The Missionary Tentmaker
Aquila and Priscilla, a noble Christian couple had been driven from Rome by the decree of Claudius Cæsar. A large Jewish colony dwelt at Rome in a crowded quarter on the banks of the Tiber. Suetonius, a Roman historian, has a statement which exactly fits the words of Acts XVIII:2. He says, “Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, who were constantly making disturbances, at the instigation of one Chrestus.” Christianity had no doubt been introduced at Rome by some of the Jews who were converted at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. These Christians were no doubt persecuted at Rome, as elsewhere by the Jews, and, for the disturbances, the whole Jewish colony was banished.
During the early decades of Christianity the Romans did not distinguish between the Jews and Christians. Suetonius’ statement about “Chrestus” shows an ignorance that is amusing. He evidently had heard the name of Christ connected with the disturbances.
Aquila and Priscilla were already Christians, but suffered banishment with the others. They were tentmakers by trade and finally settled in Corinth, which was a great center of commerce, culture, and especially of iniquity, for here was a temple to Venus with a thousand abandoned women as attendants.
Paul on his second missionary tour came to Corinth and, finding Aquila and Priscilla, made his home with them. They were attached by a three-fold tie: they were Jews by birth, Christians by profession, and tentmakers by trade, and Paul, while he worked as a missionary, worked with his friends at their trade.
He was so successful in his missionary work, that at the end of a year and a half the Jews raised such a persecution that the three tentmakers were driven from the city, to Ephesus, where Paul left his friends and sailed to Syria, visiting Jerusalem and Antioch.
Some time after Paul’s departure, there came to Ephesus a learned and eloquent man of Alexandria, Apollos by name, who had heard and accepted some things from the Christian religion and was working enthusiastically among is own people, the Jews.
The tentmakers heard him and, while rejoicing at his ability and zeal, they saw that he had but part of the truth. He was invited to their abode and learned of them more fully the truth of Christianity. The tentmakers had become teachers, and the name of the wife is placed first.
A few years later they evidently returned to Rome, for Paul in his letter to the Romans sends them greeting (Rom. XVI:4). In this single verse we learn that he remembered them as his “helpers” in the gospel work, he was no doubt thinking of the days in Corinth. Again, he says that for his life work, they laid down work own necks. Somehow, they had saved his life at the risk of their own. And, lastly, he speaks of “the church which is now in their house.” Their home had become the meeting place of the Christians in Rome at a time when it was neither possible nor safe for them to have a special house of worship.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.