Romans Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 16
1. I am introducing to you our sister Phoebe, shammash of the congregation at Cenchrea,
Phoebe, shammash of the congregation. She was either its only shammash, or one among several. It is possible that the Greek word "diakonos" with the root meaning "runner of errands," should be taken here to mean "servant" or "worker" in a general sense, as is usually the case in the New Testament. But there is good reason lo think that in this instance it is a technical term denoting someone ordained to a recognized office in the congregation and having the duty of caring for its practical affairs, as at Ac 6:6. The usual English term for this office is "deacon," which transliterates the Greek word; and the closest Hebrew equivalent is "shammash" (Yiddish "shammes"), the person who handles the day-lo-day practical tasks of keeping a synagogue going. In an age where feminism is an issue, it should be noted not only that this woman held a prominent office in the Cenchrean congregation, but that the word "diakonos" is a masculine, not a feminine, form. Phoebe was a "deacon," not a "deaconess" (as some English versions render the word). See 1 Ti 3:8-13 for the qualifications of a shammash. 

2. so that you may welcome her in the Lord, as God’s people should, and give her whatever assistance she may need from you; for she has been a big help to many people — including myself.
3. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers for the Messiah Yeshua.
4. They risked their necks to save my life; not only I thank them, but also all the Messianic communities among the Gentiles.
5. And give my greetings to the congregation that meets in their house. Give my greetings to my dear friend Epaenetus, who was the first person in the province of Asia to put his trust in the Messiah.
Priscilla and Aquila. See Ac 18:1-3. Continuing the theme of v. IN, the mention of the woman first may indicate her greater prominence (see Ac 18:18&N). It is not known on what occasion they risked their necks for Sha'ul; they may have had such a role in the Ephesus disturbance of Ac 19:23-40, since it seems to have been there that they hosted a congregation in their home (see 1С 16:19, Ac 19:10), just as they did in Rome. The congregation that meets in their house. The Greek word for "congregation" is "ekklesia" which most English translations render "church" (see Mt 16:18N). Ekklesia" means "called-out ones" and thus refers to the people, not a building, as is clear from this verse. It sometimes means the entire number of believers united with the Messiah throughout history, or all the believers in a particular city (either at a particular ti me or over a period of time), but here it means a local congregation. The New Testament considers it the norm for believers to meet together regularly (compare 1С 16:1-2, MJ 10:24-25). 

6. Give my greetings to Miryam, who has worked very hard for you.
7. Greetings to Andronicus and Junia, relatives of mine who were in prison with me. They are well known among the emissaries; also they came to trust in the Messiah before I did.
Relatives (family members) or, alternatively, "fellow-kinsmen, fellow-countrymen" that is. other Messianic Jews; compare 9:3.
Junia. perhaps the wife of Andronicus; some think the name is masculine, but this is unlikely (the masculine-form name is Junius). The matter takes on importance from the remark that they were well known among the emissaries, which may mean not that they were well known to the emissaries, but that they were themselves well-known emissaries. If so, this would be the only instance of a female emissary in the New Testament. 

8. Greetings to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9. Greetings to Urbanus, our fellow worker for the Messiah, and to my dear friend Stachys.
10. Greetings to Appeles, whose trust in the Messiah has been tested and proved. Greet those in the household of Aristobulus.
11. Greet my relative, Herodion.
12. Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who are working hard for the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has done a lot of hard work for the Lord.
Three more women are singled out here and another two in vv. 13, 15. 

13. Greet Rufus, chosen by the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me too.
At Mk 15:21 Shim'on of Cyrene is called "the father of Alexander and Rufus." This Rufus may be the same. 

14. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers who are with them.
15. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all of God’s people who are with them.
16. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the Messiah’s congregations send their greetings to you.
Greet each other with a holy kiss — a Middle-Eastern custom. In recent years hugging and holy kissing has come back in vogue in some other countries as well, after centuries of being out of fashion (a handshake is obviously a much weaker expression of body language). When between members of the opposite sex, care must be taken that it is a holy kiss and not an unholy one! More generally, in an age of transition when customs are changing, the principle of Chapter 14, not causing distress to another for whom the Messiah died, applies here: those who experience discomfort from a given form of body expression should not be made to suffer it against their will. 

17. I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put snares alongside the teaching in which you have been trained — keep away from them.
Those who cause divisions, either by "looking down" or "judging" (14:3) or by opposing the sound doctrine set forth in this letter. 

18. For men like these are not serving our Lord the Messiah but their own belly; by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the innocent.
By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the innocent, because, as Proverbs 14:15 puts it, "The simple believe every word." 

19. For everyone has heard about your obedience; therefore I rejoice over you. However, I want you to be wise concerning good, but innocent concerning evil.
Be innocent concerning evil, "harmless as doves" (Mt 10:16). There is no need for a believer to occupy himself with the details of evil or how it is accomplished. Folk wisdom is rightly suspicious of the censor who spends hours poring over pornography, ostensibly to protect the public from it. 

20. And God, the source of shalom, will soon crush the Adversary under your feet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua be with you.
God, the source of shalom (peace, wholeness; the same phrase is used at 15:33) will soon crush the Adversary, Satan, the ultimate source of all opposition to God (see Mt 4:1N) under your feet. This imagery draws on Genesis 3:15; compare Lk 10:19, MJ 2:7-9, and a Jewish work written around 108 B.C.E., the Testament of Levi 18:12:

"And Beliar [a variant of B'liya'al, another name for Satan, as at 2C 6:15) will be bound by him [the "new priest" that the Lord will raise up, 18:2], and he will give power to his children to tread on evil spirits."

According to Genesis 3:15 it is the "seed of the woman," understood at Ga 4:4 to be the Messiah, who will "bruise" or "crush" the serpent's "head." But here it is God who will... crush the Adversary under your feet. Therefore, by implication Yeshua is identified both with God and with those who trust in him (see Mt 2:15N). 

21. Timothy, my fellow-worker, sends greetings to you; so do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.
Timothy. See Ac 16:1-3&NN and Sha'ul's two letters to him. 

22. I, Tertius, the one writing down this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Tertius, the one writing down this letter. Sha'ul's secretary. 

23. My host Gaius, in whose home the whole congregation meets, greets you. Erastus the city treasurer and brother Quartus greet you.
Some manuscripts have verse 24: The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with you all. Amen.

25. Now to God, who can strengthen you, according to my Good News, in harmony with the revelation of the secret truth which is the proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah, kept hidden in silence for ages and ages,
26. but manifested now through prophetic writings, in keeping with the command of God the Eternal, and communicated to all the Gentiles to promote in them trust-grounded obedience —
27. to the only wise God, through Yeshua the Messiah, be the glory forever and ever! Amen.
A final poetic greeting which sums up the message of the whole book. Sha'ul repeats his reference to the secret truth... kept hidden for ages (see I1:2S&N, Ep 1:9&N, 3:3-9) and once again uses the phrase, "trust-grounded obedience" (1:5a&N), which expresses what he hopes to foster by writing this letter. Important as is the work of Yeshua the Messiah (Chapters 3-8), he is nevertheless subordinate to God the Father: To... God, through Yeshua the Messiah, be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 

return to contents