Outlines Of New Testament History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.

(Acts 15:36; 18:22)



              1. Purpose of Second Missionary Journey.




              2. The Companions of St. Paul

              Neither Barnabas, nor John (Mark), but Silas first, Timothy next, and Luke last of all.






              1. Visitation of Churches

              In Syria and Cilicia.


                            In Southern Galatia (Derbe, Lystra, Iconium).




              2. Foundation of Churches

              In Northern Galatia?

              Two theories.


                            Which more probable?




                            In Macedonia:









                            In Achaia:









              1. By way of Ephesus, Cæsarea and Jerusalem.


              2. Duration of St. Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.


§ 1. The Departure

1. Purpose of Second Missionary Journey. While peace and harmony prevailed in Antioch, and the efforts of Judaistic teachers against Gentile freedom were fully met there by St. Paul’s unswerving courage, it seems probable that his adversaries were active and only too successful in disturbing and influencing the minds of the Christian communities which he and Barnabas had recently founded and organized in southern Galatia. To counteract this pernicious influence he first wrote to them, not unlikely from the Syrian capital, the epistle which is addressed “to the Galatians,” from the name of the Roman province in which lay these various communities. To vindicate his apostolic authority he narrated to them all that had come to pass of late in Jerusalem and in Antioch, of which they had as yet heard nothing, and to confirm his own doctrine he appealed to powerful arguments within the reach of their intelligence. But although this letter should have been more than sufficient to restore the Galatians to right views about men and doctrines, the Apostle of the Gentiles still feared the influence of the Judaistic teachers who resided in the midst of his converts, and finally resolved to visit them in person. Antioch was at the time well supplied with Christian ministers, so that his presence and that of Barnabas could be easily dispensed with in the Syrian capital; he therefore said to Barnabas, his former fellow-worker in Galatia: “Let us return and visit our brethren in all the cities wherein we have preached the word of the Lord, to see how they do.”

2. The Companions of St. Paul. At first Barnabas accepted joyfully Paul’s proposal to start together on a visitation tour through the countries they had already evangelized; yet he was not to be the actual companion of the Apostle of the Gentiles during this, his second missionary journey. He was naturally attached to John-Mark, his near relative, and now expressed the wish that he should accompany them. To this St. Paul objected positively, unwilling to have in his company a man on whose services he could not rely implicitly; hence a “dissension” arose between the two apostles, which, as Barnabas would in no way part with Mark, resulted in the separation of the former fellow-workers, and also in the formation of two apostolic bands instead of one; for while Barnabas sailed for Cyprus with Mark, St. Paul started by land through Syria and Cilicia, with Silas, one of the official deputies of the church of Jerusalem, who had become much attached to him.

At an early stage of this second missionary journey another man, who soon became the dearest and surest friend of the great Apostle, joined Paul and Silas. This was Timothy, a young Christian of Lystra, whom St. Paul willingly accepted as his companion because of the high esteem in which he was held by the faithful of Lystra and Iconium, and who, “as a son with a father, served with Paul in the Gospel.”

The third and last companion of St. Paul to be mentioned is no other than the writer of the book of the Acts, who through modesty does not give his own name, but simply introduces himself as one of the missionary band by using the first person “we” in the sacred narrative, and whom Christian tradition has ever considered as identical with the Luke spoken of in the epistle to the Colossians in these affectionate terms: “Luke, the most dear physician, saluteth you.” He seems to have joined Paul and Silas about the middle of this missionary journey, at Troas, and to have accompanied them only up to Philippi.

§ 2. The Journey

1. Visitation of Churches. Leaving Antioch to visit the Christian communities already founded in Asia Minor, Paul and Silas passed through Syria and Cilicia, carrying with them the decree drawn up by the Council of Jerusalem. As the genuineness of this decree was put beyond all doubt by the official testimony of Silas, and as its tenor fully justified St. Paul’s doctrine regarding the admission of Gentile converts into the Christian Church, it is easy to imagine the powerful effect produced by the presence and words of the great Apostle upon the minds and hearts of the faithful of those regions. The baneful influence of the Jewish teachers, who had probably passed there some time before on their way to the central districts of Asia Minor, was more than counteracted and the great object of St. Paul’s visitation fully secured.|

Encouraged by this happy beginning, the Apostle hastened to cross the Taurus range, through the defiles known as the Cilician Gates, and soon arrived at Derbe and Lystra, the two cities he had visited last on his first missionary journey, for he was now travelling in an opposite direction. Thence he went to Iconium and other cities of southern Galatia, making known to them the apostolic decree enacted at Jerusalem, and turning it into account to vindicate his authority and effectively confirm the churches in the doctrine he had formerly preached to them. The promulgation far and wide of the apostolic decree had a twofold further result: the influence of the Judaistic teachers was destroyed forever, and next the conversion of numerous Gentiles, hitherto delayed for fear of the hateful yoke of the circumcision, was actually effected.

