Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Ministers at Philippi: Women and Men – Philippians 4:2-5

Philippians Bible Study, Week 19

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:2-5  

Euodia and Syntyche

The New Testament names many women ministers. Sadly, however, very little is known about most of them.[1]  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions two women ministers, Euodia and Syntyche;[2] and in just a couple of verses he gives us a glimpse into the value and significance of their ministries (Phil. 4:2-3).

When he describes the ministry of Euodia and Syntyche, Paul uses a couple of the same terms he had previously applied to Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche had contended[3] together with him (literally) “in the Gospel”. Earlier in the same letter, Paul had also described Timothy as someone who had served with him “in the Gospel” (Php 2:22). Paul goes on to refer to Euodia and Syntyche as his “co-workers”. Earlier, Paul had also referred to Epaphroditus as his “co-worker” (Php 2:25).[4] Thus, according to Paul, the ministries of these women were in some ways comparable to the ministries of the men Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Early church bishop and theologian, John Chrysostom (c349-407), considered that Euodia and Syntyche were the leading women of the Philippian church. In his 13th Homily on Philippians he wrote:

These women [Euodia and Syntyche] seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he [Paul] commends them to some notable man whom he calls his yokefellow; he [Paul] commends them to him, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he does in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a minister of the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). (Homilies on Philippians, 13)[5]

Euodia and Syntyche were involved in significant Christian ministry, possibly as leaders.

Lydia

Lydia is another woman connected with the Philippian church. Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in Philippi. In fact, she was the first convert in Europe. Lydia was a wealthy woman (Acts 16:14), and probably had a relatively spacious home. We know that the fledgling Philippian church met in her home (Acts 16:40).[6]

Philippi was the chief city of Macedonia (Acts 16:12) and it has been well documented that Macedonian women enjoyed greater freedom and powers than many other women of that time.[7]

If Macedonia produced perhaps the most competent group of men the world had yet seen, the women were in all respects the men’s counterparts; they played a large part in affairs, received envoys and obtained concessions for them from their husbands, built temples, founded cities, engaged mercenaries, commanded armies, held fortresses, and acted on occasion as regents or even co rulers.
W. Tarn and G.T. Griffith in Hellenistic Civilisation, 3rd Edition, 1952, pp89,99; quoted by Martin (1983:16)

Considering the freedom that women had in Macedonia, and that she was the mistress of her own home, Lydia may have been the leader as well as the host of the first Philippian house church.

Perhaps Euodia and Syntyche were with Lydia and the other Jewish women who had gathered at the ‘place of prayer’ (i.e. a Jewish prayer-house) by the river when Paul first came to Philippi and told them the gospel (Acts 16:12-15, 40).[8]  Or perhaps “Lydia” was a kind of nickname showing her place of origin (we know she was from the city of Thyatira in Lydia), and her real name was Euodia or Syntyche.

Freso of two first century CE Roman women

Fresco of two first-century Roman women, possibly mother and daughter.

Leaders and Ministers

The Letter to the Philippians is different to Paul’s other letters because he specifically includes the episkopoi (leaders/overseers/bishops) and diakonoi (ministers/deacons) in his opening greeting.[9] It does seem that Euodia and Syntyche, and possibly Clement who is mentioned with them, were the overseers of the Philippian church. Or perhaps Euodia and Syntyche were deacons, like some other first century Christian women, such as Phoebe of Cenchrea.[10]

“. . . think the same thing . . .”

In Philippians 4:2, Paul urged Euodia and he urged Syntyche to, literally, “think the same thing”. That Paul addressed Euodia and Syntyche personally and individually, reinforces the idea that these women had considerable influence in the Philippian church, and possibly were leaders.

Were Euodia and Syntyche quarrelling? This is the assumption most people have, and many Bible versions convey this assumption in their translations.  It is not at all unusual for two people in a church to have different views, yet Paul never implies that they were quarrelling. Paul simply urged each of them (literally) “to think the same thing in the Lord”. In the preceding verses in Philippians, Paul had been encouraging mature people to have the same view as himself – of reaching out for the goal spiritual perfection (Phil. 3:14-15). It could well be that Paul is carrying on this thought, and using almost identical language (in the Greek), is saying personally, “I encourage Euodia and I encourage Syntyche to have the same thinking in the Lord . . . ” (Phil. 4:2).[11]

Chrysostom did not see any sign of a quarrel in Paul’s comments about Euodia and Syntyche, only praise, and wrote: “Do you see how great a testimony he [Paul] bears to their virtue?”  (Homilies on Philippians, 13)

Syzygos and Clement.

