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1. I commend (sunisthmi). See on ch. iii. 5.
Servant (diakonon). The word may be either masculine or feminine. Commonly explained as deaconess. The term diakonissa deaconess is found only in ecclesiastical Greek. The "Apostolical Constitutions" 70 distinguish deaconesses from widows and virgins, prescribe their duties, and a form for their ordination. Pliny the younger, about A.D. 104, appears to refer to them in his letter to Trajan, in which he speaks of the torture of two maids who were called minestrae (female ministers). The office seems to have been confined mainly to widows, though virgins were not absolutely excluded. Their duties were to take care of the sick and poor, to minister to martyrs and confessors in prison, to instruct catechumens, to assist at the baptism of women, and to exercise a general supervision over the female church-members. Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis (ver. 12) may have belonged to this class. See on 1 Tim. v. 3-16.
Conybeare ("Life and Epistles of St. Paul") assumes that Phoebe was a widow, on the ground that she could not, according to Greek manners, have been mentioned as acting in the independent manner described, either if her husband had been living or she had been unmarried. Renan says: "Phoebe carried under the folds of her robe the whole future of Christian theology."
Cenchrea. More correctly, Cenchreae. Compare Acts xviii. 18 Corinth, from which the epistle was sent, was situated on an isthmus, and had three ports, Cenchreae on the east side, and Lechaeum on the west of the isthmus, with Schoenus, a smaller port, also on the eastern side, at the narrowest point of the isthmus. Cenchreae was nine miles from Corinth. It was a thriving town, commanding a large trade with Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and the other cities of the Aegean. It contained temples of Venus, Aesculapius, and Isis. The church there was perhaps a branch of that at Corinth.
2. Assist (parasthti). See on Acts i. 3 It is used as a legal term, of presenting culprits or witnesses in a court of justice. Compare prove, Acts xxiv. 13. From this, and from the term prostativ succorer, it has been inferred that Phoebe was going to Rome on private legal business (see Conybeare and Howson). This is a mere fancy.
Succorer (prostativ). Only here in the New Testament. The word means patroness. It may refer to her official duties. The word is an honorable one, and accords with her official position.
3. Prisca and Aquila. Priscilla is the diminutive of Prisca. See Acts xviii. 2, 18, 26; 1 Cor. xvi. 19; 2 Tim. iv. 19. It is argued by some that Aquila and Priscilla must have been at Ephesus at this time, since they were there when Paul wrote 1 Cor. xvi. 19, and again when he wrote 2 Tim. iv. 19. "It is strange to find them settled at Rome with a church in their house between these two dates" (Farrar). But, as Bishop Lightfoot remarks ("Commentary on Philippians," p. 176), "As Rome was their headquarters, and they had been driven thence by an imperial edict (Acts xviii. 2), it is natural enough that they should have returned thither as soon as it was convenient and safe to do so. The year which elapses between the two notices, allows ample time for them to transfer themselves from Ephesus to Rome, and for the apostle to hear of their return to their old abode." Notice that the name of Priscilla precedes that of her husband. So Acts xviii. 2. Probably she was the more prominent of the two in christian activity.
4. Who (oitinev). The double relative, with an explanatory force: seeing that they.
Laid down their own necks (ton eautwn trachlon upeqhkan). Laid down is, literally, placed under (the axe). Whether the expression is literal or figurative, or if literal, when the incident occurred, cannot be determined.
5. The church that is in their house (thn kat oikon autwn ekklhsian). The phrase church that is in their (or his) house occurs 1 Corinthians xvi. 19, of Aquila and Priscilla; Col. iv. 15, of Nymphas; Philemon 2, of Philemon. A similar gathering may be implied in Romans xvi. 14, 15. Bishop Lightfoot says there is no clear example of a separate building set apart for christian worship within the limits of the Roman Empire before the third century. The Christian congregations were, therefore, dependent upon the hospitality of prominent church members who furnished their own houses for this purpose. Hence their places of assembly were not called temples until late; but houses of God; houses of the churches; houses of prayer.
Numerous guilds or clubs existed at Rome for furnishing proper burial rites to the poor. Extant inscriptions testify to the existence of nearly eighty of these, each consisting of the members of a different trade or profession, or united in the worship of some deity. The Christians availed themselves of this practice in order to evade Trajan's edict against clubs, which included their own ordinary assemblies, but which made a special exception in favor of associations consisting of poorer members of society, who met to contribute to funeral expenses. This led to the use of the catacombs, or of buildings erected over them for this purpose. 72 The expression here denotes, not the whole church, but that portion of it which met at Aquila's house.
