- Christogenea Internet Radio
The Ordering and Chronology of the Ministry and Epistles of Paul, Part 1: The Travelling Epistles
Here I hope to gather into one place my interpretations of the time and place of the writing of each of the epistles of Paul of Tarsus. Here we shall discuss the travelling epistles, a name which I am giving to Paul’s first 8 epistles in order to distinguish them from the other 6 which were written while Paul was a prisoner. So for this endeavor, I have collected at least most of the information from what I had already presented in our commentaries for each of the epistles of Paul and in our earlier commentary on the Book of Acts, all of which spanned about a hundred and fifty-five podcast presentations from April, 2013 through December, 2017. This I believe is important as a reference guide, first because we have had a skeleton article on the Ordering and chronology of the epistles of Paul in the References section at Christogenea since August of 2015 which I have long hoped to complete. But more importantly, there is much misinformation in many popular and supposedly authoritative academic sources concerning the ministry of Paul and the writing of his epistles, and it is convenient to have our own opinions of these things in one single article.
Doing this it will seem as if we are taking it for granted that Paul had written all fourteen of the epistles which are commonly attributed to him. But the truth of that assertion should become even more evident as we proceed here, giving our reasons detailing both when and from where each of the epistles were written, and, in certain cases, also as to why they were written. Furthermore, while for different reasons the Christogenea New Testament generally presents Paul’s epistles in the traditional order found in other Bibles, we made exceptions, especially with Hebrews and placed it before the four personal epistles which were addressed to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. That we did in order to make a statement confirming our belief that Paul was indeed the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. But here we shall begin with the earliest epistle which Paul had written, and proceed in the chronological order in which we believe he had written them all.
In summary, we shall assert that the full and precise chronological order of the epistles of Paul is 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Titus, 1 Timothy, 2 Corinthians and Romans, which were all written before Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. After his arrest, the epistle to the Hebrews was written, and then, after he was sent to Rome, Ephesians and 2 Timothy, and once Timothy had joined him as he requested in that epistle, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. There are also at least four missing epistles which are mentioned or alluded to in these fourteen, and we shall discuss those at the very end of this presentation. While we only have fourteen of Paul’s epistles, and perhaps knowledge of four more which are now lost, it is also apparent that Paul had probably written hundreds of epistles over the 20-plus years of his ministry. But that we can only infer from the work ethic which his ministry reflects, and from the fact that he must have been in frequent contact with his fellow-workers via post, as he often knew where to find them, or where to expect them to be at particular times. So we shall also illustrate examples of that aspect of his ministry here.
We will not give all of the reasons why we believe that the Passion of Yahshua Christ had taken place in 32 AD, but while that date is our anchor, there is nothing in the Book of Acts which ties events in Acts to it, after the time of the Ascension and the first Christian Pentecost, so that we may have a more accurate chronology of Acts. According to Luke, who is often quite detailed and whom we have no reason to consider innacurate when he does give dates, Christ was baptized at age 30 in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, and we can date that to approximately to our September or early October in the year 28 AD. From there, with the presumption that His ministry lasted for 3-and-a-half years, as certain prophecies, parables, and the feasts mentioned in the Gospel of John all suggest, we can arrive at Passover, or early April in 32 AD as the time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the events of Acts chapter had 2 transpired seven weeks later.
But from there and for the next 12 or 14 years, the chronology of the Book of Acts is obscure, as Luke had written from accounts received from others and not from his own observation. Luke himself is not personally introduced into the narrative until Acts chapter 16, and even then not by name. There he began using the first person plural pronoun we in reference to the actions of Paul and his company, and it becomes evident later that Luke had been with him since the apostles Paul and Barnabas had departed from Antioch to attend the council at Jerusalem which is described in Acts 15. But Luke did not stay with Paul. Rather, when Paul and Silas left Philippi, as it is recorded at the end of Acts chapter 16, Luke stayed behind with Lydia. While I have not mentioned it in the past, I often suspect that Luke may have been the Lucius of Acts 13:1 and certainly of Romans 16:21, and while that may seem like conjecture, all the circumstances are in place by which to make such an identification.
It is known from historical sources that Caiaphas, the Sadducee and high priest at Jerusalem, was in office until 36 AD. So the events of Acts chapter 4, where Caiaphas is last mentioned, must have taken place earlier than that time. The stoning of Stephen is recorded at the end of Acts chapter 7, and the events described in chapter 9 may not have transpired for some time after that. Therefore it is difficult to tell when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, except that he did provide enough data in his epistles to allow us to approximate a date. The next certain historical marker is found in Acts chapter 12, where the death of Herod Agrippa I is described, and from historical sources we can date that event to 44 AD.
But there is another way to piece together an approximate chronolgy for the events of the first half of Acts more completely, from Paul’s own statements in his epistle to the Galatians. From the evidence provided there, the events of Acts chapter 15 can be dated to at least 47 AD, and more likely to 48 AD, from Paul's words in Galatians where in chapter 1 he said that “after three years I went up to Jerusalem to relate an account to Kephas, and remained with him fifteen days”, and that must refer to Paul's first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion and his eventual acceptance by the Christians there as it is described in the latter part of Acts chapter 9. Then Paul wrote at the beginning of Galatians chapter 2, that “after fourteen years I had again gone up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also…” Unfortunately Titus is never mentioned in the Book of Acts, at least by that name. However Barnabas accompanied Paul to Jerusalem only once, in Acts chapter 15, and later in that same chapter it is recorded that Paul and Barnabas had split for good, each man going his own way.
But whether the 14 year period of Galatians chapter 2 follows the 3 year period of Galatians chapter 1, or whether they overlap the 3 years following the time of Paul's conversion may be debated since the text is not explicit. Therefore it may be argued whether the events of Acts chapter 15 transpired either 14 years or 17 years after Paul's conversion in Acts chapter 9. Neither can we determine the amount of time that transpired between the first Pentecost and Paul's conversion with any certainty, from the text of Acts or from Paul's epistles. We certainly cannot assume that they all took place the same year. However there is a way to reckon the general chronology.
