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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Ναρκίσσος, a common Latin name)

In Romans 16:11 St. Paul salutes ‘them of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord’ (τοὺς ἐκ τῶν Ναρκίσσου τοὺς ὄντας ἐν κυρίῳ), i.e. the Christians in his familia or establishment of freedmen and slaves (perhaps known as Narcissiani, for which the Greek phrase would be equivalent). J. B. Lightfoot (Philippians4, 1878, p. 175) thinks that the Narcissus referred to was the powerful freedman of that name, whose wealth was proverbial (Juv. Sat. xiv. 329), whose influence was very great in the intrigues of the reign of Claudius, and who had been put to death by Agrippina shortly after the accession of Nero (Tac. Ann. xiii. 1; Dio Cass. lx. 34), in a.d. 54. It was customary in such cases for the household to become the property of the Emperor while it retained the name of its old master (cf. probably ‘the household of Aristobulus’ [q.v. [Note: .v. quod vide, which see.] ], whose Christian members are saluted in v. 10). If Romans 16 be an integral part of Romans, and therefore directed to Rome, this may indeed be the household referred to; for although there may have been other establishments whose master’s name was Narcissus, this must have been the most famous. If so, some three years had elapsed since it had passed into the hands of Nero. For the occurrence of the name Narcissus on inscriptions see Sanday-Headlam, International Critical Commentary , ‘Romans’4, 1900, p. 425 f. The Christians in the household would naturally form one of the distinct communities of which the Church at Rome was apparently made up (cf. v. 10 and the phrases in vv. 5, 15). ‘The master was not a Christian, and therefore it was not his whole household, but in each case an indefinite number of his servants who had been converted. Plainly therefore the conversion of one of them had at once created a centre for the diffusion of the gospel. We have here at any rate a proof, not only that the closer social connections in general contributed to the spread of the truth, but that the servile class were especially susceptible’ (C. von Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, Eng. translation , i. 2 [1897] 397). As the salutation to these Christians is preceded by a greeting to ‘Herodion my kinsman,’ it is conjectured that Herodion was a member of the household of Narcissus and the nucleus of the community or church. Some scholars think that the mention of this household is conclusive in favour of the Roman destination of Romans 16, but to others, in view of the strong probability that the chapter belong to a letter to the Church at Ephesus, it seems quite reasonable to suppose that there was a ‘household of Narcissus’ known to St. Paul in that city.

T. B. Allworthy.

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

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