When was Paul’s epistle to the Romans really written?
You’ll be SHOCKED to discover how unsubstantiated claims glaringly fail to fit the biblical and historical evidence based on solid source documents.
Now, why should the ACCURACY of time-sensitive evidence based on biblical and historical facts be considered important in this case?
- If at all possible, we don’t tolerate blatant lies to proliferate.
- False assumptions and poor scholarship need correction.
- Unless corrected, dates in Romans look illogical and absurd.
- Leaving assumptions as is makes God’s Word unreliable.
- We want to demonstrate the total inerrancy of God’s Word.
- Getting the facts straight strengthens our faith in God’s promises.
- We are held responsible for “growing in grace and knowledge…”
Therefore, here’s a second hard look at the facts most Bible students and scholars may have overlooked. Many of them have simply assumed a lot of things all these past decades. It’s time we review these common, popular beliefs and assumptions and validate them with the facts!
Commonly Accepted Assumptions
The NIV Study Bible, in its Introduction to the Book of Romans states:
The book was probably written in the early spring of A.D. 57. [emphasis, mine]
The International Bible Commentary, edited by F.F. Bruce, in its Introduction to Romans written by Leslie C. Allen, states:
It was probably during the winter of A.D. 56-7 that the apostle Paul in a house in Corinth wrote the letter to the Romans. His third missionary journey was drawing to a close… [emphases, mine]
The Annotated Study Bible (KJV) says:
The Epistle of Romans was written between A.D. 56 and 58 from Corinth during Paul’s third missionary journey. [emphases, mine]
In their introductions to the Book of Romans, these other Bibles state:
The MacArthur Study Bible:
Most likely A.D. 56… [emphasis, mine]
The Life Application Bible:
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 57 from Corinth…
The Ryrie Study Bible categorically dates the letter as 58 (A.D.).
You would notice that some Bible Scholars sadly often seem to copy [slightly] from each other’s opinions. Or they might have a common source of information which has not been verified.
But what is the TRUTH based on real evidence, logic, and independent research?
First of all, some Bible scholars believe that the Letter to the Romans was probably the very first Epistle Paul wrote at the latter part of the fifth decade in the first century (or almost 30 years since the resurrection of Christ?!) and that all the other epistles were written even much later?
How accurate are those beliefs? Please read on with an open mind to find out.
The Most Basic and Primary Consideration
Logically and obviously, Paul’s letter to the Romans should have been written and should have been read in Rome when all the people he was greeting (as listed in Romans chapter 16) were still residing in Rome; such as Priscilla and Aquila; of which this couple’s house was, in fact, their meeting place (Romans 16:5).
Secondly, the date of Paul’s letter should FIT within the established biblical and historical records and evidence; such as the following:
1. The Biblical and Historical Account of Luke
The careful Gospel Writer and Historian Luke records that during the reign of Emperor Claudius, there were two significant events affecting the Jews in the Roman Empire. These were:
- There was a severe famine in the entire Roman world then (Acts 11:28)
- Emperor Claudius ordered Jews to leave Rome in Italy (Acts 18:2).
(NOTE: These two events reckoned in tandem with each other help produce the precise year for Paul’s letter to the Romans to have been written, as we shall see later. Please read on.)
2. The Reign of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54)
History records that Emperor Claudius was assassinated on the 13th of October AD 54. Therefore, Emperor Claudius could not have made any more decrees past the date of his assassination; which shows that Paul could not have written his Epistle in A.D. 57; which was too late.
3. The Expulsion of the Jews From Rome (A.D. 49)
As a result of Emperor Claudius’ order; Aquila and Priscilla, being both Jews soon left Italy, and thus they met the Apostle Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-2). Since the Church in Rome used to meet in their house; Paul’s letter to the Romans (if indeed written in 57 A.D.), would then be useless and irrelevant because this couple left Rome many years earlier (Romans 16:5).