If the edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from Rome took place in 49 AD, as it is popularly dated, then the first events of Acts chapter 18, where Paul arrived in Corinth, must have followed that year and occurred in 50 AD. Therefore, imagining the 14 years of Galatians 2:1 to follow Paul's conversion and overlap with the 3-year period he mentioned in chapter 1, there are 14 years between Acts chapter 9 and Acts chapter 16. That leaves 3 years for all of the events from Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 8, and at least two years for those of Acts chapters 16 and 17. This too is apparent in another way.
Paul spent a year-and-a-half in Corinth, according to Acts chapter 18, while Gallio was the proconsul. Historically, Gallio’s term can be dated to 51-52 AD by an inscription which was discovered in the early 20th century. Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians after he left Corinth, after 52 AD, as it records things which he had done when he returned to Antioch, which is mentioned in Acts 18:22, and he evidently returned to Antioch as soon as he departed from Corinth. During the course of his ministry, he apparently never had occasion to go to Antioch again. From the dating of Gallio as proconsul at Corinth, Paul having spent 18 months there after the edict of Claudius was issued in 49, we know that he could not of begun his ministry there before the beginning of 50 AD, and his extensive travels leading up to that time, detailed in Acts chapter 16, must have consumed at least two years before he arrived in Corinth. So if Paul arrived in Corinth in 50 AD, as Priscilla and Aquila were expelled from Rome in 49 and had already settled there, then the council of Jerusalem described in Acts chapter 15 could not have been any held later than 48 AD. With all of the travelling Paul did in between the council at Jerusalem and his arrival at Corinth, it must have been at least two years.
Therefore, counting back from 48 AD, adding the 14 year period Paul mentioned in Galatians to the 3-year period, 17 years is too long a period to count back to the Resurrection. But if the 14 years and the 3 years mentioned in Galatians are concurrent, then counting inclusively, as was the custom, Paul's conversion must have taken place in 35 AD, three years after the Resurrection. That would allow sufficient time for both the early events described in the first 9 chapters of Acts, and also for the later events described in Acts chapters 16 and 17. So if Paul’s travels in Acts chapters 16 and 17 had consumed only two years, then the council at Jerusalem could have occurred in 48 AD, and Paul’s conversion in 35 AD. The 35 AD date seems quite reasonable. Either way, I cannot imagine being able to piece together a more accurate chronology of the events described in the Book of Acts.
Now, we can deduce that Paul travelled from Antioch by land across all of Anatolia as far as Ephesus, and that sojourn took at least one year after his departure from Corinth. Then having spent 3 years in Ephesus it is evident from the accounts in the later chapters of Acts, 19 through 21 and the time of his arrest, that he most likely departed from Ephesus in 56 AD, shortly after Pentecost as he planned and related in 1 Corinthians. From there, he travelled through Macedonia, and sojourning through Macedonia he wintered in Nicopolis and visited Corinth for three months, or perhaps for one month, which is more likely, in 57 AD. Leaving Corinth, he travelled again through Macedonia to the Troad, and embarked on a voyage to Jerusalem for the feast at which he was arrested, evidently in 57 AD. We shall offer details substantiating these things as we proceed and discuss the times of the writing of each of the various epistles. After more than two years, Paul was sent to Rome in 60 AD, but having been shipwrecked he did not arrive until until 61 AD.
So if we were to list the dates for Paul’s travelling epistles and the events recorded in the Book of Acts which we have calculated in accord with the events described in both Paul’s epistles and in Acts [this list was updated December 18th, 2021 after the two-part series was completed and will only reflect the epistles discussed here]:
- Acts chapter 2: First Christian Pentecost, 32 AD
- Acts chapter 9: Conversion of Paul of Tarsus, 35 AD
- Acts chapter 9: Visit of Paul as a Christian to Jerusalem, 37 or 38 AD
- Acts chapter 9: Paul sent to Tarsus, 38 AD
- Acts chapter 11: Paul retrieved from Tarsus to Antioch by Barnabas, before 44 AD
- Acts chapter 12: Arrest and release of Peter, and the execution of the younger James, no earlier than 41 AD but no later than 44 AD
- Acts chapters 11 to 15: Paul’s ministry with Barnabas began before 44 AD and ended in 48 or 49 AD, after the Council of Jerusalem.
- Acts chapter 15: Council of Jerusalem, 48 AD
- Acts chapter 18: Paul arrives in Corinth, 50 (or 51) AD
- Epistles 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth in 50 or 51 AD.
- Acts chapter 18: Paul arrives in Antioch, 52 AD
- Epistle to the Galatians is written from Antioch in 52 AD.
- Acts chapter 18, Paul arrives in Galatia, and walks through Anatolia to Ephesus, 52-53 AD
- Acts chapter 19: Beginning of Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus, 53 AD
- Epistle 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus some time shortly before the Pentecost of 56 AD
- Acts chapters 19 and 20: Paul departs from Ephesus, enroute to Corinth via the Troad and Macedonia, 56 AD
- Epistles to Titus and 1 Timothy were written from the Troad, or perhaps from Macedonia, shortly after the Pentecost of 56 AD
- Acts chapter 20: Paul wintered in Nicopolis of Epirus, north of Corinth, 56-57 AD
- Epistle 2 Corinthians was written from Nicopolis during the winter of 56-57 AD
- Acts chapter 20: Second ministry of Paul in Corinth, 57 AD
- Acts chapter 20: Paul in the Troad with Timothy, Luke and others, 57 AD
- Epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad in 57 AD
Some of my older podcasts may have dates a year off from some of these, as this is a complex subject and I have made some adjustments here, as this is my first attempt at a full review of the subject. Many, if not most, denominational scholars take it for granted that some of the postscripts in the 4th and 5th century and later manuscripts are correct, that, for example, Galatians was written from Rome, as it says in a late addition to the Codex Vaticanus and in the Majority Text, or that Romans was written from Corinth, as we find in late additions to the Codices Vaticanus and Bezae, or Cenchrea, according to the Majority Text. While some of the other subscripts are correct, these are certainly inaccurate and it is also clear that they were added by later hands. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Greeks have been wrong for centuries in many areas of scriptural interpretation, and we should not follow their errors. It is always safe for students of theology to simply follow the established errors.
