Was St. Paul In Prison At Ephesus? -- By: Ernest W. Burch

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:283 (Jul 1914)
Article: Was St. Paul In Prison At Ephesus?
Author: Ernest W. Burch


Was St. Paul In Prison At Ephesus?

Ernest W. Burch

Mitchell, South Dakota.

Where was the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippians to thank them for their bounty, and when he sent the runaway Onesimus back to Philemon, bearing the scrap of papyrus that contained the appeal to his master in behalf of the newly converted slave? Plainly enough, he was somewhere in prison (Philemon 1; Phil 1:13). It has been usual to assume that, of two possible alternatives, namely, Csesarea (Acts 24:27) and Rome (Acts 28:30), the second is to be chosen. There seems to be, however, good ground for saying that neither of these two places answers all the requirements as well as a third, namely, Ephesus; for, while there is no direct statement in the New Testament that Paul was in prison at Ephesus, there is much indirect testimony which, collectively, is very cogent.

That Paul was imprisoned more than twice, or even thrice, is implied in his expression “in prison more abundantly” (2 Cor. 11:23). In the same Epistle (2 Cor. 1:8), which was probably written soon after Paul’s three-year residence in Ephesus (Jülicher), he speaks of an affliction in Asia, which weighed him down exceedingly, in which he despaired even of life. And in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (15:32), written while at Ephesus, Paul mentions a circumstance not elsewhere alluded to, namely, that he fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.

The sixteenth chapter of Romans was doubtless a short letter addressed to the church or individuals at Ephesus. Instances of such brief letters of commendation, with monotonous repetition. of greetings, are found among recently discovered papyri.1 In this chapter it is stated that Aquila and Prisca had laid down their own necks for Paul’s life (ver. 4). It is likely that this unexplained act of devotion to the Apostle at a crucial hour occurred in Ephesus, and that they were at Ephesus when this greeting came to them. For, as is well known, this worthy couple left Rome before 50 a.d. at the

edict of Claudius, and went to Corinth, whence they went with Paul to Ephesus (Acts 18:2, 18, 26). In view of the hypothesis that Paul was imprisoned at Ephesus, ...

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