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Paul in Spain
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From "Like a Flickering Flame" by Dale G. Vought

Johnson Journal

One of the questions that arises when considering the Church in Spain is

the fundamental question of when the Gospel first arrived and by whose

hands. If the Apostle Paul had only told us if he fulfilled his desire to visit

Spain, as expressed in his letter to the Romans (15:23-28), it would have

simplified matters. However, he did not and we are left without knowing for

sure. The destruction of so many of the documents of that period is

unfortunate. The Roman emperor Dioclation not only tried 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 we can only

speculate about the meaning of the few documents that did survive. The

1author believes that it is reasonable to say that Paul did visit Spain for the

following reasons: I. 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.

until sometime 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

not until 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 Saint Paul 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 texts unrelated to the Peninsula, and are therefore free

of a biased interpretation, giving sufficient proof."(2)

Secondly, the size and organization of the church in Spain by the third

century suggests that the Gospel arrived at a very early date. In a letter

written in 254 or 255 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 or 307 was attended by 19 bishops and 24

presbyters. The presbyters were delegates from churches whose bishops

were unable to attend. All of the provinces of Spain were represented among

them and from the subjects discussed, it is evident that the church was well

developed. (3)

Thirdly, it is common knowledge that Paul was following some kind of

strategy in his missionary trips. His visits to the important cities and to the

Jewish synagogues were not done arbitrarily, it was part ofa plan. Paul would

take up residence for a time in strategic centers, like Antioch and Corinth,

from which he and his helpers would reach out to the smaller villages of the

region. It is reasonable to believe that he planned to make Rome, as he

intimates in Romans 15, the next center for reaching out further to the west. i

The early arrival of the Gospel in Spain could be the result of his having

accomplished his purpose. Meyrick places such a visit above question stating

that Paul was in Spain for twelve months and made an important contribution

to the establishment of the Church.(4)

Fourthly, early documents, such as the letter written by Clement of Rome

to the church 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 patient

endurance, 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 due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and

come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the

prefects."(5) The expression "extreme limit of the west" was commonly

understood to be Hispania 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 Il1yricum, fully preached the Gospel, and

instructed even imperial Rome, and carried the earnestness of his preaching as

far as Spain, undergoing conflicts innumerable, and performing Signs and

wonders"(7) Chrysostom also writes about Paul stating, "For after he had been

in Rome, he returned to Spain, but whether he came thence again into these

'parts, we know not." (8)

There is also an interesting fragment of a papyrus manuscript discovered in

the Ambrosia Library (Italy) in 1700 by Domingo M. Muratori.

The document, written in Latin, seems to date around the year 140, judging from its

content. Among the important references to the four gospels, Paul's letter to

the Romans, and other documents, 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 did indeed take place. (l0)

Finally, there are the local traditions. Although these are of late origin, they

give 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 a monument marking the place where Paul supposedly preached.

Paul is still the Patron Saint of Ecija and for years baptisms were done

name of the Father, the Son and the Apostle Paul. One plausible route

For Paul's visit would be to enter Spain at Tarragona (Tarraco), passing down the

coast to Cadiz and then back through Sevilla, Ecija, Cordoba,, Mérida,

Zaragoza and leaving again from the port of Ampuias (Emporias ) on the coast

between Barcelona and the French border. It should be remembered that

travel between Spain and Italy was a common 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 alone would not have been sufficient to evangelize Spain to the extent we

see at such an early date. There had to have been others that did the bulk of the

the work. Who these were makes for interesting conjectures. Spain was very

closely linked to Rome and maybe some of the converted Pretorium guards

that were with Paul in Rome were sent to Spain where they testified to others.

Footnotes

1 W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Grand Rapids,

MI., Eerdmans Publishing Co. See the evidence presented by pages 738- 741.

2 M. Dias y Diaz; San Pab/o 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.

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 ab occasu 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.

8 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I Volume XIII (ECF -Volume XXII) F

, on II Timothy 4:20. Paragraph 26.

9 Arturo Gutierrez, Arbores del Cristianismo en Espaiia, Publicaciones Porta'

t Levittown, Pa. 1963. p.45.

10 The Spanish pastor Arturo Gutierrez wrote a series of articles on the possib

f visit of Paul to Spain, whiclJ were compiled into a small volume and published in

Book just mentioned. Just about-everyone writing on this mentions the Muratori

Fragment.

Romans 15:23-28