For example, at least most denominational scholars claim that Paul was at home in Jerusalem, and that he had 3 or 4 long “missionary trips” to various places from Damascus and Antioch and throughout Anatolia and Greece. Bibles often even feature maps of those excursions. But that entire scheme is a complete mischaracterization of his ministry. Rather, Paul lived only where he found it necessary to spread the Gospel of Christ, he spent years in constant travel, and he usually returned to Jerusalem only for the required feasts because, as he had also taught in his epistles, that having been born under the law it was necessary for him to keep the law according to the circumcision, while those who were born after the Resurrection of Christ no longer needed to be circumcised or to follow the works of the law, which is the term that described the rituals of the law. So Paul probably returned to Jerusaslem often, whenever it was possible for him, to attend the feasts, and it is evident that many of those trips were not recorded.
Now that we have a generally accurate chronology of the Book of Acts, for which we shall provide more evidence as we proceed, we shall begin to discuss each of Paul’s epistles. We have eight epistles which were written before Paul was arrested in 57 AD, of which the very first are the two epistles to the Thessalonians.
The first epistle to the Thessalonians
The first epistle to the Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul's surviving epistles and it was written in Corinth. Paul had stated in chapter 3 of the epistle that “1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith…” Then, a little further on in that chapter: “6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you…”
These statements are corroborated in the Book of Acts where first we read in chapter 17: “13 And as the Judaeans from Thessalonika learned that the Word of Yahweh was also declared by Paul in Beroia, they came there also stirring up and agitating the crowds. 14 And then at once the brethren sent Paul away to go as far as to the sea, but both Silas and Timotheos remained there. 15 But those conducting Paul led him unto Athens, and they went out taking an order to Silas and Timotheos that they should come to him quickly.”
We then read that Paul awaited them in Athens, but they did not arrive there. So we read in Acts chapter 18 that “1 After these things departing from Athens he went into Korinth” and then after he met Priscilla and Aquila, we read “5 And as both Silas and Timotheos came down from Makedonia, Paul was impelled by the Word, affirming to the Judaeans Yahshua to be the Christ.” Of course, Thessalonica was in Macedonia, and the apostles evidently travelled by land to return to Paul in Corinth. This verse is the final mention of Silas in the Book of Acts, although writing later, in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul mentions his having preached among the Corinthians with both himself and Timothy.
The second epistle to the Thessalonians
The second epistle to the Thessalonians certainly seems to answer questions that the Thessalonians seem to have sent to Paul after he wrote the first epistle. So it must have followed the first in a very short time and it was also written from Corinth during Paul's long sojourn there. The reasons for this are circumstantial, but the circumstances are rather firm. Silas is Paul’s constant companion in the events recorded by Luke in Acts chapters 15 to 18, and he was together with Paul in Corinth, but he is never mentioned again by Luke or Paul after Acts 18:5. However while Luke called him Silas, the name by which Paul had called him is Silvanus, and Silvanus, or Silas, is mentioned in Paul’s epistles where Paul later told the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians chapter 1 that “19 For the Son of Yahweh, Yahshua Christ, who among you has been proclaimed by us, (by me and Silvanos and Timotheos,) has not been ‘yea’ then ‘nay’, rather with Him it has been ‘Yes’.” So Silvanus was well known to the Corinthians, but otherwise by that name Silvanus, he is only mentioned elsewhere in the salutations found in these two epistles to the Thessalonians, which were written from Corinth. So it is fully evident that it is this Silvanus, whom Luke calls Silas, who was preaching there alongside Paul and Timothy. This same Silas with Timothy was in Thessalonica before they both came to Paul in Corinth, and once they were with him, Paul wrote these epistles to the Thessalonians.
A subscript in 2 Thessalonians claims that it was written from Athens, so the first epistle also would have been written from Athens, and that is found in the Codex Alexandrinus, as an addition in the Codex Vaticanus, and in the Majority Text. Many modern Bibles repeat the claim. Yet the text of 1 Thessalonians chapter 3 and chapters 17 and 18 of the Book of Acts clearly refute the notion that Timothy and Silas were even with Paul in Athens. So how could Medieval scribes be so wrong, and so sloppy? And why many do modern Bible editors simply accept it?
Since all of Paul’s other epistles can also be dated with relative certainty, it is evident that they all follow these two epistles to the Thessalonians. Therefore 1 Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul's surviving epistles, and 2 Thessalonians is the second earliest. After that, Silas is not heard from again unless he is the same Silvanus who is mentioned in the first epistle of Peter, which was not written until many years later. The apostle Mark was also still with Peter at that time. We learn in Acts chapter 15 that Silas was one of the “chief men among the brethren” from Antioch, and from the time of the council of Acts chapter 15 he remained with Paul until they arrived in Corinth. The name Silovanos, or Silvanus in Latin, Silas is a shortened form of the Greek version of the name. While Paul called him by the full form of his name, perhaps Luke, who was also from Antioch, calls him by the familiar form of the name, which seems to indicate that Luke was a friend of Silas from an early time, while Paul only knew him later and more formally. This brings us to Paul’s next epistle, which is Galatians.
The epistle to the Galatians
The epistle to the Galatians was written during Paul's stay in Antioch which is described in Acts 18:22-23, where he also had his final meeting with Peter as he described in Galatians chapter 2. It could not have been written before that time, as we have seen that there would be no time for the 14 year-period from Paul’s conversion to his appearance at the council of Jerusalem. But Paul visited the Galatians soon after he left Antioch, which is described in that same passage, and his epistle reflects an anticipation to visit them in its fourth chapter.
