I love this couple way too much.
Sometimes they’re called “Priscilla and Aquila” as in Rom. 16:3. In the Greek, their names would be pronounced as “pris’-cil-lah” and “ak-oo’-las”. I love that. Sometimes this dynamic duo is also called, as in 2 Tim. 4:19, Prisca and Aquila.
Some say that Prisca is a shorthand version of Priscilla, like saying Jenn instead of Jennifer, which seems logical, but according to Strong’s, in the Greek, Priscilla is actually the shorthand version of Prisca. Apparently, Prisca is the formal name and Priscilla is what you’d call her if you were friends with her.
There are some differing opinions about what her name means. Generally, her name falls within the category of “venerable,” which says a lot about the faithfulness of her parents and their expectations of her. “Venerable” is to be worthy of honor and respect. Webster would say that venerable is “Rendered sacred by religious associations, or being consecrated to God and to his worship…” Just by the name her Jewish parents gave her, we can sense there was an expectation that her life would be set apart, consecrated to God and to His worship, and she more than surpassed those expectations, as one half of a whole unit as a married couple passionately devoted to serving the Lord alongside the Apostle Paul.
Aquila, her Jewish husband, is a name that means “eagle,” which has enormous symbolic meaning in the OT. The eagle is referred to for its swiftness of flight. In Deu_28:49 Moses would prophecy of a future time in which Israel would be conquered by a nation from afar. He’d write, “The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand.” Many believe that this prophecy referred to the Roman Empire. Ironic that we have a Jewish man in ministry with Paul whose name means eagle under the rule of the very Gentile kingdom Moses prophesied would conquer Israel “as swift as the eagle flieth.”
The eagle was also referenced in the OT for soaring in flight high in the air, for setting its nest in high places, but especially for its strength and power of vision. We find in Job 39:27 Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? Job 39:28 She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. Job 39:29 From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Isaiah would write, in Isa. 40:31, But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. The point here is that mastering the art of patiently waiting for the Lord maintains the vitality of strength in one’s faith, like an eagle getting new feathers. It’s thought that unlike other birds, the eagle typically retains his vigor to an old age. He sheds his old feathers, gets new ones, and with those new feathers, he gets a bit of revitalized youth.
Some tried to suggest that because Priscilla is mentioned first in 2 Tim. 4:19, then that must mean that she was somehow the more spiritual of the two, which makes no sense at all. This couple is mentioned 6 times in the NT. 3 times Priscilla is mentioned first (Acts 18:18; Rom. 16:3, 2 Tim. 4:19), and the other 3 times Aquila is mentioned first (Acts 18:2; 18:26; 1 Cor. 16:19). This, to me, suggests that they were spiritual equals. Neither one was ever given any preference over the other because they were equals and truly one in their marriage. The way they were addressed was equally interchangeable because they were one unit. And they were always mentioned together. One is never mentioned without the other, because the two operated as one unit in the ministry. There was such a oneness between them that you cannot think of one without the other, and both were equally invaluable to Paul and the ministry.
Let’s look at how Paul met them.
Act 18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; Act 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. Act 18:3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. Act 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Act 18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. Act 18:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
After this, we get the story of the birth of the Corinthian church.
First, Paul left Athens. He came into Corinth, and he meets Aquila and Priscilla. Luke says that they had lately come from Italy. They had not been in Corinth long before they met Paul. Claudius Caesar had kicked all the Jews out of Rome. Roman historians basically say that the Jews had caused such an uproar in Rome about a man named Christus, that Claudius had had enough of their drama and kicked them all out. We would presume that the drama had to do with the fighting between the Jews who were believers and those who weren’t. But that didn’t matter to Claudius. They all needed to get out of Rome.
Plus, we learn that Aquila was from a place called Pontus. Why would the Holy Spirit want us to know that Aquila was from Pontus? First, look up Pontus in Wikipedia and Google Images. This is a region north of Galatia along the coast of the Black Sea in what is now modern-day Turkey.
Pontus is gorgeous and fascinating to read about. They have a rich history. Likely colonized by the Greeks. Then assimilated into the Assyrian empire. Then they became their own Kingdom, the Pontus Kingdom. Lasted about 200 years until about 60 years before Christ was born. There are tombs for old kings carved into the sides of mountains. There are gorgeous mountains, called the Pontic Alps, visually stunning, some of the most beautiful mountainous imagery I’ve ever seen. And the Pontic Alps are known for its – eagles, specifically, the golden eagle, the eastern imperial eagle, and the lesser spotted eagle.
