Persis is one of the few unisex names in the Bible, though it is more commonly identified with a woman from the Early Church. The name has two meanings: “Persian” and “one who takes by storm.” There is no evidence that the Christian woman Persis was Persian, but the latter meaning, “one who takes by storm,” may have been apt for this member of the Roman church.
Persis is mentioned in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapter 16 verse 12. Like many biblical women, little personal information is given about Persis, but it is clear that she was considered to be a model Christian in her time. Persis is described as working “hard in the Lord,” the only one in Paul’s listing of those to greet who earns such a reference. Working hard for Christ is high praise from the Apostle who traveled so far and did so much for the fledgling Church.
Paul also calls Persis “the beloved” in Romans, an adaptation of “my beloved.” As a man who was not Persis’ husband, it would have been inappropriate for Paul to call her “my beloved.” The admiration and affection behind the more traditional phrase apparently still applied in a platonic sense, but the subtle alteration avoids potentially disastrous misinterpretation.