To the Romans 16:1-27
my ministry: When Jesus was on earth, he commissioned his followers to make disciples of people of all the nations. (Mt 28:19, 20) Paul called this work “the ministry of the reconciliation.” In Paul’s words, “we beg” a world alienated from God to “become reconciled to God.” (2Co 5:18-20) Paul made the most of his Christian ministry to the nations, but at the same time, his earnest desire was that some Jews would also be moved to take the necessary steps to gain salvation. (Ro 11:14) The basic meaning of the Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa is “service” and the related verb is sometimes used in the Bible with regard to personal services, such as waiting on tables. (Lu 4:39; 17:8; Joh 2:5) Here it refers to the Christian ministry. This is an elevated form of service, that of ministering to the spiritual needs of others.
Cenchreae: One of Corinth’s seaports, Cenchreae lay on the Saronic Gulf side of a narrow isthmus about 11 km (7 mi) E of Corinth. Cenchreae was Corinth’s port for points E of Greece, while Lechaeum, on the opposite side of the isthmus, served as Corinth’s port for Italy and other points W of Greece. Ruins in the area today include buildings and breakwaters near the present village of Kehries (Kechriais). According to Ro 16:1, there was a Christian congregation in Cenchreae.—See App. B13.
I am introducing: Or “I recommend.” Paul is apparently introducing Phoebe to the Christians in Rome for the purpose of encouraging them to accept her and to adopt the same attitude toward her that Paul had. (Ro 16:2) The Greek word used here is related to the Greek term Paul used at 2Co 3:1 in the expression “letters of recommendation.” In Bible times, such letters of recommendation were a common way of introducing people to strangers. Phoebe, who served as a minister in the Cenchreae congregation, may have carried Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome.
a minister: Or “a servant.” The Greek word di·aʹko·nos is broad in meaning. When Paul called Phoebe “a minister of the congregation,” he apparently made reference to the Christian ministry, the spreading of the good news. Preaching the good news is a responsibility of all Christian ministers. (Compare Ac 2:17, 18 with study note on Ro 11:13.) The related term di·a·ko·neʹo is also used of women who ministered, or served, to provide food and other assistance to Jesus and his followers. (Lu 8:3) Since di·aʹko·nos is sometimes used in an official sense, referring to appointed “ministerial servants” in the Christian congregation (Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:8, 12), some translators render it “deacon” or “deaconess” here at Ro 16:1. But when the Bible mentions the qualifications for “ministerial servants,” it does not indicate that such appointed servants could be women. Rather, they are described as “husbands of one wife.” (1Ti 3:8-13) Accordingly, many translators understand the term as used here in a general sense and render it “servant” or “helper.”
Cenchreae: One of Corinth’s seaports about 11 km (7 mi) E of Corinth. After staying in Corinth for more than 18 months, Paul sailed from Cenchreae to Ephesus about 52 C.E. (See study note on Ac 18:18.) The Scriptures do not indicate when the Christian congregation was established at Cenchreae. Some suggest that the congregation was a fruitage of Paul’s long stay in Corinth, but it was definitely established before 56 C.E. when he wrote his letter to the Romans.
a defender: The Greek term pro·staʹtis used here has the basic sense of “one who protects.” That description implies that Phoebe performed kind deeds and came to the aid of those who were in need. It may also convey the idea that she actively gave support to others. Phoebe had the freedom to travel and to render service in the congregation, perhaps indicating that she was a widow and possibly a wealthy woman. If so, she may have been able to use her influence in the community to act in behalf of Christians who were falsely being accused of wrongdoing or to provide some form of refuge from danger for them.
Aquila: This faithful Christian husband and his loyal wife, Priscilla (also called Prisca), are described as being “fellow workers” with Paul. (Ro 16:3) They are referred to a total of six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures (Ac 18:18, 26; 1Co 16:19; 2Ti 4:19), and on each occasion they are mentioned together. The name Priscilla is the diminutive form of the name Prisca. The shorter form of the name is found in Paul’s writings, the longer form in Luke’s. Such a variation was common in Roman names. Banished from Rome by Emperor Claudius’ decree against the Jews sometime in the year 49 or early 50 C.E., Aquila and Priscilla took up residence in Corinth. When Paul arrived there in the autumn of 50 C.E., he worked with this couple at their common trade of tentmaking. Aquila and Priscilla doubtless aided Paul in building up the new congregation there. Aquila was a native of Pontus, a region of northern Asia Minor along the Black Sea.—See App. B13.