Plus, if one were to go camping in the glorious Pontic Alps, one would need to know how to make a tent, right?
Nero would actually declare Pontus to be a Roman Province around 3 years before he’d execute Paul.
There were a lot of Jews in Pontus. In fact, Pontus is mentioned in Acts 2:9. That was the section in which Peter spoke in tongues at Pentecost and how everyone was amazed that they could hear Peter in their own language. That section lists all the many different regions from which the Jews had come, and one of those regions mentioned was Pontus.
So there were quite a few Jews from Pontus who were in Jerusalem at Pentecost in Acts 2. I would argue that this is no mere coincidence. Why would Luke tell us that Aquila is from Pontus if not to connect that reference to Pontus in Acts 2? I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility at all that Aquila and Priscilla or their families or their extended families were in Jerusalem and had experienced all the miracles at Pentecost in Acts 2. The reference to the fact that Aquila was from Pontus is significant given the fact that Pontus is also referenced in Acts 2:9. This could possibly mean that Aquila and Priscilla were in Jerusalem during Pentecost and were probably believers, probably kingdom saints, members of the Little Flock, and they probably lost everything after they had all things common, which could possibly be why they picked up the trade of tentmaking, which makes them that much more special.
Here is this married Jewish couple. They were believers in Christ as their Messiah. They were members of the Little Flock. They gave up everything and they lost everything after Pentecost. Then they were kicked out of Rome because their own kinsmen couldn’t stop fighting about Christ. So now they’re in Corinth. They’re just trying to make a living and survive.
Can you imagine how they must’ve been feeling?
Then they meet Paul. Not only is this couple not bitter about everything that’s happened to them, but they were also quick to embrace this new program God was rolling out through Paul and they were actually willing to dive headfirst with Paul into that ministry and it’s a ministry to… the Gentiles! With a new message of salvation by grace through faith to anyone who believes, no longer under the law but under grace!
Plus, Aquila and Priscilla weren’t just helpers and laborers with Paul. These two people, on top of everything else, risked their own lives to save Paul!
Do you remember how Paul wrote in Rom. 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Rom 16:4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
Just think about this.
This couple did everything Jesus asked them to do. They believed. They gave up all their possessions. They lost everything! They got kicked out of Rome. And now God is changing the entire way He’s dealing with mankind. Israel is set aside. Now it’s about grace to anyone who believes. No law. Just grace. Everything they had been taught as Jews had been thrown out the window! After everything they went through, they were still willing to roll with the changes and be a part of God’s new program of grace.
Not only that, they were willing to risk their own lives to save Paul!
This isn’t just a model couple. This is one of the most extraordinary, faithful, beautiful couples in all the Bible. How can you not love Priscilla and Aquila?
In Rom. 16:4, Paul said, Who have for my life laid down their own necks. This means that they exposed themselves to the very real possibility of death. They figuratively stuck their necks out for Paul. They together put their heads on the chopping block, so to speak, to save Paul’s life. They did this together as a married couple to save the life of Paul!
We don’t know which incident Paul’s referring to. Could’ve been his time with them in Corinth. They were also with him in Ephesus, which we’re about to read, but my money’s on Corinth. We read in Acts 18:3 that Paul had abode with them, and we know he caused quite a stir in Corinth with the Jews. So I can imagine an angry mob of Jews going to their home, and Aquila and Priscilla going outside to confront that mob, faced the real possibility of death, and risked their own lives to protect Paul.
Paul writes, “unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” Everyone in grace knew about Priscilla and Aquila. Everyone in grace had heard about their story of bravery facing death to save Paul, and everyone was grateful to them for their courage. Everyone in grace were all inspired by the courage of Aquila and Priscilla!
Here’s another thought about Acts 18:3 in which Luke mentions that Paul had abode with them. The fact that, despite everything they’ve gone through, they were so quick to embrace Paul and allow him into their home to abode with them, speaks of an amazing hospitality on their part, one of the many venerable attributes of this couple, a model to all of us.
