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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Ἐπαίνετος, Romans 16:5 -a Greek name)

Epaenetus is saluted by St. Paul and described as ‘my beloved’ and as ‘the firstfruits of Asia unto Christ’ (τὸν ἀγαπητόν μον, ὅς ἐστιν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀσίας εἰς Χριστόν). The only other persons described in Romans 16 as ‘my beloved’ are Ampliatus (τὸν ἀγαπητόν μος ἐν κυπίῳ, Romans 16:8) and Stachys (Romans 16:9). Persis, a woman, is saluted perhaps with intentional delicacy as ‘the beloved’ (Romans 16:12). Epaenetus was probably a personal convert of the Apostle’s, and as such specially dear to him. He was the first to become a Christian in the Roman province of Asia (the TR [Note: Textus Receptus, Received Text.] reading Ἀχαίας must be rejected in favour of Ἀσίας, supported by the overwhelming authority of א ABCD). Assuming the Roman destination of these salutations, Epaenetus must have been at the time of writing resident in or on a visit to Rome. (The discovery of an Ephesian Epaenetus on a Roman inscription is interesting but unimportant [Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 (International Critical Commentary , 1902), p. 421].) But the reference to Epaenetus, together with the salutation of Prisca and Aquila (v. 3), who appear in 1 Corinthians 16:19 and again in 2 Timothy 4:19 as living in Ephesus, has given rise to the suggestion that this section of Romans was originally addressed to the Church of Ephesus. Epaenetus, however, is not said to have been an Ephesian (see Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 1893, p. 301).

For the designation ‘firstfruits’ we must compare the description of the ‘household of Stephanas’ (1 Corinthians 16:15)-‘the firstfruits of Achaia’ (ἀπαρχή τῆς Ἀχαίας)-and note the suggestion that ministry in the Church was connected at first with seniority of faith, a suggestion more than supported by Clement of Rome, Ep. ad Cor. xlii. Nothing could be more natural than that the work of superintending the local Christian communities should be entrusted to those among the first converts who were found capable of undertaking it. The term ‘firstfruits’ had a special religious significance-that of dedication to God-and this idea must have been present when the original nucleus of a church was so called. Epaenetus, as the senior Christian, had a position of responsibility; and that he was actually a leader would appear from his place in these salutations-second only to ‘Prisca and Aquila my fellow-workers’ (Romans 16:3). Cf. also Andronicus and Junias (or Junia), who are said to ‘have been in Christ’ before St. Paul, and the possibility that they were known as apostles (v. 7); also the prominence given to Mnason as an ‘original’ disciple in Acts 21:16. The position thus given to the earliest converts of the missions and the services demanded from them may have been analogous to the privileges and obligations of the relations of the Lord. Blood-relationship with Jesus gave to those who could claim it an official status in the Church which was handed on to their descendants (see A. Harnack, Constitution and Law of the Church, Eng. translation , 1910, pp. 32-37).

T. B. Allworthy.

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

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