes: Grk. Hermęs, masc. name. Hermes, famous as the messenger of the gods, was often borne by slaves (Harrison). According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Hermes was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop of Dalmatia. Dalmatia was a Roman province on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, northwest of Macedonia, and present-day Croatia.
Patrobas: Grk. Patrobas, masc. name. According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Patrobas was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed the first bishop of Naples.
Hermas: Grk. Hermas, a variation of Hermęs, masc. name. According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Hermas was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop of Philippi. The KJV reverses the order of "Hermes" and "Hermas," contrary to the earliest MSS. It would have been easy for the two names to become confused in transcription.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos, lit. "of the same womb." In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13). The plural noun is often used in the apostolic letters to address members of the congregation, which can be taken literally as references to the Jewish constituency of the congregation. The use of "brothers" emphasizes both their filial connection and their loyalty to their Messiah.
with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. This is very likely an allusion to a house congregation.
15― Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the holy ones with them.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. Philologus: Grk. Philologos, masc. name, a combination of philos, "friend," and logos, "word." According to the tradition of Hippolytus this Philologus was included in the group of seventy Jewish disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually appointed bishop of Sinope. Sinope is a city situated about midway on the southern coast of the Black Sea (now Turkey), originally a Greek colony founded in 770 BC and an active center of trade (Atlas 140). Julius Caesar established a Roman colony there in 47 BC.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Julia: Grk. Ioulia, the feminine form of Julius, a Roman family name. Perhaps Julia's family originated in Sinope. The proximity of the names to one another suggests that Philologus and Julia were a married couple, especially since the next woman in the list is identified as a "sister." The KJV inserts a comma between Philologus and Julia to identify them as unconnected, but this is an arbitrary decision given that ancient Greek MSS had no punctuation. The conjunction kai ("and") clearly connects the two people.
Nereus: Grk. Nēreus, masc. name. The etymology of the name is uncertain. Among the Acta Sanctorum (Acts of the Saints) connected with the Yeshua followers in Rome are the "Acts of Nereus and Achilleus" which call them chamberlains of Domitilla, the niece of Caesar Vespasian, and relate their influence over her in persuading her to remain a virgin (ISBE). and his sister: Grk. adelphē. See verse 1 above. Given the pronoun "his," adelphę should be taken here in the literal sense as a sibling.
and: Grk. kai. Olympas: Grk. Olumpas, masc. name, perhaps a form of Olumpos, the mountain home of Greek gods. Nothing is known of him beyond Paul's reference here. and: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 4 above. the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios. See verse 2 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Very likely this is an allusion to a house congregation. Rome was a large place, making it probable that there were circles of believers in several sections of the city. They would certainly maintain communication and, when necessity dictated, could arrange to meet together (Harrison).
16― Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp., 2p-pl. See verse 3 above. one another: Grk. allēlōn, a reciprocal pronoun meaning one another or each other. Since the pronoun is masculine one might assume the activity only involved men. with: Grk. en, prep. a holy: Grk. hagios, adj. See verse 2 above. kiss: Grk. philēma, a symbolic gesture of contact with one's lips indicating respect or regard. Paul encourages warm relations among fellow believers and alludes to a Middle-Eastern custom (cf. Luke 7:45). Paul experienced this physical expression of love before departing Ephesus for Jerusalem, "And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him" (Acts 20:27).
Scripture generally speaks of kissing in the context of familial affection, such as between father and children (Gen 27:27; 31:55; 48:10), husband and wife (Gen 29:11; SS 1:1), between siblings (Gen 33:4; 45:15) and other family relations (Ruth 1:14). Kissing might also be a seal of forgiveness and restoration (Gen 45:15; Luke 15:20). The actual point of contact is only mentioned three times: on the lips (Prov 24:26), on the neck (Gen 33:4) and the feet (Luke 7:38).
It may seem strange that he would even mention the custom (as also in 1Cor 16:20; 2Cor 13:12; 1Th 5:26), except that possibly he had seen it carried to excess somewhere. The adjective "holy" guards the extension of affection from romantic or erotic associations. Friendly hugging and cheek kissing is widely practiced in the Body of Messiah in modern times in Europe, North and Latin America and the Middle East. A holy kiss may be like the French bise, a salutary kiss of greeting. As Paul implies, discretion and local custom must be followed to avoid giving the wrong impression.
Another aspect of a "holy kiss" is it reflects sincerity and transparency. As Solomon says, "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. … Don't be a witness against your neighbor without cause. Don't deceive with your lips" (Prov 24:26, 28 HNV). And, of course, Judas betrayed Yeshua with a kiss (Matt 26:48-49). A holy kiss illustrates the truth of Psalm 85:10, "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
All: pl. of Grk. pas, adjective. The Maj-Text and the TR omit the word and thus it is not found in the KJV. the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklęsia. See verse 1 above. of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above. Readers should be cautious about interpreting the translation of Christian versions as meaning anything comparable to modern Christianity or any of its many denominations. These assemblies were congregations of the Jewish Messiah, consisting of ardent disciples who accepted Israel's special relationship with God, lived by principles of Torah, loved the Jewish people and supported the poor in Israel. How many churches or denominations of modern Christianity can say the same about themselves?
greet: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. ind. See verse 3 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The present tense of the verb indicates the shared bond that the congregations of the east have with the Roman congregation. On this clause Witherington comments,
"It is no accident that only here in Romans do we have the global greeting from "all the assemblies of the Messiah" in the east. Paul is finished with his work there and the effect of this remark is that the eyes and thoughts of these congregations are now all turning toward Rome as Paul plans to go there. The Roman congregation is part of a much larger entity, and its members have certain responsibilities toward the congregations in the east. This is why Paul enlists the Roman congregation to pray as he goes to Jerusalem with the collection." (381)
Final Exhortations, 16:17-20
17― Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those causing dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching that you learned, and turn away from them.
