Romans 16

This chapter is full of information about church leaders. I look more carefully at the women leaders than the men, though everyone gets a comment.

In my long study of the passages in Scripture concerning women in church leadership, I have come to realize that the Egalitarians have the better exegesis and evidence drawn from the proper reading of Scripture than the Complementarians do (not that they have no evidence or arguments).

Recall that Complementarians call themselves by this name because they believe that men and women complement each other in the church and the household, but they are not equal in their roles. Therefore, they restrict women’s full participation in ministry.

Egalitarians call themselves by this name because they see equality between men in women both in the household and church leadership.

However, I prefer to call Complementarians “restictionists” because everyone believes in complementarity. What distinguishes the two sides are the restrictions the Complementarians put on women.

Here is one more post laying out the evidence that shows that the real-life people who lived two-thousand years ago and who were doing their ministries were active for the gospel in leadership roles.

This post is divided in four major sections:



Commending Phoebe the letter carrier and minister (vv. 1-2)

Paul’s greetings to Individuals in Rome (vv. 3-16)

Warning and Promises (vv. 17-20)

Others Who Send Greetings (vv. 21-23)

Doxology (vv. 25-27)



Let’s begin with the Greek text and my translation. If you would like to see many other translations, please go to


Greek Text Translation
1 Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν, οὖσαν [καὶ] διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κεγχρεαῖς, 2 ἵνα αὐτὴν προσδέξησθε ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως τῶν ἁγίων καὶ παραστῆτε αὐτῇ ἐν ᾧ ἂν ὑμῶν χρῄζῃ πράγματι· καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ προστάτις πολλῶν ἐγενήθη καὶ ἐμοῦ αὐτοῦ.

3 Ἀσπάσασθε Πρίσκαν καὶ Ἀκύλαν τοὺς συνεργούς μου ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 4 οἵτινες ὑπὲρ τῆς ψυχῆς μου τὸν ἑαυτῶν τράχηλον ὑπέθηκαν, οἷς οὐκ ἐγὼ μόνος εὐχαριστῶ ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῶν ἐθνῶν, 5 καὶ τὴν κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίαν.

ἀσπάσασθε Ἐπαίνετον τὸν ἀγαπητόν μου, ὅς ἐστιν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀσίας εἰς Χριστόν.

6 ἀσπάσασθε Μαρίαν, ἥτις πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν εἰς ὑμᾶς.

7 ἀσπάσασθε Ἀνδρόνικον καὶ Ἰουνίαν τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, οἵτινές εἰσιν ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν Χριστῷ.

8 ἀσπάσασθε Ἀμπλιᾶτον τὸν ἀγαπητόν μου ἐν κυρίῳ.

9 ἀσπάσασθε Οὐρβανὸν τὸν συνεργὸν ἡμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ καὶ Στάχυν τὸν ἀγαπητόν μου.

10 ἀσπάσασθε Ἀπελλῆν τὸν δόκιμον ἐν Χριστῷ. ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοβούλου.

11 ἀσπάσασθε Ἡρῳδίωνα τὸν συγγενῆ μου.

ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἐκ τῶν Ναρκίσσου τοὺς ὄντας ἐν κυρίῳ.

12 ἀσπάσασθε Τρύφαιναν καὶ Τρυφῶσαν τὰς κοπιώσας ἐν κυρίῳ.

ἀσπάσασθε Περσίδα τὴν ἀγαπητήν, ἥτις πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν ἐν κυρίῳ.

13 ἀσπάσασθε Ῥοῦφον τὸν ἐκλεκτὸν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐμοῦ.

14 ἀσπάσασθε Ἀσύγκριτον, Φλέγοντα, Ἑρμῆν, Πατροβᾶν, Ἑρμᾶν καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς ἀδελφούς.

15 ἀσπάσασθε Φιλόλογον καὶ Ἰουλίαν, Νηρέα καὶ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ὀλυμπᾶν καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς πάντας ἁγίους.

16 ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ.

ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι πᾶσαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

17 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, σκοπεῖν τοὺς τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ σκάνδαλα παρὰ τὴν διδαχὴν ἣν ὑμεῖς ἐμάθετε ποιοῦντας, καὶ ἐκκλίνετε ἀπ’ αὐτῶν· 18 οἱ γὰρ τοιοῦτοι τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν Χριστῷ οὐ δουλεύουσιν ἀλλὰ τῇ ἑαυτῶν κοιλίᾳ, καὶ διὰ τῆς χρηστολογίας καὶ εὐλογίας ἐξαπατῶσιν τὰς καρδίας τῶν ἀκάκων.

