Priscilla and Aquila part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
Aquila and Priscilla of Rome
Depiction of Saint Paul (left) in the home of Saints Aquila and Priscilla.
Holy Couple and Martyrs
Venerated in • Catholic Church
• Eastern Orthodoxy
• Oriental Orthodoxy
• Lutheran Church
• 8 July (Catholic Church)
• 13 February (Eastern Orthodoxy)
• 14 July (other Orthodox Churches commemorate Saint Aquila alone as an Apostle)
Crown of Martyrdom
Priscilla and Aquila
Priscilla and Aquila were a first-century Christian missionary married couple described in the New Testament. They lived, worked, and traveled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus." Aquila is usually listed among the Seventy Disciples.
Death place: Rome
In the year 52 A.D., the Roman Emperor Claudius issued an edict expelling all Jews from the city of Rome. From what the Roman historian Suetonius says, it seems that they were persecuting their Christian neighbors and causing a considerable disturbance in the city. Claudius cared little about the reason for the trouble and even less about who the guilty parties were. He knew they were Jews, which was enough, so all Jews were uprooted from their homes and banished from Rome, the innocent and the guilty.
That was when a Jew named Aquila, who had migrated to Rome from the province of Pontus on the Black Sea, packed his belongings, bid farewell to his friends, and embarked for the city of Corinth. By his side was his faithful wife, Priscilla. We do not know whether she was Jewish or Roman, nor are we sure whether they were both Christians at the time. However, one thing we do know—they were together. One's name never occurs without the other. They were always together.
For one thing, they made their living together. "For by trade, they were tentmakers" (Acts 18:3). Every Jewish boy in New Testament times was taught a trade. Since tents were such a prominent part of Hebrew life, Aquila's parents chose to have their son learn this practical means of earning his livelihood. Their tents were made of rough goat hair fabric, which took great skill to cut and sew properly. Aquila had acquired that skill and later taught it to his wife, and she happily assisted him in his business.
Not every husband and wife can work together like this. It takes a mature relationship to work closely under the kind of pressure a job sometimes generates. However, that is the kind of relationship Aquila and Priscilla had. They were not only mates and lovers; they must have been good friends and companions. They had to be willing to give to each other more than they tried to take. They had to be able to accept suggestions as readily as they offered them. They enjoyed being together and working together. They were inseparable, and they were equals.
So, when they arrived in Corinth, they scoured the marketplace together for a small open-air shop to rent and set up their tent-making business. The timing was obviously of God, for no sooner had they settled down in their shop than another Jewish tentmaker arrived in town fresh from an evangelistic crusade in Athens, the Apostle Paul. Whenever he entered a new city, he would stroll through the marketplace looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus, looking for indications of God's direction for future ministry, and, of course, looking for work to sustain him as he ministered. It was inevitable that he would amble into the tent-making shop of Aquila and Priscilla. Scripture tells the story: "After these things, he left Athens and went to Corinth. Furthermore, he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they were working; by trade, they were tentmakers" (Acts 18:1-3).
Their affinity was instantaneous, and a deep and lasting friendship was born that day. Paul came to work with them in their shop and even lived in their home during his stay in Corinth. If they had not known Christ before this, they certainly met him now, for no one could spend time in Paul's presence and not be infected by his contagious and enthusiastic love for his Savior. These two who lived together, worked together, and suffered exile together, came to know and love Jesus Christ together, which made their marriage complete. Now they were one in Christ, and His love made a good marriage even better. That may be just the thing your marriage needs. If either of you has never placed your faith in the sacrifice Christ made for your sins; your marriage cannot be complete. True oneness can only be found in Christ.
From the day Aquila and Priscilla met the Savior, they grew in the Word together. No doubt, they went with Paul to the synagogue each Sabbath day as he reasoned with the Jews and Greeks and encouraged them to place their trust in Christ for salvation (Acts 18:4). Not everyone received his testimony. Some resisted and blasphemed. So, he withdrew from the synagogue and began teaching in the house of Titus Justus next door.
Moreover, God blessed his ministry. Even the chief ruler of the synagogue came to know Christ. "And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18:11). Think of it, eighteen months of intensive Bible study under the most outstanding Bible teacher in the early church, how Aquila and Priscilla must have grown!
Moreover, after the lessons, the three probably went home together and sat up into the early morning hours talking about the Lord and His Word.
They grew to love God's Word. Sharing the Word strengthened their love for each other and their spirit of togetherness. Moreover, although they worked long and hard running their shop, making, and repairing tents, maintaining a home, and caring for their distinguished guest, they always found time for serious Bible study.
This is precisely what many Christian marriages lack. Husbands and wives need to open the Word together. That is not difficult to do in a pastor's home. When preparing a message, I often talk to my wife about it and get her thoughts on the passage I am studying. If she is preparing a lesson, she may come to help me understand a particular verse, and we find ourselves sharing the Word.
Teaching a Sunday school class and sharing the preparation might be a comfortable beginning. Nevertheless, it may be more difficult at your house, especially if you have never done it. Reading and discussing a Bible-centered devotional guide would be profitable. Reading through a book of the Bible together will allow God to speak to our lives. However, we use it, God's Word is one necessary ingredient for enriching our relationship with each other.
The events that follow in the account of the Acts reveal how thoroughly Aquila and Priscilla learned God's Word. When Paul left Corinth for Ephesus, they accompanied him, and he left them there when he embarked for his home church in Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). The move was providential; for a while, Paul was gone "a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue" (Acts 18:24-26).
Aquila and Priscilla went to hear him and were deeply impressed by his sincerity, love for God, knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and brilliant oratorical ability. He could be mightily used in the service of Jesus Christ, but his message was deficient. All he knew beyond the Old Testament was the message of John the Baptist, which merely looked forward to the coming Messiah. "But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26). They lovingly and patiently rehearsed the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, His sacrificial and substitutionary death on Calvary's cross for the sins of the world, His victorious resurrection from the tomb and glorious ascension into heaven, the necessity for personal salvation from sin by faith in His finished work, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the birth of the Body of Christ, and other great New Testament doctrines.
Aquila and Priscilla may not have been accomplished public speakers, but they were diligent students of the Word and loved sharing it with others. They were even willing to invest the time necessary to take one young man under their spiritual care and pour the things of Christ into his life. Apollos had a keen mind and a quick understanding. He absorbed the truth they taught him and made it a part of his life and ministry. Moreover, because of this encounter with Aquila and Priscilla, he became an effective servant of God whom some of the Corinthians later placed on a level with Peter and Paul (1 Cor. 1:12).
Some of us will never be influential preachers, but we can be faithful students of the Word, and our homes can be open to people whose hearts are hungry to hear the Word. We may have the joyous privilege of nurturing a young Apollos who someday will have a comprehensive and powerful ministry for Jesus Christ.