The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 27, 2015

COMMENDATION OF PHOEBE, AND PARTICULAR GREETINGS TO MANY FRIENDS IN ROME
A Summary of Romans 16:1-16

That Phoebe, a deaconess of the community at Cenchrae, was the bearer of this letter to the Eternal City has been commonly believed by both ancient and modern interpreters, and is attested to by the subscriptions of many codices, Greek, Latin, Syriac and Coptic. Entrusting her with the care of this momentous Epistle, St. Paul considers Phoebe worthy of commendation to the Roman faithful for two reasons: first, because she is their, as well as his “sister,” that is, a Christian; and secondly, because of her kindly offices and helpfulness to many, including himself. After this follow special greetings to a number of converts and close friends of the Apostle.

Rom 16:3. Salute Prisca and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus,
Rom 16:4. (Who have for my life laid down their own necks: to whom not I
only give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles,)
Rom 16:5. And the church which is in their house. Salute Epenetus, my beloved:
who is the firstfruits of Asia in Christ.

Prisca and Aquila. Prisca, the wife of Aquila, was most likely of Jewish origin ; she is the same person as Priscilla of Acts 18:2, 18. Aquila was by birth a Jew of Pontus; his Latin cognomen probably came from his own, or his ancestors’ association with a Roman family. Both Aquila and Prisca were perhaps converted to the faith in Rome by St. Peter. St. Paul first met them in Corinth on his first visit there. They had lately come from Rome, having been driven from the Eternal City with other Jews and Christians by the edict of Claudius. Accompanying the Apostle to Ephesus they remained in that city and established a church in their house, while St. Paul went on his way to Jerusalem. They were there still, or again, when the first letter to the Corinthians was written (1 Cor. 16:19); later, when this present letter was written, as we see, they were in Rome; and some years later still they were again at Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:19).

The authenticity of this present passage has been questioned on account of the frequent change of abode on the part of Aquila and Prisca. But the following considerations will clear away the difficulty: (a) It was common among the Jews of this time often to change their home; (b) it is clear from this passage, from 1 Cor. 16:19, and from Acts 28:26, that Aquila and Prisca were engaged in propagating the Gospel; (c) it was only natural that they should wish to return to Rome to prepare for the Apostle’s advent there (Acts 19:21), and after his release from prison they would wish again to visit the faithful of Asia. They probably died at Ephesus some time after the writing of the Second Epistle to Timothy.

Since Aquila and Prisca, when at Ephesus the first time, knew of the Apostle’s intended Roman visit (Acts 19:21), and in all probability returned there to arrange for his coming, it is most reasonable to suppose that they communicated with him from Rome, giving him such information about friends and conditions there as would explain the list of salutations that follows here, and which also perhaps influenced in some measure the whole character of the present Epistle.

Who have for my life, etc., i.e., to save my life, etc. What were the sufferings here alluded to we do not know. That Aquila and Prisca, however, exposed their own lives to danger in order to save the Apostle is clear from this verse. The reference is doubtless to some such events as are spoken of in Acts 18:12 ff.; 19:23 ff.; 1 Cor. 15:23; 2 Cor. 11:26.

But also all the churches of the Gentiles, etc., whose members had been so much assisted by Aquila and Prisca at Corinth, at Ephesus, and at Rome.

The church which is in their house. The Apostle sends his salutations to those Christians who were accustomed to assemble in the house of Aquila and Prisca in Rome. This phrase seems to indicate that St. Paul had heard from Aquila and Prisca after their return to Rome. The faithful, in the early days of the Church, not having special buildings for the celebration of the divine mysteries, were accustomed to assemble in private houses, and there assist at the Holy Sacrifice, receive Holy Communion, listen to sermons and instructions, etc. (Acts 12:12; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philem. 2). Doubtless there were many such houses of worship in Rome and in other large cities.

There should be no parentheses enclosing verse 4.

Epenetus, who was a Gentile Christian, was probably converted at Ephesus by Aquila and Prisca and went with them to Rome.

The firstfruits of Asia, i.e., the first person, or among the first persons converted in the Roman Province of Asia, which had Ephesus for its capital, just as Stephanas, baptized by St. Paul himself, was among the firstfruits of Achaia (1 Cor. 16:15).

Rom 16:6. Salute Mary, who hath laboured much among you.

Mary was doubtless a Christian of Jewish origin, if the reading μαριαμ (Mariam = Miriam) is correct; but if we read with Soden μαριαν (Marian), the name may be either Jewish or Roman.

Among you. This phrase is read εις ημας εν υμας, and εις υμας in various MSS.; but the last reading, found in the best MSS.,
is to be preferred. What were the great services rendered to
the Church of Rome by this pious lady we do not know. Basically, εις ημας εν υμας would indicate that Mary has labored for the sake of St Paul and his missionaries; εις υμας indicates that she has labored for the sake of the the epistle’s recipients.

