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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 16

 

 

Verse 1

Romans 16:1 f. Commendation of the Letter-bearer.—"The church in Kenchreæ" (the eastern haven of Corinth). Paul had established churches "in the whole of Achaia" (2 Corinthians 1:1).—"Deacon(ess)": hardly yet an official title.—The Romans must "give" this sister "a reception" (cf. Philippians 2:29; Luke 15:2, same word) such as Christians should have from Christians. She has difficult business in Rome, for the readers are asked to "stand by her in whatever matter she may have need of them." "Succourer (lit. stander-by) of many, and of myself": the Greek word often signifies "patroness."—Phœbe was perhaps one of the "not many powerful," etc., alluded to in 1 Corinthians 1:26.


Verses 3-16

Romans 16:3-16. Personal Greetings.—Beside the two household groups of Romans 16:10 f., the catalogue contains twenty-six names, eight being those of women. Many of the names appearing were commonly borne by slaves. In language, seven are Latin, one is Hebrew, the remainder Greek: Rome at this date swarmed with Greeks, and the Roman Church remained of Greek speech till the third century. The distribution seems to indicate different centres of meeting in this immense city. 14 and 15 (all Gentile names) furnish distinct groups: the collocation suggests that the names of Romans 16:5 b - Romans 16:13 count amongst "the church in the house of Prisca and Aquila" (Romans 16:5 a). If so, there were three house-churches (see ZK).—Most of the names enumerated are otherwise foreign to the NT. Some figure on the walls of the catacombs, where the early Roman Church laid its dead; and quite a number on sepulchral inscriptions of the period on the Appian Way, commemorating valued servants of the Emperor's household.

Romans 16:3-5 a. "Prisca and Aquila" (both Latin names), originally of Rome, we know as Paul's close friends in Corinth, who accompanied him to Ephesus (Acts 18:1-3; Acts 18:18; Acts 18:26). They are now settled again in Rome; at the date indicated by 2 Timothy 4:19, they reappear in Ephesus. Aquila's trade of tent-making admitted of a roving life, and his movements may partly have been made in the interests of Paul's mission. Aquila was a Jew; his wife's name (Priscilla its diminutive) suggests her connexion with some noble Roman family. She is commemorated in Roman Christian tradition. In all the NT references Prisca accompanies her husband, preceding him in four out of the six—an irregularity due to her social rank, or uncommon influence, or both. This notable pair had recently (Paul's "thanksgiving" implies this) "laid down their own neck for him," probably during the Ephesian riot (Acts 19:23-41); this disturbance may have compelled their departure from Ephesus.

Romans 16:5 b. "Epænetus, the first-fruit of Asia" (the Roman Province so named, with Ephesus for centre; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:15)—probably the leader of the circle of Acts 19:1-7; hence linked with Prisca and Aquila.

Romans 16:6. "Mary": the reading "Mariam" of some good MSS would make her certainly a Hebrew Christian.—Read "you" (RV), not "us" (AV).

Romans 16:7. "Andronicus and Junias" (RV the feminine Junia, of AV, clashes with the description): formerly of the Palestinian Church, having been "of note in the Apostolic circle" and "earlier Christians than Paul." The term rendered "fellow-captives" suggests military imprisonment—used of Aristarchus in Colossians 4:10 and Epaphras in Philemon 1:23, who appear to have been Paul's companions under military custody (Acts 28:16) in Rome. This accords with Gifford's conjecture as to the Salutations, referred to in Introd. § 4; Paul had, however, been "in prisons more abundantly" (2 Corinthians 11:23).

Romans 16:8-10 a. Names legible on tombs of the Appian Way.

Romans 16:10 b, Romans 16:11. "Aristobulus": probably the deceased brother of Herod Agrippa I, long resident in Rome, whose establishment, though retaining the old name, had been annexed to the Emperor's; Paul's "fellow-countryman, Herodion" was, we may conjecture, of this set. "Narcissus" (Romans 16:11 b), the powerful favourite of the Emperor Claudius, who fell at Nero's accession; his "household" was also appropriated by the Emperor. "Those of Csar's household" who send greetings in Philippians 4:22*, may be identified with these two groups; see note on "Caesar's Household" in Lightfoot's Philippians.

Romans 16:12. "Tryphna and Tryphosa "look like sisters; "Persis" is a feminine name. The four distinguished as "toiling in" the service of "the Lord" (cf. Romans 16:6) are women.

Romans 16:13. "Rufus" recalls Mark 15:21 (that Gospel was connected with Rome); Rufus' mother had at some time mothered the infirm apostle.

Romans 16:16. The "holy kiss" at church-gatherings expressed the peculiar affectionateness of early Christianity (cf. the close of 1 and 2 Cor., 1 Th., 1 Peter 5:14)—a custom still observed at the Eucharist by the Greek Church. "All the churches of Christ"—those with which Paul was in correspondence—wish to greet the Church of the metropolis; cf. Romans 16:4 ("the churches of the Gentiles"), also 1 Corinthians 14:33, 2 Corinthians 8:18.


Verses 17-20

Romans 16:17-20. A Postscript of Admonition.

Romans 16:17. Supposing the paragraph in its right place (see Introd. 4), it would seem that Paul, in glancing over his letter and thinking of the troubles of other churches (Romans 16:16), feels that he has not written strongly enough about "those that are causing divisions" and appends a warning postscript, somewhat in the fashion of Galatians 6:11-16.