Now: Grk. de, conj. I urge: Grk. parakaleō, pres., may mean (1) call to be at one's side; (2) hearten in time of trouble; or (3) encourage performance; urge, exhort, encourage. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX parakaleō is chiefly used for Heb. nacham (SH-5152), be moved to pity, console, comfort, have compassion (first in Gen 24:67). In various contexts the word can have degrees of urgency or firmness, such as to entreat, to comfort, or as here to encourage performance. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 14 above.
For the tenth time in the letter, Paul uses "brothers" in direct address, emphasizing his affection for them, as well as tactfully asserting his apostolic authority. The double emphasis of the plural "you" and "brothers" is meant to focus on the entire congregation in Rome. The plural vocative case (direct address) could be translated as "brothers and sisters" (so Danker) given that he is addressing the entire congregation. It's inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women, given the amount of hortatory material that typically follows the occurrence of "brethren" in the letter.
to watch out for: Grk. skopeō, pres. inf., give special consideration to, pay attention to or take note of. The present tense emphasizes a continual watchfulness. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. causing: Grk. poieō, pres. part., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition. The second meaning applies here. dissensions: pl. of Grk. dichostasia, disagreement that threatens the unity of a group. and: Grk. kai, conj. hindrances: pl. of Grk. skandalon may mean either (1) something that impedes movement, a trap; or (2) temptation, enticement to sin. The NASB chose the former meaning, but the latter works just as well. Perhaps both meanings should be considered.
contrary to: Grk para, prep. with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, here meaning "at variance with." the teaching: Grk. ho didachē, teaching or instruction and in this case teaching given or sanctioned by the apostles. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you learned: Grk. manthanō, aor., 2p-pl., to acquire knowledge through instruction or receipt of information or through example or experience. Paul alludes to apostolic instruction, which for some of those in the congregation would have taken place in Jerusalem shortly after Pentecost (Acts 2:42). Those in Paul's hall of fame likely learned much from him as well in their joint labors on his journeys.
and: Grk. kai. turn away: Grk. ekklinō, pres. imp., lit. "bend out of the regular line," thus to turn away, avoid, keep away from or turn aside. from: Grk. apo, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to those causing dissensions and hindrances. While the watchfulness is a strong exhortation, this verb is a firm apostolic command to exert discipline (cf. 1Cor 5:9-13). Paul's concern in this verse is likely something much more serious than the dispute over food and calendar. He may very well be alluding to the Judaizer in chapter two against whom he remonstrated concerning hypocrisy. After all, the fictive opponent represented a small but influential movement within the Body of Messiah. Paul issued a similar warning when he departed Ephesus on his third missionary journey:
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert." Acts 20:28-31
18― For such ones are not serving our Lord the Messiah but of their own appetites; and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. such: pl. of Grk. toioutos, masc. adj., heightened form of toios, "such," that draws attention to something that precedes or follows in the narrative and with focus on quality or condition. Paul refers back to those who cause dissensions. ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. The majority of versions have "people," but some have "men" due to the masculine form. are not: Grk. ou, adv. serving: Grk. douleuō, pres., to function in total obedience to a master, a slave or bond-servant. Elsewhere Paul describes legalism as slavery (Rom 8:15; Gal 2:4; 5:1). of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 2 above. the Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 3 above. Master and Messiah are a powerful combination in titles.
but: Grk. alla, conj. of their own: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun, lit. "of themselves." appetites: Grk. koilia, body cavity, belly or stomach. The noun is also used figuratively of the innermost part of a man, the soul or heart as the seat of thought and feeling. In the LXX koilia translates primarily Heb. beten (SH-990), belly, body, or womb (BDB 105), first in Genesis 25:23. Although Paul may be implying that these men have an inordinate love of food, he is probably personifying the stomach as a slave master, a powerful image or figure of a fleshly desire. and: Grk. kai, conj. by: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. smooth talk: Grk. ho crēstologia, fine talk that seems to offer something good or helpful but takes advantage of the unwary.
and: Grk. kai. flattery: Grk. eulogia, expression of high commendation. they deceive: Grk. exapataō, pres., 3p-pl., to seduce in the sense of intellectual or spiritual swindling. the hearts: pl. of Grk. ho kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia translates the Heb. nouns leb (SH-3820) and lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (BDB 523f), first in Genesis 6:5 (DNTT 2:181). of the unsuspecting: Grk. ho akakos, without inward or concealed maliciousness, guileless, innocent, naive. The ones causing dissension are able to especially take advantage of the innocent because "the naďve believes everything" (Prov 14:15).
The KJV inserts "Jesus" into the midst of the titles, but this is not supported by the earliest MSS.
19― For your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you; but I want you to be wise in the good and innocent in the evil.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. obedience: Grk. hupakoē, the state of being in compliance, obedience or submission. has reached: Grk. aphikneomai, aor. mid., to arrive at a certain point, thus to become known to. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. to: Grk. eis, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 4 above. Paul is likely alluding to the congregations with whom he has ministered, perhaps even to Jerusalem. therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then."
I am rejoicing: Grk. chairō, pres., to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance, to be happy, glad, delighted or to rejoice. Paul is describing his personal emotional state and not an activity in worship. over: Grk. epi, prep., with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; but used here in a fig. sense of "on account of" (Thayer). you: Grk. humeis. but: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction is used to introduce a note of caution.