It was also in this district that St. Paul, fully aware of the moral worth of Timothy, and realizing all the help he might derive from his services, resolved to take him along on his mission. As, however, it was well known that Timothy was the child of a mixed marriage between a Gentile and a Jewess, the Apostle thought it better to have him circumcised, in order not to arouse the ill feeling of the Jewish communities he might have an opportunity to address in Asia Minor.

2. Foundation of Churches. Thus supplied with a most helpful and faithful companion, the Apostle of the Gentiles started for the foundation of churches in countries as yet unvisited, and here we meet with two theories as to the direction which St. Paul took soon after leaving the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia, whose various churches he had just confirmed in the Christian faith. According to the older, and, indeed, as yet the more common, theory, the Christian missionaries, successively prevented by divine guidance from preaching in Asia and Bithynia, the two Roman provinces adjacent to the province of Galatia, went from the districts of southern to those of northern Galatia, whose inhabitants they converted in large numbers, and to whom St. Paul addressed later on the letter known as the Epistle to the Galatians. The more recent theory holds, on the contrary, that the great Apostle did not go to the northern parts of the province of Galatia when prohibited to preach the Gospel in Asia and Bithynia, but simply passed through the Phrygian part of the province of Galatia and the territory of proconsular Asia till he reached Troas, on the western coast of Asia Minor, so that the Epistle to the Galatians would have been written, not for the spiritual welfare of churches founded at this time in northern Galatia, but for the churches of southern Galatia, which, as we have seen, he had founded at the time of his first missionary journey.

Although this second theory is not free from all difficulties, yet it seems on the whole much the more probable, chiefly because many things noticeable in the Epistle to the Galatians lead us to believe that the epistle was written some time before St. Paul’s departure from Antioch for his second missionary journey, that is, at a time when he had as yet evangelized only the southern regions of the Roman province of Galatia.

However this may be, St. Paul, as bidden by the Holy Spirit, traversed proconsular Asia without preaching in it at this time, and reached the town of Troas, on the Ægean Sea, about 4 miles from ancient Troy and 6 miles south of the entrance to the Hellespont (the modern Dardanelles). Here he was joined by Luke, and while still uncertain as to the place to which he should now proceed beheld at night, “in a vision,” a Macedonian supplicating him to cross to Europe and preach the Gospel in Macedonia. Considering this as a divine summons, the Apostle and his companions sailed without delay from Troas “and pursued the usual track towards Macedonia. As they had a fair wind, they voyaged the same day as far as Samothrace (still called Samothraki), an island some 8 miles long and 6 miles broad, lying halfway between Troas and the Macedonian harbor. The next day they sailed to Neapolis,” a town in Thrace, and from that port journeyed overland to Philippi, some 8 miles distant. In this important city, a Roman colony—whether the actual capital of the first division of Macedonia at this time does not appear—the Jews were but an inconsiderable element of the population, which was made up mostly of Greek natives and Latin colonists, so that there was apparently no Jewish synagogue in Philippi, but only a Proseucha or place of prayer by the river-bank without the walls. Conformably to his custom of addressing himself first to the Jews, St. Paul went on the Sabbath day to their place of meeting and preached the Gospel there. The result was the conversion of Lydia, “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira,” and a person of influence and position. For several weeks the Apostle and his companions pursued their missionary work, and apparently with considerable success, until he was imprisoned, with Silas, for having expelled “a pythonical spirit” from a certain slave girl, thereby causing pecuniary loss to her masters, who had hitherto derived profit from her vaticinations. The whole narrative of St. Paul’s imprisonment and release on this occasion bespeaks the Roman character of the city organization, a fact which explains why the Apostle demanded of the magistrates that they should offer him and Silas a public apology for having scourged two Roman citizens “uncondemned.” It may also be noticed here that several features and details of the narrative of St. Paul’s journey to and sojourn in Philippi concur in suggesting that the inspired writer had long been a resident in that city.

