Monday, March 12, 2007

What if Paul went East?

During Paul's Aegean mission, Luke reports that: "When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia , but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16.7). I wonder what would have happened if Paul went into Bithynia and Pontus then into Armenia and perhaps even Adiabene (where some Jewish missionaries had found a ripe field, see Josephus, Ant. 20.17-96)? And then on to Babylon and after that, where? Parthia? Or even India? We can only speculate. Although I have not read the article yet, I hope to one day get hold of: Richard Bauckham, ‘What if Paul had Travelled East rather than West?’ in Virtual History and the Bible, ed. J. C. Exum (Leiden: Brill, 1999) 171-184.

For those of us in New Testament studies, anything east of Galatia is bit of a mystery. But you only have to read Horace and Revelation to know the seriousness of the threat that Parthia served to Roman clients in the east. The Euphrates was a de facto border between the two empires and it was not until the campaigns of Trajan 116-17 CE that Rome was able to subdue Parthia. For some useful maps of the Parthinian empire see these which include Parthia at the height of its powers. Essentially the Parthinian empire took over from the shrinking Seleucid empire and soon controlled modern Iran, Iraq, Armenia and parts of Turkey and Afghanistan.

For another good map of the Roman empire see this one which is searchable.


Derek Brown said...

Michael-Thanks for the post. I too have been meaning to read this article for some time. The possibilities of what could have come are endless and incredibly interesting-not only in terms of where Paul might have gone, but also in terms of where Paul might not of have gone (i.e. to Rome with Spain view).

Not sure if you know this, but Bauckham's article can also be found here: Biblical Interpretation, 8 no 1-2 2000, p 171-184.


Michael Pahl said...

Yes, and if you have subscription access it can be found here or here.

J. Matthew Barnes said...

I am actually quite glad that Paul did not go east. If he had we probably wouldn't have the unique expression of the Eastern Church, which would be a major loss for Christianity as a whole!

Michael F. Bird said...

Thanks fellas, I've got the article now and look forward to reading it and might comment on it in the future.