At the conclusion of his first Roman imprisonment (ca. A. D. 62-3), the Apostle Paul was “delivered out of the mouth of the Lion” (Nero, 2 Tim. 4:17). Did he then fulfill his long-held desire to travel to Spain and preach the gospel there? He had earlier intended to visit the Christians in Rome and be “brought on his way” by them to Spain (Rom. 15:24-28).
That he went there seems likely: 1) Jesus intended for his apostles to carry His gospel “to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8), and the Spanish peninsula was at the far western rim of the Mediterranean Sea (called by the Romans Mare Nostrum, “Our Sea”; 2) Paul intended to preach the gospel where others had not done so (Rom. 15:20), and there is some evidence that Paul would have found that the Apostle Peter had preceded him into Gaul and even Britain, had he chosen to travel northwest of Rome instead of due west to Spain*; 3) Considering both of these factors, and looking at a map of Spain in relation to Italy, it seems sure that Spain was the next logical destination for Paul to choose.
But did he do so? Clement of Rome (d. A. D. 99) says that he came “to the extreme limit of the west,” a phrase commonly understood at that time to mean Hispania. Cyril of Jerusalem (A. D. 313-386) wrote that Paul “…carried the earnestness of his preaching as far as Spain…” The great preacher Chrysostom (A. D. 347-407) wrote of Paul that “…after he had been in Rome, he returned to Spain” [possibly more than one visit to Spain? DB]. Others could be cited but these are sufficient to show that Paul’s presence in Spain was a given among influential writers in the early church.**
Traditions in Spanish cities, from Barcelona in the far northeast to Seville in the far southwest, indicate a strong likelihood that Paul visited and preached in them in the mid-sixties of the first century, A. D.
More to come, D. B.