All God’s Children Have Names (11)
Greetings from Paul’s companions (Rom 16:21-24)
Paul now conveys greetings to the Roman brothers and sisters from his companions. Once again in this chapter, we see how scrupulous he is to mention those companions’ names to his associates, his friends, and his brothers and sisters in Rome. Everyone is known by name; no one is a mere statistic; and each of them, alone, is of great worth to the apostle, to Christ, and to the Father.
In this chapter, there are so many who are known by name to Paul. There are so very many, in fact, that we must add this thought. On several occasions Paul actually refers to other believers, but not by name:
- “those who belong to the household” (vs 10,11),
- “[Rufus’] mother” (v 13),
- “the brothers with them” (v 14),
- “all the saints with them”, and
- “[Nereus’] sister” (v 15).
When he does this, we should not assume that it is because he does not care enough to mention their names. Most likely, it is simply because he has never been told those names, or perhaps he has forgotten their names. We know that, try as he might to remember everyone, even the great apostle was human, and by no means infallible.
For “fellow worker” see verses 3 and 9, and the notes there.
Lucius: From the earliest times, some have identified this Lucius with Luke the writer of Luke and Acts. This is possible but by no means certain, for several reasons:
- Lucius was a very common name.
- We know of no particular reason why Paul would have referred to one of his closest associates by two slightly different names.
- Other ancient traditions take Luke to be a Gentile believer (a Samaritan or Syrian); if he were not a Jew, then he could not be one of Paul’s “relatives”.
At this point Tertius, Paul’s secretary, must have asked to add his personal greeting. We may suppose that by this time he had become thoroughly wrapped up in the message and had developed a rapport with the Roman believers whom Paul was addressing.
William Barclay comments:
This little verse also suggests an affectionate scene, one which is perfectly ordinary but at the same time quite instructive. Paul doesn’t use Tertius merely as a secretary. Tertius has a personality, as well as his own personal feelings as a brother in Christ, and Paul is pleased to accommodate those feelings by giving him the privilege of enclosing his own greeting.
Gaius, one of Paul’s early converts in Corinth (1 Cor 1:14), was the brother with whom Paul was staying when he wrote this letter. As mentioned earlier (vv 1,2), Paul’s letter to the Romans was written in Corinth, while he stayed with Gaius, but it was delivered to Rome by Phoebe, who lived nearby in Cenchrea.
The very fact that Paul made an exception in the case of Gaius by personally baptizing him (1 Cor 1:14 again) suggests that his conversion was a notable event due to his prominence.
Evidently, Gaius had a comfortable and roomy house which he had made available for the meetings of the ecclesia. The Greek phrase here may also suggest that, earlier, Gaius had “welcomed” Paul and many others (who were previously “strangers” to him) into his home and his care.
Because of Paul’s remark that the whole ecclesia enjoyed Gaius’ hospitality, it is tempting to suppose that he is the man (Titius Justus) who invited believers into his home after the break with the synagogue (Acts 18:7). This involves the supposition that Paul is giving us only a part of his name and that Luke provides the rest. Quite often, Roman citizens had several names.
Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works…: The Greek word used here is “oikonomos”, a compound word of “oikos” (house) and “nomos” (law, rule, administration). In a very general sense, this refers to the manager or butler of a family house (see also Luke 12:42; 16:1–4; 1Cor 4:1,2; 9:17; Gal 4:2; Eph 1:10; 3:2,9; Col 1:25; 1Tim 1:4; Titus 1:7; 1Pet 4:10).
The KJV translates “oikonomos” as “chamberlain”. This English word comes from medieval Latin and old French, and describes a trusted senior employee. “Chamberlain” refers to the employee’s access into the private chambers of the master so as to consult with him there. This authority also extends to management of the household staff and finances.
The simple word “house” may have many applications. The idea has been expanded to encompass a larger sphere of oversight: not just the steward or butler of a domestic house, but the trustee of a business, or even the executive director of a nation or kingdom. In this case, because of the other word used here (“polis”, or city), Erastus was the “oikonomos poleos”, the city manager or director.
The NET and NRSV Bibles translate the word as “the city treasurer”; the ASV, as “the treasurer of the city”; the NIV as “the city’s director of public works”.
Any further evidence as to Erastus’ precise position in Corinth would have to be determined from archaeology and history. There is at least some evidence, though by no means conclusive, that suggests that Erastus held a supervisory position over Corinth’s public works:
Oscar Broneer, who did considerable excavating at the site of ancient Corinth, reports in The Biblical Archaeologist XIV (Dec. 1951), p. 94:
…and our brother Quartus send you their greetings: “Our brother” may simply mean another brother in Christ. On the other hand, Harry Whittaker writes:
Nothing else is known of Quartus. The name means “fourth”, so quite possibly he is the fourth son of a prominent family, of which Secundus was the second son (Acts 20:4) and Tertius the third son (Rom 16:22).
Erastus may have been the eldest brother of a quite distinguished family – distinguished by their offices in some instances, and certainly distinguished by their standing in the Lord.If so, who is the “first”? Since there is no reference to a “Primus”, then perhaps the older brother of the family is Erastus himself — simply because of his placement in the list just before Quartus. This also suggests that Erastus may have been the eldest brother of a quite distinguished family — distinguished by their offices in some instances, and certainly distinguished by their standing in the Lord.
At this point the KJV has a verse 24 as follows:
Likewise, the verse appears in the ASV.
However, the RV, NEB, RSV, NIV and NET omit this phrase altogether, and their translations have no verse 24 at all. Other manuscripts have this verse or its equivalent after verse 27, but this isn’t usually reflected in the translations (see further notes on verse 20).
According to the NET Notes: “The strength of the external evidence, combined with uncertainty in other manuscripts over where the verse should be located and the fact that it is a repetition of verse 20b, strongly favors omission of the verse.”
(Austin Leander, TX)