We are looking at the long list of greetings that Paul sent to the church at Rome. Twice in the list, Paul refers to people as his Ďrelatives' (verses 7 and 11; also in verse 21), and once to someone as his Ďmotherí (verse 13).
There is only one definite reference in the Bible to a relative of Paulís. In Acts 23:16-22, the son of Paulís sister acted in order to save Paulís life. Probably that relative did not believe in Christ; his act of kindness was rare for a relative of the first Christians. Rarely did a whole family become Christians; more often, the message about Christ separated families (Matthew 10:35-37).
So the reference to Ďrelativesí in Romans chapter 16 may mean that these men, like Paul, were Jews. All the Jews come from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so their whole nation is one family. Paul uses the word for Ďrelativesí with this meaning in Romans 9:3.
However, Paulís subject in many of these greetings is a personís relationship with God. All Christians are brothers and sisters in Godís family (Mark 3:31-35); therefore, they are all relatives.
The reference to Rufus (verse 13), whose mother is also called Paulís Ďmotherí, is especially interesting. Perhaps this same Rufus was the son of Simon, from Cyrene, who carried Christís cross (Mark 15:21). Perhaps that same Simon became a leader of the church at Antioch with Paul, then called Saul (Acts 13:1). Perhaps at that time, Rufusís mother looked after Paul, as if she was Paulís own mother. However, that can only be a guess.
At the end of Paulís list, he urges Romeís Christians to greet each other like a family (16:16). He wanted them to have true love in their hearts for each other (1 Corinthians chapter 13). Therefore, they should be friendly; they too should greet each other.
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© 2018, Keith Simons.