In church this morning I was listening to the minister read from Romans, when all of a sudden I hear him say “… and Paul wanted to go to Spain.” Wha-huh? Maybe I just haven’t paid attention before, but I have never heard this. When I think about places in the Bible, most of them are in the Mediterranean area, the Middle East, or Northern Africa. Think about it: lots of things happen in Israel, Rome, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, etc. Spain is on the Mediterranean, but it’s a very long way from most of the regular “Bible places.” Take a look at this really good map of Paul’s journeys and you’ll see just how far West we know Paul made it: Rome. That’s just a little over half-way to Spain from Israel. Just sort of eyeballing a Google map of the region, it looks like about 2,000 miles by boat from Jerusalem to Barcelona which, at that time, would take a very long time to cross.
But sure enough, in Romans 15:24 – 28, Paul says
I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.
I had never noticed that before. It is not known if Paul ever made it to Spain or not. The apocryphal book of I Clement makes reference to Paul “having reached the farthest bounds of the West,” which some scholars speculate could mean Spain, since that is certainly as far West as could have been known at that time. There is also speculation that not only did he make it, but he stayed there for nearly two years, before heading to Asia Minor. Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure.
Why has this piqued my interest so? I think it’s because it was so unexpected. You sort of get into, not a rut, but a pattern of expectation when dealing with the Bible. At least, I do. So when something comes along to shake that pattern, it’s very interesting. The only problem now is that there’s really no more information to be had about Paul and Spain.