I had a plan - to finish all my lectures before I travel to Singapore later this week. But it wasn’t meant to be as my lectures were interrupted several times by visiting lecturers in the past couple of months. But we have reached the end of Romans so my final lectures will focus on Paul’s friendships in Romans 16. Chapter 16 has always been interesting. For Paul who had never visited Rome when he penned this magisterial epistle he seems to know a lot of people in Rome or associated with the Roman church. It tells us several things of the ancient capital and its nascent Christian Community. First, many Christians were well travelled.
In the ancient world where one walked most of the time from one place to another hundreds of miles away it is an absolutely fascinating phenomenon. Some travelled by sea and some by horses and even by camels but most travellers (economy class) simply walked. Second, the Roman church was a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles. The list of Paul’s friends includes both Jews and Gentiles. Out of 28 names mentioned, 10 are women. It seems that Paul had many female friends whom he knew as co-workers in the kingdom either as benefactors or preachers of the gospel alongside Paul. How Paul knew all these women is not so clear except for the husband wife team of Aquila and Priscilla. But many women named in Romans 16 are singles or widowed. So Paul has many friends in his circle of male and female associates in the ministry. By all accounts Paul was unattached or unmarried which may make it easier to relate to single women and these women to him. Evidence as to Paul’s friendships could only be inferred by what he writes of them and about them. But Paul’s way of relating all Christians is given in his letter to Timothy. As for older men regard them as fathers, younger men as brothers and do not rebuke older men harshly. As for older women regard them as mothers and younger women as sisters in all purity (1 Timothy 5:1-2)