The Saints in Rome
Having completed his doctrinal dissertations, Paul then spends considerable time greeting the saints in Rome. He knew many of them already, if not personally, then by reputation by talking with Aquila and Priscilla. The first one Paul commends to them is a woman named Phoebe.
Phoebe, the Letter Carrier
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.
Cenchrea was the eastern port of Corinth, where Paul had ministered on his second missionary journey. (See chapter 12 of Lessons from Church History, Vol. 1.) When Paul left Corinth to go to Ephesus, he set sail from Cenchrea with Aquila and Priscilla. We also learn from Acts 18:18 that Paul had his hair cut at Cenchrea, "for he was keeping a vow."
Toward the end of Paul's third missionary journey, just before going to Jerusalem for Pentecost in 58 A.D., he wrote his epistle to the Romans. Phoebe was the "servant of the church" who delivered Paul's letter to the saints in Rome. Hence, Paul commends her first. Her important job as mail carrier, along with her good character, is how her name was immortalized in Scripture. Perhaps she ought to be recommended as the patron saint of postal carriers.
Her name is the feminine form of Phoebus, otherwise known as Apollo, the sun-god, indicating that she was probably a Greek convert from paganism.
Prisca and Aquila
Immediately after commending Phoebe, Paul greets Priscilla (or Prisca for short) and her husband, Aquila.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the ethnos; 5 also greet the church that is in their house...
Paul had met them in Corinth on his second missionary journey in 52 A.D., for they had recently moved there from Rome, "because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome" (Acts 18:1). According to the Roman historian, Suetonius, who wrote his volumes in 110 A.D.,
"Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome." (Lives of the Caesars, Claudius, XXV)
The historian was largely ignorant of Christianity, thinking that Christ was a man named Chrestus. Nonetheless, he confirms why Prisca and Aquila had left Rome in 52 A.D. Another Roman historian named Tacitus wrote of this as well, but spelled the name "Christus" (Annals, 15.44).
This was the same year (52) that Claudius had won a great victory in Britain, taking captive the entire royal family. They were brought to Rome, guarded by Rufus Pudens, who fell in love with Gladys, the princess.
Gladys father, Caradoc, had been the head of the British armed forces. He was put on trial in Rome, and his speech was so impressive that Claudius spared his life. He was sentenced to remain in Rome for seven years (52-59) and never again take up arms against Rome. Meanwhile, he was also so impressed by young Gladys that he adopted her and gave her his family name, calling her Claudia. She and her brother Linus were greeted in a later epistle after Paul had gotten to know them (2 Tim. 4:21).
By the time Paul wrote his epistle to the saints in Rome, Prisca and Aquila had moved back to Rome, since the ban had been lifted by 58 A.D. Hence, Paul greets them in Rome and also greets the church that was meeting in their home (16:4).
It is unclear if two churches in Rome existed at the time. In time, the "Palace of the Britons" (Palatium Brittanicum), where Caradoc's family resided, became a distinct church, but in 58 A.D. Paul greets both groups in one letter. Hence, it is unclear if there were actually two churches or one.
Some say that the church in the home of Prisca and Aquila was a more "Jewish" church, while the other was "gentile." Certainly, Paul would not have approved distinctions on those grounds. It is more likely that their homes were far apart and were distinct just because the city was large.
No doubt Paul knew that Caradoc's exile in Rome would end in 59 A.D. Paul's desire was to personally meet Caradoc and his Christian family in Rome. He had planned to go to Rome after spending Pentecost of 58 A.D. in Jerusalem. However, Paul was detained in Jerusalem until October of 60, and (because of the shipwreck) he did not arrive in Rome until the Spring of 61. By this time Caradoc had returned to Britain in the midst of the Boadicean War, where the British forces were led by Queen Boadicea and by Caradoc's cousin, Arviragus.
Epaenetus and Mary
Paul then greets others who were in Rome:
5 . . . Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.
This is the only time Epaenetus is mentioned in Scripture. We do not know when he was converted, nor under whose ministry. Presumably, by the expression, "my beloved," Paul meant that he was the first one converted under his own ministry, either in the years he spent in Tarsus, or during the year he ministered in Antioch (Acts 11:26), or perhaps later during his first missionary journey with Barnabas and Mark.
6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
Her name is Hebrew, transliterated into Greek as Mariam, but translated as Mary. She is remembered for all the hard work that she had done for the brethren. I cannot help but think of all the people over the years who have worked and served others in a support role for the work of the Kingdom. Most of their names have been forgotten by men, their names unrecorded in history, and yet God remembers them all by name, even as Paul commends Mary here. Though we know almost nothing about her, she maintains this testimony of service (ministry), even as Christ also came to minister to others as the Great Servant.
