February 26 - Romans 16:1-16

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Romans 16:1-16 – Personal Greetings

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon, of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. 

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Phoebe is the person who is carrying this letter to the church in Rome. Paul asks the church there to welcome her as a fellow Christian. She may well have been a deaconess, charged with assisting with the baptism of women and helping the church when it came to caring for women in their home. We find that Paul was in Cenchreae in Acts 18:18.

As we begin the long list of greetings, we find that Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila are the only names we recognize. They are mentioned six other times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:2; 1 Corinthians 16:19) 2 Timothy 4:19). Aquila was a tentmaker who arrived in Rome after being expelled by Claudius from Pontus. His name means 'eagle.' Because of his trade, he and Paul became friends. The couple traveled to Ephesus with Paul, instructed Apollos in the faith, had a church in their home in several locations, and were very active in spreading the gospel. We find here that they risked their lives for him and though we don't know what it was they did, apparently the entirety of the churches in the region knew and gave thanks for their work.

The next list of greetings are names of people that we don't recognize, but the interesting thing is the number of women who are named. In a patriarchal society, Paul recognized the power of women within his churches. They weren't a minor part of the community, but were active and engaged.

During this period of time, a kiss during a greeting was quite common. While generally the kisses were given by a man to a man and a woman to a woman, in later years, we find Clement of Alexandria writing of people who were shameless in their use of the kiss … it was then restricted and abandoned as a greeting.