The references to Rome contained in the text of the Pauline epistle “Romans” at 1.7 and 1.15 are missing in some manuscripts and were not known to
Church fathers Origen or Ambrosiaster. This strongly suggests that the epistle may not have been originally addressed to any church in Rome.
Perhaps the first thing we should note is that Paul is clearly writing to Greeks in the epistle called “Romans.” He uses the term “Greek” over and over again and never uses the term “Roman”:
14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
2.10but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
3.9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;
10.12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all,
This strongly suggests it must be a city in Greece that Romans was originally addressed to.
Acts 19:21 gives us another strong clue to that original city.
|Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.|
Compare this to the first Letter to the Thessalonians:
|2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything|
In this letter to the Thessalonians, he is talking about his journeys to Macedonia and Achaia after his first visit to Thessalonica.
Logically, if one goes from Macedonia to Achaia, one has to pass back through Thessalonica in order to get to Jerusalem. The sentence in “Romans” after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia[/B], saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” [/B], makes no sense as it is now, but it would make perfect sense reading Thessalonike after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Thessalonike.”
The letter to the Thessalonians tells us that he visited Thessalonike before visiting Macedonia and Achaia. It is logical to assume that the source text of Acts had Thessalonike as the intermediary place before he goes to Jerusalem. Rome is completely in the opposite direction, far to the West and makes no sense as a destination if one is traveling from Macedonia in Achaia back to Jerusalem.
Macedonia and Achaia are relatively close to Rome, From Macedonia, he could probably have made it to Rome in two weeks. To go to Macedonia and Achaia and then to Jerusalem would probably take two months. From Jerusalem to Rome you would probably have to travel another three months. It is completely illogical. To compare it to modern geography. It is like saying, “Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Massachusetts and New York, saying , “After I have been there, I must also see Los Angeles” Obviously it makes no sense for him to travel all the way from America to the Middle East and then back to America again. Rather, it is more reasonable for someone to say, “I want to visit Jerusalem, but first I will go to Massachusetts and New York. From there, I will go to Washington D.C.
In “Romans” Paul says, “15.19 so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
If Paul was in Illyricum when he was writing this letter and about to begin his return trip to Jerusalem, He would naturally pass through Macedonia and Achaia and stop at Thessalonike on his way to Jerusalem.
Look at this map. Please keep in mind that ships hugged the coastline when traveling and didn’t venture across the open oceans.
In the current Thessalonians 1 and 2, Paul has already visited Thessalonike and Corinth. The problem is why should there be two letters instead of one. When we recognize that Romans was originally meant to be a letter to Thessalonike, we find an easy solution.
In our current Thessalonians 1, Paul says “after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
This tells us that he went to Thessalonike after being in Philippi. We might suspect that Paul would have first sent a letter to Thessalonike asking to go there from Philippi. Thessalonike is the next major city after Philippi when traveling down the east coast of Greece.
But note this in the current ending to Romans:
|15:For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— 25but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them.|
We may take it that there was originally two letters to the Thessalonians – the first a “pre-visiting” letter sent from Philippi and the second a “I’m coming back” letter purportedly from Illyricum. The current edition of Romans takes part of the first pre-visiting letter for its beginning and part of the second “I’m coming back” letter for its ending.
The current two letters of Thessalonians are both from the original second “I’m coming back” letter.
Whoever created Romans must have known that people expected two Thessalonians letters. Therefore, when he changed the first “pre-visiting” letter to “Romans,” he must have also split the second “I’m coming back” Thessalonike letter into two letters.
Romans 16:22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— 25but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
Paul is on his way to Jerusalem after visiting Macedonia and Achaia and will stop off at Thessalonike to collect some money. The word “Spain” is substituted for the word Jerusalem which was in the original text.
In summation, we can say that a later writer edited a Pauline epistle to the Church in Thessalonike in Greece to pretend that Paul talked about going to Rome.