Some commentators have attempted to cast Phoebe in a more limited and traditionally feminine role, perhaps as a minister to women only. Some English Bible translations call her "deaconess" or simply a "servant." But as Prof. Jouette Bassler of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University points out, the word Paul uses (diakonos) has "no gender distinctions" and "clearly points to a leadership role over the whole church, not just part of it...Phoebe is thus a church official, a minister of the church in Cenchreae."
"Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the gentiles."
Prisca, also called Priscilla in the book of Acts, and her husband, Aquila, a tent maker from the region of Pontus on the south shore of the Black Sea, were known by the early church as important and well-traveled missionaries and occasional traveling companions of Paul.
They also were among the first Jewish Christians in Rome, where scholars say they established a house church and probably taught in the synagogues as well. According to Acts, they were forced to leave Rome when the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from the city in 49. That expulsion also was noted by the Roman historian Suetonius, who described it as a response to "disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus"—a reference, many scholars believe, to riotous quarrels in the synagogues between believers and nonbelievers in Christ.
From Rome, the couple moved to Corinth, where they set up a tent-making shop. It was there that they first met Paul, also a tent maker, who probably worked and lodged with them. After a year and a half in Corinth, they accompanied Paul to Ephesus, where they once again set up a house church.
The house church in those early days of Christianity, notes Prof. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza of Harvard Divinity School, was "the beginning and center of the Christian mission" in a city or district. "It provided space for the preaching of the Gospel and for worship gatherings, as well as for social and Eucharistic table sharing." Prisca, Schussler Fiorenza and others contend, probably functioned as the leader of the house church in Ephesus. "The fact that Prisca's name appears first in four of six New Testament references" to the couple, notes Bassler of smu, "probably points to her more active role in the life of the church."