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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Περσίς, a Greek name)

Persis is a woman saluted by St. Paul in Romans 16:12. She is described as ‘the beloved’ (τὴν ἀγαπητήν), by which may be meant a personal convert and disciple of the Apostle (see C. von Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, Eng. tr._, i.2 [1897] 394) or one closely associated with him in his work. If so, it may be with intentional delicacy that St. Paul has so described her and not as ‘my beloved,’ the term which he applies to three men whom he salutes (Epaenetus [Romans 16:5], Ampliatus [Romans 16:8], Stachys [Romans 16:9]). On the other hand, ‘the beloved’ may indicate not personal relationship to the Apostle but the affection in which Persis was held by the whole Church to which she belonged and in which she ‘laboured much in the Lord’ (ἥτις πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν ἐν κυρίῳ). This further description completes our information with regard to Persis. It is noteworthy that the verb κοπιᾶν, which suggests painstaking effort, is used in Romans 16 only of women-of Mary (Romans 16:6), of Tryphaena and Tryphosa (Romans 16:12), and that the description of Persis includes the terms used of these, viz. πολλὰ ἐκοπίασεν (Mary), κοπιώσας ἐν κυρίῳ (Tryphaena and Tryphosa). Elsewhere κοπιᾶν is employed to describe the Apostle’s missionary labours (1 Corinthians 15:10, Galatians 4:11, Philippians 2:16, Colossians 1:29), as well as the manual toil involved (1 Corinthians 4:12, Ephesians 4:28); also the work of the leaders of the Church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:12), of Christians like those who formed ‘the household of Stephanas’ (1 Corinthians 16:16), and of certain elders in 1 Timothy 5:17 ‘who labour in the word and in teaching.’ It is therefore impossible to regard the work of Persis and of the other women as limited to practical benevolence, such as the showing of hospitality. The aorist, in contrast to the present used in the same verse of the labours of Tryphaena and Tryphosa, may point to some definite occasion of special importance in the past; or we may suppose that Persis was an aged woman whose active work was over. The sphere in which we shall picture her activities will be determined by our acceptance of the Roman or Ephesian destination of these salutations. The name Persis does not appear in inscriptions of the Imperial household.

T. B. Allworthy.

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

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