Give my greetings: From this verse to verse 15, Paul sends greetings to 26 Christians mentioned by name and to many others mentioned individually or collectively. Paul’s appreciation for his spiritual sisters is shown by his specific mention of these eight Christian women: Prisca, Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, and Julia as well as Rufus’ mother and Nereus’ sister. By this time, he had been a prominent apostle to the nations for many years. (Ac 9:15; Ro 1:1; 11:13) Yet, as indicated by these greetings, he never stopped showing personal interest in his fellow worshippers.
Prisca and Aquila: This faithful couple had been banished from Rome by Emperor Claudius’ decree against the Jews sometime in the year 49 or early 50 C.E. Claudius died in 54 C.E., and by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome, about 56 C.E., Prisca and Aquila had returned there. (See study note on Ac 18:2.) Paul describes them as his fellow workers. The Greek word for “fellow worker,” sy·ner·gosʹ, appears 12 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, most often in the letters of Paul. (Ro 16:9, 21; Php 2:25; 4:3; Col 4:11; Phm 1, 24) Notably, at 1Co 3:9, Paul says: “We are God’s fellow workers.”
risked their own necks: Some suggest that this expression, literally meaning “placed their neck under,” is a figure of speech derived from the practice of beheading, which was used in Roman times. It was a strong expression referring to imminent and violent death. Paul indicates that Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla) had put their lives in jeopardy in order to save him. Some have suggested that this occurred during the uproar of the silversmiths in Ephesus. (Ac 19:28-31) It may have been in such a perilous circumstance that Paul felt so uncertain even of his own life that Aquila and Prisca intervened and risked their lives for him. (2Co 1:8) However, the Bible does not specify the occasion that Paul had in mind here.
me: Or “my life (soul).” Here the Greek word psy·kheʹ refers to a person or to a person’s life.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
Mary: Corresponding to the Hebrew name “Miriam.” Six women in the Christian Greek Scriptures are named Mary: (1) Mary the mother of Jesus, (2) Mary Magdalene (Mt 27:56; Lu 8:2; 24:10), (3) Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mt 27:56; Lu 24:10), (4) Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lu 10:39; Joh 11:1), (5) Mary the mother of John Mark (Ac 12:12), and (6) Mary of Rome (Ro 16:6). In Jesus’ day, Mary was one of the most common female names.
Mary: Six women in the Christian Greek Scriptures are named Mary. This Mary is mentioned only here, where Paul commends her for having worked hard in behalf of the Christian congregation in Rome. The Bible provides no additional information about her.—See study note on Lu 1:27.
embraced Paul: Lit., “fell upon Paul’s neck.” In the Scriptures, to embrace someone along with kissing and tears was a sign of great affection, something that these elders certainly felt for Paul.—See also Ge 33:4; 45:14, 15; 46:29; Lu 15:20.
affectionately kissed him: Or “tenderly kissed him.” Paul’s genuine love for his brothers had endeared him to them. In Bible times, such friendship was often expressed with a kiss. (Ge 27:26; 2Sa 19:39) At times, kissing was accompanied by a warm embrace along with tears. (Ge 33:4; 45:14, 15; Lu 15:20) The Greek term rendered “affectionately kissed” has been understood to be an intensive form of the verb phi·leʹo, sometimes rendered “to kiss” (Mt 26:48; Mr 14:44; Lu 22:47) but more often meaning “to have affection for” (Joh 5:20; 11:3; 16:27).—Compare study note on Mt 26:49.
with a holy kiss: In four of his letters (here and at 1Co 16:20; 2Co 13:12; 1Th 5:26), Paul encourages his fellow Christians to greet one another “with a holy kiss.” The apostle Peter used a similar expression: “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (1Pe 5:14) In Bible times, people would give a kiss as a token of affection, respect, or peace. It was also common to kiss when greeting someone or saying goodbye. (Ru 1:14; Lu 7:45) This practice was customary between male and female relatives (Ge 29:11; 31:28), between male relatives, and between close friends (Ge 27:26, 27; 45:15; Ex 18:7; 1Sa 20:41, 42; 2Sa 14:33; 19:39; see study note on Ac 20:37). Among Christians, such expressions of affection reflected the brotherhood and spiritual oneness of those united by true worship. They were not given as a mere formalism or ritual nor with any romantic or erotic overtones.—Joh 13:34, 35.
