I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honour among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.Romans 16:1-2
This is the only mention of Phoebe. There is no other mention of her name in the Bible. We are told some helpful things and there are other things that we can guess at with a high likelihood of being right.
Phoebe is a pagan Grecian name, the feminine form of the Greek god “Apollos”. So she is likely to have been Greek and a believer. She was a deaconess in the church and lived in Cenchrea. This was a seaport of the Corinthians, about eight or nine miles from Corinth; it was on one side of the Isthmus; Lechea was on the other. In Cenchrea itself was the temple of Venus, a large wooden image and near the sea was a statue of Neptune made of brass.
Some think there was a church there, distinct from that at Corinth, though, being so near, it is very probable that the church of Corinth is called the church of Cenchrea, because their place of meeting might have been there. The “Isthmian” games were celebrated there, to which Paul refers often in his epistles. Gem 389, Gem 1972
She was described as a sister, “our sister”; not in a natural, but a spiritual relationship; one who was a member of the church at Cenchrea. It took money to travel and so it appears she was rich and a woman of means. She was also a generous woman, she served or ministered to the church by relieving the poor; not out of the church’s stock, as deaconesses did, but out of her own means. It appears she also welcomed ministers of the Gospel and strangers into her home, which indicates she was open to all Christians. She was extremely helpful to the church and to all the saints that came. She probably had a group travelling with her as it was dangerous for women to travel alone at that time. But no mention is made of the others, just Phoebe.
Phoebe was one of the women in the church known as “deaconesses.” Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to “teach” other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church. They appear to have been of a common age and experience and likely to have been widows. They were of good reputation and suitable to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced.
Many see her as being the bearer of the letter. They think this because she is the only one in the whole chapter who was commended. It is reasonable to think that Paul was giving this recommendation to support the fact that she bore the letter. It was like a formal introduction or a statement of her office or right to bear the letter. What an amazing privilege to be the one who took Paul’s letter to the Romans, the letter that has blessed so many people down through the ages and been the catalyst for faith for so many great believers down through the ages. Thank you Phoebe for risking your life and for being the stately woman you were. We are all grateful.
My prime source for the information for each of these people is the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia in E-Sword.
You only have one life; squeeze the most out of it.Ian Vail
The secret of managing life is to keep the folks who can’t stand you away from the folks who are undecided.Anon