Euodia and Syntyche

Euodia (Greek Εὐοδία, meaning unclear, but possibly "sweet fragrance"[1][2] or "prosperous journey"[3]) and Syntyche (Συντύχη, "fortunate," literally "with fate") are people mentioned in the New Testament. They were female members of the church in Philippi, and according to the text of Philippians 4: 2-3, they were involved in a disagreement together. The author of the letter, Paul the Apostle, whose writings generally reveal his misgivings that internal disunity will seriously undermine the church, beseeched the two women to "agree in the Lord". Euodia was the old name of a plant genus that has been changed to Tetradium.

Gender confusion[edit]

Despite the clear context and gender agreement of the original Greek text, the Authorised Version of the Bible incorrectly assigns Euodia the name "Euodias" (the male gender version of the name) and thus makes the quarrel appear to be between a man and a woman. According to some sources,[4] there was a historical theory that Euodias (male) was the gaoler of Philippi (see Acts 16: 25-34) and Syntyche was his wife. This theory is rejected by modern scholarship, not least because of the clarity in the original text that both characters are female. As a Roman colony, Philippi gave a level of independence to women that was not common in most Greek cities of the period; this may account for the prominence of the women and their disagreement.

There are references to a "Euodia" (again mistaking the name as a male form) in the document Apostolic Constitutions, which purports to be a set of writings of the twelve Apostles of Jesus, but is in fact a bogus source, dated to the fourth century AD, and believed to originate in Syria.[5]

Models of female leadership[edit]

Not surprisingly, Euodia and Syntyche are chiefly remembered as two people who had an argument, and their names are most commonly associated with disagreement.[6][7] However, for some commentators, as also for some church institutions, there is further significance in the implied leadership role of the two women within the Philippian church. This leadership role, which some have suggested included ordained ministry, is taken to be implied both by Paul's interest in their argument, and by the language used by Paul in addressing their disagreement.[8]

Unnamed arbitrator[edit]

In an unsolved mystery, arising in verse 3 of the passage, Paul calls upon an unnamed individual, charging him to intervene directly to assist in ending the quarrel between Euodia and Syntyche. According to different translations, Paul addresses this person as "my true yokefellow" or "my true comrade". This has led to speculation about the identity of this helper. Timothy, Silas, and others have been suggested. Timothy may perhaps be considered less likely, as he is named in the introduction as a fellow author of the letter, with Paul (Philippians 1:1). Peter Toon, in his commentary, wrote "His identity is not known, but he was probably a respected and influential member of the church whose word would be heeded".[9] William Barclay, after discussing various possible identities, states "Maybe the best suggestion is that the reference is to Epaphroditus, the bearer of the letter."[10]

Conclusion of the argument[edit]

The exact nature of the disagreement is unknown. Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary, to which sections on the epistles were added posthumously by the editors under George Burder, introduces a theory that the women's argument may have been jointly prosecuted by them against the wider church, although it also posits the more traditional view that they disagreed with one another.[11]:664

Either way, the commentary is clear that disagreement and disunity were undermining church life. There are no extant sources (biblical or otherwise) to suggest the outcome of the argument. Nonetheless, it is often cited in contemporary church life as part of a call to build unity within congregations and churches.[12]


  1. ^ See definition here. Archived 2012-03-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ See definition here.
  3. ^ See possible alternative definition here.
  4. ^ See, for example, William Barclay, "The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians", published by The St Andrew Press (Edinburgh), Revised Edition 1975, pages 72-73.
  5. ^ Wikipedia, "Apostolic Constitutions", (Global), 2014.
  6. ^ As in the article Euodias - The woman who fell out with her friend.
  7. ^ "Euodia". Bible Study Tools/International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Retrieved 6 December 2017. Whatever the subject in dispute was, it had become so serious that, instead of the breach being healed, matters had become chronic; and news regarding this lack of forbearance between Euodia and Syntyche had been carried to Paul in his captivity in Rome.
  8. ^ See Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi | Marg Mowczko which discusses the women's roles as female church leaders.
  9. ^ Peter Toon, "Philippians" (Kingsway Bible Studies), Kingsway Publications (Eastbourne), 1979, page 27.
  10. ^ William Barclay, "The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians", The St Andrew Press (Edinburgh), Revised Edition 1975, page 74.
  11. ^ Henry, Matthew (1960) [1710/1811]. "Philippians". In Church, Leslie (ed.). Matthew Henry's Commentary on the whole Bible (Broad Oak ed.). Marshall, Morgan, & Scott Ltd. Euodias and Syntyche, it seems, were at variance, either one with the other or with the church.
  12. ^ "Building Unity: the Story of Euodia and Syntyche". Grace Communion International. Retrieved 6 December 2017.