Ready for Paul?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Paul's Fourth Missionary Journey

This was last week's study, which I forgot to post. My apologies to all. It was certainly interesting, looking at how the world and the church were changing between Paul's release and his death. I found some references that suggested Paul really did make it to Spain eventually too, and even to England. Wouldn't that be cool? I suspect I should amend the study to include Spain, given how sure the early church was. But England? That's quite a trek, and England has lots of other rumors to build on anyway.

(26) Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey
When Paul first planned to go to Rome, he hoped to continue to Spain as well (Read Romans 15:23-24). His plans may have changed when the trip to Rome became a prisoner’s journey rather than a traveler’s itinerary. Clement claims Paul did make it to “the extreme West,” but we have no letters written to Spain by Paul. We do have letters covering all the region between Judea and Rome. We've looked at Philippians, written while in prison in Judea, then Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians written from Rome. The other letters are believed to have been written later, and Paul's imprisonment is believed to have ended around AD 62,63, when his 4th missionary journey began.

Paul probably sailed back to Crete from Rome, leaving Titus to take charge (Titus 1:5). He could have continued to Caesarea, but it’s unlikely he’d return to Judea, given what happened there before. Since Paul already planned to visit Colosse (Philemon 1:22), he probably sailed to Miletus, near Ephesus, to meet with Timothy. Timothy then returned to Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) while Paul headed to Macedonia, via Colosse, crossing from Troas to Philippi again (Philippians 2:24), then heading down through Greece to Corinth.  He probably wrote 1Timothy and Titus from Corinth. Paul wintered with Titus at Nicopolis, just a little way up the west coast of Greece (Titus 3:12). Afterward, he might have sailed back to Corinth and Miletus, leaving Erastus and Trophimus behind (2 Timothy 4:20) as he headed back to see Timothy as promised earlier (1 Timothy 4:13). From there Paul might have traveled to Troas where he may have been arrested and taken to Rome, leaving various items behind (2 Timothy 4:13). It’s likely Paul wrote 2 Timothy during this second imprisonment in Rome, which he did not expect to survive (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Tradition also holds that Paul wrote Hebrews from Rome, though many other authors have been suggested.

There are lots of alternative ways to interpret how this fourth journey might have played out, including versions with a mission to Spain, but this is the one I’m going with. Paul ends up back in Rome in AD66 and is martyred in AD67 (or around then). Meanwhile Peter arrives in Rome and, according to Tertullian and Origen, is also imprisoned and martyred at this time (2 Peter 1:13-14). The apocryphal Acts of Peter maintains that Peter fled Rome during the troubles and was sent back by a vision of Jesus. He was martyred by being crucified upside down, which fits the prediction in John 21:18-19, and agrees with contemporary accounts of Roman soldiers liking to try different “positions.”

Church and Authority
1.       Read 1 Timothy 1:1-2, 4:14.  How important is it that church leaders trace some kind of inheritance to wise teachers before them? Does this explain why we have seminaries and schools of theology?

2.       Read 1 Timothy 1:3-4. We’re assuming Paul met with Timothy after being released from Roman imprisonment. How has the world moved on by then? What is Paul’s first concern for Ephesian Christians? Does the modern church have anything equivalent to “fables and genealogies” which might cause disputes?

3.       Read 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Was Paul forgiven because he was ignorant or because of grace? Do people need to stop any sinful behavior before being welcomed into church? What about before being accepted as leaders?

4.       Read 1 Timothy 1:18-20. What do you think Paul means? (Read 1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

5.       Read 1 Timothy 3:1-8, Titus 1:7-9. Paul is pretty strict in what he requires of church leaders. Can anyone truly be “blameless” (v2)? If we assume Paul is writing with a view to local socio-religious issues, what might you expect him to write to a modern American church – in the rural heartland, or on the back streets of San Francisco? (Note: Husband of one wife is probably a reference to being faithful, rather than to polygamy.)

6.       Do Paul’s rules for bishops and deacons give you a sense that church leadership has evolved somewhat by this time? What about church buildings? In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul refers to the house of God rather than the people in whose homes God’s people meet. How willing are we to accept change in the modern church?

7.       Read 1 Timothy 4:12. Paul tells Timothy not to let people look down on him for being a young leader. In the modern world, what type of leader might be looked down on?

Church and Society
1.       Read 1 Timothy 2:8-12, 1:6-7, 5:13(or11)-15, 2 Timothy 3:6-8. According to records there was only one female Jewish rabbi at this time, and the men refused to listen to her. Mostly they refused to even let women learn. What picture do you get of what might be happening in Ephesus at this time? How might this affect your opinion of what Paul says about women in these letters? Does reading 2 Timothy 1:3-5 help?

2.       Read 1 Timothy 5:3-5,8,18-19, 2 Timothy 2:20-21.  Paul reminds Timothy to treat various members of the Christian congregation with honor. This was an important concept in Ephesian (Greco-Roman) society. Households were headed by men and included a carefully ranked structure of relatives, dependents, slaves, etc., including widows. Money was vitally important because it allowed men to purchase visible signs of honor to display at well-ordered banquets. But widows without men to support them might be condemned to poverty. Who might be condemned to poverty in American cities, and where should our priorities lie?

3.       Read Titus 1:10-14. Are there similar deceivers today, who can subvert whole communities?

4.       Read Titus 2:1-8. What picture of Cretan society does this give? How should Christians be different from their neighbors?

5.       Read Titus 3:9-11. Who might be interested in genealogies? Have genealogies taken over from circumcision as a bone of contention? Do we have similar divisive issues in modern church society?

6.       Read 1 Timothy 6:17-18. Are we rich? If so, how does this apply to us?

Church and Doctrine
1.      . Read 1 Timothy 4:1-5. Has Paul’s attitude to “end times” changed since he wrote Thessalonians? How willing are we to accept changing emphasis in church teachings today?

2.       Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Is the world really so different today? Are we still in the same “last days”?

3.       Read 2 Timothy 1:8,13-17. Do you get the sense that it’s getting harder to be a Christian at this time? How do we tell the difference between holding fast to faith and causing dissension among believers?

4.       Read 2 Timothy 3:12-14. What should we expect in the world, and how should we protect ourselves? Read 2 Peter 1:5-7. Does Peter’s advice help?

5.       Read 2 Peter 1:16. Does this help authenticate our faith?

6.       Read 2 Peter 2:1-3. Are there still false prophets and false teachings?

7.       Read 2 Peter 3:3-4, 10-13. What might be a “right” approach to the end times?


8.       Read 2 Peter 3:14-16. What is Peter’s attitude to Paul’s writing? What should be our attitude to scriptures?

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