Epaphroditus

EPAPHRODITUS (ē-păf-rō-dī'tŭs, Gr. Epaphroditos, lovely). The messenger sent by the Philippian church with gifts to the imprisoned Paul, which he gratefully received as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God (Phil.4.18). On recovering from a serious illness, Epaphroditus longed to return to his concerned flock. Paul highly esteemed him as “brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier,” and sent him back to Philippi with his letter (Phil.2.25-Phil.2.30).


EPAPHRODITUS ĭ păf’ rə dī təs (̓Επαφρόδιτος, G2073, handsome, charming). A member of the Philippian church who brought an offering to Paul at Rome (Phil 2:25-30; 4:18).

His Gr. name, corresponding to the Lat. Venustus (belonging to Venus), indicated a non-Jewish origin. The name was common in both its Gr. and Lat. forms. It was also common in a contracted form, Epaphras. There is no evidence to identify him with the Epaphras from Colossae (Col 1:7; 4:12).

Epaphroditus was an esteemed member of the Philippian church; that he was an officer is not certain. He was commissioned to deliver the church’s offering to Paul (Phil 4:18) and to stay and help him (2:25, 30). In relation to the Philippians Paul calls him “your messenger and minister to my need,” sent to serve Paul on their behalf. He became dangerously ill at Rome “for the work of Christ.” His sickness possibly came from exposure on the trip, but more prob. from overexertion in fulfilling his commission at Rome, “risking his life to complete your service to me.”

After his slow recovery Paul felt it best to send Epaphroditus back home. He was distressed because of anxiety for him at Philippi and longed to return. Paul sent him back with the letter to the Philippians and asked them to receive Epaphroditus “in the Lord with all joy.” Paul’s description of Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier” indicates his own high esteem of him.

Bibliography

Commentaries in loc. J. A. Beet, “Epaphroditus and the gift from Philippi,” The Expositor, 3rd ser. IX (1889), 64-66; H. S. Seekings, The Men of the Pauline Circle (1914), 157-164; H. C. Lees, St. Paul’s Friends (1918), 192-209; A. T. Robertson, Types of Preachers in the NT (1922), 230-238.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Epaphroditos, "lovely"):

Mentioned only in Php 2:25; 4:18. The name corresponds to the Latin Venustus (= handsome), and was very common in the Roman period. "The name occurs very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus, or in its contracted form Epaphras" (Lightfoot, Philippians, 123). Epaphroditus was the delegate of the Christian community at Philippi, sent with their gift to Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul calls him "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier." "The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering" (Lightfoot, l. c.). On his arrival at Rome, Epaphroditus devoted himself to "the work of Christ," both as Paul’s attendant and as his assistant in missionary work. So assiduously did he labor that he lost his health, and "was sick nigh unto death." He recovered, however, and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness. Paul besought for him that the church should receive him with joy and hold him in honor.