Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The apostle commends to the Christians at Rome Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, Rom 16:1, Rom 16:2. Sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla, of whom he gives a high character; and greets also the Church at their house, Rom 16:3-5. Mentions several others by name, both men and women, who were members of the Church of Christ at Rome, Rom 16:6-16. Warns them to beware of those who cause dissensions and divisions, of whom he gives an awful character, Rom 16:17, Rom 16:18. Extols the obedience of the Roman Christians, and promises them a complete victory over Satan, Rom 16:19, Rom 16:20. Several persons send their salutations, Rom 16:21-23. To whose good wishes he subjoins the apostolic blessing; commends them to God; gives own abstract of the doctrines of the Gospel: and concludes with ascribing glory to the only wise God, through Christ Jesus, Rom 16:24-27.
I commend unto you Phoebe - As the apostle had not been at Rome previously to his writing this epistle, he could not have had a personal acquaintance with those members of the Church there to whom he sends these friendly salutations. It is likely that many of them were his own converts, who, in different parts of Asia Minor and Greece, had heard him preach the Gospel, and afterwards became settlers at Rome.
Phoebe is here termed a servant, διακονον, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea. There were deaconesses in the primitive Church, whose business it was to attend the female converts at baptism; to instruct the catechumens, or persons who were candidates for baptism; to visit the sick, and those who were in prison, and, in short, perform those religious offices for the female part of the Church which could not with propriety be performed by men. They were chosen in general out of the most experienced of the Church, and were ordinarily widows, who had borne children. Some ancient constitutions required them to be forty, others fifty, and others sixty years of age. It is evident that they were ordained to their office by the imposition of the hands of the bishop; and the form of prayer used on the occasion is extant in the apostolical constitutions. In the tenth or eleventh century the order became extinct in the Latin Church, but continued in the Greek Church till the end of the twelfth century. See Broughton's Dictionary, article deaconess.
Cenchrea was a sea-port on the east side of the isthmus which joined the Morea to Greece, as the Lechaeum was the sea-port on the west side of the same isthmus. These were the only two havens and towns of any note, next to Corinth, that belonged to this territory. As the Lechaeum opened the road to the Ionian sea, so Cenchrea opened the road to the Aegean; and both were so advantageously situated for commerce that they were very rich. These two places are now usually denominated the Gulf of Lepanto, and the Gulf of Ingia or Egina. It was on the isthmus, between these two ports, which was about six miles wide, that the Isthmian games were celebrated; to which St. Paul makes such frequent allusions.
Succourer of many - One who probably entertained the apostles and preachers who came to minister at Cenchrea, and who was remarkable for entertaining strangers. See on Rom 12:8 (note).
Greet Priscilla and Aquila - This pious couple had been obliged to leave Rome, on the edict of Claudius, see Act 18:2, and take refuge in Greece. It is likely that they returned to Rome at the death of Claudius, or whenever the decree was annulled. It seems they had greatly contributed to assist the apostle in his important labors. Instead of Priscilla, the principal MSS. and versions have Prisca, which most critics suppose to be the genuine reading.
Who have for my life laid down their own necks - What transaction this refers to we know not; but it appears that these persons had, on some occasion, hazarded their own lives to save that of the apostle; and that the fact was known to all the Churches of God in that quarter, who felt themselves under the highest obligations to these pious persons, for the important service which they had thus rendered.
The Church that is in their house - In these primitive times no such places existed as those which we now term churches; the word always signifying the congregation or assembly of believers, and not the place they assembled in. See the term defined at the end of the notes, Mat 16:28 (note).
Epenetus - the first fruits of Achaia - In Co1 16:15, the house or family of Stephanas is said to be the first fruits of Achaia: how then can it be said here, that Epenetus was the first fruits, or first person who had received the Gospel in that district? Ans. - Epenetus might have been one of the family of Stephanas; for it is not said that Stephanas was the first fruits, but his house or family; and there can be no impropriety in supposing that one of that house or family was called Epenetus; and that this person, being the only one of the family now at Rome, might be mentioned as the first fruits of Achaia; that is, one of that family which first received the Gospel in that country. This would rationally account for the apparent difficulty, were we sure that Αχαιας, of Achaia, was the true reading: but this is more than doubtful, for Ασιας, of Asia, is the reading of ABCDEFG, some others; the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; and some of the chief of the fathers. On this evidence Griesbach has admitted it into the text. Yet the other reading is sufficiently natural, for the reasons already assigned.
Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us - Who this Mary was, or what the labor was which she bestowed upon the apostles, we know not. Her works, though hidden from man, are with God; and her name is recorded with honor in this book of life.
Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen - As the word συγγενεις signifies relatives, whether male or female, and as Junia may probably be the name of a woman, the wife of Andronicus, it would be better to say relatives than kinsmen. But probably St. Paul means no more than that they were Jews; for, in Rom 9:3, he calls all the Jews his kinsmen according to the flesh.
My fellow prisoners - As Paul was in prison often, it is likely that these persons shared this honor with him on some occasion, which is not distinctly marked.
Of note among the apostles - Whether this intimates that they were noted apostles or only highly reputed by the apostles, is not absolutely clear; but the latter appears to me the most probable. They were not only well known to St. Paul, but also to the rest of the apostles.
In Christ before me - That is, they were converted to Christianity before Paul was; probably at the day of pentecost, or by the ministry of Christ himself, or by that of the seventy disciples.
Amplias, my beloved in the Lord - One who is my particular friend, and also a genuine Christian.
Urbane, our helper - Who this Urbanus was we know not; what is here stated is, that he had been a fellow laborer with the apostles.
Stachys, my beloved - One of my particular friends.
Apelles, approved in Christ - A man who, on different occasions, had given the highest proofs of the sincerity and depth of his religion. Some suppose that Apelles was the same with Apollos: whoever he was, he had given every demonstration of being a genuine Christian.
Of Aristobulus' household - It is doubted whether this person was converted, as the apostle does not salute him, but his household; or as the margin reads, his friends. He might have been a Roman of considerable distinction, who, though not converted himself, had Christians among his servants or his slaves. But, whatever he was, it is likely that he was dead at this time, and therefore those of his household only are referred to by the apostle.
Herodion, my kinsman - Probably another converted Jew. See on Rom 16:7 (note).
Of the household of Narcissus - Probably dead also, as we have supposed Aristobulus to have been at this time.
Which are in the Lord - This might intimate that some of this family were not Christians; those only of that family that were converted to the Lord being saluted. There was a person of the name of Narcissus, who was a freed man of the Emperor Claudius, mentioned by Suetonius in his life of that prince, cap. 37; and by Tacitus, An., lib. xii. cap. 57: but there does not seem any reason to suppose that this was the person designed by St. Paul.
Tryphena and Tryphosa - Two holy women, who it seems were assistants to the apostle in his work, probably by exhorting, visiting the sick, etc. Persis was another woman, who it seems excelled the preceding; for, of her it is said, she labored much in the Lord. We learn from this, that Christian women, as well as men, labored in the ministry of the word. In those times of simplicity all persons, whether men or women, who had received the knowledge of the truth, believed it to be their duty to propagate it to the uttermost of their power. Many have spent much useless labor in endeavoring to prove that these women did not preach. That there were some prophetesses, as well as prophets in the Christian Church, we learn; and that a woman might pray or prophesy, provided she had her head covered, we know; and that whoever prophesied spoke unto others to edification, exhortation, and comfort, St. Paul declares, Co1 14:3. And that no preacher can do more, every person must acknowledge; because to edify, exhort, and comfort, are the prime ends of the Gospel ministry. If women thus prophesied, then women preached. There is, however, much more than this implied in the Christian ministry, of which men only, and men called of God, are capable.
Rufus, chosen in the Lord - Τον εκλεκον, one of great excellence in Christianity; a choice man, as we would say. So the word εκλεκτος often signifies. Psa 78:31 : They smote τους εκλεκτους, the chosen men that were of Israel. So εκλεκτα μνημεια are choice sepulchres, Gen 23:6 : εκλεκτα των δωρων choice gifts, Deu 12:11; and ανδρες εκλεκτοι, choice men, Jdg 20:16. By the same use of the word, the companions of Paul and Barnabas are termed chosen men, εκλεξαμενους ανδρας, persons in whom the Church of God could confide. See Whitby.
His mother and mine - It is not likely that the mother of Rufus was the mother of Paul; but while she was the natural mother of the former, she acted as a mother to the latter. We say of a person of this character, that she is a motherly woman. Among the ancients, he or she who acted a kind, instructing, and indulgent part to another, was styled the father or mother of such a one. So Terence: -
Natura tu illi pater es, consiliis ego.
Adelphi, Act. i. scen. 2, ver. 47.
Thou art his father by nature, I by instruction.