After addressing Euodia and Syntyche, Paul then addressed a person whom he refers to as “Syzygos”.[12] Syzygos means “yoked together” and it may have been that person’s actual, proper name, or just a description of him.  Paul prefaces the name with the adjective gnēsios meaning “genuine” or “true”.  The NASB translates these two words as “true comrade”.  What is interesting here is that Paul used the vocative case (the grammar of direct address) when he speaks directly to this person.  Is this “true comrade” Epaphroditus, the deliverer of Paul’s letter to the Philippians?  The speculations are endless on this point.  What we do know is that Paul asked “Syzygos” to assist Euodia and Syntyche;[13] however there is no hint of him arbitrating or soothing some quarrel between the women.

Paul also mentions a man called Clement. We do not know who Clement was,[14] except that he worked with Paul, Euodia. and Syntyche, and other unnamed ministry colleagues. Paul refers to all these people as his co-workers, and mentions that their names are written in the “Book of Life”. While these “others” are unnamed and unknown to us, God knows them, and their names have been recorded. Their service and ministry is not remembered by the church today, but it is remembered by God (cf Acts 4:10).

Joy in Hope

Paul’s double exhortation to rejoice in 4:4 is tied to the concepts that the names of Christians are recorded in the “Book of Life” and that “the Lord is near”. Throughout the letter to the Philippians, Paul has been linking joy with eschatological (end time) salvation and perfection. There is great joy in knowing that our names are recorded in the “Book of Life”, and there is great joy in knowing that our salvation will be wonderfully completed in the Day of Christ when Jesus returns to earth. Our salvation is assured as long as we keep abiding in Jesus Christ and keep walking with him. It would be amiss of me not to point out that the New Testament indicates that our names can be erased from the “Book of Life” if we allow our faith to die. See Revelation 3:1-6, especially verse 5b!

While we wait expectantly for the Lord Jesus’ return, Christians are to be known for being “gentle” (NASB) or “considerate” (NLT); or for having “moderation” (KJV) or “forbearance” (Young’s Literal Translation).[15] The word Greek word epieikēs which is used in Philippians 4:5 has a wide variety of meanings, and it is uncertain what Paul was specifically referring to. Nevertheless, it seems that he wanted the Philippians to be known for having the highest levels of ethical conduct and adhering to the highest moral principles and ideals while waiting for Jesus’ return to earth. He wanted the Philippians to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27 cf. 2:14-15).


Endnotes

[1] Paul fondly mentions many women in his letters: Apphia (Phm 1:2), Chloe (1 Cor 1:11), Claudia (2 Tim 4:21), Euodia (Php 4:2), Julia (Rom 16:15), Junia (Rom 16:7), Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5), Mary (Rom 16:6), Nereus’ sister (Rom 16:15), Nympha (Col 4:15), Persis (Rom 16:12), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Priscilla (Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19), Rufus’ mother (Rom 16:13), Syntyche (Php 4:2), Tryphena and Tryphosa (Rom 16:12).  These women were actively involved in significant ministry, some as leaders. (Many have names that are very unfamiliar to English speakers.)

[2] Euodia is probably pronounced: “yew-oh-dee-ah”.  Syntyche is probably pronounced “Sin-tick-ay”, or “Soon- took-ay” (depending on how the upsilon was pronounced.)
Euodia’s name come from the Greek verb euodoō which means “. . . to give a prosperous journey; to cause to proper or be successful . . . ”  (Perschbacher 1990:181) [eu=well, hodos= road]  The word is used in Rom 1:10; 1 Cor 16:2; and 3 John 2 (twice).  The name can be likened in meaning to “Bon Voyage”.
Syntyche’s name comes from the Greek word suntuchia, which means “the unexpected coinciding of two events, happening, chance(BDAG 976) This word is used in Luke 10:31.  The name can be likened in meaning to “Serendipity”.

[3] Sunathleō  – contend,is used twice in Philippians; in 1:27 and in 4:3.  It means: to contend on the side of someone; to cooperate vigorously with a person; or, to make every effort in the cause of, or support of something. (Perschbacher 1990:388) Euodia and Syntyche’s ministry was not light weight.

