1. I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
1. Commendo antera vobis Phoeben sororem nostram, quae est ministra ecclesiae Cenchreensis;
2. That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
2. Ut eam suscipiatis in Domino, ut dignum est sanctis, et adsitis ei in quocunque vobis eguerit negotio; etenim ipsa cum multis affuit, tum etiam mihi ipsi.
3. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
3. Salutate Priscam et Acylam, cooperarios meos in Christo Iesu;
4. Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
4. Qui pro anima mea suam ipsorum cervicem posuerunt, quibus non ego solus gratias ago, sed etiam omnes ecclesiae Gentium;
5. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
5. Et domesticam eorum ecclesiam. Salutate Epaenetum mihi dilectum qui est primitiae Achaiae in Domino.
6. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.
6. Salutate Mariam, quae multum laboravit erga vos.
7. Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
7. Salutate Andronicum et Juniam, cognatos meos et cocaptivos meos, qui sunt insignes inter Apostolos, qui etiam ante me fuerunt in Christo.
8. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.
8. Salutate Ampliam, dilectum meum in Domino.
9. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
9. Salutate Urbanurn, adjutorem nostrum in Christo et Stachyn dilectum meum.
10. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household
10. Salutate Apellen, probatum in Christo. Salutate eos qui sunt ex Aristobuli familiaribns.
11. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.
11. Salutate Herodionem, cognatum meum. Salutate eos qui sunt ex Narcissi familiaribus, hos qui sunt in Domino.
12. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.
12. Salutate Tryphsenam et Tryphosam, quae laborant in Domino. Salutate Persidem dilectam, quae multum laboravit in Domino.
13. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
13. Salutate Rufum electum in Domino et matrem illius ac meam.
14. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.
14. Salutate Asynchritum, Phlegontem, Hermam, Patrobam, Mercurium, et qui cum his sunt fratres.
15. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.
15. Salutate Philologum et Iuluiam, Nereum et sororem ejus, et Olympam, et qui cum his sunt omnes sanctos.
16. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
16. Salutate vos invicem in osculo sancto. Salutant vos ecelesiae Christi.
1. I commend to you, etc. The greater part of this chapter is taken up with salutations; and as they contain no difficulties, it would be useless to dwell long on them. I shall only touch on those things which require some light by an explanation.
He first commends to them Phoebe, to whom he gave this Epistle to be brought to them; and, in the first place, he commends her on account of her office, for she performed a most honorable and a most holy function in the Church; and then he adduces another reason why they ought to receive her and to show her every kindness, for she had always been a helper to all the godly. As then she was an assistant of the Cenchrean Church, he bids that on that account she should be received in the Lord; and by adding as it is meet for saints, he intimates that it would be unbecoming the servants of Christ not to show her honor and kindness. And since it behooves us to embrace in love all the members of Christ, we ought surely to regard and especially to love and honor those who perform a public office in the Church. And besides, as she had always been full of kindness to all, so he bids that help and assistance should now be given to her in all her concerns; for it is what courtesy requires, that he who is naturally disposed to kindness should not be forsaken when in need of aid, and to incline their minds the more, he numbers himself among those whom she had assisted.
But this service, of which he speaks as to what it was, he teaches us in another place, in 1 Timothy 5:9, for as the poor were supported from the public treasury of the Church, so they were taken care of by those in public offices, and for this charge widows were chosen, who being free from domestic concerns, and cumbered by no children, wished to consecrate themselves wholly to God by religious duties, they were therefore received into this office as those who had wholly given up themselves, and became bound to their charge in a manner like him, who having hired out his own labors, ceases to be free and to be his own master. Hence the Apostle accuses them of having violated their faith, who renounced the office which they had once undertaken, and as it behooved them to live in widowhood, he forbade them to be chosen under sixty years of age, (1 Timothy 5:9,11,) because he foresaw that under that age the vow of perpetual celibacy was dangerous, yea, liable to prove ruinous. This most sacred function, and very useful to the Church, when the state of things had become worse, degenerated into the idle order of Nuns; which, though corrupt at its beginning, and contrary to the word of God, has yet so fallen away from what it was at its commencement, that there is no difference between some of the sanctuaries of chastity and a common brothel.
3. Salute Prisca and Aquila The testimonies which he brings here in favor of some individuals, were partly intended for this end, that by honoring those who were faithful and worthy, faithfulness itself might be honored, and that they who could and would do more good than others, might have authority; and partly that they themselves might study to act in a manner corresponding to their past life, and not fail in their religious course, nor ever grow languid in their pious ardor.