I want: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. you: Grk. humeis. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. wise: Grk. sophos, adj., having a high level of discernment, understanding and insight; thus, wise generally, shrewd, clever, learned or intelligent. In the LXX sophos stands generally for Heb. chakam, wise (DNTT 3:1027). Chakam occurs frequently in the Tanakh (first in Gen 41:8 and often in the wisdom literature) and has a range of meaning, including (1) skilful in technical work, (2) wise in political administration, (3) shrewd, crafty or cunning, (4) learned in the heavenly signs, (5) prudent toward leaders, (6) wise ethically and religiously, and (7) a learner in the school of wisdom, one who fears God (BDB 314).
in: Grk. eis, prep. the good: Grk. ho agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. In the LXX agathos translates Heb. tov (SH-2896), agreeable, good, pleasant (BDB 373), first in Genesis 1:4. Both terms are used in the sense of morally good and that which benefits the community. Yeshua pointed out to the rich young ruler that to know what is good requires knowing and obeying God's commandments (Matt 19:17). Disciples can only know God's expectations by studying His word.
and: Grk. de, conj. innocent: Grk. akeraios, adj., unmixed, unaccompanied by anything else; here metaphorically of moral integrity; pure, innocent. in: Grk. eis, prep. the evil: Grk. ho kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible and contrary to Torah standards; bad, wrong, wicked, evil; or (2) causing harm, with focus on personal or physical injury; harmful, bad. The first meaning is intended here, but the second can also have application. In the LXX kakos is used to render Heb. ra (SH-7451), which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562).
This part of the proverb parallels Yeshua's counsel to his disciples about being as “harmless as doves” (Matt 10:16). Being "innocent" does not mean being ignorant of evil in the world, which would require shutting oneself off from the world to avoid being tainted by it. In contrast disciples are to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14, 16). Disciples are to be lights in the world (Php 2:15), but not to love the things of the world (1Jn 2:15). "Innocent" essentially means denying temptation and avoiding evil behavior.
20― Now the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Yeshua be with you.
Now: Grk. de. See verse 1 above. the: Grk. ho, definite article. God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe as described in Scripture (Gen 1─3; John 1:1-3; Rom 1:25). In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes the sacred name YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70).
Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
of peace: Grk. eirēnē, peace, which may refer to either (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, a characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor, used here in the Hebraic sense as a greeting. In the LXX eirēnē translates Heb. shalom (SH-7965), peace, generally denoting (1) personal welfare, health, or prosperity; (2) peace and tranquility in the community; or (3) contentment, peace, and friendship in human relations. Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, OJB, TLV) have "shalom," which is fitting for the Jewish context.
In Hebrew culture "shalom" represents the kind of relational harmony that is essential to life in a community. However, the exact phrase "God of peace" occurs only in Paul's writings (Rom 15:33; Php 4:9; 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20) and may allude to the three divine covenants of peace in the Tanakh (Num 25:12; Isa 54:10; Ezek 34:25; 37:26). See the note on this idiomatic expression in 15:33. Paul is careful to say that God will take the following action, so there is no need for disciples to do so (Witherington).
will crush: Grk. suntribō, fut., to alter the condition of something through force. In various contexts it has the meaning of to break in pieces, to crush or to shatter. The KJV has "bruise," which in modern English means to injure slightly and thereby diminishes the impact of the promise. Satan: Grk. satanas, adversary, the chief enemy of God and all who belong to God. Satanas may be a name, but functions more as a descriptive title of his function as heavenly prosecutor. In both the Besekh and the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (pronounced "sah-tahn"), which means accuser or adversary (BDB 966). There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is this person (Rev 12:9).
Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge. The taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when this evil character was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The heavenly beings were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). Of importance is that the Adversary is no ordinary angel, and is sometimes contrasted with angels. See my article The Host of Heaven.
Satan acts as an accuser of God (Gen 3:4-5) and His people (Job 1:9; 2:4; Zech 3:1-2; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:10). Why the good and loving God permits the existence of this liar and murderer (John 8:44) is a mystery. In the apostolic narratives Satan is depicted as an opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satan’s character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
under: Grk. hupo, prep. used to indicate a position that is relatively lower; below, under. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. feet: pl. of Grk. ho pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. The hope of fallen angels being subjugated is common in Jewish apocalyptic texts (Jubilees 5:6; 10:7-11; 1Enoch 10:4, 11-12; 13:1-2; DSS 1QM 17:5-6; 18:1) (Witherington). However, all these references speak of the fallen angels being bound in darkness as in 2Peter 2:4 and do not use the idiom of "under feet." The source and intent of this word picture is variously explained.
First, most commentators suggest that the source of the imagery is Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." Stern adds a second, the Testament of Levi, an apocryphal Jewish work written around 108 BC.
"And after their punishment shall have come from the Lord, then will the Lord raise up to the priesthood a new Priest, … And Beliar shall be bound by Him, and He [the new priest] shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits." Testament of Levi, 18)
Stern notes the same promise of power was given by Yeshua to his disciples, that they would "tread on serpents and scorpions" (Luke 10:19), alluding to the promise in Psalm 91:13. Stern then concludes: "According to Genesis 3:15 it is the "seed of the woman," … the Messiah, who will "bruise" or "crush" the serpent's "head." But here it is God who will … crush the Adversary under your feet. Therefore, by implication Yeshua is identified both with God and with those who trust in him."
However, the word picture in Genesis 3:15 does not use the words "under feet," and bruising a head may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Second, Paul does not allude to any power of Yeshua's disciples over Satan. Lastly, when Paul mentions "God" (Grk. theos) he normally means the Father in contrast to the Son, especially in verses where "God" and "Jesus" are both mentioned as here (also in 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20; see my comment on "God who is blessed forever" in Rom 9:5).
Second, Paul may also be alluding to the David's words in Psalm 8,
"What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet." (Ps 8:4-6; cf. Heb 2:7-9)
In the Psalm "under his feet" refers to a general dominion over all that God has created and in context the idiom "son of man" refers to humanity. However, in quoting this passage in Hebrews 2:7-9 Paul applies "son of man" to Yeshua. In any event, the dominion mentioned in the Psalm does not specify Satan and the dominion has to do with governing, not crushing.
Third, more favorable as a source of the word picture in my view is the ancient practice that followed the defeat of an enemy and first mentioned in Joshua.
