Wednesday, 26 June 2019

The Sociocultural Context of the New Testament (Part 1): Introduction

“The message of the Bible may be timeless, but the form of that message is not. In order to accomplish his self-revelation in history, God necessarily had to embed that revelation in the historical and cultural context of its original readers” (G. M. Burge, et al., NT in Antiquity 16-17). The challenge for Bible students is to distinguish between situation-specific information and the enduring principles God conveys through these writings.

As modern-day westerners, we approach the scriptures as foreigners engaged in a cross-cultural exchange. Ancient documents make only indirect reference to contemporary social conventions, naturally assuming that readers live in the same world and know what is meant. B. J. Malina reminds us that “meaning, then as well as now, ultimately resides in the social system shared by persons who regularly interact with each other. The problems bound up with understanding another group’s social system so as to interact meaningfully with members of that group are at the root of the problems that surround New Testament interpretation” (Social World of Jesus and the Gospels xi). 

Bible students unconsciously bring to the interpretive enterprise any number of preconceptions shaped by their own experiences, historical backgrounds, traditional values, and personal agendas. It is not realistic to view a 1st-century middle-eastern or Greco-Roman composition through 21st-century westernized lenses with a reasonable expectation of apprehension. The social and cultural environment of New Testament authors and their targeted audiences is far removed from ours. To be unaware and uninformed and lax in our investigation is to almost guarantee that biblical texts are misconstrued. “The further one stands from the original situation of a document, the more discipline one needs to bridge the gaps” (K. C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus 2). At the same time, we must avoid broad generalizations and not assume that understanding the social context of a biblical author is “a substitute for examining the direct evidence about that life itself” (B. Witherington III, Paul Quest 50).

Over the next few weeks posts will be focusing on various aspects of the New Testament’s sociocultural context to supplement our studies and teaching. We want to understand God’s revelation in its original setting so we can be in a better position to interpret it correctly and make application to our own environment.

--Kevin L. Moore

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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Born Gay? A Scientific, Commonsense, Biblical Perspective

Are there determinative biological reasons for the broad range of human sexual proclivities, particularly among the LGBTQ+ population? Slate magazine, an online journal known for its “liberal contrarianism” and “left-wing slant,”has published an article by gay journalist Mark Joseph Stern, asserting that homosexuality “is clearly, undoubtedly, inarguably an inborn trait.”2  Moral behavioral expert Lady Gaga, in her 2011 hit single “Born This Way,” lyricizes: “No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life …. I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.”3

Subjective, agenda-driven assertions like these have become commonplace in our modern world, but is there any hard evidence to back them up? Is this popular claim supported by neutral, fact-based scientific research? If God is brought into the conversation, how do we know what his role is and what his will is in all this? 

A Commonsense Perspective

In the never-ending debate over nature versus nurture, the “born gay” argument is heavy on nature’s role with little if any regard for environmental influences. While sexual desire is innate in nearly all post-pubescent humans, the development and focus of one’s sexual impulses cannot but be affected by external factors. An absentee father, a domineering mother, neglect, abuse, pornography, molestation, or any number of variables that conflict with God’s design for the home contribute to psychological inclinations that conflict with God’s design for the person.Even siblings raised in the same environment do not have identical experiences, and each reacts to stimuli in a unique way.

The normalcy of heterosexuality is a fact of biology and human history. Trying to legitimize an alternative sexual orientation, whether same-sex attraction, pedophilic desire, zoophilia, et al.,is an attempt to normalize something that is contrary to nature and biblical morality. While most advocates of the LGBTQ+ agenda would object to being lumped together with pedophiles and zoophiles (thus no “P” or “Z” in the acronym),if sexual orientation is innate, then the prevailing status quo is inconsistent, hypocritical, and discriminatory for not including others who are “born that way.” 

An Objective Scientific Perspective

With eager attempts to sustain a particular point of view, it is important not to oversimplify or exaggerate the evidence, or make unwarranted assumptions about what the evidence does or does not actually confirm. It is also helpful to clearly define our terms. What is meant by the somewhat ambiguous expression “sexual orientation”? Are we talking about feelings of attraction, fantasy, confusion, longing for relationship, sense of identity, secretive or overt behavior? Does it include various tendencies, mannerisms, and preferences? 