Andronicus and Junia, the War Captives
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners [sunaichmalotos, "war captives"], who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
I believe that these "war captives" were none other than Caradoc and his wife Gladys (not to be confused with their daughter Gladys, who had been renamed Claudia). Andronicus is a Greek name that means "man of victory." He was a "war captive," yet a "man of victory." Who other than Caradoc would fit this description?
It was common in biblical days for people to change their names when living in another culture. Many still do this today, though perhaps not as often in recent years. The saints in Rome had done the same, exchanging their British names for Greek and Latin names which were near equivalents.
Caradoc and his family had been converted very early under the ministry of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus' great uncle. As the minister of mining for the Roman Empire, he spent much time overseeing the tin mines in England. Diodorus Siculus, a Roman who lived in the time of Augustus Caesar (under whom Jesus was born), wrote in Vol. 1, p. 311:
"This tin metal is transported out of Britain into Gaul, the merchants carrying it on horseback through the heart of Celtica to Marseilles and the city called Narbo" [Narbonne].
There is quite a lot of evidence that Joseph had also brought Jesus with him on many of his trips. Hence, it is likely that Caradoc actually knew Jesus before His ministry had even begun in Judea. Paul recognized him as being "outstanding among the apostles" and having been a follower of Christ "before me."
The name Junia is of Latin origin. Dr. Bullinger writes in his notes on this verse,
"The acc. case may indicate either masc. Junias, or fem. Junia."
Because Caradoc was the equivalent of the king in Britain, it is likely that his wife, Gladys, would have been viewed as a queen. In Latin culture, Juno was the wife of Jupiter, the King of the gods. Her name was derived, some say, from the word love; others say from youth or youthful appearance. She was often pictured in military garb as a protector and counselor. So it is plausible that Gladys would have been given a name derived from Juno that would befit her status as a queenly war-captive.
We know little beyond this, other than this person is associated with Andronicus and is a fellow "war captive." Most likely, this is Gladys, wife of Caradoc, who was one of the war captives taken to Rome from Britain.
Amplias, the Big-Hearted Father of Caradoc
Paul writes in Rom. 16:8 (NASB),
8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
The Greek text in The Emphatic Diaglott shows his name to be Amplias, as the KJV says. I do not know why the NASB translates the name in its longer form, but perhaps Amplias is a shortened form much like Prisca is short for Priscilla. At any rate, the name means "enlarged." We know nothing further, other than Paul's expression of endearment, "my beloved."
My guess is that Amplias was the "big-hearted" father of Caradoc, known as "the Blessed Bran" in Church history. According to the accounts, when the royal family was deported to Rome in 52 A.D., Caradoc's elderly grandfather King Llyr was among them. He had been the founder of the first Christian church in Wales at the city of Llandaff. He died shortly after arriving in Rome, and he was voluntarily replaced (as a hostage) by his son Bran, who was Caradoc's father.
Bran had previously abdicated his throne in favor of his son, Caradoc, and had become the Arch Druid of Siluria, with headquarters in Trevnan. Bran had become a Christian through the witness of Joseph of Arimathea, and the entire Druidic religion in Siluria and some other provinces in the south part of Britain had become Christian through his tremendous influence.
His generosity and "big heart" was proven when he replaced his father as a Roman hostage. Thus, it is likely that Bran was called Amplias or Ampliatus during his sojourn in Rome.
Urbanus, Stachys, and Apelles
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ ...
Unfortunately, no one knows who these people are. Bullinger tells us that Apelles was a Greek name frequently adopted by Jews. We can only wonder what this man had endured to single him out as one "approved in Christ." The word for "approved" is explained by Barnhouse:
"In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos; and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world. [Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: God's Glory, p. 18]
We do not know if Apelles was literally a dokimos or not, but there is no question that he had proven himself to be a man of great integrity. Perhaps he should be nominated as the patron saint of honest banking.
10 ... Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
Aristobulus was from Rome, along with his household, but he himself was absent, because he had been appointed the first bishop of Britain. He was known there, not as Aristobulus, but as Arwystli Hen, having taken a more British name to suit his surroundings.