19 ἡ γὰρ ὑμῶν ὑπακοὴ εἰς πάντας ἀφίκετο· ἐφ’ ὑμῖν οὖν χαίρω, θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς σοφοὺς εἶναι εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἀκεραίους δὲ εἰς τὸ κακόν.

20 ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης συντρίψει τὸν σατανᾶν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας ὑμῶν ἐν τάχει.

Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν.

21 Ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Τιμόθεος ὁ συνεργός μου καὶ Λούκιος καὶ Ἰάσων καὶ Σωσίπατρος οἱ συγγενεῖς μου.

22 ἀσπάζομαι ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ Τέρτιος ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἐν κυρίῳ.

23 ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Γάϊος ὁ ξένος μου καὶ ὅλης τῆς ἐκκλησίας.

ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Ἔραστος ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως καὶ Κούαρτος ὁ ἀδελφός.

[25 Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑμᾶς στηρίξαι κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν μυστηρίου χρόνοις αἰωνίοις σεσιγημένου, 26 φανερωθέντος δὲ νῦν διά τε γραφῶν προφητικῶν κατ’ ἐπιταγὴν τοῦ αἰωνίου θεοῦ εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη γνωρισθέντος, 27 μόνῳ σοφῷ θεῷ, διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν.]


1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a minister of the church which is in Cenchreae, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord, in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in any practical thing she may need from you. For she has been a benefactress of many, including me.

3 Greet Prisca and Aquila my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who laid down their own necks for my life. Not only I thank them but also all the churches of the Gentiles; 5 and (greet) the church that is in their house.

Greet my beloved friend Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.

6 Greet Mary who labored really hard for you.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia my kinsmen and my co-prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles and who were in Christ before me.

8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved friend in the Lord.

9 Greet Urbanus our coworker in Christ and Stachys my beloved friend.

10 Greet Apelles, the tested and approved in Christ.

Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodian my kinsman.

Greet those in the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa who work hard in the Lord.

Greet Persis, the beloved, who worked really hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, the elect in the Lord, and his mother and (a mother) to me.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philogus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ greet you.

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who are causing divisions and stumbling blocks contrary to the teaching which you have learned. Separate from them. 18 For such ones do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. Through smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

19 For your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore, I rejoice because of you. I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my coworker, greets you, and so do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is my host and of the entire church, greets you.

Erastus, the city manager, greets you, and so does (our) brother Quartus.

24 [May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.]

25 Now to the one who is able to establish you, according to my gospel and the (preached) message about Jesus Christ, according to the revealing of the mystery which had been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but is now being made manifest, and through prophetic writings, according to the command of the eternal God, is made known to all the nations, for (their) obedience by faith— 27 to the only wise God, to whom, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.


Let’s take it verse by verse. I depend heavily on Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible. Doubleday, 1992.

1-2: Phoebe

Phoebe came from the port town of Cenchreae, six miles (9.6 km) from Corinth. She was bearing Paul’s epistle to Rome, no doubt accompanied by members of her household, for it was too risky for a woman to travel alone. When she arrived at Rome, it is a sure thing that she read the letter to the original audience of Romans.

She is called a servant (diakonos, pronounced dee-ah-koh-noss), which may also means she was a deaconess (1 Tim. 3:11; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:9). More than this, she may have been a minister, another translation of diakonos, as even Christ himself was to the Jews (Rom. 15:8); Paul and Apollos were ministers to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:5); Paul was a minister (2 Cor. 6:4; Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25); Tychicus was a minister (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7); Epaphras was a minister (Col. 1:7); and Timothy was a minister (1 Tim. 4:6). Phoebe should be classed among these ministers of the word (apart from Christ and his unique mission).

She was also a prostatis, which literally means “she who stands in front or before” (pro– + stat-). Liddle and Scott’s Classical Greek lexicon offers these definitions for the male version (prostatēs) (edited):

“One who stands before, a front-rank-man”

II. A chief, leader of a party; generally, a president or ruler

III. One who stands before, a protector, guard, champion; a citizen who took care of resident aliens (metoikoi) in Athens; in Rome a patronus who took care of clientes.

All the definitions may apply to her, but the third definition is particularly relevant here. Phoebe was a patroness or benefactress of many, including Paul.

The Greek lexicon BDAG is only partly helpful. The editors say that prostatis is a supportive role (as if she was not a leader), but they also suggest this translation: “patron, benefactor.” This is the right one, but I also like “one who presides” (from Liddle and Scott) in her own household. Both meanings are possible at the same time, since people lived full lives, even two thousand years ago..