Salute Asyncritus, etc. - Who these were we know not. Hermas was probably the same to whom a work called the Shepherd is attributed; a work with this title is still extant, and may be found among the writings of the apostolical fathers. But it is in vain to look for identity of persons in similarity of names; for, among the Greeks and Romans at this time there were many persons who bore the same names mentioned in this chapter.
Salute Philologus, etc. - Of these several persons, though much has been conjectured, nothing certain is known. Even the names of some are so ambiguous that we know not whether they were men or women. They were persons well known to St. Paul, and undoubtedly were such as had gone from different places where the apostle had preached to sojourn or settle at Rome. One thing we may remark, that there is no mention of St. Peter, who, according to the Roman and papistical catalogue of bishops, must have been at Rome at this time; if he were not now at Rome, the foundation stone of Rome's ascendancy, of Peter's supremacy, and of the uninterrupted succession, is taken away, and the whole fabric falls to the ground. But if Peter were at Rome at this time, Paul would have sent his salutations to him in the first place; and if Peter were there, he must have been there, according to the papistical doctrine, as bishop and vicar of Jesus Christ; but if he were there, is it likely that he should have been passed by, while Andronicus and Junia are mentioned as of note among the apostles, Rom 16:7, and that St. Paul should call on the people to remedy the disorders that had crept in among themselves; should not these directions have been given to Peter, the head of the Church? And if there were a Church, in the papistical sense of the word, founded there, of which Peter was the head, is it likely that that Church should be in the house of Priscilla and Aquila, Rom 16:5. But it is a loss of time to refute such ridiculous and groundless pretensions. It is very likely that Peter, so far from being universal bishop at Rome, never saw the city in his life.
Salute one another with a holy kiss - In those early times the kiss, as a token of peace, friendship, and brotherly love, was frequent among all people; and the Christians used it in their public assemblies, as well as in their occasional meetings. This was at last laid aside, not because it was abused, but because, the Church becoming very numerous, the thing was impossible. In some countries the kiss of friendship is still common; and in such countries it is scarcely ever abused, nor is it an incentive to evil, because it is customary and common. Shaking of hands is now substituted for it in almost all Christian congregations.
The Churches of Christ salute you - The word πασαι, All, is added here by some of the most reputable MSS. and principal versions; and Griesbach has received it into his text. St. Paul must mean, here, that all the Churches in Greece and Asia, through which he had passed, in which the faith of the Christians at Rome was known, spoke of them affectionately and honourably; and probably knowing the apostle's design of visiting Rome, desired to be kindly remembered to the Church in that city.
Mark them which cause divisions - Several MSS. read ασφαλως σκοπειτε, look sharply after them; let them have no kiss of charity nor peace, because they strive to make divisions, and thus set the flock of Christ at variance among themselves; and from these divisions, offenses (σκανδαλα, scandals) are produced; and this is contrary to that doctrine of peace, unity, and brotherly love which you have learned. Look sharply after such that they do you no evil, and avoid them - give them no countenance, and have no religious fellowship with them.
They - serve not our Lord Jesus - They profess to be apostles, but they are not apostles of Christ; they neither do his will, nor preach his doctrine; they serve their own belly - they hate intruded themselves into the Church of Christ that they might get a secular support; it is for worldly gain alone that they take up the profession of the ministry: they have no Divine credentials; they convert not the heathen nor the ungodly, for they have no Divine unction; but by good words and fair speeches (for they have no miraculous nor saving powers) deceive the hearts of the simple, perverting Christian converts, that they may get their property, and thus secure a maintenance for themselves. The Church of God has ever been troubled with such pretended pastors - men who Feed themselves, not the flock; men who are too proud to beg, and too lazy to work; who have neither grace nor gifts to plant the standard of the cross on the devil's territories, and by the power of Christ make inroads upon his kingdom, and spoil him of his subjects. On the contrary, by sowing the seeds of dissension, by means of doubtful disputations, and the propagation of scandals; by glaring and insinuating speeches, χρηστολογιας, for they affect elegance and good breeding, they rend Christian congregations, form a party for themselves, and thus live on the spoils of the Church of God.
Should it be asked, Whom do you intend by this description? I answer: No soul, nor party, but such as the description suits. Irasceris.? - De Te fabula narratur. O, you are angry, are you? O, then, the cap fits you - put it on.
For your obedience is come abroad - The apostle gives this as a reason why they should continue to hear and heed those who had led them into the path of truth, and avoid those false teachers whose doctrines tended to the subversion of their souls.