Epaenetus. A Greek name, meaning praised. It is, however; impossible to infer the nationality from the name with any certainty, since it was common for the Jews to have a second name, which they adopted during their residence in heathen countries. Compare John Mark (Acts xii. 12); Justus (Acts i. 23); Niger (Acts xiii. 1); Crispus (Acts xviii. 8). The first fruits of Achaia. The best texts read of Asia. An early convert of the Roman province of Asia. See on Acts ii. 9 This is adduced as an argument that this chapter was addressed to Ephesus. 73
6. Mary (Mariam Mariam). Westcott and Hort read Marian. A Jewish name, the same as Miriam, meaning obstinacy, rebelliousness.
7. Andronicus and Junia. The latter name may be either masculine or feminine. If the latter, the person was probably the wife of Andronicus. If the former, the name is to be rendered Junias, as Rev. The following words point to this conclusion.
Kinsmen (suggeneiv). The primary meaning is related by blood; but it is used in the wider sense of fellow-countrymen. So ch. ix. 3.
Of note (epishmoi). A good rendering etymologically, the word meaning, literally, bearing a mark (shma, nota).
Fellow prisoners (sunaicmalwtouv). See on captives, Luke iv. 18.
8. Amplias. A contraction of Ampliatus, which is the reading of the best texts.
9. Urbane. The correct reading is Urbanus, city-bred.
Stachys. Meaning an ear of corn.
10. Apelles. It occurs in Horace as the name of a Jew, under the form Apella ("Satire," 1. 5, 100).
Them which are of Aristobulus' household. Possibly household slaves. They might have borne the name of Aristobulus even if they had passed into the service of another master, since household slaves thus transferred, continued to bear the name of their former proprietor. Lightfoot thinks that this Aristobulus may have been the grandson of Herod the Great, who was still living in the time of Claudius.
11. Narcissus. This name was borne by a distinguished freedman, who was secretary of letters to Claudius. Juvenal alludes to his wealth and his influence over Claudius, and says that Messalina, the wife of Claudius, was put to death by his order ("Satire," xiv., 330). His household slaves, passing into the hands of the emperor or of some other master, would continue to bear his name.
And mine. Delicately intimating her maternal care for him.
14. Hermes. Or Hermas. A common slave-name, a contraction of several different names, as Hermagoras, Hermogenes, etc. 74
Avoid (ekklinate). Better, as Rev, turn aside. Not only keep out of their way, but remove from it if you fall in with them.
Good words (crhstologiav). Only here in the New Testament. Lit., good speaking. The compounded adjective crhs tov is used rather in its secondary sense of mild, pleasant So Rev., smooth speech.
Deceive (ejxapatwsin) Better, as Rev., beguile. It is not merely making a false impression, but practically leading astray Simple (akakwn). Only here and Heb. vii. 26. Lit., not evil. Rev., innocent. Bengel says: "An indifferent word. They are called so who are merely without positive wickedness, when they ought to abound also in prudence, and to guard against other men's wickedness."
19. Simple (akeraiouv). See on harmless, Matt. x. 16.
Wrote (grayav). Better Rev., write. The epistolary aorist. See on 1 John ii. 13. Godet remarks upon Paul's exquisite courtesy in leaving Tertius to salute in his own name. To dictate to him his own salutation would be to treat him as a machine.
Chamberlain (oikonomov). See on Luke xvi. 1. The word appears in the New Testament in two senses: 1. The slave who was employed to give the other slaves their rations. So Luke vii. 42. 2. The land-steward, as Luke xvi. 1. Probably here the administrator of the city lands.
25. This is the only epistle of Paul which closes with a doxology. The doxology (see on ch. xiv. 23) stands at the close of this chapter in most of the very oldest MSS., and in the Peshito or Syriac and Vulgate versions. In a very few MSS. it is omitted or erased by a later hand. In many MSS. including most of the cursives, it is found at the close of ch. 14, and in a very few, at the close of both 14 and 16. 75 Weiss ("Introduction to the New Testament") says that the attempt to prove its un-Pauline character has only been the result of extreme ingenuity.
Stablish (sthrixai). See on 1 Pet. v. 10 Mystery. See on ch. xi. 25. The divine plan of redemption. The particular mystery of the conversion of the Gentiles, which is emphasized in Eph. iii. 3-9; Col. i. 26, is included, but the reference is not to be limited to this.
27. To whom. God, who, through Christ, appears as "the only wise."