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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Alexander and Rufus

ALEXANDER AND RUFUS.—The Synoptists all record that the Saviour’s cross was borne by one Simon of Cyrene. St. Mark (Mark 15:21) alone adds that he was ‘the father of Alexander and Rufus.’ From this we gather that, when the Second Gospel was written, the sons of him who bore the cross were followers of the Crucified, and men of prominence and note in the Church. This information as to the two sons of Simon being Alexander and Rufus, is also found in the Gospel of Nicodemus (Mark 4). The name Alexander appears in Acts 4:6; Acts 19:33, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 4:14, but there is not the slightest ground for identifying any one of these with the Alexander of Mark 15:21.

In the case of Rufus, however, it has generally been considered that he is probably the same as the Rufus who, with his mother, is saluted by St. Paul in Romans 16:13 (Ῥοῦφον τὸν ἐκλεκτὸν ἐν Κυρίῳ). And if this is so, it tells us that not only the sons of Simon of Cyrene, but his wife also, were members of the Church. Lightfoot supports this view, and Swete considers that it has ‘some probability.’ In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, written from Rome, occurs a salutation sent to the Church at Philippi from Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). Lightfoot has compared the list of names of those to whom St. Paul sends greeting in his letter to the Romans (ch. Romans 16) with the names in the lists of the household which occur in the inscriptions, and on the name Rufus he writes (Philippians7 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 176)—

‘Rufus is a very ordinary name, and would not have claimed notice here but for its occurrence in one of the Gospels. There seems no reason to doubt the tradition that St. Mark wrote especially for the Romana; and if so, it is worth remarking that he alone of the Evangelists describes Simon of Cyrene as the “father of Alexander and Rufus” (15:21). A person of this name, therefore, seems to have held a prominent place among the Roman Christians: and thus there is at least fair ground for identifying the Rufus of St. Paul with the Rufus of St. Mark. The inscriptions exhibit several members of the household bearing the names Rufus and Alexander, but this fact is of no value where both names are so common.’

In connexion with Bishop Lightfoot’s note, it is worthy of notice that in Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 9) we find Ignatius, Zozimus, and Rufus adduced as examples, with St. Paul and the rest of the Apostles, of men who had obeyed the word of righteousness and exercised all patience, ‘and are gone to the place that was due to them from the Lord with whom also they suffered; for they loved not this present world, but Him who died and was raised again by God for us.’

In the Acts of Andrew and of Peter, Rufus and Alexander appear as the companions of Peter, Andrew, and Matthias, but no further information is given.

J. B. Bristow.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Alexander and Rufus'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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