Aquila was a Jew, a native of the Asiatic province of Pontus (Acts 18:2). His name, common among slaves and freedmen, is Lat.; he doubtless had a Heb. name. Under what circumstances he came to Rome is not known. He may have been a slave in a Rom. household and later gained his freedom. Since the race of Priscilla is not mentioned, she prob. was non-Jewish, but may have become a proselyte before marrying Aquila. Four out of six times her name stands before that of Aquila (Acts 18:18, 26 [not in KJV]; Rom 16:3; 2 Tim 4:19). This prominence has been explained as due to her superior ability and zeal, or that she had a higher social standing than Aquila as a member of an old Rom. family.
Their trade as “tentmakers” (Acts 18:3) may mean that they wove the tent cloth, or cut and sewed the tents. That it means “leather workers” is questionable; Paul’s Pharisee father would scarcely teach his son such a trade. Paul’s working partnership with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:3) resulted in a lasting association of friendship and Christian service. Whether they already were Christians when Paul met them is uncertain. The relationship soon led them into a deep experiential understanding of Christianity.
Aquila and Priscilla had settled in Corinth because of the edict of Claudius c. 49/50 expelling all Jews from Rome. The comment of Suetonius (Claudius, 25) may mean that the expulsion was due to disturbances among the Jews because of Christianity.
So profitable and mutually satisfactory did their association with Paul prove to Aquila and Priscilla, that they agreed to shift their business to Ephesus when Paul planned to begin work there (Acts 18:18, 19). Paul left them at Ephesus to lay the groundwork while he made a trip to Jerusalem. After hearing Apollos in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila “expounded to him the way of God more accurately” (18:26). The order of their names indicates that Priscilla was the leading spirit in this ministry to Apollos.
They were still in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians; they sent greetings “together with the church in their house” (1 Cor 16:19). Eager to use their home for the Lord, they threw it open as a regular place of assembly for believers in Ephesus. That Paul continued to stay with them during his ministry at Ephesus is clear (asserted in some MSS, 1 Cor 16:19).
Where and when Priscilla and Aquila “risked their necks” for Paul’s life is uncertain (Rom 16:4). It was a witness to their love and high esteem for Paul.
When on the third journey Paul wrote the Book of Romans from Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila were back in Rome and again had a church in their home (Rom 16:3, 5). The greeting to them in 2 Timothy 4:19 indicates that they had returned to the E, apparently Ephesus. The fact that they were the first to be greeted indicates their close relationship with Paul (op. cit. Rom and 2 Tim).
The suggestion of Harnack that Priscilla, aided by her husband, wrote Hebrews is unconvincing.
A Harnack, ZNW, I (1900), 16-18; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1909), 267-269; H. S. Seekings, The Men of the Pauline Circle (1914), 97-103; H. C. Lees, St. Paul’s Friends (1917), 47-67; A. T. Robertson, Types of Preachers in the NT (1922), 52-70; G. S. Duncan, St. Paul’s Ephesian Ministry (1929), 26, 27, 68, 156, 157, 207; F. J. Foakes-Jackson, The Acts of the Apostles (1931), 168-170; E. Deen, All of the Women of the Bible (1955), 227-230; W. S. LaSor, Great Personalities of the NT (1961), 138-146.