Priscilla and Aquila by Lynn H. Cohick

Priscilla and her husband Aquila met the apostle Paul when he came to Corinth in approximately 50 C.E. The three would prove to become steadfast friends, traveling companions, and ministry coworkers. But our story begins about a year earlier, when in 49 C.E., according to Suetonius, Emperor Claudius expelled from Rome all Jews who followed “Chrestus,” likely a misspelling of “Christ.” Included in that number were Aquila and Priscilla, who traveled to Corinth and opened a leather-works business (Acts 18:2). When Paul met them, they were already followers of Jesus. They later traveled with Paul to Ephesus and remained there to support the young church. While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila instructed the gifted preacher Apollos more accurately about the gospel, particularly about baptism (Acts 18:26). Later, when Claudius's edict was rescinded, they returned to Rome (Rom 16:3-4).

Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned by name six times in the New Testament, always together as a couple (Acts 18:2-3, Acts 18-19, Acts 26; Rom 16:3-5; 1Cor 16:19; 2Tim 4:19). They exercised leadership among the fledgling churches and were held in high esteem. Their partnership highlights one model of ministry in the early church (see Rom 16:7; 1Cor 9:5). Paul calls them his “coworkers” in preaching the gospel, praises their willingness to risk their necks to help him (Rom 16:3-4), and twice notes that churches meet in their homes (Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19).

“Prisca” is a Latin name meaning “venerable”; the diminutive form of her name is “Priscilla.” She may have held a higher social status than her husband Aquila, for her name appears before his four times (Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26; Rom 16:3; 2Tim 4:19), in contrast to the usual custom of leading with the husband’s name. All named women in Acts are wealthy, with the exceptions of Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Rhoda, thus increasing the likelihood that Priscilla had some means, although we should not imagine her as a middle-class Westerner. The name order might also signal Priscilla’s superior teaching capabilities, for when Acts 18:26 notes that the couple taught Apollos, her name appears first. Some scholars argue she is the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews. Most ancient women were not identified by their occupation; however, Acts 18:3 states that they (Aquila and Priscilla) shared the same trade with Paul.

“Aquila” is a Latin name meaning “eagle.” At some point, he traveled from Pontus, his home in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) near the Black Sea, to Rome. He was a tentmaker and thus in the artisan class; often freed slaves held such jobs. But Paul was also a tentmaker, and he was a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-28), indicating that both free men and former slaves worked as artisans. While most artisans were members of trade guilds, Jews usually did not join because guild members honored their guild’s patron deities at regularly held banquets.

Lynn H. Cohick, "Priscilla and Aquila", n.p. [cited 20 Jan 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/priscilla-and-aquila

Contributors

Lynn H. Cohick

Lynn H. Cohick
Professor, Wheaton College

Lynn H. Cohick is Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. She studies Jews and Christians in the settings of Hellenism and the Roman Empire, as well as women in the ancient world. Her publications include Philippians in The Story of God Commentary (Zondervan, 2013); Women in the World of the Earliest Christians (Baker Academic, 2009).

A skilled manual worker, trained to craft objects such as jewelry or woodwork.

A term from late Antiquity, it refers to the western-most part of Asia, bordered by the Black, the Mediterranean, and Agean Seas, in what is now modern-day Turkey.

Gods or goddesses; powerful supernatural figures worshipped by humans.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Service or a religious vocation to help others.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

Acts 18:2

2There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave ... View more

Acts 18:26

26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

Rom 16:3-4

3Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus,

4and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of ... View more

Acts 18:2-3

2There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave ... View more

Acts 18-19

Paul in Corinth


1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

2There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with h ... View more

Acts 26

Paul Defends Himself before Agrippa


1Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend him ... View more

Rom 16:3-5

3Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus,

4and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of ... View more

1Cor 16:19

19The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord.

2Tim 4:19

Final Greetings and Benediction


19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Rom 16:7

7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

1Cor 9:5

5Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Rom 16:3-4

3Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus,

4and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of ... View more

Rom 16:5

5Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ.

1Cor 16:19

19The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord.

Acts 18:18

Paul's Return to Antioch


18After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and A ... View more

Acts 18:26

26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

Rom 16:3

3Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus,

2Tim 4:19

Final Greetings and Benediction


19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Acts 18:26

26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

Acts 18:3

3and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers.

Acts 22:25-28

25But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?”

26 ... View more

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