Who were Euodia and Syntyche in the Bible?Euodia and Syntyche are two women briefly mentioned in Paul's letter to the Philippians. Paul wrote, "I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, 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" (Philippians 4:2–3). Because this is the only mention of Euodia or Syntyche in the Bible, what we know must be drawn from these short verses.
Starting with the last item Paul mentioned, he declared that Euodia's and Syntyche's names are in the book of life. These two women were fellow believers with Paul and therefore were sisters in Christ with Paul and with each other. However, from Paul's earlier statement, we see they were not merely fellow believers. Paul says that Euodia and Syntyche were "fellow workers" "who have labored side by side with me in the gospel" (Philippians 4:3). So these women have had a vital role in spreading the gospel in Philippi and perhaps elsewhere too. They worked side by side with Paul "together with Clement," who was a man. Euodia and Syntyche engaged in the same gospel-spreading work that Paul and Clement did right alongside these men. They were obviously faithful women who knew the gospel and loved the Lord.
From Paul's first request that they "agree in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2) and his petition that others "help these women" (Philippians 4:3), we learn that Euodia and Syntyche must have been struggling with a disagreement. This dispute was serious enough that news of it had reached Paul during his imprisonment in Rome (Philippians 1:13). Paul did not declare that either woman was right and the other was wrong. Thus their disagreement must not have been a theological one, which Paul would have settled by definitively separating right teaching from false teaching. Paul did not even use his authority to command or demand that they cease from disputing. Rather he used a humbler approach of entreating, beseeching, or urging each woman to come to agreement with her sister in Christ and coworker in spreading the gospel. He also recognized that Euodia and Syntyche were not likely to be able to come to agreement without outside help. Thus, he asked that his friend (or perhaps the whole community) help these women.
Paul often called church communities to live in unity. He wrote to the church in Corinth, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). He urged the church in Ephesus to live "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2–3). He elaborated to the church in Colossae that this unity is achieved by "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:13–14). It was common for church communities to have disagreements and disputes. Paul's request that Euodia and Syntyche "agree in the Lord" is a more specific and direct entreaty of this larger theme of unity.
Paul's approach in the letter to the Philippian church set an example for the people in Philippi of how to help bring unity between these two women. First, Paul did not take sides in the argument; doing so would have only caused more division. Secondly, he addressed the women with humility by not demanding or commanding, thereby affirming each woman's autonomy and free will to commit to the relationship. He then highlighted their shared identity as sisters in Christ and reminded them of their shared history as fellow co-workers. Recognizing the other party in a dispute as a brother or sister in Christ reminds believers that ultimately we are on the same team and not enemies of one another. By recalling a shared history of happier times together, disputing parties often find it easier to imagine happier times ahead. This mutual respect from Paul, recognition of their shared identity in Christ, and recollection of their previous unity would set the stage for Euodia and Syntyche to start to settle their disagreement. It would also provide an example of how believers in Philippi could support these women as they worked toward agreement and unity.
With just these two short verses in the letter to the Philippian church, so much can be learned about settling disputes, living in unity, and God's call on both men and women to spread the gospel together.
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