4. Paul’s Meeting With Aquila and Priscilla
The meeting of Paul with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth can happen ONLY on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey of which Bible scholars commonly date as 49 to 52 A.D. This stated date is very far from the alleged 57 A.D.!
(NOTE: Paul’s First Missionary Journey dated 46 to 48 A.D. is out of the question because Paul did not even reach Corinth in that particular journey. Likewise, Paul’s Third Missionary Journey is also out of the question because he did not pass by Ephesus then; the city where Aquila and Priscilla disembarked and took up residence therein (Acts 18:18-19).
(ADDED NOTE: Like in the mal-practice of Paleontology concerning the pre-assumed age of a certain rock strata; wherein the age of a certain creature is simply based on that strata; likewise, sadly some Bible scholars try to determine in advance the year for Paul’s letter (in this case, to the Romans), then try to fit that assumed year with the particular missionary journey (in this case, the third); even if the details do not fit the said description based on the Book of Acts.)
5. The Presence of Proconsul Gallio in Achaia
The tenure of Proconsul Gallio in Achaia (just across the isthmus from Corinth) is dated AD 51-52. NOTE: While Paul was in Corinth, there was a Jewish uproar against Paul, wherein Sosthenes became an innocent victim of beatings (Acts 18:12-17). This violent incident led Paul to decide to leave Corinth shortly after that incident, as described earlier (Acts 18:18).
Since Paul together with Aquila and Priscilla were in the city of Corinth while Proconsul Gallio was assigned in Achaia; wherein Gallio intervened in the riot against Paul; and since Gallio’s tenure was only until 52 A.D.; the commonly accepted year of 57 A.D. for the writing of Romans is just too far from the true reality when compared with recorded historical evidence.
6. The Nature of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
The nature of Paul’s Second Missionary journey was when for the very first time, Paul reached the city of Corinth; which was dated by biblical historians to have occurred about A.D. 49 to 52. It was during this journey when Priscilla and Aquila joined Paul in leaving the city of Corinth. This trip going back to Syria was the first time Paul passed by Ephesus; where and when Priscilla and Aquila also disembarked (Acts 18:18-19). Sometime after leaving Ephesus, Paul sailed straight on to the port of Caesarea (Acts 18:22).
7. Great Famine During the Reign of Claudius
Another biblical prophetic event confirmed in the pages of history is the great famine during the reign of Emperor Claudius, which was predicted by Agabus as recorded in Acts 11:27-28.
The fourth century historian, [Paulus] Orosius mentioned this famine in Syria which occurred in 46 to 47 A.D. King Alfred of England translated Orosius’ work during the Middle Ages in a work called, “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” where quoting in part, it says: “A.D. 46, in this year, Claudius, the second Roman Emperor to invade Britain… This took place in the fourth year of his rule. In this same year, a great famine in Syria took place which Luke mentions in his book, the Acts of the Apostles…” [emphasis mine]
Roman historian Suetonius also mentions this famine in “Life of Claudius,” chapter 18, where he says, “There was a scarcity of food, which was the result of bad harvests that occurred during a span of several years.” [emphasis mine]
Roman historian, Tacitus also mentions the famine in his “Annals,” in chapter 11:4.
Jewish Priest-historian, Josephus, wrote in “Antiquities” chapter 1.3 to 2.5 about this famine during the time of Claudius Caesar. Josephus wrote that: “around this time, live queen Helena of Adiabene, along with her son Izates; who both began to follow the Jewish way, turning away from their past lifestyle… Her arrival was of great help to the masses in Jerusalem, for there was a famine in the land that overtook them, and many people died of starvation.”
Because of their great wealth and influence, both queen Helena and her son Izates imported large quantities of grain from Alexandria plus dried figs from Cyprus to help stave off hunger. As a result, both the queen and her son were held in high esteem by the people of Jerusalem.
Likewise, the apostle Paul undertook a personal campaign to help the poor brethren in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Paul even further wrote two whole chapters to the Corinthians encouraging them in the attitude of giving (2 Corinthians 8-9).