Paul and Silas, parting from Luke at Philippi, and accompanied by Timothy, started for Thessalonica, about 100 miles distant, to the southwest. On their way they passed though the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and finally reached Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia Secunda, a populous city, supplied with a fine harbor, on the Ægean Sea, and governed by its own magistrates. In this large and flourishing centre of commerce the Jews had settled in great numbers and erected a synagogue, to which St. Paul repaired on three successive Sabbaths, and in which he argued with his hearers that Jesus was indeed the Messias, whose life, sufferings, death, and resurrection were foretold in the Scriptures. His efforts were crowned with such success that the Jews, filled with envy, stirred up the rabble and set the city in an uproar, for the raising of which they made Paul and Silas responsible before the magistrates. They also accused the Christian missionaries of treason against Cæsar, for they represented them as preaching “that there is another king, Jesus.” The calmness and firmness of the magistrates appeased, indeed, the popular tumult; yet, because of the hatred of the Jews, the faithful of the city “immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night into Berea.”

In point of fact severe trials befell the Christians of Thessalonica soon after the departure of the Apostle—so much so that they longed for Christ’s second coming, and, as they imagined that it was near at hand, many among them became addicted to idleness, while others, seeing persons most dear to them dying before Christ’s actual return, gave way to immoderate grief. This we learn from the epistles which, only a few months after he had left them, St. Paul felt it necessary to write for their consolation and instruction. In these same epistles to the Thessalonians we find also a few details which complete the narrative of the book of the Acts regarding the foundation of the church of Thessalonica. We learn, for instance, that the Thessalonians received with great joy the Gospel as “the word of God,” that the report of their conversion “from idols” soon spread throughout Macedonia and Achaia, and finally that St. Paul during his sojourn in their midst supported himself by working at his trade of a tent-maker, an avocation he could all the more easily pursue in Thessalonica because “one of the staple manufactures of the city was and is goat’s-hair cloth.”

At Berea, “a secluded town,” as it is called by Cicero, the Jews, whom St. Paul addressed in their own synagogue, listened willingly to his words, and applied to the study of Holy Writ to ascertain whether the arguments drawn from the Old Testament records were conclusive. Many conversions both of Jews and Gentiles ensued; but, unfortunately, the bigoted Jews of Thessalonica, hearing of the great success of the Christian missionaries at Berea, hastened thither, and “stirred up and troubled the multitude.” So great, in fact, was the fury of these bigots against one whom they considered as an apostate from the Law of Moses that, St. Paul’s life being positively insecure in Berea, the Apostle had to depart hurriedly, while Timothy and Silas remained behind

It was with feelings of deep regret for leaving his work so incomplete in Macedonia that St. Paul took ship for Athens, the first large city of the province of Achaia. He knew that God had called him to evangelize Macedonia, and, hoping that the obstacles to his return thither should soon be removed by God’s providence, he longed for the moment when Silas and Timothy should bring him from Berea the welcome news that it was safe for him to go back and visit the Macedonian churches.

Athens, the ancient capital of Attica, in which the Apostle was now waiting, had at this time lost much of its political importance and literary prestige. Yet it was still a free city, governed by three distinct assemblies, to wit: the Areopagus, a kind of senate or supreme court; the Boule, or council of six hundred; and the People. It also occupied a prominent place in the world of letters by its university, which still ranked at least on a par with those of Alexandria and Tarsus, although large crowds of students frequented it less for literary than for athletic purposes. Indeed, in St. Paul’s time Athens presented to the eyes of the visitor a much finer appearance than in bygone days, when its Agora or “Market,” where St. Paul disputed “daily,” had not yet its area between the four hills of Athens (the Areopagus, or Mars’ Hill, and the Acropolis on the north, the Pynx on the west, and the Museum on the south), crowded with the finest temples, statues, altars, and public buildings. Of course it may well be supposed that the Apostle, who spoke of his native place as “no mean city” and was anxious to “see Rome,” was not indifferent to the sight of so many masterpieces of Grecian art; one feeling, however, was paramount in his heart: that of indignant zeal against a city whose countless idols proved to evidence that it was “wholly given to idolatry.”

While waiting for the arrival of Silas and Timothy St. Paul lost no opportunity to address the Jews and proselytes to Judaism in their synagogue meetings, and disputed daily in the market-place “with them that were there.” His preaching about “Jesus and the resurrection” seemed very strange to the Epicurean and Stoic teachers of Athens who argued with him, and many of the witnesses of these disputations, desirous to hear more about “certain new things” they had caught but imperfectly amid the noise and bustle of the Agora, took him to the Areopagus, and thus gave him a splendid opportunity to expose his doctrine before the senate and people of the city. The address of St. Paul from the top of this rocky eminence began with a happy allusion to one of the many altars “to an unknown god” which then existed in Athens. This unknown God, he declared, was no other than the One whom he preached, and whom he described as the almighty Father of the human race, and now desirous to bring all to a knowledge of Himself. Then he exhorted his hearers to give up idol-worship and prepare by penance for the day “wherein God would judge the world in equity by the Man whom He hath appointed,” for of this He had given pledge and assurance to all by raising Him up from the dead.

