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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Family

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1. The idea of ‘family’ is represented in the NT by πατριά, οἷκος, and οἰκία.-(a) πατριά is used in Luke 2:4 for ‘lineage,’ ‘descendants’ (of David); in Acts 3:25 (in plural) for ‘races’ of mankind; and in Ephesians 3:15, where there is a play on words between πατήρ and its derivative πατριά: ‘the Father, from whom all fatherhood (Revised Version text: ‘every family,’ Authorized Version wrongly: ‘the whole family’) in heaven and earth is named.’ Though ‘family’ is here the literal translation, yet, since the English word ‘family’ is not derived from ‘father,’ the above paraphrase suggested by J. Armitage Robinson (Com. in loc.), who here follows the Syriac and the Latin Vulgate, is best, and overcomes the difficulty presented to the English reader by the existence of ‘families’ in heaven, in opposition to Matthew 22:30. Fatherhood, in a real sense, there must be in heaven, and it is ‘named’ from God the Father. Thackeray, indeed, suggests (The Relation of St. Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought, 1900, p. 148f.) that orders of angels are meant, and he quotes a Rabbinical phrase, ‘His family the angels’; but ‘families’ (plural) of angels are not mentioned, and the suggestion is hardly necessary. Another way out of the difficulty is seen in the v.l. [Note: .l. varia lectio, variant reading.] φατρία (= φράτρα), i.e. ‘tribe,’ but this is an obvious gloss which spoils the sense. Cf. πατριάρχης in Hebrews 7:4. Abraham the ‘father of the whole family of faith’ (Westcott); the word is used of David and of the sons of Jacob in Acts 2:29; Acts 7:8.

(b) οἷκος, besides being used for ‘house’ in the sense of a structure, represents (like domus) familia, the ‘family’ in its widest sense (See also Home). It is used (1) for all living under one roof-father, mother, near relations, and dependents-frequently in the NT: Acts 7:10 (Pharaoh), Acts 10:2 and Acts 11:14 (Cornelius), Acts 16:31 (Philippian jailer: so Acts 16:34 πανοικί ‘with all his house,’ here only in NT), Acts 18:8 (Crispus), 1 Corinthians 1:6 (Stephanas), 1 Timothy 3:4 f. (the bishop), 1 Timothy 5:4 (the widow), 2 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:19 (Onesiphorus, who apparently was dead, and whose household is nevertheless named after him: see below, 2 (d)), Hebrews 11:7 (Noah), and, in plural, 1 Timothy 3:12 (deacons), Titus 1:11 (Christians generally); (2) for descendants, Luke 1:27; Luke 2:4; (3) for God’s family, the house of God (see below, 3).

(c) οἰκία is similarly used for a ‘household’ in Philippians 4:22 (Caesar), Matthew 10:13; Matthew 12:25, John 4:53 (the Capernaum royal officer), 1 Corinthians 16:15 (Stephanas); and therefore for ‘possessions’ in the phrase ‘widows’ houses,’ Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47, and inferior Manuscripts of Matthew 23:14.

2. Members of the family

(a) Father.-The father, if alive, is the head of the family (paterfamilias), and exercises authority over all its members.* [Note: Ramsay points out (Galatians, 1899, p. 343) that pater has a wider sense than our ‘father’; he was the chief, the lord, the master, the leader.] He is the ‘master’ or ‘goodman’ of the house (οἰκοδεσπότης), Matthew 24:43, Mark 14:14 (in Luke 22:11 οἰκοδεσπότης τῆς οἰκίας), and the ‘lord’ (κύριος) of the household (οἰκετεία), Matthew 24:45. That in some sense he is the priest of his own family appears from Hebrews 10:21, where the spiritual family, the house of God, has our Lord as ‘a great priest over’ it (see below, 3). The subordination or the family to the father is a favourite subject with St. Paul, who, though the Apostle of liberty, carefully guards against anarchy. His liberty is that of the Latin collect: ‘Dens … cui servire regnare est’ (paraphrased: ‘O God … whoso service is perfect freedom’). He lays down the general principle of subordination for all Christians in Ephesians 5:21 (cf. Romans 13:1, 1 Corinthians 15:28, and 1 Peter 5:5), and then applies it to Christian families. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is Bead of the Church; husbands must love and honour their wives, for they are one flesh, and wives must be in subjection to their husbands and reverence them (Ephesians 5:22-25; Ephesians 5:28-33, Colossians 3:18 f., Titus 2:4 f.; cf. 1 Peter 3:1-7), For children and dependents see below, and for the relation of husband and wife, see Marriage.

