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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Aquila

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(Ἀκύλας, for Lat. aquila, an eagle, see Simon. Onomast. O.T. p. 588 sq.), a Jew with whom Paul met on his first visit to Corinth; a native of Pontus, and by occupation a tent-maker (Acts 18). Wolf, Curae, on Acts 18:2, shows the name not to have any Hebrew origin, and to have been adopted as a Latin name, like Paulus by Saul. He is there described as a Pontian by birth (Ποντικὸς τῷ γένει ), from the connection of which description with the fact that we find more than one Pontius Aquila in the Pontian gens at Rome in the days of the Republic (see Cic. ad Fam. 10:33; Suet. Cces. 78), it has been imagined that he may have been a freedman of a Pontius Aquila, and that his being a Pontian by birth may have been merely an inference from his name. But besides that this is a point on which Luke could hardly be ignorant; Aquila, the translator of the O.T. into Greek, was also a native of Pontus. At the time when Paul found Aquila at Corinth, he had fled, with his wife Priscilla, from Rome, in consequence of an order of Claudius commanding all Jews to leave Rome (Suet. Claud. 25-"Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit:" (See CLAUDIUS)).

He became acquainted with Paul, and they abode together, and wrought at their common trade of making the Cilician tent or hair-cloth. See PAUL. This decree was made, not by the senate, but the emperor (A.D. 50 or 51), and lasted only during his life, if even so long. Comp. Neander, Planting and Training, 1, 231; Lardner, Testimonies of Heathen Authors, ch. 8. Whether Aquila and Priscilla were at that time converts to the Christian faith cannot be positively determined; Luke's expression, "came unto them" (προσῆλθεν οὐτοῖς ), Acts 18:2, rather implies that Paul sought their society on grounds of friendship than for the purpose of persuading them to embrace Christianity. On the other hand, if we suppose that they were already Christians, Paul's "joining himself to them" is highly probable; while, if they were still adherents to Judaism, they would have been less disposed than even unconverted Gentiles to form an intimacy with the apostle. But if Aquila had been converted before his first meeting with Paul, the word μαθητής, "disciple," would hardly have been omitted. At all events, they had embraced Christianity before Paul left Corinth; for on his departure from Corinth, a year and six months after, Priscilla and Aquila accompanied him to Ephesus on his way to Syria. There they remained; and when Apollos came to Ephesus, who "knew only the baptism of John," they "instructed him in the way of God more perfectly" (Acts 18:25-26). From that time they appear to have been zealous promoters of the Christian cause in that city (1 Corinthians 16:19). Paul styles them his "helpers in Christ Jesus," and intimates that they had exposed themselves to imminent danger on his account (" who have for my life laid down their own necks," Romans 16:3-4), though of the time. and place of this transaction we have no information. At the time of writing 1 Corinithians, Aquila and his wife were still in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19); but in Romans 16:3 sq., we find them again at Rome, and their house a place of assembly for the Christians. Some years after they appear to have returned to Ephesus, for Paul sends salutations to them during his second imprisonment at Rome (2 Timothy 4:19), as being with Timothy. Their occupation as tent-makers probably rendered it necessary for them to keep a number of workmen constantly resident in their family, and to these (to such of them, at least, as had embraced the Christian faith) may refer the remarkable expression, "the church that is in their house, τὴν κατ᾿ οϊ v κον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίαν (see Biscoe, quoted in Lardner's Credibility, 2, 11).

Origen's explanation of these words is very similar (In Ep. ad Romans Comment. 10; Opera, 7:431, Berol. 1837). Neander suggests that, as Aquila would require extensive premises for his manufactory, he perhaps set apart one room for the use of a section of the Church in whatever place he fixed his residence, and that, as his superior Christian knowledge and piety qualified him for the office of a "teacher" (διδάσκαλος ), he gave religious instruction to this small assembly. The salutations to individuals which follow the expression in Romans 16:5, show that they were not referred to in it, and are quite inconsistent with the supposition that the whole Church met in Aquila's house. Nor is it probable that the collective body of Christians in Rome or elsewhere would alter their place of meeting on Aquila's return (see Neander, Gesch. d. Chr. Rel. u. Kirche, I, 2, 402, 503; comp. Justini Martyris Opera, Append. 2, p. 586, Par. 1742). Tradition reports that he and his wife were beheaded. The Greek Church call Aquila bishop and apostle, and honor him on July 12 (Menalog. Graec. 2, 185). The festival of Aquila and Priscilla is placed in the Roman Calendar, where he is denoted bishop of Heraclea, on July 8 (Martyrol. Roman.). (See PRISCILLA).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Aquila'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/aquila.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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