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 concern that internal disunity will seriously undermine the church, beseeched the two women to "agree in the Lord".

Gender confusion

Despite the clear context and gender agreement of the original Greek text, the Authorised Version of the Bible incorrectly assigns Euodia the name "Euodias" (a theoretically projected 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]: 72–72  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.[5]

Studies of contemporary naming conventions have shown that whilst the female versions Euodia and Syntyche were both common to the era, the projected male variants (such as Euodias, as in the Authorised version, or Syntyches) are totally unknown in writings or inscriptions of the period.[6]

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 spurious source, dated to the fourth century AD, and believed to originate in Syria.[7]

Models of female leadership

Not surprisingly, Euodia and Syntyche are chiefly remembered as two people who had an argument, and their names are most commonly associated with disagreement.[8][9] 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 is not clearly defined. Some have speculated that it constituted ordained ministry,[10] but this is not explicitly supported by any biblical source. The leadership role is implied both by Paul's interest in their argument, and by the language used by Paul in addressing their disagreement.[11] Peter Toon points out that they had at least "worked with him [Paul] in spreading the gospel".[12]: 27  William Barclay contends that whatever their actual function, the fact that they were "women playing so leading a part in the affairs of one of the early congregations" is in sufficient contrast to the contemporary social order to be noteworthy.[4]: 73 

Unnamed arbitrator

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".[12]: 27  William Barclay, after discussing various possible identities, states "Maybe the best suggestion is that the reference is to Epaphroditus, the bearer of the letter."[4]: 74 

Conclusion of the argument

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.[13]: 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.[14]


  1. ^ See definition here. Archived 2012-03-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ See definition here.
  3. ^ See possible alternative definition here.
  4. ^ a b c Barclay, William (1975). The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised ed.). Edinburgh: St Andrew Press. ISBN 0-7152-0280-4.
  5. ^ Mowczko, Margaret (3 August 2011). "Women Leaders in the Philippian Church". Minneapolis: CBE International. Retrieved 23 August 2021. It was not unusual for women to have leadership roles in Philippi. Philippi was the chief city of Macedonia, and it has been well documented that Macedonian women enjoyed more freedom and power than many other women of that time.
  6. ^ Michael, J Hugh (1928). The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (First ed.). New York: Harper and Brothers – via eBook Location 4186 at Digital Publishing 2018 also available.
  7. ^ Wikipedia, "Apostolic Constitutions", (Global), 2014.
  8. ^ As in the article Euodias - The woman who fell out with her friend.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Ordination of Women". Philosopher Kings. Retrieved 10 February 2021. Verses that could be used to support the ordination of women.
  11. ^ See Euodia and Syntyche: Women Church Leaders at Philippi | Marg Mowczko which discusses the women's roles as female church leaders.
  12. ^ a b Toon, Peter; Toon, Vita (1979). Philippians (First ed.). Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications. ISBN 0-86065-065-0.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Building Unity: the Story of Euodia and Syntyche". Grace Communion International. Retrieved 6 December 2017.