So Paul departed from his year-and-a-half sojourn in Corinth, and stopped in Ephesus briefly. He was begged to stay, but promised to return, as he wanted to go to Jerusalem for a feast. So he sailed to Jerusalem and then went to Antioch, whereupon we read in Acts chapter 18: “22 And coming back into Caesareia [a port relatively close to Jerusalem], going up and greeting the assembly he went down into Antiocheia. 23 And spending some time he departed, passing through successively the land of Galatia and Phrugia, confirming all of the students.” Paul did stop in Jerusalem for the feast upon which he sought to be there, but Luke only described that where he wrote of Paul’s “going up and greeting the assembly”. That is why he landed in Caesareia, which is much closer to Jerualem and far from Antioch. Then once he was in Antioch, it is evident that during his stay there he wrote the epistle to the Galatians, as we read in Galatians chapter 4: “18 But it is right always to envy in good, and not only at my presence with you. 19 My little children, whom I travail once more, until the Anointed have taken shape among you; 20 I have desired to be present with you even now, and to change my tone, because I am perplexed with you.” Having exhorted them in that manner, some time later he travelled to Galatia on foot, once he departed Antioch. Where Paul said in Galatians chapter 2 that Peter had come to Antioch, perhaps Peter joined Paul in Antioch soon after they both attended that feast. Peter did not go to Antioch in Acts chapter 15, but rather, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem. So Peter must have come to Paul in Antioch as he sojourned there in Acts chapter 18, and also wrote, and that is where Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians, saying “when Peter was come to Antioch” (Galatians 2:11).
As a digression, many of the denominational so-called scholars also contend that Paul’s epistle was addressed not to Galatae, but to the Greeks inhabiting the cities in the south of the Roman province called Galatia, but that is not true. The name Galatia at the time of Paul's ministry referred to either one of two things, either to the kingdom of the Galatae which was established in Anatolia in the 3rd century BC [the Hellenistic Greek perspective], or to the Roman province of Galatia [the Roman perspective] That province, so-named by the Romans, had incorporated the ancient kingdoms of Lycaonia, Phrygia and Galatia. So because the modern academics consider the term Galatia to refer only to the Roman province, there have been debates disputing whether Paul had written to the “northern Galatians” of the province, which refers to the somewhat Hellenized Celtic Galatae of the ancient kingdom, or to the “southern Galatians” of the province, which included the numerous Greeks and Hellenized Lycaonians of the larger cities. But they do not even seem to realize that Luke did not use the term Galatia in reference to the Roman province wherever he described Paul’s travels. Rather, he only employed the term as it was originally used, from the Hellenistic perspective, in reference to the ancient Celtic kingdom, and that was only the northern part of the Roman province.
So in his accounts in Acts, in chapters 13 through 16, Luke specifically mentions the cities Derbe, Lystra and Iconium several times each, and many commentators imagine that it was the Christians in these cities who were the recipients of Paul's epistle to the Galatians, because these cities were all in the southern portion of the Roman province of Galatia. But Derbe, Lystra and Iconium were cities of the ancient kingdom of Lycaonia, which the Romans had later incorporated into their province of Galatia, and in Acts 14:6 Lystra and Derbe are called “cities of Lycaonia”, and then in Acts 14:11 we see a reference to the “speech of Lycaonia”, and the ancient Lycaonians were properly neither Greeks nor Galatians, although they had been Hellenized to a great degree. Then later, in Acts 16:6, Luke mentioned “Phrygia and the region of Galatia” as being separate places, and the ancient kingdom of Phrygia, like Lycaonia, had also been incorporated into the Roman province of Galatia. Then in Acts 18:23 Luke once again describes Paul as having traveled through “the country of Galatia and Phrygia” where he had strengthened “all the disciples”. So we see that in Luke's writing, Phrygia and Galatia are clearly distinguished from one another and also from the cities of Derbe, Iconium and Lystra mentioned in verses 1 and 2 of Acts chapter 16, which were in Lycaonia. Therefore we can be relatively certain that Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians to the people of the Galatae in Galatia. So when he visited them, Luke wrote in Acts 18:23 that he “went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” That must have referred to the kingdom of the Galatae, distinct from ancient Phrygia and the cites of Lycaonia. If Luke was using the term Galatia to describe the Roman province, rather than the anicent kingdom, he would never have used the terms Lycaonia or Phrygia, which were also kingdoms incorporated into that same province. This brings us to our next epistle, which is the first epistle to the Corinthians:
The first epistle to the Corinthians
The epistle which we know as 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus towards the end of the three-year period that Paul had stayed in Ephesus which is described in Acts chapter 19. This we read in chapter 16, first where Paul planned to visit them, and had anticipated staying with them for some time when he did visit, as he evidently had not been there since he departed in 52 AD. So he wrote: “7 For I do not presently desire to see you in passing, since I expect to remain with you some time, if perhaps the Prince permits. 8 Now I will remain in Ephesos until the Pentecost, 9 indeed a great and productive opportunity has been opened to me, and many are in opposition.” Then later in the same chapter we see that he was in Ephesus, which was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia, as well as the home of Priscilla and Aquila who had apparently moved there from Corinth a few years earlier, where he wrote “19 The assemblies of Asia greet you. Akulas and Priska greet you greatly in the Prince, with the assembly at their house.” Paul first met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth (Acts 18:1, 18), and then again after he went to Antioch and Galatia, and first arrived in Ephesus (Acts 18:26).
So from this first surviving epistle which he had sent to the Corinthians from Ephesus, Paul's departure from Ephesus seems to have been imminent where he wrote “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost” in 1 Corinthians 16:8. Since Paul departed Corinth in 52 AD, then with the time he spent in Antioch and the intervening travels arriving in Ephesus in 53 AD, having spent three years there he most certainly seems to have written this epistle in the early part of 56 AD, but at a time which was late enough for him to have been thinking about the Pentecost. We know that he was in Ephesus for three years from Acts chapter 20, where Paul, having departed from the Troad had stopped in Miletus and sent for the elders of the Ephesians. When they came, he told them that he would never see him again, and in a solemn and foreboding farewell he said, in part, “31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
The next two of the surviving epistles of Paul had been written shortly after he had departed from Ephesus, which seems to have been after that Pentecost of 56 AD that he mentioned in 1 Corinthans. But his departure may have been a little sooner on account of the uproar that had been caused by the silversmiths, which is described in Acts chapter 19. The first of these two epistles was sent to Titus, and then a short time later, the second to Timothy, and Paul asked Titus, but not Timothy, to meet him in Nicopolis for the coming winter, the winter of 56-57 AD. Later, discussing 2 Corinthians, we shall see that both men had spent the winter with him there.
