Did Saint Paul visit Spain?

 Saint Paul was one of the most influential and energetic of the early followers of Jesus. St. Paul
travelled as much as 10,000 miles on his three missionary trips recorded in the Bible. In the years of 47 and 48 A.D. Paul travelled to Cyprus and Galatia. Then from 49 to 52 A.D. Paul travelled through Asia Minor and Greece and settled for a time in Corinth. Finally, in 52 to 55 A.D. Paul again traveled through Greece and possibly what is modern Yugoslavia. These are the three biblical missionary trips of St. Paul during which he both founded and encouraged churches throughout these regions. These three trips are recorded in the Bible and many of Paul's letters were to churches he founded or visited during these trips. While the Bible records three trips, many believe St. Paul made a fourth missionary trip. This trip is hinted at both in the Bible and in other non-biblical writings from the early church. It is believed possible, even probably, St. Paul traveled to Spain, but is there any evidence to back up this possibility?

We will begin our examination of the evidence by looking for clues in the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear, St. Paul both wanted to visit Spain, and intended to do so. However, the Bible, specifically the Book of Acts, concludes without telling us if Paul fulfilled this desire. In the book of Romans, we see the only biblical mention of Paul traveling to Spain.

"But now, no longer having any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come to you, whenever I travel to Spain, I will come to you." Romans 15:23-24

 This passage makes it clear St. Paul both wanted to visit Spain and also had intentions and even plans to make the trip. Given the details of St. Paul's travels recorded in the Book of Acts, we know there is only one realistic window of time when he could have made a trip of this nature. 

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and spent two years in prison there while the authorities decided what to do with him. Eventually, St. Paul was sent to Rome for trial and arrived in Rome in 60 A.D. There he remained under arrest but was allowed to stay in a rented house and could receive visitors. He remained in captivity for two years until he was acquitted of the charges against him and released in 62 A.D. The next we know of Paul's situation is four years later when he is again arrested and put into prison in Rome. This time he does not get a rented house, but instead is likely placed in the notorious Mamertine Prison. St. Paul remained in prison until his martyrdom in approximately 67 A.D. Between St. Paul's release from prison and his second arrest, there is a four-year period of silence in which Paul could have visited Spain.

Traveling between Italy and Spain was quite common in the first century. A trip by boat, depending on the time of year, from Italy to Spain would have taken 4 to 10 days. While the Bible ends before telling us what St. Paul did during these years, there are several early writings that make a direct mention of a possible visit to Spain.

Clement of Rome writes of Paul's travels and tells us Paul went to the "Furthest limits of the west" which in the first century would have been Spain. (1 Clement 5:5-7)

The Muratorian Canon also records St. Paul's travels. "Departure of Paul from the city (of Rome) when he journeyed to Spain."  

In his writings, Cyril of Jerusalem also puts St. Paul in Spain. "And carried the earnestness of all preaching as far as Spain." 

Chrysostom - the Archbishop of Constantinople also wrote of St. Paul. "For after he (Paul) had been in Rome, he returned to Spain..."  

St. Jerome states in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if it were common knowledge, that St. Paul had indeed visited Spain. "St. Paul having been in Spain, went from one ocean to another."  

Each of these writings mention St. Paul having been in Spain. While not scripture, these early writings are considered reliable by most and must be considered as strong evidence of a fourth missionary trip by St. Paul. In addition to these writings, there are ancient traditions regarding St. Paul not only traveling to Spain, but preaching there as well.

 In the city of Tarragona (Barcelona) stands a monument to St. Paul which affirms the tradition St. Paul once preached there.

The small village of Ecija (Seville) also has a monument to St. Paul. The monument is said to mark the spot where St. Paul preached from during his time there.

While the Bible is mostly silent on the subject, the evidence appears to support a fourth missionary trip by St. Paul. In addition to the evidence listed, it should also be noted that St. Paul was not a person inclined to do nothing. After spending two years under arrest and being confined in Rome, it seems extremely likely St. Paul would be eager to get back to work. There is no evidence Paul returned to Jerusalem during the four years in question and while it is possible he remained in Rome preaching and working with the churches there, the writings and traditions indicate otherwise. There is also the fact the early Christian church spread quickly and suddenly in Spain. Is it possible this was the result of four years of hard work and preaching from the Great Missionary?  

Time- Line - St. Paul

33- 36 - Conversion - spend three years in Arabia

36 - 44 - Preaches in Tarsus

44 - 46 - Teaches in Antioch - then visits Jerusalem

47 - 48 - Fist missionary journey - Cyprus and Galatia

49 - Council of Jerusalem

\49 - 52 - Second missionary journey - Asia Minor and Greece

52 - 55 Stayed in Ephesus

55 - 57 - Third missionary journey - Greece and Illyricum

57 - 59 - Returns to Jerusalem - arrested 

59 - 60 - Imprisoned, appeals to Caesar - travels to Rome

60 - 62 - Under house arrest in Rome

63 - 66 Possible Fourth missionary journey - Spain

66 - Arrested, placed in prison

67 - Martyrdom - beheaded.

The evidence strongly indicates St. Paul left Rome and travelled to Spain as he had planned. He spent up to four years there preaching and helping to establish churches. Spain was under Roman rule and at some point Paul was arrested again  and returned to Rome. It is also possible Paul left Spain and travelled to Rome, possibly passing through intending a visit to Jerusalem or churches he previously established. Whatever the circumstances, Paul was arrested and placed in prison in Rome. With the persecution of Christians under Nero, St. Paul was martyred for his faith in Jesus.  Paul is known as the Great Missionary, and it would seem he made a fourth trip not recorded in the Bible and took the good news to the people of Spain.

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