Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Almost Forgotten


Rom. 16:12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.


In Paul’s final chapter of greetings to the Romans we find many individuals listed.  As we read over the names we can begin to wonder who these people may have been and what had they done.  Most commentators don’t provide us with many clues and just mention that, in the case of this verse, they are women who were faithful in serving God.  Adam Clarke, writing in the 18th century writes:

Two holy women, who it seems were assistants to the apostle in his work, probably by exhorting, visiting the sick, &c. Persis was another woman, who it seems excelled the preceding; for, of her it is said, she laboured much in the Lord. We learn from this, that Christian women, as well as men, laboured in the ministry of the word. In those times of simplicity all persons, whether men or women, who had received the knowledge of the truth, believed it to be their duty to propagate it to the uttermost of their power. Many have spent much useless labour in endeavouring to prove that these women did not preach. (Clarke’s Commentary, Romans 16:12)

What we do know is that these were individuals who were committed to serving the Lord and have almost been forgotten in history.  Digging a little deeper we can find a little bit of information on Tryphaena and realize that while we may simply read over her presence here in the word, people of Paul’s time would have understood the significance of her name. It is believed that this Tryphaena is “Antonia Tryphaena, daughter of Queen Pythodoris, and herself queen of Pontus eventually, for example, was also priestess of Livia under Tiberias  (IGR, 4.144), and of Drusilla and benefactor of the city of Cyzsius during the Principate of Gaius (IGR 4.145).” (Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Ancient West & East, Volume 4, Issue 1 BRILL, Leiden.  2005, 256 pages Originally published as Volume 4 (2005) of Brill's journal "Ancient West & East,"117. )  In other words this is a woman of importance in the region and one who has converted to Christianity and is now a worker in the Lord.

Another record tells us Antonio Tryphaena:

The name given to the only known daughter of Pythodoris and Polemo reflects her descent from Antony.  Her career reflects the growing importance of the dynasty of Pontus, for she married the king of Trace, Cotys VIII, and produced five children, all of whom took a noteworthy place in dynastic politics.  Her children included the last king of Trace, Rhoemetalces III, who died about A.D. 46.  Her daughter, Pythodoris II, married her Thracian cousin, Rhoemetalces II , in a manoeuvre designed in part to repair the dynasty’s fortunes after the murder of Tryphaena’s husband by his own uncle, Rhescuporis III, who paid for the deed with his life.  Another daughter, Gepaepris, was seen by Rostovtzeff as the wife of Aspurgus, king of Bosporus; by his she became the ancestress of a long line of kings there.  And the third son, Cotys IX, ruled Armenia Minor for a number of years, at least until A.D. 47.  Though Antonia Tryphaena goes unnamed by the classical authors, her presence at Cyzicus with her children led to a number of inscribed mentions of her… from the coinage of Tryphaena, we can see at least 18 years in her era, probably down to A.D. 39/40. (Hildegard Temporini, Wolfgang Haase. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. Walter de Gruyter, 1980, 922)

A name that we tend to simply pass over may have been a powerful and influential female ruler in the area of Pontus during the time of Paul.  The significance of her faith in Jesus Christ cannot be overstated and one can only imagine the far reach of her faith and yet, she is almost forgotten. 


These individuals are almost forgotten, but maybe mostly overlooked.  People who would have been well-known in their days, whose names would have had significance really mean little or nothing to us today.  However, there are those serving Jesus Christ today who are easily overlooked and almost forgotten.  They are the hard workers who are always doing all that they can to keep ministry going, and never seek for recognition.  Where would we be without them?

Let me just mention a moment, Lillian Marie. She was my father’s mother — my grandmother.  She served the Lord faithfully as a pastor’s wife for over 50 years in the state of Nebraska.  Life was very difficult for her as they were very poor, struggling to feed their family of three children.  Their daughter, Shirley, had Down’s Syndrome, and back in the day there were those who were convinced that my grandmother had sinned and this child was her punishment.  Even people in the church could be a bit mean.  However, Lillian Marie pushed forward in serving the Lord alongside her husband.  She was a powerful woman with creative energy and ideas and also helped to lead the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).  Most of her life she was only known as Mrs. C.B. Johnson.  She went by the name “Marie” and “worked hard in the Lord.”

It’s too easy for these people to be almost forgotten.  Had Paul not taken the time to list the names of these individuals we would never even know their names today.  He was intentional in thanking those who could have been easily overlooked and this is a great reminder to us as well. 

May we not overlook those who are the faithful, the ones who are making a difference on a daily basis and who are willing to work hard for the Lord.  They are too easily forgotten.  Maybe it will be our remembrance of them that will make a difference in their lives, just as Paul’s intentionality has helped these names not to be lost. 

Take the time today to thank someone who doesn’t get a lot of attention for what they have done.  May we be instruments to help those who might almost be forgotten — to be remembered as examples of faithfulness and transformation in service to the Lord.


Lord, thank you for those faithful who serve you quietly every day.  Amen.

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