In the 15th chapter of Romans Paul writes as follows in verses 22 to 25: "Wherefore also I was being hindered these many times from coming unto you; but now, no longer having place in these countries, and having (had) a strong desire to come unto you, for a considerable number of years, when soever I might be journeying into Spain;—since I am hoping, when journeying through, to get a sight of you, and by you to be sent forward thither; if perchance—of you—first—in a measure—I be made full. But now I am journeying into Jerusalem—ministering to the saints." This is Rotherham's rendering.
No doubt Paul at that time had it on his mind to visit many districts, and here there is a suggestion that he might go to Spain, via Rome. But there is no definite arrangement so far.
When Paul in his Roman prison was writing to the Philippians he was not sure whether he would soon be martyred or be set free. Yet a feeling arises within him in ch. 1:24 that his remaining in the flesh was more needful for the sake of the Philippians, so he continues, "And, of this having become assured, I know that I shall abide and stay behind with you all . . ."
Yet the closing verses of the Acts do not say which of the two possibilities was realized. Luke finishes his record very abruptly. Had Paul been executed, Luke could easily have said so. Sir W. M. Ramsay gave reasons for believing that Paul's stay for an entire two-year period in a private hired house consisted of the statutory eighteen months within which the prosecution could state its case, plus a few months to arrange for Paul's release. But it seems that the prosecuting Jews never turned up, as Paul during all that period kept on teaching the Truth "with all freedom of speech, unforbidably."
Moreover, 2. Timothy must have been written by Paul well into the sixties of the first century A.D. In Romans 15:19 Paul writes, say in the year 57, about "Illyricum." But at some time in the sixties, the Roman Senate changed the name of Illyricum to Dalmatia, which is found in 2. Timothy 4:10. This epistle seems to have been Paul's final writing, and he seems to have been put to death soon after.
About thirty years after the death of Paul, Clement of Rome, overseer of the Ecclesia, wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, and in his chapter five, mentioned that Paul, "coming to be a herald both in the East and in the West, was teaching righteousness in the whole world, and came to the limit of the West, witnessing before the leaders." J. B. Lightfoot, D.D., says at that time there were many eminent Latin authors and statesmen who were natives of Spain, so that those who maintain that Paul's first Roman captivity ended in his martyrdon must explain "the limit of the West" as Rome itself. Lightfoot seems to agree with Strabo's explanation of "the limit of the West" as being the western extremity of Spain, the pillars of Hercules. He also thought it possible that Paul may have included a visit to Gaul. Yet Clement of Rome may have been wrong about Paul going to Rome. So also the Muratorian Fragments, a collection of extracts from various authors, made about the eighth century, first published in 1740, which also mentions "the departure of Paul from Rome for Spain." Prof. Godet, however, thinks that Clement may have meant that Paul, after reaching Spain, was there arrested, and afterwards suffered martyrdom in Rome before the rulers. But Godet says all this may only have been a conclusion drawn by the later Fathers from Romans 15:24.
Godet was inclined to think it more probable that Paul was set free after his two year detainment in Rome, judging from what he wrote to the Philippians (ch. 1:25). Writing to Philemon also (v. 21-22), Paul knew that Philemon would prepare for him a lodging. Philemon appears to have been a wealthy citizen of Colosse or Ephesus, a convert of Paul's.
During his captivity Paul might have got news from the East which made him eager to return thither as soon as possible, and defer a visit to Spain. No church in Spain has ever claimed that Paul was its founder.
Godet, however, was much more concerned to know whether Paul, in the event of his liberation, again visited the churches of Macedonia, Philippi, and Asia Minor. He says, "This question is inseparable from that of the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles," as some authorities denied that. He then makes the statement that "It is impossible to find, during Paul's active ministry in Greece and in Asia Minor, or during the two years of his first captivity in Rome in circumstances corresponding to the biographical details contained in the three Pastoral Epistles." He says these three Epistles are so closely connected both in thought and in style, and so distinctly marked out from all the other writings of Paul, that it is impossible to intersperse them among the rest. Lastly, the unsound teaching to which reference is made in the Pastoral Epistles is clearly the heresy of the false teachers at Colosse, which only arose during the captivity of Paul in Rome. If this false doctrine had already spread through the churches of Asia Minor before Paul's arrest in Jerusalem, he would certainly have alluded to it in his charge to the pastors of the churches of Ephesus and Miletus, to watch against the "grievous wolves" which, after his departing, would enter in among them to destroy the flock (Acts 20:29).
