Online Bible Commentary
Greetings to Rome, Part Two
Romans 16:9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome while on a three month visit to the church in Corinth, Greece in late 56 and early 57 A.D. during his third missionary journey. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.
The major doctrinal portion of the letter ends with chapter 11. The next section (chapters 12-15:13) takes this doctrine and applies it through practical Christian living.
This passage is part of the third, and final, section of the letter. This section is concerned with Paul’s plans for the future.
In this passage, he is sending his greetings to some of his Christian friends in Rome, prior to his planned visit. Information on some of these friends are compliments of Smith’s Bible Dictionary
Paul greets Urbanus as “our fellow worker in Christ” (v. 9a). Urbanus is a Latin name. The Greek form is Urbane, which means of the city, or polite. Paul also greets Stachys, as “my beloved” (v. 9b).
He greets Apelles, who is “approved in Christ” (v. 10a). Being approved in Christ would mean that he held a place of honor in the church. Tradition has it that he was later the bishop of Smyrna or Heraclea.
Next Paul greets “those who are of the household of Aristobulus.” (v. 10b). Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great. His name means the great counselor.
Tradition has it that Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples and that he preached the Gospel in Britain. Paul is greeting those of his household, likely a reference to his slaves.
Paul greets Herodion, as “my countryman” (v. 11a). This likely means that he was a fellow Jew who had converted to Christianity.
He greets “those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.” (v. 11). These are Christians who are slaves of Narcissus.
The name Narcissus means stupidity or a dweller of Rome. The secretary for the Emperor Claudius was named Narcissus but it is uncertain if this is the same person.
Next Paul greets Tryphena and Tryphosa, described as those “who have labored in the Lord” (v. 12a). The name Tryphena means dainty and the name Tryphosa means luxurious. They were women, probably sisters, who worked for the Lord.
Paul greets Persis, who he calls “beloved”, and whom he describes as one who “labored much in the Lord” (v. 12b). Persis was a woman, whose name meant a Persian woman.
He greets Rufus, who he describes as “chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine” (v. 13). The name Rufus means red.
This was likely the same Rufus who was mentioned in Mark 15:21 and Luke 16:13. That Rufus was the son of Simon, who carried the cross for Jesus. The mother of Rufus was like a mother to Paul.
Verses 14 and 15 give two groups of people being greeted by Paul. These two groups are probably the nucleus of two different house churches.
In verse 14, Paul greets “Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them”.
The name Asyncritus means incomparable. The name Phlegon means burning. Psuedo-Hippolytus claims that he was one of the seventy disciples and later the bishop of Marathon.
The name Hermas means Mercury. Ireneus, Tertullian, and Origen agree that Hermas wrote “The Shepherd”, a highly thought of work that was considered for, but obviously did not make, the New Testament canon.
The name Patrobas means paternal. Again, there was a Patrobas in the Emperor Claudius’ household but it is uncertain if this is the same person.
The name Hermes also means Mercury. According to tradition Hermes was one of the seventy disciples and later the bishop of Dalmatia.
Next Paul greets the second house church in verse 15. He greets “Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.”
Philologus and Julia were probably a married couple. Julia was a female name for Julius, and she was likely named after Julius Caesar.
Paul greets Nereus and his unnamed sister. The name Nereus means lamp. According to tradition, Nereus was beheaded at Terracina, probably in the reign of Nerva.
The name Olympas means heavenly. This is likely a female, named after either the Greek Goddess Olympus or Mount Olympus in Greece.
Paul closes his greetings with the traditional first century church greeting. He writes “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (v. 16a). The ”holy kiss” has now been replaced by more culturally accepted greetings in the churches in America, for example a handshake.
Finally, Paul writes “The churches of Christ greet you.” (v. 16b). The house churches in Corinth and surrounding areas added their greetings to Paul’s.