Neuroscientist Simon LeVay, in his study published in 1991,reported brain differences between heterosexual and homosexual men, which some have interpreted as “proof” of biological causation of sexual orientation. However, since these variations could have developed after birth, LeVay explains: “I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are ‘born that way,’ the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.”Numerous other studies that have focused on the role of genetics, including identical twins studies,can neither establish a biological cause for sexual orientation nor discount the formative effects of environmental catalysts.10

Johns Hopkins University published a nonpartisan report in 2016, based on exhaustive research from biological, psychological, and social sciences, authored by Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh.11 Dr. McHugh (M.D.) is former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Mayer (M.B., M.S., Ph.D.), the lead writer of the report, is a biostatistician, epidemiologist, and research physician trained in medicine and psychiatry. Mayer states, “I support every sentence in this report, without reservation and without prejudice regarding any political or philosophical debates. This report is about science and medicine, nothing more and nothing less…. I strongly support equality and oppose discrimination for the LGBT community…” (“Preface” 4-5).

The 143-page report, which addresses sexual orientation, mental health, and gender identity, can be summed up with these words: “The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings – the idea that people are ‘born that way’ – is not supported by the scientific evidence…. there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation” (“Executive Summary” 7). The authors also note that the questions addressed in their comprehensive investigation reveal “a great chasm between much of the public discourse and what science has shown” (“Conclusion” 116).

Fluidity of Sexual Orientations

The idea that sexual desires, attractions, behaviors, and identities are biologically innate and unchangeable is not supported by scientific research. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health conducted interviews with a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the U.S. in 1994-1995, with follow-up interviews through to 2007-2008. The study found that of the adolescent males who had reported same-sex attractions, 80% later identified as exclusively heterosexual young adults. Over 80% of the adolescent males who had reported romantic attraction to both genders later reported no same-sex attraction. Considerable scientific evidence shows that sexual behaviors and identities can vary significantly under different social and environmental circumstances.12 London’s Royal College of Psychiatrists collectively affirms: “It is not the case that sexual orientation is immutable or might not vary to some extent in a person’s life.”13

A Biblical Perspective

True science is based on empirical evidence and demonstrable data rather than individual preferences or popular opinions. In like manner, the Bible must be evaluated according to what it actually teaches instead of biased and misconstrued presuppositions. Irrespective of anyone’s sexual tendencies, moral purity is expected of all who profess allegiance to Christ.14 The New Testament Greek term porneírefers to any kind of forbidden sexual intercourse—that which is beyond the context of a divinely approved, heterosexual, monogamous, consensual marriage.15 Now if God is creator of all humankind and is both loving and just, it is inconceivable that he is responsible for making a person a certain way, or compelling a person to behave a certain way, while condemning that person for something he/she cannot control. Sexual activity between those of the same gender is contrary to God’s revealed will.16 Either the God of the Bible is unjust, or he is not responsible for making people gay.

The Free Will Factor

We are told, “being gay is not a choice” and “God makes no mistakes,” but these are narrow, undefined, misleading generalizations. At the same time, the idea that sexual desire and sexual attraction are simply matters of preferential choice is also naïve and unrealistic.

The crux of the matter is how these inclinations are expressed, or how these impulses are acted upon. Humans are created with the ability to think and the freedom to choose. God does not force us to act against our volitional choices.17 Stated from a secular point of view, sexual desire is “a powerful force, akin to hunger, that many struggle (especially in adolescence) to bring under direction and control…. What seems to be to some extent in our control is how we choose to live with this appetite, how we integrate it into the rest of our lives” (L. S. Mayer and P. R. McHugh, op cit. 19).

Philosopher and legal theorist Edward Stein, critical of popular cultural stereotypes overshadowing cross-cultural scientific facts, observes: “Regardless of whether sexual orientations are directly chosen, indirectly chosen, or not chosen at all … people choose with whom they have sex, people choose whether to be open about their sexual orientations, people choose whether or not to enter romantic relationships, and whether or not to build families.”18 Everyone has to decide either to reject biblical morality, or distort it to conform to the lifestyle of one’s choosing, or accept and comply with the creator’s design for life and relationships, whether in marriage or in single-hood.


