I’m terrible with numbers. I can’t keep them in my head, and I too easily lose track when counting. So for my sake, I’ve compiled this list of people who Paul mentions in Romans 16:1-16 so I don’t have to keep going back to the passage to check how many people there are.
I’ve numbered and named the people and quoted the verse or phrase from Romans 16:1-16 where they are mentioned. I’ve also included a line or two about them. Perhaps this list will be useful to others too.
1. Phoebe Romans 16:1-2
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [or, minister] of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. NRSV
Phoebe was a minister in Cenchrea, a port town of Corinth. She had travelled to Rome where one of her tasks was to deliver Paul’s letter. Paul introduces her to the Romans in terms of her ministry. More about Phoebe here.
After Phoebe, twenty-eight Roman Christians are listed. A woman, Prisca (also known as Priscilla), heads this list.
2. Prisca Romans 16:3-5a
3. Aquila Romans 16:3-5a
Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. CEB
Prisca and Aquila were a married couple. They were friends of Paul, and the three had lived, worked, travelled and ministered together. Prisca’s name is listed before her husband’s in four of the six times their names are mentioned in the Greek New Testament. This seems to indicate that Prisca was more prominent in ministry than Aquila. The couple hosted and led a house church in Rome which is also greeted. More about Prisca and Aquila here.
4. Epaenetus Romans 16:5b
Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert [literally “first-fruits] in Asia for Christ. CEB
This is the only Bible verse that mentions Epaenetus. He was a dear friend (literally, “beloved”) of Paul, but we know nothing about him apart from Paul’s claim that he was the first person in Asia Minor who became a Christian.
5. Mary Romans 16:6
Greet Mary, who laboured hard for you. (my transl.)
Mary is the fourth Roman Christian on the list. Her position near the top of the list indicates she had a prominent role in the church at Rome. Paul uses “labour/ labourer” words for ministry and ministers in a few of his letters. More about Mary of Rome and Paul’s use of “labour” terminology here.
6. Andronicus Romans 16:7
7. Junia Romans 16:7
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. NIV
Andronicus and Junia were a missionary couple who had been persecuted for their faith. They had been Christians longer than Paul, perhaps they had even been disciples when Jesus was alive. The couple is described in terms of their relationship with Paul (and other apostles) and their ministry. More about Junia here.
8. Ampliatus Romans 16:8
Say hello to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. CEB
Ampliatus was a common male name, especially of slaves in the imperial household, but we know nothing about this man except that he was a dear friend (“beloved”) of Paul.
9. Urbanus Romans 16:9
Say hello to Urbanus, our coworker in Christ . . . CEB
Just like Prisca and Aquila, Urbanus, a man, is described using Paul’s favourite word for a fellow minister: “coworker” (synergos).
10. Stachys Romans 16:9
. . . and my dear friend Stachys. CEB
Stachys is the third person in this list who Paul describes as his dear friend (“beloved”).
11. Apelles Romans 16:10
Say hello to Apelles, who is tried and true in Christ. CEB
Apelles is a man whose faith in Christ had been tested in some way and proven.
12. Aristobulus’s household Romans 16:10
Say hello to the members of the household of Aristobulus. CEB
“The members of the household of Aristobulus” is more literally, “those from (Greek: ek) Aristobulus.” This phrase probably refers to the family and/ or the slaves of a man named Aristobulus, but not the man himself. It may also refer to a congregation (or, house church) hosted by him, but it is odd that Aristobulus himself is not explicitly greeted.
13. Herodion Romans 16:11
Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. NIV
Paul makes a point of highlighting the ethnicity of some of his fellow Jews, his suggeneis (Rom. 16:7, 11, 16:21 NIV; cf. Rom. 9:3 NIV). This is significant as there were tensions between the Jews and Gentiles in the Roman Church at the time Paul wrote his letter.
14. Narcissus‘s household Romans 16:11
Say hello to the members of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. CEB
“The members of the household of Narcissus” is more literally “those from (ek) Narcissus.” Narcissus is a male name and, like Aristobulus, he may have been the host of a house church. However, it may only have been family members and/ or slaves of Narcissus who were Christians and who belonged to the church at Rome.