This means she was rich enough to take care of many people, including Paul, when he traveled down to the port to board a ship or to preach. She no doubt had a house (wealthy men or women did), where she presided, and most likely she hosted a house church, where Christians gathered and where Paul himself offered her due deference in her own home. The earliest Christians were, after all, called to submit mutually (Eph. 5:21). As a parallel case, here is Paul’s testimony about Stephanas:

15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, 16 to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.  (1 Cor. 16:15-16, NIV)

Paul was not arrogant and strident, even though he was the apostle who planted the church in Corinth and most likely in Cenchreae; he saw the value of honoring men like Stephanas. Paul is doing the same with Phoebe and asking the Romans to welcome her, with respect. She was, after all, commissioned by Paul to carry his epistle. He fully endorsed her.

Fitzmyer, citing another scholar, says her name Phoebe, taken from a pagan Greek goddess, might indicate she was a freedwoman, a freed slave. If so, she must have been faithful and competent and left service with prosperity.

The phrase “any practical thing” translates the Greek noun pragma (related to our word pragmatic), which means “matter, business, affair, deed” (Fitzmyer). The noun may be related to a legal matter in the Corinthian context (1 Cor. 6:10). If this was Phoebe’s situation, then she was going to Rome as a litigant, which is another indicator of her high station in society because the urban poor did not need or measure up to such special consideration.

I like the causal conjunction “for” in the last clause of v. 2. It means that because she has been a benefactress or patroness of many and Paul, the Roman Christians should help her in any practical thing or her lawsuit or any business matter. Good deeds must to be recognized and rewarded, and Paul asks the Romans to look after Phoebe for this reason.

3-5: Prisca and Aquila; their house church; Epaenetus

Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila: Here are the basic Scriptural facts about this married couple.

Often her name comes first in the context of ministry leadership (Acts 18:18; Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:9). But when the context is business, his name comes first (Acts 18:2; 1 Cor. 16:19). She led in spiritual matters; he led in tent-making and the household business. Her name coming first may also indicate that she was from a higher level in society than he was; if so, she was certainly educated more thoroughly than the average woman.

Aquila, a Jew, was originally from Pontus, in northern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) (Acts 18:1-3).

They went to Rome, but were expelled because Claudius ordered all Jews to leave Rome (Acts 18:2-3).

Prisca and Aquila were tentmakers or leather-workers, as Paul was (Acts 18:3). They worked together in the same business. It’s hard to believe that Priscilla would not help out in marketing and selling in the public domain. Women often did, as my book demonstrates.

They traveled with Paul to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19).

They instructed Apollos more fully in the way of the Lord (Acts 18:26).

Paul considered her a co-worker. In Greek this is synergos (syn– = “co”; and ergos = “worker” or “laborer”). This means they evangelized, taught, hosted, and led a church, in this case, their house church. This is clearly the same function as pastor or elder or overseer:

Women Really Did Work as–and Were–Overseers, Elders, Pastors: A Close Look at 1 Timothy 5:9-10

See v. 21 and Timothy’s life to find out how hard Paul’s co-laborers worked for the gospel.

A church met in her house in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:9; Rom. 16:5). Paul sends greetings to all the churches of the Gentiles, which means Priscilla and Aquila opened their house to them–pagans. As Jews, they dropped their prejudice against them because Paul taught that the mystery of the ages long past, now revealed, was that God accepted Gentiles on the basis of faith in Christ (the Messiah), not on the basis of law-keeping of the Sinai covenant. A new door was now open (vv. 25-27, below).

They risked their necks for Paul’s life (Rom. 16:4). This rescue may have happened during the riot of the silversmiths in Ephesus (Acts 19:23). Or this intervention may have taken place during an Ephesian imprisonment, to which Paul may refer in 1 Cor. 15:32 and 2 Cor. 1:18-19. Or it may be the imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16:23), though this latter option seems farfetched. Wherever it was that they helped him, they may have used their financial resources or influence to get him released or protected him somehow. They risked their necks to save him, so whatever service they rendered, it was dangerous. Priscilla and Aquila were high-quality disciples.

Paul greets them through Timothy (2 Tim. 4:19).

Here is my commentary on Acts 18, where their lives are described:

Acts 18

Prisca or Priscilla was a woman of God. She was a business woman, a teacher, knowledgeable in Scripture, was Spirit filled, and hosted a church in their household. Even though she was a Jew, she broke down the barriers and fellowshipped with Gentile Christians, ex-pagans, and even ate with them. Did she serve only kosher food in her house? Probably. Did the newly converted pagan Gentiles mind? Probably not. (See Romans 14.) She embraced Paul’s teaching that God has included the Gentiles to now be members of the People of God by having faith in the Messiah, apart from keeping the old law of Moses. If she had any exclusionary attitude against pagans in her past life, her willingness to set aside her old beliefs shows her to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and the new message of the gospel of the kingdom.