History professor and gay activist John D’Emilio is honest enough to admit that scientific evidence for the “born gay” mantra “is thin as a reed, yet it doesn’t matter. It’s an idea with such social utility that one doesn’t need much evidence in order to make it attractive and credible.”19 Nonetheless, many sincere people believe it is a provable fact, which Edward Stein describes as “cultural chauvinism,” meaning “to think, in the absence of either strong scientific evidence or strong theoretical arguments, that our conceptual framework, which gives sexual orientation such a central role, is going to be confirmed by an advanced science of human sexual desire.”20

We all have choices to make. Those of us who choose not to climb aboard the trendy “Gay Pride” bandwagon or embrace the “born that way” propaganda will continue to be stereotyped as “a group of toothless, anti-gay protesters coded as hillbillies who wear American flag tank tops and hold signs that say familiar homophobic slogans ...21 But folks on either side of the debate can be just as ill-informed and hateful as the other. If we truly love God and our fellow humans, we will see one another as precious souls made in his image, created to live lives pleasing to him and worthy of him (Col. 1:10). Lets encourage each other to do just that. 

--Kevin L. Moore

     Daniel Engber, “Free-Thought for the Closed-Minded,” Slate (8 Jan. 2019), <Link>.
     Mark Joseph Stern, “No, Being Gay is Not a Choice,” Slate (4 Feb. 2014), <Link>.
     “Born This Way (song),” Wikipedia (7 June 2019), <Link>.
     Non-heterosexuals are about two to three times more likely than heterosexuals to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse (see Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” The New Atlantis 50 [Fall 2016]: 42-50). Sadly, as lesbian feminist Camille Paglia observes, “now, you are not allowed to ask any questions about the childhood of gay people anymore. It’s called ‘homophobic.’ The entire psychology establishment has shut itself down, politically …” (“Sexual Orientation is Fluid and Can Change,” Voice of the Voiceless [accessed 16 June 2019], <Link>.
     Mirjam Heine, a German medical student, says “pedophilia is an unchangeable sexual orientation” (see Paul Boise, “TEDx Speaker,” The Daily Wire [18 July 2018], <Link>), and the pedophile rights movement is gaining momentum (see Selwyn Duke, “Shocking Times,” The New American [28 Sept. 2015], <Link>). Zoophilia is sexual attraction to animals, while bestiality is engaging in sexual intercourse with animals, the prevalence of which is becoming more and more recognized (see Phil Paleologos, “Bestiality Is Much More Widespread Than You Think,” 1420 WBSM News (28 Feb. 2019), <Link>.
     Another proposed acronym or initialism is LGBTTQQIAAP, standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer (an ambiguous attempt to include all other non-heterosexuals), questioning, intersexual, asexual, ally, and pansexual. In addition to being cumbersome and confusing, this “abbreviation” still leaves out a number of other sexual inclinations and identities. 
     Simon LeVay, “A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men,” Science 253:5023 (30 Aug. 1991): 1034-37, <Link>.
     David Nimmons, “Sex and the Brain,” Discover (1 March 1994), <Link>.
     Identical twins share the same DNA and prenatal conditions, so if sexual orientation is determined by genes, both siblings ought to be either gay or straight 100% of the time. In 1952 psychiatrist Franz Kallmann, having evaluated multiple pairs of twins, reported that if one twin was homosexual, they both were 100% of the time (“Comparative Twin Study on the Genetic Aspects of Male Homosexuality,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 115:1 [Jan. 1952]: 283-98, <Link>). However, Kallmann’s assertion has since been exposed as bogus. Among other problematic areas, his subjects represented an insufficient cross-section of the homosexual population, and his findings have never been replicated (Edward Stein, The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation [Oxford: University Press, 1999]: 145). A number of major studies of identical twins in Australia, Scandinavia, and the United States over the past couple of decades have all concluded that the predominant variables contributing to sexual orientation are post-birth and non-shared factors rather than genetic. If an identical twin grows up to be sexually attracted to the same gender, the chances of the co-twin sharing the same proclivity is comparatively small (Mark Ellis, “Identical Twin Studies Prove Homosexuality is Not Genetic,” OrthodoxNet Blog [24 June 2013] <Link>). For a thorough and informative survey of these and similar studies, see L. S. Mayer and P. R. McHugh, op cit. 13-58. Their report concludes: “Summarizing the studies of twins, we can say that there is no reliable scientific evidence that sexual orientation is determined by a person’s genes.”
     10 See Zoe Mintz, “Does a ‘Gay Gene’ Exist? New Study Says ‘Xq28’ May Influence Male Sexual Orientation,” Science (14 Feb. 2014), <Link>.
     11 L. S. Mayer and P. R. McHugh, op cit. 1-143, <Link>.
     12 L. S. Mayer and P. R. McHugh, op cit. 50-51.
     13 London’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, “Royal College of Psychiatrists’ statement on sexual orientation” (April 2014): 2, <Link>.
     14 Matt. 5:8, 28; Rom. 6:11-14, 19; 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:13-20; Gal. 5:16-21; Eph. 4:17-20; 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 5:22; 1 Tim. 4:12; 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:19-22; Tit. 2:12; Heb. 12:14; 13:4; Jas. 1:14-15; 1 Pet. 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:18-19; 1 John 2:12-17.
     15 1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4; cf. Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:13, 18; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3.
     16 Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 7:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:8-10; Jude 7; cf. Gen. 13:13; 19:4-7; Lev. 18:22; 20:13.
     17 Deut. 30:19-20; Josh. 24:15; Isa. 55:6-7; John 3:16-17; 7:17; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Jas. 4:7; Rev. 3:20; 22:17.
     18 Edward Stein, op cit. 347.
    19 John D’Emilio, interviewed by Sherry Wolf, “LGBT liberation: Build a broad movement,” International Socialist Review 65 (2 May 2019), <Link>.
    20 Op cit. 346.
    21 Rebecca Jennings, “Taylor SwiftYou Need to Calm Down wants to be a queer anthem,” Vox (17 June 2019), <Link>. 