Godet then goes on to say that in these three Epistles Paul seems to be more occupied than was his wont with the future of the church, and attaches greater importance to the various ecclesiastical offices on which that future might largely depend. He sees dangerous teaching spreading among the churches which might gravely undermine true piety, quite different from the Pharisaic, Judaising doctrine, which he had opposed in his earlier epistles.
Godet then asks whether there never was a period in Paul's life when new considerations, which are not shewn in his earlier writings, may have come to occupy his mind. Could it not have happened that towards the close of his life his teaching may have taken a new direction, and found expression in new modes of speech appropriate to the changed conditions?
In the second part of the Epistle (from ch. 3:14), instructions are given as to the way in which Timothy should conduct himself towards the church in general, and to its various classes in particular. He must keep before him its high destiny. He is a pillar and basement of the Truth, so is charged to use the more watchfulness over the church, because the spirit of prophecy foretells a time coming when there will be a great falling away fmm the Faith; when a spirit of false asceticism will creep into the church under the guise of superior sanctity, but based en the impious idea that the whole material part of the works of God is to be ascribed to the spirit of evil. Timothy must sedulously avoid any approach to this error. He is to command the respect of the church in spite of his youth, and is not to allow anything to quench the gift which is in him, imparted "by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." Then follow counsels as to his behaviour towards the older members of both sexes, and the younger sisters and widows. Then he gives rules as to the treatment of presbyters, or elders, who are evidently the same as the bishops spoken of in ch. 3. They were there designated bishops or overseers, with reference to their function in the church; here they are spoken of as presbyters or elders in recognition of their dignity.
The Epistle to Titus: The elaborate superscription shews this is not in any way a private communication, but an -official charge by Paul to his deputy. Paul had left Titus in Crete expressly to appoint elders in every city to carry on the work. There he had to contend with false Judaising teaching. Then he gives counsels to Titus as to his behaviour towards various classes in the church, old, young, and slaves. The grace offered to all ought to sanctify all, and Titus is to commend this grace of God to all. Paul then gives directions on the bearing to be maintained towards unbelieving magistrates and others. The church as a whole must be carefully guarded against profane teaching.
Second Epistle to Timothy: This is more private, personal and intimate, so Paul omits the title Apostle. Timothy is to stir up the gift which is in him, and not allow himself to be daunted by fear of sufferings for Christ. Paul encourages him by four considerations: the grandeur of the Gospel; his own fine example and that of the faithful Onesiphorus; and by the sure expectation of the Christian.
Next, the church has been invaded by teaching to no profit, tending only to barren disputations. But there is still a nucleus of true believers, bearing the true Divine seal of holiness. Thus Timothy must not be discouraged, but contend firmly and patiently for the Truth. A time will come when sound teaching will not be tolerated, but according to their own desires, for themselves they will accumulate teachers, tickling the hearing. Already some believers have become perverted. To counteract their influence, Paul gives Timothy three counsels: He is to remember Paul's own example of constancy in Lycaonia; to feed continually on the Scriptures; and redouble his vigilance and activity in evangelistic work.
Paul then refers to his approaching martyrdom, and finally, refers to his first appearance before the Imperial judgment seat, which gave him an opportunity of fully heralding the Gospel message, and yet did not lead to his condemnation.
The Teaching of the Apostle: Some have claimed that in these three Epistles the conception of the Gospel differs notably fmm Paul's well-known teaching. He hardly touches upon salvation by faith and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. His great theme is rather the application of the Gospel to outward conduct. See Titus 3:8 and 1. Tim. 1:5. He brings into prominence the practical side of the Christian virtues. Paul was quite right to do this after having thoroughly established the Gospel. It was indeed necessary, just as we find it necessary in our own time. So we find Paul using different language in his final Epistles. Godet said that diversity of verbiage is a marked feature throughout the literary career of Paul.