The general line of thought followed by the Apostle and recorded in the book of the Acts was such as to keep up the interest of the Athenians; but when he made mention of a resurrection some burst out into laughter, while others, apparently more polite, dismissed him with the words, “We will hear thee again concerning this matter.” Whereupon the assembly dispersed, and a few only of his hearers (among whom were Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris) embraced the faith

A day’s sail brought St. Paul from Athens to Corinth, a city situated on the isthmus which connects the Peloponnesus with the rest of Greece and separates the Ægean from the Ionian Sea. This was at the time the capital of the province and the residence of the Roman proconsul of Achaia. No other Greek city could compare with it in commerce, wealth, refinement, and number of inhabitants; and perhaps no city in the world could compare with it in licentiousness: Venus was its favorite goddess, and sensuality had taken the form of a religious rite. Its population, made up of people from all parts of the empire, comprised a large Jewish element, attracted thither by commerce, and swollen at this particular time by the numerous Jews expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. Among these refugees were a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, and Priscilla, his wife, who had perhaps already embraced the Christian faith, and with whom St. Paul abode and worked, for Aquila was also a tent-maker. As the Sabbaths came around they naturally all repaired to the Jewish synagogue, and St. Paul, availing himself of his great rabbinical learning, proved to his hearers—Jews and Gentiles—that Jesus was indeed the Christ, and made several converts to whom he refers in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. It was, however, only after the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who brought to him the generous offerings of the Macedonian churches, that the Apostle, freed from temporal cares, powerfully seconded by his two devoted friends and greatly encouraged by a divine vision, effected a large number of conversions. Driven from the synagogue, he preached to all comers in the adjoining house of a proselyte named Titus Justus, who, with Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, had believed in Christ. His success was very great, chiefly with the lower classes of the Gentile population, and this so incensed the Jews that on one occasion, the exact character of which is not recorded, “arising with one accord, they brought him to the judgment-seat” of the proconsul Gallio. But this Roman officer had hardly heard the only accusation they could proffer against St. Paul, viz.: “This man persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the Law,” than he contemptuously refused to take up the matter, “drove them from the judgment-seat,” and did not intervene in their behalf when they were mobbed by the multitude outside.

The Apostle was therefore allowed free scope to his zeal, and his long sojourn of one year and a half at Corinth resulted not only in the foundation of a large and flourishing community in the capital of Achaia, but also in the establishment of several churches within that province. It was also from Corinth that St. Paul wrote his two epistles to the Thessalonians, to encourage and instruct them in their peculiar and trying circumstances already referred to.

It is difficult in the present day to point out the reason of the Nazarite vow which St. Paul made before leaving Corinth, and in consequence of which he shaved his head in Cenchra, the eastern harbor of the capital of Achaia, from which he sailed “into Syria.” Perhaps he wished thereby to give public witness to his gratitude for his recent deliverance from the machinations of the Jews by the action of the Roman proconsul.

§ 3. The Return

1. St. Paul’s Return by Way of Ephesus, Cæsarea, and Jerusalem. The return from his second missionary journey was rapidly effected by St. Paul, who was anxious to be in Jerusalem for a festival, not otherwise specified in the Greek text (it is not even referred to in the Vulgate), but which has been supposed to be either the feast of the Passover or Pentecost, and which may have been connected in some unknown manner with the consummation of his vow in Corinth. Sailing from Cenchra with Silas and Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, he landed in Ephesus after a voyage of about thirteen or fourteen days, and started from it as soon as possible, notwithstanding the invitation to tarry which the Jews of the synagogue of that great capital of proconsular Asia had extended to him. He therefore simply promised soon to return to them “God willing,” and, leaving behind Aquila and Priscilla, sailed for Cæsarea of Palestine, from which he went up to the Holy City, saluted the church of Jerusalem, and after a brief stay started for Antioch.

2. Duration of St. Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. With St. Paul’s return to Antioch of Syria closed one of the most important missionary journeys of the great Apostle. Besides confirming the faith of the churches already in existence in Cilicia and southern Galatia, he had, under the manifest guidance of Providence, crossed over to Europe and founded many important Christian communities in Macedonia and Achaia. It is generally agreed that this second journey took about three years, eighteen months of which were spent in Corinth: it extended probably from 46 to 49 A.D.

Copyright 1999-2023 Catholic Support Services all rights reserved