Related Posts: “A Heterosexual, a Homosexual, and a Pedophile Walk Into a Church” <Link>; “The Queen James Bible” <Link>; “Postmodernism and the Homosexual Christian Part 2” <Link>.

Related articles: Brandon Morse, “America Vastly Overestimates the Size of the LGBT Community” <Link>; Doug Mainwaring, “200 Ex-LGBT men, women rally” <Link>; Wes McAdams, “The Sexual Ethics of Jesus” <Link>; Tom Feilden, "Most scientists can't replicate studies by their peers" <Link>; Doug Mainwaring, "Ex-LGBTs pray, repent" <Link>; Jonathan Lambert, "No 'Gay Gene'" <Link>; Rosaria C. Butterfield, "Are We Living Out Romans 1?" <Link>; John Stonestreet and Shane Morris, "'Born This Way' is Old Science" <Link>; Dewayne Bryant, "Is Homosexuality Hereditary?" <Link>; John Stonestreet and Shane Morris, Pedophilia and the Slippery Slope of "Born This Way"

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The Ethno-Geographical Context of the New Testament Books

Gospel of Matthew – Jewish: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to Palestinian Jewish Christians (perhaps in Syrian Antioch).
Gospel of Mark – Roman: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to Roman Christians.
Gospel of Luke – Greek: written by a non-Jewish author from a Greek perspective to a Greco-Roman audience.
Gospel of John – Gentile: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to non-Jewish Christians perhaps in the Asia Province (around Ephesus?).
Acts of the Apostles – Greek: written by a non-Jewish author from a Greek perspective to a Greco-Roman audience.
Romans – City of Rome: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to Jewish and Gentile congregations in the Roman Empire’s capital.
1–2 Corinthians – City of Corinth, Achaia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a predominantly Gentile congregation in Achaia’s capital (a Roman colony).
Galatians – Southern Galatia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to predominantly Gentile congregations most likely in the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (all Roman colonies except Derbe). 
Ephesians – City of Ephesus, Asia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a predominantly Gentile congregation in Asia’s capital (“a free city”).
Philippians – City of Philippi, Macedonia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a Gentile congregation in a Roman colony.
Colossians – City of Colosse, Asia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a predominantly Gentile congregation in the smallest city in the Phrygian Lycas River Valley.
1–2 Thessalonians – City of Thessalonica, Macedonia Province: written by Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian(s) to a predominantly Gentile congregation in Macedonia’s capital (“a free city”).
1–2 Timothy – City of Ephesus, Asia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a Greek-Jewish Christian working with the church in Asia’s capital city (“a free city”). 
Titus – Crete Island Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a Greek Christian working with churches on the island province of Crete.
Philemon – City of Colosse, Asia Province: written by a Hellenistic/Hebraic Jewish Christian to a Christian colleague in the smallest city in the Phrygian Lycas River Valley.
Hebrews – Hellenistic Jewish: written by Hellenistic Jewish Christian(s) to Hellenistic Jewish Christians (perhaps in Rome?).
James – Jewish: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to Jewish believers probably in Palestine.
1–2 Peter – Asia Minor Provinces: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to predominantly Gentile congregations in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 
1, 2, 3 John – Asia Provincewritten by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to non-Jewish Christians perhaps in the Asia Province (around Ephesus?).
Jude – unidentified Christians: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to unidentified Christians, probably somewhere other than the Asia Minor provinces, who were confronting a heretical movement similar to that faced by the audience of Peter’s letters.
Revelation – Asia Province: written by a Palestinian Jewish Christian to suffering Christians in at least seven churches in the Asia Province.

