Who are the people listed in Romans 16?

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.

Tertius

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.

the 70 Apostles

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 Journeys throughout the Empire

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.

 

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Why is Anna the Prophetess significant?

In this week’s reading, I particularly focused on Anna, the prophetess from Chapter 2 in Luke.

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I wondered why Anna was mentioned, with her short biography which included her geneology. Was the mention of Phanuel or the tribe of Asher significant? Why is this elderly sibyl significant?

I found that Anna was the only female prophetess in the New Testament to be given a name, an honor that her husband is not granted within the verses above. This in itself mandates an importance to her mentioning within the text. Her interaction with Jesus and his family is to confirm the messianic prophecy and obviously spread the word that he had come (Biblical Archaeology).

I then explored Anna’s heritage. The man Phanuel was rarely mentioned in any sources, but the angel Phanuel had scores of documents and articles for me to search through. Phanuel, the angel, is considered the angel of repentance and hope, encouraging people to be forgiven of their sins (Angels & Miracles). His name also means “face of God”. He is listed as a possible fourth archangel in the Book of Enoch (Archangels-Bloggy), an influential yet apocryphal book to the Torah, and is considered the ruler of the Ophanim, or the “wheels” which guard the throne of heaven (Angels & Miracles). Perhaps the redactors knew to draw the conclusions between the redemptive angel and Anna, as a way to point out the nature of Christ’s message of forgiveness of sins, the pure hope that he gave some of the Jewish people, and that Jesus was the literal face of God.

A depiction of the Ophanim—-which wheel is Phanuel?!

The second listed point of Anna’s geneology is the tribe of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and the second son of Zilpah (Judaism 101). According to Gematria or Hebrew numerology, eight symbolizes new beginnings while two denotes witnessing; together, the witnessing of a new beginning occurs (The Twelve Tribes of Israel). This is most definitely what Anna is doing at the time of these verses. She sees a youthful Jesus beginning his path as messiah, and dares to declare it, confirming the prophecies of the Old Testament. Historically, the tribe of Asher was truly loyal to David, going to war in his favour at the time of his coronation (Biblehub). Knowing that the messiah is of the Davidic lineage, it makes perfect sense that the prophetess would be an Asherite. The New Testament redactors are again pointing out the confirmation of Jesus as messiah according to Old Testament parallels.

Anna is significant because of her heritage and her duty as a prophetess. Her entire life has been spent dedicated to prayer, as denoted in the previously listed verses. She fasts, never leaving the temple, remaining in a holy state. Luke’s mention of this old woman is to not only confirm the Messiah’s identity, but to spread the redemption message as well.

What is the Jewish concept of hell?

Upon reading this week, I discovered a smattering of words in Matthew Chapter 5 that prompted a serious question. The chapter cites both a “hell of fire” and just plain, ol’ “hell”. I wondered if there was more than one hell, if there was a difference between these hells, or if these separate references were simply the same concept. What is the Jewish concept of hell? Is there a difference between the Jewish hell and the Christian hell? I discovered the answers to my questions via some fascinating research.

Hades, Sheol, Gehenna, and hell are words that are perpetually interchanged but have entirely different meanings, as I have learned reading through various blogs and Jewish doctrine sites. Olam Ha-Ba, Hebrew translation for “The World to Come”, is the name of the Jewish afterlife, a concept entirely non-dogmatic for its practitioners (Judaism 101). The entire concept is a matter of personal belief, to the point of the inclusion of resurrection and reincarnation. Judaism focuses on the life we live currently, rather than what happens after death. Regardless of being either traditional or progressive, it is entirely possible for a Jew to believe in innumerable theories of the afterlife. The concept of hell, in particular, varies in theoretical possibilities.

Firstly, hell can be commonly defined as a place of eternal punishment for the wrongdoings of one’s soul. In Judaism, this entire definition is torn to pieces and redesigned. The Jewish hell can be described as either Sheol or Gehenna; Sheol is a place of punishment while Gehenna is a place of damnation for souls (The Jewish Chronicle). These two places are entirely distinct from each other.

Sheol

Sheol, Hebrew for “pit”, “destruction”, or “abyss” (Jewish Encyclopedia), is the “present” hell, in which the lost souls go to await judgment—resulting in either Gehenna or resurrection (Berean Bible Society). Sheol is merely a temporary place for souls. It is not eternal, and both evil and good souls arrive in this spiritual waiting room post-life (Hell Part 2).  Sheol is unlike the Christian concept of hell, more like a deep, dark, shadowy netherworld, is commonly called the “Land of Forgetfulness” (My Jewish Learning). Sheol is flame-free, therefore not the “hell of fire” reference I found in Matthew. The dead are cut off from the living as well as the grace of the Protagonist, their existence a strange faint stain on the metaphysical plane. Every soul will go to Sheol, despite its bleak description. Another common translation of Sheol is Hades, and can also be described as being within the earth (Matthew 12:40). The geography of Sheol/Hades can be split in two halves. One section is for evil souls, while the other side is for the righteous souls waiting for resurrection.

Gehenna

However, Gehenna, Greek for “lake of fire” (Berean Bible Society), is considered the “final” hell, or the place we most commonly think of when referencing hell. This lake of hell was designed for Satan and the fallen angels to be tormented eternally, and is entirely free of humans at this time. I say “at this time” because according to Revelation, the lake of fire will be filled with evil humans at the time of the true Messiah’s resurrection (Berean Bible Society). In addition to their souls, the actual human bodies will enter Gehenna as well. Gehenna is described as a torturous punishment, full of fire and brimstone, similar to the Christian hell. Another theory suggests that a soul must reexamine his or her life, and then repent for any wrongdoings. This concept of hell is the permanent, here-for-all-eternity, place of punishment.

In conclusion, I discovered that there was a difference between the Christian hell and the Jewish hell, as well as the hell of Judaism being conceptually diverse. Sheol and Gehenna, two separate hells, are distinct and individualistic. The reason for a soul’s existence in shadowy Sheol involves a waiting period for the good, or temporary torment for the evil. The reason for existing in fiery Gehenna is pure, eternal torture after the Messianic age. Either way, hell is a matter of opinion for those prescribed to a Hebrew slant.