Yet I would have you wise - I would wish you carefully to discern the good from the evil, and to show your wisdom, by carefully avoiding the one and cleaving to the other.
The God of peace - Who neither sends nor favors such disturbers of the tranquillity of his Church.
Shall bruise Satan - Shall give you the dominion over the great adversary of your souls, and over all his agents who, through his influence, endeavor to destroy your peace and subvert your minds.
Several critics suppose that the word Satan is a sort of collective term here, by which all opposers and adversaries are meant; and especially those false teachers to whom he refers above.
The grace of our Lord - That you may be truly wise simple, obedient, and steady in the truth, may the favor or gracious influence of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! without which you cannot be preserved from evil, nor do any thing that is good.
Here the apostle appears to have intended to conclude his epistle; but afterwards he added a postscript, if not two, as we shall see below. Several ancient MSS. omit the whole of this clause, probably thinking that it had been borrowed from Rom 16:24; but on the ground that the apostle might have added a postscript or two, not having immediate opportunity to send the epistle there is no need for this supposition.
Timotheus my workfellow - This is on all hands allowed to be the same Timothy to whom St. Paul directs the two epistles which are still extant. See some account of him in the notes on Act 16:1 (note), etc.
Lucius - This was probably Luke the evangelist, and writer of the book called The Acts of the Apostles. For a short account of him see the Preface to that book.
Jason - It is likely that this is the same person mentioned Act 17:7, who at Thessalonica received the apostles into his house, and befriended them at the risk both of his property and life.
Sosipater - He was a Berean, the son of one Pyrrhus, a Jew, by birth, and accompanied St. Paul from Greece into Asia, and probably into Judea. See Act 20:4.
I Tertius, who wrote this epistle - Some eminent commentators suppose Tertius to be the same with Silas - the companion of St. Paul. If this were so, it is strange that the name which is generally given him elsewhere in Scripture should not be used in this place. I have already noticed (Preface) that some learned men have supposed that St. Paul wrote this epistle in Syriac, and that Tertius translated it into Greek; but this can never agree with the declaration here: I Tertius, who wrote, γραψας την επιστολην, this epistle; not translated or interpreted it. It appears that St. Paul dictated it to him, and he wrote it down from the apostle's mouth; and here introduces himself as joining with St. Paul in affectionate wishes for their welfare.
Salute you in the Lord - I wish you well in the name of the Lord: or, I feel for you that affectionate respect which the grace of the Lord Jesus inspires. It is not clear whether the two following verses be the words of Tertius or St. Paul.
Gaius mine host - Gaius in Greek is the same as Caius in Latin, which was a very common name among the Romans. St. Luke (Act 19:29) mentions one Gaius of Macedonia, who was exposed to much violence at Ephesus in the tumult excited by Demetrius the silversmith against St. Paul and his companions; and it is very possible that this was the same person. He is here called not only the host ξενος, the entertainer of St. Paul, or Tertius, (if he wrote this and the following verse), but also of the whole Church: that is, he received and lodged the apostles who came from different places, as well as the messengers of the Churches. All made his house their home; and he must have been a person of considerable property to be able to bear this expense; and of much piety and love to the cause of Christ, else he had not employed that property in this way.
Erastus the chamberlain of the city - Treasurer of the city of Corinth, from which St. Paul wrote this epistle. This is supposed to be the same person as is mentioned Act 19:22. He was one of St. Paul's companions, and, as appears from Ti2 4:20, was left about this time by the apostle at Corinth. He is called the chamberlain οικονομος, which signifies the same as treasurer; he to whom the receipt and expenditure of the public money were intrusted. He received the tolls, customs, etc., belonging to the city, and out of them paid the public expenses. Such persons were in very high credit; and if Erastus was at this time treasurer, it would appear that Christianity was then in considerable repute in Corinth. But if the Erastus of the Acts was the same with the Erastus mentioned here, it is not likely that he now held the office, for this could not at all comport with his travelling with St. Paul. Hence several, both ancients and moderns, who believe the identity of the persons, suppose that Erastus was not now treasurer, but that having formerly been so he still retained the title. Chrysostom thought that he still retained the employment.
Quartus a brother - Whether the brother of Erastus or of Tertius we know not; probably nothing more is meant than that he was a Christian - one of the heavenly family, a brother in the Lord.