Epaenetus (Epenetus): he was Paul’s beloved friend, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Lydia was the first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14). His conversion must have thrilled Paul–and probably Barnabas during their first missionary journey–where they traveled in Asia Minor (Acts 13:1-14:28). For some reason unknown to us, he went to Rome. Paul must have heard about it and sent his greetings. Maybe Epaenetus stopped by Corinth or another city, like Ephesus, at an unknown time and informed Paul of his plans. Or he may have written a letter to the apostle.

Eckhardt J. Schnabel provides this illuminating table of the timeline of Paul’s missionary activity: See the bold font for the time when Epaenetus was saved.

Period 1 Damascus Acts 9:19-25; Gal 1:17 AD 32/33
Period 2 Arabia / Nabatea Gal 1:17; 2 Cor 11:32 32-33
Period 3 Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29; Rom. 1:16 33/34
Period 4 Syria / Cilicia, Tarsus Acts 9:30; 11:25-26; Gal 1:21 34-42
Period 5 Syria


Acts 11:26-30; 13:1 42-44
Period 6 Cyprus (Salamis, Paphos) Acts 13:4-12 45
Period 7 Galatia (Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe,

Pamphylia (Perge)

Acts 13:14-14:23;






Period 8 Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) Acts 16:6-17:15 49-50
Period 9 Achaia (Athens, Corinth) Acts 17:16-18:28 50-51
Period 10 Asia (Ephesus) Acts 19:1-41 52-55
Period 11 Illyricum Rom 15:19 56
Period 12 Judea (Caesarea) Acts 21:27-26:32 57-59
Period 13 Rome Acts 28:17-28 60-62
Period 14 Spain 1 Clement 5:5-7 63-64?
Period 15 Crete Titus 1:5 64-65?
Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.p. 549. He says that a conservative estimate is that between AD 32-65 Paul traveled at least 15,500 miles (25,000 km). Of that total, 8700 miles (14,000 km) were on foot.

Nowadays, you can look up Paul’s travels online with a Bible map. Go for it!

BTW, “first convert” literally comes from the Greek word “firstfruits,” an OT theme. It is amazing to think we can pinpoint his conversion experience within three years, so far back in time and so far away. Family researchers often cannot find an ancestor’s baptismal record even though he was born, say, in 1930!

6: Mary

Her name in Greek is Maria. This name can be traced back ultimately to a Semitic origin: Miryam or Miriam. Who was she? Was she one of the Marys mentioned in the four Gospels? Doubtful, because surely Paul would have made much of this, as he will do for Junia (v. 7). We will never know. Whoever she was, Paul used an extra-strong verb (so it seems to me) to describe her labor for the Lord: kopiaō (pronounced koh-pea-ah-oh): It means: “work hard, toil, strive, struggle” (Shorter Lexicon).

Let’s look at how the verb is used in other contexts. Peter worked hard all night fishing (Luke 5:5). Jesus sent the twelve to reap what they had not toiled for, during a spiritual harvest of souls (John 4:38). Paul taught the elders in the church of Ephesus to work hard in order to remember the weak and poor–presumably by giving some money or food for their benefit (Acts 20:35). Paul labored with his own hands (1 Cor. 4:12). Paul labored in the work of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:10). Stephanas and his household worked hard for the Lord, as we quoted the verses above (1 Cor. 16:16). Paul labored for the Galatians in the word (Gal. 4:11), for the Philippians (2:16), for the Colossians, by the power of the Spirit working in him (1:29). Paul and his team worked hard to discipline themselves (1 Tim. 4:10). Elders who work hard at teaching and preaching should receive double honor (1 Tim. 5:17).

Instead of a short summary, let’s quote these two verses:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. (1 Thess. 5:12-13, NIV emphasis added)

This is what Paul was doing for Mary / Maria: acknowledging and holding her in highest regard in love. So it seems clear now that Mary worked hard for the Lord and the Romans. Was her work only practical, or did it also involve ministry of the word? Maybe it was both, at different times or at the same time.

Usually women (or men) who work hard caring for God’s people gather a following. I say this hard work of care qualifies the women to be shepherds, elders, and overseers:

Women Really Did Work as–and Were–Overseers, Elders, Pastors: A Close Look at 1 Timothy 5:9-10

7: Andronicus and Junia

I have already covered this verse in this post:

Yes, Junia Really Was a Female Apostle: A Close Look at Roman 16:7

At that link, I concluded:

There is nothing really all that controversial about Romans 16:17. Junia was a woman, and the Greek construction says that she was a member of the larger apostolic community; she and Andronicus were within or among them. The pair was conspicuous and stood out among them, but they did not cease being part of the larger apostolic community, for this reason. The pair still remained within it.