Starting in Acts 18:24,we find Aquila and Priscilla are now with Paul in Ephesus, and we get the story of Apollos. Act 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. Act 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. Act 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Act 18:27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: Act 18:28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Of course, we know the story of Apollos, that he was a passionate believer and an eloquent speaker, but he needed to be brought up to speed, dispensationally, with everything happening now. Notice how Luke writes that when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them. They together saw an opportunity for ministry. They together reached out to Apollos. They together took him aside or perhaps even brought him into their abode in Ephesus to talk to him. They saw common ground in the fact that they were all believing Jews.
Then Aquila and Priscilla together taught Apollos. Together, they expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. It was a team effort on their part to persuade Apollos in gracious love and it totally worked. Apollos became a huge asset to the ministry. He immediately edified disciples in Achaia who believed in Christ by grace and also mightily convinced the Jews… publickly shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Priscilla and Aquila is also mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:19, in which Paul writes, “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” Knowing everything we know about Aquila and Priscilla, just imagine the kind of impact this verse might’ve had on the Corinthians. They all would’ve known them personally. They all would’ve known their story of great bravery in the face of death to save the life of the Apostle Paul.
And Paul doesn’t simply write, Aquila and Priscilla salute you in the Lord. He writes, “Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord.”
Despite all the problems in Corinth. Despite all the carnality, the division, and the infighting, Aquila and Priscilla sends them a greeting filled with warmth and love. They were tender, loving people. And not just them but also all the people in the church that is in their house salutes them much in the Lord. The people in the church that was in their house were also tender and loving toward those carnal Corinthians because of Aquila and Priscilla’s model example, because Aquila and Priscilla were themselves so tender and loving.
This church that was in their house was in Rome. We know this from Rom. 16:5 that also referenced the church in their house. So at some point after Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla went back to Rome, settled down there, and began a church in their house. Nero had allowed the Jews to return to the city of Rome not because he had any sympathies for the Jews but only because he was trying to undo everything Claudius did out of spite.
But again, the fact that this couple opened up their home to believers to have church there, speaks volumes about their generous spirit of hospitality.
There was a long history of tents with the nation of Israel going all the way back to Gen. 4:20 in which we learn about the birth of Jabal, the sixth descendant of Cain, of whom it was said that he was “the father of such as dwell in tents” (Gen_4:20). Jabal invented tents.
We know from Gen. 9 that when Noah stepped off his ark, he and his family dwelt in tents.
In Gen. 12, Abraham pitched his tent east of Bethel.
In Gen. 13, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom.
And, of course, during their 40 years in the wilderness, those wandering Jews all dwelt in tents (Exo_16:16; Deu_33:18; Jos_7:24).
Tents have always occupied a prominent place in the life of Israel (1Sa_17:54; 2Ki_7:7; Psa_120:5; Son_1:5), and so, there’s no surprise that the fine art of tentmaking would be an integral part of Israeli culture, a trade passed down from generation to generation. It’s a good trade to know if you’re mobile, like the Apostle Paul, because it would seem that you can setup shop and make tents anywhere.
However, I’ve always wondered what materials they used when they setup shop in a new location? How did they get their hands on all those materials they’d need to make tents?
We know that there were many different styles of tents back in Paul’s day. The Roman Military required leather tents for their soldiers. There were tents of black goat’s hair, called beit sha’ar, the “house of hair,” “the tents of Kedar” as mentioned in Song of Solomon 1:5. This is the same material that made up the sackcloth in Bible days, not that Oriental sackcloth, but coarse goat’s hair, also referenced by John in the book of Revelation when he wrote that “The sun became black like sackcloth of hair” (Revelation 6:12). This sackcloth was worn as a sign of sorrow (Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31), as a sign of humility (I Kings 21:27; II Kings 19:1), or as a sign of repentance (Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:5).
We know that Paul was “a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia” (Acts 22:3). Cilicia was known for exporting Cilician cloth, which is a cloth made of goat’s hair. And apparently, goat’s hair cloth used for tents is porous when it is dry, but becomes waterproof when it rains. I imagine that Paul would’ve used whatever materials he could get his hands on, but it seems likely that he, Aquila, and Priscilla would’ve been adept at making tents with cloth made of goat’s hair.
