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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(= ‘favoured by Aphrodite [Venus],’ ‘comely’)

Epaphroditus was a loading member and delegate or messenger of the Philippian Church, mentioned only in Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18. He arrived in Rome during St. Paul’s earlier imprisonment with a substantial ‘gift’ (presumably of money) from the Philippian Christians to the Apostle, of whose impoverishment they had heard. After fulfilling his commission, and strengthening, through his own warmly affectionate personality, the bond of communion between the Apostle and his ‘dearly beloved’ Philippian converts, Epaphroditus remained in Rome partly to render personal service to St. Paul, as the representative of the devoted Philippians, and partly to take a share in the ‘work of Christ’ as the Apostle’s colleague in missionary ministry. St. Paul describes him as ‘my brother, and fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier,’ implying at once ‘common sympathies, labours undertaken in common, and community in suffering and struggle’ (J. S. Howson, Companions of St. Paul, p. 235). The ‘true yoke-fellow,’ also, of Philippians 4:3 is believed by Lightfoot (Philippians4, 1878, p. 158) to be most probably Epaphroditus, since ‘in his case alone there would be no risk of making the reference unintelligible by the suppression of the name.’ His evangelistic zeal, however, combined with devotion to St. Paul, over-taxed his strength, and became the occasion of severe illness-which almost issued in death (Philippians 2:27; Philippians 2:30). It is notable that St. Paul, whose power of working miracles is frequently referred to (Acts 14:10; Acts 28:8, 2 Corinthians 12:12), did not exercise it in the case of Epaphroditus. It was a power which, ‘great as it was, was not his own, to use at his own will’ (Barry in Ellicott’s Com. on NT, 1884, Philippians 2:27). Some inner voice doubtless enabled apostles to know when the time for working a miracle had come. But ‘the prayer of a righteous man availeth much’; and earnest supplications were doubtless offered up in Rome by St. Paul and the Church there for the recovery of Epaphroditus. These prayers were heard. ‘God also, last I should have sorrow on sorrow’ (Philippians 2:27).

Mean while the Philippians had heard of their delegate’s illness, and by and by their anxiety became known at Rome. Partly to relieve that solicitude and to satisfy the ‘longing’ of Epaphroditus; partly to convey the Apostle’s grateful acknowledgment of the recent gift; partly also, we may presume (although with delicate consideration this reason is not expressly stated), in order that the invalid’s health may be fully restored through entire rest such as he would not take in Rome, the Apostle sends him back to Philippi with a cordial testimony to his zealous labours and chivalrous service. Epaphroditus thereafter disappears from NT history, leaving behind him the fragrant memory of self-forgetful and self-sacrificing devotion at once to the person of St. Paul and to the cause of Christ.

Theodoret (Com. on Philippians 2:25) represents Epaphroditus (with some hesitation) as ‘bishop’ of Philippi. Pseudo-Dorotheus includes him (without probability, however, since nothing suggests that he was a Hebrew) among the Seventy of Luke 10:1; and he calls him ‘bishop’ of Andriace, the port of Myra in Lycia. In virtue of the designation ἀπόστολος (Philippians 2:25) the Greek Church places Epaphroditus in the same rank with Barnabas, Silas, and others; but the contest suggests the original meaning, ‘messenger.’

Literature.-H. S. Seekings, Men of Pauline Circle, 1914; J. S. Howson, Companions of St. Paul, 1871; E. B. Redlich, St. Paul and his Companions, 1913, p. 230; J. A. Beet, in Expositor, 3rd ser. ix. [1889] 64ff.; Commentaries of Ellicott, Eadie, Lightfoot, Vincent, Weiss, von Soden. See also articles in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , and Encyclopaedia Biblica .

Henry Cowan.

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

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