Why Is Priscilla Significant in the Bible?
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2020 5 Mar
Although most of the people we encounter in the Bible are men, we do run into a handful of strong female characters throughout the Old and New Testament.
In the New Testament, a woman by the name of Priscilla spent time with the Apostle Paul. She and her husband Aquila not only risked their lives for Paul (Romans 16:4) but showed an example of a godly marriage.
Who was this friend of Paul? Why are she and Aquila a true power couple in the Bible? And what can we learn from this godly woman in a world that increasingly dissolves the concept of marriage and godly living?
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What Is the Context of the Biblical Story of Priscilla?
We first meet Priscilla in Acts 18. She sometimes also goes by the name of Prisca (2 Timothy 4:19).
She and her husband leave Italy by the decree of the Roman Emperor Claudius who commanded all Jews to leave Rome. The Emperor did so because of a certain man named Chrestus who had caused havoc, according to Suetonius.
In 41 AD, Jews couldn’t meet in Synagogues and were eventually expulsed from Rome in general on account of Chrestus. We don’t exactly know what Chrestus did, but this article argues the disputes arose about Jesus.
No matter what the case, Priscilla and Aquila meet Paul in Corinth. The three of them bond over the trade they all do as a main job (Priscilla and Aquila) and a side hustle (Paul): tentmaking. So they make tents together. Or, as this article argues, they more likely worked with leather.
Later, they set sail together toward a place called Antioch (Acts 18:18), and continue with him to Ephesus where they meet an apostle named Apollos. Apollos has a great talent for public speaking, but doesn’t quite have his theology correct, so Priscilla and Aquila guide him on some of the teachings.
In Ephesus, the two of them establish a church in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19). During the Early Church, many Christians would hold church in their homes.
Throughout their ministry the couple exemplifies kindness, hospitality, and hard work, no matter where God plants them.
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Who Was Aquila in the Bible?
Aquila has a Jewish background, hence why Claudius expelled his family from Rome. We don’t know the cultural background of Priscilla, but we do know both exercise a Christian faith by the time they meet Paul.
Apart from that, we don’t have many distinguishing factors about Aquila. The couple appears attached at the hip throughout Scripture, and Scripture presents them together as equals.
Perhaps this goes to show that two can become one in marriage, making the other stronger through a strong relationship with Christ at the center (Ecclesiastes 4:12). And to show the Bible had a culturally divergent view of women than typically seen in Roman society (as well as Jewish society back then).
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Priscilla Gives Us a Strong Portrait of Biblical Womanhood
During that time period, a woman mainly served as an offspring-giver and nurturer. They could not own property, didn’t have much of a say on marital or familial affairs, and were encouraged to serve as wallflowers, not contributing much to conversation.
Although some women did work, it was mostly those of poorer classes who needed to provide for a household (such as widowers or those in a lower social strata).
Here we see a stark contrast with Priscilla.
The Bible depicts her as an equal to Aquila, she works alongside her husband as a tentmaker, and the Bible does not focus on whether she produced offspring or managed the household.
She and her husband start a church together, and they continue to preach the Gospel late into Paul’s ministry, and likely beyond after Paul is beheaded.
Not to mention, they also start a church in one of the most morally corrupt areas of the world, as we can see in Paul’s letters to Corinth. And yet, their church thrives.
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What Can Christians Learn from Priscilla?
Christians can learn a great deal from this woman from the first century AD.
1. God Can Accomplish Great Things During Difficult Circumstances
The origin of Aquila’s name shows they likely came from a prominent family in Rome. The fact Claudius ejected them gave them every reason to worry that God had thrown them into a frightening situation as strangers in Corinth. Not to mention they have to move around frequently from Rome to Corinth to Antioch and Ephesus.
Nevertheless, God continues to move through Priscilla. She helps Apollos refine his theology so that he can preach the Gospel more effectively. She originates a church in a difficult area in the ancient world and helps it to thrive.
No matter what circumstances we encounter, God can help us bloom wherever he places us.
2. God Can Use the Talents of Anyone
Most women didn’t work in the ancient world, and yet, Priscilla had a mastery for tent making, hospitality, and theology. God used all three to help bring many to him.
The misfits, the outcasts, and those who don’t quite fit a certain mold are often the ones God chooses in Scripture. This applies especially to women in Scripture. He has the women find the tomb, give birth to the Savior of man, lead Israel as a formidable judge (Judges 4), and to accompany apostles on their journeys.
If you feel as though you have nothing to offer or don’t fit the stereotypical definition of normalcy, God can use your talents to bring others to him.
3. God Values Hospitality and Loyalty
Priscilla may not have had a Jewish background, but she follows her husband into Corinth. From riches to rags and making tents, she continues to remain faithful to her husband, exemplifying the common mantra for marriage “for richer or for poorer.”
She also provides for Paul, and those she later has in her house for church, to the best of her ability. We don’t know how quickly Priscilla and Aquila had to flee from Rome, but expulsions of this kind often mean they didn’t have a chance to grab all of their material possessions. They likely had to start at square one or something close to that.
But whatever they have, they share. They offer Paul a home, companionship, and friendship during his journeys. Paul sees Priscilla as an equal to Aquila and entrusts her with tasks such as building a home church in Corinth (and running it).
We can also see that the Bible had rather radical ideas about the treatment of women, opposed to the Roman culture of the day. Paul has no qualms with Priscilla working alongside her husband as a tentmaker.
All Christians, whether men or women, can learn a lot from Priscilla. Priscilla exercised extreme hospitality and kindness, even when she’d lost her riches as an esteemed family in Rome. Nevertheless, she continues to walk faithfully with God and her husband, and excels in whatever task she has set before her.
From this power couple, we can understand the importance of loyalty and obedience to our calling. And that God can use any circumstance, personality, or social and cultural standing to bring glory to him.
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