--Kevin L. Moore

*For detailed analysis of each of the above, see K. L. Moore, A Critical Introduction to the NT 58-229.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Bible’s Geographical Context (Part 2)

The Mediterranean World of the New Testament 

By the 1st century AD the Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, extending eastward from the far western frontier of Spain all the way to North Africa, Judea, and Syria. During the Lord’s earthly ministry, while concentrating mainly on Galilee and Judea, his influence and teachings impacted lives as far north as Syria, as far east as the Decapolis and Perea, as far south as Idumea, and all in between (Matt. 4:24-25; Mark 3:7-8)—a radius of approx. 18,000 square miles (29,000+ sq. kms). Even so, Christ’s message is universal in scope and was ultimately designed to reach “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; 13:47, author's own translation). 

The book of Acts covers the first 32 years of the Christian mission, and when the historical narrative closes, Christianity has spread as far as Italy but no definitive record is given of the gospel having reached areas west of Rome, east of Syria, or south of Palestine. However, Acts was not intended to be an intricately detailed account of every single event that occurred in the early church (cf., e.g., Gal. 1:15–2:14; 2 Cor. 11:24-29). Whatever did not suit Luke’s immediate purpose was naturally excluded. Nevertheless, there are indications that the Christian movement did extend farther (Acts 2:5-11; 8:4, 27, 39). 

Places mentioned in Acts where the gospel was definitely preached, although no specific reference is made as to when or by whom this initially occurred, include Galilee (Acts 9:31), Cilicia (Acts 15:23), various parts of Syria (Acts 9:2, 10; 15:23; 21:3-4, 7),Cappadocia and Pontus (Acts 2:10; cf. 1 Pet. 1:1), Bithynia (Acts 16:7; cf. 1 Pet. 1:1), multiple cities of Asia Minor (Acts 16:8-11; 19:10; 20:6-12; cf. Col. 1:2; 4:13-16; Rev. 1:11), Cenchrea (Acts 18:18; cf. Rom. 16:1), Crete (Acts 2:11; 27:7-8; cf. Tit. 1:5), and in ItalyPuteoli and Rome (Acts 28:13-15). 

Places mentioned in Acts where the gospel was likely preached, although no specific reference is made as to when or by whom this occurred, include Arabia (Acts 2:11; cf. Gal. 1:17), the eastern regions of Parthia, Media, Elam, and Mesopotamia (Acts 2:9), as well as the African nations of Egypt (Acts 2:10; 18:24), Libya and Cyrene (Acts 2:10; cf. 11:20; 13:1), and Ethiopia (Acts 8:27, 39).

Places not mentioned in Acts where the gospel definitely spread include the city of Nicopolis in northwest Greece (Tit. 3:12),and the province of Illyricum (Rom. 15:19)northwest of Macedonia,the southern part of which was Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10). Of the places not mentioned in Acts where the gospel potentially spread, Spain would be included in the west (Rom. 15:24, 28), and Scythia in the east (Col. 3:11).4

While there are a number of general statements in Paul’s writings about the widespread dissemination of the gospel,early in 62 he claims that the gospel had been diffused “in all the world …. among all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:5-6, 23). Hyperbolic expression notwithstanding, the extent of the gospel’s proclamation seems to have been much greater than what is specifically documented in the New Testament. Evidence of churches in various areas of the world in the 2nd century (and beyond) further suggests origins dating back to the 1st century.

