Greetings for Prisca and Aquila
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house.”- Romans 16:3–5a
Following his commendation of Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2, Paul begins his greetings for several of the Christians who lived at Rome. Since the epistle would have been read aloud in the gathering of the Roman church for worship, those whom Paul greets would have heard his words and been encouraged by his testimony. The first two people he greets are Prisca (or Priscilla) and Aquila, an important married couple in the first-century church.
We read about Prisca and Aquila in Acts 18, wherein we learn that they met Paul while he was in Corinth. They were Jewish residents of Rome who had been expelled from the city, along with the other Jews there, in AD 49. The Roman historian Suetonius reports that Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews because of the disturbances in the Jewish community over a man named “Chrestus.” Chrestus was almost certainly Christ, and it appears that arguments and even fights broke out among the Jews in Rome when Jewish Christians preached Jesus as the Messiah there. Claudius would not have been particularly interested in the theological differences that sparked this trouble; he just wanted peace in the imperial capital. So he “solved” the problem by kicking out all the Jews whether they were disciples of Jesus or not. Claudius died in the year 54, and his edict died with him, allowing Jews to return to Rome. Apparently, Prisca and Aquila had some degree of wealth, as indicated by Paul’s greeting to the “church in their house” (Rom. 16:5a). The earliest Christians did not have dedicated church buildings, so they met for worship and fellowship in homes that were large enough to accommodate larger groups of people. Prisca and Aquila had a house large enough to host a gathering of Roman Christians, so they were people of some means.
In any case, the reason for Paul’s greeting is due to Prisca and Aquila’s having been “fellow workers in Christ” and for risking “their necks” for his life (vv. 3-4). We do not know what the couple did to save the Apostle, but his statement indicates that they somehow decisively intervened to spare Paul from harm. As far as their being his “fellow workers in Christ,” Paul worked side by side with them for a time as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3), but they also were an instrumental part of the Apostle’s work of discipleship. Prisca and Aquila played an important role in explaining the way of Christ to Apollos, who made a forceful and accurate case for salvation through Jesus to many people (vv. 24-28).
Some scholars have theorized that Apollos wrote the book of Hebrews, and if this is true, there is little doubt that some of its content comes from the teaching of Prisca and Aquila. Even if Apollos did not write Hebrews, he clearly had an effective ministry of evangelism and defending the faith. This indicates the importance of our own discipleship efforts, whether we are teaching our own children, friends, or others. Someone we teach might in turn instruct thousands of others.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 1:5