(b) Mother.-On the other hand, the position of the mother in the family is a very important one; to this day in Muhammadan countries, where the women are mere in the background than among the Oriental Christians (for even there Christianity has greatly raised the position of women), the influence of the mother is immense. We find many traces of this in the NT, In 1 Timothy 5:14 even young mothers are said to ‘rule the household’ (οἰκοδεσποτεῖν). In 1 Peter 3:1 the heathen husband is gained by the influence of the wife. The household at Lystra in which Timothy was brought up was profoundly influenced by the ‘unfeigned faith’ of his mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois (2 Timothy 1:5; cf. 2 Timothy 3:15), and the influence of the former over her Greek husband (Acts 16:1) may have been in St. Peter’s mind. In Matthew 20:20 ‘the mother of the sons of Zebedee’ (a curious phrase) is put forward to make petition for her children. Further, if the mother was a widow, she, rather than one of the sons, seems, at least in some cases, to have been the head of the household. Thus we read of the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, not of the house of Mark (Acts 12:12); and of the house of Lydia. (Acts 16:15), who was probably a widow, trading between Philippi and Thyatira, a city famous for dyeing, with a gild of dyers evidenced by inscriptions (the supposition that Lydia was the ‘true yokefellow’ of Philippians 4:3 rests on no solid basis). It was Lydia who entertained St. Paul and his companions, not her sons or brothers. A similar case is perhaps that of Chloe; she seems to have been a widow whose household (‘they of Chloe,’ 1 Corinthians 1:11) traded between Ephesus and Corinth. Other prominent women in the apostolic writings are Damaris (Acts 17:34), whom Ramsay thinks not to have been of noble birth, as the regulations at Athens with regard to the seclusion of women were more strict than in some other places, and a well-born lady would hardly have been likely there to come to hear St. Paul preach (St. Paul the Traveller, 1895, p. 252); Phœbe, a deaconess who had been a, ‘succourer of many’ (Romans 16:1 f.); Euodia and Syntyche, who were prominent church workers at Philippi (Philippians 4:2 f.), It has often been noticed that the position of mothers of families was especially strong in Macedonia and in Asia Minor, and particularly in the less civilized parts of the latter. Of this there are some traces in the NT. Thus the influential women at Pisidian Antioch, the ‘devout women of honourable estate,’ are, with the chief men (πρῶτοι) of the city, urged by the Jews to arouse fooling against St. Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:50), and the ‘chief women’ are specially mentioned at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4) and Berœa (Acts 17:12). There are even instances (not in the NT) of women holding public offices, and of descent being reckoned through the mother (see further J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians, 1903 ed., p. 55f.; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, pp. 67, 160-2). It is curious that Codex Bezae (D) waters down the references to noteworthy women: e.g. in Acts 17:34 it omits Damaris; it seems to reflect a dislike to the prominence of women which is found in Christian circles in the 2nd century.

