Friday

“Greet one another with a holy kiss” (v. 16)

Romans 16:1-16 Friday 7 March 2014


Background

In 16 verses, the word "greet" occurs 17 times. Today's passageis a remarkable list, a sort of first century extension of 'loveto…' that might conclude a letter (or telephone call or email)today. This is a list of names that has fascinated those who readthe letter and offers some tantalizing glimpses into the life ofthe early Church.

First, Paul asks the Romans to welcome the deacon, Phoebe(verses 1-2). These verses have carried a great deal of debate overthe centuries as it clearly indicates that women were appointed topositions of leadership in the Church in Paul's time. (We mightalso note the implication of verse 7 that Junia is considered oneof the apostles.) Phoebe would have been the bearer of theepistle.

The list of people to whom Paul sends greetings includes somefamiliar names, although we might want to be cautious withidentifications. Prisca and Aquila (verse 3) are certainly thecouple Paul met in Corinth (Acts18); he shared with them a trade (tent-making) and their home,and they were to share in his journeys. Other conclusions aboutindividuals mentioned here are more speculative: Rufus (verse 13)might be the son of Simon of Cyrene (mentioned in Mark15:21); Aristobolus (verse 10) might be a brother of HerodAgrippa. Given the close association between the family of Herodand that of the Caesars, this suggests that Christians were closeto the most powerful people in the empire (though it isAristobulus' household, not the man himself, who are listed).

What is clear is that the early Church included somewell-travelled individuals and that somehow in a vast city thosewho came from a distance were able to find the small groups offellow-believers whose meetings would have been at leastsemi-secret. When they did find each other, they were to be greetedwith a holy kiss. This is probably not a reference to a formalgreeting in the Eucharist (if that were part of worship at thattime), but a sign that Christians viewed each other with the trustthat is to be found in a family.


To Ponder

  • This passage gives us a picture of a cosmopolitan church. Howgood is your church at welcoming those who come from other parts ofthe world? To what extent are they seen as leaders and people ofimportance?
  • The implication is that the Roman Christians knew each other.But are there people in your church whose names you don't know? Howdo you greet them?


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