The epistle to Titus
First there is some necessary historical background on Titus, where we must also include a brief discussion of Paul’s travels in relation to the epistles which he had written to the Corinthians and the Galatians, as Titus is mentioned in both of them. In our commentary on the epistle to Titus, we discussed the possibility that Paul had met him in Corinth in 50 AD, and that Titus was from that time his companion until Paul left him in Crete, which he mentions in this epistle. But Titus is not mentioned in the book of Acts by that name, for which reason we believe that he was the man identified by Luke as Justus, and some of the older manuscripts have the name Titius Justus at Acts 18:7. So Titus, or Titius Justus, had a house in Corinth when Paul met him there, and he must have departed with Paul since the only opportunity Paul had to leave Titus in Crete would have been as he sailed from Greece to go to Jerusalem through Caseareia in Acts chapter 18, as we have already discussed here. But there is a caveat. Paul must have known Titus even earlier. That is because where Titus is described as having accompanied Paul and Barnabas in Antioch and Jerusalem, it must have been the events of Acts chapter 15 to which Paul was referring, where he spoke of the presence of Titus in Galatians chapter 2.
Now, considering our chronology once again, there is another way to determine the time when Paul had departed from Ephesus, which may be reckoned by counting backwards from the time of his detention in Caesareia which is given by Luke in the final chapters of the Book of Acts. That is by comparing the times of the terms of office of the Roman procurators Festus and Felix which are known from historical sources. The primary witness for this in Luke's writing is in Acts chapter 24 where Luke wrote “27 Then upon the completion of two years, Porkios Phestos received the succession from Phelix, and desiring to bestow a favor upon the Judaeans, Phelix left Paul bound.” Many historians debate whether it was 58 AD or 59 AD, but the one-year difference is close enough for us. While it is difficult to be absolutely certain, for various historical reasons we are confident that the year was 59, and from there we can count back through the Book of Acts to this point in 56 AD. Then, from our other evidence, that is also the year in which we believe this epistle to Titus was written, in the Summer of 56 AD, or perhaps a little earlier that year if Paul had to leave Ephesus before the Pentecost which he had planned on spending there.
The accounts in the Book of Acts do not help us much during the period immediately after Paul had left Ephesus. From Paul’s epistles we can determine that he left Ephesus, travelled through the Troad to Macedonia, and wintered in Nicopolis of Epirus where Titus and Timothy had joined him, and then they all went to Corinth, where Paul spent three months before returning with them and others to the Troad. But during all of this time, Luke was in Philippi. So we read in the opening verses of Acts chapter 20: “1 And after the cessation of the tumult [in Ephesus] Paul sending after and encouraging the students, saluting them departed to go into Makedonia. 2 And passing through those parts and encouraging them with many words he went into Greece. 3 And spending three months, there being a plot against him by the Judaeans, being about to set sail for Suria he became knowledgeable, for which to return through Makedonia. 4 And there followed along with him Sopatros of Purros Beroia, and the Thessalonikeans Aristarchos and Sekoundos, and Gaios of Derbe and Timotheos, and the Asians Tuchikos and Trophimos. 5 And these going ahead waited for us in the Troad, 6 but we sailed out from Philippos after the days of unleavened bread and we came to them in the Troad after five days, where we spent seven days.” While Luke was very concise, much more can be gleaned from Paul’s epistles. Later, when we discuss the epistle to the Hebrews, we shall see that both Aristarchus and Timothy, who are with Paul here, were also arrested with him in Jerusalem a short time later. If others were also arrested with him, we may never know.
As we have said earlier, Paul was in rather frequent contact with his fellow-workers through letters, and often knew where to find them or where they were going. So as Paul departed from Ephesus, where he had left Timothy, as we learn from his first epistle to Timothy, and he had hoped to find Titus in the Troad. This Paul had explained later, when he wrote 2 Corinthians from Nicopolis, and he said in chapter 2 of that epistle that “12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.” But later, Titus caught up with Paul in Macedonia, which is evident at the end of the epistle to Titus and later on in 2 Corinthians, where in chapter 7 Paul says “5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. 6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus”.
So this epistle to Titus was written only because Paul failed to find Titus in the Troad, where he expected Titus to meet him after his departure from Ephesus. It seems that since Paul had been planning to go to Corinth, that he purposely wanted to bring Titus there with him, as Titus was with him and living in Corinth when Paul arrived there six years earlier. So in the closing verses of chapter 3 of the epistle to Titus we read: “12 When I send Artemas or Tuchikos to you, you must make haste to come to me in Nikopolis, for there I have decided to winter.” But in 2 Corinthians, which we have already cited, we read that Titus had caught up to Paul in Macedonia, before Paul could get to Nicopolis.
Evidently, Titus was delayed in meeting Paul in the Troad because he faced problems with the assembly in Crete. So in chapter 1 of Titus it is evident that Paul learned this in the Troad, where he wrote “5 For this reason I have left you in Krete: that you would set in order the things which are wanting, and establish elders by city, as I have instructed you.” Then a few verses later he said “10 For there are many insubordinates, vain talkers and deceivers of minds - especially those from among the circumcision - 11 whom it is necessary to muzzle, who upset entire houses teaching things which are not necessary, for reason of shameful profit. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own said ‘Kretans are always liars, evil beasts, slothful gluttons.’” Our assertion that Paul left Titus in Crete as he travelled to Jerusalem and Antioch by sea in 52 AD is supported here as Titus is found in Crete at this time, four years later. But whether Titus remained in Crete for all of that time cannot be determined, and it is possible that he also ministered in other places in the interim.
