Euodia (pronounced: ev-OD-eeyah) and Syntyche (pronounced: SEEN-tee-kee) are members of the community in Philippi whom Paul addresses by name in Philippians 4:2–3.
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.Philippians 4:2-3
As readers of Philippians, we encounter Euodia and Syntyche only briefly toward the end of the letter when Paul exhorts them “to be of one mind in the Lord” (Phil 4:2). Paul says very little about who these two women are and their role in the community. Their names are names typically given to enslaved people in the Roman world. Euodia’s name means “good journey” or “sweet smell” (see Phil 4:18) depending on how we spell it—sadly for us, there were not standardized spellings in antiquity! Syntyche’s name means “good luck.” At the time of the letter, these women were enslaved, or most likely had been enslaved at one point in their lives. But their mention by name means that they were important leaders in the community—after all, they were physically in Philippi when Paul was not. The letter suggests that they are contentious, an impediment to same thinking. Philippians, however, does not specify against whom they are contending.
Facts you need to know…
- Paul writes the letter to the Philippians from an imperial guard camp where he has been detained (Phil 1:12–15). Called the Praetorian Guard, these were elite Roman imperial soldiers—perhaps like our special military services.
- Detainment did not mean Paul was living in a prison cell, but it did mean that someone from outside the Praetorian needed to clothe, feed, nurse, and provide for other needs Paul may have had. Often a detainee’s family and friends sent an enslaved person to the camp to fulfilled this role—we assume that the Philippians sent Epaphroditus.
- Throughout the Greek version of the letter this profit is the common work of the partnership between the Philippians, Christ, and Paul. Later in Philippians 4:15–19, Paul writes about receiving the profit in the Philippian community’s account as support for his time with the Praetorian.
In Philippians we hear how Paul characterizes Euodia and Syntyche and his remedy for what Paul understands as a problem. Through sacred imagination we might hear Syntyche’s frustration and perhaps even a little contempt for his mission—which is different from Syntyche and Euodia’s mission for equality for all bodies. Listen to Syntyche’s side of the story.
Questions for Reflection
- Whose “same mind” is implied in Paul’s instructions? Should they be of the same mind with each other as sisters “in the Lord?” Or should they have the same mind as Paul? Or Jesus? You may want to go back to Philippians, chapter 2 to help you answer this question.
- What are the benchmarks of unity in the gospel? Within our families? In our church communities? Among multiple church communities? What is the role of multiple perspectives in our communities? How can this contribute to unity?
- How has your faith journey helped you hear different perspectives in your life? How might your faith help you hear perspectives that are missing or silent?
Resources for Further Study
- Divine Accounting: Theo-economics in Philippians
- The Praetorian Guard
- Women Leaders in the Philippian Church
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Katherine A. Shaner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She is also a pastor in the ELCA. In her free time she enjoys hiking, cooking, and helping her furry dog-friend, Karl Bark, finish his life’s work of snuggling and playing with stuffed bunnies daily.