The grace of our Lord - This is the conclusion of Tertius, and is similar to what St. Paul used above. Hence it is possible that Tertius wrote the whole of the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th verses, without receiving any particular instructions from St. Paul, except the bare permission to add his own salutations with those of his particular friends. There is a great deal of disagreement among the MSS. and versions relative to this verse; some rejecting it entirely, and some of those which place the following verses at the end of Rom 14:23, inserting it at the end of the 27th verse in that place. The reader who chooses may consult Wetstein and Griesbach on these discordances.
Now to him - In the note at Rom 14:23 (note). I have shown that this and the following verses are by the most reputable MSS. and versions placed at the end of that chapter, which is supposed by most critics to be their proper place. Some of the arguments adduced in favor of this transposition may be found in the note above mentioned. I shall therefore refer to Griesbach, and proceed to make a few short remarks on the verses as they occur here.
Of power to stablish you - To that God, without whom nothing is wise, nothing strong; who is as willing to teach as he is wise; as ready to help as he is strong.
According to my Gospel - That Gospel which explains and publishes God's purpose of taking the Gentiles to be his people under the Messiah, without subjecting them to the law of Moses. This is what he here calls the preaching of Jesus Christ; for without this he did not think, as Mr. Locke observes, that Christ vas preached to the Gentiles as he ought to be; and therefore in several places of his epistle to the Galatians he calls it the truth, and the truth of the Gospel, and uses the like expressions to the Ephesians and Colossians. This is that mystery which he is so much concerned that the Ephesians should understand and adhere to firmly, and which was revealed to him according to that Gospel whereof he was made a minister. And it is probable that this grand mystery of bringing the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, without passing through the rites of the Mosaic law, was revealed more particularly to St. Paul than to any other of the apostles, and that he preached it more pointedly, and certainly with more success. See Taylor and Locke.
Which was kept secret - This purpose of calling the Gentiles, and giving them equal privileges to the Jews, without obliging them to submit to circumcision, etc.
But now is made manifest - Now, under the New Testament dispensation, and by my preaching.
By the scriptures of the prophets - Hints relative to this important work being scattered up and down through all their works, but no clear revelation that the Gentiles, who should be admitted into the Church, should be admitted without passing under the yoke of the Mosaic law. This was the point which was kept secret: as to the calling of the Gentiles, this was declared in general terms by the prophets, and the apostle quotes and makes a most important use of their predictions; but the other was a point on which the prophets gave no information, and it seems to have been peculiarly revealed to St. Paul, who received the commandment of the everlasting God to make it known εις παντα τα εθνη, to all the Gentiles - all the people of the earth that were not of Jewish extraction. And it was to be made known for the obedience of faith, that they might believe its doctrines and obey its precepts; its universal voice requiring repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and circumcision of the heart, in the place of all Jewish rites and ceremonies.
To God only wise - This comes in with great propriety. He alone who is the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, had all this mystery in himself; and he alone who knew the times, places, persons, and circumstances, could reveal the whole; and he has revealed all in such a way as not only to manifest his unsearchable wisdom, but also his infinite goodness: therefore, to him be glory for his wisdom in devising this most admirable plan; and his goodness in sending Christ Jesus to execute it; to Him, through Christ Jesus, be glory for ever! Because this plan is to last for ever; and is to have no issue but in eternal glory.
Written to the Romans from Corinthus, etc. - That this epistle was written from Corinth is almost universally believed. That Phoebe was a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea, we have seen in the first verse of this chapter; and that the epistle might have been sent by her to Rome is possible; but that she should have been the writer of the epistle, as this subscription states, εγραφη δια Φοιβης, is false, for Rom 16:22 shows that Tertius was the writer, though by inserting the words and sent, we represent her rather as the carrier than the writer. This subscription, however, stands on very questionable grounds. It is wanting in almost all the ancient MSS.; and even of those which are more modern, few have it entirely, as in our common editions. It has already been noted that the subscriptions to the sacred books are of little or no authority, all having been added in latter times, and frequently by injudicious hands. The most ancient have simply To the Romans, or the Epistle to the Romans is finished. The word Amen was seldom added by the inspired writers, and here it is wanting in almost all the ancient MSS. As this was a word in frequent use in religious services, pious people would naturally employ it in finishing the reading or copying of this epistle, as they would thereby express their conviction of the truth of its contents, and their desire that the promises contained in it might be fulfilled to them and to the Church at large; and in this sense the word is not only harmless but useful. May the fullness of the Gentiles be brought in, and may all Israel be saved! This is treated of at large in this epistle; and to this prayer let every pious reader say Amen! Often this word seems to be used as we use the word finis, i.e. the end. See the observations on this word at the end of the Gospel of John.