I believe that this is Paul’s main, uncomplicated point when he singled out the couple in his list of greetings and acknowledgements in Romans 16.

You are an NBA star, and you become conspicuous and outstanding on your team. But you still belong on the team. Your excellence does not unexpectedly exclude you from it.

She was probably Joanna. Very often Jews chose sound-alike Greek or Latin names, when they left Israel. Please go to my commentary on Luke 8 to read about the evidence:

Luke 8

“kinsmen”: this merely means “fellow Jews.”

8: Ampliatus

He is unknown to us today, but Paul calls him his beloved friend, so he must have supported the apostle in some way. Friendship is positive.

9: Urbanus and Stachys

Urbanus: he is called “our coworker.” On the meaning of “coworker,” please see v. 3. In v. 3, Priscilla and Aquila were Paul’s coworkers and they were remarkable in their ministry of the word. Also see v. 21 and Timothy’s life to find out how hard Paul’s co-laborer worked for the gospel. Urbanus may have been just as active and effective as Timothy and Priscilla and Aquila were.

Stachys: he was another of Paul’s beloved friend. Commentators don’t know who he was, but he may have been related to Urbanus, either by family or Christian ties.

10: Apelles and the household of Aristobolus

Apelles must have gone through trials, and he succeeded and came out victorious. Paul notes this, which means he preferred leaders who either worked hard or who were tested and came out proven and faithful to the Lord and the work of ministry for the gospel. I like the NIV’s translation: “Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.”


Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matt. 24:12-13, NIV)

Jesus to the church in Smyrna:

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.(Rev. 2:10, NIV)

Apelles was tested and was approved in Christ. We will have to go through testing. Will we remain faithful?

Household of Aristobulus: Paul does not greet Aristobulus himself, but his household. This means that he did not convert, but some in his household did. Fitzmyer says he may have been a slave in the imperial household. Fitzmyer also says that an Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus and Berenice, and was the brother and confidant of Herod Agrippa I, a friend and confidant of Emperor Claudius. Aristobulus resided in Rome a long time. If he brought Christians with him to Rome, Christianity was introduced to Rome for the first time through these earliest emissaries.

11: Herodian and the household of Narcissus

Herodian: he was probably a freed slave of the Herodian family. He was a fellow-Jew to Paul and now a follower of the Messiah.

Household of Narcissus: Paul does not greet Narcissus himself, but the Christians who are in his household. Fitzmyer, referring to two other commentators, speculates that Narcissus may have been a freedman and former secretary of Claudius, who was murdered in A.D. 54. Narcissus was forced to commit suicide by Agrippina shortly after the accession of Nero, her son.

12: Tryphena and Tryphosa, and Persis

Tryphena and Tryphosa: They were probably sisters, who worked hard in the Lord.

Persis: she was another woman who was beloved by many. She also worked hard in the Lord.

On the verb “worked,” see v. 6 and Mary. They labored for the gospel in practical and spiritual ways, in leadership on some level. Women (or men) who work hard for God’s people usually gather a following, which makes the hard workers shepherds and overseers and elders.

Women Really Did Work as–and Were–Overseers, Elders, Pastors: A Close Look at 1 Timothy 5:9-10

Commentators don’t know who these three women were beyond Paul’s brief and grateful acknowledgements. But they are examples to us, particularly to women.

13: Rufus and his mother

He is possibly the same Rufus, son of Simon, whom Mark mentioned in 15:21. Mark may have written his Gospel in Rome or Italy, listening to Peter preach there. Here is what Mark says:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. (Mark 15:21, NIV)

It’s a nice thought, but identifying this Rufus with the one in Mark 15:21 is speculation.

“The elect in the Lord” does not mean his being chosen to be a Christian, for that would not single him out. Instead, it means his ministry as a Christian distinguished him or made him outstanding, “select” in the Lord.

His mother’s name is unknown to us, but Paul probably means that she helped him in some way, perhaps in the Eastern Mediterranean.

14Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters with them.

Commentators don’t know who they were, but Paul knew them. The brothers and sisters with them indicates that they formed a church, probably in one of the named person’s house.

15: Philogus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints with them.

As with v. 14, commentators don’t know who they were, but Paul knew them. All the saints with them means that they likely formed a house church in one of the named person’s house. It is to be noted that Julia and an unnamed sister of Nereus must have been leaders in the house.

These next linked posts conclude that women could lead and teach, once the chaos in the original communities settled down:

Should Women Not Speak One Word in Church? A Close Look at 1 Cor. 14:34-36

Are Older Women Restricted to Teaching (‘Only’?) Young Women? A Close Look at Titus 2:3-5

Are Women Allowed to Teach Men? A Close Look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15

16: Greetings with a holy kiss and all the churches send their greetings

Paul assumes that the holy kiss was acceptable in their original culture (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:16). We don’t need to transfer this old custom to us today, though I note that even today the French go cheek to cheek and without kissing the cheek, make a “fake kiss” sound. Even men do this. But let’s not import this custom here, thank you very much.

