Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike.Acts 18:1-4
There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome.Acts 18:2
Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that, then said good-bye to the brothers and sisters and went to nearby Cenchrea. There he shaved his head according to Jewish custom, marking the end of a vow. Then he set sail for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.Acts 18:18
When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.Acts 18:26
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.Romans 16:3
The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.1 Corinthians 16:19
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila and those living in the household of Onesiphorus.2 Timothy 4:19
- Who are these two people Aquila and his wife Priscilla and what is it with the order of their names?
- Should it be Aquila and Priscilla or should it be Priscilla and Aquila?
As you would no doubt have picked up from the clips I gave you from the commentaries and the ISBE there is much conjecture about Aquila and Priscilla. As to whether they were Christian before they met Paul or not and as to why Luke records Priscilla’s name first. Some commentators and Bible experts think they were Christians already and Paul gravitated to them because they were believers. Others think they met Paul because they were tent makers and Paul ended up living with them and working with them. One of my readers commented on the fact that they worked together, thinking that was strange in itself – Why would Paul have lived and work with Aquila and Priscilla, Ian? It seems more natural that they would have been in opposition in the market place than they combined forces. I would say you are thinking of today’s European society, James and not Middle Eastern society in the 1st Century. Even today in Asia and the Middle East artisans or people of a similar trade set up shop together in the same area and if one doesn’t have the item you are looking for they will contact their fellow tradies to locate it for you. That was certainly true of the first century trades people and especially of people of a similar culture. They lived and worked together in guilds of artisans with similar skills. Luke would have told us if Priscilla and Aquila had been Christian or God-fearers or seekers. Because he doesn’t is good reason to assume they were not Christians in the first instance. But having Paul live with you for a long period of time is a good indicator that was the reason as to why they became believers. However, Luke mentions the fact in passing only in telling us the story and does not tell us the specifics.
Now concerning the question of the order of their names. I deliberately included the item from the ISBE concerning Priscilla in the previous Gem. Prisca; Priscilla – pris´ka, pri-sil´a. See AQUILA. This would have been the typical way to handle the mention of a woman in Jewish society in the 1st Century. They were not given prominence at all. The same is true of women in East and in the West in ancient times. Although that attitude is to be condemned or at least acknowledged it was something that Jesus, Paul and Luke all addressed and sought to bring parity. Jesus gave honour to women in Scripture in many places. Paul was not a misogynist, as many claimed. He too embraced Jesus perspective in his teaching related to women. Luke includes in his gospel a thematic thread through his writings in relationship to women and their inclusion in the story – watch for it.
For commentators to comment on the mention of Priscilla’s name and the fact that her name is first before Aquila’s by saying that “the best explanation seems to be that she was the stronger character” is to miss the point. There is a feature in Biblical interpretation of the law of first mention. When a name is mentioned first it is most likely more important but there is also another aspect to the law of first mention. The first mention of something or someone in Scripture becomes the benchmark of what we know about that person or principle. The first time we are introduced to Priscilla she is simply the wife of Aquila the Jew. Nothing more needs to be said. That is her position in society. In other words, not of great significance in the scheme of things. I think it is funny that two people commented on the fact that I included the typical Pharisees prayer in the quotes in the last Gem. One person was shocked that I would do that adding they did not think that I was like that. But as a result of my inclusion seemingly felt it was assuming I was. It made me laugh. I simply added it along with the other statements of prejudice. Call it poetic license if you will. It doesn’t mean that I believe it.
I believe Luke is doing that here to highlight Priscilla and her position and value in contrast to Aquila. To consistently place Priscilla’s name first in the pairing is to draw attention to her. Luke wrote as one skilled in Greek language and educated as a physician. The way to emphasize something in Greek is to place it first in a list or to place it first or last in the sentence in order to give it prominence. Luke clearly knew that and to do that here with Priscilla’s name is to draw attention to her. I agree with the many modern-day teachers, preachers and commentators who conclude that Priscilla was likely the leader of the house church which met in their home. Likely as not she was not just the stronger character but the leader of the two of them.
Allow me to add here that there was also an apostle who was a woman. Paul mentions Junia in his letter to the Romans.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did.Romans 16:7
It may surprise to know that the name Junia is a feminine form in Greek. Junia was most likely a woman who was an apostle in the early church. Wrap your thoughts around that fact. Luke is being subtle in giving us the hint that Priscilla was the leader between her and Aquila.
There is something else that several of you have written to me about concerning Paul. As to whether Paul was afraid of the Jews or whether Paul was not as successful when it came to dealing with the Jews as compared with Apollos for instance. I will address your questions on this matter in the following Gems. For the moment take note of the fact that God connects Paul with Aquila and Priscilla and their long association leads to the furtherance of the gospel. Note that on first contact Paul’s habit is to go to the synagogue and try to convince the Jews and God-fearing Greeks first. He just can’t help himself. As an apostle Paul operates on the principle of Romans 1:16. It is his underlying principle; his modus operandi.
The first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus were women. In the society of the day that was tantamount to discrediting their testimony.Ian Vail
No matter how cool, talented, educated or rich you think you are; how you treat people reveals your true character.Ian Vail
When you judge a woman by her appearance it doesn’t define her; it defines you.Steve Maraboli
Women wish to be loved not because they are pretty, or good, or graceful, or intelligent, but because they are themselves.Henri Amiel
Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult.Charlotte Whitton
The best in us can bring out the worst in others.Ian Vail