Roman Faith Households
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Rome Congregations 103

Probably Centering on the City

Household GardenRoman faith households did not operate like the Corinthian church. This, according to Robert Banks, explains the rather unusual greeting in Romans 1.7, "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints" instead of the "church" or "churches," as Saint Paul writes in other letters for example 1 Corinthians 1.2 or Galatians 1.2. Banks argues that since "ecclesia" for Saint Paul "cannot refer to a group of people scattered throughout a locality unless they all actually gather together, it is not possible for him to describe all the Christians in Rome as Roman faith households." E. Earl Ellis in "Pauline Theology - Ministry and Society" also argues that "the whole church of Rome never assembled in one place."

Disguised Households

In Romans 16, other Roman faith households may be distinguished. The "brothers" with Hermas may refer to Roman households used both for Christian workers and for congregational meetings. The believers "from Caesar's household" in Philippians 4.21-22, "Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.["amen" absent in some manuscripts]" The Roman synagogues of the Augustesians and the Agrippesians, were probably congregations centering on the freedmen and slaves of those two households and meeting there. It is likely that they belonged to Narcissus, the wealthy freedman and confidant of the emperor Claudius, and to Aristobulus, the brother of Herod Agrippa I, who had lived in Rome. Upon their deaths, their households presumably became part of the imperial holdings but continued to be identified by their names in Romans 16.14. Various Roman households were run by either Jewish or Gentile believers.✞

"Roman Faith Households"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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