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					PRISCILLA AND AQUILA AND SAINT PAUL : THE FIRST
ECCLESIAL TEAM
By Fr. Mario Barbero, IMC (Matrimony, Spring 2001, p.
16)


I recently graduated with a PhD in Biblical Studies at
the Catholic University of America with a
dissertation on “A First-Century Couple, Priscilla
and Aquila: Their House Churches and Missionary
Activity”. When I tell people I wrote about Priscilla
and Aquila, most of them ask me “Who are they?”. Here
is a short profile of this married couple who “teamed”
with St. Paul.

We often think that the rapid spread of Christianity
in the early centuries was due to the courage and
commitment of the apostles, especially Peter and Paul.
 Certainly, the main characters of the Book of the
Acts of the Apostles are Peter and Paul. Yet, if we
read carefully, the Acts of the Apostles mention the
names of many people who were active in sharing their
Christian faith. Among them is a married couple:
Aquila and Priscilla who are mentioned three times in
the Book of Acts (Acts 18,2-3,18,26) and three times
in Paul‟s letters (1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16,3-5; 2 Tim
4:19). They are always mentioned together. Priscilla
is the diminutive form of Prisca. While the Acts of
the Apostles call her Priscilla, Paul always call her
Prisca. Paul is our earlier source of information
about them.

Here is what Paul says about them: 1 Cor 16:19 “Aquila
and Prisca, together with the assembly that meets in
their house, send you cordial greetings in the Lord.”
Rom 16,3-5 “Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila:
they were my fellow workers in the service of Christ
Jesus and even risked their lives for the sake of
mine. Nor only I but all the churches of the Gentiles
are grateful to them. Remember me also to the
congregation that meets in their house”.
1 Tim 4:19 “Greet Prisca and Aquila”.

We can understand better the words of St. Paul in his
letters when we read Acts 18:1-3 that tells how Paul
met them the first time. “Paul left Athens and went to
Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native
of Pontus, recently arrived from Italy with his wife
Priscilla. An edict of Claudius had ordered all Jews
to leave Rome. Paul went to visit the pair whose trade
he had in common with them. He took up lodging with
them and they worked together as tentmakers.”
 Paul arrived in Corinth from Athens where he did not
have much success in his mission. He was probably
lonely and depressed when he met Aquila and Priscilla
who offered him hospitality and a job in their
tent-making business. Paul remained 18 months in
Corinth working with this couple. The church of
Corinth was started not by Paul alone, but by Paul and
Aquila and Priscilla, a missionary team composed of
the apostle and a married couple. So the church of
Corinth was the fruit of the cooperation of this
“ecclesial team”.

Paul calls them “my co-workers in Christ” (Rom 16:3).
The term co-worker refers first of all to the fact
that these three were working together in tentmaking.
Paul was proud of supporting himself with his own
hands. But they are co-workers in Christ Jesus. It
stresses that they are working together in spreading
the gospel. The title “co-worker” is reserved by Paul
to a limited number of persons, closely collaborating
with him in his apostolic mission. Priscilla and
Aquila are the only married couple called with the
title of co-worker. This is particularly evident in
the founding of the church of Corinth.


When Paul leaves Corinth and moves to Ephesus „Acts
18:18) Aquila and Priscilla accompany him there, “Paul
stayed on in Corinth for quite a while but eventually
took leave of the brothers and sailed for Syria, in
the company of Priscilla and Aquila.” They will be
among the founders of the church of Ephesus as well,
as Paul spent three years in that city evangelizing
Ephesus and the neighboring region. It is probably in
this town that Priscilla and Aquila “risked their
lives” for Paul (Rom 16:4) and this must have
strengthened their friendship even more.

Acts 18:26 reports another interesting event about
Aquila and Priscilla. In the synagogue of Ephesus they
met Apollos, a skilled speaker from Alexandria of
Egypt who knew the Hebrew Bible well and was trying to
persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Apollos
was good in interpreting the Jewish Scriptures but his
knowledge about Jesus was uncompleted. “When
Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and
explained to him God‟s new way in greater detail.”
With great sense of responsibility and kindness,
Priscilla and Aquila “took him home” and gave him a
more accurate information about Jesus. Aquila and
Priscilla were aware “they were church” and it was
their responsibility to instruct Apollos more
accurately. How much you, married couples, can teach
us priests! Your experience in living your Christian
life with one another, with your children, in your job
is a great treasure you have to share with us priests,
pastors, preachers. Do not hide your wisdom, your
charisms, be responsible in teaching us how we can
better serve God‟s people. I also wish that we priests
be open and receptive as Apollos was, in being
enriches by your wisdom and experience.

It is remarkable that Paul, the great missionary who
traveled throughout the Roman Empire to witness Jesus,
spent at least five years with Aquila and Priscilla.
Paul cares not only for the multitude of believers,
but also for the individuals, leaving with this
husband and this wife. His life with this married
couples certainly enriched each one of them in their
faith and their missionary commitment.

The close collaboration of Paul with Aquila and
Priscilla is particularly meaningful for the
collaboration of couples and priests in ME. The
strong emphasis that ME places on the complementarity
of the two Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders
finds a touching example in the early church when the
greatest missionary, Paul, sought the support and
cooperation of a married couple in his mission.
Priscilla and Aquila are a model for every Christian
married couple and, together with Paul, can be special
patrons of all ME ecclesial teams.



"A First-Century Couple, Priscilla and Aquila : Their
House Churches and Missionary Activity", by Mario
Barbero, IMC a Dissertation presented to the Catholic
University of America for the Degree of Doctor in
Philosophy in 2001.



The full text of the dissertation can be ordered
through UMI Dissertation Services
A Bell and Howell Company
300 North Zeeb Road; P. O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-1346
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