The in vobis of the Vulgate should be in vos.

Rom 16:7. Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners: who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

Andronicus, a Greek name often used by Jews.

Junias. The Greek ιουνιαν is probably the accusative of ιουνια, and thus, being feminine, would signify the wife or sister of Andronicus. It is also possible, however, that we have here an abbreviation of the masculine ιουνιανος, Junianus in Latin, which would mean a man.

My kinsmen, i.e., descendants from St. Paul’s own tribe of Benjamin. It is unlikely that “kinsmen” here means merely Jews, because this appellation is not applied to Aquila and Prisca, who were also Jews. We do not know when Andronicus and Junias were fellow prisoners with St. Paul.

Of note among the apostles, i.e., distinguished, esteemed among the Apostles, or by the Apostles (Cornely, Zahn), as having been converted to the faith before St. Paul, and consecrated to the work of the Apostles. They were not, however, Apostles in the strict sense of the term.

The Vulgate nobiles in apostolis=nobiles inter praedicatores, or
rather, apostolos (St. Thomas, Lagr.).

Rom 16:8. Salute Ampliatus, most beloved to me in the Lord.

Ampliatus is a Latin name found in inscriptions of the imperial household. In a chamber in the cemetery of Domitilla, one of the first of the Christian catacombs in Rome, there are two inscriptions, one of which contains in bold letters Ampliati, the other Aurel. Ampliatus; the first goes back to the end of the first or the beginning of the second century, and the other belongs to the end of the second century. It seems very probable that this is the Ampliatus of whom St. Paul here speaks. That he should have been buried in a richly painted tomb in Domitilla seems to show that he was very prominent among the early Roman Christians and dear to St. Paul by reason of his many virtues and great services.

The Vulgate dilectissimum should be dilectum. The word most before beloved in English should be omitted.

Rom 16:9. Salute Urbanus, our helper in Christ Jesus, and Stachys, my beloved.

Urbanus. A Roman name, common among slaves and frequently found in Latin inscriptions. St. Paul speaks of him as our helper, showing that he was a helper of the Roman Christians, rather than a personal friend of his own.

Stachys, a Greek name, but found in inscriptions of the imperial household. According to tradition St. Andrew made Stachys first Bishop of Byzantium.

Jesus (Vulg., Jesu) is not in the Greek.

Rom 16:16. Salute one another with an holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you.

Having enumerated the various persons to whom he wished his personal greetings to be conveyed, St. Paul bids all the Christians at Rome to salute one another in his name with a holy kiss. The Christians, after the manner of the Jews before them (Matt. 26:48; Luke v7:45; 22:48), were accustomed to greet one another with a kiss as a sign of charity; this custom became with the Christians a liturgical ceremony expressive of the unity and charity that prevailed among them, and was practiced especially at their religious reunions after the celebration of the divine mysteries (St. Justin, Apol. i. 65; Tertull., De Orat. 18; Const. Apost. ii. 57; etc.).

All the churches of Christ, etc. St. Paul is speaking in the name of all the Churches, perhaps because there were present with him as he wrote representatives of many, if not all, of the other Christian communities, and also because the Church of Rome was an object of special veneration to all the rest.

GREETINGS FROM ST. PAUL’S COMPANIONS
A Summary of Romans 16:21-24

This section is a postscript to the letter. Most probably St. Paul had intended to add the doxology immediately after his prayer for grace of verse 20, and thus terminate the Epistle. But remembering that he had not included the greetings of his companions, as was often his custom (1 Cor. 16:19 ff.; Philip, 4:21; Col. 4:10 ff.; 2 Tim. 4:21; Tit. 3:15; Philem. 23), he preferred to insert them between his prayer and the doxology rather than omit them altogether (Cornely). Perhaps this addition of greetings caused the Apostle to repeat in verse 24 the prayer of verse 20, as some critics hold, so that the doxology might immediately follow the prayer, as he had first intended.

Rom 16:22. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

I Tertius. St. Paul made use of a certain Tertius as secretary in writing the present Epistle. It was usual with the Apostle to dictate his letters (2 Thess. 3:17; Gal. 6:11; 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; Philem. 19), but it was not customary for the secretary to include his personal greetings as here. Perhaps Tertius was known to the Romans, and so was told by St. Paul to add his own salutation.

Rom 16:23. Caius, my host, and the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, saluteth you, and Quartus, a brother.

Caius, also written Gains. This is very likely the person spoken of in 1 Cor. 1:14, a wealthy Corinthian, baptized by St. Paul during the latter’s first visit to Corinth. St. Paul doubtless enjoyed the hospitality of Caius throughout his stay at Corinth.

