NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson XI)
16:21 Timothy, a worker together with me, sends you his greetings. Also Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater (these are my spiritual family) send their greetings.
Now Paul adds a few more greetings, but this time it is from his missionary team to the believers in Rome. He begins with Timothy. His name means, “Honored or Valued of God.” He is from Derbe in Galatia, located in the south-central Province of Karaman in modern Turkey. His mother’s name was Eunice, a Jewish lady. His father, a Greek, was already dead by the time Paul visited Derbe the first time.1 He was a child with a godly heritage;2 a youthful reader of Scripture;3 Paul’s child in the faith;4 who became an ordained minister at an early age;5 and blessed with the Gift of Evangelism;6 and became indispensable to Paul;7 receiving constant instructions from the Apostle.8
This certainly qualified Timothy to become an ambassador for Paul, and he was given the responsibility of restoring a backslidden church which required both gifts and grace;9 as well as offering comfort to believers during times of tribulation;10 What he learned helped him when he became a co-sufferer with Paul.11 Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi during their first Roman imprisonment.12 Tradition says he died a martyr in 97 AD for his faithfulness as a Bishop during the reign of Cæsar Augustus (96-98 AD), while attempting to stop an indecent heathen procession during the Festival of Diana. By doing so, this God-honoring minister sealed his testimony with his blood. The two epistles Paul addressed to Timothy are rich in their pastoral counsel.13 It almost goes without saying that the brethren in Rome already heard about Timothy and gladly received his warm greetings.
Next comes Lucius, which means, “of the light or luminous.” There are several theories on who this dear brother was. There was Lucius from Cyrene, a teacher at the church in Antioch;14 and the one mentioned here without any introduction. However, some also identify him with Luke the physician who traveled with Paul and compiled one of the Synoptic Gospels as well as the Acts of the Apostles. Many believe it was this Lucius who stood constantly by Paul’s side, and according to the “we” portions of the Book of Acts experienced many of Paul’s travels and hardships. However, since Paul made no further mention of who this Lucius was, it seems only logical that the brethren in Rome knew full-well who he was.
This is followed by Jason, which means “healer” or “he that cures.” There are two Jasons in the Scriptures. One of them was a believer in Thessalonica who showed great hospitality to Paul and Silas;15 and is the one mentioned here by Paul. Some say that “Jason” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua.” Then comes Sosipater, meaning, “defends his father.” In addition to the greeting here, he is also mentioned as a fellow traveler with Paul, having met in Berea, he went along on Paul’s journey from Philippi into Asia.16 Paul does not refer to this last group simply as his team or coworkers, but his spiritual family.
On Timothy’s and other’s greetings to the saints, Origen gives the information on these kinsmen of Paul according to the documentation in his day ((185-254 AD). He says that Timothy is well known from the Acts of the Apostles, where it is recorded that he was from Derbe, the son of a believing widow and of a Gentile father. Paul asked him to remain at Ephesus in order to warn the people there not to teach anything different from what they were taught nor listen to myths and endless genealogies.17 Lucius may have been the same person as Luke the Evangelist because names are sometimes given in the native form and sometimes in the Greek or Roman form. Jason is the same person as the one who, when there were riots against Paul and Silas at Thessalonica, posted a bond for them so that they might have the freedom to preach.18 Sosipater was the son of Pyrrhus, from Berrhoea.19 Paul calls them all his kinsmen because, although they were Gentiles, they were his brothers in Christ.”20
16:22-23 I am Tertius, the one writing this letter for Paul. I send you my own greetings as one who belongs to the Lord. Gaius is letting me and the whole church here use his home. He sends his greetings to you. Erastus and our brother Quartus also send their greetings. Erastus is the city treasurer here.