From Corinth, Cenchreae, Illyricum, and Asia Minor, Crete, and other towns in the eastern Mediterranean, Paul sends his greetings from the churches he founded. Fitzmyer is insightful here: “Indirectly, Paul recommends himself thereby to the church of Rome (cf. 1 Cor. 16:19-20).”

So ends the first major section. Now let’s move on to the other section (vv. 17-20).


Scholars are not sure who are the ones who caused divisions and stumbling blocks or obstacles contrary to what the Roman Christians have been taught. What had they been taught? Paul’s entire epistle to them for starters, but he had not been there yet and was not their founder. I believe that Peter’s vision and Cornelius’s divine visitation and the centurion’s interaction with Peter is the key to understanding these verses (Acts 10). It is called the mystery that was kept hidden during long ages past (vv. 25-27). But now it has been revealed and made known to everyone, particularly Gentiles, namely, that they too can become members of the New People of God. How? By circumcision? Keeping the kosher food laws? Keeping Jewish festivals? No. By faith in the Messiah. In Acts 15, the apostles and elders formally acknowledged that the door of salvation was open to the Gentiles. I believe that this teaching spread around their known world, not only by Paul but by other Christians unknown to us, unless the names Christians in Romans 16 did this. It’s hard to believe Paul would commend them if he knew they taught a contrary doctrine.

Therefore, the Roman Christian community was made up of Jews and Gentiles, both groups having surrendered their lives to the Jewish Messiah. If anyone says anything to the contrary and puts up walls or gaps between the two communities, then the New People of God are to keep away from them. These defective teachers serve their own appetites–literally are “slaves to their own belly.” (This may be an oblique reference to Jews who insisted that everyone, even Gentiles, keep a kosher diet.)

Here are verses about those who put confidence in the flesh–that is, circumcision–and intend to impose this sign of the old covenant on Gentiles.

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— […] 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Phil. 4:2-3, 19)

One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant

Next, the naive are those who are easily swayed by new teachings. They have no discernment. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16, NIV). In the ancient Near East, snakes were considered wise animals, as seen in the serpent in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1). Innocent as doves, yes, when it comes to good things, but also wise when it comes to evil things (see v. 19).

The Roman Christians’ obedience, which results from faith in the Messiah, was famous to Christian communities around their known world. He is grateful. Next, Paul tells them to be adults in good things and children in evil things: “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Cor. 14:20). Recall that in the verses cited above from Philippians, particularly v. 2, Paul calls the circumcisers “evil doers.”

This promise of the God of peace soon crushing Satan under our feet–our feet–is superb. It is in the future tense, indicating the eschatological future, but it can happen right now in your life because of the cross (Col. 2:14). God initiates the crushing and empowers his people to stomp on the devil. The image of crushing comes from this verse:

God speaks to the serpent:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel. (Gen. 3:15, NIV)

The offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, but the serpent will strike or lash out against the heel, in one last effort.

See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” The only way the crushing can be effective is by God’s grace. Yes, the clause is Paul’s closing greetings in his letters, but we better depend on God’s grace in our victory over Satan, in context.

Grace to You

Now let’s move to another section of the commentary: Others who who send greetings to the Romans (vv. 21-23).

21-23: Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.

Timothy: He is called a coworker, as was Priscilla, Aquila (v. 3), and Urbanus (v. 9). To fill out what a coworker looks like, here is a short study of Timothy’s life:

He was willing to submit and followed Jesus through Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:1).

When he teamed up with Paul, he was a young man (1 Tim. 4:12).

He was circumcised by Paul, not to keep the law or go back into the Old Covenant or improve his salvation, but for cultural sensitivities when they spoke in Jewish synagogues (Acts 16:3).

Since he was connected to Paul, we can have no doubt that he received the fullness and power of the Spirit. A body of elders laid hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14), and Paul himself did the same thing (2 Tim. 1:6). These passages do mention manifested gifts like a prayer language, but neither does Acts say anything about this gift when Paul received the laying on of hands (Acts 9:17), but he proclaimed that he spoke in Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18), and he wished everyone would speak in their prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:5). Prayer languages open one’s spirit to the Spirit and empower one for ministry. Surely Paul ensured that Timothy had this gift.

He was sent on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:3-4).

He stayed with Silas in Berea, where Bible study reigned supreme (Acts 17:14).

He was sent to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage the believers, so they would not get discouraged during trials (1 Thess. 3:2-3).

