“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks..” (Romans 16:3,4a)
When the apostle Paul came to the great city of Corinth, he went looking for a job. He found a couple who had set up business as tentmakers. He was happy about this since that was his occupation, too. This husband-wife team was Aquila and his wife Priscilla. It is interesting that in all but one of the other references in the Bible to this couple, Priscilla is named first. And so, the Bible refers to them as a wife-husband team!
We usually think that in Bible times women had to be silent and stay in the background. Yet the apostle Paul gives great honor to Priscilla. Let’s see why. First, here is what we know about her.
Priscilla (or sometimes called more formally, Prisca) and her husband had apparently met and married in Rome. She had come from a noble Roman family. Aquila was a Jew from Pontus. They had a flourishing tent making business.
In 49 A.D., the emperor Claudius expelled all of the Jews from Rome. So, Priscilla and Aquila moved their business to Corinth. Corinth was the New York City of the first century. It was a major port with a very long history. The people there were as wealthy as anyone could be in those times. They were living there when Paul came around the spring of AD 51.
The three of them worked very hard at their trade. We are not sure if Priscilla and Aquila were converted to Christianity when Paul first met them, but they surely were converted very soon while he stayed in Corinth. Paul founded a church there and after eighteen months of ministry with his new team, the three of them left and went to Ephesus.
Because of their great wealth, Priscilla and Aquila were able to open their home for church meetings. They did this while living in Corinth, Ephesus and later in Rome.
Paul trusted Priscilla and Aquila enough to leave them in Ephesus while he went to Antioch. They opened another branch of their tent making business. They took complete charge of the mission in Ephesus.
A gifted man, named Apollos, came soon after. He was very knowledgeable in the Hebrew Scriptures (the only ones the New Testament believers had!) and he was an eloquent speaker. He was not completely up to date on the Gospel message however. Priscilla and Aquila taught him “the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26) With their help, Apollos went on to be a powerful preacher. The Bible says that Priscilla and Aquila took him aside. We can see from this that Priscilla played an active role in instructing him. She was not just in the background quietly serving refreshments. She was helping to teach Apollos.
She was very successful at her business and there were other successful businesswomen mentioned by Paul as well. There was Lydia, whom Paul had already met in Philippi. (see the posting about Lydia on this Blog.) There was also Chloe, who ran a business in Ephesus. These women all became zealous helpers for Paul. God used them mightily in this way to help spread the Gospel.
Eventually Priscilla and Aquila would end up in Rome. We know this, because Paul sent them affectionate greetings when he wrote a letter to the Roman Christians. There, he also greets the church which is in their house.
Paul tells us that Prisca and Aquila “risked their own necks” to save his life. We do not know the details of that story, but Priscilla is surely to be admired for her courage.
According to tradition, Priscilla and Aquila ended their lives as martyrs.
It is truly wonderful to see this example of a husband and wife team working together, not only at their business, but also in their mission. What a privilege it is for a woman when her husband has a business that she can be a partner in. In a day when women are wondering about whether or not they should be working outside of the home, perhaps they should be considering starting home businesses with their husbands. Or even just starting a home business themselves. There are many, many clever women with an entrepreneurial spirit who have started home businesses. Of course, if the children are small, that is the wife’s first business. But, when the children are older or out of the nest, it is wonderful for women to be able to do something worthwhile.
We should be serving the Lord with the gifts He has given us. Priscilla certainly did!