There is an obvious break between the dictations of Paul and some closing remarks by his scribe and secretary. Tertius is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament. His name is Latin and means, “the third.” Some scholars feel that Tertius is another name for one of Paul’s closest friends, Silas. According to Greek Orthodox Church history, Tertius was named Bishop of Iconium after Sosipater and was in the list of the seventy that Jesus sent out. He died a martyr in the service of Christ. Iconium is known today in Turkey as the city of Konya and is about 100 miles south of the capital city Ankara.
We also find out that Tertius and Paul have a mutual friend named Gaius who is mentioned five times: twice by Luke,21 once by Paul,22 once here by Tertius, and once by the Apostle John.23 His name means, “I am glad.” According to Luke, Gaius was from Derbe and was seized in the riot at Ephesus along with Paul.24 He also hosted Paul while he was in Corinth,25 and Paul especially commends Gaius for letting the local congregation use his home as their church. And then in John’s third letter, it is evident that the Apostle who spoke so much about Love had a deep affection for this saint he called “the well-beloved.” It seems that the Apostle John was the one who earlier led Gaius to Christ.26 John prayed for God to send showers of blessings to fall on Gaius.27 The Apostle also commended him for his faithful care of his fellow brethren who were ministers.28
There are interesting Jewish writings related to someone using Gaius’ house, or part of their house, as a synagogue. In one place we read where Rabbis were discussing the Passover meal. By allowing the Passover meal to be held in one’s home, they were said to have “sanctified the day.” In other words, they helped make the day holy by offering their house as a synagogue.29 Every new city Paul went into, he first visited the local synagogues, so it is not out of common logic that early Christians would think of the place where they meet in the same way they thought of the synagogue. We also know that the early Christians instituted what they called the Agape Meal, or Love Feast to go along with their worship service.30 This would become better known as the Eucharist. So following some of their old Jewish customs when it came to meeting for fellowship was not ideological, but sociological.
Then we come to Erastus, the city treasurer in Corinth. Luke tells us that Paul sent two of his helpers to Macedonia – Timothy and Erastus,31 and Paul tells Timothy: “Erastus stayed in the city of Corinth. I left Trophimus behind in the city of Miletus, he was sick.”32 And finally, Paul mentions Quartus, meaning, “the fourth.” It is believed that Quartus was also among the seventy who were sent out by our Lord into the harvest, and was known as Quartus of Berytus. He became the Bishop of Berytus (now Beirut) and also suffered greatly for his faith.
Some Greek manuscripts contain a verse twenty-four here that reads: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” But since it is not universally so in all manuscripts, many Bible scholars take it as something a later scribe added to his manuscript. Others believe that it is a benediction to this portion of Paul’s Epistle. Either way, it would not be out of Paul’s character to add such a blessing after sharing love and compassion from his heart.
1 Acts of the Apostles 16:1
2 2 Timothy 1:5
3 Ibid. 3:15
4 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2
5 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-7
6 See Ephesians 4:11; cf. Romans 16:21; 2 Timothy 4:5
7 Acts of the Apostles 17:14, 15; 18:5; 20:4
8 2 Timothy 2:3; 3:14
9 1 Corinthians 14:17
10 1 Thessalonians 3:2
11 2 Timothy 1:8
12 Philippians 2:19
13 Lockyer, Herbert; All the Men of the Bible Compilation, Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
14 Acts of the Apostles 13:1
15 Acts of the Apostles 17:5-9
16 Ibid. 20:4
17 1 Timothy 1:3-4
18 Acts of the Apostles 17:5-9
19 Ibid. 20:4
20 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
21 Acts of the Apostles 19:29; 20:4
22 1 Corinthians 1:14
23 3 John 1:1
24 Acts of the Apostles 19:29
25 1 Corinthians 1:14
26 3 John 1:4
27 Ibid. 1:2, 3
28 Ibid. 1:5-8
29 The Passover Haggadah, Sanctifying the Day – Kadesh, begins the Passover Service during the Seder Meal with the first cup of wine.
30 See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
31 Ibid. 19:22
32 2 Timothy 4:20