Priscilla: Valued Partner in the Church’s Mission
Priscilla was a valued partner in the church’s mission and one of the most prominent women in the early church. She is mentioned in four passages of Scripture, every time in the company of her husband Aquila. Luke refers to her as Priscilla, whereas Paul calls her Prisca.
References to Priscilla in Scripture
Acts 18:1-4: Corinth
Priscilla and her husband, both of whom were Jewish, left Italy in the year 49. Claudius, the Roman emperor, had issued an edict expelling all Jews from Rome. The couple were tentmakers by trade, and took up that trade in Corinth, Greece. Paul was a tentmaker as well. He stayed with them, and they worked together while Paul also reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath. Altogether, Paul remained in Corinth for a year and a half (AD 49 to 51). The Lord had appeared to him in a vision, saying, “I have many people in this city.”
Acts 18:18-28: Ephesus
After this, Priscilla and Aquila left Corinth, accompanying Paul. The apostle left the couple behind in Ephesus while he went on to encourage believers elsewhere. At that time Apollos, a Jew eloquent and “mighty in the Scriptures,” arrived in Ephesus. He taught accurately about Jesus but only knew about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him in the synagogue, they took him aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Apollos then went on boldly demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ.
Later, Paul returned to Ephesus and ministered there for over two years while Priscilla and Aquila hosted a church in their home (AD 52-55).
1 Corinthians 16:19: Still in Ephesus
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus in about AD 55. This verse indicates that a church met in Priscilla and Aquila’s house there. The couple sent hearty greetings to the believers in Corinth where Paul had first met them and they had served together.
Romans 16:3: Back in Rome
Paul wrote Romans from Corinth in about AD 57. Claudius’s edict was no longer in effect, as the emperor had died in 54, so Priscilla and Aquila had already returned to Rome. Paul sends greetings to the couple who again had a church meeting at their house. He refers to them as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” who “risked their necks for my life.” (Unfortunately, we don’t have a scriptural record of that occasion.) She was a valued partner in the church’s mission. As a matter of fact, Paul gives thanks for them along with all the Gentile churches. After this mention in Romans, there is a time period where we don’t know what the couple did.
2 Timothy 4:19: Back in Ephesus
Paul wrote 2 Timothy from prison in Rome in about AD 65. He sends greetings to Prisca and Aquila who apparently had gone back to Ephesus where they had hosted a house church and ministered with Paul a decade earlier.
Who Was Priscilla in the Bible?
Valued Partner in the Church’s Mission
So, who was Priscilla? She was a committed believer, a Jewess, and a valued partner in the church’s mission. Priscilla was very close to her husband in faith, work, and service of the Lord. Along with Aquila, she served the Christian community by hosting a church in her home wherever they settled for any length of time. She worked in the tent-making business with Aquila and traveled with him far and wide in order to serve the believers. They even went back to Ephesus, a 1,180-mile journey, presumably to follow up on believers. The fact that Priscilla and Aquila returned to Ephesus rather than staying in Rome reveals how committed they were to the Christian cause.
Priscilla and Aquila were praised and thanked by Paul for their dedication and hard work. We don’t know if the couple had children or what their age was when they met Paul. We also don’t know what they did after Paul was martyred.
Why Is Priscilla Mentioned First in a Majority of New Testament References?
Priscilla’s name precedes Aquila’s in the majority of references to the couple (Acts 18:18-19, 26; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19), though Aquila’s name occurs first twice (Acts 18:2; 1 Cor 16:19). This need not indicate more than her having a vivacious, outgoing personality. However, it is unusual for a woman to be mentioned first. Usually the man is first: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), and Philemon and Apphia (Phlm 1-2). Doubtless Priscilla had an integral part in the gospel ministry. This is nowhere more evident than by her involvement with her husband in instructing Apollos. Some suggested she was from a higher social status, converted before her husband, or more prominent than he. However, the available evidence supports none of these conjectures.
Priscilla is an example of a true, robust female servant of God who used her talents, energy, and spiritual maturity to serve others. She and her husband together were among Paul’s most cherished partners in the gospel ministry. They had a major impact on spreading the gospel to the major urban centers of Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. Priscilla was a valued partner in the church’s mission. Like Priscilla, give yourself in dedicated service to the Lord, and if possible partner with your spouse in doing so.
For Further Study
For a study of other women in Scripture, see “The Mother of Moses,” “Queen Esther,” and “Mary the Mother of Jesus.” For information on women in Paul’s writings, see “Women in the Pauline Mission.”