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The Apostle Paul in Spain

The Apostle Paul in Spain

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Published by Jeremy Kapp
Did the Apostle Paul travel to Spain? There is evidence that he did.
Did the Apostle Paul travel to Spain? There is evidence that he did.

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Published by: Jeremy Kapp on Apr 16, 2013
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Paul in Spain
From “Like a Flickering Flame” by Dale G. Vought 
One of the questions that arise when considering the Church in Spain is thefundamental question of when the Gospel first arrived and by whose hands. If theApostle Paul had only told us if he fulfilled his desire to visit Spain, as expressed inhis letter to the
Romans (15:23-28)
, it would have simplified matters. However, hedid not and we are left without knowing for sure. The destruction of so many of thedocuments of that period is unfortunate. The Roman emperor Dioclation not onlytried to eliminate the Christians, but destroy all of their monuments and writings.Some of the documents might have clarified the subject for us but as it stands wecan only speculate about the meaning of the few documents that did survive. This author believes that it is reasonable to say that Paul did visit Spain for thefollowing reasons:1. It was a possibility time wise.2. The church was large and well-organized at an early date.3. The plans of Paul included a visit to Spain.4. Early documents indicate that such a visit was made.5. Local Spanish traditions speak of a visit by Paul.First of all there seems to be a period of time from the spring of 63 A.D. untilsometime in the year 67 A.D. that such a trip would have been possible.Where did Paul go after his two-year imprisonment in Rome
(Acts 28:16,30)
,which must have terminated in the spring of 63 A. D? His death in Rome was notuntil sometime around 67 A.D. There are those that believe that he was in Spain.(1) The reputable historian M. Diaz y Diaz says “The evangelizing presence of SaintPaul in Hispania (Spain) seems to be beyond all reasonable doubt; the testimony,both contemporary and later, is conserved almost in its entirety in authors and textsunrelated to the Peninsula, and are therefore free of a biased interpretation, givingsufficient proof.”(2) Secondly, the size and organization of the church in Spain by the third centurysuggests that the Gospel arrived at a very early date. In a letter written in 254 or255 by Cipriano, Bishop in Carthage, there is evidence of well-organized churches in
 
Spain. The church council of Spain held in Elvira, near Granada, in the year 306 or307 was attended by 19 bishops and 24 presbyters. The presbyters were delegatesfrom churches whose bishops were unable to attend. All of the provinces of Spainwere represented among them and from the subjects discussed; it is evident thatthe church was well developed.(3) Thirdly, it is common knowledge that Paul was following some kind of strategy inhis missionary trips. His visits to the important cities and to the Jewish synagogueswere not done arbitrarily; it was part of a plan. Paul would take up residence for atime in strategic centers, like Antioch and Corinth, from which he and his helperswould reach out to the smaller villages of the region. It is reasonable to believe thathe planned to make Rome, as he intimates in
Romans 15
, the next center forreaching out further to the west. The early arrival of the Gospel in Spain could bethe result of his having accomplished his purpose. Meyrick places such a visit abovequestion stating that Paul was in Spain for twelve months and made an importantcontribution to the establishment of the Church.(4) Fourthly, early documents, such as the letter written by Clement of Rome to thechurch in Corinth in 69 A.D. indicate that Paul did in fact reach Spain.In his letter, Clement states that “Paul also obtained the reward of patientendurance, after being thrown into jail seven times, compelled to flee, and stoned.After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation dueto his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to theextreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.”(5) The expression “extreme limit of the west” was commonly understood to beHispania or what is now the kingdom of Spain.(6) Other independent witnesses are found in Cyril of Jerusalem who writes, “ --one,who from Jerusalem, and even unto Illyricum, fully preached the Gospel, andinstructed even imperial Rome, and carried the earnestness of his preaching as faras Spain, undergoing conflicts innumerable, and performing Signs and wonders”(7) Chrysostom also writes about Paul stating, “For after he had been in Rome, hereturned to Spain, but whether he came thence again into these ‘parts, we knownot.”(8) There is also an interesting fragment of a papyrus manuscript discovered in theAmbrosia Library (Italy) in 1700 by Domingo M. Muratori. The document, written inLatin, seems to date around the year 140, judging from its content. Among theimportant references to the four gospels, Paul’s letter to the Romans, and otherdocuments, there appear five lines which terminate with the words “when he (Paul)went to preach the Gospel in Spain.”
 
(9) This reference to a visit of Paul to Spain is strong evidence that such a trip didindeed take place.(10) Finally, there are the local traditions. Although these are of late origin, theygive an idea of what people much closer to the time believed. In Tarragona(Barcelona) there is a monument to Paul, and the tradition that he preached there.Also, at the other extreme of Spain in the village of Ecija (Seville) there is amonument marking the place where Paul supposedly preached.Paul is still the Patron Saint of Ecija and for years baptisms were done in the nameof the Father, the Son and the Apostle Paul. One plausible route for Paul’s visitwould be to enter Spain at Tarragona (Tarraco), passing down the coast to Cadizand then back through Sevilla, Ecija, Cordoba, Mérida, Zaragoza and leaving againfrom the port of Ampuias (Emporias ) on the coast between Barcelona and theFrench border. It should be remembered that travel between Spain and Italy was acommon occurrence and what happened in one country did not escape the notice of the other. The evidence is strongly in favor of Paul having visited Spain. However that alonewould not have been sufficient to evangelize Spain to the extent we see at such anearly date. There had to have been others that did the bulk of the work. Who thesewere makes for interesting conjectures. Spain was very closely linked to Rome andmaybe some of the converted Pretorium guards that were with Paul in Rome weresent to Spain where they testified to others.
Footnotes1
W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Grand Rapids, MI., EerdmansPublishing Co. See the evidence presented by pages 738- 741.
2
M. Dias y Diaz; San Pablo enEspafla, Historia 16, ExtmXN, June 1980, p. 124.
3
Francisco J. Montalban, Manual de Historia de las Misiones, Secretariado de Misiones, Burgos. 1938, p.122.
4
Frederick Meyrick, Spain, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. London., 1892., p. 20.
5
A. Roberts, & J. Donaldson, The Ante-Nicen Fathers, Vol. I Page 18, Ages Digital Library.
6
To confirm this read Cayo Plinio the elder. Vo1wne III, I page 52, of his Natural History “Origo aboccasu solis et gaditano fretu;Hispania prima terrarum est, uterior apellata” The “gaditano” straits could be at Gibraltar or a reference to Cadiz while Hispania is defiantly Spain.
7
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II Volume VII (ECF -Volume XXX) Catechism., xvii.

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