"When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, "Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings." So they came near and put their feet on their necks. Joshua then said to them, "Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies with whom you fight." (Josh 10:24-25)
Witherington mentions that at the time Paul wrote this letter Roman coins depicted a military victor standing on the neck of the defeated with an inscription like "under the yoke of Rome." The important truth here is total victory over the chief opponent of God and His followers. While it is true that Yeshua has already defeated Satan (Col 2:15) and he has given his disciples authority over Satan's domain (Luke 10:19), Satan still has the power to cause much trouble to God's people. However, God has promised the day will come when Satan will be bound and cast into the abyss for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). In a very literal sense, Satan will then be under the feet of God's people, since the abyss is in the lower parts of the earth. Eventually Satan freedom will be permanently curtailed (Rev 20:10).
Many people have difficulty reconciling the paradox of the "God of peace" crushing Satan. Perhaps we should even ask, how can God send anyone to Hell? See my article The Error of Pacifism. The true peace of God will only happen when there is victory. Unfortunately, too many Christians and Jews have yet to learn this lesson. shortly: Grk. tachos (from tachus, swiftness), quickly, shortly, or speedily, as is appropriate to the particular situation, which may focus either on action or time. The noun likely has an eschatological meaning here as it does in Revelation 1:1 and describes how long an event will take to be completed once started than how long until it begins.
The grace: Grk. ho charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times in the derivative form of charin of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hęn (SH-2580), favor, first in Gen 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God (DNTT 2:116). of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 2 above. Yeshua: See verse 3 above. be with: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among. you: Grk. humeis.
Paul appears to be closing his letter with a benediction. Harrison asks, "Did Paul intend to stop here, or did he as an afterthought decide to allow his companions to send greetings when they requested the privilege?" There is no evidence that Paul did an "oops" and realized that more needed to be said before he could consider the letter finished. The closing clause actually lacks a verb so the insertion of "be" is an interpretation. This clause could just as easily be translated with "is" in place of "be." In other words, while we wait for the Messiah to come and shackle the devil to inaugurate the age to come, we are sustained in the present age by the power of God's grace (cf. Rom 5:2; 1 Cor 15:10). Paul's words function, then, as an assurance of God's faithful presence, not just simply to provide a formal ending to the letter.
Greetings from fellow workers, 16:21-23
21― Timothy my fellow worker greets you, also Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen
Timothy: Grk. Timotheos (from timaō, honor, and theos, God"), "one who honors God." The name occurs 24 times in the Besekh. Gill notes that the name of Timothy was much used in the Hellenistic world, including two notable military leaders. Yet, the meaning of the name might reflect the hope of the mother in contrast to the character of the father. Timothy was of Lystra in the province of Galatia (cf. Acts 16:1-2; 20:4), a city visited and evangelized by Paul on his first Diaspora journey (Acts 14:6). Timothy's father was a Hellenistic Jew (Acts 16:1, 3), but his mother was a traditional Jew. He had not been circumcised in infancy, probably owing to objections made by his father. Timothy's mother was called Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, who were godly influences (2Tim 1:5).
Timothy and his mother Eunice had apparently embraced Yeshua as Messiah on Paul's first journey into Galatia, because, when he next visited this area, Timothy is identified as a disciple and his mother is a believer Acts 16:1). Paul was strongly attracted to Timothy, recognizing his spiritual character and suitability for the work of the ministry (Acts 16:3). Timothy agreed to Paul's request to assist in ministry, but before departure two important acts were done. The first act was to circumcise Timothy, since by Jewish law he was a Jew. The second act was to formally recognized ("ordain") Timothy by the local congregational elders (1Tim 4:14). In this ceremony Paul himself took part, as he later mentions (2Tim 1:6).
my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. fellow worker: Grk. sunergos, one who works alongside. See verse 3 above. After his ordination Timothy accompanied Paul on both the apostle's second and third Diaspora journeys to various cities and assisted in ministry (Acts 17:14; 19:22; 20:4; 2Cor 1:1; 2Th 1:1). Timothy demonstrated his competence and reliability to such a degree and Paul was able to both leave him to work in certain places, as well as send him on missions to various cities to work (Acts 17:14-15; 1Cor 4:17; 16:10; Php 2:19; 1Th 3:1-7; 1Tim 1:3).
greets: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. In typical Hebraic fashion the verb actually begins the verse in the Greek text. Paul conveys the current good wishes and salutation from his co-workers. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. also: Grk. kai, conj. Lucius: Grk. Loukios, a Roman praenomen, or given name, which was derived from Latin lux, "light" (BehindtheName.com). He was from Cyrene and a teacher or prophet at Antioch (Acts 13:1). According to church tradition this Lucius eventually became bishop of Laodicea in Syria (Hippolytus).
and: Grk. kai. Jason: Grk. Iasōn, which was derived from Greek iasthai "to heal." ISBE says that "Jason" was a common name among Hellenistic Jews who used it for Jesus or Joshua. It's not absolutely certain that this Jason was the same as the Jason in Acts 17, although probably so. In that narrative Jason was Paul's host during his stay in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). The unbelieving Jews caused a riot and dragged Jason and several other brethren before the city authorities, accusing Jason of treason in welcoming those who said "There is another king, one Jesus." The magistrates, being troubled, took security from them, and let them go.
and: Grk. kai. Sosipater: Grk. sōsipatros, "of a safe father," generally regarded as a variant spelling of "Sopater of Berea," who was one of the companions of Paul on his journey from Philippi after his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). At the time of this writing, then, Paul had with him in Corinth the two Macedonians, Sopater of Berea and Jason of Thessalonica. According to church tradition this Sosipater was among the seventy disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and was eventually appointed bishop of Iconium, a city in the province of Galatia (Hippolytus). my: Grk. egō. kinsmen: pl. of Grk. sungenēs. See verse 7 above. The degree of relation is not explained but these three men may have at least been members of the same tribe.
22― I, Tertius, the one having written this letter, greet you in the Lord.