(c) Children.-The duty of obedience to parents is insisted on by St. Paul in Ephesians 6:1-4, Colossians 3:20 f., where the two-edged injunction of the Fifth Commandment is referred to as involving duties of parents to children as well as of children to Parents. The relation of the younger to the elder in the family must have been greatly simplified by the spread of monogamy in the OT (see Marriage), and in Christian times there would have been very few complications in this respect. Yet it was often the case, as it still is in Eastern lands, that several families in the narrower sense made up a ‘family’ in the wider sense, and lived under one roof: thus a son would ordinarily bring his bride to his father’s house, as Tobias brought Sarah to that of Tobit, so that his parents became her parents, and the Fifth Commandment applied to her relationship with them (To 10:9-12). So we note in Matthew 10:35 f., Luke 12:52 f. that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are of one family or household (οἰκιακοί Mt., ‘in one house’ Lk.). The brethren of our Lord (whatever their exact relationship to Jesus) appear during His ministry to have formed one household with Mary (John 2:12, Matthew 12:46 f.; Matthew 13:55 f., Mark 6:3; Joseph was probably dead), notwithstanding that they themselves, or some of them, were married (1 Corinthians 9:5). It is because of this custom that חָתָן (ḥâthân, ‘bridegroom’) and בֵּלָה (kallâh, ‘bride’) and their equivalents in cognate languages represent the relationship of a married man and woman to all their near relations by affinity. In the case of a composite ‘family’ of this nature, the father still retained some authority over his married sons.

(d) Slaves and dependents.-These formed a large portion of the more important families; the ‘dependents’ would be chiefly freedmen. On the other hand, it appears that hired servants were not reckoned as part of the family (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iv. 461). Among the Israelites the slaves were comparatively few, while in Greek and Roman families they were extremely numerous. In Athens the slaves were reckoned as numbering four times the free citizens, and elsewhere the proportion was even greater. Some Roman landowners had ten or twenty thousand slaves, or more (Lightfoot, Colossians, 1900 ed., p. 317ff.). These slaves were entirely at their master’s disposal, and under a bad master their condition must have been terrible (see Lightfoot, p. 319, for details). Yet their inclusion in the ‘family’ somewhat mitigated the rigours of slavery even among the heathen in NT times; and this mitigation was much greater in Christian households. The Church accepted existing institutions, and did not proclaim a revolutionary slave-war, which would only have produced untold misery; but it set to work gradually to ameliorate the condition of slaves. On the one hand, slaves are enjoined by St. Paul to obey and be honest to their masters, whether Christian or not, as in Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22 ff. (where the great detail was doubtless suggested by the Onesimus incident), 1 Timothy 6:1 f., Titus 2:9 f.; cf. 1 Peter 2:18 f. These exhortations were probably intended to take away any misapprehension that might have arisen from such passages as Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 7:21 f., which assert that in Christ there is neither bond nor free. Christianity did not at once liberate slaves, and St. Paul does not claim Onesimus’ freedom, though he indirectly suggests it (Philemon 1:13 f.). On the contrary, it taught those ‘under the yoke’ to render true service. At the same time, St. Paul points out that the Fifth Commandment lays a duty on masters as well as on slaves (Ephesians 6:9, where the double duty is referred to just after the application of this Commandment to fathers as well as to children). The Christian head of the house must provide for his own household, or be worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). By Christianity musters and slaves become brethren (1 Timothy 6:2). In Philom 18 Onesimus is said to be ‘no longer a slave, but more than a slave, a brother beloved.’ We cannot doubt that we have here a reminiscence of Such words of our Lord, orally handed down, as ‘no longer slaves but friends’ (John 15:15; cf. Hebrews 2:11 ‘not ashamed to call them brethren’). It was owing to the good example set a’ Christian slaves to their heathen masters that Christianity, which at first took root in the lower social circles of society (1 Corinthians 1:26), spread rapidly upwards.

