Christianity came to Rome before Paul, but we have very little idea of how it got there or how closely it was aligned with Jerusalem. As Luke tells the story, Christianity did more out from Jerusalem, to Samaria and Judea, then to major Diaspora Jewish communities – Antioch, then Asia Minor, Greece (Corinth) and finally Ephesus. Paul’s mission to the gentile world began at Antioch in the Synagogue and his normal strategy was to find the synagogue in a community in order to reach the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles first, then he moved into the marketplace in order to reach Gentiles.
It is possible that the Roman church was not Pauline in theology, having been founded by Jews after Pentecost. We know that the letter to the Romans was sent five years before this time to a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles, but we have no idea how that letter was received by the community in Rome. Ben Witherington suggests that Paul was the first to bring the gospel of grace through faith and gentile salvation apart from the Law to Rome (Witherington, Acts, 785 ). This is entirely possible, since the only reference we have to pre-Pauline Roman Christianity is Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18) and the reference in Tacitus to Jewish rioting over Chrestus. It there appears as though pre-Acts 28 Christianity in Rome was quite Jewish.
The similar questions arise when thinking about the Jewish community. To what extent were the Jews in Rome in contact with Jerusalem? What authority did the Sanhedrin have over synagogues in Rome? (Or anywhere, for that matter. In Acts 9 the High Priest requests that Christians be turned over to Paul, he does not order the synagogue to do anything!) There is therefore a tension in Paul’s arrival – how will he be received? Have Jews from Jerusalem managed to arrive before him? If they had left about the same time as he did from Jerusalem they could hardly have traveled faster given the time of the year. Paul has no idea if he will meet Jewish Christians who are predisposed to attack him, or whether they will be like the Bereans, more open to his teaching.
This uncertainty does not seem to bother Paul. Once he finds lodgings in Rome he begins to meet with individuals in order to explain his presence in Rome and, likely as not, to explain his “side of the story.” He is still the apostle to the Gentiles and his imprisonment will permit him to reach the household of Caesar.
18 thoughts on “Acts 28 – Paul Arrives in Rome”
I think that sometimes I only think of Paul spreading the gospel and no one else, but that is definitely not the case. As you said P. Long, “Christianity came to Rome before Paul…” We may not know the exact person or group that brought the Gospel to the Romans, but they had a previous knowledge of it. It it not far out to think that someone else was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul shared this message with many, many people, and encouraged them to do the same. Someone that accepted this new message and believed in Christ could easily have gone out and started telling others about it as well.
I think part of the tension that might have come about when Paul arrived could also have had something to do with how he used to act, how he used to be before. His reputation I am sure followed him or was spread across the whole of Israel, he must have had the uncomfortable thought every time he arrived somewhere that they might hate him for his past. I do like how Jessica puts it where she used to think that Paul was the only person sharing the gospel, and that is so true because I used to think the same things, its interesting and cool to be able to understand and realize those types of things while studying the bible. I also wonder how much authority the Sanhedrin had in Rome, I feel that they might have authority, but at the same time it is Rome, and the Romans I am sure had more power than anyone else, with their Roman Guards, and their own officials of the churches.
I get the idea from some of the readings, that perhaps the synagogues could have been suffering from the issue of legalism. There is no verse that say “they were legalistic in nature” but it seems that way. Paul getting to Rome could only move Christianity forward. The fact that Paul had to survive so much to get to Rome proves that God wanted the Word to spread. Paul was one of the most influential members in the spread of christianity and it is only through God that he does this.
“The fact that Paul had to survive so much to get to Rome proves that God wanted the Word to spread.” Of course Paul had to suffer much, the Lord told Ananias that Paul would suffer greatly for the cause of Christ. ” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” So yes Paul suffered much as traveled proclaiming the word of God for that was God’s plan. I think there are many possibilities as to how the word traveled to Rome faster than Paul. I have no doubt in my mind that people traveling would be message carriers. It is definitely possible that merchants carried the Gospel to Rome and so on. Paul seemed to take his time as he traveled on his missionary journeys and therefore it would most likely could make it there before Paul.
I think that when Paul arrived in Rome and started to go to the synagogues the people had already heard the gospel and some may have believed and some may not have. I think that they had already heard it so the people who didn’t believe didn’t want to listen to it again from a different person. Even though I’m sure everyone who preached the gospel even Paul had different ways of preaching it, the people who didn’t believe it, didn’t want to hear it again so that caused tension.
“It is possible that the Roman church was not Pauline in theology, having been founded by Jews after Pentecost.” So what kind of church was it? There seems to have been quite a spectrum of Jewish through Christian churches in the beginning. There were fully Jewish synagogues, mostly Gentile churches and everything in between. Interestingly enough, I have never experienced anything Jewish in any church that I have attended in my life, so whatever was initially Jewish in the original Christian church must have been weeded out over time. Paul was so integrated into the Jewish culture, and he wanted Jews to continue following the law even after they became Christian…so where is the Jewish influence in the church today? I’m just curious as to why something so deeply founded in Jewish roots has none left.
I never thought about it like that Cappon. We don’t have many Jewish influences, but I do experience religiousity(did I make that word up). The same religousness the Pharisee’s showed is still present in our churches and everywhere. I think a lot of good churches are battling this fight. My guess is that the Roman Christians were more Jewish, since Paul had not been there yet and he was the light to the Gentiles.
The wonder of how people knew of the Gospel in Rome before Paul gets there. We do know that there were other guys who were sharing Gospel, not sure what there complete message was, Phillip, Peter and others. It is possible that somebody was converted from hearing the Gospel and they shared it with others, maybe they did not have everything the way Paul did, hence the reason why there said to be preaching a different Gospel. Stephanie sums it up well, if God wants the Gospel to spread, then he will spread it, Paul was a main vessel but maybe not the only one.