15. Tryphaena Romans 16:12
16. Tryphosa Romans 16:12
Greet those labourers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. (my transl)
These women, most likely sisters or even twins, ministered “in the Lord.” Despite the senses of daintiness and of luxurious living that the etymology of their names conveys, these women were hard workers.
17. Persis Romans 16:12
Greet our dear friend Persis, who has laboured hard in the Lord. (my transl)
Like Epaenetus, Ampliatus and Stachys (three men mentioned above), Paul refers to Persis, a woman, as a dear friend (“beloved”). The apostle regarded these four people with warm affection, but in the greeting to Persis, Paul uses a definite article instead of the pronoun equivalent to “my” (cf. Rom. 16:5, 8, 9). This may be Paul’s way of saying that Persis was not just loved by him, she was also loved by the church. Furthermore, Paul refers to the ministry of Persis, something he doesn’t do for the three men.
Seven women have been mentioned so far, including Phoebe, and Paul has said something about the ministries of each of these women.
18. Rufus Romans 16:13
19. Rufus’s mother Romans 16:13
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also. NRSV
Rufus may be a son of Simon of Cyrene, the man who was forced to carry Jesus’s cross. See Mark 15:21. Paul describes Rufus as “chosen” or “elect.” (This is the same word used to describe the lady addressed in 2 John and her sister.)
Rufus’ mother is the eighth woman listed in Romans 16:1-16. Paul says nothing about her ministry except that she acted (ministered?) in a maternal way towards him. The fact that she is not named may be a mark of respect and perhaps indicates she is an older person. Was she Simon of Cyrene’s widow? (More about unnamed women in the Bible here.)
20. Asyncritus Romans 16:14
21. Phlegon Romans 16:14
22. Hermes Romans 16:14
23. Patrobas Romans 16:14
24. Hermas Romans 16:14
Say hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. CEB
Five names are given in verse 14. The first four are male names. It’s not totally clear if Herma(s) is a male name. These people probably all belonged to the same house church in Rome.
25. Philologus Romans 16:15
26. Julia Romans 16:15
27. Nereus Romans 16:15
28. Nereus’s sister Romans 16:15
29. Olympas Romans 16:15
Say hello to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. CEB
The Greek grammar shows that Philologus and Julia are a couple. They, along with Nereus and his sister, as well as Olympas, were probably all prominent members of a house church. Or perhaps they are the hosts and leaders of three different house churches in Rome.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. Romans 16:16 NIV
Twenty-nine people are mentioned in Romans 16:1-16, with twenty-eight based in Rome. But this passage is not a dry list of names. Rather, it gives insight into the church in Rome and it reveals Paul’s esteem and regard for some of the believers there. He comments on the faith of a few of these people, on his relationships with a few of them, and on some of their ministries (cf. Rom. 15:14).
Paul wanted to foster unity among the believers in Rome and between the different house churches. So he asks that these people and the various households be greeted. Furthermore, Paul ends his list with a call for mutual and reciprocal greetings and salutations among the Roman Christians. He wanted to ease tensions among the Romans, including ethnic tensions (cf. Gal. 3:28).
Of the twenty-nine people, ten are women. What is especially interesting, however, is that seven of the ten women are described in terms of their ministry (Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis). By comparison, only three men are described in terms of their ministry (Aquila, Andronicus, Urbanus), and two of these men are ministering alongside a female partner (Aquila with Prisca, Andronicus with Junia). These are numbers worth remembering.
It is apparent that women were active in significant ministries in the church at Rome. It is also apparent that Paul has no problem with these women. Rather, he affirms them and their ministries. Did Paul make a point of affirming these women in an effort to ease tensions caused by some Roman Christians who had a problem with ministering women?
 Paul had not yet visited the church at Rome, but he was already acquainted with some of their ministers. He had met some of them when his and their journeys intersected (e.g., Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia). Others he may have known by reputation. Some scholars believe, however, that the last chapter of Romans was not originally part of Paul’s letter to the Romans, but part of a letter the apostle wrote to the Christians in Ephesus. Paul was well acquainted with the Christians in the Ephesian church. Nevertheless, I believe Romans 16 is part of a letter that Paul wrote to the Romans.