appetites: Or “bellies.” In a literal sense, the Greek word koi·liʹa refers to a person’s “stomach” or inward parts. Here and at Php 3:19, it is used figuratively to denote fleshly appetite, or desire. Paul explains that if individuals become slaves of their “own appetites,” they cannot be slaves “of our Lord Christ.” Php 3:19 describes people who have “their belly,” that is, their fleshly desires, as their god.
will crush Satan: These words echo the first Bible prophecy, recorded at Ge 3:15, which says that the “offspring” of the figurative woman mentioned there would “crush [the serpent’s] head.” This refers to the destruction of Satan, “the original serpent.” (Re 12:9) To describe that event, Paul used a Greek word that lexicons define “to shatter; to break in pieces by crushing; to overcome completely.” The same Greek word is used at Re 2:27 to describe that the nations “will be broken to pieces like clay vessels.” Writing to fellow Christians who were “joint heirs with Christ” (Ro 8:17), Paul used the expression under your feet figuratively to denote that they would share in the crushing of Satan.—Compare Mal 4:3.
Tertius: The writer or transcriber of Paul’s letter to the Romans and the only one of Paul’s secretaries identified by name. The wording in the Lord indicates that Tertius was a faithful Christian who may have been a member of the congregation in Corinth. Tertius inserts his own greetings to the Romans, perhaps because he knew many Christians in Rome.
host to me: That is, to Paul. The personal greetings from Tertius are limited to the preceding verse.
the city treasurer: Or “the city steward.” The Greek word oi·ko·noʹmos, most often rendered “steward,” has the basic meaning of “a manager (administrator) of a house.” In this context, when used together with the Greek word for “city,” it apparently refers to one who was responsible for the financial affairs of the city of Corinth. Archaeological excavations in Corinth in the 1920’s unearthed a pavement or paving block with an inscription saying that a certain Erastus laid a pavement at his own expense. Whether the Erastus mentioned in this inscription is the same as the one Paul mentions here is uncertain, but the pavement is believed to have existed in the first century C.E.
his brother: The Greek text literally reads “the brother” and could be understood in the sense of Quartus being a fleshly brother of Erastus. However, it is also possible to understand the text as referring to a spiritual relationship and thus translate it “our brother.”
Some Greek manuscripts and ancient translations into other languages add: “May the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.” Other manuscripts include these words after verse 27. However, in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts, a similar phrase appears only in verse 20. It does not appear as verse 24, nor is it found after verse 27. This manuscript evidence strongly indicates that such additions are not part of the original text.—See App. A3.
for removing the veil from the nations: Or “for revelation to the nations.” The Greek term a·po·kaʹly·psis, rendered “removing the veil,” denotes “an uncovering” or “a disclosure” and is often used regarding revelations of spiritual matters or of God’s will and purposes. (Ro 16:25; Eph 3:3; Re 1:1) Aged Simeon here referred to the child Jesus as a light, and he indicated that spiritual enlightenment was also to benefit the non-Jewish nations, not just the natural Jews and proselytes. Simeon’s prophetic words were in agreement with prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as those recorded at Isa 42:6 and 49:6.
revelation: Lit., “uncovering; disclosure.” The Greek term a·po·kaʹly·psis is often used, as in this verse, regarding the revealing of God’s will and purposes or of other spiritual matters. (Eph 3:3; Re 1:1) God is the ultimate Source of such revelations.—Compare study note on Lu 2:32.
Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.—Re 1:7; 22:20.
Amen: See study note on Ro 1:25.
These artifacts show some of the writing materials available in the first century C.E. Writers may have used a pen that was cut from the type of reed that grew along the Nile River. They normally used inexpensive black ink that was held in an inkwell. They wrote on a variety of surfaces, such as wooden tablets, clay fragments, parchment, or papyrus. A writer could compose a long letter on a scroll of papyrus and trim off the extra length for later use. For a short letter, the writer could purchase one sheet, which the vendor would cut off a roll. Most letters were brief. For example, Paul’s letter to Philemon would be considered of average length. The majority of the books in the Christian Greek Scriptures are letters, written by Jesus’ disciples under inspiration.
Shown here is a paving stone found in a plaza near the theater in Corinth. The inscription refers to an official by the name of Erastus, who is said to have laid the pavement at his own expense. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, written from Corinth, Paul included greetings from “Erastus, the city treasurer.” (Ro 16:23) The pavement with the inscription is believed to have existed in the first century C.E., so some scholars suggest that the Erastus in the inscription is the same person referred to by Paul.