Acts 28:11-16 – Paul in Rome

Front of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls - Roma - Italy

Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome

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 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.

9 thoughts on “Acts 28:11-16 – Paul in Rome

  1. I find it interesting that Christianity found it’s way to Rome before Paul made it there. To me that is an encouraging sign that The Way, was spread through the known world at the time of Pentecost. Yet while this may be true, there is no biblical evidence to support this except to say that Aquila and Priscilla went home and spread their version, along with the fact that Christianity did make it to Rome before Paul got there. In any case the fact that the Good News of Jesus was spreading throughout the known world is something that is encouraging to hear.

  2. This post was extremely interesting to me. As Nathan mentioned above, Christianity was in Rome before Paul got there. I think that this is another example of how the book of Acts shows how God can move through different places. As I look back in some of the other chapters. I see a common trend. I also see how they could be quite different though. I will go back and use Ephesus as an example. Paul came into Ephesus and it was an extremely sinful city. One could even say that Christianity was not even heard of. There were magicians, sorcerers, and exorcists. This was Paul’s longest journey and after he left, Christianity was spread throughout the land. Many lives were transformed. I believe that it is reasons like this that Christianity reached different places before Paul did. As we know, Paul spread the Gospel by Word-of-Mouth and people were constantly traveling. So, this could have very well been the case. Ephesus and Rome aren’t neighboring towns, but I assume that people traveled from place to place with the ports and doing business.
    I think it is extremely important think about how often the Jews were in contact with the Romans. This goes back to what I have mentioned above though. The word is spread through people talking with each other. Personally, I can’t think of another way that it would have been spread to Rome before Paul. If I were in Paul’s shoes it would be extremely encouraging to me.

  3. it would seem that Paul was taking a gamble when he decided to set things in motion that would lead him to Rome. no matter if Christianity had made it to Rome before Paul or not he was still stepping into the unknown. if the Jews there had heard of him he could be under attack from them the moment that he arrived and that would still be true even with Jewish Christians. it would seem that Christians were very Jewish in Rome as we have Pricilla and Aquilla as examples. but it is interesting that this did not bother Paul not knowing he clearly had faith and that faith was clearly rewarded. it was rewarded because when he arrived he was not attacked and in fact the Jews in Rome had not heard things about him already and they actually listened to him at least for a time. Paul could have worried he could have been unsure and allowed that to hinder him or pull him off course but he trusted in God that the plan that God had would be fulfilled one way or another.

  4. When Paul reaches Rome it is clear that Christianity was already found in the city. This is really cool to me because from the book of Acts we get to read specifically on Paul’s journey and testimony to all the good works that he did for the different cities through out his journey. This makes me think of how many people God has used to spread the Word to those who don’t know it. I think this article was very interesting and encouraging to see how God works through all of us and uses us to spread the Word. I am excited to graduate and see what God has in for me in the future and how I can be used to be the light for others just like Paul was in the book of Acts.

    • Paul was not the first person to share the gospel message in Rome. Yet, Paul travels throughout his journeys to encourage and build up the community of believers. Paul continues to share with Gentiles and Jews about Christ and the model of peace, love, and grace found in God. The article focuses on the idea that it is by grace we are saved not by works for we could never earn salvation on our own. Works are just a way to show our appreciation that we didn’t deserve yet is given freely. We too should not expect to be given anything for our works rather we do it for God out of joy and desire to.

  5. Before taking this class, I had no idea there was Christianity in Rome before Paul got there, I just assumed that he was the one to bring Christ to the area like he did to so many other areas during the time of Acts. The mystery that shrouded this initial arrival of Christianity intrigues me even more. I also find it interesting that the Bible doesn’t expand on this more, although to be completely honest, if it was worth including, then it would’ve been included if it was truly that important. My interest persists nonetheless. It’s interesting to note that churches did in fact exist during Roman rule, even before Paul, as noted in the blog post. As I stated Cyprus for my geography research paper, I noticed that there was a good handful of churches that existed on the island, that was of course under Roman rule for a long period of time. Perhaps we get so caught up in the militaristic and dominant rule of the Romans that we forget that yes, even the roman empire had normal average people like you and I that also partook in religion, and yes, churches existed, as they were very much a part of the culture.

  6. We see across the New Testament letters and texts that the Jews experienced something called the “diaspora” (James 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1). This occurred after the persecution of the Christians, but already after Pentecost, a number of Jews went away to other cities and countries. With them, they would’ve carried the news of the Gospel and what they had witness in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirt came upon the disciples (Acts 2:1-13). Therefore, it makes sense that Christianity and Judaism had already been in Rome before Paul was brought there by the Roman centurions, as Long noted in the blog post. Because Christianity was not how it is today, it makes sense that it was more Jewish in nature and did not know the fully theology of grace and Jesus’ works on the cross yet. Therefore, Paul’s time in Rome was crucial, as was his other visits in other countries, since he was God’s instrument to strengthen and gain more believers.

  7. I find it important to the fact that Paul wanted to bring the Gentiles to the kingdom of God because God specifically came to him with the journey that he was to go on. Paul took the directions from God and preached to many Gentiles to make them believers in Christ. It is also a very interesting idea to believe that Paul brought Christianity into Rome because of the preaching he did on his way to arriving in Rome. Paul preaches to many individuals about the Lord Jesus Christ and why they should believe, this was Paul’s way of sharing the gospel with others. It is scary to think like Paul did before his arrival in Rome, due to the fact that many Jewish individuals wanted him dead. Having an understanding that before arriving at a destination, there may be individuals who want to harm you personally is a very frightening thing to grasp and understand. Paul had to think about this because it was a very realistic idea and he had to know how to handle the situation before he was put into it. Throughout Acts as a whole, Paul is courageous and particularly strong since he preached the gospel in areas where he could be put to death for. Paul did not care about the negatives that could have come along with the preaching of Christianity because he understood that God would protect him along the journey especially when he had to face officials of Rome. Paul did nothing but condemn himself to the Lord and to the people who had not come to the eyes of Christ, this is why he is a being who devoted his life to the kingdom of God.

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