Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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Leaders in the Church at Ephesus

Apollos was an impressive speaker. He was eloquent, knowledgeable, fervent, and bold. Priscilla and her husband Aquila were in a synagogue in Ephesus listening to him speak about Jesus, but they noticed something lacking in his message. Apollos did not know about Christian baptism.

Of all the Christians in the city, it was Priscilla and Aquila who approached Apollos with the aim of explaining the “way of God” (i.e. theology) to him more accurately (Acts 18:26). That they approached him may well be an indication of the couple’s function as leaders, or elders, in the Christian community at Ephesus. It seems the church at Ephesus was even founded by the couple.[1]

Priscilla and Aquila had previously spent a year and a half working and ministering alongside the apostle Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3, 11, 18). Then all three had set sail together for Ephesus.[2] Paul then left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus where they were equipped to minister, having spent so much time watching, listening, and learning firsthand from Paul (Acts 18:19 cf. Rom. 16:3-5). The couple were well able to teach Apollos who was himself a teacher (Acts 18:25) and an up-and-coming apostle (cf. 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4-6, 21-22; 4:6, 9).

Priscilla and Aquila’s Invitation to Apollos

Several English translations of Acts 18:26 state that Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside (e.g., ESV, NASB, NET). Other translations, however, state that the couple invited Apollos into their home (e.g., NIV, CSB). The Greek verb used here, proslambanō, is commonly used with either meaning “to take aside” or “receive into one’s home.”[3]

Considering the culture of hospitality in ancient societies, and the importance of fellowship for the first Christians, the translation that Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos into their home is probably the correct one. Accordingly, an early Syriac translation of Acts 18:26 has the couple inviting Apollos “to their own house.”[4] I strongly doubt the three held a conversation that took place in the corner of the synagogue or on the side of the road.

Priscilla and Aquila hosted a house church in their home. It is probable that, during his stay with Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos was present at their church meetings. Perhaps Christian baptism was one of the topics of discussion and instruction at this meeting.

After experiencing the hospitality and ministry of Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos wanted to keep moving and keep ministering. So the “brothers and sisters,” possibly the members of Priscilla and Aquila’s house church who were now acquainted with Apollos, wrote to the disciples in Archaia asking them to welcome him (Acts 18:27 NIV).

“Grateful to Them”

According to Luke’s description in Acts 18:24-25, Apollos had already been instructed in the way of the Lord when he arrived in Ephesus, and he was teaching accurately about Jesus. But with the hospitality, teaching, and correction offered by Priscilla and Aquila, he now knew the way of the Lord even more accurately.[5]

Apollos and Aquila, as well as Luke who records this story, do not appear to be in any way concerned that Priscilla, a woman, took the lead in ministering to Apollos, a man. That she played a more prominent part is indicated by Priscilla’s name coming before her husband’s in Acts 18:26 (cf. 18:18) in the more reliable Greek manuscripts.[6]

A few years later, Paul would warmly greet his friends who were now leading a house church in Rome. Again, Priscilla is mentioned first before her husband. In fact, she is mentioned first in Paul’s list of 28 Roman Christians. First!

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house (Romans 16:3-5 NIV).

Paul did not have a problem with godly women, like Priscilla, being ministers and leaders. Rather, he and many others were grateful for their service.


[1] Ian Paul writes, “A Christian community was established in Ephesus in the 50s by Priscilla and Aquila, who had been left there by Paul on their journey from Corinth where they had met and ministered together (Acts 18:19). …” Ian Paul, Revelation (Tyndale New Testament Commentary, IVP Academic, 2018) p. 78.
Clinton E. Arnold, an expert on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, likewise acknowledges that the church at Ephesus began with the work of Priscilla and Aquila. (Video: Introduction to Ephesians, Zondervan, on Youtube, 10:41 minute-mark)

[2] The fact that Priscilla and Aquila spent so much time at Corinth and then set sail for Ephesus from the Corinthian port town of Cenchrea (cf. Acts 18:18), means the couple probably knew Phoebe, a minister of the church at Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1-2). Priscilla and Aquila met Phoebe in Rome, if not before. (More on this here.)

[3] See proslambanō (definitions 3 and 4) in Walter Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, revised and edited by F.W Danker, (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 883.

[4] “Acts 18:26,” John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (Source.)

[5] See Did Priscilla Teach Apollos? for more on the two Greek verbs behind Apollos’ “teaching” and Priscilla and Aquila’s “teaching.”

[6] In Acts 18:26 in Codex Bezae, also known as Codex Dea  or Uncial 05, Aquila’s name is first and Priscilla’s second. Stephanus adopted this reading in his Greek edition which influenced the King James Bible. I’ve written about Codex Bezae and the corruptions in Acts that downplay prominent women in the church, here.
Priscilla is always mentioned with her husband, but other women ministers, including Phoebe, Euodia and Syntyche, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, and Nympha, are mentioned independently of men in the New Testament.