Additional Comments About Paul and the Romans
Neither Peter nor Paul previously went to Rome to evangelize. But we need to remember that the Jews, centuries earlier were already scattered throughout the known world and strictly kept their faith.
Therefore, on the Day of Pentecost, among the thousands who gathered in Jerusalem at that time, there were Jewish believers and proselytes coming also from Rome (Acts 2:10).
While Paul had always fondly expressed his desire to visit Rome (Acts 19:21b; Romans 1:11,13,15; 15:23-28), he continually failed; until he was sent there by the Roman government for trial because he “appealed to Caesar” (Acts 25:12).
NOTE: If Paul had never been to Rome, how did he know who were the members in that congregation? The solid answer to that question is that in addition to Aquila and Priscilla, a certain man from the Roman congregation named Tertius, left Rome much earlier and also went to Corinth. It was Tertius who claimed to have written (at least) that part of the letter for Paul (Romans 16:22).
Phoebe, from nearby Cenchrea, who seemed to have some familiarity with Rome in the past, and with perhaps some unfinished business to do, likely volunteered to carry Paul’s letter from Corinth to Rome (Romans 16:1-2).
Paul’s Arrest and Imprisonment
In connection with Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, he was brought to Caesarea because of the plot against his life (Acts 23:12-35). But because Felix and Festus wanted to please the Jews, they left Paul in confinement there for two years (Acts 24:27; 25:9a). Finally, King Agrippa heard his case; but since Paul appealed to Caesar, he had to be brought to Rome (Acts 25:10-12; 26:32). Of course, after two years under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30); history shows that he was eventually beheaded under the order of Roman Emperor Nero (Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 4).
Upon knowing his fatal sentence, Paul wrote his farewell to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Please note that after the death of Emperor Claudius, his immediate successor was Emperor Nero, a known Christian-hater, who blamed Christians for the fire he caused in Rome; and was also responsible for the deaths of both apostles Peter and Paul in Rome.
Status of the Church in Rome After Paul’s Letter
With Aquila and Priscilla and all Jews gone from Rome; with their home no longer available for meetings; plus, under the cruel rule of Emperor Nero who hated Christians; the Roman congregation was obviously disbanded. Most likely those who remained held on to Paul’s letter, and possibly even made more copies for themselves. Thus, Paul’s letter could not have been written in A.D. 57.
Summary of Facts and Conclusion
Paul’s Letter to the Romans was written and eventually received and read to them while all the members listed in Romans 16:3-15 were still meeting in the house of Aquila and Priscilla.
The date of the Jewish Expulsion from Rome is known to be A.D. 49; which can be reconciled with Gallio’s term in Achaia which cannot exceed A.D. 52, due to Gallio’s serious illness.
The great famine affecting Jerusalem was the result of several years of failed harvests which First Century historians dated as [starting] A.D. 46-47. Being a great famine, the effects lasted.
Taking all these historical facts into consideration, we can more accurately say that Paul’s Letter to the Romans was most likely written about A.D. 50. (This is very much earlier than what most scholars alleged to be A.D. 57.) This stated year can be further confirmed by the following facts:
This framework fits well before Roman Emperor Claudius was assassinated in A.D.54.
This also fits well with the framework of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey dated A.D. 49-52. By A.D. 50, Paul would have arrived in Corinth and had written his Epistle; and sent it to Rome through Phoebe. Emperor Claudius just previously issued the decree for the Expulsion of Jews when Paul’s letter arrived in Rome. This led Aquila and Priscilla to leave Rome. Thus, by about A.D. 51, this Jewish couple reached Corinth and met Paul. Sometime thereafter, the riot against Paul occurred wherein Proconsul Gallio intervened. Shortly after this violence, Paul, with Aquila and Priscilla left Corinth. This Jewish couple dropped off at Ephesus and began to reside there. After some time in Ephesus, Paul proceeded to Caesarea, thus completing this Second Missionary Journey by A.D. 52.
Thus, Paul’s letter to the Romans is better reckoned to be A.D. 50.