It is a singular honor which he ascribes here to Prisca and Aquila, especially with regard to a woman. The modesty of the holy man does on this account more clearly shine forth; for he disdained not to have a woman as his associate in the work of the Lord; nor was he ashamed to confess this. She was the wife of Aquila, and Luke calls her Priscilla. (Acts 18:2.)
4. To whom not only I, etc. As Prisca and Aquila had not spared their life for preserving the life of Paul, he testifies that he himself was individually thankful to them: he however adds, that thanks were given them by all the Churches of Christ; and he added this that he might, by such an example, influence the Romans. And deservedly dear and precious to all the Gentiles was the life of such a man, as it was an incomparable treasure: it was therefore no wonder that all the Churches of the Gentiles thought themselves to be under obligations to his preservers.
What he adds respecting the Church in their house is worthy of being observed; for he could not have more splendidly adorned their household than by giving it the title of a Church. The word congregation, which Erasmus has adopted, I do not approve; for it is plainly evident, that Paul, by way of honor, had used the sacred name of Church.
5. Who is the first-fruit, etc. This is an allusion to the rites of the law; for as men are sanctified to God by faith, they who first offer themselves are fitly called the first-fruit. Whosoever then is called first in time to the faith, Paul allows him the prerogative of honor: yet he retains this eminence only when the end corresponds with the beginning. And doubtless it is no common honor when God chooses some for first-fruits: and there is in addition a greater and an ampler trial of faith, through a longer space of time, provided they who have first begun are not wearied in their course.
6. He again testifies his gratitude, in recording the kindness of Mary to him. Nor is there any doubt but that he commemorates these praises, in order to recommend those whom he praised to the Romans.
7. Salute Andronicus Though Paul is not wont to make much of kindred, and of other things belonging to the flesh, yet as the relationship which Junia and Andronicus bore to him, might avail somewhat to make them more fully known, he neglected not this commendation. There is more weight in the second eulogy, when he calls them his fellow-prisoners; for among the honors belonging to the warfare of Christ, bonds are not to be counted the least. In the third place, he calls them Apostles: he uses not this word in its proper and common meaning, but extends it wider, even to all those who not only teach in one Church, but also spend their labor in promulgating the gospel everywhere. He then, in a general way, calls those in this place Apostles, who planted Churches by carrying here and there the doctrine of salvation; for elsewhere he confines this title to that first order which Christ at the beginning established, when he appointed the twelve disciples. It would have been otherwise strange, that this dignity should be only ascribed to them, and to a few others. But as they had embraced the gospel by faith before Paul, he hesitates not to set them on this account before himself.
11. Who are of the family of Narcissus It would have been unbecoming to have passed by Peter in so long a catalogue, if he was then at Rome: yet he must have been there, if we believe the Romanists. But since in doubtful things nothing is better than to follow probable conjecture, no one, who judges impartially, will be persuaded that what they affirm is true; for he could not surely have been omitted by Paul.
It is further to be noticed, that we hear nothing here of splendid and magnificent titles, by which we might conclude that men high in rank were Christians; for all those whom Paul mentions were the obscure and the ignoble at Rome. Narcissus, whom he here names, was, I think, the freeman of Claudius, a man notorious for many crimes and vices. The more wonderful was the goodness of God, which penetrated into that impure house, abounding in all kinds of wickedness; not that Narcissus himself had been converted to Christ, but it was a great thing that a house, which was like hell, should be visited by the grace of Christ. And as they, who lived under a foul pander, the most voracious robber, and the most corrupt of men, worshipped Christ in purity, there is no reason that servants should wait for their masters, but every one ought to follow Christ for himself. Yea, the exception added by Paul shows that the family was divided, so that the faithful were only a few.
16. Salute one another with a holy kiss It is clear from many parts of Scripture, that a kiss was a usual and common symbol of friendship among the Jews; it was perhaps less used by the Romans, though not unfrequent, only it was not lawful to kiss women, except those only who were relatives. It became however a custom among the ancients for Christians to kiss one another before partaking of the Supper, to testify by that sign their friendship; and then they bestowed their alms, that they might in reality and by the effect confirm what they had represented by the kiss: all this appears evident from one of the homilies of Chrysostom Hence has arisen that practice among the Papists at this day, of kissing the paten, and of bestowing an offering: the former of which is nothing but superstition without any benefit, the other serves no other purpose but to satisfy the avariciousness of the priests, if indeed it can be satisfied.
Paul however seems not here positively to have enjoined a ceremony, but only exhorts them to cherish brotherly love; and he distinguishes it from the profane friendships of the world, which, for the most part, are either disguised or attained by vices, or retained by wicked arts, and never tend to any good. By sending salutations from the Churches, he was endeavoring, as much as he could, to bind all the members of Christ by the mutual bond of love.