[4] Paul mentions several of his co-workers (sunergoi) in the New Testament: Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:6); Urbanus (Rom. 16:9); Timothy (Rom 16:21); Titus (2 Cor 8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) Euodia, Syntyche and Clement (Phil. 4:3); Aristarchus, Mark and Justus (Col. 4:10-11); Philemon (Phm 1); Mark and Aristarchus again, Demas and Luke (Phm 24).  By inference Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus can be added to this list (1 Cor. 16:16).

[5] Here is John Chrysostom’s entire commentary about Euodia and Syntyche:

Ver. 2, 3. I exhort Euodia, and exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yea, I beseech you also, true yokefellow, help these women.

Some say Paul here exhorts his own wife; but it is not so, but some other woman, or the husband of one of them. Help these women, for they laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life. Do you see how great a testimony he bears to their virtue?  For as Christ says to his Apostles, Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the book of life Luke 10:20; so Paul testifies to them, saying, whose names are in the book of life.

These women seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he commends them to some notable man whom he calls his yokefellow, to whom perchance he was wont to commend them, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he does in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church that is at Cenchrea. Romans 16:1. Yokefellow; either some brother of theirs, or a husband of hers; as if he had said, Now you are a true brother, now a true husband, because you have become a Member.  For they laboured with me in the Gospel. This protection came from home, not from friendship, but for good deeds.

Laboured with me. What do you say?  Did women labour with you?  Yes, he answers, they too contributed no small portion.  Although many were they who wrought together with him, yet these women also acted with him among the many.  The Churches then were no little edified, for many good ends are gained where they who are approved, be they men, or be they women, enjoy from the rest such honor.  For in the first place the rest were led on to a like zeal; in the second place, they also gained by the respect shown; and thirdly, they made those very persons more zealous and earnest. Wherefore you see that Paul has everywhere a care for this, and commends such men for consideration. As he says in the Epistle to the Corinthians: Who are the first-fruits of Achaia, 1 Corinthians 16:15. Some say that the word yokefellow, (Syzygus,) is a proper name. Well, what? Whether it be so, or no, we need not accurately enquire, but observe that he gives his orders, that these women should enjoy much protection. (Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians, 13, from newadvent.org)

[6] Many house churches in the early church were hosted and led by women of elevated social standing or independent wealth (cf Chloe in 1 Cor. 1:11, and Nympha in Col. 4:15).

[7] “We can see this [freedom of women] even in the narrative in Acts of Paul’s work in Macedonia.  In Philippi, Paul’s first contact was with the meeting for prayer by a riverside, and he spoke to the women gathered there (Acts 16:13).  Lydia was obviously a leading figure in Philippi (Acts 16:14).  In Thessalonica, many of the chief women were won for Christianity, and the same thing happened at Berea (Acts 17:4 & 12). . . . it is well worth remembering, when we are thinking of the place of women in the early church and of Paul’s attitude to them, that in the Macedonian churches they clearly had a leading place.” (Barclay 2003:86)

[8] Synagogues were frequently situated near rivers, lakes or near the sea.  Synagogues in Egypt were typically called places of prayer.

[9] FF Bruce (1981) translates “overseers and ministers/deacons” as “chief pastors and ministers” (Phil. 1:1).

[10] The word“deacon” is problematic as this role is understood very differently by different denominations. Whenever the Apostle Paul used the term diakonos he always used it in reference to a minister with a sacred commission, and, with one exception (Rom. 13:4), to ministers of the gospel. Paul referred to several New Testament people, including himself, as diakonoi (ministers): Paul (Rom 15:25; 1 Cor 3:5; Eph 3:7; Col 1:23, etc), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Apollos (1 Cor 3:5) and even Jesus Christ (Mk 10:42-45; Rom 15:8). [More on deacons here.]

[11] Note that 1 Corinthians 1:10 contains the Greek word meaning “same” (autos) three times, in the context of quarrels and schisms. The King James translates this verse (a little too literally) as, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (Italics added.)

[12] Here is some trivia: the Australian Lilly Pilly belongs to the genus Syzygium which is derived from the word suzugos (syzygos).  Image is of Australian Lilly Pilly (Syzygium leuhmanii) Source: www.wisenet-australia.org

[13] Paul also asked the Roman church to help Phoebe who was a diakonos– minister (Rom. 16:1-2).

