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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Aquila and Priscilla

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AQUILA AND PRISCILLA . The names of a married couple first mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:19 , and by St. Luke in Acts 18:2 . Only in these passages do the names occur in this order; in later references the order is always ‘Priscilla and Aquila’ ( Acts 18:18; Acts 18:26 , Romans 16:3 , 2 Timothy 4:19 ). A natural inference from this fact is that Priscilla was a more active worker in the Christian Church than her husband. In favour of this view is the statement of Chrysostom (i. 306 D [Note: Deuteronomist.] , 177 A, iii. 176 B, C) that it was Priscilla’s careful expositions of ‘the way of God’ ( Acts 18:26 ) that proved so helpful to Apollos. On this testimony Harnack bases his ingenious but doubtful theory that Priscilla was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. From the prominence given in Roman inscriptions and legends to the name Prisca (St. Paul) or its dimioutive Priscilla (St. Luke), Hort concludes that she belonged to a distinguished Roman family ( Rom. and Eph . p. 12 ff.). Aquila was a Jew of Eastern origin ‘a man of Pontus by race’ ( Acts 18:2 ).

From Rome , Aquila and Priscilla were driven by the edict of Claudius (a.d. 52). As the unrest among the Jews, which led to their expulsion, arose ‘through the instigation of Chrestus,’ it is not improbable that Aquila and Priscilla were at least sympathizers with Christianity before they met St. Paul. On this supposition their ready welcome of the Apostle to their home at Corinth is most easily explained. Their hospitality had a rich reward; both in private and in public they were privileged to listen to St. Paul’s persuasive reasonings ( Acts 18:4 ). Nor was the advantage all on one side; from these ‘fellow-workers in Christ Jesus’ ( Romans 16:3 ) it is probable, as Ramsay suggests (Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] I. p. 482), that the Apostle of the Gentiles learnt ‘the central importance of Rome in the development of the Church.… We may fairly associate with this friendship the maturing of St. Paul’s plan for evangelizing Rome and the West, which we find already fully arranged a little later ( Acts 19:21 , Romans 15:24 ).’

At the close of St. Paul’s eighteen months’ residence in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla accompanied him to Ephesus . At their house Christians assembled for worship, and, according to an early gloss (DG al ) on 1 Corinthians 16:19 , the Apostle again lodged with them. At Ephesus they remained whilst St. Paul visited Jerusalem; there Apollos, the eloquent Alexandrian, profited greatly from their ripe Christian experience, and learnt, from one or both of them, the secret of power in ministering the gospel of grace ( Acts 18:26 ff.); there also it is probable that they made ‘the churches of the Gentiles’ their debtors by risking their lives in defence of St. Paul. The allusion to this courageous deed is in Romans 16:3 , and from this passage we learn that Aquila and Priscilla sojourned for a while in Rome , where once more their hospitable home became a rendezvous for Christians. This statement affords no ground for disputing the integrity of the Epistle. Their former connexion with Rome, their Interest in the Church of Christ in the imperial city, and their migratory habits, rather furnish presumptive evidence in favour of such a visit. From these trusted friends St. Paul may have received the encouraging tidings which made him ‘long to see’ his fellow-believers in Rome ( Romans 1:11 ). The last NT reference to this devoted pair shows that they returned to Ephesus ( 2 Timothy 4:19 ); their fellowship with Timothy would, doubtless, tend to his strengthening ‘in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ (21).

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Aquila and Priscilla'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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