Before Paul had left Ephesus for the Troad, he planned on wintering in Corinth. Thus we read in 1 Corinthians chapter 16: “6 Then being engaged with you I will remain, or I will even winter, that you may escort me to wherever I may traverse.” As a digression, when Paul left Corinth, as it is described in Acts chapter 20, in verse 4, none of the Corinthians who may have given him escort had remained with him when he arrived in the Troad. So after leaving Ephesus, somewhere along the way and before he wrote Titus after having arrived in the Troad, he decided to winter in Nicopolis instead of Corinth (Titus 3:12). For this Paul gave his reasons in 2 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2, and we do not have the benefit of seeing the letter which Paul must have received from the Corinthians – in answer to 1 Corinthians which was written shortly beforetime – which had caused him to make this change in his plans. Therefore it is also evident, that when he arrived in the Troad Paul found a letter awaiting him from Corinth, or a messenger with that letter, which was a response to the epistle that we know as 1 Corinthians. That is how Paul knew he would winter in Nicopolis before writing Titus, and Paul did not answer that letter until he arrived in Nicopolis. The delay in answering the Corinthians was assuredly calculated. However it is not entriely certain whether Paul had written Titus from the Troad, or as soon as he had reached Macedonia.
Furthermore, Titus did not accompany Paul in the summer of 57 AD when he departed from Corinth and went through Macedonia one last time before he returned to the Troad and on to Jerusalem. This is evident because he is not mentioned again in Acts or in any of Paul’s later epistles with the exception of 2 Timothy, which was written from Rome around 61 AD, where it is said that he went to Dalmatia. So from it apparent that later on perhaps Titus did visit with Paul in Rome, as he was speaking of those who had left him in Rome. So aside from this epistle to Titus and the mention of Titus as being with Paul in 2 Corinthians, that mention in 2 Timothy is the last that we ever know of him from Scripture or from history.
As another digression, many commentators claim that Paul wintered in Nicopolis in Macedonia. Others do, however, correctly identify this Nicopolis as the city in Epirus. There was another city named Nicopolis in Thrace, which was close to the eastern border of Macedonia, but it was not in Macedonia. But Paul, intent on wintering in Nicopolis and going to Corinth after winter, so he would not go in the opposite direction, eastward to Thrace, in order to achieve that. Paul stayed the winter of 56-57 AD in Nicopolis in Epirus. Going through Makedonia, Paul most likely sailed to either Philippi or to Thessalonica. Thessalonica is a port in a recessed bay on the eastern side of Greece, at the northwesternmost point of the Aegean Sea. Philippi is further east, on the central north shore of the Aegean. The distance by highway today from Philippi to Epirus and passing through Thessalonica, is nearly 422 kilomters, or just over 260 miles. Roman winter generally began at the end of Ferbruary, so Paul having left Ephesus by Pentecost would have sufficient time to travel that far to Nicopolis, which is 313 kilometers or about 195 miles from Corinth. But before he reached Nicopolis, he also wrote what we now have as the first epistle to Timothy.
The first epistle to Timothy
We have already laid the groundwork for understanding when this epistle was written where we had discussed the two which had immediately preceded it, 1 Corinthians and Titus. So all there is left is to show the evidence from 1 Timothy that puts the writing of this epistle into that same context and time. As we have said, Titus caught up to Paul in Macedonia after Paul left the Troad in 56 AD. In the meantime, Paul must have also written this first epistle to Timothy during the same journey, either upon arriving in the Troad where he also must have written to Titus, or more likely as he passed through Macedonia shortly thereafter.
So in the opening verses of 1 Timothy, Paul states that “3 Just as I, traveling into Makedonia, had summoned you to remain in Ephesos that you should command some not to teach errors…” Then, when Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Nicopolis the following winter, Timothy is there with both Paul and Titus. But Paul must not have planned this, and only expected Titus to join him. This is evident in 1 Timothy chapter 4, in verse 13 where Paul wrote “Until I come, you attend to the reading, the exhortation, the teaching...”, meaning that Paul expected to visit Timothy in Ephesus before seeing him again, where he indicates that he shall return to Ephesus and that Timothy should continue teaching there until his arrival. So for some unknown reason, Timothy departed from Ephesus contrary to Paul’s instructions in this epistle, and met up with Paul in Nicopolis for winter. However from what letters we now have available, Paul never asked Timothy to join him, like he had specifically asked Titus.
Later, where Paul wrote an epistle to the Ephesians from Rome, Timothy was not yet with him, he is not addresed or mentioned in that letter, so it is evident that he did not return to Ephesus and we are never given a reason, at least in the epistles which survive. We can only imagine that because Timothy was never criticized by Paul for leaving Ephesus, and because he was later associated by Paul with his ministry, that he must have been compelled to leave Ephesus for some reason, rather than merely having abandoned his assignment there. In any event, in this epistle Paul asked him to remain in Ephesus, and he did not. In just a few months, when 2 Corinthians is written, Timothy appears with Paul in Nicopolis, and in that letter we may find our answer, although it is not explicit. As Paul departs from Nicopolis and sojourns in Corinth, and then travels back through Macedonia to the Troad and on to Jerusalem, Timothy remains with him until they are arrested in the temple. This brings us to discuss 2 Corinthians.
The second epistle to the Corinthians
During these final ten years of Paul’s ministry, Titus seems to have been a significant figure. But he was not as important to Paul as was Timothy. While both men were with Paul when the second epistle to the Corinthians was written, the epistle in its opening salutation declares itself to be from “1 Paul, ambassador of Yahshua Christ by the will of Yahweh, and Timotheos the brother, to the assembly of Yahweh which is in Korinth, with all of the saints who are in the whole of Achaia, 2 favor and peace to you from Yahweh our Father and Prince Yahshua Christ.” So Timothy was honored as a co-author of the epistle whereas Titus was only chosen to deliver the epistle to the Corinthians ahead of Paul’s planned arrival there in the Spring. But the only real difference between the men appears to be that this seems to be the way in which Paul had designated Timothy as the heir apparent to his ministry, and by no means does it diminish the value of Titus or the others of Paul’s companions. In fact, in chapter 10 of 2 Corinthians Paul wrote: “23 Whether concerning Titos, my partner and a colleague to you, or our brethren, to be ambassadors of the assemblies is an honor of the Anointed.”
