Paul’s Triumphal Entry

23 Jul

It seems that Luke continues his theme of presenting the final acts of Paul in a similar fashion that he presented those of Jesus in Luke 19:29-40. Just as Jesus had a triumphal entry into the capital of Judea, so Paul, although he is a prisoner of Rome, is presented as having a triumphal journey to the capital of the world (Acts 28:14-16).

The seas reopened for travel sometime between February 8 and March 10 depending upon the weather. So, when a favorable wind blew, Paul and company sailed out of the harbor at Miletus and sailed into the harbor at Syracuse, Sicily, where they spent three days, probably awaiting fair winds to take them further. The weather at this time of year was still unpredictable. Although we don’t know how long after the Day of Atonement Paul left Syria (Acts 27:9), it was probably late October or early November when the storm hit (Acts 27:14). Since they wintered at Miletus for three months, no doubt they set sail from Miletus closer to February 8th date than March 10th. It took the crew five days from leaving Miletus to reach the port of Naples at Puteoli.

At Puteoli Paul found brethren with whom they stayed for seven days. I think what Luke means is that he completed seven days at Puteoli from the time he left Miletus. In other words he stayed there only two days. In any event, Luke doesn’t elaborate why there was such a delay if, in fact, it was seven days that were spent at Puteoli. If the latter is true, it may be Julius had business there, or perhaps a late snow storm closed the roads or some such reason. Nevertheless, whichever scenario is correct, it seems as though those with Paul, which may even have included all the Roman soldiers and their prisoners, enjoyed the hospitality of the local Christians there.

One may wonder how there came to be a Christian community in Puteoli, since there is no record of an evangelistic campaign taking place before Paul’s arrival. Luke isn’t clear as to how Christianity came to be believed this far west, but we do know there were Christian churches here before Paul’s arrival, for Paul wrote to the church in Rome (Romans 1:1, 7; 16:5), while he was still in Corinth, before bringing the gentile offering to Jerusalem (Romans 16:1) three to four years earlier. We also know that a Jewish community existed in Puteoli for nearly a century.[1] Since Jews from Italy made pilgrimages to Jerusalem and heard the Gospel from Peter and other apostles there (cp. Acts 2:10) and continued to hear the Gospel in this way for almost 30 years since Pentecost 31 CE, it is not surprising to find a Christian assembly this close to Rome.

When word got out that Paul was traveling to Rome, Christians came to meet him as he traveled north from Putolie, and they accompanied him to Rome (Acts 28:15). This was a great encouragement for Paul, and he thanked God for what was occurring. Moreover, when Julius turned Paul over to the Praetorian Guard at Rome (cp. Philippians 1:13) he was permitted to assume house arrest rather than be kept in prison (Acts 28:16; cp. 28:30).

Does this mean that Paul, whose innocence is a major theme in the latter part of Luke’s thesis, showing every Roman authority, whether governor of Judea or an officer in the military, agreed that he had done nothing worthy of death—does all this mean that Paul was released by Nero? Many scholars believe Paul was released, but there are very early traditions that say he was not, but was martyred in Nero’s persecution following the fire in Rome in 64 CE.[2] I tend to agree with these early traditions. Luke shows Paul under guard in his own rented house in Rome awaiting trial for two years (Acts 28:30-31). Tacitus tells us that “Nero announced at the beginning of his reign that he would not judge cases in person as had Claudius before him.”[3]

Therefore, if Paul’s case was ever heard before 64 CE, he would have been judged by one of Nero’s delegates. Nevertheless, Paul tells us in his epistle to Timothy that everyone had deserted him at his first appearance in court (2Timothy 4:16). I can understand some brethren gripped by fear and failing to support Paul, if he was being tried by Nero just after the fire in Rome. However, seeing the wonderful greeting Paul received, while journeying from Putolie to Rome, why would Christians desert Paul during good times? If their lives were not in danger, why would they desert Paul then (2Timothy 4:16)? So, it seems Paul’s journey to Rome continues to parallel that of Jesus, not only in his triumphant entry into the city, but also in his later abandonment by his friends (2Timothy 4:16; cp. Mark 14:27, 50; John 16:32).

[1] Josephus: Wars of the Jews 2.7.1; Antiquities of the Jews 17.12.1

[2] James S. Jeffers: The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era; page 170.

[3] Ibid. and Annals 13.4.2)

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Gospel, Kingdom of God, Voyage to Rome


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