Page 62

6

5:

Rome: 61 to 66 A.D.

1

In the spring of 61 St. Paul’s party arrived at last in Rome. The next ten years were to be the most tumultuous and momentous in the history of the Apostolic Church. In this period, too, were written all the final books of the New Testament. 2

In Rome St. Paul was to remain in captivity for another two years. Unlike his captivity in Caesarea, St. Paul’s first captivity in Rome was under the mild conditions of a custodia militaris, a house arrest. He was able to rent his own lodgings and to receive visitors freely. His lodgings were in the northeast of the city near the barracks of the Praetorian Guard. These supplied the guard who was to keep him chained and to whom he was always to remain chained when out visiting. (This was no doubt due to the good offices of the Centurion Julius under whose charge St. Paul had made his journey from Caesarea. No doubt too the official documents relating to St. Paul’s trial had been lost in the shipwreck, and now needed to be replaced by the governor in Judaea. Things were complicated further still by the sudden death of that governor, Porcius Festus, in 62.) 3

By his appeal to Caesar and his journey to the metropolis of the world, St. Paul wished to stand before the Empire’s supreme tribunal. The Law of Associations, introduced by Augustus, had prohibited all societies which failed to register and obtain permission to hold meetings. The Jews had obtained such a permission. Assisted by St. Luke as his legal adviser, St. Paul was hoping to obtain for the Church a legal status similar to that granted to the Jews. Success in St. Paul’s trial would mean ‘Jewish’ status and privileges for the Church and a charter of freedom to preach the Gospel openly in every part of the Empire. Clearly St. Paul and St. Luke were hoping that a decision by an official of high standing, such as Gallio in 52, if it could be used as a precedent, could be used to establish a rule for later governors in their dealings with Christians and their Jewish accusers. In his Acts St. Luke shows us Roman governors (Sergius Paulus in 45 and Gallio in 52) as witnesses that St. Paul’s preaching was in no way a danger to the state. Felix in 58 and Festus (as well as King Herod Agrippa II) in 60 did not find St. Paul guilty of a capital charge, or indeed of any charge. The tribune Claudius Lysias was determined to save St. Paul, and the centurion Julius held him in the highest regard. The Asiarchs of Ephesus were leading citizens of the province of Asia and officials in charge of the imperial cult in their province. St. Luke records how in 57 they too were convinced of St. Paul’s political loyalty and religious harmlessness, and sought to protect him.* 4

Would the government in Rome take St. Luke’s skilfully made point, accept these precedents, and decide likewise? Or would they listen instead to the Christians’ Jewish accusers? St. Paul’s trial had been coming for the last eight chapters of Acts. What was the result? St. Luke does not tell us. After eight chapters of building up for St. Paul’s trial, there in Rome, St. Luke’s

How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament  

This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...