"Cressy states that 'St. Aristobulus,' a disciple of St. Peter or St. Paul in Rome, was sent as an Apostle to the Britons, and was the first Bishop in Britain; that he died in Glastonbury A.D. 99, and that his Commemoration or Saint's Day was kept in the Church on March 15th." [Rees, Welsh Saints, p. 81]
Paul, then, greets only his household. Aristobulus was the brother of Barnabas, Paul's travel companion from his first missionary journey. Peter's wife (mentioned in Mark 1:30 and Luke 4:38) was the daughter of Aristobulus, and she was martyred shortly before Peter and Paul in Rome. Eusebius quotes Clement's Miscellanies, Book VII, saying,
"We are told that when blessed Peter saw his wife led away to death, he was glad that her call had come and that she was returning home, and spoke to her in the most encouraging and comforting tones, addressing her by name, 'My dear, remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their consummate feeling towards their dearest." (History of the Church, III, xxx)
We do not know if Aristobulus' daughter (Peter's wife) was in Rome to receive Paul's greeting to "the household of Aristobulus." Most likely, she traveled with her husband on most of his trips.
11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman...
Paul seems to have had quite a few relatives in Rome. Recall that Andronicus (i.e., Caradoc) and his wife were also Paul's kinsman in some way. This shows us that Paul had a personal desire to visit Rome, along with his desire to sow the seed of the gospel there.
11 ... Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.
We know nothing of these people other than that they were hard workers. But then we come to one of the key people in Rome.
13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.
His full name was Aulus Rufus Pudens Pudentinus, a young Roman senator, who had been the aide-de-camp for General Aulus Plautius in the British wars. During a truce, known as the "Claudian Treaty," General Plautius met and fell in love with Caradoc's sister, Gladys, and soon they were married. When the Treaty broke down later, the fighting continued with Plautius leading the Roman troops against his brother-in-law, Caradoc. When the Emperor Claudius was apprised of the situation, Plautius was recalled and replaced in order to avoid trouble.
Rufus Pudens was assigned to assist General Plautius. When the royal family was captured in 52, Pudens was the one who escorted them to Rome as war captives. During that trip, he fell in love with 16-year-old Gladys (the daughter of Caradoc), whom the emperor himself adopted and bestowed his own name. Hence, she was known to Paul as Claudia, who had married Rufus Pudens in 53 A.D.
In Rom. 16:13 Paul greets "Rufus" by his first name. In 2 Tim. 4:21 he is called "Pudens" and is grouped with his wife, Claudia (Gladys) and her brother Linus.
21 Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
The Christian band of royals from Britain arrived in Rome the same year that Claudius expelled all Christians and Jews from Rome. It is ironic, then, that the Christian war-captives from Britain were forced to remain in Rome and were then the only Christians legally remaining in that city until the ban was lifted some years later.
When Paul addressed Rufus by his first name and claimed also that he and Rufus had the same mother, most people search for alternate explanations. It seems too strange that Paul could have been speaking of a literal family relationship. But to say that Rufus' mother was also Paul's spiritual mother only raises further doubts. The fact remains that Paul had kinsmen in Rome, including Herodion (Rom. 16:11), as well as Andronicus and Junia (16:7).
It is likely that Andronicus and Junia were the British "war-captives," so how might Paul be related to them? It seems that the only possible explanation is that their daughter Gladys (Claudia) had married Rufus Pudens, whose mother was also Paul's mother. Paul's father had probably died years earlier, while Paul himself was a minor. She moved to Rome where she was remarried to Rufus' father. It is likely that this second marriage is how Paul got his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27), and it would certainly explain how he came to have kinsmen in Rome.
If Rufus' mother was also Paul's mother, this would make Rufus and Paul half-brothers. Thus, when Rufus married princess Gladys (or Claudia), Paul could rightfully call her parents "kinsmen" in an extended family.
This is the only feasible explanation how British prisoners of war could be Paul's kinsmen, and how a wealthy young Roman senator from the Pudentius family could be related to Paul and his mother.
Rufus and Claudia's first son was born in 54. They named him Timothy after Paul's co-worker. The next year a daughter was born to them, whom they named Pudentiana. She was martyred in 107 A.D. Their third son, Novatus, was martyred in 139 while his older brother, Timothy (age 83) was in Britain baptizing his uncle's grandson, King Lucius. Lucius was the son of King Coel, the "merry old soul" of the nursery rhyme. He was known for his wit and good humor. King Coel was the son of Cyllinus, the oldest son of Caradoc and brother of Linus and Claudia.
Anyway, King Lucius was baptized about 139 or 140 A.D. by Timothy, son of Rufus and Claudia. It was this King Lucius that later declared Britain to be a Christian nation in 165 A.D.
Timothy later returned to Rome, where he was martyred at the age of 90.
More Unknown Saints
Many of the people Paul greets next are unknown to us.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
There is little that one can add to this.
