Who is Aristarchus in the bible?
This is a good question to break out our concordances. The name Aristarchus appears five times in the Bible.
Reading each of these accounts tells us something about Aristarchus. From Acts 19 we’re told that he, along with a man named Gaius, traveled with the Apostle Paul from Macedonia. In this account they were in Ephesus. A man by the name of Demetrius, a craftsman of heathen images, felt his livelihood threatened by Paul’s message. Raising the anger of his fellow craftsmen, a riot ensued. Paul, not being present at the time, the crowd seized Aristarchus and Gaius.
One commentary says the following.
“Paul’s companions in travel; whom he brought with him out of Macedonia, and who had been with him to Jerusalem and Antioch, and were now returned with him to Ephesus, where they had been with him for the space of two years, or more… this mob had not seized on Paul himself: it may be Paul was within doors, and these were without in the streets, and so were laid hold upon and carried away in a most forcible and violent manner by them: who having got them, they rushed with one accord into the theatre; where the public plays were acted in honor of the goddess Diana, and where, among other things, men were set to fight with wild beasts; and very likely the intention of the mob.” (John Gill)
In the next chapter (Acts 20:4) we see Paul traveling back through Macedonia and Aristarchus is again mentioned as his companion. We’re told here he was from Thessalonica.
The third account (Acts 27:2) again describes Aristarchus as Paul’s traveling companion, here boarding a ship destined for prison in Rome. Being a name of Greek origin suggests Aristarchus was likely Greek. It is interesting then that a Gentile would be such a devoted companion to the Jewish apostle. Paul’s message, that the gospel call was open to all, must have struck a chord in his heart.
Albert Barnes adds some valuable information. He writes, “As he held the same sentiments as Paul, and was united with him in his travels and labors, it was natural that he should be treated in the same manner. He, together with Gaius, had been seized in the tumult at Ephesus and treated with violence, but he adhered to the apostle in all his troubles, and attended him in all his perils. Nothing further is certainly known of him, though “the Greeks say that he was bishop of Assamea in Syria, and was beheaded with Paul at Rome, under Nero” – Calmet.”
The account in Colossians (4:10) describes Aristarchus as Paul’s “fellow-prisoner.” The Philemon account (1:24) calls him Paul’s “fellow-laborer.”
One important lesson we can glean from Aristarchus is that of loyalty and perseverance. He understood the gospel message as preached by Paul. He accepted it to the point of dedicating himself to helping spread the word, even in the face of persecution.
He was willing to suffer for the cause of Christ and never allowed opposition to deter him. The possibility that he was beheaded with Paul demonstrated his devotion.
To learn more about the Apostle Paul listen to, “How Did the Apostle Paul Handle a Slave Owner?”