Several books and papers discuss whether Romans 16 was meant for Rome or for Ephesus. Here is a small sample of them:
Günther Bornkamn, Paul (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) 80.
Joan Cecelia Campbell, Phoebe: Patron and Emissary (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2009), 13-14.
Robert Jewett, “Paul, Phoebe, and the Spanish Mission” in The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism: In Tribute to Howard Clark Kee (Philadelphia: FortressPress, 1988), 153-154.
Susan Mathew, Women in the Greetings of Rom 16:1-16: A Study of Mutuality and Women’s Ministry in the Letter to the Romans (Durham University: Durham E-Theses, 2010), 4-19.
 Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned by name, and always as a couple, in six New Testament verses:
- Acts 18:2 (where Aquila’s name is first);
- Acts 18:18 (Priscilla first);
- Acts 18:26 (Priscilla first in older Greek texts);
- Romans 16:3 (Prisca first);
- 1 Corinthians 16:19 (Aquila first);
- 2 Timothy 4:19 (Prisca first).
In Acts 18:26 in Codex Bezae, Aquila’s name occurs before Priscilla’s. Stephanus adopted this variant in his Greek edition of the New Testament which influenced the translation of this verse in the King James Bible. Other Greek manuscripts and most English translations have Priscilla’s name first in Acts 18:26.
 In some parts of the ancient world, and even in some cultures today, it was, and is, disrespectful to give the names of respectable women, especially mothers. Jan Bremmer notes the Athenian custom of rarely naming living respectable women. This is evidenced, for example, by Plutarch’s inability to find the names of the mothers of their most important statesmen.
See Jan Bremmer, “Plutarch and the Naming of Greek Women,” The American Journal of Philology, 102.4 (Winter, 1981): 425-426. (Academia.edu)
However, the customs of the first-century world of the New Testament were not identical with the customs of classical Athens where respectable women were especially hidden from public attention and recognition.
 The name Olympas may be a contraction of the masculine name Olympiodorus. Could Olympas also be a feminine name? Two ninth-century manuscripts of Paul’s letters, Augiensis (F) and Boernerianus (G), have a slightly different name, the name Olympida, which is the accusative form of the name Olympis. There were both men and women named Olympis in the ancient world.
 In his Lanier Lecture on Reading Romans Backwards (October 26, 2019), Scot McKnight summarises Peter Lampe’s observation in From Paul to Valentinus that five house churches in Rome are identified in Romans 16.
- Household of Prisca and Aquila (16:3–5a)
- Residence of Aristobulus (16:10).
Perhaps grandson of Herod the Great who had died in the 40s but whose household continued; perhaps a Christian slave came with him and helped found the church in Rome.
- Residence of Narcissus (16:11)
Perhaps the home of the deceased Roman administrator either under Claudius or, less likely, under Nero.
- Residence of Asyncritus and others (16:14)
- Residence of Philologus and Julia and others (16:15)
(Source: Academia.edu) (Video: Youtube)
 Paul’s comment that Rufus’s mother was “a mother to me” may be in reference to her ministry to Paul and not just an indication of a close, warm relationship. In a few of his letters, Paul speaks of his own ministry in maternal terms. (See here.)
 Craig Keener notes that “Romans 16 greets twice as many men as women, but commends twice as many women as men!” (Source: Youtube video of a public lecture at Laidlaw College, New Zealand, in September 2019. 17.35-minute mark.)
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Joanne Whalley and John Lynch play Priscilla and Aquila in the 2018 movie Paul: Apostle of Christ.
Peter Lampe, “The Roman Christians of Romans 16,” in The Romans Debate: Revised and Expanded Edition, Karl P. Donfried (ed) (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1991) (A PDF of this chapter is freely available here.)
Who’s Who in Paul’s Greetings in Romans 16 by Bronwen Speedie.
A list of all the women mentioned in Paul’s letters is here.
Partnering Together: Paul and Women
Paul’s Theology of Ministry
Nympha: A House Church Leader in the Lycus Valley (Col. 4:15)
Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John?
Galatians 3:28: Our Identity in Christ and in the Church
Harnack’s Positive Descriptions of NT Women Ministers
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