The Apostle Paul
Who was the Apostle Paul?
According to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was one of the earliest converts to the Christian faith after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And he would become its greatest missionary.
The Apostle Paul testifies to having personally met Jesus Christ while walking to the town of Damascus, which is when he was known by his Jewish name "Paul" ans was associated with persecuting Christians.
Soon (see timeline below for more information), Paul would travel throughout the Mediterranean world planting and strengthening churches as he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some of the letters he wrote to churches in the Mediterranean world are in the New Testament; in fact, 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributed to the Apostle Paul.
Timeline of the Apostle Paul's Life and Ministry
|Dates are Approximate|
|Death of Stephen|
|1st visit to Jerusalem|
|2nd visit to Jerusalem|
|1st missionary journey|
|Meeting in Jerusalem|
|2nd missionary journey|
|3rd missionary journey|
|Arrest in Jerusalem|
|Arrival in Rome|
|Death of Paul|
The Apostle Paul's Birthplace: Tarsus
Geography plays an important part in any life. John the Baptist spent his boyhood in the hill country of Judea in a small town (Luke 1:39) and then in the wilderness. Jesus spent His boyhood in the town of Nazareth and the country round. Both John and Jesus show fondness for Nature in all its forms.
The Apostle Paul grew up in a great city and spent his life in the great cities of the Roman empire. He makes little use of the beauties of Nature, but he has a keen knowledge of men (compare Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul, 12). The Apostle Paul was proud of his great city (Acts 21:39). He was not merely a resident, but a "citizen" of this distinguished city. This fact shows that the Apostle Paul's family had not just emigrated from Judea to Tarsus a few years before his birth, but had been planted in Tarsus as part of a colony with full municipal rights (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 31 f).
Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, then a part of the province of Syria, but it had the title of metropolis and was a free city, urbs libera (Pliny, NH, v.27). To the ancient Greek the city was his "fatherland" (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 1908, 90). Tarsus was situated on the river Cydnus, and in a wide plain with the hill country behind and the snow-covered Taurus Mountains in the distance. It was subject to malaria. Ramsay (ibid., 117) from Genesis 10:4 f holds that the early inhabitants were Greeks mingled with Orientals. East and West flowed together here. It was a Roman town also with a Jewish colony (ibid., 169), constituting a city tribe to which Paul's family belonged. So then Tarsus was a typical city of the Greek-Roman civilization.
The Apostle Paul's Citizenship: Roman
It was no idle boast with the Apostle Paul when he said, "But I am a Roman born" (Acts 22:28). The chief captain might well be "afraid when he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him" (Acts 22:29). Likewise the magistrates at Philippi "feared when they heard that they were Romans" (Acts 16:39), and promptly released the Apostle Paul and Silas and "asked them to go away from the city."
"To the Roman his citizenship was his passport in distant lands, his talisman in seasons of difficulties and danger. It shielded him alike from the caprice of municipal law and the injustice of local magistrates" (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 203). As a citizen of Rome, therefore, the Apostle Paul stood above the common herd. He ranked with the aristocracy in any provincial town (Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 31).
He would naturally have a kindly feeling for the Roman government in return for this high privilege and protection. In its pessimism the Roman empire had come to be the world's hope, as seen in the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 49).
The Apostle Paul would seize upon the Roman empire as a fit symbol of the kingdom of heaven. "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20); "Ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints" (Ephesians 2:19). So he interprets the church in terms of the body politic as well as in terms of the Israelite theocracy (Colossians 2:19). "All this shows the deep impression which the Roman institutions made on Paul" (Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 205).
Ramsay draws a striking parallel under the heading, "Paulinism in the Roman Empire" (Cities of Paul, 70). "A universal Paulinism and a universal Empire must either coalesce, or the one must destroy the other." It was the Apostle Paul's knowledge of the Roman empire that gave him his imperialism and statesmanlike grasp of the problems of Christianity in relation to the Roman empire. The Apostle Paul was a statesman of the highest type, as Ramsay has conclusively shown (Pauline and Other Studies, 49-100).
