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Priscilla of Rome & Aquila of Pontus

Priscilla (Greek: Priskila tis Rōmiswas born c. AD 1 (3761–3762 in the Hebrew calendar) in the Roman province of Italy. Her husband Aquila (Greek: Akouila tou Pontouwas born around the same time, but in the Roman province of Bithynia and Pontus. They were both Jewish Christians and dear friends to Paul of Tarsus during his missionary journeys. Priscilla is a Latin name and a diminutive of Prisca, meaning "ancient." Luke of Antioch specifically identified Aquila—his name deriving from the Latin word for "eagle"—as being from the Pontus region on the Euxine Sea (now called the Black Sea). He met his wife Priscilla after moving to Rome, where they worked together as tentmakers. However, the emperor Claudius (10 BC–AD 54) expelled the Jews from the city of Rome around AD 50, which both scripture and the Roman historian Suetonius (AD 69–c. 122) noted (cf. Acts 18:2; Claud. 25). In fact, Claudius blamed the Christians for disturbing the peace, though the Roman Empire still considered Jesus followers to be a sect of Judaism. 

 

House-Church Ministry in Ephesus

Priscilla and Aquila were both teachers in the first-century church. When they saw a man named Apollos ministering publicly about Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila "took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately" (Acts 18:26). Simply put, Apollos did not yet receive much less know about baptism in Jesus, only that of his forerunner John the Baptist (v. 25). Apollos was originally a Jew from Alexandria, a city well-known for its library and schools of philosophy. Aquila and Priscilla, being Jewish, were better acquainted with Old Testament symbolism—especially as friends of Paul, a former Pharisee. They often accompanied him throughout the Mediterranean, as attested by the greetings found at Rom. 16:3, 1 Cor. 16:19, and 2 Tim. 4:19.

Priscilla and Aquila were both leaders in the church of Ephesus. Although the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) renders the Greek verb proslambanō (G4355) as "took him aside" at Acts 18:26, a more accurate and historical translation is "to receive into one's home." The preposition of pros(G4314) intensifies the verb lambanō (G2983, "to lay ahold of with initiative"), therefore making proslambanō an aggressive reception of another person with strong personal interest. This same verb was used by Matthew when Simon Peter "took [Jesus] aside" and rebuked him for predicting his crucifixion (cf. 16:22). However, both Luke and Paul used proslambanō in the context of Mediterranean hospitality. Consider these verses: 

The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it (Acts 28:2).

 

So if you consider me [i.e., Paul] your partner, welcome [Onesimus] as you would welcome me (Phm. 1:17).

So, when Luke used the verb proslambanō, he attested that Aquila and Priscilla were leaders of a church that met in their home in Ephesus. He was also emphasizing by his mention of Apollos that the couple were teaching advanced theology, not just basic catechism. 

Prayer

Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the universe, by the example of your servants, spur us on to a better life so that we, who celebrate the memory of Priscilla and Aquila, may also imitate their deeds without ceasing; through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Third ed. Rev. and ed. F. W Danker. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000. p. 883.

Britannica, eds. "Suetonius." Encyclopædia Britannica. London: Britannica, 2022.    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Suetonius.

 

Henderson, Silas. "Saturday, July 8: Sts. Prisca and Aquila." Aleteia. Rome: Foundation for Evangelization Through the Media, 2022. https://aleteia.org/daily-prayer/saturday-july-8.

Houdmann, S. Michael. "Who Was Apollos?" Colorado Springs: Got Questions Ministries, 2022. https://www.gotquestions.org/who-Apollos.html.

Kirby, Peter, ed. "Pliny the Younger and Trajan on the Christians." Fullerton, CA: Early Christian Writings, 2022. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html.

McReynolds, Paul R., ed. Word Study Greek-English New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999.

Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. "Aquila." Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 2022.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aquila

 

⸻, s.v. "Priscilla." https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/priscilla

 

Momigliano, Arnaldo Dante. "Claudius." Encyclopædia BritannicaLondon: Britannica, 2021.  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Claudius-Roman-emperor.

Mowczko, Margaret. "At Home with Priscilla and Aquila." MargMowczko.com. Sydney: Marg Mowczko, 2015. https://margmowczko.com/at-home-with-priscilla-and-aquila.

Strong, James. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated and Expanded Edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.