I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Tertius: Grk. Tertios, from the Latin meaning "third." According to BehindtheName.com Tertius is both a Roman praenomen (given name) and a cognomen (surname). Originally cognomina were nicknames, but by the time of the Roman Empire they were inherited from father to son. Ellicott offers the interesting theory that the name Secundus ("second") in Acts 20:4 may be compared with Tertius ("third") here, and Quartus ("fourth") in the next verse, with the probability that all three were sons of a disciple who had adopted this plan of naming his children.
the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having written: Grk. graphō, aor. part., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. this letter: Grk. ho epistolē, written correspondence; letter, dispatch, epistle. The term had broad use for legal, official or royal documents. At this point Paul's amanuensis apparently asks for the privilege of adding his personal greeting. It was Paul's habit to dictate his letters except for the close (1Cor 16:21; Col 4:18; 2Th 3:17). According to church tradition Tertius was one of the seventy disciples sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1) and eventually was appointed bishop of Iconium, successor of Sosipater, where he earned the martyr's crown (Hippolytus).
greet: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. As in the previous verse the verb actually begins the verse in the Greek text as occurs in Hebrew grammar. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. in: Grk. en, prep. the Lord: Grk. Kurios. See verse 2 above. We may be sure Paul was careful to use believers rather than public secretaries who would do their work without any spiritual concern. We also may be sure that people like Tertius would undertake the task as work for the Lord, so that it would cost the apostle nothing (Harrison).
23― Gaius, host to me and all of the congregation, greets you. Erastus, the steward of the city, greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
Gaius: Grk. Gaios, a common name. Four different men are mentioned in the Besekh with this name: (1) from Macedonia (Acts 19:29); (1) from Derbe (Acts 20:4); (3) from Corinth (1Cor 1:14) and (4) a man addressed by John (3Jn 1:1). Given the following description this is the Gaius from Corinth whose immersion Paul mentioned in his Corinthian letter. host: Grk. xenos, as an adj. relating to what is normally outside one's immediate experience; strange, unusual. As a noun xenos means "stranger," but also "host," when the context focuses on a dispenser of hospitality. Danker says the shift in meaning was made possible by the fact that the host and the beneficiary are in a reciprocal relationship of relative strangeness.
to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Apparently Paul had been staying with Gaius while he wintered at Corinth. The mention of Gaius as Paul's host is strong evidence that this letter was written from Corinth. and: Grk. kai, conj. all of: Grk. holos, adj., all of, whole, or entire. The adjective signifies a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual person. the congregation: Grk. ho ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. Gaius apparently had such a large house that the great majority or all of the congregation was able to meet together there. Harrison supposes that Gaius is the same as Titius Justus who invited believers into his home after the break with the synagogue (Acts 18:7), since Romans had three names. It's also possible they are different men and the move to the house of Gaius was to put some distance between the congregation meeting-place and the synagogue.
greets: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. See verse 3 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Again, as in the two previous verses, the verb actually begins the verse in the Greek text as occurs in Hebrew grammar. The congregation in Corinth knew of the congregation in Rome by virtue of their acquaintance with Aquila and Priscilla. There may have been other Jewish refugees who came with the couple from Rome when Claudius expelled the congregational leaders (Acts 18:2). Because of their common bond in Yeshua they asked Paul to express their feeling of affection and support.
Erastus: Grk. Erastos, "beloved." The name occurs three times in the Besekh (also Acts 19:22; 2Tim 4:20). Most commentators believe these mentions are of two different men. Scripture is silent on the place of origin, family background and previous life of this Erastus before meeting Paul. The inclusion of Erastus in this list of persons offering greetings would suggest that he was Jewish as the other names in this chapter. the steward: Grk. ho oikonomos, one who takes care of business affairs. A person might hold this office in a private or public capacity. The private position especially involved management of a large household.
The term oikonomos is found in the LXX of men who served as household managers for rulers (1Kgs 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2Kgs 18:18, 37; 1Chr 29:6; Esth 1:8), as well as government officials with stewardship of government monies or properties (Esth 8:9; 1Esdras 4:49). Josephus mentions such public servants (Ant. XII, 4:7). Harrison notes that archaeological excavation at the site of ancient Corinth found a reused paving block with an inscription, stating that the pavement was laid at the expense of Erastus, who was aedile (Commissioner of Public Works). However, the Latin word aedile is not equivalent to the Greek word oikonomos. See the article The Search for the Historical Erastus.
of the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center, whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, city or town. The city is Corinth from where Paul wrote this letter. The syntax of the description indicates Erastus was occupying the office at the time of this letter, so he could not be the Erastus that Paul sent with Timothy to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). The fact that a Jewish member of the congregation should have such a high public position is remarkable, though not unusual. greets: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. you: Grk. humeis. The fact of greetings being shared implies some previous or current relationship.
and: Grk. kai. Quartus: Grk. Kouartos, The name is transliterated phonetically since there is no letter "Q" in Greek. the brother: Grk. adelphos. See verse 14 above. The use of the definite article would suggest that Quartus was the brother of Erastus. According to Hippolytus this Quartus was one of Yeshua's seventy and was eventually appointed bishop of Berytus (Beirut, Lebanon).
Closing doxology, 16:24-27
[24― The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with you all. Amen.]
Most Bible versions either omit this verse or place it in brackets because the earliest and best witnesses omit the verse (Metzger 476). The verse is found in the KJV/NKJV because it is present in the Textus Receptus. Polhill concurs that it is poorly attested in ancient manuscripts and redundant given the longer benediction that follows (300).