The domestic servants of the family are called ‘they of the house’-οἰκέται, Acts 10:7; or οἰκεῖοι 1 Timothy 5:8 (cf. Ephesians 2:19 fig.); or οἰκιακοί, Matthew 10:25; Matthew 10:36 (this includes near relations); or ‘the household,’ οἰκέτεια, Matthew 24:45 Revised Version (= θεραπεία, Luke 12:42). They included in their number, in the case of great families, many who would now be of the professional classes, but who then wore upper slaves, such as stewards or agents, librarians, doctors, surgeons, oculists, tutors, etc. (for a long list, see Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 172). Thus in the NT we find (1) the steward, οἰκονόμος, Luke 12:42 (cf. Matthew 24:45); such were the unjust steward of the parable (Luke 16:1 ff.; the word οἰκονομεῖν is used for ‘to be a steward’ in v. 2), and the stewards of 1 Corinthians 4:2, Galatians 4:2. The ‘steward’ of a child was the guardian of his property (Ramsay, Gal. p. 392). Metaphorically οἰκονόμος is used of Christian ministers (1 Corinthians 4:1; of ‘bishops, 1 Timothy 1:17), of Christians generally (1 Peter 4:10)-the idea is doubtless taken from our Lord’s words about the ‘wise slave whom his lord had set over his household to give them their food in due season’ (Matthew 24:45), (2) The guardian of a child, ἐπίτροπος, was concerned with his education (Galatians 4:2); perhaps this is the same as the following. (3) The pedagogue or tutor (παιδαγωγός, Galatians 3:24 f, 1 Corinthians 4:15) was a slave deputed to take the child to school (not a teacher or schoolmaster as the Authorized Version ); this: was a Greek institution adopted by the Romans, for in education Greece led the way, (4) The physician (ἰατπός, Colossians 4:14) was also regarded as an tipper slave. It has been pointed out by Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveller, p. 316) that a prisoner of distinction, such as St. Paul undoubtedly was (ib. p. 310 f.), would be allowed slaves, but not friends or relations, to accompany him, and that St. Luke, who (as the pronoun ‘we’ shows) accompanied him on his voyage to Italy, as also did Aristarchus (Acts 27:2; Colossians 4:10), must have done so in the capacity of a slave, taking this office on himself in order to follow his master.

Under this head we may notice four households mentioned in the NT: the ‘household of Caesar’ (ἠ Καίσαρος οἰκία), Philippians 4:22; ‘they of Aristobulus,’ Romans 16:10; ‘they of Narcissus,’ Romans 16:11; and ‘they of Chloe,’ 1 Corinthians 1:11. For the last see above (b); but the first three households wore probably all part of the Imperial ‘family’ at Rome, That ‘Caesar’s household’ does not necessarily or even probably mean near relations of the Emperor is shown by Light-foot (Philippians, p. 171ff.); the meaning seems to be ‘the slaves and freedmen of Caesar.’ Lightfoot with much ingenuity and probability identifies several of the names mentioned in Romans 16 with the household. The curious phrases in Romans 16:10 f. are probably due to the fact that Aristebulus and Narcissus wore dead (for their identification with well-known characters see Lightfoot, and Sanday. Headlam, Romans 5 [International Critical Commentary , 1902], p. 425), and that their households were absorbed in that of Caesar, but still retained their old names, ‘They of Aristobulus1 would be equivalent to ‘Aristobuliani,’ and ‘they of Narcissus’ to ‘Narcissiani.’ (If the view that Romans 16 is not a real part of the Epistle be correct, this argument fails; but its verisimilitude is some ground for rejecting that view.)

3. The Christian Church as a family.-In the NT the word ‘house’ (οἶκος) is used figuratively of the Christian community, as in Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:6 (Christians successors to the house [of God] in the Old Covenant), Hebrews 10:21 (see above, 2 (a)), 1 Timothy 3:15 (where οἶκος is explicitly defined as ‘the Church of the living God’; the phrase follows the instructions as to the homes of bishops and deacons; see Home), 1 Peter 2:5 (a ‘spiritual house’), 1 Peter 4:17. The metaphor is further elaborated in Ephesians 2:20-22 where the foundation, corner-stone, and each several stone that is laid (such is the best paraphrase of πᾶσα οἰκοδομή) together result in a holy temple, of which Christians are stones, ‘builded together for a habitation of God.’

