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Phoebe: Speaking of Romans 16

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 in scripture, service | 8 comments

Speaking of Romans 16 (which I started speaking about in my post “Greetings?“), did you notice the first two verses of that chapter?

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 ESV)

Many people spill much ink arguing whether Phoebe should be called a “servant” or a “deacon” (my answer: “Yes” – since they mean the same thing). However, I think there are more important questions to consider.

Here are some of the questions: Why did Paul mention Phoebe here? What was Phoebe doing that she had to be introduced to the Romans? Who does Paul also mention (in other letters) doing the same thing that Phoebe is doing? What does that tell us about Phoebe?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-28-2010

    “What was Phoebe doing that she had to be introduced to the Romans?”

    Horning in on the “victory” of the missionary to the Gentiles?

  2. 9-28-2010


    It seems that she had been working side by side with Paul in his ministry. Not enough is known to draw too many conclusions. But there are a few. Things like “give her what she needs” she is also called a “prostatis” and given the context it is hard to draw any other conclusion that she had some leadership capcity with and among Paul’s other coworkers.

    Whats your thougts?

  3. 9-28-2010

    I think the answer is that she was doing the same things that Timothy did while serving with Paul.

  4. 9-28-2010

    I get that from Phil 2.

  5. 9-28-2010

    Dare I say it? She was serving the church in Cenchreae like Timothy was serving the church in Ephesus, so however we understand that, apostolic worker/church planter or local elder/pastor/shepherd, she was doing what Tim was doing.

  6. 9-28-2010

    Thanks for the comments. I’m going to post my answers in a post… probably next week.


  7. 9-29-2010

    Wha? 🙂

  8. 9-29-2010

    Hi Alan,

    I think Paul mentioned Phoebe to the Roman church because she was delivering his letter. Paul seems to be writing from Corinth (16:23), and Cenchrea was a nearby port. The Roman Christians wouldn’t know her, hence the need for an introduction.

    Other letter-carriers include Judas and Silas (Acts 15:22-34), Tychicus (Eph 6:21, Col 4:7-9), and probably Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25-30), and Zenas and Apollos (Titus 3:13).

    That Phoebe brought Paul’s letter says a lot about her character: Paul trusted her, and she was willing to bear the expense and risk of a long journey, for the sake of blessing a church she did not know. She didn’t only serve her home church, she also served the Roman church.