The Apostle Paul's Background: Judaism
The Apostle Paul was Greek and Roman, but not "pan-Babylonian," though he was keenly alive to all the winds of doctrine that blew about him, as we see in Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles. But he was most of all the Jew, that is, before his conversion. He remained a Jew, even though he learned how to be all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Even though glorying in his mission as apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8), he yet always put the Jew first in opportunity and peril (Romans 2:9). He loved the Jews almost to the point of death (Romans 9:3). He was proud of his Jewish lineage and boasted of it (2 Corinthians 11:16-22; Acts 22:3; 26:4; Philippians 3:4-6). "His religious patriotism flickered up within his Christianity" (Moffatt, Paul and Paulinism, 66). Had he not been a Roman citizen with some Greek culture and his rich endowments of mind, he would probably not have been the "chosen vessel" for the work of Christ among the Gentiles (Garvie, Studies of Paul and His Gospel, 15).
Had he not been the thorough Jew, he could not have mediated Christianity from Jew to Greek. "In the mind of Paul a universalized Hellenism coalesced with a universalized Hebraism" (Ramsay, Cities of Paul, 43). Ramsay strongly opposes the notion of Harhack and others that Paul can be understood "as purely a Hebrew."
So in Paul both Hebraism and Hellenism meet though Hebraism is the main stock. He is a Jew in the Greek-Roman world and a part of it, not a mere spectator. He is the Hellenistic Jew, not the Aramaic Jew of Palestine (compare Simon Peter's vision on the house-top at Joppa, for instance). But the Apostle Paul is not a Hellenizing Jew after the fashion of Jason and Menelaus in the beginning of the Maccabean conflict.
The Apostle Paul: Personal Characteristics
Much as we can learn about the times of the Apostle Paul (compare Selden, In the Time of Paul, 1900, for a brief sketch of Paul's world), we know something of the political structure of the Roman world, the social life of the 1st century AD, the religious condition of the age, the moral standards of the time, the intellectual tendencies of the period. New discoveries continue to throw fresh light on the life of the middle and lower classes among whom the Apostle Paul chiefly labored.
And, if Deissmann in his brilliant study (St. Paul, A Study in Social and Religious History) has pressed too far the notion that the Apostle Paul the tent-maker ranks not with Origen, but with Amos the herdman (p. 6, on p. 52 he calls it a mistake "to speak of Paul the artisan as a proletarian in the sense which the word usually bears with us"), yet he is right in insisting that Paul is "a religious genius" and "a hero of piety" (p. 6). It is not possible to explain the personality and work of a man like Paul by his past and to refer with precision this or that trait to his Jewish or Greek training (Alexander, Ethics of Paul, 58). "We must allow something to his native originality" (same place) .
We are all in a sense the children of the past, but some men have much more the power of initiative than others. the The Apostle Paul is not mere "eclectic patchwork" (Bruce, Paul's Conception of Christ, 218). Even if the Apostle Paul was acquainted with Philo, which is not certain, that fact by no means explains his use of Philo, the representative Jew of the Hellenistic age. "Both are Jews of the Dispersion, city-dwellers, with marked cosmopolitan traits. Both live and move in the Septuagint Bible. Both are capable of ecstatic and mystical experiences, and have many points of contact in detail. And yet they stand in very strong contrast to one another, a contrast which reminds us of the opposition between Seneca and Paul. .... Philo is a philosopher, Paul the fool pours out the vials of his irony upon the wisdom of the world" (Deissmann, Paul, 110). Deissmann, indeed, cares most for "the living man, Paul, whom we hear speaking and see gesticulating, here playful, gentle as a father, and tenderly coaxing, so as to win the hearts of the infatuated children--there thundering and lightning with the passionate wrath of a Luther, with cutting irony and bitter sarcasm on his lips" (ibid., 16 f).
"Saul" and the Death of Stephen
Saul is "a young man" (Acts 7:58) when this event occurs. Like other young Jews he entered upon his life as a rabbi at the age of thirty. He had probably been thus active several years, especially as he was now in a position of leadership and may even have been a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10). Pontius Pilate was not deposed from his procuratorship till 36 AD, but was in a state of uneasiness for a couple of years.
It is more probable, therefore, that the stoning of Stephen would take place after his deposition in the interregnum, or not many years before, when he would be afraid to protest against the lawlessness of the Jewish leaders. He had shown timidity at the death of Jesus, 29 or 30 AD, but some of the forms of law were observed. So nothing decisive is here obtained, though 35 AD seems more probable than 32 or 33.