25― Now to the One being able to establish you according to my good-news and the proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah, according to the revelation of the mystery having been kept secret in times of past ages,
Stern is no doubt correct in saying that the doxology sums up the message of the whole book. Now: Grk. de, conj. to the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for the sacred name of God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). being able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. part., be capable of doing or achieving. To speak of God's ability means omnipotence beyond man's comprehension. With God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37; 18:27).
to establish: Grk. stērizō, aor. inf., put inflexibly in place and in this context to cause to be inwardly firm or committed. God is able to put steel into the spines of his disciples. In Romans 1:11 Paul used this same verb to express the desire to "impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established," and now he acknowledges that the true source is not himself but God. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers to the aggregate members of the Roman congregation.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. good news: Grk. ho euaggelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. Most Christian versions translate the noun as "gospel." In the LXX euaggelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). Most Christians think of the "gospel" only as "Yeshua died on the cross to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven," a message totally divorced from its Jewish context. However, the message of the apostles is clear that God had fulfilled his covenantal promises to Israel. See my article The Original Gospel.
When Paul says "my besorah" (also at Rom 2:16; 1Th 1:5; 2Th 2:14; 2Tim 2:8) he is not being egotistical or talking about a new message that replaced the announcement of the angels in the nativity story (Luke 1-2), the teaching of Yeshua himself or the other apostles. Contrary to many Christian theologians Paul did not change religions or invent a new religion; he did not repudiate the Torah and circumcision; and he most certainly did not teach God’s rejection of the Jews. Harrison points out that Paul would hardly ask God to confirm readers in his Messianic message if it were different from others proclaimed.
"My besorah" may declare five things. First, Paul felt the need to rebut the distortions of his teaching (verse 17 above; cf. Rom 3:8, 31; 7:7; 11:1; 1Cor 4:13; 10:30; Gal 1:11; 3:21; 2Th 2:2; 1Tim 2:7). So, Paul's besorah contrasts with those who taught a different message (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6). Second, the besorah is "his" in the sense that it was good news for him. The content of Paul's teaching included telling his own story of grace experienced on the Damascus Road. "God can save the worst sinners, because he saved me." Third, "his" besorah came by means of divine revelation (Gal 1:11).
Fourth, the besorah is "his" in the sense of his ordination and commission to convey this Messianic message received directly from Yeshua, just as Ananias was informed, "this one is to me a vessel of choice, to bear my name before nations, and both kings and sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). His besorah was intended for the nations, Jews and Gentiles, among whom he labored in four journeys throughout the Diaspora to seek their obedience to God (Rom 15:18). Fifth, "his" besorah emphasized the Jewish roots of the Messiah and Redeemer (Acts 13:22-23, 34; Rom 1:3; 9:5; 15:8; 2Tim 2:8), a fact sadly lacking in Christian creeds.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the proclamation: Grk. ho kērugma, an important public announcement or proclamation. The technical term derives from kērux, which in Greece denoted a man commissioned by his ruler or the state to call out with a clear voice some item of news and so to make it known (DNTT 3:48). In the LXX kērugma occurs only four times, each in reference to an important public proclamation: (1) the edict of Hezekiah for all Israel to celebrate Passover (Heb. dabar, 2Chr 30:5); (2) the cry of Wisdom (personifying God) to seek understanding (Heb. qara, Prov 9:3); (3) the announcement of judgment against Nineveh (Heb. qeriah, Jon 3:2) and (4) a decree by Ezra for all those who returned from captivity and had unlawfully taken pagan wives to come to Jerusalem for "civil" judgment (1Esdras 9:3; cf. Heb. qol, Ezra 10:7).
Of interest is that kērugma occurs on the lips of Yeshua only in reference to the proclamation against Nineveh (Matt 12:41; para. Luke 11:42). The remaining occurrences of kērugma in the apostolic writings occur only in the letters of Paul to refer to apostolic proclamation in general (1Cor 1:21; 15:14), and especially his own public discourses of the good news (as here, 1Cor 2:4; 2Tim 4:17; Titus 1:3).
of Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 3 above. The phrase "the good news and proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah" does not refer to the teaching done by Yeshua himself, but the content of Paul's sermons and teaching (cf. Rom 1:2, 3). Paul began declaring in Damascus (Acts 9:22) the Jewish Messiah who fulfilled Jewish expectations and promises made to the patriarchs. It is this Messiah who extends forgiveness to the rest of the world (cf. Acts 10:42-44). Paul's kerygma is certainly a declaration of God’s salvation (Rom 16:25; 1Cor 1:21; 2:4; 15:14; 2 Tim 4:17; Titus 1:3), but he preached two distinctively different types of sermons.
In Pisidian Antioch Paul addressed Jews at the local synagogue (Acts 13). Three major points may be deduced. First, he spoke of preparation for the coming of the Redeemer by recounting the mighty acts of God from Moses through David (13:17-22). Next, he spoke of the promise made to the fathers fulfilled in God sending a Davidic Savior who was announced by John the Immerser. The Messiah was crucified and raised (13:23-37). The last major point was that on the basis of Messiah's atonement forgiveness of sins and redemption is now available for Israel. He closed with a warning to act avoid judgment (13:38-41).
Paul’s next major sermon was to the pagan Greeks in Athens (Acts 17). Because these unbelievers had no knowledge of Scripture Paul took a very different approach. His main points were that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all life (17:24f), that He made from one man every nation and determined national borders (17:26), and that God has made Man to seek Him (17:27f). In concluding his sermon Paul informed the Greeks that the true God is not an image (17:29), and that He commands all people to repent (17:30). God will judge the world through an appointed man, and this man was raised from the dead (17:31). The chief characteristic of this sermon was its emphasis on creation, and in a world where evolution holds dominate sway in every area of culture, the message of creation is absolutely vital to convince people of their need for God.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. the revelation: Grk. apokalupsis means an uncovering, disclosure or revelation. In the LXX apokalupsis is found only in 1Samuel 20:30 for ervah, "nakedness," and other three times without Hebrew equivalent in Sirach (11:27; 22:22; 42:1). Whatever the context, "the goal of the uncovering is not distant observation, but entrance to the most intense form of encounter which can involve the individual person" (DNTT 3:310). Apokalupsis is used in Sirach in a secular sense for the revelation and publication of secrets. In the apostolic canon apokalupsis occurs 18 times, always with a theological meaning. Given the basic meaning of apokalupsis as the removal of whatever hinders direct observation, then revelation is something Paul did not understand at one time, but now does.
