Friday, August 2, 2013

Whatever Happened to Paul the Apostle? by Chris White

Statue of Paul at St. Paul's in Rome

Paul the Apostle is credited with writing half of the New Testament and yet was not part of the original apostolic band that followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. The New Testament book of  Acts 9:15 makes it clear that although he was a chronological latecomer, he was a specifically chosen instrument of the Lord to bear witness of the gospel to the Gentiles.  Most of what we know about Paul’s ministry is recorded in the book of Acts as well as short self-references in many of his epistles.  Paul makes mention in Galatians that he had a long sojourn in Arabia prior to moving into official ministry.  This is most likely today’s Jordan rather than Saudi Arabia since in that time, the lands east of the Jordan river were frequently called Arabia.  In the book of Romans (ch.15),  Paul references his great journeys to preach among the Gentiles as having gone from Jerusalem to Illyricum. He also writes that he would like this congregation to help him on his way to evangelize Spain after he stops and ministers to them.  If you follow these statements with a map in front of you, it is clear that Paul had covered the eastern half of the Roman Empire and had as his ambition moving on to cover the western half.  What was unknown to Paul at the time was that he would be coming to Rome but he would be in chains when he did so.  There are many ancient testimonies that suggest Paul was released from his first imprisonment because no one showed up to testify against him and that he did make his way to Spain and possibly even Britain.  Returning to Rome after these journeys, Paul was caught in the Neronian persecution (AD 65?) of Christians and is believed to have been beheaded outside of Rome on the Appian Way.  Paul’s burial site is believed to be inside of St. Paul’s (Outside the Walls) Church in Rome.  The provenance of this is fairly undisputed since the tradition is so ancient, the Church is actually built over the old Appian Way, and because archaeologists have recovered an ancient shrine on site that actually marked  his grave.

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