A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 16:3-16 2) Many greetings.
*3. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
4. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ from the province of Asia.
6. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8. Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.
9. Greet Urbanus, our fellow-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12. 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.
13. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobus, Hermas and the brothers with them.
15. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.
16. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.*
Thus Paul sends greetings to twenty-six individuals, twenty-four of whom he names, adding in most cases an appreciative personal reference. Scholars have naturally wondered how the apostle could know so many people so well in a church he had never visited. Some have therefore developed the theory that these greetings are in reality sent to Ephesus, not Rome. For Paul had stayed three years in Ephesus and knew it well. Further, his first greeting was sent to Priscilla and Aquila (3), who had accompanied him to Ephesus, and his second to Epenetus, whom he describes as *the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia* (5), Ephesus being the provincial capital. On the other hand, there is no manuscript evidence that these greetings were ever detached from their place in Romans; the names fit Rome better than Ephesus; and if Paul had sent this list of greetings to Ephesus, it would have been too short rather than too long.
As for the question how Paul could have known so many Roman Christians, travel was more frequent in those days than many realise. Aquila and Priscilla are a case in point. New Testament references to them tell us that Aquila came from Pontus on the southern shore of the Black Sea, that he and Priscilla lived in Italy until the Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome in AD 49, that they then moved to Corinth where Paul met them and stayed with them, and that they travelled with him to Ephesus, which is perhaps where *they risked their lives* for him (4). It is not in the least unlikely that after Claudius death in AD 54 they returned to Rome, which is where they received Paul’s greeting (Acts 18:1ff.; 18, 26;1 Cor,16:19). Perhaps a number of other Jewish and Jewish-Christian refugees from Rome met Paul during their exile and returned to Rome after Claudius’ edict had been rescinded.
Reflecting on the names and circumstances of the people Paul greets, one is particularly impressed by the unity and diversity of the church to which they belonged
Tomorrow: Romans 16:3-16. a). The diversity of the church.