The Apostle Paul's Flight from Damascus
Paul locates this humiliating experience (2 Corinthians 11:32) when "the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes." Aretas the Arabian, and not the Roman, has now control when the Apostle Paul is writing. The likelihood is that Aretas did not get possession of Damascus till 37 AD, when Tiberius died and was succeeded by Caligula. It is argued by some that the expression "the city of the Damascenes" shows that the city was not under the control of Aretas, but was attacked by a Bedouin chieftain who lay in wait for the Apostle Paul before the city. That to me seems forced.
Josephus (Ant., XVIII, v, 3; vi, 3) at any rate is silent concerning the authority of Aretas over Damascus from 35-37 AD, but no coins or inscriptions show Roman rule over the city between 35 and 62 AD. Ramsay, however ("The Pauline Chronology," Pauline and Other Studies, 364), accepts the view of Marquardt (Romische Staatsalterth., I, 404 f) that it was possible for Aretas to have had possession of Damascus before 37 AD.
The flight from Damascus is the same year as the visit to Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul's first after his conversion (Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18). If we knew the precise year of this event, we could subtract two or three years and reach the date of his conversion. Lightfoot in his Commentary on Ga gives 38 as the date of this first visit to Jerusalem, and 36 as the date of the conversion, taking "after 3 years" in a free way, but in his Biblical Essays, 221, he puts the visit in 37 and the conversion in 34, and says " `after 3 years' must mean three whole years, or substantially so." Thus we miss a sure date again.
The Death of Herod Agrippa I
Here the point of contact between Acts (12:1-4,19-23) and Josephus (Ant., XIX, viii) is beyond dispute, since both record and describe in somewhat similar vein the death of this king. Josephus says that at the time of his death he had already completed the 3rd year of his reign over the whole of Judea (Ant., XIX, viii, 2). He received this dignity soon after Claudius began to reign in 41 AD, so that makes the date 44 AD. He died after the Passover in that year (44), for Peter was imprisoned by him during that feast (Acts 12:3).
But unfortunately Luke sandwiches the narrative about Herod Agrippa in between the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem from Antioch (Acts 11:29) and their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). He does not say that the events here recorded were exactly synchronous with this visit, for he says merely "about that time." We are allowed therefore to place this visit before 44 AD or after, just as the facts require. The mention of "elders" in Acts 11:30 instead of apostles (compare both in 15:4) may mean that the apostles are absent when the visit is made.
After the death of James (Acts 12:1) and release of Peter we note that Peter "went to another place" (Acts 12:17). But the apostles are back again in Jerusalem in Acts 15:4. Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 216) therefore places the visit "at the end of 44, or in 45." Once more we slip the connection and fail to fix a firm date for the Apostle Paul. It is disputed also whether this 2nd visit to Jerusalem according to Ac (9:26; 11:29 f) is the same as the "again" in Galatians 2:1. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 59) identifies the visit in Galatians 2:1 with that in Acts 11:29, but Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 221) holds that it "must be identified with the third of the Acts" (15:4).
In Galatians 1 and 2 the Apostle Paul is not recording his visits to Jerusalem, but showing his independence of the apostles when he met them in Jerusalem. There is no proof that he saw the apostles on the occasion of the visit in Acts 11:29 f. The point of Lightfoot is well taken, hut we have no point of contact with the outside history for locating more precisely the date of the visit of Galatians 2:1 and Acts 15:4, except that it was after the first missionary tour of Acts 13 and 14.
The Apostle Paul's First Missionary Journey
The Apostle Paul had already preached to the Gentiles in Cilicia and Syria for some 10 years. The work was not new to him. He had had his specific call from Jerusalem long ago and had answered it. But now an entirely new situation arises. His work had been individual in Cilicia. Now the Spirit specifically directs the separation of Barnabas and Saul to this work (Acts 13:2). They were to go together, and they had the sympathy and prayers of a great church.
The endorsement was probably not "ordination" in the technical sense, but a farewell service of blessing and good will as the missionaries went forth on the world-campaign (Acts 13:3). No such unanimous endorsement could have been obtained in Jerusalem to this great enterprise. It was momentous in its possibilities for Christianity. Hitherto work among the Gentiles had been sporadic and incidental. Now a determined effort was to be made to evangelize a large section of the Roman empire.
There is no suggestion that the church at Antioch provided funds for this or for the two later Campaigns, as the church at Philippi came to do. How that was managed this time we do not know. Some individuals may have helped. The Apostle Paul had his trade to fall back on, and often had resort to it later. The presence of John Mark "as their attendant" (Acts 13:5) was probably due to Barnabas, his cousin (Colossians 4:10). The visit to Cyprus, the home of Barnabas, was natural.
