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The meaning of Trophimus in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

trof'-i-mus (Trophimos, literally, "a foster child" (Acts 20:4; Acts 21:29; II Timothy 4:20)): An Asiatic Christian, a friend and companion-in-travel of the apostle Paul.

1. An Ephesian:

In the first of the three passages in which Trophimus is mentioned, he and Tychicus are called Asianoi, that is, natives of the Roman province of Asia; and making it still more definite, in Acts 21:29, he is termed an "Ephesian." Trophimus was one of eight friends, who accompanied Paul at the close of his 3rd missionary journey, and traveled with him from Greece through Macedonia into Asia, and onward by sea until Jerusalem was reached (see TYCHICUS). Trophimus went with Paul all the way, for, in the second of the passages referred to, he is mentioned as being with Paul in Jerusalem immediately on the close of this journey.

2. Cause of Paul's Arrest:

He was the innocent cause of Paul being assaulted, in the courts of the temple by the Jewish mob, and then of his being arrested and imprisoned by the Romans. The occasion of this outrage was that the Jews supposed that Paul had "brought Greeks also into the temple, and .... defiled this holy place" (Acts 21:28). The modicum of fact lying at the root of this false accusation was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus in each other's company in the city. On this slender basis "they supposed" that Paul had brought Trophimus past the barrier or middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14; see PARTITION), beyond which no Gentile was allowed to penetrate on pain of death. They supposed that Trophimus who was neither a Jew nor a proselyte, but Gentile Christian, had been introduced into the temple itself by Paul—which would have been profanation. Hence, their fury against the apostle.

How strongly they insisted on the crime which Trophimus was falsely alleged to have committed on that occasion, is seen again in the way in which the orator Tertullus repeated the charge against Paul before the Roman governor Felix, who moreover assayed to profane the temple" (Acts 24:6).

3. At Miletus:

The third reference to Trophimus is in II Timothy 4:20, "Trophimus I left at Miletus sick." This final notice shows that he was again—several years after the date indicated in the previous passages—traveling with Paul on one of the missionary journeys which the apostle undertook after being liberated from his first imprisonment in Rome. It is exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible, to trace the course of the different journeys which Paul now made, as there is no such narrative as is given in Acts for the former journeys, but merely incidental notices of his later travels, in the Pastoral Epistles. In this, the last of all his letters—2 Timothy—Paul indicates various places which he had visited, and also the names of friends who traveled with him on this the last of his apostolic journeys.

Among other places, he had visited Miletus, a city on the coast of the province of Asia; and there his old friend Trophimus had been laid down with illness, so severe that he could travel no farther, but Paul left him "at Miletus sick." It is to be noted that Miletus was not far from Ephesus, which was Trophimus' native city. There would be much intercourse between the two cities (see Acts 17, where Paul sends for the elders of the church at Ephesus to come to him at Miletus, which they did). Trophimus therefore, in his sickness, could easily reach Ephesus, or his friends from that city could quickly come to him at Miletus, and give him whatever attention and nursing he might require.

4. The Description of II Corinthians 8:18:

It has been conjectured that Trophimus is to be identified with the person mentioned in II Corinthians 8:16-24. Paul there speaks in the highest terms of one of his companions—but without giving his name—whom he sent with Titus. Titus and this disciple were evidently those to whose care Paul entrusted the carrying of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians to its destination. The apostle says of this unnamed brother, not only that his praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, but also that he was chosen by the churches to travel with him, i.e. with Paul, with this grace, i.e. with the contribution of money collected in the Gentile churches for the poor saints in Jerusalem.

Now it is certain that at the close of his 3rd missionary journey Paul carried these gifts to Jerusalem ("I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings," Acts 24:17); and some of the eight friends who accompanied him on the journey (Acts 20:4) were those who had been entrusted by the churches with the safe conveyance of the money. Speaking of these collections, Paul writes (I Corinthians 16:3-4). "Whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem: and if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me." These conditions were fulfilled, when Paul and his eight friends traveled from Greece to Jerusalem, carrying the money with them. There is therefore certainty that one of the eight is the brother referred to in II Corinthians 8:18, whose praise in the gospel was in all the churches, and whom the churches had appointed to travel with Paul for the purpose of carrying the money contribution, and whom Paul had "many times proved earnest in many things" (II Corinthians 8:18-19, II Corinthians 8:22). The eight were Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus, both from Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus, both "Asians," and lastly Luke.

There is certainly the possibility that the unnamed brother was Trophimus: if not Trophimus, then he was one of the other seven. Of these seven, by the process of elimination, the unnamed brother could only be one of those who traveled with Paul the whole distance as far as Jerusalem, for this was the work which "the brother" had been appointed by the churches to do. Now it is certain that Luke and Trophimus were with him on his arrival in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17, Acts 21:29). Therefore the brother whose praise in the gospel was in all the churches may very well have been Trophimus: if not Trophimus, then possibly Luke or Aristarchus. Gaius and Aristarchus are termed "Paul's companions in travel" (Acts 19:29); and Aristarchus was afterward with Paul in Palestine, and sailed with him to Rome. It is quite remarkable that the same word, sunekdemos, "companion in travel," is applied to the unnamed brother (II Corinthians 8:19), and to Gaius and Aristarchus in Acts 19:29.

As the conditions do not seem to be satisfied in Sopater, Secundus or Timothy, the brother so highly commended must have been either Luke or Gaius or Aristarchus or Tychicus or Trophimus.

John Rutherfurd


See more on the meaning of Trophimus in the Bible:
Trophimus {Easton's Bible Dictionary}
Trophimus {Hitchcock's Bible Name}

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