Postscript: October 10, 2022
Authority and Setting

Some suggest that because it is not certain Priscilla taught in a church meeting in Acts 18, her correction of Apollos’s teaching doesn’t serve as a precedent for women teaching in church services today. And they usually connect this idea with “teaching authority” and Sunday morning sermons. But what does it matter where or when Priscilla, with Aquila, corrected Apollos who was himself a teacher and an up-an-coming apostle?
By way of example, the authority of Paul’s teaching didn’t change if he was in a synagogue, or a public square, or a prison cell, or a lecture hall, or in a house church.
It didn’t change if he was preaching to women in Philippi, to a Roman jailor, or standing before the Jerusalem Council or Roman governors.
It didn’t change if he taught on the Sabbath, on the first day of the week (Sunday), or in the middle of the week.
Paul was still the same person, delivering essentially the same message, guided by the same Holy Spirit, called and authorised by God.
Some of Paul’s letters from prison, which were written over several days and weeks, have had the most lasting influence and authority of all his words: his written words have more influence and authority than his spoken words.
I have no doubt that Priscilla often taught in the house church that she and Aquila hosted and cared for in Ephesus and in Rome. 1 Timothy 2:12 taken out of context does not invalidate her teaching ministry and it should not restrict the teaching ministry of women today.

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Explore more

Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?
Various articles on Priscilla are here.
Partnering Together: Paul’s Female Coworkers
Were there women elders in New Testament churches?
The First Century Church and the Ministry of Women
Church Cultures that Include and Exclude Women Leaders
The Prominence of Women in the Cults of Ephesus
Phoebe: Deacon of the Church at Cenchrea
Paul and Women, in a Nutshell
A List of the 29 People in Romans 16:1-16

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11 thoughts on “At Home with Priscilla and Aquila

  1. Sunday morning, we awake to “Day One” on our radio, and the speaker was talking about Priscilla and Aquila as being TWO WOMEN. OK, so they both end in “a,” but what a nitwit!! I posted a note and asked him about it, and got back a notice that it has been corrected. Then I chewed him out for being lazy and Biblically illiterate. This guy is a pastor and seminary teacher!!

    I was waiting for him to call them a lesbian couple, but at least he hasn’t done that.

    I wish I would stop being stunned by such ignorance!!

    1. This idea (about Aquila and Priscilla both being women) was floated to me a few years ago, even though it says that Priscilla was “his” wife (Acts 18:2).

      Aquila’s name in the Greek text is Akulas (Ἀκύλας) which is declined in the same way as Thomas, Cephas, and Stephanas, etc. More on this here.

  2. It might be interesting to explore the topic of why Apollos didn’t know about baptism, despite an orthodox theology.

    In Baptist parlance, for example, such things are spoken as the difference between “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge” –knowing not just what to think, but what to do about it.

    As a ministering couple leading a house church, taking in a traveling single male itinerant rhetorical evangelist, this is quite a marvelous scenario, and illustrative of the best in egalitrian evangelical theology.

    Great job, Priscilla and Aquila…and to you, as well, Marg!

    1. Hi Guy,

      Just as in the church today, there were many dodgy and semi-dodgy teachings in the very early church, and, in most cases, it’s hard to work out what these teachings entailed. “John’s baptism”, which is the baptism Apollos knew (Acts 18:25), comes up again in Acts 19:3ff, but this time it’s Paul which is correcting it, and not Priscilla and Aquila.

      Priscilla and Aquila also took in Paul, another travelling, single minister. Hospitality among the early Christians was a common.

      Ben Witherington notes the pattern of women who hosted both congregations and travelling ministers in the first century church (Lydia, Nympha, etc), and the importance of these women for the Christian message and mission. He writes:
      “Women converts of some means who offered occasional lodging and hospitality to fellow Christians became the equivalent of a ‘mother of the synagogue’ as their home . . . became regular meeting places of the converts in their areas. In a sense, the Church owed its continuing existence to these prominent women who provided both a place of meeting and the hospitality required by the community. . . . [Hospitality was] not only the physical support that kept the message going, but also the medium in which the message took hold and was preserved.”
      Women and the Genesis of Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 212-213.

      I saw the other comment you left, but I need to help my mother move and need to get going. I’ll try and respond when I have some free time and energy.

  3. Because I attended Protestant Evangelical churches when I was reborn, I was baptized once and thought it was “one and done”. Then I learned more about it and think it is just one example of immersing in a Jewish mikveh, which was done for many reasons repeatedly. One of the reasons is that it was done as the final step in the process of gentile proselyte conversion, when the person arose from the waters, they were thenafter considered a Jew, not a gentile. So I see this as a carry over.

  4. The fact that Priscilla is clearly credited with teaching Apollos about God in the Scripture means that there is nothing inherently wrong, or damaging or demeaning to the Gospel, for woman to teach a man, yea even correct a man! in theology. A woman can thoroughly understand and communicate theology to a man. The questions then become “when, where, under what circumstances, and to how many peeple at one time?” The need to specify to that degree information that is not provided in Scripture suggest to me that we are trying to create rules where there are none. This problem seems to apply to many areas, such as the regulative principle of worship. If we go to the New Testament with the expectation that it is populated with detailed rules like the Old Testament, then we have to strain to find the hidden clues to piece together those rules.

  5. […] Women were involved in each of these four house churches.[3] Prisca, with Aquila, hosted and led a house church in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19), and later in Rome (Rom. 16:3–5). […]

  6. […] Some of these women ministers include Philip’s daughters, Priscilla with Aquila, Nympha, Phoebe, Junia with Andronicus, Euodia and Syntyche, etc. […]

  7. […] As well as Paul, many well-known New Testament figures ministered at Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila had a house church there. Apollos and Timothy ministered there. […]

  8. […] Prisca, with Aquila, hosted and led a house church in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19), and later in Rome (Rom. […]

  9. […] Apollos the teacher was corrected by Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus (possibly in the couple’s house church in Ephesus), and this does not seem to have been a problem. […]

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