Responding to Joe, the biggest thing that we received from our Jewish roots is their Scriptures, our Old Testament. We also take the gathering with a focus on Scripture reading and a short interpretation (although we’ve taken the interpretation piece and made it the focal point, maybe to a fault). And I believe that we’ve lost much of the community emphasis (definitely to a fault).
I like Witherington’s suggestion that Paul introduced the Roman church to the Gospel of grace. I see how they might be quick to accept a permanent atonement for sin, but that this idea of grace through faith might be a bit of a new stretch for them. Yet I love Paul’s urgency for the Gospel. We see this in Rome – “He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.” [28.23] However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns that small gate and narrow road lead to life, “and only a few find it” [Mt 6.14]
I really like where Kimmy was going with her post. Those are the thoughts that were going through my mind as well. I feel like there was tension there because everyone knew who Paul was before and what he had done. I mean I know even back then that they were human and that they judged people off of what they had heard or known them for. I just can see where they were coming from, I imagine they had the frame of mind…”Why should we believe anything this man is saying? He once persecuted the Christians.” I feel like I may have been one of those people.
I think that Roman Christians are the perfect example of the power of Christ. We see that even during persecution, the gospel spread to as far as Rome. Jessica’s reminder that Paul was not the only one spreading the gospel was a breath of fresh air. We see that Paul made converts wherever he went, but in Rome we find Christians already. Paul was known for previously having a helping hand in the persecution of early Christians, but as history has shown us, quite often the gospel thrives during persecution. When early Christians were being persecuted what did they often do? They fled, and wherever they fled to they brought with them the Gospel. So when Paul arrives in Rome, there are Christians Christians there already! Could we possibly say that God was using Paul even before Paul fully understood his mission?
I think we tend to look past that Christianty was in Rome before Paul had gotten there. Even though we have no idea how Christianty had gotten there. But we can assume that it started out like anything else, much like a disease, one person catches it and it spreads. Don’t take that the wrong way… I think basically what had happened before Paul had gotten there is that Christianity had become dormant. Upon Paul’s showing he basically lit a fire under Chritianity and rekindled a flame that once started.
I think that Paul was not God’s only tool in spreading the gospel and somtimes that is forgotton. God uses so many people to do His work and most of them are not in the spotlight. Many missionaries go and do mission work that helps set up for others ministeries and their work is not as apreciated because it was in the backgroun. Yet their work was just as important and the missionaries who’s works are at the front would not be able to functon without them. I think this is similar to this story in Acts. Back towards the beginning of Acts the christians were spread out due to persecution. It is not hard to beleive that some of them might have traveled to Rome. In any case it is beneficial to Paul and he is able to set up a good foundation for his own ministry.
I deffinitely agree with Jennifer Warner and many others. We never even consider that there were missionaries besides Paul, and that they were doing mission work even before he was. I dont know why I always thought that so many people were reached by Paul only. I guess thats just what I was taught.This passage just goes to show how limited my thinking is sometimes, to what other people put the focus on. I think this can be applied to many parts of the Bible where some things are emphasized more than others(which is not always neccesarily right) and therefore we should be careful to study everything in the Bible and not just rely on what tradition has always emphasized. Traditions can be good, but they are still flawed.
I think that the argument that the church in Rome was started by Pentecost converted Jews is a very plausible and reasonable explanation that I would agree with. Rome was the capital of the empire and a great city. So, many Jews during the Pentecost celebration would have come from Rome only to go back to their families and synagogues after their conversion. But, Witherington makes a great point in saying that Paul was likely the first to teach them a law-free, grace salvation. The Jews that started the church ahead of Paul’s influence would have been founded by newly converted Jewish men who believed in Jesus as Messiah, but they would not have had the same divinely inspired revelation that Paul received.
I believe that it didn’t matter to Paul if there was already Christianity there or not. He had a goal in mind and went there to accomplish his goal. It’s hard to say what type of Christianity was in Rome, there could I’ve been a group from a town that Paul stopped in that decided they were going to travel to Rome and bring the message Paul brought them. Is that out of the question? If it was a different type of Christianity that did not believe in grace through faith and gentile faith then it might be a little harder for him to change them again. They already changed their ways to something that someone told them was the truth now they have to change again.
I addition to what Kimmey said. I feel the same way. The last time that Paul was here, was when he was persecuting the believers. There would have been great tention with everyone. In light of what Katelynd said, I do think that in the back of everyones mind, there is hesitation. Paul went through a miraculous change, and for him to be procaliming the gospel after stoning people for even talking about Him, is beyond belief.
At this point, Paul needs to prove them wrong and show that great changes that God has led to him. in the perspective of the people, this is a chance for them to see how big God is. That He can change a heart of stone into something that works for Him. This is also where strong faith needs to come in. Knowing that God can change someone into something good like that takes a lot of faith from people around Paul.
In the very end of this post, PLong mentions that Paul doesn’t seem to be bothered by his own uncertainty as to how the Jews and Christians in Rome will react to his presence. I find that truly amazing. It isn’t necessarily any more amazing than all the time he spent walking and shipping from one end of the known world to the other and back again to spread the gospel, but this confidence in this moment really brings it home for me. He has had half a year to anticipate the effects he will evoke in Rome and the different human variables that might affect those reactions. At least that is what I would spend a large part of that time thinking of. I would be figuring out how I can maximize my odds of a favorable reception in Rome, the single place I have most longed to go for the last several years of my ministry and spreading the gospel. Paul indeed doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned about this. When they get underway again after his shipwreck, the next stop lasts for several weeks during which he just waits patiently, with no discernible anxiety while his Jerusalem accusers may well be gaining an advantage over him in Rome. Pretty amazing really