Aquila and Priscilla—An Exemplary Couple
“GIVE my greetings to Prisca and Aquila my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who have risked their own necks for my soul, to whom not only I but also all the congregations of the nations render thanks.”—Romans 16:3, 4.
These words of the apostle Paul to the Christian congregation in Rome bespeak the great esteem and warm regard he had for this married couple. He made sure that he did not overlook them when writing to their congregation. But who were these two “fellow workers” of Paul, and why were they so dear to him and to the congregations?—2 Timothy 4:19.
Aquila was a Jew of the diaspora (the dispersed Jews) and a native of Pontus, a region in northern Asia Minor. He and his wife Priscilla (Prisca) had settled in Rome. There had been a sizable Jewish community in that city at least since Pompey’s capture of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E., when a large number of prisoners were led to Rome as slaves. In fact, Roman inscriptions reveal the existence of a dozen or so synagogues in the ancient city. A number of Jews from Rome were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E., when they heard the good news. Perhaps it was by them that the Christian message first reached the capital of the Roman Empire.—Acts 2:10.
However, the Jews had been expelled from Rome in the year 49 or early 50 C.E. by order of Emperor Claudius. Hence, it was in the Greek city of Corinth that the apostle Paul met Aquila and Priscilla. When Paul arrived in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla kindly offered him both hospitality and work, for they shared a common trade—tentmaking.—Acts 18:2, 3.
This was not easy work. Making tents involved cutting and stitching together pieces of stiff, rough material or leather. According to the historian Fernando Bea, it was “a job that required expertise and care” on the part of tentmakers who worked with “coarse, resistant fabrics, used in camping while traveling, providing shelter from the sun and the rain, or for packing goods in the holds of ships.”
This raises a question. Did not Paul say that he had been ‘educated at the feet of Gamaliel,’ thus paving the way for him to pursue a prestigious career in the years to come? (Acts 22:3) While this is true, Jews of the first century considered it honorable to teach a lad a trade even if he was to receive a higher education. Therefore it is likely that both Aquila and Paul had acquired their skill in tentmaking when they were young. That experience proved to be very useful later. But as Christians, they did not consider such secular work an end in itself. Paul explained that the work he did in Corinth along with Aquila and Priscilla was only a means to support his principal activity, that of declaring the good news without ‘imposing an expensive burden on anyone.’—2 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 9:18; 2 Corinthians 11:7.
Evidently, Aquila and Priscilla were pleased to do all they could to facilitate Paul’s missionary service. Who knows how many times the three friends paused during their work to give an informal witness to clients or passersby! And although their work of tentmaking was humble and fatiguing, they were happy to do it, working even “night and day” in order to promote God’s interests—just as many modern-day Christians maintain themselves with part-time or seasonal work in order to dedicate most of the remaining time to helping people to hear the good news.—1 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 24:14; 1 Timothy 6:6.
Examples of Hospitality
Paul likely used Aquila’s house as a base for his missionary activities during the 18 months he stayed in Corinth. (Acts 18:3, 11) It is probable, then, that Aquila and Priscilla had the pleasure of also having Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy as guests on their arrival from Macedonia. (Acts 18:5) The two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians, which later became part of the Bible canon, may have been written while the apostle was staying with Aquila and Priscilla.
It is easy to imagine that at this time the home of Priscilla and Aquila was a real hive of theocratic activity. Probably it was frequented by many dear friends—Stephanas and his family, the first Christians in the province of Achaia, baptized by Paul himself; Titius Justus, who allowed Paul to use his house to deliver discourses; and Crispus, the presiding officer of the synagogue, who accepted the truth along with all his household. (Acts 18:7, 8; 1 Corinthians 1:16) Then there were Fortunatus and Achaicus; Gaius, in whose home the congregation meetings may have been held; Erastus, the city steward; Tertius, the secretary to whom Paul dictated his letter to the Romans; and Phoebe, a faithful sister of the nearby congregation of Cenchreae, who probably carried the letter from Corinth to Rome.—Romans 16:1, 22, 23; 1 Corinthians 16:17.
Modern-day servants of Jehovah who have had the opportunity to show hospitality to a traveling minister know how encouraging and memorable it can be. The upbuilding experiences related on such occasions can be a real source of spiritual refreshment for all. (Romans 1:11, 12) And, as did Aquila and Priscilla, those who open their homes for meetings, perhaps a Congregation Book Study, have the joy and satisfaction of being able to contribute in this way to the advancement of true worship.
So close was their friendship with Paul that Aquila and Priscilla left with him when he departed from Corinth in the spring of 52 C.E., accompanying him as far as Ephesus. (Acts 18:18-21) They stayed in that city and laid the groundwork for the apostle’s next visit. It was here that these gifted teachers of the good news took the eloquent Apollos “into their company” and had the joy of helping him to understand “the way of God more correctly.” (Acts 18:24-26) When Paul did revisit Ephesus during his third missionary journey, sometime around the winter of 52/53 C.E., the field that had been cultivated by this dynamic couple was already ripe for harvest. For some three years, Paul preached and taught there about “The Way,” while the Ephesian congregation held meetings in Aquila’s home.—Acts 19:1-20, 26; 20:31; 1 Corinthians 16:8, 19.
They ‘Risked Their Necks’ for Paul
Perhaps Paul also lodged with Aquila and Priscilla while he was in Ephesus. Was he staying with them at the time of the tumult of the silversmiths? According to the account at Acts 19:23-31, when the craftsmen who made shrines revolted against the preaching of the good news, the brothers had to restrain Paul from risking himself by going before the mob. Some Bible commentators have theorized that it may have been in just such a perilous circumstance that Paul felt ‘uncertain even of his own life’ and that Aquila and Priscilla intervened in some way, ‘risking their own necks’ for him.—2 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 16:3, 4.
When the “uproar had subsided,” Paul wisely left the city. (Acts 20:1) No doubt Aquila and Priscilla also faced opposition and derision. Did such make them feel downhearted? On the contrary, Aquila and Priscilla courageously continued in their Christian efforts.
A Close Couple
After Claudius’ rule had ended, Aquila and Priscilla returned to Rome. (Romans 16:3-15) However, the last time they are mentioned in the Bible, we find them back in Ephesus. (2 Timothy 4:19) Again, as in all other references in the Scriptures, this husband and wife are mentioned together. What a close and united couple! Paul could not think of that dear brother, Aquila, without recalling the faithful cooperation of his wife. And what a fine example for Christian couples today, for the loyal assistance of a devoted spouse allows a person to do much “in the work of the Lord” and, at times, even more than it might have been possible to do as a single person.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Aquila and Priscilla served in several different congregations. Like them, many zealous modern-day Christians have made themselves available to move where the need is greater. They also experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from seeing Kingdom interests grow and from being able to cultivate warm and precious Christian friendships.
By their splendid example of Christian love, Aquila and Priscilla won the appreciation of Paul and others. But even more important, they established a fine reputation with Jehovah himself. The Scriptures assure us: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.”—Hebrews 6:10.
We may not have the opportunity to expend ourselves in ways similar to what Aquila and Priscilla did, yet we can imitate their excellent example. Deep satisfaction will be ours as we devote our energy and life to sacred service, never forgetting “the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Hebrews 13:15, 16.