As I was reading in the latter half of Romans, reaching the end of the book brought about an interesting chapter. Chapter 16 struck me as rather odd; there was a giant list of names, thirty four to be exact, and an actual declaration of who wrote the letter in verse 22:
“I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.”
The text mentioned that this list of personal greetings were to people in Rome, several of which were partners of Paul for the early Christian ministry. This last chapter serves as an acknowledgement of the importance of the “little people” of the early church, but I wanted to know more. Who was Tertius? Did any of these people hold office in the early church? Why were the women mentioned? I hoped my research would bring to light the answers I sought.
The first question I tackled was Tertius. Declared a saint by the Orthodox Catholic Church, he is credited with being the amanuensis of Paul who transcribed Romans. “Amanu-what?” I asked myself, incredulous at not understanding this Latin-based word. The word amanuensis means “one employed to write from dictation or to copy a manuscript” (Merriam-Webster), or in other words, a glorified and trusted scribe. This position was often a profession, and guaranteed flawless grammar, legibility, and easy access to the best writing supplies (Christianity Today). The influence of a professional scribe could be enormous; Tertius had the ability to alter anything Paul said, reword or edit grammar, and perhaps even change the style of Paul’s message; though speculation, I would say that could account for any possible discrepancies between Romans and any other Pauline letter when it came to using style or form as evidence of authorship. Tertius’ personal life is obscured by the cloud of history, and bibliographical information on him was scarce. Conjecture lists him as a Roman Christian living in Corinth due to his Roman origins of nomenclature (Bible History), while historical documentation places him as the second bishop of Iconium (Orthodox Church in America), in Galatia or modern Turkey.
My curiousity trickled from Bishop Tertius to the thirty-four other names listed in Chapter 16. Were any of these people bishops? Research told me yes, that twenty of the thirty-four names listed were bishops (St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church), members of a group known as the “seventy apostles”; these men were chosen by the twelve original apostles of Jesus, and were sent out to preach the gospel. This included: Andronicus, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Hermas, Philologus, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.
Over half of the names were accounted for, listed as early church leaders and influential missionaries that spread throughout the Roman Empire. A mere fourteen names remained. For some, the text answered who these people were. Epaenetus was the first convert in Asia Minor, obviously holding an important place in the early church. Junia was a female member of Paul’s family and a fellow prisoner of Rome. Phoebe is listed as a servant at the church established by Paul in Cenchreae, a Corinthian port (Biblehub). Prisca (often translated as Priscilla) and Aquila were a married couple, most likely tentmakers, who led a church in Ephesus (The Apostle Paul’s View of Women Leaders). The others, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, were also women that held important positions in the church, suffering the same trials as the men who worked to spread the Christian message (New Life). Nereus is attributed to a member of Junia’s household (Bible History), while Patrobas is believed to be a member of the then current emperor’s household (Bible Apps). The only names that I couldn’t find a historical background for were Timothy and Olympas, the final two of the full list of thirty-four significant figures in the history of the early church as influenced by Paul.
Paul’s letter, Romans, mentions the early church’s government with a list of names and salutations for each person, giving equal enthusiasm to both the men and women. Tertius himself includes a salutation for the early church, completing the greeting of Romans. I had found the answers to my questions; I knew who these people were, why they were listed at the close of Romans, and the identity of Tertius.