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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The woman who bears this name in Acts 16:14 ff. is described as ‘a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshipped God.’ The implication is that Lydia was more or less closely attached to the Jewish religion-a ‘proselyte of the gate,’ in later Rabbinic phraseology. We are told that she was found by St. Paul on his visit to Philippi at a small Jewish meeting for prayer held at the river-side on the Sabbath day. On bearing the message of the Apostle, she was converted and baptized along with the members of her household, and thereupon entreated the missionary to lodge in her house during his stay in the town. As a seller of purple garments-among the most expensive articles of ancient commerce-Lydia was no doubt a woman of considerable wealth. Probably she was a widow carrying on the business of her dead husband, and her position at the head of a wealthy establishment shows the comparative freedom enjoyed by women bosh in Asia Minor and in Macedonia. Her generous disposition, manifested in her pressing offer of hospitality to the Apostle, may perhaps be reflected in the frequency and liberality with which the Philippian Church contributed to the Apostle’s wants (Philippians 4:15-16). She holds the distinction of being the first convert to Christianity in Europe, and her household formed the nucleus of the Church of Philippi, to which St. Paul addressed the most affectionate and joyous of all his Epistles.

The fact that the Apostle Paul does not mention her by name in the Epistle has given rise to two different suggestions. Some have thought that shortly after her conversion Lydia may have either died or returned to her home in Thyatira (as Milligan in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Lydia’). Others have put forward the idea that Lydia was not the personal name of the convert, but a description of her nationality as a native of Thyatira in the province of Lydia-‘the Lydian’; and further, that the Apostle may refer to her either as Euodia or Syntactic (Philippians 4:2). Renan takes this latter view of the name, and suggests also that Lydia became the wife of the Apostle and bore the expenses of his trial in Philippi (St. Paul, p. 148). Ramsay (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Lydia’) regards the name as a familiar name (nickname), used instead of the personal proper name and meaning ‘the Lydian’ (so Zahn, Introd. to NT, Eng. translation , 1909, i. 533). Others, however, point to the frequency with which the name is found applied to women in Horace (Od. i. 8, iii. 9, iv. 30), and regard it as a proper name.

Literature.-E. Renan, St. Paul, 1869, p. 149; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , article ‘Lydia’; R.J. Knowling, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Acts.’ 1900, p. 345; Commentaries of Holtzmann and Zeller in loc.

W. F. Boyd.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lydia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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