Romans 16:18-19 a. Such as these are bondmen to their own belly," is paralleled in Philippians 3:18 f.; the phrase "the Lord Christ" Paul uses elsewhere only in Colossians 3:24; "deceiving through kind and flattering speech" looks uncommonly like the language of Colossians 2:4. But the allusions of Romans 16:17; Romans 16:19 a, to "the doctrine which you learnt" and to "your obedience," etc., and the apostle's "joy over you," are in the vein of Romans 6:17, Romans 1:8-12, Romans 15:32. We need not doubt that the admonition was meant for the Roman Church, whether at first conveyed in this epistle or a later.

Romans 16:19 b echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, where (and in Philippians 2:15) the same rare Greek word appears for "innocent" (or "simple," RVm); cf. Romans 12:9.

Romans 16:20. "The God of peace"—so in Romans 15:33 (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 4:9, Hebrews 13:20)—is invoked against "divisions and offences"; that "He shall bruise Satan under your feet," was the primeval promise (Genesis 3:15).—The Benediction—in Paul's usual style (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:23)—supplies a second conclusion to the epistle, after Romans 15:33; see Introd. § 4.


Verses 21-23

Romans 16:21-23. Greeting from Paul's Friends in Corinth.

Romans 16:21. "Timothy" was by Paul's side during this period (see Acts 19:22; Acts 20:4, 2 Corinthians 1:1. Of the Jewish "Lucius, Jason, Sosipatros," the first may or may not have been Paul's old Antiochene colleague of Acts 13:1; Lucius was a familiar Latin name—certainly not identical with Luke (Lucas=Lucanus). The second (often a Greek alias for Jesus) was, not improbably, Jason of Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9); the third, almost certainly, the "Sopater of Berœa" found by Paul's side about this time (Acts 20:4).

Romans 16:22 f. "Tertius the scribe" makes his bow; "Quartus" one suspects to have been Tertius' "brother"—third and fourth of one family. "Gaius, my host," whose hospitality embraced "all his fellow-believers" in Corinth, was surely the conspicuous Gaius of 1 Corinthians 1:14, to be distinguished from NT Gaiuses resident elsewhere. "Erastus (Beloved, a fairly common Greek name), the city-treasurer"—a leading civic functionary of Corinth—was hardly the Erastus who "waited on" Paul (Acts 19:22); which was meant in 2 Timothy 4:20 is uncertain. There were several people of wealth and rank connected with the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 1:26); cf. "Phœbe," Romans 16:1 f.*

Romans 16:24 (a third Benediction) is omitted in RV, on decisive textual evidence.


Verses 25-27

Romans 16:25-27. The Closing Doxology.—As to the place of this passage, see Introd. § 4. At first sight, it looks like a paragraph strayed from Ephesians, Colossians, or the Pastorals (see the Revised parallel references); close examination shows it relevant enough to this epistle.

Romans 16:25 f. Paul renders praise "to him that is able" (cf. Ephesians 3:20) "to establish you"—his own earnest longing (Romans 1:11; cf. Romans 14:4)—"according to my gospel (as in Romans 2:16; cf. 2 Timothy 2:8) and the proclamation of Jesus Christ" (in the style of 1 Corinthians 1:21-24; 1 Corinthians 15:14). "For obedience of faith made known unto all the nations" carries us back to Romans 1:5; Romans 1:13-15, while the expression "through prophetic scriptures" almost repeats that of Romans 1:2, having no other parallel in Paul; the epistle teems with references to the OT prophets.—"The mystery held in silence in times eternal (2 Timothy 1:9 f., Titus 1:2 f.), but now made manifest," is God's purpose to impart to the Gentiles the Messianic salvation (cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 1:16, Romans 10:12, Romans 15:7-13)—the secret of the Cross (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-9); Ephesians 2:14-22; Ephesians 3:4-6, unfolds the further, consequent mystery of their incorporation in the universal Church (p. 812). The parallel expressions, "according to my gospel and the preaching," etc., and "according to the revelation," etc., point to the human and Divine activities co-operating to "establish" Roman believers: "we preach Christ"—God "reveals the mystery" of His eternal grace (cf. Matthew 16:17, Ephesians 1:17 ff.). "Manifested now (the Greek order) and through prophetic scriptures" (remove the comma of EV); the mystery revealed in the Gospel was foreshadowed by the old Economy (cf. Romans 3:21). The mandate of the eternal God" (cf. 1 Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:3) directed alike the present unveiling and the earlier hidden preparations for the bringing about of "faith-obedience"; for this end God's great secret "has been made known unto all the nations."

Romans 16:27. "To whom" is probably an early textual blunder, due to Galatians 1:5 and 2 Timothy 4:18, or introduced through liturgical usage. With the deletion (mg.) of the relative pronoun (a single Greek letter), which throws grammatical confusion into this noble passage, the Doxology concludes by resuming and completing its overture: "To the only, the wise God (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15 f.) through Jesus Christ be glory for ever!" Only and wise are distinct attributes: He is the one God (Romans 3:29 f.), whose sovereign counsel wisely disposes the successive epochs of revelation and dispenses its manifold gifts; see Romans 11:33-36.

The epistle ends in the sublime and stately fashion of its beginning.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Romans 16:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/romans-16.html. 1919.

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