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Nobodies of the Bible: Priscilla and Aquila

Aquila, a Jew from Pontus, may have been a slave at one time, but by the time we meet him in the 18th chapter of Acts, he was a free man and prosperous enough to have married well. Priscilla, more formally called Prisca, was not Jewish. She came from an old Roman family. They probably became Christians in Rome. "

Together they provide a good model for Christian marriage and Christian lay people. Priscilla, almost invariably mentioned before Aquila, seems to have had the more dominant personality of the two and may have been considered the more important by the early church. In a society where women had second-class status, that could put a strain on a marriage, but Luke's writings make it clear in another context that Priscilla had great tact.

Paul, instructing Priscilla and Aquila

Paul, instructing Priscilla and Aquila

In about AD 49, Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome for rioting. The Roman historian Suetonius blamed the disturbances on a leader named Chrestus, whom we know as Jesus, unaware that he was not living in Rome at the time. Some unknown apostle had planted a church in Rome and had met with the same warm welcome among the Jewish community that Paul had encountered so many times. Priscilla and Aquila moved to Corinth, and Paul arrived there about a year later.

Map of Paul's journey from Corinth to Antioch, showing also the three cities where Priscilla and Aquila lived.

Map of Paul's journey from Corinth to Antioch, showing also the three cities where Priscilla and Aquila lived.

When he first arrived in Corinth, Paul had no means of support from the gospel and had to ply a trade in order to minister there. He and Aquila were both tent-makers, so Paul moved in with them and apparently worked in his shop, at least until Silas and Timothy brought a large gift from the church at Philippi. Scripture gives us some account of their movements after that:

  • Paul left Corinth to go to Antioch about a year and a half later. Priscilla and Aquila traveled with him for a while on their way to Ephesus.
  • Paul returned to Ephesus five years and wrote 1 Corinthians. According to 1 Corinthians 16:19, Priscilla and Aquila were in Ephesus. It seems most likely that had not remained there the entire five years.
  • Later that year, Paul returned to Corinth and wrote Romans. According to Romans 16:3, Priscilla and Aquila were in Rome.
  • When Paul finally got to Rome, he had left Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus, and we learn from 2 Timothy 4:19 that Priscilla and Aquila were back in Ephesus.

Nowhere does Scripture identify them as members of Paul's staff or as traveling evangelists. Apparently they had branches of their tentmaking business in three cities and moved among them to oversee their enterprise, even though no scripture explicitly places them back in Corinth. In other words, they participated in church strictly as lay people.

Stained glass window depicting Priscilla and Aquila in St. John's Anglican Church in Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia

Stained glass window depicting Priscilla and Aquila in St. John's Anglican Church in Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia

It appears that at least some of the time the church met in their home. Hosting the church represents a commitment of both time and money. Christianity was unpopular with outsiders. Unbelieving Jews took violent offense. The pagan upper crust looked down their noses at all of the slaves and other social outcasts that made up so much of the church. The visible commitment of Priscilla and Aquila to the Lord must have entailed some risk to their social standing and may have cost them business.

Their most important service to the church, however, required them to confront the preacher when they got to Ephesus.

  • They were spiritually discerning enough to recognize that Apollos was not a false teacher to be shunned, but a man of God needing instruction. The early church writers credited Priscilla with the actual initiative to provide that instruction.
  • Priscilla was sensitive enough to approach him in private, not criticize him either publicly or behind his back.
  • Priscilla and Aquila knew enough Scripture and doctrine to be able to speak to him on their own without waiting for Paul or Timothy or some other recognized leader.
  • Therefore Priscilla and Aquila spent time in both study and teaching. Apollos was undoubtedly not their first pupil!
  • Regardless of how many people they had instructed before, it was risky to approach Apollos, and required some courage.
  • When Apollos decided to go to Corinth, surely Aquila was among the brothers mentioned in Acts 18:27 who encouraged him and wrote a letter of introduction for him.

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Priscilla and Aquila are excellent roles models for Christians today both as individuals and as a couple.

