Bible Review 8:6, December 1992

Prisca and Aquila

Traveling tentmakers and church builders

By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

Aquila and his wife Priscilla are the most prominent couple involved in the first-century expansion of Christianity. They were Paul’s hosts at Corinth (Acts 18:2–3). Subsequently they directed house-churches at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and Rome (Romans 16:3–5). Their contacts with Paul and their presence in three of the most important centers of early Christianity—Corinth, Ephesus and Rome—underline their importance in the history of early Christianity.

The couple is mentioned six times in the New Testament, but only twice with Aquila’s name first—once in the form “Aquila and Priscilla” (Acts 18:2) and once as “Aquila and Prisca” (1 Corinthians 16:19). Despite the difference in the woman’s names, there is no question of two wives because Priscilla is the diminutive of Prisca, as Mariette is of Mary in English and Carmencita of Carmen in Spanish. It is significant of Paul’s attitude toward women that he invariably uses the grown-up form, Prisca, whereas in Acts, Luke with equal consistency uses the diminutive, Priscilla, which might be interpreted as a put-down.

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