Archippus

ARCHIPPUS (ar-kĭp'ŭs, master of the horse). A Christian at Colosse, conspicuous as a champion of the gospel, a close friend (perhaps the son) of Philemon, an office-bearer in the church (Col.4.17; Phlm.1.2). Because of the spiritual laxity at Colosse (like Laodicea, Rev.3.14-Rev.3.19), it is not surprising to find that Paul exhorts his fellow soldier to maintain his zeal and fidelity.


ARCHIPPUS är kĭp’ əs (̓Άρχιππος, G800, master of the horse). A Christian worker included in the salutation of the letter to Philemon (v. 2) and exhorted in Colossians 4:17.

From the association of his name with Philemon and Apphia, it is generally assumed that Archippus was the son, or possibly brother, of Philemon. “Our fellow soldier” indicates his aggressive participation in the Christian warfare. The reference may be to some past joint conflict with Paul during his Ephesian ministry or to the present battle of Archippus with the Colossian heresy.

Paul wrote to the Colossians, “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfil the ministry which you have received in the Lord’” (Col 4:17). This naturally connects Archippus with the Colossian church. From the context some have inferred that he ministered in neighboring Laodicea. “Ministry” points to some function in the church entrusted to him, perhaps pastoral oversight of the churches in the Lycus Valley during the absence of Epaphras. Paul’s exhortation to Archippus through the church is his own approval of that appointment. The injunction, resembling that given Timothy (1 Tim 4:16), need not imply actual dereliction of duty; it is a sympathetic concern that with earnest watchfulness he fulfill his difficult assignment.

John Knox suggested an ingenious reconstruction of the circumstances. He held that Archippus was the principle addressee of the letter to Philemon, that the Colossian church met in his house, and that he was the owner of the slave Onesimus. He regarded Philemon as the overseer of the churches of the Lycus Valley, residing in Laodicea. Philemon, equated with the letter mentioned in Colossians 4:16, was first sent to Philemon to gain his backing for Paul’s request to Archippus to “fulfil the ministry,” namely, to return Onesimus to him as a missionary aide.

The reconstruction is dubious. Knox’s position would be strengthened by reversing the position of Archippus and Philemon (cf. W. G. Rollins, JBL, LXXVIII [1959], 277f.). It would make the sing. pronoun “thou” consistently refer to Philemon and account for the church “in your house” rather than “his house.” His view of Archippus’ “ministry” as the release of Onesimus is inadequate, which from the context is clearly a service committed to him in the church. The common view which makes Philemon the real recipient of the letter and owner of the slave is most satisfactory.

According to tradition Archippus was stoned to death, with Philemon and Apphia, at Chonae, near Laodicea. His last inclusion among the Seventy is incredible.

Bibliography

J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon (1900), 42f., 306-308; R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of Colossians...and Philemon (1937), 206f., 966; C. F. Moule, The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon (1957), 14-21; J. Knox, Philemon Among the Letters of Paul (rev. ed., 1959); H. M. Carson, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and Philemon (1960), 18-21; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT (1964), 307-309.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Addressed by Paul in his letter to Philem, as "our fellow-soldier"; probably a member of Philem’s family circle, holding some official position in the church (Col 4:17; Phm 1:2). See Apphia. The tradition that he was one of the seventy disciples, became bishop of Laodicea and later became a martyr, seems to have little historical foundation.