What follows below is an attempt to figure out where Paul went after his first imprisonment in Rome.1 These travels of Paul are based on statements in Acts and the letters of Paul that indicate his intended or actual travels at this time. Especially helpful are the Prison Epistles since they were written during Paul’s two years in Rome, AD 60–62 (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians; Acts 28:30), just before his release. Also helpful are the letters written after Acts and during the time of these travels (1 Timothy and Titus in AD 66, 2 Timothy in AD 68). If Paul was released in AD 62 and wrote 2 Timothy just before his death (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6–8), then Paul’s life after Acts continued for 5 or 6 more years.
After the events in Paul’s life in Acts 28, Paul stood before Caesar (Emperor Nero) in Rome as promised (Acts 27:24), probably in AD 62. Tradition tells us that he was released from his imprisonment, probably due to his innocence (cf. Acts 23:29; 25:25; 26:32). Already in Rome, he could have visited the believers there as he intended (Romans 15:24, 28), having met some of them already (Acts 28:15–16; cf. 28:30).
Being on the western coast of Italy, Paul may have then taken the gospel further west to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28) and stayed there for some time, maybe a year or two (AD 62–64), taking the gospel where it had not gone before (cf. Romans 15:14–21). Or, if Philippians 2:24 and Philemon 22 indicate Paul’s haste to visit Philippi and Philemon, Paul’s trip to Spain may have taken place later. Either way, we lean on tradition and not an explicit statement in Scripture that the trip indeed took place. But tradition suggests that Paul went to Spain just after being released.
If Paul did complete a missionary trip to Spain, he could have then sailed east along the northern coast of Africa and under Cicily to eventually land on Crete where he and Titus evangelized the island (Titus 1:5). Leaving Titus there, he could have gone north to Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20) and visited Philemon in Colossae thereafter (Philemon 22).
Not stopping in Ephesus (cf. Acts 20:38), Paul sent Timothy there while Paul traveled to the region of Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). While on the way, he left some items at Troas (2 Timothy 4:13) and then stayed in Philippi as he intended (Philippians 2:24). Paul may have then stayed in Nicopolis during the winter as he had hoped (Titus 3:12). He could have also visited Corinth at this time (2 Timothy 4:20), or maybe he traveled through there after being arrested and taken to Rome. Though many did not stand by him at this time (2 Timothy 4:16), the Lord Jesus did (2 Timothy 4:17; cf. Acts 23:11). Tradition tells us that Paul stayed in the Mamertine Prison and was beheaded in AD 68.
- The years and timeline here is primarily based on traditional, conservative dating for the NT’s events and letters and especially on William Combs, “The Life and Ministry of Paul” (course notes, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Spring 2007), 79, and Robet E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (Chicago: Moody, 2017), 241–62. [↩]