May 23, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: Prisca, Paul’s collaborator

John F. Fink(Forty-first in a series of columns)

I conclude this series of columns with Priscilla as she is called in the Acts of the Apostles, or Prisca, as St. Paul called her more familiarly in his letters. Other women are named in some of Paul’s letters, but we don’t know much about them.

Prisca was Paul’s closest female collaborator. He first met her and her husband, Aquila, when he went to Corinth, Greece. Prisca and Aquila weren’t Paul’s converts though. They had already become Christians in Rome, but we don’t know when or how.

We do know, though, that they left Rome in the year 41 when Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because of disturbances among the Jews “at the instigation of Chrestos,” according to the Roman historian Suetonius. This apparently meant disagreement over the Messiahship of Jesus.

Like Paul, Prisca and Aquila were tentmakers. When Paul arrived in Corinth, he went job hunting. Prisca and Aquila hired him. Imagine their surprise when Paul began to preach about Jesus and they realized that they had the same beliefs. Prisca and Aquila’s home soon became a gathering place for the Christians that Paul converted in Corinth.

Paul remained in Corinth for 18 months before moving on. He took Prisca and Aquila with him to Ephesus and left them there to establish a Christian community while he continued on to Macedonia.

Paul was expecting a lot since Prisca and Aquila had to abandon the business they had started in Corinth and start anew in Ephesus. But when Paul returned to Ephesus a year later, he found a thriving Church.

While Paul was gone, Apollos arrived in Ephesus. He was a Jew from Alexandria who had learned about Jesus. He preached about him in the synagogue, but he knew only about the baptism of John. Prisca and Aquila took him aside and explained things more accurately. When Apollos decided that he wanted to go to Corinth, they wrote letters to their friends there to welcome him.

Prisca and Aquila were doing fine in Ephesus, but Paul decided to uproot them again. This time, Paul wanted them to return to Rome as his advance team to make him known to the Roman Christians before he went there. This was the year 54, a full 13 years since Claudius had expelled the Jews, so it was safe for them to return. They probably were happy to be returning home.

Paul was planning to write a letter to the Romans before he went to Rome, and he wanted it to be a personal letter. He asked Prisca and Aquila to give him the names of some of the leading Christians so he could include them in the letter. They did and Paul’s letter mentions 24 individuals by name.

Of course, Paul didn’t get to Rome until much later than he expected, probably the year 60. Before going to Rome, he took a collection to Jerusalem, where he was arrested and spent three years in prison.

We don’t know what happened to Prisca and Aquila after Paul’s execution.

(This series on biblical women has been published in book form by Alba House. Biblical Women can be ordered by calling 800-343-2522 [ALBA] or on the Web at, or through The price is $9.95 plus shipping.)

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