There were already some Christians there (Acts 11:20), and it was near. They preach first in the synagogues of the Jews at Salamis (Acts 13:5). We are left to conjecture as to results there and through the whole island till Paphos is reached. There they meet a man of great prominence and intelligence, Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul, who had been under the spell of a sorcerer with a Jewish name--Elymas Bar-jesus (compare Peter's encounter with Simon Magus in Samaria).
In order to win and hold Sergius Paulus, who had become interested in Christianity, Paul has to punish Bar-jesus with blindness (Acts 13:10) in the exercise of that apostolic power which he afterward claimed with such vigor (1 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 13:10). He won Sergius Paulus, and this gave him cheer for his work. From now on it is Paul, not Saul, in the record of Luke, perhaps because of this incident, though both names probably belonged to him from the first.
Now also the Apostle Paul steps to the fore ahead of Barnabas, and it is "Paul's company" (Acts 13:13) that sets sail from Paphos for Pamphylia. There is no evidence here of resentment on the part of Barnabas at the leadership of Paul. The whole campaign may have been planned from the start by the Holy Spirit as the course now taken may have been due to Paul's leadership. John Mark deserts at Perga and returns to Jerusalem (his home), not to Antioch (Acts 13:13). Paul and Barnabas push on to the tablelands of Pisidia. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 93) thinks that the Apostle Paul had malaria down at Perga and hence desired to get up into higher land. That is possible.
The places mentioned in the rest of the tour are Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14), and Iconium (Acts 13:51), Lystra (Acts 14:8), and Derbe (Acts 14:20), cities of Lycaonia. These terms are ethnographic descriptions of the southern divisions of the Roman province of Galatia, the northern portion being Galatia proper or North Galatia. So then Paul and Barnabas are now at work in South Galatia, though Luke does not mention that name, using here only the popular designations.
The work is wonderfully successful. In these cities, on one of the great Roman roads east and west, the Apostle Paul is reaching the centers of provincial life as will be his custom. At Antioch Paul is invited to repeat his sermon on the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42), and Luke records at length the report of this discourse which has the characteristic notes of the Apostle Paul's gospel as we see it in his epistles. The Apostle Paul may have kept notes of the discourse. There were devout Gentiles at these services. These were the first to be won, and thus a wider circle of Gentiles could be reached. the Apostle Paul and Barnabas were too successful at Antioch in Pisidia. The jealous Jews opposed, and Paul and Barnabas dramatically turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:45). But the Jews reached the city magistrate through the influential women, and Paul and Barnabas were ordered to leave (Acts 13:50).
Similar success brings like results in Iconium. At Lystra, before the hostile Jews come, the Apostle Paul and Barnabas have great success and, because of the healing of the impotent man, are taken as Mercury and Jupiter respectively, and worship is offered them. The Apostle Paul's address in refusal is a fine plea on the grounds of natural theology (Acts 14:15-18). The attempt on Paul's life after the Jews came seemed successful. In the band of disciples that "stood round about him," there may have been Timothy, the Apostle Paul's son in the gospel. From Derbe they retrace their steps to Perga, in order to strengthen the churches with officers, and then sail for Seleucia and Antioch. They make their report to the church at Antioch. It is a wonderful story. The door of faith is now wide open for the Gentiles who have entered in great numbers (Acts 14:27). No report was sent to Jerusalem. What will the Pharisaic party do now?
The Apostle Paul's Second Missionary Journey
The impulse to go out again came from the Apostle Paul. Despite the difference in Galatians 2:13, he wished to go again with Barnabas (Acts 15:36), but Barnabas insisted on taking along John Mark, which Paul was not willing to do because of his failure to stick to the work at Perga. So they agreed to disagree after "sharp contention" (Acts 15:39).
Barnabas went with Mark to Cyprus, while the Apostle Paul took Silas, "being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord." Luke follows the career of Paul, and so Barnabas drops out of view (compare later 1 Corinthians 9:6). Paul and Silas go "through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches" (Acts 15:41). They pass through the Cilician gates to Derbe, the end of the first tour, and go to Lystra. Here they pick up Timothy, who more than takes Mark's place in Paul's life. Timothy's mother was a Jewess and his father a Greek.