  • They are always mentioned together, which shows partnership in ministry.  It befits a married couple to work together.  The strengths of the one offset any weaknesses the other may have. Collaboration rendered Priscilla and Aquila's combined ministry more effective than either would have been without the other's help.
  • In their hospitality to Paul, in possibly having the church in their home, in approaching Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila showed a oneness of spirit that befits being one flesh.
  • They took risks--economic risks, social risks, personal risks, even the risk of their own lives.

The church cannot function on the activity of professional ministers alone.  Both the church universal and the local congregation depend on committed lay people like Priscilla and Aquila.


Lori Colbo from United States on February 26, 2013:

Great hub about two people I have always loved from the Bible. Your title is bothersome to me though. "Nobodies "says to me insignificant or not worthwhile. I know that's not what you mean. Perhaps obscure people in the Bible. You did your research well. Voted up.

DavePrice from Sugar Grove, Ill on October 19, 2010:

Enjoyed your hub, and I agree that it illuminates a "backseat" player of the early church. Thanks for a very informative hub. Enjoy your style - from a Christian who doesn't mind the "guru" :)

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on September 28, 2010:

Scroll to Continue

Thanks, James. I'm glad you like it.

James A Watkins from Chicago on September 28, 2010:

I enjoyed this Hub very much. This is a fine idea of yours for this series. Thank you for the good read.

Lori Colbo from United States on September 24, 2010:

BINGO! Preach it brother and Amen! It is sad and disheartening to pastors and church leaders that everyone expects them to do everything. Especially when it comes to expecting them to clean up the mess they have made in their lives. The church wouldn't function without laymen.

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on September 20, 2010:

Thanks lambservant. It almost looks like churches in recent decades have decided that the paid staff is supposed to do all the ministry. Their job is actually to prepare the saints for works of service. That means we folks in the pews need to be something more than an audience of critics!

Lori Colbo from United States on September 19, 2010:

Wonderful interesting hub. Priscilla and Auilla I always felt were true examples of lay ministers. What a ministry they had. Being in business sometimes affords you the opportunity to share your faith with people you may not normally come in contact with.

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on August 27, 2010:

Thanks fred allen and drpastorcarlotta. I've got more planned for this series and regret that all the time in the world is a mere 24 hours!

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on August 13, 2010:

YES! YES! Pastors do need help in their ministries and any Pastor that tries to do it along is asking for failure! GREAT HUB! Voted UP!

fred allen from Myrtle Beach SC on August 13, 2010:

Fantastic hub! Very informative. I look forward to reading more by you. You brought these people to life for me. Voted up and useful!

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on August 09, 2010:

And thank you, Cari Jean, for stopping by, reading it, and commenting.

Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on August 08, 2010:

It's so true what you said about pastors not being able to function alone in their ministry. They need the help of others as well as needing others to be held accountable to. Thanks for this great hub!

Pratonix from Asia on August 06, 2010:

Two words heavily loaded with Hinduism are Guru and Yoga. The West is fascinated with these things; but that's how false religions push their way in through vocabulary. Blessings to you.

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on August 06, 2010:

Yes, I am born again. "Guru" has taken on a general connotation of someone who knows a lot of stuff and likes to share his wisdom. The Hindu connection never occurred to me when I picked the name--originally the name for a blog before I discovered that informative blogs work better when they're limited to one topic. No such limitation on content sites like HubPages!

Pratonix from Asia on August 05, 2010:

Interesting article. Are you a born again Christian? The word 'guru' in your name has Hindu connotations.

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on July 22, 2010:

I guess I'll have to play with it. Thanks for the suggestion, and I'm really glad you like the series. I'm revising old Sunday school lessons and have, I think, eight or nine altogether.

lynnibug from Florida on July 22, 2010:

Another great hub! I really love this series. With the new mapping features it would be interesting to see if you could map the journeys of the people you write about. Keep 'em coming.

David Guion (author) from North Carolina on July 21, 2010:

And thank you for visiting and commenting, suziecat7

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on July 21, 2010:

What an interesting Bible story. Thanks.

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