Did You Know?

Who were “those of the household of Caesar” who sent Christian greetings through Paul to the Philippians?

The apostle Paul wrote from Rome to the Philippian congregation in about 60 to 61 C.E., and the Caesar he mentioned was Emperor Nero. But who in Nero’s household would be sending greetings to Christians in Philippi?​—Philippians 4:22.

It would be a mistake to assume that the term “household of Caesar” necessarily referred to the immediate relatives of the emperor. Rather, it encompassed all the people, including slaves and freedmen, both in Rome and in the provinces, who were in the emperor’s service. “The household of Caesar” would therefore include thousands of servants. They would care for various responsibilities of a managerial or servile nature in the emperor’s palaces and on his estates and properties. Some would even play a role in the administration of government.

Some of the emperor’s servants in Rome evidently became Christians. Whether that was a result of Paul’s preaching in Rome is unknown. In any case, they apparently had a special interest in the Philippian congregation. Since Philippi was a Roman colony inhabited by many retired soldiers and government servants, it is possible that some Christians there were friends of those on whose behalf Paul conveyed greetings.

What was the levirate marriage mentioned in the Mosaic Law?

In ancient Israel, if a man died sonless, it was expected that his brother marry the widow in order to produce offspring to continue the dead man’s family line. (Genesis 38:8) The arrangement, later incorporated into the Mosaic Law, was known as brother-in-law, or levirate, marriage. (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6) The actions of Boaz, described in the book of Ruth, show that this duty extended to other male relatives of the dead man’s family if none of his brothers survived.​—Ruth 1:3, 4; 2:19, 20; 4:1-6.

The fact that brother-in-law marriage was practiced in Jesus’ day is shown by the Sadducees’ reference to it, recorded at Mark 12:20-22. The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said that the practice not only preserved the family name but also kept property in the family and provided for the welfare of the widow. Back then, a wife had no hereditary right to her husband’s property. However, a child born from a levirate union would have retained the hereditary possession of the deceased man.

The Law did permit relatives to refuse to perform brother-in-law marriage. But refusal by a man to “build up his brother’s household” was considered disgraceful.​—Deuteronomy 25:7-10; Ruth 4:7, 8.