[14] Clement was a very common Roman name in early church times. The Clement of Philippians 4:4 is almost certainly not Clement of Rome who was the bishop of Rome at the end of the first century.

[15] Kent (1978:153) writes, “Herbert Preisker notes that . . . epieskes . . . and its cognates are used in the LXX [Septuagint] and Josephus mostly of a quality of God or some human ruler who possesses sovereignty but chooses to display mildness and leniency.  In the NT the noun form is used of Christians who are associated with the divine King, but must also display his gentleness to others.  In Phil 4:5, Christians have a special incentive to display the royal virtue because the Lord is at hand and their promised glory will soon be manifested. (H Preisker, TDNT, 2.588-590.)” Other possible meanings for epieikēs (the word used in Php 4:5): suitableness, fairness, reasonableness, gentleness, mildness, patience and probity.  It can also imply clemency and leniency. Cognates of this word are found in Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 3:2; Jas. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:18. (Perschbacher 1990:161)

© 13th of December, 2010, Margaret Mowczko


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> > > Week 20: Prayer and Peace – Philippians 4:6-9


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Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi
Was Phoebe a Deacon of the Church at Cenchrea?
Lydia and the “Place of Prayer” in Philippi
Joy

Posted May 1st, 2010 . Categories/Tags: Bible Study Notes, Lessons from Philippians, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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7 comments on “Ministers at Philippi: Women and Men – Philippians 4:2-5

  1. […] Lydia was the first Christian convert in Europe.  She responded to Paul’s gospel ministry when he visited her town of Philippi. Subsequently, the fledgling Christian congregation in Philippi met in her home.  Lynn Cohick (2009:190) notes that “. . . when Paul and Silas prepare to depart Philippi they went to [Lydia’s] house (not the jailor’s house) and met with the believers there. Presumably Lydia followed the pattern found throughout the New Testament that the owner of the house in which the church met was also the church leader.”  […]

  2. […] Paul’s fellow workers (sunergoi) were: Timothy (Rom 16:21); Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:3); Urbanus (Rom 16:9); Apollos (1 Cor 3:6-9); Titus (2 Cor 8:23); Epaphroditus (Php 2:2:25) Euodia, Syntyche and Clement (Php 4:1-3); Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus also called Justus (Col 4:10-11); Philemon (Phil 1) Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke (Phil 24). […]

  3. […] [1] This assumes that Lydia is not one and the same as either Euodia or Syntyche.  The men are Clement and Epaphroditus.  (Syzygos, “yokefellow” or “companion”, is probably an appellation rather than a name.)  (See Acts 16:14, 40; Phil. 3:25; 4:2-3.)  I have written more about the church leaders at Philippi here. […]

  4. […] Ministers at Philippi: Women and Men – Philippians 4:2-5 […]

  5. […] Here is an article providing a little more insight on the topic: http://newlife.id.au/bible-study-notes/philippians-4_2-5/ […]

  6. ADRIENNE WATT says:

    It’s interesting how you said Clement of Philippians wasn’t St. Clement.
    I looked up st. clement and if he was the clement of Philippians and a commentary by Adam Clarke states “With Clement also – Supposed to be the same who was afterwards bishop of Rome, and who wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, which is still extant.” http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/phi004.htm
    It’s a widely held assumption Clement was the Clement in Philippians and was taught under St. Peter “Can you imagine what it would have been like to be taught personally about Jesus by the apostle Paul or Peter? Clement of Rome was a first-century convert who had that wonderful privilege.” http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/clement-of-rome-11629592.html
    What are your thoughts? I am still trying to figure out if my belief has any biblical basis

    • Marg says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      My precise wording is: “The Clement of Philippians 4:4 is almost certainly not Clement of Rome who was the bishop of Rome at the end of the first century.”

      However, I don’t think it’s important, one way or the other, if the Clement mentioned in Philippians is the same person as Clement in Rome.

      There is fifty years between Paul’s letter to the Philippians (written in 54 or 55 AD) and First Clement (written in around 95-97 AD). And there are many miles between Philippi and Rome. Moreover, Clement is a common Roman name. So I think the likelihood that the Clements are the same man is slight. But if you feel they are the same person, that’s fine.

      If Clement of Rome has been personally taught by Paul, there is little evidence of it in his letter to the Corinthians. He had none of Paul’s egalitarian leanings.

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