The Apostle Paul decided therefore to have him circumcised since, as a half-Jew, he would be especially obnoxious to the Jews. This case differed wholly from that of Titus, a Greek, where principle was involved. Here it was a matter merely of expediency. The Apostle Paul had taken the precaution to bring along the decrees of the Conference at Jerusalem in case there was need of them. He delivered them to the churches. It has to be noted that in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and in Romans 14 and 15, when discussing the question of eating meats offered to idols, Paul does not refer to these decrees, but argues the matter purely from the standpoint of the principles involved. The Judaizers anyhow had not lived up to the agreement, but Paul is here doing his part by the decision. The result of the work was good for the churches (Acts 16:4).
The Aposlte Paul's Third Missionary Journey
The stay of the Apostle Paul at Antioch is described as "sometime" (Acts 18:23). Denney (Standard Bible Dictionary) conjectures that the Apostle Paul's brief stay at Jerusalem (see above) was due to the fact that he found that the Judaizers had organized opposition there against him in the absence of the apostles, and it was so unpleasant that he did not stay. He Suggests also that the Judaizers had secured letters of commendation from the church for their emissaries (2 Corinthians 3:1) to Corinth and Galatia, who were preaching "another Jesus" of nationalism and narrowness, whom Paul did not preach (Galatians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 11:4).
Both Denney and Findlay follow Neander, Wieseler, and Sabatier in placing here, before the Apostle Paul starts out again from Antioch, the visit of certain "from James" (Galatians 2:12), who overpowered Peter for the moment. But I have put this incident as more probably before the disagreement with Barnabas over Mark, and as probably contributing to that breach at the beginning of the second tour. It is not necessary to suppose that the Judaizers remained acquiescent so long.
The Apostle Paul seems to have set out on the third tour alone--unless Timothy came back with him, of which there is no evidence save that he is with Paul again in Ephesus (Acts 19:22). What became of Silas? The Apostle Paul "went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, establishing all the disciples" (Acts 18:23), the opposite order to Acts 16:6, "through the region of Phrygia and Galatia."
According to the North-Galatian view, here followed, he went through the northern part of the province, passing through Galatia proper and Phrygia on his way west to Ephesus. Luke adds, "Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus" (Acts 19:1). The ministry of Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-28) had taken place before the Apostle Paul arrived, though Aquila and Priscilla were still on hand. Apollos passed over to Corinth and innocently became the occasion of such strife there (1 Corinthians 1-4) that he left and refused to return at Paul's request (1 Corinthians 16:12). The Apostle Paul has a ministry of 3 years, in round numbers, in Ephesus, which is full of excitement and anxiety from the work there and in Corinth.
He finds on his arrival some ill-informed disciples of John the Baptist who are ignorant of the chief elements of John's teaching about repentance, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2-7), matters of which Apollos had knowledge, though he learned more from Priscilla and Aquila, but there is no evidence that he was rebaptized as was true of the 12 disciples of John (Robertson, John the Loyal, 290-303). The boldness of the Apostle Paul in Ephesus led in 3 months to his departure from the synagogue to the schoolhouse of Tyrannus, where he preached for 2 years (Acts 19:8-10) with such power that "all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord." It is not strange later to find churches at Colosse and Hierapolis in the Lycus Valley (compare also Revelation 1:11).
The Apostle Paul has a sharp collision with the strolling Jewish exorcists that led to the burning of books of magic by the wholesale (Acts 19:11-20), another proof of the hold that magic and the mysteries had upon the Orient. Ephesus was the seat of the worship of Diana whose wonderful temple was their pride. A great business in the manufacture of shrines of Diana was carried on here by Demetrius, and "this Paul" had hurt his trade so much that he raised an insurrection under the guise of piety and patriotism and might have killed Paul with the mob, if he could have got hold of him (Acts 19:23-41). It was with great difficulty that Paul was kept from going to the amphitheater, as it was. But here, as at Corinth, the Roman officer (the town clerk) defended Paul from the rage of his enemies (there the jealous Jews, here the tradesmen whose business suffered).
He was apparently very ill anyhow, and came near death (2 Corinthians 1:9). All this seems to have hastened his departure from Ephesus sooner than Pentecost, as he had written to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:8). His heart was in Corinth because of the discussions there over him and Apollos and Peter, by reason of the agitation of the Judaizers (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). The household of Chloe had brought word of this situation to Paul. He had written the church a letter now lost (1 Corinthians 5:9). They had written him a letter (1 Corinthians 7:1).