The conception is based on the Fatherhood of God and on our position as His children. It is carried out by various analogous metaphors. The Church is the Bride of Christ-this is the outcome of Ephesians 5:22 f.; cf. Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; Revelation 22:17 -and He is the Bridegroom, Matthew 9:15; Matthew 22:2 ff; Matthew 25:6, Mark 2:19, John 3:29, 2 Corinthians 11:2; Christians are the οἰκεῖοι, members, of the household, of the faith. Galatians 6:10; Christ is their brother. Hebrews 2:11 f.; the Church is a brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17, filled with brotherly love (φιλαδελφία), Romans 12:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Hebrews 13:1, 2 Peter 1:7; cf. 1 John 5:1. The most usual designation of Christians among themselves is ‘the brethren’ (Acts, passim); even heretics are ‘false brethren,’ 2 Corinthians 11:26, Galatians 2:4. ‘A brother,’ ‘brethren,’ denote Christians as opposed to unbelievers in Philemon 1:16, 1 Timothy 6:2; and so in 1 Corinthians 9:5 ‘a sister, a wife’ means ‘a Christian wife’ (the ‘apostle’ may have a Christian wife; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39 ‘only in the Lord); in 1 Corinthians 7:15 ‘the brother or the sister’ means the Christian spouse of an unbeliever (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14 and 1 Corinthians 5:11); in Romans 16:23 Revised Version (‘Quartus the brother’) the definite article seems to distinguish this Christian from some unbelieving Quartus. Cf. also 2 Corinthians 8:18 (‘the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches’: but some translate ‘his brother’-i.e. the brother of Titus, and interpret the phrase as applying to St. Luke) 2 Corinthians 8:22 f., Philemon 1:7, Romans 16:1, James 2:15, 2 John 1:13, and 1 Thessalonians 4:6, where see Milligan’s note.

In this connexion also we may note the symbolical use of words denoting family relationships. The Israelites of old were ‘the fathers’ (Romans 15:8), just as early Christian writers are called by us. Abraham is father of spiritual descendants, believing Jews and Gentiles alike (Romans 4:11 ff., Romans 4:16 f., Galatians 3:7; in Acts 7:2, Romans 4:1, and probably in James 2:21, physical descent is referred to). The teacher is father of his disciples (1 Thessalonians 2:11), though sometimes he calls himself ‘brother’ (Revelation 1:19, ‘I John your brother’; cf. Acts 15:23 Revised Version , ‘elder brethren’). Also ‘father’ is used of any old man (1 Timothy 5:1); in this verse (unlike 1 Timothy 5:17) πρεσβύτερος cannot refer to a presbyter. So ‘mother is used of any old woman in 1 Timothy 5:2; younger men and women are ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ (1 Timothy 5:1 f.). Jerusalem is called ‘our mother’ in Galatians 4:26, just as Babylon in Revelation 17:5 is called ‘the mother of the harlots.’ In Romans 16:13 ‘mother’ is a term of attention (‘Rufus and his mother and mine’). Similarly the expressions ‘without father,’ ‘without mother,’ in Hebrews 7:3 must be taken figuratively. Melchizedek’s parentage is not recorded in Holy Scripture: ‘he is not connected with any known line: his life has no recorded beginning or close’ (B. F. Westcott, Hebrews, 1889, p. 172). Disciples, likewise, are called ‘sons’ or ‘children’ of their master, as in 1 Peter 5:13 (Mark), Galatians 4:19 (the Galatians), 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:1 and Philippians 2:22 (Timothy), 1 Corinthians 4:14 f. (the Corinthians), Philemon 1:10 (Onesimus), 1 John 2:1 etc., 3 John 1:4.