But the reasons why Paul was a tentmaker are important. He said in 1 Cor. 9:6 that he had the power to forbear working but he chose to work anyway. He wasn’t a tentmaker simply so he could support himself. He said in 2Th 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 2Th 3:8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 2Th 3:9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 2Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
He worked to give his ministry credibility so that people didn’t think that he was merely out to get their money and to also be an example to them that they should work.
There was also another reason that Paul worked.
He told the Ephesian elders in Act 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Act 20:33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Act 20:34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. Act 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Fascinating that Paul quoted the Lord Jesus Christ from His earthly ministry. Why? Because this is a timeless principle. But see, Paul was engaged in tentmaking out in the mission field not simply to support himself, not simply to give credibility to his ministry so people wouldn’t think that he’s out to get their money, and not simply to be an example to people that they needed to work, but he also worked to financially support the weak, and to be an example to others to also financially support the weak.
Priscilla and Aquila have become a source of controversy as of late. Were they members of the Little Flock? I believe so. Did they become members of the Body of Christ? I don’t see any evidence in Scripture to suggest this and as we often point out on our podcasts, Rom. 11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” God doesn’t change or take back promises He made to you when you got saved. Priscilla and Aquila were saved under the Kingdom Gospel, which means they will be recipients of not only eternal life for their faith in Christ, but they will also receive the earthly inheritance in the kingdom along with the rest of believing Israel.
Yet they wanted to serve God in doing whatever it is He’s doing even if it’s a completely different program in which their own people would be set aside for a reason and for a season.
Would God reward them for helping Paul? Absolutely.
What are we to take away from all that we’ve learned about them as a couple?
We made the point earlier that Priscilla and Aquila is mentioned 6 times in the NT. 3 times Priscilla is mentioned first (Acts 18:18; Rom. 16:3, 2 Tim. 4:19), and the other 3 times Aquila is mentioned first (Acts 18:2; 18:26; 1 Cor. 16:19), which to me, suggests that they were not only spiritual equals but it also suggests their oneness in everything they did together because they were always mentioned together. One is never mentioned without the other. We do not think of one without the other, and we never should because they operated together as a single unit.
Consider all the ways in which they were one.
First, because they were always mentioned together, they were one in their marriage – one heart, one mind, one flesh. We’ve made the point that when God created Eve out of Adam’s rib, Adam understood immediately God’s design for marriage, that out of one became two and when the two come together to consummate that union in marriage, they become one – one person, one soul, one heart, one mind, and one flesh, or one body in a unified whole. And in that union, the husband is to love his wife more than himself and the wife is to love her husband more than herself. Because of that union, as Paul says in 1Co_7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. In that union of marriage, the two have become one whole, which means they are to care for each other as a whole unit. Because Aquila and Priscilla were always mentioned together, we have every reason to think that they were truly one in their marriage. They were also one in the Lord. They were both believers, one with Christ and in Christ as members of, not the BoC, but His Little Flock. And even though they were members of the Little Flock and not part of the BoC, they were still willing to dive headlong into ministry with Paul.
They were also one in their secular occupation. They worked well together as tentmakers.
They also operated as one unit in the ministry. They both saw opportunities for ministry together. They both reached out to Apollos together. They both taught Apollos together. They both had a great knowledge of Scripture.
They were also both very courageous together. They offered up their lives together to save Paul.
They both shared the same spirit of hospitality and opened up their home to have a church. They very much remind me of Amo 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
And they were both tender and loving to believers as we saw in their salutation to the Corinthians, which served as an example to all of us. They were together an example and an inspiration to other believers in grace.
But above all, they were both faithful. They stayed faithful to God even when they presumably lost everything after Pentecost. They stayed faithful to God even when God was changing the entire way He was dealing with mankind in grace. They stayed faithful to God even during all the persecution they faced in Corinth and Ephesus. They stayed faithful to God by having a church in their home in the heart of Rome even when Nero was out to kill all the Christians. And we may presume that they stayed faithful to God even after Paul was gone by working to make copies of all those parchments. They may well be part of the reason why we even have a Bible in our hands today.
Priscilla and Aquila isn’t just a model couple. Priscilla and Aquila is one of the most loving, faithful, brave, extraordinary couples in all the Bible.