Phoebe was a Prominent Woman in the Early Church who was of great support to Paul’s ministry.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. ROMANS 16:1
Scholars debate whether Phoebe was a deacon in the formal sense of the word or some kind of lay servant or minister. Either way, she was a woman of prominence who made a significant contribution to the church not just for those in Paul’s day but for all the ages.
Paul provided little detail concerning the woman mentioned in the closing chapter of Romans only that Phoebe was from Cenchrea, a seaport near Corinth (located in present-day Greece). It is likely that Paul wrote his letter to the Roman church while staying either at Corinth or nearby Cenchrea.
When Paul described Phoebe as a servant, he used the Greek word diakonos. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the same word is used for the formal office of deacon. Many scholars believe that it is impossible to tell whether this is the sense of the word that Paul intended in Romans 16:1, but it is clear that Phoebe was an important member of the church and
played a vital role in supporting Paul’s ministry. Perhaps she provided encouragement or financial assistance or hospitality or all of the above.
Very likely, Paul and Phoebe worshipped side by side in the church at Cenchrea.
Over time, Paul developed great trust in Phoebe. The reference to her near the end of Romans was meant to serve as a letter of introduction.
Evidently it was Phoebe who delivered Paul’s letter to the church at Rome a six-hundred-mile journey over land and sea. Without Phoebe, the great servant of the church, we would not have in our possession what is perhaps Paul’s greatest theological contribution: the letter to the Romans.
Do you know? The name Phoebe, which means “radiant,” was another name for the Greek goddess Artemis. It is likely that Paul’s friend Phoebe was a pagan convert to the Christian faith perhaps even a former worshipper of Artemis.