4. The Christian family as a church.-We often read in the NT of families or households becoming Christian as a body; e.g. those of Cornelius (Acts 10:2; Acts 11:14), Lydia (Acts 16:15 : the first in St. Paul’s history), the Jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:31-33), Crispus (Acts 18:7). So in John 4:53 it is recorded that the king’s officer (βασιλικός) at Capernaum believed ‘and his whole house,’ Hence, in the absence of public churches, which persecution made impossible till a later date, a family became a centre of Christian worship, in which not only the household itself but also the Christian neighbours assembled. Thus, probably the house of Lydia was the beginning from which the Church at Philippi developed; those of Stephanas, whose family was ‘the firstfruits of Achaia’ (1 Corinthians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 16:15 οἰκία), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Crispus (Acts 18:8 οἶκος), and Gains (Romans 16:23) perhaps became centres of worship at Corinth. Such, again, was Philemon’s house at Colossae (Philemon 1:2); probably Apphia was his wife, and possibly Archippus his son (Philemon 1:2, Colossians 4:17). Archippus was clearly a church official; he had received the ministry (διακονία) in the Lord, and was in some way connected with Philemon; we are led to think of him as ‘bishop’ of the Church at Colossae, or, less probably, with Lightfoot, of the neighbouring Church at Laodicea (so Apost. Const, vii. 46, which makes Philemon bishop of Colossae; but it is more likely that Philemon was a layman). At Laodicea we read of Nymphas or Nympha (Colossians 4:15; the gender is uncertain), and ‘the church that is in their house’ (Revised Version )-i.e. probably all who met to worship there are regarded as one family. Lightfoot thinks (Colossians, p. 241) that there wore perhaps more than one such ‘church’ at Laodicea, as there certainly were in Rome (see below).

In Jerusalem such a private house was at first used for the Eucharist (Acts 2:46; κατʼ οἷκον, ‘at home,’ as opposed to ‘in the Temple’), and so doubtless at Troas (Acts 20:7), For preaching to outsiders, the apostles made use of the synagogues (Acts 17:1 f.: ‘as his custom was’), or the Temple at Jerusalem, or the ‘school of Tyrannus’ at Ephesus, which was probably open to all (Acts 19:9), or other public places; but for the instruction of the faithful the Christians gathered in a private house (Acts 5:42 ‘every day in the Temple and at home’; cf. Acts 20:20); in Jerusalem probably in that of Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), for her family was certainly such a centre of worship. As St. James the Lord’s brother was not present in the house where the people were assembled to pray for St. Peter Acts 12:17), it has been suggested that there were more than one such ἐκκλησία in Jerusalem; but this is uncertain. At Caesarea we are tempted to think of Philip’s household as such a centre (Acts 21:8); at Cenchreae of that of Phœbe the deaconess (Romans 16:1). For Ephesus we have mention of Aquila and Prisca (or Priscilla), and ‘the church that is in their house’-their ‘family’ formed a Christian community (1 Corinthians 16:19). Here we have a remarkable feature, for about a year later we find these two workers credited with another ‘church’ in Rome (Romans 16:3-5), and this has been adduced as disproving the integrity of Romans as regards the last chapter. But it is not an improbable supposition that they gathered the Christians together in their own household wherever they were; and as Sanday-Headlam remark (op. cit. p. 418f.), they were, like many Jews of the day, great travellers. We read of Aquila in Pontus, then of him and his wife in Rome a.d. 52, when they were expelled from the capital with their fellow-countrymen (Acts 18:1 f.); then we read of them at Corinth, where they met St. Paul (Acts 18:1 f.), and of their going with him to Ephesus (Acts 18:18 f.), where they remained. some time. Thence, probably, the old decree of expulsion having become obsolete, they returned to Rome, between the writing of 1 Cor. and Rom., and the ‘church in their house’ in Rome was then founded. Its site has been identified with that of the old church of St. Prisca on the Aventine, and this is quite possible, though there is no evidence of importance to support the identification. Hort suggests (Prolegomena to Romans and Ephesians, 1895, p. 12ft.) that Prisca was a Roman lady of distinction, superior in birth to her husband; and this would lend probability to the supposition that their home was a centre of Christian worship; but Sanday-Headlam think that they were both freed members of a great Roman family.