They sent messengers to the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 16:17). He had sent Timothy to them (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10), who seems not to have succeeded in quieting the trouble. The Apostle Paul wrote 1Co (spring of 56), and then sent Titus, who was to meet him at Troas and report results (2 Corinthians 2:12). He may also have written another letter and sent it by Titus (2 Corinthians 2:3). The sudden departure from Corinth brought the Apostle Paul to Troas ahead of time, but he could not wait for Titus, and so pushed on with a heavy heart into Macedonia, where he met him, and he had good and bad news to tell (2 Corinthians 2:12; 7:5-13).
The effect on the Apostle Paul was instantaneous. He rebounded to hope and joy (2 Corinthians 2:14) in a glorious defense of the ministry of Jesus (compare Robertson, The Glory of the Ministry; Paul's Exultation in Preaching), with a message of cheer to the majority. of the church that had sustained the Apostle Paul and with instructions about the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, which must be pushed to a completion by Titus and two other brethren (possibly also Luke, brother of Titus, and Erastus). Timothy and Erastus had been sent on ahead to Macedonia from Ephesus (Acts 19:22), and Timothy sends greetings with the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians in a letter (2 Corinthians) which Paul now forwards, possibly by Titus.
The latter part of the epistle (1 Corinthians 10-13) deals with the stubborn minority who still resist the authority of the Apostle Paul as an apostle. On the proposed treatment of these chapters as a separate epistle see the earlier part of this article. The Apostle Paul seems to wait a while before going on to Corinth. He wishes the opposition to have time to repent. During this period he probably went round about to Illyricum (Romans 15:19). He spent three months in Greece (Acts 20:2), probably the winter of 56 and 57. We have placed Galatians in the early part of this stay in Corinth, though it could have been written while at Ephesus.
Romans was certainly written while here, and they both treat the same general theme of justification by faith. Ramsay (Expos, February, 1913, 127-45) has at last come to the conclusion that Ga belongs to the date of Acts 15:1 f. He bases this conclusion chiefly on the "absolute independence" of his apostleship claimed in Galatians 1 and 2, which, he holds, he would not have done after the conference in Acts 15, which was "a sacrifice of complete independence."
This is a curious interpretation, for in Galatians 2:1-10 Paul himself tells of his recognition on terms of equality by Peter, John and James, and of his going to Jerusalem by "revelation," which was just as much "a sacrifice of complete independence" as we find in Acts 15. Besides, in 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11 Paul expressly asserts his equality (with all humility) with the very chiefest apostles, and in 1 Corinthians 15:10 he claims in so many words to have wrought more than all the apostles.
Perhaps messengers from Galatia with the contributions from that region report the havoc wrought there by the Judaizers. Ga is a tremendous plea for the spiritual nature of Christianity as opposed to Jewish ceremonial legalism. Paul had long had it in mind to go to Rome. It was his plan to do so while at Ephesus (Acts 19:21) after he had gone to Jerusalem with the great collection from the churches of Asia, Galatia, Achaia, and Macedonia.
He hoped that this collection would have a mollifying effect on the Jerusalem saints as that from Antioch had (Acts 11:29). He had changed some details in his plans, but not the purpose to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome. Meanwhile, he writes the longest and most important letter of all to the Romans, in which he gives a fuller statement of his gospel, because they had not heard him preach, save his various personal friends who had gone there from the east (Acts 16). But already the shadow of Jerusalem is on his heart, and he asks their prayers in his behalf, as he faces his enemies in Jerusalem (Romans 15:30-32). He hopes also to go on to Spain (Romans 15:24), so as to carry the gospel to the farther west also.
The statesmanship of the Apostle Paul comes out now in great clearness. He has in his heart always anxiety for the churches that consumes him (2 Corinthians 11:28). He was careful to have a committee of the churches go with him to report the collection (2 Corinthians 8:19). Paul had planned to sail direct for Syria, but a plot on his life in Corinth led him to go by land via Macedonia with his companions (Acts 20:2-4). He tarried at Philippi while the rest went on to Troas. At Philippi the Apostle Paul is joined again by Luke, who stays with him till Rome is reached. They celebrate the Passover (probably the spring of 57) in Philippi (Acts 20:6). We cannot follow the details in Ac at Troas, the voyage through the beautiful Archipelago, to Miletus. There Paul took advantage of the stop to send for the elders of Ephesus to whom he gave a wonderful address (Acts 20:17-38).
