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Epaphroditus (Phil 2 and 4)


Role: Literate Worker; Messenger


Gender: Male


Date: mid-first century CE


Place: Philippi


Language:  Greek


Literary Genre: Letter


Title of Work: Philippians

Reference:   Phil 2:25 and Phil 4:18


Original Text:

Ἀναγκαῖον δὲ ἡγησάμην Ἐπαφρόδιτον τὸν ἀδελφὸν καὶ συνεργὸν καὶ συστρατιώτην μου, ὑμῶν δὲ ἀπόστολον καὶ λειτουργὸν τῆς χρείας μου, πέμψαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς (Phil 2:25)


ἀπέχω δὲ πάντα καὶ περισσεύω· πεπλήρωμαι δεξάμενος παρὰ Ἐπαφροδίτου τὰ παρ’ ὑμῶν, ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας, θυσίαν δεκτήν, εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ.(Phil. 4:18)


English Translation:

Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and coworker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need. (Phil 2:25)


I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. (Phil 4:18)


Commentary: 


Epaphroditus appears twice in the letter to the Philippians that is sent between Paul and the Christian community of Philippi. Paul first mentions Epaphroditus as a Jesus-following coworker whom he plans to send to Philippi soon, particularly since the Philippian community seemingly inquired in an earlier (now-lost) letter about Epaphroditus’s health. Paul mentions that Epaphroditus nearly died from his illness. Near the end of the letter, we also learn that Epaphroditus had previously come from the Philippian community to Paul with a financial offering that was meant to sustain Paul during his missionary journeys.


Given that Epaphroditus is called brother, coworker, and fellow soldier, it is extremely likely that he was a Jesus-follower and functioned (at least in part) as a courier. He may have been involved in the delivery not only of financial offerings, but also the exchange of letters—or perhaps in their composition or editing. Notably, Paul calls Epaphroditus a “messenger” or “apostle” (apostolos) to the Philippian community, which suggests that he had a prominent role in the dissemination of information and perhaps in the education of community members. However, Epaphroditus is also placed in an explicitly subservient position to that of Paul, in which he was obliged to care for Paul’s needs and represent the desires of the Philippian community.


Epaphroditus was a common Greek name in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, particularly among enslaved and formerly enslaved persons. It is related to the goddess Aphrodite and refers to being “charming” or “attractive,” much like the Latin name Venustus. It is well attested on funerary monuments of enslaved persons (e.g., AE 1982, 510; CIL 6 44; CIL 6 15615; CIL 14 2169), and would have likely been applied to enslaved persons to signal realized or aspirational attractiveness to enslavers. 


Given that Epaphras is a shortened form of the name Epaphroditus, it is possible that he is the same figure named in Col 1:7, 4:12, and Philemon 23. If this is the case, then Epaphroditus functioned as a (formerly) enslaved representative of Paul’s missionizing at Colossae.


Keywords: Christian; Literate Worker; Messenger; New Testament; Paul 


Related Entries: Epaphras


Bibliography:


Charles, Ronald. The Silencing of Slaves in Early Jewish and Christian Texts (London: Routledge, 2020), 66–102.


Marchal, Joseph A. “Slaves as Wo/men and Unmen: Reflecting upon Euodia, Syntyche, and Epaphroditus in Philippi.” Pages 141–176 in The People Beside Paul: The Philippian Assembly and History from Below. Edited by Joseph A. Marchal. Early Christianity and its Literature 17. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2015.


Stenschke, Christoph W. “Übergemeindliche Verbindungen im Urchristentum nach dem Philipperbrief.” Neotestamentica 52.2 (2018): 377–432.


Williams, H. H. Drake. “Honouring Epaphroditus: A Suffering and Faithful Servant Worthy of Admiration.” Pages 333–355 in Paul and His Social Relations, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land, Pauline Studies 7 (Leiden: Brill, 2013). 


How to Cite:

Bonar, Chance E. “Epaphroditus (Phil. 2 and 4).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.





 

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