Atticus is a relatively obscure biblical figure who is mentioned briefly in a few passages in the New Testament. He was a disciple and fellow worker of the Apostle Paul during the early days of the Christian church. Though little is known about him, examining the few details given about Atticus in Scripture can provide some insight into this forgotten follower of Christ.
In the pages of the New Testament, we find references to many disciples and believers who walked alongside the Apostles and helped spread the Gospel message throughout the world. While some figures like Peter, James, John and Paul are well-known, there are other minor characters that appear briefly in the biblical text but about whom little information is given.
One such overlooked individual is a man named Atticus. He is referenced only twice in Scripture – once in the book of Acts and once in Paul’s letter to the Romans. But exploring these brief mentions of Atticus reveals an associate and aide of Paul who was likely an important part of the apostle’s ministry team.
Here are some key things to know about Atticus from Scripture:
- He was a disciple from Greece who worked alongside Paul
- He accompanied Paul on missionary travels to Asia Minor
- Paul sent greetings to him in his letter to the Romans, indicating they were close fellow workers
- His name means “from Attica,” suggesting he was originally from Athens
Though the Bible gives only a few details about him, piecing together this information can provide a glimpse into who this lesser-known believer was and what role he may have played in early church history. Examining Atticus’ story gives insight into the wider community of disciples that supported apostles like Paul and aided the spread of Christianity.
Atticus in Acts 17
The first and only narrative reference to Atticus comes in Acts 17 during Paul’s second missionary journey as he preached the Gospel in Greece:
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.” (Acts 17:10-15, NKJV)
The background here is that Paul and his companion Silas had been preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, where they met intense opposition from the Jewish leaders. For their safety, the new Christian converts in Berea escorted Paul out of town immediately to the coastal town of Athens. While waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy to join him, Paul continued his evangelistic ministry among the pagan philosophers and intellectuals there.
It’s in this context that Luke simply states: “Those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens.” (v. 15) This indicates that there were unnamed believers accompanying Paul as protection who made sure he arrived safely in Athens. Based on the Greek word for “conducted” (parepempsan), these were likely disciples from Berea who traveled with Paul to guard him along the journey. Atticus was very possibly one of these unnamed fellow travelers who ensured Paul’s secure passage to Athens.
Atticus being numbered among Paul’s travel companions on his missionary journey indicates that he was likely already a believer and disciple integrated into the early Christian communities in Greece. As one of those who personally escorted Paul out of harm’s way to Athens, Atticus serves as an example of the supportive disciples and “unsung heroes” whose practical aid undergirded apostolic ministry.
Atticus in Romans 16
The only other mention of Atticus comes towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans, in a section with greetings to many of Paul’s fellow workers:
“Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you. I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 16:14-24, NKJV)
In verse 21, nestled in the midst of various greetings to Roman believers, Paul includes: “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you. I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.”
Here Atticus is grouped with three other men – Timothy, Lucius and Sosipater – who are all explicitly called Paul’s “fellow workers” (sunergōn). This indicates that they likely worked closely together with Paul in ministry and were integral members of his apostolic team.
Though Paul had not yet visited Rome when he wrote this letter (Romans 1:10-13), he was clearly familiar with many of the believers there and wanted to send warm greetings on behalf of his colleagues. The inclusion of Atticus among these co-workers shows he had a trusted relationship with Paul as a disciple engaged in Gospel ministry.
What Atticus’ Name Reveals
Beyond these bare biblical references, Atticus’ name itself holds an important clue about his identity and background.
The name “Atticus” in Greek means “a man from Attica.” Attica was the region of Greece that surrounds Athens, its main city. This suggests that Atticus was likely originally from Athens before joining Paul’s ministry team.
His ties to Athens explain why Atticus is mentioned traveling with Paul in Acts 17 as he passed through the city. It makes sense that Paul was accompanied by a native Athenian who could help navigate his homeland. Atticus’ name signifies his roots in Athens and hints at his role as a Grecian guide and companion to Paul in ministry.
Atticus’ Potential Significance and Legacy
Though the New Testament references provide only a limited sketch of who Atticus was, piecing together these details suggests he played a notable part in Paul’s missionary endeavors. Here are some key insights about Atticus’ potential significance in early church history:
- He helped spread the Gospel in Greece – Atticus’ connection to Athens indicates he was likely part of Paul’s pioneering evangelistic efforts in Greece, the birthplace of Western culture and thought. Paul strategically targeted influential Gentile cities like Athens and Corinth to expand the reach of Christianity. Atticus probably aided this mission as a native minister.
- He assisted Paul’s travels – By helping escort Paul safely to Athens, Atticus aided the Apostle’s crucial ministry journeys throughout the Roman world. He exemplifies the practical support team that facilitated the difficult travels central to Paul’s missionary strategy.
- He was one of Paul’s trusted co-workers – That Paul includes Atticus among greetings from his fellow ministers in Romans shows Atticus was integrated into Paul’s close-knit ministry team. This speaks to his trusted role, proven character, and dedication to the Gospel work.
- He represents unrecognized disciples – By shining a light on this overlooked figure, Atticus represents the countless lesser-known disciples who furthered early Christianity. Many faithful followers like Atticus enabled apostolic leaders and their mission without widespread renown or credit.
Though the Bible tells us little about Atticus, his place in Paul’s missionary efforts was likely more significant than may first appear. He exemplifies both the vital aid given by ordinary disciples and Christianity spreading beyond Judea into major Greco-Roman cultural centers. Alongside more prominent figures, nameless believers like Atticus played indispensable roles in furthering the life-changing message of Christ in the ancient world.
In summary, Atticus emerges in Scripture as an otherwise unknown disciple who participated in Paul’s celebrated missionary journeys and labors. Mentioned only briefly in Acts and Romans, he was likely part of Paul’s team that spread the Gospel across Asia Minor and Greece. Details such as his Athenian roots and escorting Paul to Athens hint at his important contribution as a Greek convert and travel companion to the Apostle.
While Atticus almost fades into the background of the New Testament narrative, he represents both a trusted co-worker of Paul and the many everyday disciples who made up the backbone of the early church’s faith communities and evangelistic progress. Upon closer inspection, his obscured role sheds valuable light on how the Gospel took root and transformed the ancient Mediterranean world.
Atticus’ part in Paul’s ministry stands as a testimony to the power of even “ordinary” believers being used by God to achieve extraordinary things for the Kingdom. This forgotten follower likely played an integral role in bringing revolutionary Good News to the Gentiles in fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission. His example should encourage modern Christians to likewise follow Christ faithfully wherever we may find ourselves and to support God’s work however we are able.