Furthermore, when it is understood that Titus is the Titius Justus of the manuscripts in Acts chapter 18, who was with Paul earlier in Corinth but who must have been there sooner and for even longer than Paul was, that explains why Paul chose him to deliver 2 Corinthians, and why Paul chose to extol Titus to the Corinthians in the text of that epistle, where he is mentioned eight times. So this also helps to substantiate our association of Titus with that Titius Justus of Acts 18:7.
So the second epistle to the Corinthians was written as Paul journeyed from Makedonia to visit Achaia for the last time, while wintering at Nicopolis in Epirus nearly 200 miles to the north, and before he reached Corinth for his final visit there some time in the Spring of 57 AD. The reasons for Paul's changing his mind from when he wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians, and delaying his visit to them until after winter, are explained by Paul here in the first two chapters of this second epistle.
In the meantime, Titus and Timothy had each joined him in Nicopolis after receiving the epistles which he had written to them, and that is reflected in this epistle. We are certain that Paul delayed going to Corinth before winter because he must have received a troubling letter of which this epistle was written in answer. Some of the troubles that annoyed or irritated Paul are also evident in chapter 12 of the epistle, and that is where we also learned that Titus had delivered this epistle to Corinth on Paul’s behalf, some time before Paul himself arrived in Corinth. There we read: “14 Behold, readily this third time I engage to come to you, and I will not be burdensome to you; for I do not seek your things, but you. The children are not obliged to store up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 Now I will most gladly spend, and be wholly expended, on behalf of your souls, even if loving you more abundantly, I am loved less. 16 But it is that I have not imposed on you, otherwise being villainous I have taken you with guile. 17 Of those several whom I had sent to you, through them have I defrauded you? 18 I have summoned Titos [referring to the epistle which brought Titus from Crete], and have sent with him the brother [an unnamed companion who was evidently also with Paul]. Has Titos defrauded you? Have we not walked in the same Spirit? Nor in the same steps?”
In 2 Corinthians chapter 1 it is apparent that this epistle was written soon after Paul had left Ephesus, where he wrote of the affliction that he had suffered in Asia, which must refer to the events in Ephesus which are recorded in Acts chapter 19. There we read, in part: “8 For we do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which happened in Asia, because we were exceedingly oppressed, beyond ability, consequently for us to despair even of living. 9 Yet we had within ourselves that sentence of death in order that we would rely not upon ourselves, but upon Yahweh who raises the dead; 10 who from so great a death has protected us, and will protect; in whom we trust because also still He will protect; 11 you also cooperating on our behalf in prayers in order that from many persons, the gift to us would be thanksgiving by many on our behalf.” Ephesus was the capital city of Roman Asia, and Paul must have been referring to the trouble with the silversmiths that he had suffered earlier that same year.
There in that chapter Paul had also discussed his initial travel plans, where he had hoped first to go to Corinth and then to Macedonia, and then on to Judaea from Macedonia and through Corinth once again, in 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, plans which were later altered. But at the end of that chapter Paul explained why he had changed his plans, where he wrote: “23 Now I appeal to Yahweh as a witness upon my soul, that sparing you I had not yet come to Korinth.” Saying that, as Paul continued in chapter 2 it becomes apparent that Paul’s first epistle had troubled the Corinthians, where he spoke of the divisions among them and of the fornicator which had troubled the assembly.
The context of the balance of 2 Corinthians, which is readily evident especially from chapter 8 and onward, also shows that Paul had recently been in Macedonia and was planning on coming to Corinth. So there we see that the pattern of his narrative is the same as what is only described very concisely by Luke in Acts chapter 20. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 Paul discussed the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, how diligent the Macedonians had been in their charity, and how he anticipated that the Corinthians would do the same. He looked forward to seeing them throughout the epistle. Therefore, it is absolutely certain that Paul must have written his epistle now known as 2 Corinthians as he was traveling from Macedonia through Greece, and before he reached Corinth. It is also certain that both Timothy and Titus are with him as he writes, since he includes Timothy in the salutation and in chapter 12 he mentions having sent Titus, as Titus delivered this epistle from Nicopolis in Epirus.
There is one epistle remaining to discuss here, of the eight epistles which Paul had written before he was imprisoned. That is the epistle to the Romans.
The epistle to the Romans
Having given the circumstances of Paul’s visit to Corinth and his having travelled back to the Troad through Macedonia much thought, I realized that I must further clarify the chronology of these events, even beyond what I had done in my commentaries on Paul through 2017. That is because while I attempted to prove that Paul stayed the winter of 56-57 in Nicopolis in Epirus, rather than in Nicopolis in Thrace, an argument I formulated concerning the calendar proves that not only could Paul not have stayed in Thrace, but also that if he remained for three months in Greece as Luke wrote in Acts chapter 20, then he could only have spent only one of those months in Corinth. That is the only way that he could have had enough time to travel back to the Troad on land through Macedonia, yet still could have arrived in Jerusalem for the Pentecost in 57 AD.
This is evident where Paul wintered in Nicopolis, and winter typically ended at the beginning of March, then he spent perhaps one month in Corinth. While winter was typically two months, it is possible that in that year it may have warmed sooner, which would have given Paul less time in Nicopolis, and more time in Corinth. But typically winter was about two months, and in that manner he would have left Epirus at the end of February, and then left Corinth at the end of March, and have had almost two months more before the time of Pentecost near the end of May. Again, we read in Acts chapter 20 where Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia and Luke wrote: “2 And passing through those parts and encouraging them with many words he went into Greece. 3 And spending three months, there being a plot against him by the Judaeans, being about to set sail for Suria he became knowledgeable, for which to return through Makedonia.”
