Aristarchus was a Macedonian [Eastern European] from Thessalonica (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2), potentially converted during the brief evangelistic campaign of Paul, Silas, and Timothy in the year 50 (Acts 17:1-10) and among the disciples addressed in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). He appears to have been an ethnic Jew (Col. 4:11). He went on to travel and work with Paul in Macedonia, Asia, and all the way to Judea (Acts 19:29; 20:4–21:15). He then accompanied Paul and Luke from Caesarea (Acts 27:2) across the Mediterranean Sea and was thus involved in the violent storm and subsequent shipwreck at Malta, arriving in Rome in spring 60 (Acts 28:16).
Aristarchus was still with the apostle when the prison letters were written (ca. spring 62), acknowledged in Col. 4:10 as Paul’s “fellow prisoner” [sunaichmálōtos]. It is unclear whether this is to be taken literally or metaphorically. The same description is used of Epaphras, “my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (Philem. 23), although the qualifying phrase “in Christ Jesus” is not included in Aristarchus’ description. Earlier, when the apostle was still a free man, Andronicus and Junia were described as his “fellow prisoners” (Rom. 16:7).
Aristarchus was also included among Paul’s “fellow workers” [sunergoí] (Philem. 24),1 associated with Tychicus, Onesimus, Jesus-Justus, Epaphras, Mark, Demas, and Luke (Col. 4:7, 9, 11, 12, 14; Philem. 23-24), as well as Gaius of Macedonia, Sopater, Secundus, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus (Acts 19:29; 20:4).
From the very beginning of his Christian walk, Aristarchus knew that being a follower of Christ, and especially a minister of the gospel, was hard (cf. Acts 17:5-10; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14). Nevertheless, he left his home to serve alongside the apostle Paul and other dedicated servants to expand the borders of God’s kingdom. According to tradition, Aristarchus died as a martyr during Emperor Nero’s persecution (ca. 64-68). We appreciate the life he lived and the service he rendered, and we give honor to whom honor is due.
--Kevin L. Moore
1 Cf. also Rom. 16:3, 9, 21; 2 Cor. 1:24; 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Col. 4:11; 1 Thess. 3:23; Philem. 1; 3 John 8.