It is quite possible that this new venture of Paul may have caused him to give up his idea of going to Spain. He saw that there was a danger of substituting intellectualism in religion for piety of heart and life. There were also heresies of Jewish origin, from "teachers of the law," Judaising Christians of the circumcision, teaching "Jewish fables," and "endless genealogies," no doubt Jewish probably, taken from Genesis, which these teachers allegorized, wherein they contrived to find all sorts of mysteries, with which they entertained their followers. Or these genealogies may more likely have been of angels. Judaism delighted to amplify the sober references in Scripture to the angels. The Book of Enoch, widely circulated at that time, even in the Church (see the use made of it in Jude) is an illustration in point. The Essenes had in their teaching a special chapter on the names of angels, which the initiates swore not to divulge. Titus 1:11 probably refers to teachers who traded for filthy lucre's sake in these so-called revelations.
It seems therefore natural to connect the Pastoral Epistles with the Colossi an Epistle. Teachers at Colosse tried to bring the Church into legal bondage, advocating the law as a higher means of sanctification and illumination; making distinctions between days and meats; taking up the worship of angels so as to get from them revelations about the celestial world (Col. 2:16-18).
In 1. Tim. 4:1-5 we find a different form of error, a doctrine of asceticism, by which certain meats and natural acts are forbidden as immoral. In 2. Tim. 3:1-9 there is reference to growing corruption within the Church itself, that general corruption which Christ Himself predicted as coming at the end of the age. Paul referred to this in 2. Thess. 2:7 as the secret of lawlessness.
All these unsound doctrines caused ever-increasing gravity to the Churches, and Paul forecast even more deadly errors in the future.
Godet says Paul accuses the Judaising teachers of taking pleasure in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into things not intended for their knowledge, vainly puffed up as they were by their fleshly mind (Col. 2:18). He says this verse is really the key to the whole Epistle. It had been objected that there was no connection between the worship of angels and the legal side of the system. But from a Jewish point of view the connection is quite obvious. Before the Sanhedrim Stephen had exclaimed "You . . . . who got the Law at orders of angels, and do not maintain it!" (Acts 7:53). And Paul himself said the Law "was ordained through angels in hand an of intermediary" (Gal. 3:19). So to revere the institutions of Moses meant to revere the angels who had delivered them, and thus to assure the favour of these higher powers by placing themselves under their protection, so that they could obtain heavenly communications from them and sublime revelations of which the angels were the mediators. By means of angels the believers were to be initiated into that Divine word of mysteries with which the angels were familiar, and obtain strength so that they could attain to the standard of complete holiness.
As for Gentiles, these Jews considered them to be under the sway of diabolic powers, the angels of darkness, to whom idolatrous worship was given. They could only be delivered by placing themselves under the leading of the angels of light, and propitiating them by careful obedience to their precepts and by worship which was their due.
Due to the above unsound doctrines, it came to be that Paul was much more occupied than before with the duties and responsibilities of the servants of the Church. In earlier years there had been, in the Corinthian Church, twelve spiritual gifts. But this seems to have been merely a local and temporary fact. In the Roman Epistle, only seven spiritual gifts are named. What had happened? Simply this, that there was now more than a foundation ministry, namely, a ministry of edification, entrusted to the pastors and teachers. The great abundance of gifts named in the Epistle to the Corinthians seems to have vanished. In proportion as the extraordinary gifts disappeared, the offices of, the Church increased in importance and influence, and the principal gift—that of teaching—which survived all the rest, came to be more and more closely identified with the office of the regular ministry.
There is another question we must ask: What was the language of Spain in the first century A.D.? Spain is thought to have been originally Iberian or Berber. In prehistoric times the Kelts had seized a large part from the Iberians. Then about 1100 B.C. Phoenicians founded trading colonies on the south coast. Soon Greek settlements were founded on the east coast. About 500 B.C. the Phoenicians were forced to ask help from their kinsmen the Carthaginians. Then by 205 B.C. Romans dominated Spain. We must also remember the ancient Basque language, which is closely akin to the Finnish language.
As there is no clear proof that Paul ever reached Spain, we can afford to await the coming day when all things shall be cleared up.
A.T. Last updated 30.11.2005