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Priscilla // and Aquila // were a first century Christian missionary married couple described in the New Testament and traditionally listed among the Seventy Disciples. They lived, worked, and traveled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus".[Rom. 16:3 NASB] Priscilla and Aquila are described in the New Testament as providing a presence that strengthened the early Jesus groups. Paul was generous in his recognition and acknowledgment of his indebtedness to them.[Rom. 16:3-4] Together, they are credited with instructing Apollos, a major evangelist of the first century, and "[explaining] to him the way of God more accurately".[Acts 18:26]While it is not explicit, Priscilla is often thought to hold the office of teacher due to her apparent prominence. She is thought by some to be the anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
They are mentioned six times in four different books of the New Testament. They are always named as a couple and never individually. Of those six references, Priscilla's name is mentioned first three times, which is conspicuously unusual for such a male-dominant society. Throughout Scripture, the man is usually mentioned first; e.g., Adam and Eve, Ananias and Sapphira, making the three appearances of Priscilla's name first a notable exception.
The Christian Church, beginning with Jesus, had a radical view of the status of women. Jesus demonstrated that, while their gender roles and responsibilities differ, he values women and men equally as being made in the image of God. Luke clearly indicates Priscilla’s "agency and her interdependent relationship with her husband. She is certainly not Aquila’s property—as was customary in Greco-Roman society, but rather his partner in ministry and marriage".
Priscilla was a woman of Jewish heritage and one of the earliest known Christian converts who lived in Rome. Her name is a Roman diminutive for Prisca which was her formal name. She is often thought to be the first example of a female teacher in early church history. Coupled with her husband, she was a celebrated missionary a friend and co-worker of Paul.
While the view is not widely held among scholars, some scholars have suggested that Priscilla was the author of the Book of Hebrews. Although acclaimed for its artistry, originality, and literary excellence, it is the only book in the New Testament with author anonymity. Hoppin and others suggest that Priscilla was the author, but that her name was omitted either to suppress its female authorship, or to protect the letter itself from suppression.
She is the only Priscilla named in the New Testament. The fact that she is always mentioned with her husband, Aquila, disambiguates her from different women revered as saints in Catholicism, such as (1) Priscilla of the Roman Glabrio family, the wife of Quintus Cornelius Pudens, who according to some traditions hosted St. Peter circa AD 42, and (2) a third-century virgin martyr named Priscilla and also called Prisca.
Aquila, husband of Priscilla, was originally from Pontus and also was a Jewish Christian. According to church tradition, Aquila did not long dwell in Rome since the Apostle Paul is said to have made him a bishop in Asia Minor. The Apostolic Constitutions identify Aquila, along with Nicetas, as the first bishops of Asia Minor (7.46). Tradition also reports that Aquila's life was ended as a martyr, along with Priscilla's.
Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers as was Paul. Priscilla and Aquila had been among the Jews expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the year 49 as written by Suetonius. They ended up in Corinth. Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila for approximately 18 months. Then the couple started out to accompany Paul when he proceeded to Syria, but stopped at Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia, now part of modern Turkey.
Priscilla and Aquila were among the earliest known missionaries. In Acts 18:24-28, Luke reports the couple explaining Jesus' baptism to Apollos, an important Jewish-Christian evangelist in Ephesus. Paul indicates Apollos is an apostle, an "eloquent speaker" who had a "thorough knowledge of the Scriptures". He had been "instructed in the way of the Lord" which he taught with great "enthusiasm". He began to preach boldly in the synagogue. However, he knew only the baptism of John the Baptist—not the baptism taught by Jesus. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him "more accurately".[18:24-28]:pp.230–231
Amongst churches today, this passage is often held in perceived tension with Paul's explicit forbidding of female pastors. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul writes to Timothy that, "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." Advocates of female pastorship perceive this as an imperative dependent on the cultural climate of the day; opponents of female pastorship cite the universality of Paul's reasoning—that his reference to Adam and Eve indicates that the issue is simply a matter of universal gender propriety.
In 1 Corinthians 16:19, Paul passes on the greetings of Priscilla and Aquila to their friends in Corinth, indicating that the couple were in his company. Paul founded the church in Corinth.[1 Cor. 4:15] His including them in his greetings implies that Priscilla and Aquila were also involved in the founding of that church. Since 1 Corinthians discusses a crisis deriving from a conflict between the followers of Apollos and the followers of Cephas (possibly the apostle Peter), it can be inferred that Apollos accompanied Priscilla and Aquila when they returned to Corinth. This happened before 54, when Claudius died and the expulsion of the Jews from Rome was lifted.
One item of importance about the appearance is that they provide a chronological synchronism for the chronology of Paul's life. According to Acts 18:2f, before Paul meets them in Corinth, they were part of a group of Jews whom the Emperor Claudius ordered expelled from Rome; if this edict of the Emperor can be dated, then we would be able to infer when Paul arrived in Corinth.
The evidence of other ancient sources points to two possible periods during the reign of Claudius: either during his first regnal year (AD 41; so Dio Cassius, Roman History 60.6.6), or during his ninth regnal year (49; so Orosius, Historia 7.6.15f). As a result the experts are divided over when this expulsion took place: some, like Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, argue for the earlier year, while others, like Joseph Fitzmyer, argue for the later year.
Priscilla and Aquila are regarded as saints in most Christian churches that canonize saints. The Orthodox Church commemorates them both together on February 13. The Lutheran Church commemorates them the same day along with Apollos. Other Orthodox Churches commemorate Aquila only as an apostle on July 14. In the Catholic Church the Roman Martyrology lists their feast as July 8.