Paul's Final Warning
Paul then gives the group a warning against others in Rome who had been teaching things contrary to the gospel of Christ. Paul names no one, nor does he even tell us the particular doctrines being taught. Yet he warns the saints in Rome against these teachings.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ, but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
At that time in history, the only serious heretical competition to the gospel—apart from the Judaizers—was the Gnostic teaching of Simon Magus. It does not seem likely that Paul was referring to the Judaizers here, for that problem was more prevalent the nearer one came to Jerusalem. But Gnosticism was already on the rise.
Simon Magus, the founder of Gnosticism, figured prominently in the account of Philip's evangelistic trip to Samaria in Acts 8. Simon had been baptized along with many others (Acts 8:13), but his heart was not right. He wanted to buy the power of the Spirit (8:18), but Peter exposed his heart and intentions to use the power of God for personal gain.
Some years later, during the reign of Claudius, Simon Magus went to Rome to preach the gospel of his new religion. Essentially, he taught Greek, Egyptian, and other pagan doctrines, while adding pieces of Christianity to the mix. According to Irenaeus,
"This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father, while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit." [Against Heresies, I, xxiii, 1]
Simon went to Rome during the reign of Claudius and enjoyed considerable success. In fact, a statue was erected in his honor. The editor of the bound volumes of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., says in a footnote,
"In 1851 I recognized this stone in the Vatican, and read it with emotion. I copied it as follows: Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio Sacrum." (See Vol. 1, p. 187.)
This is the statue mentioned by Justin in the mid-second century and also by Irenaeus a few years later. Justin writes this in his First Apology, ch. xxvi,
"There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: "Simoni Deo Sancto,' (To Simon, the holy God)."
Simon was said to still be in Rome when Peter first preached the gospel in that city in the early days of Claudius (45-46 A.D.). He went there after escaping from Herod Agrippa's prison as recorded in Acts 12. Peter escaped to Caesarea, and Herod followed him but died there (12:19). Peter eventually went to Rome.
It is recorded that, while in Rome, Peter and Simon had a second confrontation, for Eusebius tells us in flowery language,
"However, this success of his [Simon] was short-lived. Close on his heels, in the same reign of Claudius, the all-gracious and kindly providence of the universe brought to Rome to deal with this terrible threat to the world, the strong and great apostle, chosen for his merits to be the spokesman for all the others, Peter himself. Clad in the divine armor, like a noble captain of God, he brought the precious merchandise of the spiritual light from the East to those of the West, preaching the good news of light itself and the soul-saving word, the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, when the divine word had made its home among them, Simon's power was extinguished and destroyed at once with the man himself." [History of the Church, II, 14, 15]
Eusebius wrote in the early 4th century after Rome had been conquered by Constantine and when it appeared that Christianity had overcome all other false religions, including Gnosticism. His view was somewhat premature, of course, but we do learn from this that Simon had taught his religion in Rome in the early days of Claudius while Paul was yet an obscure teacher in Tarsus working as a tentmaker.
Twelve years later, however, Paul wrote to the saints in Rome as an experienced apostle. When he warned the saints to keep an eye on those teaching falsehoods, it is most likely that he was referring specifically to those who taught Gnosticism in Rome. Paul continues,
19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil. 20 And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Paul's reference to Gen. 3:15 suggests that the false teachings mentioned in the previous verses were based on the original serpent's lie. Paul also uses contrasting ideas for emphasis, saying "the God of peace" would crush the head of the serpent. In other words, it is not by violence, but by peace that the light of truth exposes the works of darkness.
In 16:20 Paul gives his third benediction (after 15:13 and 15:33). But Paul is not yet finished. Perhaps he came back to his letter the next day and thought of one more greeting:
21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
It seems that Paul had far more relatives in his entourage than we had realized. We also learn that the scribe to whom Paul dictated this letter was Tertius. We know nothing else about him.
23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
It was in the home of Gaius that the Corinthian church met. Paul personally had baptized him along with Crispus (1 Cor. 1:14). So from this we see that Paul's epistle was written from Corinth just before returning to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Erastus was "the city treasurer" of Corinth.
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
This fourth benediction appears to have been added much later and was not part of the original gospel. The NASB puts brackets around it and explains in a footnote that some ancient manuscripts do not include this verse. The Emphatic Diaglott tells us that it should be omitted. Ivan Panin's Numeric New Testament, which determines authenticity by the gematria of the Greek text, also omits it. The verse serves no real purpose, other than a fourth benediction that is not even the final one.
Verses 25-27 are Paul's final benediction:
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.