There are traces of other centres of worship in Rome. In Romans 16 both Romans 16:4 and Romans 16:14 and Romans 16:15 indicate communities or ‘families’ of Christians at Rome in addition to that of Aquila and Prisca in Romans 16:5. In Romans 16:14 only men are mentioned, and yet they form a community; cf. ‘the brethren that are with them.’ In Romans 16:5 Philologus and Julia were probably husband and wife; Nereus and his sister, and also Olympas, would be near relations, living with them, lint hardly their children, for it would not be likely that Philologus' daughter should be referred to here as ‘the sister of Nereus.’ This household seems to have been a large Christian centre; ‘all the saints that are with them’ are mentioned. The multiplying of centres in one; city at a time when persecution was present or imminent may be illustrated by the account of the trial of Justin Martyr before the prefect in Rome (T. Ruinart, Acta Prim. Mart.2, 1713, p. 59). Justin tells the prefect that the Christians in the city do not all assemble at one place, for ‘the God of the Christians is not circumscribed in place, but, being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is adored by the faithful and His glory praised.’ Justin is pressed to say where he and his disciples assemble, and he replies that hitherto he has lived in the house of one Martin. The Acts may probably be said at least to contain the traditions current in the 3rd cent, as to Justin’s death (see Smith’s DCB [Note: CB Dict. of Christian Biography.] iii. [1882] 562).

Another Christian family in Rome has left o, relic of its house as a centre of worship in the church of San Clemente. This now consists of three structures, one above the other; the highest, now level with the ground, is. mediaeval, but contains the Byzantine furniture (ambones, rails, etc); the middle one is of the 4th cent. (?) and used to contain this furniture; while underneath is the old house, now inaccessible through the invasion of water. This last building, there is little reason to doubt, was the meeting-place of the Christians of the let cent., and though now far beneath the surface, was once level with the ground. Local tradition makes it the house of St. Clement the Bishop, and it is highly probable that he worshipped in it; but it is not unlikely, as Lightfoot suggests, that it was the house of Flavius Clemens the Consul, whom tradition declares to have been buried in it, and who was perhaps ‘patron’ to his namesake the Bishop (Lightfoot, Apostolic Father, pt. i.: ‘Clement,’ 1890, vol. i. p. 91ff.). The Consul was a near relative of the Emperor Domitian, and was put to death by him, perhaps because he was a Christian; at least his wife Domitilla was a believer (ib. p. 53), and it is quite probable that their household became a Christian ἐκκλησία.

A further illustration of the ‘family’ as a Christian community is furnished by the Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, in Rome. The present church is built above the house of the martyrs so named, who perished, according to tradition, in the reign of Julian the Apostate. The house was probably used at that time for worship.

On the other hand, Romans 16:18 does not refer to a number of, ἐκκλησίαι Ephesus. St. Paul here speaks on behalf of the whole of the communities of Christians which he had evangelized, or perhaps of all throughout the world, as in Romans 16:4, 1 Corinthians 7:17. It should be noticed that the word ἐκκλησία is not used for a church building till a much later date.

In two places we read of private prayers at fixed hours in houses: Acts 10:9 (Peter at the sixth hour, on the flat roof: see House) and Acts 10:3 f, Acts 10:30 (Cornelius keeping the ninth hour of prayer in his house). But these were private prayers, not family worship. Before public daily worship became generally customary, in the 4th cent. after the cessation of persecution, these and other hours of prayer, taken over from the Jews, were frequently observed by Christians, apparently in their families. See the present writers Ancient Church Orders, 1910, p. 59ff.

Literature.-This is given in the course of the article , but Special reference is due to the Prolegomena to J. B. Lightfoot’s Colossians and Philemon (1900 ed.) and Philippians (1903 ed.). For other aspects of the subject see article on ‘Family’ by W. H. Bennett in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) and E. G. Romanes in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible (these both deal almost exclusively with the OT); by C. T. Dimont in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels (especially for the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels) and J. Strahan in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (‘Family, Biblical and Christian,’ dealing chiefly with the OT). There are several articles on the ‘Family’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics from the point of view of other nations of the world.

A. J. Maclean.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Family'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/f/family.html. 1906-1918.

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