"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."
While in Ephesus, the couple apparently saved Paul's life and exposed themselves to danger in the process. Although the incident is not explained, it was no doubt similar to several other episodes reported in Acts in which the feisty apostle was chased, beaten, or jailed by his opponents. Prisca and Aquila's unspecified intervention won them Paul's endless gratitude.
After the emperor's edict was lifted in 54, Prisca and her husband returned to Rome, where they re-established a house church and presumably labored for many more years. According to one legend, the fourth-century St. Priscae church on the Aventine Hill in Rome was built on the site of the couple's home. Others have suggested that Prisca authored the anonymous New Testament letter to the Hebrews. While neither legend can be confirmed, as Bassler notes, "they attest to the power of her memory in the early church."
"Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."
A female apostle? So it seems, although not everyone agrees. The name of Junia appears once in the New Testament and scarcely anywhere else in church writings except in occasional discussions over the years as to whether she, in fact, was a she.
Assuming that Junia was a woman, as many modern scholars do, she probably was a freed slave who took on the name of her slave master and was subsequently granted Roman citizenship. Paul described her and her missionary partner—possibly her husband—as "relatives," which scholars say could mean blood kin or may simply mean fellow Jews.
That Paul describes her as an apostle is of greatest import to many modern readers. To Paul, it meant she had seen a vision of the risen Christ, as he did, and was engaged in missionary work. Some others in Paul's time and later have defined apostles as those who were chosen by Jesus as disciples and who saw him after the Resurrection—in other words, the original 12 (all men) less Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, plus the one chosen as Judas's replacement.