of the mystery: Grk. mustērion in common Greek usage meant a secret rite or secret teaching. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" when he explained why he taught in parables (Matt 13:11), but the concept of God’s secrecy was originally explained to Moses, "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29:29). In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from his people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). Paul speaks of several mysteries:
· the mystery of the hardening of Israel (Rom 11:25)
· the mystery of the good news (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19)
· the mystery of God (1Cor 2:7)
· the mystery of the resurrection (1Cor 15:51)
· the mystery of the Messiah (Eph 1:9; 3:4, 9; Col 2:2; 4:3)
· the mystery of the Body of Messiah (Eph 5:32; Col 1:27)
· the mystery of Torahlessness (2Thess 2:7)
· the mystery of faithfulness (1Tim 3:9)
· the mystery of godliness (1Tim 3:16)
having been kept secret: Grk. sigaō, perf. pass. part., to refrain for a time from revealing something publicly. The perfect tense refers to action that began in the past and continued to the present. God had communicated several mysteries (cf. Dan 2:28f; Matt 13:11; 1 Cor 4:1; 13:2) to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. God’s secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan has engaged in unceasing warfare against God’s kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God’s workings (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).
in times: pl. of Grk. chronos, a span or period of time, season. In secular Greek chronos denotes a space of time whose duration is not as a rule precisely determined. In the LXX chronos most often renders yōm, "day" (DNTT 3:841), first in Genesis 26:1 as a general reference to a period of time within the lifetime of Abraham (cf. Gen 26:15), as well as the summary of a person's lifetime (Josh 4:14). Chronos is also used to designate a period of indefinite time extending into the future (Ex 14:13; Esth 9:28) and an indefinite time period of the past (Ezra 4:15; Isa 54:9).
of past ages: pl. of Grk. aiōnios (from aiōn, "age") can mean (1) relating to a period of time extending far into the past; long ages ago; (2) relating to time without boundaries or interruption; eternal; or (3) relating to a period of unending duration; permanent, lasting. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX aiōnios is used to translate Heb. olam (SH-5769), "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), first in Genesis 9:12 where it is used of an indefinite future in which mankind would be free of the threat of another global deluge (Gen 9:16). In the Tanakh, ōlam is generally concerned with a concrete idea of time in relation to the whole duration of a man's life (DNTT 3:827).
Many versions translate the two time references together as "long ages" (AMPC, CSB, ESV, NABRE, NET, NRSV, PHILLIPS, NTE, OJB, RSV, TLV) with other versions following suit and adding the word "past" (AMP, EHV, EXB, GNB, ICB, MEV, NASB, NCV, NIV). The CJB has "ages and ages." Paul also uses the combination of chronos with aiōnios (in the plural form) two other times, which Harrison believes to have a bearing on his intention here.
"This grace was given to us in Messiah Yeshua before time began [chronos aiōnios], but now has been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Messiah Yeshua." (2Tim 1:9-10 TLV)
"God, who cannot lie, promised before time began [chronos aiōnios]." (Titus 1:2 HCSB)
Harrison suggests that the most natural meaning of the phrase is "eternity past," and he believes this is confirmed by the comments to Timothy and Titus, plus the matching description of "the eternal God" in the next verse. A few versions concur: ASV as "times eternal" and HNV has "eternal times." However, there are several reasons to reject this interpretation. First, something could only be kept secret if there was someone in existence from whom one kept the secret. It is superfluous to say that God kept secrets in eternity past, i.e., before creation, when even the angels didn't exist. Second, in neither of the comments to Timothy and Titus does Paul use the word that means "began" (Grk. ginomai), so even there the translation of "before time began" is suspect.
Third, there is no preposition "before" in this passage as in the other two. Fourth, it is more likely that Paul is using chronos and aiōnios in the same sense as in the LXX, which seeks to convey the Hebraic sense of olam, or ages, as most versions have translated. So, for all the ages of man since creation, God kept His plans veiled until Yeshua came. The KJV/NKJV has "since the world began," and the NLT has "the beginning of time," which I think better capture Paul's intention.
26― but now having been manifested, and by the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God has been made known to all the nations for the obedience of faithfulness;
but: Grk. de, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv. of present time, now. The opening phrase contrasts the former ages with the present age. having been manifested: Grk. phaneroō, aor. pass. part., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible. The divine secret was publicly disclosed by the incarnation of Yeshua. In the apostolic narratives this verb is used of Yeshua's appearances to his disciples after his resurrection (Mark 16:12, 14; John 21:1, 14). The verb is probably intended to take in the span of Yeshua's life, ministry, death and resurrection that the apostles, including Paul, had witnessed.
and: Grk. te, conj. used to denote addition or close connection that is tighter than with kai; also, and likewise, and both, at the same time. by: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 18 above. the prophetic: pl. of Grk. prophētikos, adj., (derived from prophētēs, "a prophet"), prophetic, proceeding from a prophet, uttered by a prophet. Scriptures: pl. of Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context and apostolic usage meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to by the acronym "Tanakh," and corresponding to the Christian Old Testament (39 books). The term "Scripture" summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired and infallible words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi, most of whom are considered prophets.