Roman Provinces

After congregations of the Lord’s church were established in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee (Acts 1:8; 9:31), the gospel was taken farther north to the Roman province of Syria, particularly the cities of Damascus (Acts 9:2, 10), Antioch (Acts 11:19), Tyre (Acts 21:3-4), and Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). The gospel also spread westward to the island-province of Cyprus (Acts 11:19; 13:4) and possibly to Cyrene in N. Africa (Acts 11:19). In Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), the southern provinces seem to have been reached first, viz. Cilicia (Acts 15:23, 41), Galatia (Acts 13–14), and Asia (Acts 18:19–19:10; Rev. 1:11). Eventually there were established churches in the northern provinces of CappadociaPontus and Bithynia as well (1 Pet. 1:1). Farther west, across the Aegean Sea, the gospel spread to the province of Macedonia, viz. the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 16:12–17:15); also the Achaia province, viz. the cities of Athens (Acts 17:34), Corinth (Acts 18:1-18), and Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1). At some point Paul was able to take the gospel as far north as the Illyricum province (Rom. 15:19; cf. 2 Tim. 4:10). 

By the mid-1st century there were established congregations in the capital city of Rome and nearby Puteoli (Rom. 1:7; Acts 28:13-15), which may have been planted by ethnic Jews and proselytes converted to Christ in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10; 8:4). The outermost western province was Spain [Lat. Hispania], and Paul expressed his desire to take the gospel there with the help of his Roman brethren (Rom. 15:23-29). While unforeseen circumstances altered the original plan, it is entirely possible that he went on to achieve this goal after his first Roman imprisonment; it would have taken less than a week to sail from Italy to Spain.

Clement of Rome, near the end of the 1st century, affirms that Paul preached the gospel in the extreme west of the Roman Empire, which at the time would have included Spain (I Clement 5.1-7). The 2nd-century Muratorian Fragment (lines 38-39) and Acts of Peter (chap. 3) take Paul’s Spanish journey for granted, as do the 4th-century testimonies of Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. Lect. 17.26), John Chrysostom (2 Tim. Homily 10), and later Jerome (Amos 5).

Whenever Paul includes geographical references in his letters, he is almost certainly recalling the names and faces and stories of those he dearly loved in these places. When he speaks of Macedonia, for example, it is not the provincial or geographical locality that interests or concerns him, but the Macedonians themselves (2 Cor. 9:2, 4) and the churches of Macedonia in particular (2 Cor. 8:1). These congregations were comprised of individuals whom Paul knew personally and cared for deeply.7

--Kevin L. Moore

     The Syro-Phoenician woman helped by Jesus (Mark 7:24-30) could have been an early convert. It is plausible that the Gospel of Matthew was written from and/or sent to Antioch of Syria, as the first clear usage of it appears in the early 2nd-century writings of Ignatius (see Smyrn.1.1; Eph. 19.1-3; Polc. 2.2). The Didache (Teachings) of the Twelve Apostles and Odes of Solomon were produced in Syria, potentially near the end of the 1st century (or at least by the early 2nd century).
     The location of this city is uncertain, since different cities shared this same name in various places, including Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is plausible that this particular Nicopolis was in Thrace (near the borders of Macedonia) or in Cilicia, but more likely in the province of Epirus in NW Greece.
     Present-day N. Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and coastal Croatia.
     Eastern Iranians around the Black Sea: modern-day SE Ukraine, S. Russia, W. Kazakhstan; according to tradition, evangelized by the apostles Andrew and Philip.
     1 Thess. 1:8 (AD 50-51); Rom. 1:8; 10:18; 15:23 (AD 56-57).
     See K. L. Moore, “The Background of the Letters to Timothy and Titus,” in Entrusted With the Faith (2018 FHU Lectureship Book, ed. D. Y. Burleson): 79-82.
     See K. L. Moore, “The Macedonians Had Names,” Moore Perspective (20 May 2015), <Link>.

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