The Roman Base Of Paul’s Mission -- By: E. A. Judge

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 56:1 (NA 2005)
Article: The Roman Base Of Paul’s Mission
Author: E. A. Judge

The Roman Base Of Paul’s Mission

E. A. Judge


One third of those around St Paul bear Latin names, ten times more than we should expect. The types of name used suggest that most of these should have held Roman citizenship or the preliminary rank of Junian Latin. In the Greek-speaking cities of the Roman East, however, most Romans or Latins kept the Greek names they or their ancestors had used before their enfranchisement or manumission. For day-to-day purposes the Greek names alone were cited, though technically now cognomina (‘associated names’) to the Latin praenomina (‘first names’) and nomina gentilicia (‘family names’) required by Roman usage. It is therefore likely that over half of Paul’s associates ranked as Roman. If so, the view that Acts has only made Paul himself a Roman citizen as window-dressing becomes pointless. Instead we should assume that he linked himself with other Romans used to travelling on business or able to offer hospitality to him and his mission.


There are far too many Latin names around St Paul for them to be explained mostly as loan-words domesticated into the Greek name-stock.1 In an ‘eyewitness account’ of ‘going to church in the first

century’ we hear from one ‘Publius Valerius Amicius Rufus’. He was visiting Rome from Philippi.2 There is indeed a Publius Valerius Rufus of Philippi, attested in a Roman inscription, but a century later (ad 144).3 The additional cognomen (Amicius) is in any case improbable.4 Yet it was right to have taken the Rufus whose mother protected Paul (Rom. 16:13) as a Roman citizen. It was an historically dignified name.

It is the inscriptions, whether civil documents or commemorative ones, with their necessary formality, which help us to establish distinctions of this kind.5 But statutes and tombstones may not take us

to the heart of community life. They are just the first and last word on it. What was life like when not on display, and especially outside the cultivated circles which could afford that?

The Pauline letters are just the kind of middle ground we want, neither incidental nor highly stylised. They document a variety of groups scattered along the main axis of the Roman world. They are ...

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