Rome and the Apostle Paul

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The Bible records that the apostle Paul was in Rome twice, both times as a prisoner, during his thirty-five year public ministry. His appearance in the city of Rome occurs during his fourth and his fifth missionary journeys.

Paul's first visit to Rome is initiated when he is arrested at Jerusalem's temple in late spring of 58 A.D. His arrest occurs when several Jews, who hate him and the gospel message, falsely accuse him of defiling the temple and teaching others to disobey God.

. . . the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the multitude; and they laid their hands on him, Crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place; and furthermore, he has also brought Greeks into the temple, and has defiled this holy place" (Acts 21:27 - 28, HBFV throughout).

Soldiers of Rome stationed in Jerusalem, alerted of a riot, rush to the scene and arrest Paul as several Jews were in the act of beating him to death (Acts 21:30 - 33). Believing he is the cause of the uproar in Jerusalem, they take the apostle, under armed guard, to the city of Caesarea where his case can be heard by governor appointed by Rome (Acts 23:23 - 24).

Because he is a citizen of Rome (see Acts 22:25 - 28), Paul is afforded the right to have the case against him heard before an official of the Empire.

The Beheading of the Apostle Paul
The Beheading of Paul in Rome

After languishing in a Caesarea prison for more than two years, the apostle has an initial hearing before Governor Festus (Acts 25:1 - 12). Unwilling to go back to Jerusalem to have his case fully heard before his accusers, Paul requests that the charges against him be brought before Emperor Nero in Rome. He is then taken as a prisoner to the Empire's capital city and, after a trip full of trials and troubles, finally arrives there in late winter of 61 A.D.

Paul's imprisonment in Rome during the next two years is surprisingly fruitful, as he writes four of his fourteen epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon). He is ultimately acquitted of all the charges against him and is freed in 63 A.D. In regard to the timing of his imprisonment in the city of seven hills, an excellent treatise on his life and journeys states the following.

"Apostle Paul was at Rome precisely at that time when the Palatine was the most conspicuous spot on the earth, not merely for crime, but for splendor and power. This was the center of all the movements of the Empire.

"Here were heard the causes of all Roman citizens who had appealed to Caesar. Hence were issued the orders to the governors of provinces, and to the legions on the frontier" (Life and Epistles of Paul by Conybeare and Howson).

Paul's fifth and final missionary journey begins when he is set free in Rome. He immediately travels to the island of Crete, then Nicopolis, then makes his promised journey to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28) and likely to Britain.

Paul is once again a prisoner in Rome in 67 A.D. Tradition states that he is martyred through being beheaded (a method of execution allowed citizens of the Empire) in the spring of 68. Concerning the date of his death, Conybeare and Howson state the following.

"We are led to fix the last year of Nero (Emperor in Rome) as that of Paul’s martyrdom. And this is the very year assigned to it by Jerome, and the next to that assigned by Eusebius, the two earliest writers who mention the date of his death at all" (ibid.).

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