Thursday, April 29, 2010
Y is for Yokefellow
Philippians 4:3 reads, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, and help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
It seems that a couple of prominent women of the Philippian church had been of great help to Paul in the spread of the gospel. Yet it seems that a squabble of some sort of has risen between these two women. The squabble is so great the church at Philippi can’t seem to handle it or the two women and they mentioned this to the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the church at Philippi in order to encourage them to live out their lives as citizens of a heavenly city evidenced by their commitment to one another and their service to God.
Paul includes in this letter of encouragement a plea for these two women to get along. Paul also asks a very special friend of his in this church, whom he called a yokefellow to help these two women settle their difference and to get along.
The Greek word for yokefellow is συζυγος. In extra biblical Greek, that is the Greek usage outside of the bible, yokefellow means companion in any enterprise; a marriage partner, a comrade in arms, and even a business associate.
Philippians 4:3 is the only time this word is used in all of the New Testament. Paul uses it of a person living and serving in the Philippian church. He wants this yokefellow to solve this conflict between Euodia and Syntyche.
I make mention of this because we do not know who this very special comrade, associate, or fellow laborer of Paul was. Several possibilities have been suggested as to who this special person might be. Some of the more prominent and eminent names suggested are:
Epaphroditus – he is the pastor of the Philippian church who brought a love offering to Paul from the church to the prison Paul was being held in.
Luke, the physician – this very special man left his practice to travel with Paul and to help Paul in the various churches that were begun on Paul’s missionary journey. Paul left Luke in Philippi for at least 8 months to help this church get established.
Lydia – the very first convert in Asia Minor and in whose home the Philippian church met in.
Clement of Alexandria said that the very strong use of this endearing term could only mean that Paul was referring to his own wife. We know that since Paul was a member of the Pharisees he had to have been married and even possibly was required to have a son. Since there is no mention of Paul’s wife or children it is speculated that they had died or been killed prior to his Damascus road conversion. So, Clement of Alexandria, this seems a little beyond the pale for me. Not to mention that the adjective “true” which modifies yokefellow is a masculine adjective. This more than likely refers to a man. (Sorry Lydia!)
One last suggestion is that this was actually the man’s name, “Synzygus.” First, this name is nowhere found as a Greek name. Zygus has been found as a Greek name. If Paul is addressing a man named Zygus, he might be reminding this man of his name and its meaning and asking him to live up to his name and step up and help Paul as a fellow yokeman and help these women to “just all get along.”
The dispute does not appear to be doctrinal, if it were Paul would have addressed that very quickly and soundly himself. We don’t know who those the women were and what they were “fussing” about. It was serious however, so serious that Paul pleaded with both of them to resolve the issue (s) and to enlist this special person for assistance.
This special yokeman, this fellow-laborer of Paul must have done the trick. We don’t read anything else about this difficulty or these women again. I just find it interesting to speculate over who Paul’s true yokeman was. It will keep me up until eternity now.
Posted by Gregg Metcalf at 3:00 AM