Travelling on land through Macedonia to Thessalonica, which is the most likely port by which to sail to the Troad, the distance is 572 kilometers, or 355 miles. Paul could make that trip by carriage in about a week. It seems that Paul did not go to Philippi to sail to the Troad, which was 730 kilometers or over 450 miles. If he had, then perhaps in Acts chapter 20 the narrative would have been different, as Luke was in Philippi at the time. But then again, perhaps he did, and that is what Luke meant where he wrote “And these going ahead [Paul and his company] waited for us in the Troad”, as if Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi but they went to the Troad without waiting for Luke and his own company to be ready to travel. In any event, where Paul travelled to the Troad through Macedonia, we read further on in Acts chapter 20: “4 And there followed along with him Sopatros of Purros Beroia, and the Thessalonikeans Aristarchos and Sekoundos, and Gaios of Derbe and Timotheos, and the Asians Tuchikos and Trophimos. 5 And these going ahead waited for us in the Troad, 6 but we sailed out from Philippos after the days of unleavened bread and we came to them in the Troad after five days, where we spent seven days.”
So if Paul spent a total of three months in Greece, that must have included winter, and he spent twelve days including the Passover in the Troad that same year, so he still had about six weeks to get to Jerusalem for the Pentecost. Here we shall establish that the epistle to the Romans was written at this very time, during the seven days where Luke and his company had joined Paul in the Troad, and until Paul is executed in Rome, ostensibly in 63 AD, Luke never leaves his side. The fact that the epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad at this time, during Paul's stay there which is recorded at the beginning of Acts chapter 20, is evident from both the lists of men who were with Paul provided in Acts chapter 20 and in Romans chapter 16, and also from Paul's comments concerning his ministry and his plans to visit Rome which were made in Romans chapter 15 (15:22-28).
So first we shall read that passage, from chapter 15: “22 On which account I also had often been hindered in coming to you. 23 But now, no longer having a place in these regions, and having a longing to come to you for many years, 24 perhaps as I journey into Spain; therefore I expect to be passing across to see you, and by you to be escorted there, if however of you first I am somewhat satisfied. 25 But now I travel to Jerusalem, in service to the saints; 26 they of Makedonia and Achaia [Corinth and its surroundings] had been glad to make a certain contribution for the needy of the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 Indeed they were well pleased and their debtors they are; for if the Nations share with them in the things of the Spirit, then they are obliged to minister to them in the things of the flesh. 28 Now this being accomplished, and this profit having been assured to them, I will depart by you towards Spain.”
Where Paul had said “in these regions” he must have meant Anatolia, and he no longer had a place in Ephesus, where he had lived for three years. He could not have meant Corinth, as he had no place of his own there since at least the time when he left in 52 AD after spending eighteen months there. So this also helps to show that the epistle to the Romans was written from the Troad.
Furthermore, here we see that Paul had wanted to go to Jerusalem to deliver the collection for the oppressed Christians there which he had just mentioned as collecting in his two epistles to the Corinthians. In the Troad, he had that collection with him as he intended to bring it to Jerusalem for Pentecost. So in that same place in Romans 15, Paul explains that he is on his way to Judaea: “30 Moreover, I entreat you, brethren, through our Prince, Yahshua Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, to assist me in prayers to Yahweh on my behalf; 31 in order that I am delivered from those of disobedience in Judaea; and that my service that is to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; 32 that with joy I am coming to you through the will of Yahweh, that I may have rest with you.”
Later, in the account of his defense before Felix which is recorded in the Book of Acts in chapter 24, Paul is recorded as having said that “17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.” It is clear that the alms and offerings of Acts 24:17 are the same as the service to the saints which Paul was about to deliver to Jerusalem which he mentioned at Romans 15:31. This clearly establishes that Paul was about to bring to Jerusalem that collection for the saints of Judaea described in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 (an epistle which was written about three months earlier than Romans was written), and therefore Romans was written as Paul was about to go to Judaea. Therefore the fact that this epistle was written at this time is practically indisputable, as Paul just departed from Corinth with their share of the gift in hand.
The consensus among denominational theologians is that Romans was written while Paul was still in Corinth, but that is not possible. It is actually refuted, once again, in Acts chapter 20, as most of the men mentioned in the epistle as having been with Paul were not with him until after he had left Corinth and they all gathered in the Troad. So we read in Romans chapter 16 the following closing salutation: “20 Now Yahweh of peace will crush the Adversary under your feet quickly. The favor of our Prince Yahshua Christ is with you. 21 Timotheos my colleague and Loukios and Iason and Sosipatros my kinsmen greet you. 22 I Tertios who wrote out the letter greet you in the Prince. 23 Gaios greets you, my host and that of the whole assembly. Erastos the manager of the city greets you, also the brother Kouartos.”
First, it must be noted that Titus is not present, yet Titus was with Paul in Corinth. But according to Luke in Acts chapter 20, Timothy, Luke himself, Sosipatros and Gaius were all among those who were with Paul in the Troad. While Tertius did not mention the other men who were with Paul, Aristarchos, Sekoundos, Tuchikos or Trophimos, they were not as notable as Titus, who should not have been missed if he were there. Apparently, Tertius meant to describe these other unnamed men by the words “the whole assembly” in Romans 16:23.
It may be argued that Erastus was chamberlain, or city manager, at Corinth, but that is only inferred in the lexicons because it is believed that this epistle was written in Corinth. It is not true. Rather, Erastus first became known to Paul in Ephesus, in Acts chapter 19, and he may have been an Asiarch, one of the managers of the city there who were friendly to Paul, mentioned in Acts 19:31. Paul later sent Erastus with Timothy to Macedonia (Acts 19:22) while Paul stayed in Ephesus. So he could hardly have been a city manager, a responsible position, in far away Corinth. Only later, long after Paul is imprisoned, is Erastus mentioned as having been in Corinth, in 2 Timothy chapter 4.
The circumstances outlined here from Romans chapters 15 and 16 clearly demonstrate that the epistle was written after the gathering of the disciples to Paul when he reached the Troad, in the Spring of 57 AD.
One last note of interest: in Romans chapter 16 Priscilla and Aquila had evidently moved back to Rome from Ephesus. They were probably compelled to leave after the trouble with the silversmiths, and evidently in the days of Nero the city was once again open to Judaeans, even though it was a great risk for Christians.
Yahweh willing, we shall return soon to discuss the chronology of Paul’s arrest and imprisonment, and also of the writing of his last six epistles, all of them written after his arrest in Jerusalem.