Lydia

LYDIA (lĭd'ĭ-a, Gr. Lydia). Paul’s first convert in Europe. She resided in Philippi as a seller of the purple garments for which Thyatira, her native city, was famous. She was evidently well-to-do, as she owned her house and had servants. She was “a worshiper of God,” meaning a proselyte. She and other women, probably also proselytes, resorted to a place by a river for prayer. She came into contact with the gospel when Paul and his company came there and spoke to the women, and she became a believer. After she and her household had been baptized, she invited the group to come to her home to stay, and they did so (Acts.16.14-Acts.16.15). Her home thus became the first church in Philippi (Acts.16.40).

As Lydia was from a city in the kingdom of Lydia, and her name was the common term to denote a woman from Lydia, some scholars have suggested that her personal name was unknown, or that she may be either Euodia or Syntyche mentioned in Phil.4.2 by Paul as women who labored with him in the gospel.


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LYDIA, lĭd’ ĭ ə (Λυδία, G3376). A business woman from Thyatira residing at Philippi and Paul’s first convert there (Acts 16:12-15, 40). Her name, while common for women (cf. Horace Odes 1. 8. 1; 3. 9. 7ff.), may be an adjectival form, “the Lydian woman,” as indicating her origin, since Thyatira was in Lydia. She is identified as “a seller of purple goods.” Like all of Lydia, Thyatira was noted for its dyeing industry and production of purple dyed garments which were highly prized and costly. She doubtless was the agent in Philippi of a local firm in her native city. Her trade implies that she was a woman of some means. She may have been carrying on the business of her deceased husband.

Lydia is further described as “a worshiper of God,” the usual designation for a Jewish proselyte. She prob. had accepted the Jewish faith in her native city, for it had a strong Jewish colony. At Philippi she faithfully participated in the sabbath services at the place of prayer by the riverside. After listening to Paul’s message there she was converted. Following her baptism “with her household,” presumably her servants and their dependents, she urged Paul and his co-workers to make her home their headquarters. That all this occurred on the first Sabbath need not be assumed. Her home apparently became the meeting place of the local church (v. 40). Lydia’s own hospitality doubtless did much to foster the unique financial relations between Paul and the Philippian church (Phil 4:15, 16).

Lydia is not mentioned in the Philippian letter. The omission has been accounted for in two ways: that she had left Philippi or had died; that Lydia was not her personal name, but she was one of the two women mentioned in 4:2. The suggestion that she was the “true yokefellow” of 4:3, or even Paul’s wife, is sheer fancy.

Bibliography

W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller (1909), 214, 215; W. M. Furneaux, The Acts of the Apostles (1912), 261, 262; F. W. Foakes-Jackson and K. Lake, BC (1933), IV; V, 86, 87; F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the Book of the Acts (1954), 331f.; C. W. Carter and R. Earle. The Acts of the Apostles (1959), 234, 235.