He went with Paul to Corinth, where ministry was fruitful (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:6).

He (and Erastus) was sent to Macedonia, after he Paul had just passed through there, probably to encourage the believers (Acts 19:22).

He was sent to Corinth to settle problems and remind the Corinthians of Paul’s teachings and way of life as an example (1 Cor. 4:17).

Paul told the Corinthians not to despise Timothy, because he was doing the work of the Lord, as Paul did. He should not fear the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:10-11).

He fearlessly went with Paul on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that trouble and persecution would break out (Acts 20:1-4).

He was a co-writer with Paul (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1).

He ministered to Paul in Philippi, while Paul was in prison (Phil. 2:19).

He led the large and thriving church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3).

He was a pastor who was responsible for worship (1 Tim. 2:1-10; 2 Tim. 4:2-5).

He spent some time in prison (Heb. 13:23).

His Character

He worked hard for the Lord:

20 For I have no one likeminded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore, I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. (Phil. 2:20-23, NKJV)

14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to ruin the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:14-15, NKJV)

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:5, NKJV)

An effective follower of Paul (1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 2:22; 2 Tim. 1:13-14)

Prone to timidity (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

He needed encouragement (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 6:11-14, 20)

Tendency to have frequent stomach ailments, but he kept going (1 Tim. 5:23)

Lucius: It could be Lucius of Cyrene (Acts 13:1), but Fitzmyer doubts it. He also doubts that this is Luke the Gospel writer because the timeline is off.

Jason: This is probably the same Jason of Thessalonica who hosted Paul there (Acts 17:5-9).

Sosipater: This is the Sopatros who accompanied Paul into Jerusalem in Acts 20:4. “In contradistinction to Timothy, who is a fellow called synergos [coworker], Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, now resident in Corinth, may be delegates from Achaia who will accompany Paul to Jerusalem as he takes the collection there” (Fitzmyer)

“my kinsmen”: This means that they were Paul’s fellow Jews.

Tertius: He was Paul’s scribe who writes in his own name. Other passages suggest Paul used a scribe: 1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; cf. 2 Thess. 3:17; Col. 4:16.

Gaius, my host: He is probably the same person of 1 Cor. 1:14, whom Paul had baptized.

The church: They send their greetings. This church that met in Gaius’ house send their greetings or perhaps even the church in various houses in Corinth send their greetings.

Erastus: He was the city manager of Corinth. He is the same person mentioned in Acts 19:22 and 2 Timothy 4:20.

An inscription survives from the first century, which reads:

“Erastus, in return for his aedileship, laid the foundation at his own expense”

Quartus, our brother: He is unknown to commentators.


This verse does not appear in the best manuscripts. The words repeat the same blessing in v. 20. To do a little apologetics, if we omit this verse, then this omission does not harm any doctrine. Paul often prays grace on the Christian communities to whom he writes his epistles. See this post for the evidence:

Grace to You

Let’s move the the final section: the Doxology (vv. 25-27)

25-27: Doxology

God can establish the Roman Christians by Paul’s gospel. What is the mystery that had been kept hidden for long ages past? That Gentiles (“all the nations”) can be members of the people of God, not by law keeping but by faith in Christ. This mystery is now made known to the nations (Gentiles). It is amazing that the eternal God commanded it, and therefore it shall get done through the cross of Christ. God had decreed it. And it was done, accomplished.

Here is a long passage from Ephesians 2, which says that Jew and Gentile, both groups, can be reconciled to God through the cross of Christ. The Gentiles–who were considered unclean by Jews (Acts 10) and who were far away from God–heard the gospel and received it. Through Christ, both Jews and Gentiles have access to the Father by one Spirit.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph. 2:14-18, NIV)

It is a fitting doxology since Paul had already discussed the New People of God–Jew and Gentile–particularly in Romans 9-11, and then how they may get along with each other in Romans 14. By my way of thinking, the doxology actually drives home the main thesis of Romans (though a rich book can have several intersecting themes).


The women in Romans 16 appears in a descriptive passage. In contrast, prescriptive passages, e.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, are prescriptive. They issue commands–timeless imperatives. Prescriptive passages always trump the descriptive ones.

Here is my reply.

Some interpreters call the passages where women’s ministry is practiced “descriptive”  (e.g. Priscilla, Phoebe, Syntyche, Euodia, Nympha, Junia et al. See the references below). In contrast, the verses in the objection are often called “prescriptive passages.” They issue commands and instructions. How do we interpret the two kinds–descriptive and prescriptive?