And the whole church. Better, “And the host of the whole church,” i.e., all the faithful of Corinth that were accustomed to assemble in the house of Caius for divine service (Origen, Lipsius, Julicher, etc.) ; or all the faithful that were freely permitted to come to Caius’ house while St. Paul was there (Kuhl); or all those Christians who were wont to seek the hospitality of Caius when passing through Corinth (St. Chrys., Cornely, Lagr., etc.).

Erastus does not seem to be the person by the same name of Acts 19:22, of whom St. Paul probably spoke in 2 Tim. 4:20.

The treasurer, i.e., the officer in charge of finances in the city of Corinth.

Quartus, as his name would indicate, was perhaps a Roman Christian, and therefore known to the Romans.

A brother, i.e., a Christian.

The Vulgate universa ecclesia ought to be in the genitive, universae
ecclesiae, as in the Greek.

Rom 16:24. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

This verse is usually regarded as a mere repetition, due to copyists, of verse 20b. It is wanting in the most ancient MSS. and in many versions.

THE FINAL DOXOLOGY
A Summary of Romans 16:25-27

From verse 22 we gather that the whole Epistle, up to the present section, was dictated by St. Paul to Tertius, his secretary. At this point the Apostle very probably took the pen in his own hand and wrote the doxology by way of solemn conclusion and signature.

The doxology sums up briefly, yet completely, the whole doctrine of the Epistle, reproducing its most significant language, and extolling the omnipotence of God which alone is able to confirm the neophytes in the faith they have received.

Rom 16:25. Now to him that is able to establish you, according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret from eternity,

To him that is able, etc., supposes, as its complement, “glory,” as in verse 27, ω η δοξα. A similar formula of praise the Apostle often made use of in other Epistles (Gal. 1:1; Eph. 3:21; Philip, 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 13:20).

To establish, etc. When he would be in Rome the Apostle hoped to confirm the Romans in the faith they had received (Rom 1:11), and meanwhile he prays that the grace of God, without which nothing can be accomplished, will stabilize and hold them fast in their faith.

According to my gospel, i.e., according to the Gospel which St. Paul preached everywhere (cf. Rom 2:16; 11:28; 2 Tim. 2:8), and which was the doctrine of Jesus Christ as also preached by the other Apostles. Although St. Paul in his preaching laid stress on the universality of salvation for all, Jews and Gentiles, and the gratuitousness of this salvation through faith alone, independently of antecedent personal merits or the works of the Law; and while the scope of his Gospel thus differed naturally to some extent from that of the other Apostles, since he was in particular the Apostle of the Gentiles, he was, nevertheless, like the others, always teaching the one Gospel of Christ, else how could he ask God to confirm the Romans, to whom he had never preached, in his Gospel, if it were something distinct from and contrary to the teaching of those others?

The preaching of Jesus Christ, i.e., the doctrine which Christ
had announced to the world and had commanded the Apostle to
preach; or, according to others, the doctrine which has for its
object Jesus Christ, dead and raised again to life (Comely, Kuhl,
etc.).

According to the revelation. This phrase is to be coordinated
with the previous one, “according to my gospel,” etc. ; and the
meaning is that this Gospel, this preaching, is the revelation of
a mystery, namely, the universality of salvation for all men, Jews
and Gentiles, through faith in Jesus Christ. This great mystery
God had decreed from all eternity, but had kept secret, until it was
made manifest in the appearance of Christ, in His life and
Resurrection and the preaching of the Apostles (Lagr.).

Rom 16:26. (Which now is made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the precept of the eternal God. for the obedience of faith), known among all nations;

Which now, i.e., by the corporal presence of Christ in this world, is made manifest, better, “hath been made manifest,” God’s eternal secret in the Person and life of Christ, His Only-begotten Son.

By the scriptures, etc., i.e., by the ancient prophetic writings, through which Christ and the Gospel were foreshadowed and announced, and of which the Apostles made use in their preaching and writing in confirmation of their teaching (Rom 1:2 3:21;
9:25, 26; 10:13, 15, 18, 20; 15:9-12; Eph. 3:21; Acts 2:17-21,
25-28; 13:47; 15:16, etc.).

For the obedience, etc., i.e., that the Gospel might be accepted, that men might believe in Jesus Christ—this was the aim and object of the revelation of the great mystery spoken of in the preceding verse, which was for all nations, Gentiles as well as Jews.

Rom 16:27. To God the only wise, through Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

By a prayer of praise to the wisdom of God the Apostle terminates his sublime Epistle to the Romans.

The only wise, i.e., whose infinite wisdom alone was able to guard His eternal secret and prepare His revelation for the redemption of man through Jesus Christ, His Only-begotten Son.

Honour (Vulg., honor) is not represented in the Greek. The
construction of the verse is made irregular by the relative ω (ho = “to whom”) which, however, seems to be undoubtedly authentic, as being found in the best MSS., and, which, by referring back to God rather than to Jesus Christ, serves somewhat to complete the sentence begun in verse 25.

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