The phrase "by prophetic Scriptures" alludes to sermons of Peter and Paul who based their proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah on the prophecies of the Hebrew prophets. according to: Grk. kata, prep. the command: Grk. epitagē, authoritative directive, command or order. of the eternal: Grk. aiōnios, adj., ageless. See the previous verse. God: Grk. theos. See verse 20 above. The phrase "the command of the eternal God" may allude to the Great Commission (Harrison) or more specifically to Paul's own commission from Yeshua (Murray).
has been made known: Grk. gnōrizō, aor. pass. part., to share information about something. The verb refers to the public proclamation of Yeshua as Messiah and Redeemer. to: Grk. eis, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 4 above. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 4 above. Bible versions are divided in translating the noun as "Gentiles" and "nations." In my view the latter is more appropriate to the context due to the constituency of the congregations that resulted from Paul's ministry efforts. Paul affirms that in his ministry he made sure that the faithfulness of Yeshua was made known to all who heard the good news.
for: Grk. eis, prep. the obedience: Grk. hupachoē, state of being in compliance; obedience, submissiveness. The noun is used here of submission to the divine will. of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). In the LXX pistis is used two times to render Heb. emun (SH-529), 'faithfulness' (BDB 53; Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17). Over 20 times pistis renders Heb. emunah (SH-530), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; Jer 5:1; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness.
Paul repeats the phrase eis hupachoē pistis from 1:5. Those who trust in Yeshua's atoning sacrifice or forgiveness of sins are expected to obey all that Yeshua taught (Matt 28:20). Wherever Paul proclaimed the good news he purposed to make true disciples of those who believed (e.g., Acts 11:26; 14:21; 18:23). The very essence of discipleship is obedience, that is following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10).
27― to the only wise God, through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom be the glory into the ages. Amen.
to the only: Grk. monos, adj., signifies the exclusion of any other entity, alone, only. Paul is not simply stating a philosophical belief in monotheism, that is, if there is deity there must be only one. Rather, he asserts, consistent with the rest of Scripture, that the God of Israel is the only God in existence (cf. Deut 4:35; 32:39; 1Sam 2:2; 1Kgs 8:60; Isa 45:5, 6, 14, 21; 46:9). This is a shortened form of the much longer accolade in 1Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."
wise: Grk. sophos, adj. See verse 19 above. Paul is not saying that there are multiple gods and the God of Israel is the only wise one in the bunch. Both monos and sophos function as separate adjectives describing God. There is no limit to God's wisdom because there is no limit to His knowledge, a fact similarly touted many times in Scripture (1Sam 2:3; Job 21:22; Ps 139:12; 147:5; Isa 40:13-14; Rom 11:33; 1Jn 3:20; Rev 2:23). Solomon spoke of God's wisdom, "ADONAI brought me forth, the first of His way, before His works of old" (Prov 8:22 TLV). God's knowledge contrasts sharply with man's arrogance as He said to Job, "Who is this, who darkens counsel with words without knowledge?" (Job 38:2 TLV)
God: Grk. theos, God of Israel. See verse 20 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 18 above. Here the preposition stresses instrumentality. Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 3 above. The preposition emphasizes the mediatorial work of Yeshua who has revealed the fullness of God's nature. He is the wisdom of God in the flesh (1Cor 1:24). Stern notes that "important as is the work of Yeshua the Messiah (chapters 3–8), he is nevertheless subordinate to God the Father." to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 2 above. be the glory: Grk. doxa, The phrase "be the glory" is an oft repeated praise in Paul's writings (Rom 11:36; Gal 1:5; Eph 3:21; Phil 4:20; 2 Tim 4:18; Heb 13:21).
into: Grk. eis, prep. the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn, an extended period of time, which may be (1) a long period of time in the past ('ages ago') or in the future of a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. The first meaning applies here in reference to future time without end. As with the adjective aiōnios in verse 25 above, aiōn also occurs in the LXX to translate Heb. ōlam, first in Genesis 3:22 where it refers to an indefinite future.
In Scripture the history of the world is not random or coincidental, but sovereignly directed. History is "His Story." In Hebrew thought historical time was divided into ages, perhaps including the primeval era, the patriarchal era, the era of bondage in Egypt and wilderness wandering, the era of the Israelite confederation, the era of Israelite monarchy and then the era of exile and return (cf. Eccl 1:10; Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:7; 10:11; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; Titus 1:2; Heb 9:26). An important feature of the past ages are the covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, and David.
The mention of ages may allude to the Jewish belief that just as there were six days of creation so there will be six thousand years of the earth until the advent of the seventh or Sabbath millennium, the age of the Messiah (cf. 2Pet 3:4-8; Rev 20:4). This belief is found in the early writing Epistle of Barnabas XV, as well as the Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a-b. In the Besekh Yeshua and the apostles generally speak of two specific ages – the present age (Heb. olam hazeh; Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Heb. olam haba; Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5).
Here Paul goes beyond the olam haba to the endless ages of eternity that will follow the final judgment (Rev 22:5). This is the fourth time Paul has used the phrase "into the ages" in this letter (1:25; 9:5 and 11:36). Since neither the Greek aiōn or Hebrew ōlam in its singular form contains the concept of endlessness, the use of the plural intensive form olamim yields a declaration of ages that will continue without end (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 9:24). Paul affirms that Yeshua will continue to receive glory, the adulation of angels and God's people, throughout eternity.
Amen: Grk. amēn ("ah-mane") transliterates the Heb. ’amen (SH-543), an adverb meaning "verily" or "truly" (BDB 53). The normal use in Scripture for amēn is as a response to a statement a speaker has just made. The first occurrence of amēn in the Tanakh is Deuteronomy 27:15-26 where it occurs 12 times as a response of the people to the announcement of curses. Only three times in the Tanakh is amēn self-initiated as part of a benediction (Ps 41:14; 72:19; 89:53). Paul closes his letter with "amen," probably a cue for the congregation hearing the doxology read to respond appropriately.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible (1834). Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Dorotheus: Dorotheus (255-362), Bishop of Tyre, The Choosing of the Seventy Holy Apostles. Online.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic?. CreateSpace, 2005.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Hippolytus: Hippolytus of Rome (170-236), On the Seventy Apostles. Online.
ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Lightfoot: Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. Macmillan & Co., 1888. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Murray: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1968.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Witherington: Ben Witherington III, Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2004.
Copyright © 2011-2022 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.