One interpretation misses things: if we make the so-called prescriptive passages “smack down” the descriptive passages, then we make the women to be transgressors of the prescriptive passages in their active ministries. So something has gone wrong with the interpretation of the prescriptive passages. It is a sure thing that Paul would have laughed it out court because he observed those women in action. (Or if he could time-travel to right now, he may weep from discouragement at modern American, uptight interpretations.) Instead, the descriptive and prescriptive passages are mutually clarifying. Neither one trumps the other.

Women’s real-life ministries are found throughout the NT. Examples: named and unnamed women who followed Jesus to the very end of his life (Luke 8:2-3; 24:10); Priscilla taught the mighty Apollos (Acts 18); Euodia and Syntyche strove alongside Paul in the cause of the gospel (Phil. 4:2-3); Junia was a co-prisoner with Paul and was outstanding among the apostles (Rom. 16:7). Junia cannot have been passive and silent in ministry to land her in prison. Phoebe was a minister of the word (Rom. 16:1-2). Philipp’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9). A certain Mary worked hard for the Romans (Rom. 16:6). It is impossible to believe that she kept her mouth closed throughout her hard work.

Do modern Complementarians / restrictionists really want women not to say one word in church? Those verses in the objection were not written two weeks ago in America (or another nation), but two thousand years ago. Scripture is not flat or one dimensional. It was not written to us, but it was written for us.

This objection sets up a needless dichotomy between the two types of Scripture. Paul wrote that we are supposed to learn even from the (descriptive) stories in the Old Testament:

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)

We need both types of Scripture to explain each other. I see both types as essential and part of the inerrant, authoritative word of God. Both types are mutually explanatory and clarifying. Don’t pit one against the other, or else you will turn Priscilla and other women (e.g. in Rom. 16) into transgressors of the “prescriptive” commands of Paul. Bad idea.

Those verses, of necessity, have an original cultural background that must be explored, particularly in the role of women in the church. The background clarifies the “plain” meaning of the text, even more. It is very risky to ignore the cultural background because we can reach needlessly severe restrictions.

Context, context, context!


I was never into the issue of Complementarianism or Egalitarianism because I was never going to be a leader in the church, like a pastor. I did not want to be one because the American Church, generally speaking, is messed up. I admit I favored, only slightly, Complementarianism, but I never had to decide things. Well, things are about to change. So I needed to get things settled in my mind.

I have learned that the Egalitarians have the better arguments and Scriptural evidence on their side because they do two main things in their exegesis.

They read the verses concerning women in the original cultural context, the Greco-Roman household, where the churches met. Once I looked into the cultural assumptions which prevailed two thousand years ago, I was convinced the Egalitarians were right (in most, though not all, things).

Another interpretive key was to do proper exegesis. In my examination of Scripture and the arguments, the Egalitarians have the stronger case–by far. The links to the individual articles (below) will have to suffice for the exegetical evidence.

So proper exegesis and looking into the culture of two thousand years ago gave me permission to turn the kaleidoscope just one notch, and things got much clearer. I now have a Scripture-based settled mind.

The church must lead the world in the topic of sexuality and roles. We must instruct the world that those who have surrendered to the Lordship of Christ are one in him and one in ministerial roles and functions. Mankind’s and womankind’s ontology (their being) in Christ are equal, and so are their ministry roles (their doing) in Christ.

No, this point of view, interpreted in good faith and left untwisted, does not have to play into the hands of the current, dangerous belief that men can be women, and women can be men, thus blurring the sex differences related to biology. It is not anything goes. I denounce such postmodern confusion and destructive postmodernism generally (see the links below).

Instead, the Scriptures teach consistency in mankind’s and womankind’s ontology and function–in Christ. Equality in their ontology and ministry practice in his church must be maintained so that we appear coherent and a good witness to the world. We must lead them towards a godly equality that denies their postmodern confusion.

My prayer is that women will step into their full ministry, by God’s call on their life and the gifting of the Spirit.


Women, Men, and Five Ministry Gifts in Ephesians 4:11

Are Older Women Restricted to Teaching (‘Only’?) Young Women? A Close Look at Titus 2:3-5

Should Women Not Speak One Word in Church? A Close Look at 1 Cor. 14:34-36

Women Really Did Work as–and Were–Overseers, Elders, Pastors: A Close Look at 1 Timothy 5:9-10

Yes, Junia Really Was a Female Apostle: A Close Look at Roman 16:7

What 1 Corinthians 14 Really Teaches

Women Teachers: New Translation and Reinterpretation of 1 Timothy 2


1. Postmodernism and the Bible: Introduction

2. The Origins of Postmodernism

3. Postmodern ‘Truth Soup’

4. Deconstruction: A Primer

5. The Deconstructed Jesus

6. The Reconstructed Jesus: What the Bible Actually Says

7. Interpreting the Bible and Finding the Truth

8. Postmodernism and the Bible: Conclusion


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