Biblical Archaeology Review 45:6, November/December 2019

Biblical Views: Priscilla—An Extraordinary Early Christian Life

By Ben Witherington III

More than 40 years ago, my wife and I moved to Durham, England, for me to do my doctoral thesis on women in the New Testament. Usually doctoral theses get someone a degree and then are quickly buried in some back room of a library. In my case, the opposite happened, and it led to three books on women in the New Testament for Cambridge University Press, one of which became their best-selling scholarly New Testament monograph ever.1 A significant portion of those books was devoted to Paul’s female coworkers—Phoebe, Junia, Mary, and others, but clearly the most frequently mentioned one in the New Testament is Priscilla. We find her in Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome working for and with Paul and with her husband, Aquila.

Why? Why such prominence?

Let’s start with her name: Priscilla, or the shortened form, Prisca. This is a famous Roman name, after which a catacomb in Rome is even named. I suspect the Priscilla in the New Testament had some connection with the Priscilla gens (“clan”), but we also know she was a Jewess who had a trade with her husband. They were expelled from Rome in the 40s C.E. presumably because of their witnessing about Jesus in Jewish circles and causing some turmoil (see Acts 18).

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