They change ships at Patara for Phoenicia and pass to the right of Cyprus with its memories of Barnabas and Sergius Paulus and stop at Tyre, where Paul is warned not to go on to Jerusalem. The hostility of the Judaizers to the Apostle Paul is now common talk everywhere. There is grave peril of a schism in Christianity over the question of Gentile liberty, once settled in Jerusalem, but unsettled by the Judaizers. At Caesarea Paul is greeted by Philip the evangelist and his four daughters (prophetesses). At Caesarea the Apostle Paul is warned in dramatic fashion by Agabus (compare Acts 11:28) not to go on to Jerusalem (Acts 21:9), but the Apostle Paul is more determined than ever to go, even if he die (Acts 20:13). He had had three premonitions for long (Acts 20:22), but he will finish his course, cost what it may. He finds a friend at Caesarea in Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, who was to be the host of the Apostle Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:16).
The Aposlte Paul: Further Travels
The genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles is here assumed. But for them we should know nothing further, save from a few fragments in the early Christian writings. As it is, some few who accept the Pastoral Epistles seek to place them before 64 AD, so as to allow for the Apostle Paul's death in that year from the Neronian persecution. In that case, he was not released. There is no space here to argue the question in detail.
We can piece together the probable course of events. He had expected when in Corinth last to go on to Spain (Romans 15:28), but now in Rome his heart turns back to the east again. He longs to see the Philippians (1:23) and hopes to see Philemon in Colosse (Philemon 1:22). But he may have gone to Spain also, as Clement of Rome seems to imply (Clement ad Cor 5), and as is stated in the Canon of Muratori. He may have been in Spain when Rome was burned July 19, 64 AD. There is no evidence that the Apostle Paul went as far as Britain. On his return east he left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5).
He touched at Miletus when he left Trophimus sick (2 Timothy 4:20) and when he may have met Timothy, if he did not go on to Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). He stopped at Troas and apparently expected to come back here, as he left his cloak and books with Carpus (2 Timothy 4:13). He was on his way to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), whence he writes Timothy in 65-67 a letter full of love and counsel for the future. The Apostle Paul is apprehensive of the grave perils now confronting Christianity. Besides the Judaizers, the Gnostics, the Jews and the Romans, he may have had dim visions of the conflict with the mystery-religions.
It was a syncretistic age, and men had itching ears. But Paul is full of sympathy and tender solicitude for Timothy, who must push on the work and get ready for it. Paul expects to spend the winter in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), but is apparently still in Macedonia when he writes to Titus a letter on lines similar to those in 1 Timothy, only the note is sharper against Judaism of a certain type. We catch another glimpse of Apollos in Titus 3:13. Paul hits off the Cretans in 1:10 with a quotation from Epimenides, one of their own poetic prophets.
The Aposlte Paul's Last Imprisonment and Death
When the Apostle Paul writes again to Timothy he has had a winter in prison, and has suffered greatly from the cold and does not wish to spend another winter in the Mamertine (probably) prison (2 Timothy 4:13,21). We do not know what the charges now are. They may have been connected with the burning of Rome. There were plenty of informers eager to win favor with Nero. Proof was not now necessary.
Christianity is no longer a religio licita under the shelter of Judaism. It is now a crime to be a Christian. It is dangerous to be seen with the Apostle Paul now, and he feels the desertion keenly (2 Timothy 1:15; 4:10). Only Luke, the beloved physician, is with the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), and such faithful ones as live in Rome still in hiding (2 Timothy 4:21). The Apostle Paul hopes that Timothy may come and bring Mark also (2 Timothy 4:11).
Apparently Timothy did come and was put into prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul is not afraid. He knows that he will die. He has escaped the mouth of the lion (2 Timothy 4:17), but he will die (2 Timothy 4:18). The Lord Jesus stood by him, perhaps in visible presence (2 Timothy 4:17). The tradition is, for now Paul fails us, that the Apostle Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded on the Ostian Road just outside of Rome. Nero died June, 68 AD, so that the Apostle Paul was executed before that date, perhaps in the late spring of that year (or 67). Perhaps Luke and Timothy were with him. It is fitting, as Findlay suggests, to let the Apostle Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 serve for his own epitaph. He was ready to go to be with Jesus, as he had long wished to be (Philippians 1:23).
The following article is excerpted from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain.