EPAPHRAS AND EPAPHRODITUS (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

There are two characters whose names are similar. They are Epaphras and Epaphroditus. Bible scholar John L MaKenzie, S.J. in “Dictionary of the Bible” says that “Greek (name) Epaphras is a shortened form of Greek Epaphroditus, highly desirable. The two names probably belong to the same individual” (p. 239).

The biblical scholars like Herbert Lockyer and Ronald Brownrigg treat the two characters as two separate individuals. Except for their names and their association with Paul there is nothing to suggest that they are one and the same person. Here we take them as two separate individuals and treat them separately in this same article.

“EPAPHRAS, A FAITHFUL WORKER”

Paul acknowledges Epaphras as a fellow-servant and Christ’s faithful worker in his letter to Colossians.

Epaphras came to Rome from Colossae to meet Paul in prison. Both Paul and Epaphras have worked together building up the Christian community at Colossae. Now Epaphras brings good news for Paul in prison about the faith of the believers in Colossae. Paul writes, “For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all God’s people. When the true message, the Good News, first came to you, you heard about the hope it offers. So your faith and love are based on what you hope for, which is kept safe for you in heaven” (Col. 1, 4-5).

Epaphras has worked closely with Paul that Paul calls him “our dear fellow servant”. The believers at Colossae not only learnt of God’s grace from Epaphras but they also loved all God’s people. Paul acknowledges that Epaphras has told him about their love. “You learnt of God’s grace from Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is Christ’s faithful worker on our behalf. He has told us of the love that the Spirit has given you” (Col 1, 7-8).

We learn from Paul’s letter to the Colossians that Epaphras was a person of fervent prayer. At the end of his letter to the Colossians Paul includes the greetings from Epaphras and testifys his hard work. Paul writes “Greetings from Epaphras, another member of your group and a servant of Christ Jesus. He always prays fervently for you, asking God to make you stand firm, as mature and fully convinced Christians, in complete obedience to God’s will. I can personally testify to his hard work for you and for the people in Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Col 4, 12-13).

Before Paul sent Epaphras back to Colossae with his letter, Epaphras was in some sense a fellow prisoner with Paul. Paul has acknowledged this fact in his letter to Philemon. Paul writes, “Epaphras, who is in prison with me for the sake of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings” (Phil.23).

Epaphras may be described as a person for others as he works and prays genuinely for his fellow believers at Colossae.

“EPAPHRODITUS, MY BROTHER”

The Greek name Epaphroditus means ‘lovely’ handsome, charming. Epaphroditus is a trustworthy messenger between the Christian community at Philippi and Paul in prison at Rome.

Paul has written a full paragraph about Epaphroditus in his letter to Philippian Christian community. Paul describes him as a brother and a messenger. “I have thought it necessary to send you our brother Epaphroditus, who has worked and fought by my side and who has served as your messenger in helping me. He is anxious to see you all and is very upset because you had heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had pity on him, and not only on him but on me, too, and spared me an even greater sorrow. I am all the more eager, then, to send him to you, so that you will be glad again when you see him, and my own sorrow will disappear. Receive him, then, with joy, as a brother in the Lord. Show respect to all such people as he, because he risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ, in order to give me the help that you yourselves could not give” (Phil. 2, 25-30).

Paul is grateful to the believers in the Church at Philippi – the first church which Paul established in the Roman province of Macedonia in Europe. They helped Paul when he was in trouble. So Paul wrote the letter to thank them for the gifts they sent through Epaphroditus.

Then Epaphroditus must have remained and worked with Paul for a considerable time. While he was with Paul he fell ill and nearly died. Paul then sent back Epaphroditus with his letter to Philippians.

Paul acknowledges in the letter that, “You Philippians know very well that when I left Macedonia in the early days of preaching the Good News, you were the only Church to help me; you were the only ones who shared my profits and losses. More than once when I needed help in Thessalonica, you sent it to me. It is not that I just want to receive gifts; rather, I want to see profit added to your account. Here, then, is my receipt for everything you have given me - and it has been more than enough! I have all I need now that Epaphroditus has brought me all your gifts. (Phil. 4, 15-18).

In Paul’s biography portrays Epaphroditus as a commendable character and a kindly person as well as a dear companion to Paul. contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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