Tryphena. Tryphosa. Persis. The names sound like something you’d find on the back of a bottle of amino acid supplements. But, actually, they’re the names of women who served the ancient Christian church.
Mentioned in Romans 16 alongside these women are several other women who, while aren’t well known, are perhaps a bit more familiar: Phoebe, Prisca (Priscalla), Miriam, Junia, and Julia.
On my most recent reading of this chapter in Romans, the names of these women caught my attention in a new way. I think initially it was just the number of them that jumped out at me—there are a total of 10 women listed, 8 of them by name (Paul, the author of Romans, also greets Rufus’ mother and Nereus’ sister).
Then there were the interesting things I learned in the footnotes, such as the fact that some Bible scholars believe Tryphena and Tryphosa were royal twin sisters from eastern Crimea.
But, ultimately, what captivated me was Paul’s brief but dynamic descriptions of these women:
Pheobe was “a shining minister of the church in Cenchrea” (16:1 TPT). She was the one Paul trusted to deliver his important letter to the Romans. He declared that Phoebe was a “great champion and leader for many” (16:2).
Prisca and her husband Aquilla were Paul’s “partners in ministry serving the anointed One, Jesus” (16:3). Paul goes on to state the Prisca and Acquilla “risked their lives to save mine” (16:4).
Miriam “toiled and labored extremely hard to benefit” (16:6) the Romans.
Junia was imprisoned with Paul and was an “outstanding and well known apostle” (16:7).
Tryphena and Tryphosa “diligently served” (16:12) God.
Rufus’s mother was “like a mother” to Paul.
And Persis (whose name means “to take by storm”) was “a faithful minister for the Lord” (16:12).
What brave, courageous, powerful, and passionate women! Prisca risked her life to help Paul and serve God. Junia went to prison. All were faithful women pouring themselves out to strengthen the faith of those around them. Though we don’t know many details about their work or their day-to-day lives, we do know that they helped build the Church and that they were known for their love for God and their fellow Christians. They are the forerunners of all other women of faith through the ages who have carried on sowing spiritual seeds and helping spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As I reflect on the women of Romans 16, I feel such a sense of gratitude for the spiritual foundations they helped lay. Their names may go unnoticed, but their valiant acts created a rich heritage that continues to bear fruit today.
Thinking about these women has also made me feel thankful for the present-day women I know who have followed in the footsteps of our ancient spiritual mothers:
I’m thankful for my mom, who led me in prayer to accept Jesus and gave me my first Bible when I was five years old (as well as numerous other spiritual resources over the years).
I’m thankful for my pastor Nola, who has taught me about faith and the power of speaking God’s Word.
I’m thankful for my friend Liz who has spent countless hours listening to me, praying for me, and helping me navigate a myriad of decisions as I seek to follow God’s will for my life.
I could go on and on. There are so many women, past and present, who have paved the way for me to move forward into all God has for me, all God has for all of us as His daughters, partners, lovers, and friends.
What an amazing tapestry, what a beautiful bouquet of God-loving, world-changing women!
What women have made an impact on your life? Consider women past and present, ancient and modern, women whom you know personally and from afar. Take a moment to thank God for them, and consider taking the time to send them a note letting them know the difference they’ve made in your life.
Then think about the role you play in this symphony of women. You too are a forerunner for someone! Is it your daughter, your classmate, your neighbor, or your friend? Like Tryphena and Tryphosa, yours may not be a household name, but you still have the power to help shape the lives around you for eternity! What a privilege and adventure to be part of making spiritual history!
I want to hear from you!
Who are your spiritual foremothers? Who are you a spiritual forerunner or mother to? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
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You might be interested in these resources from some of the spiritual forerunners I mentioned—they are some of my favorites!
I wrote this post because I’m on a mission to encourage and equip women to live the life of faith, passion, and purpose that we were made for. You can help make a difference by sharing this post with a friend (or friends!) who you think would be encouraged or inspired by it. Thanks!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, with no additional cost to you. I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”