Epaphroditus is a New Testament figure appearing as an envoy of the Philippian church to assist the Apostle Paul (Phil. 2.25-30). He is regarded as a saint of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, first Bishop of Philippi, and of Andriaca in Asia Minor, and first Bishop of Terracina, Italy. There is little evidence that these were all the same man.
Epaphroditus appears in the New Testament only in the letter to the Philippians (2.25-30, 4.18). This is a “common personal name”, being derived from Aphrodite meaning “lovely” or “charming”; moreover, the proper name is found in the papyri with alternative spelling (81-2 B.C.) – Epaphrodeitos, Epaphrodeiton.
The name was indeed quite common. The name corresponds to the Latin Venustus (= handsome), and was very common in the Roman period. "The name occurs very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus, or in its contracted form Epaphras." Flavius Josephus describes a man by the name of Epaphroditus who was “a man who is a lover of all kind of learning” (Ant. 1.8, Life 430, Against Apion 1.1; 2.1, 296).
Its adjectival use is also evident in the papyrus from the late second century A.D., “during the delightful [te epaphrodeito] praefecture of Larcius Memor” (P. Ryl II. 77.36, A.D. 192).
Some link Epaphroditus with another proper name in the New Testament: Epaphras (Col. 1.7, 4.12; Philm. 23) with the suggestion that the latter is a “contracted” or “pet form” for the Philippian envoy. The connection however is one of coincidence rather than a link for the same person.
John Walvoord writes: "Epaphroditus[...] bore a name commonly used and frequently found in ancient literature, sometimes in its shortened form, Epaphras. He was probably a different person than Epaphros mentioned in Colossians 1.7; 4.12; Philemon 23, an individual who lived in Colosse."
Epaphroditus was the delegate of the Christian community at Philippi, sent with their gift to Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome or at Ephesus. Paul, in 2:25, calls him "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier." "The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering." He is described also as authoritative delegate (αποsτολος, more than messenger, yet not an Apostle, although playing upon the idea of one sent on mission) from the Philippians to Paul (2:25). He was sent also as minister (λειτουργος) to Paul's need (2:25), doing for Paul what the Philippian community was unable to do (2:30). The designation leitourgos derives from Greek civic use, indicating “public servant,” often one with financial resources to fulfill his functions, so Epaphroditus may have been not only an official of the Philippian church, but a person of means, able to supplement that community's gift to Paul (4:18).
On his arrival, Epaphroditus devoted himself to "the work of Christ," both as Paul's attendant and as his assistant in missionary work. So assiduously did he labor that he lost his health, and in the words of Paul:"he was ill, and almost died." He recovered, however, and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness. Paul besought for him that the church should receive him with joy and 'honour men like him'(2:29).
- Frederick F. Bruce, 1989, Philippians, New International Biblical Commentary, New Testament Series, edited by W. Ward Gasque (Repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002), 99; Joseph H. Thayer, C. L. Wilibald Grimm, and C. G. Wilke, 1889, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Repr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1966), 229.
- James Hope Moulton, and George Milligan, 1929, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources (London: Hodder and Stoughton), 230.
- J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians (1868, McGrath ed. 1994) 147.
- Thayer, et al., 229; Moulton and Milligan, 230.
- John F. Walvoord, 1971, Philippians: Triumph in Christ, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press), 71. Lightfoot 72. Funk, Greek Grammar of the NT (1961) 125.
- John Reumann, Philippians, AB (2008) 13-14.
- Lightfoot l48.
- Peterlin, Davorin (1997). Paul's Letter to the Philippians in the Light of Disunity in the Church. Supplements to Novum Testamentum. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 200–5. ISBN 978-90-04-10305-4.