Paul's Second Missionary Journey

What was Paul's Second Missionary Journey?

The second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul occurred in 49-51 AD and is recorded in Acts 15:36-18:22. The impulse to go out again came from Paul. Despite the difference in Ga 2:13, he wished to go again with Barnabas (Ac 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" (Ac 15:39 f).

Barnabas went with Mark to Cyprus, while 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 1Co 9:6). Paul and Silas go "through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches" (Ac 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.


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. 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 1Co 8:1-13 through 1Co 10:1-33 and in Ro 14:1-23 and Ro 15:1-33, 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 (Ac 16:4).

When we come to Ac 16:6, we touch a crucial passage in the South-Galatian controversy. Ramsay has become by his able advocacy the chief champion of the view that Paul never went to Galatia proper or North Galatia, and that he addressed his epistle to South Galatia, the churches visited in the first tour.

The arguments are too varied and minute for complete presentation here. The present writer sees some very attractive features in the South-Galatian hypothesis, but as a student of language finds himself unable to overcome the syntax of Ac 16:6. The minor difficulty is the dropping of kai, between "Phrygia" and "Galatic region" by Ramsay. It is by no means certain that this is the idea of Luke. It is more natural to take the terms as distinct and coordinated by kai. In Paul the Traveler, 212, Ramsay pleads for the aorist of subsequent time, but Moulton (Prolegomena, 133) will have none of it. With that I agree.

The aorist participle must give something synchronous with or antecedent to the principal verb. In Expository Times for February, 1913, 220 f, Ramsay comes back to the "construction of Ac 16:6." He admits that the weight of authority is against the Textus Receptus of the New Testament and in favor of dielthon .... koluthentes. He now interprets the language thus: "Paul, having in mind at Lystra his plan of going on to Asia from Galatia, was ordered by the Spirit not to preach in Asia. He therefore made a tour through the Phrygio-Galatic region, which he had already influenced so profoundly from end to end (Ac 13:49)."

But there is grave difficulty in accepting this interpretation as a solution of the problem. Ramsay here makes the narrative in Ac 16:6 resumptive and takes us back to the standpoint of Ac 16:1 at Lystra. The proper place for such a forecast was in Ac 16:1, or at most before Ac 16:4, which already seems to mark an advance beyond Lystra to Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia: "and as they went on their way through the cities."

Besides, "the Phrygio-Galatic region" lay between Lystra and Asia, and, according to Ramsay, after the prohibition in Lystra, he went straight on toward Asia. This is certainly very artificial and unlike the usual procedure. According to the other view, Paul had already visited the churches in Lycaonia and Pisidia on his former visit.

He wished to go on west into Asia, probably to Ephesus, but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit, and as a result turned northward through Phrygia and the regions of Galatia, using both terms in the ethnographic sense. Paul was already in the province of Galatia at Derbe and Lystra. The matter has many "ins and outs" and cannot be argued further here. It is still in debate, but the present interpretation is in harmony with the narrative in Acts.

By this view Paul had not meant to stop in Galatia proper and did so only because of an attack of illness (Ga 4:13). It is possible that Luke may have come to his rescue here. At any rate, he finally pushes on opposite Mysia and Bithynia in the extreme north and was forbidden by the Spirit from going on into Bithynia. So they came down to Troas (Ac 16:7 f) when Luke ("we," Ac 16:10) appears on the scene and the Macedonian call comes to Paul.

Thus Paul is led out of Asia into Europe and carries the gospel successively to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth. The gospel is finally planted in the great provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. In Philippi, a Roman colony and military outpost, Paul finds few Jews and has to go out to a prayer-place to find a few Jewish women to whom he can tell the story of Jesus. But he gains a start with Lydia and her household, and soon arouses the hostility of a company of men who were making money out of a poor girl's powers of divination.

But before Paul and Silas leave the jail, the jailer is himself converted, and a good church is established. At Thessalonica Paul has great success and arouses the jealousy of the Jews who gather a rabble and raise a disturbance and charge it up to Paul. At Philippi appeal was made to prejudice against Jews. At Thessalonica the charge is made that Paul preaches Jesus as a rival king to Caesar. In Berea Paul and Silas have even more success till the Jews come from Thessalonica and drive Paul out again.

Timothy, who has come out from Philippi where Luke has remained, and Silas stay in Berea while Paul hurries on to Athens with some of the brethren, who return with the request for Timothy and Silas "to come to him with all speed." Apparently Timothy did come (1Th 3:1 f), but Paul soon sent him back to Thessalonica because of his anxiety about conditions there. Left alone in Athens, Paul's spirit was stirred over the idolatry before his eyes. He preaches in the synagogues and argues with the Stoics and Epicureans in the Agora who make light of his pretensions to philosophy as a "babbler" (Ac 17:18).

But curiosity leads them to invite him to speak on the Areopagus. This notable address, all alive to his surroundings, was rather rudely cut short by their indifference and mockery, and Paul left Athens with small results for his work. He goes over to Corinth, the great commercial city of the province, rich and with bizarre notions of culture. Paul determined (1Co 2:1-5) to be true to the cross, even after his experience in Athens. He gave them, not the flashy philosophy of the sophists, but the true Wisdom of God in simple words, the philosophy of the cross of Christ (1Co 1:17 through 1Co 3:4).

In Corinth Paul found fellow-helpers in Aquila and Priscilla, just expelled from Rome by Claudius. They have the same trade of tentmakers and live together (Ac 18:1-4), and Paul preached in the synagogues. Paul is cheered by the coming of Timothy and Silas from Thessalonica (Ac 18:5) with supplies from Philippi, as they had done while in Thessalonica (Php 4:15 f). This very success led to opposition, and Paul has to preach in the house of Titus Justus. But the work goes on till Gallio comes and a renewed effort is made to have it stopped, but Gallio declines to interfere and thus practically makes Christianity a religio licita, since he treats it as a variety of Judaism.

While here, after the arrival of Timothy and Silas, Paul writes the two letters to Thessalonica, the first of his 13 epistles. They are probably not very far apart in time, and deal chiefly with a grievous misunderstanding on their part concerning the emphasis placed by him on the Man of Sin and the Second Coming. Paul had felt the power of the empire, and his attention is sharply drawn to the coming conflict between the Roman empire and the kingdom of God. He treats it in terms of apocalyptic eschatology.

When he leaves Corinth, it is to go by Ephesus, with Aquila and Priscilla whom he leaves there with the promise to return. He goes down to Caesarea and "went up and saluted the church" (Ac 18:22), probably at Jetus (fourth visit), and "went down to Antioch." If he went to Jerusalem, it was probably incidental, and nothing of importance happened. He is back once again in Antioch after an absence of some 3 or 4 years.

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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).