Romans 16:13 says that Rufus' mother was like a mother to Paul. Speculating that this woman was the wife of Simon of Cyrene Mark 15:21, when did Paul develop this mother-son relationship? -- Jack Reese (Nashville)
It seems very likely to me that the Rufuses of Romans and Mark are the same person. If so, then the mother of Rufus was the wife of Simon (the North African pressed into service to assist in carrying Jesus' cross). But the New Testament does not give us enough evidence to enable us to be definitive about Paul's relationship with Rufus' unnamed mother.
William Barclay in his Letter to the Romans gets maximum mileage out of the possibilities, and if you (or other readers) have not taken a look at what he has written in the Daily Study Bible, I would encourage you to take a peek. And yet, as Barclay admits, Rufus and Alexander are common names in the Greco-Roman world. It is hard to be certain.
Since Paul had never visited Rome, Rufus and his mother must have settled there before Paul's letter reached the Roman Christian community. Since Simon of Cyrene was from North Africa, Rufus' mother may also have been a North African convert to Judaism, present in Jerusalem for the holidays in the spring of 30 AD. (But this is speculative.) For Paul to have known her and felt as tenderly towards her as he did almost certainly requires personal contact, and that means their paths must have crossed. They could have met during his many missionary journeys, or maybe in Jerusalem or Antioch, two cities Paul spent a good deal of time in before the First Missionary Journey (sent from Antioch in 48 AD). Interestingly, Jesus too had (presumably) older women who looked after his financial needs (and those of his itinerant troupe) troupe (Luke 8:3). Perhaps Rufus' mother gave Paul motherly (emotional) support as well as financial assistance.
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