I just discovered your website after searching the Internet for “Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans”. Your explanation is very interesting and has merit. Thank you for providing answers to so many questions that arise from time to time.
Now that I think about it, I have a question: How do you explain Paul’s letter to Titus? Specifically, why did Paul write “I left you on Crete” when Paul was only there during the trip to a Roman prison. Some say Paul was released and may have traveled to Crete only to be re-arrested.” Perhaps this is true. I have my own theory, but it is only a theory. I’d like your thoughts.
Perhaps Paul sent Titus there and left him to do a job that would take a great deal of time. After all, in order to appoint elders, Titus would first need to know not only the hearts of potential candidates but also their leadership qualities, knowledge of God’s plan for the church, their qualifications, etc. Obviously, this could not be done overnight. It would take time. Therefore, Paul could imply that he sent Titus, but write that he “left Titus on Cyprus.”
Does this make any sense? Your thoughts, please.
We all have a tendency to make assumptions about what does not appear in the Bible. Sometimes those assumptions lead us to incorrect conclusions. The appropriate response is to discard the assumptions and start over, but some find that difficult because they have held the assumptions so long that they forget they are based on an absence of evidence.
The book of Acts ends before Paul's life ended. Like most of the apostles, we are not told how or when Paul died. At the end of Acts, Paul has been arrested and held for several years in Caesarea. Felix was hoping for a bribe that never came. "Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound" (Acts 24:26-27). When threatened with being tried in Jerusalem where he would probably be assassinated, Paul finally used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar (Acts 25:10-11).
Even though Paul was sent as a prisoner, he did not travel alone. Notice that in Acts 27:1 and following, Luke begins using the pronoun "we," indicating that he was traveling with Paul. We are not told how many traveled with Paul and Luke. They do land in Crete (Acts 27:8). We don't know how long they were there, but verse nine mentions that "considerable time had passed." Therefore, the stay was not a short one.
We also know that Titus had at one point traveled with Paul to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3). Thus that Titus was among Paul's traveling companions from Caesarea to Rome is not in the realm of impossibility. We just don't know because it is not mentioned positively or negatively.
Before going to Rome, Paul wrote to the brethren there and mentioned his plans. "But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. ... Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain" (Romans 15:23-25, 28). Things didn't go as Paul planned. He was arrested while in Jerusalem, but he did get to Rome -- as a prisoner instead of a free man.
Luke mentions that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30). It is possible that his imprisonment continued thereafter, but the wording seems to indicate that two years was the extent of Paul's imprisonment.
The letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. We know this because he mentions his imprisonment in Rome in these letters (Ephesian 3:1; 6:20; Philippians 1:7; Philemon 1:1, 10). See "What happened to the Letter to Laodicea?" for more details on Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon being written at the same time. The letter to II Timothy also mentions his imprisonment, but various details are different from the other letters.
To the Philippians, he wonders whether it was time for his departure. "Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. ... But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. ... For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith" (Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 21-25). Paul was confident that it was not the time for his departure. He would be sending Timothy to Philippi shortly (Philippians 2:19). "Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly" (Philippians 2:23-24). He even tells Philemon to get a room ready for him (Philemon 22).
In I Timothy 1:3, Paul states that he left Timothy in Ephesus while he continued on to Macedonia. We can't be completely sure that Timothy received his letter while he still was in Ephesus, but we do know that wherever he is, Paul was planning to join him (I Timothy 4:13). But in II Timothy 4:21, Paul wants Timothy to join him in Rome.
While Paul states that Titus was left in Crete in Titus 1:4-5, he states that Titus is in Dalmatia in II Timothy 4:10. In Colossians Demas is still with Paul (Colossians 4:14), but in II Timothy 4:10 Demas has deserted Paul and is in Thessalonica. Mark is with Paul and Demas (Philemon 24) but he is somewhere else in II Timothy 4:11.
Tychicus is involved in the delivery of the letters Paul wrote while in prison in Rome (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7) and Paul mentions that he plans to send either Artemas or Tychicus to Crete in his letter to Titus (Titus 3:12). However, Paul tells Timothy that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus (II Timothy 4:12).
Epaphras is with Paul when he wrote Philemon (verse 24), but in II Timothy 4:11 Paul says he only has Luke for companionship.
This brings up another point. Paul sends greetings from the Christians in Rome, including those in Caesar's own household (Philippians 4:22). Paul also had companions when he wrote Titus. "All who are with me greet you" (Titus 3:15). But by II Timothy 4:11 we find that Paul is basically alone and looking at the end of his life. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand" (II Timothy 4:6).
While it is not directly stated, it is very apparent that some time has elapsed between the letters written to Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, I Timothy and Titus and the second letter to Timothy.
Finally, Paul makes mention of being freed after his first defense. "At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (II Timothy 4:16-17). A first defense implies that Paul is facing a second or later defense. He was delivered from danger after his first defense despite having no support.
Some of the early Christian writers, while not inspired, do mention that Paul was released by Caesar, traveled two years in Spain, and eventually was arrested once again. Such claims are compatible with what we find in the Scriptures.
While Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon all make mention of Paul's imprisonment, the letter to Titus and I Timothy do not. In fact, Paul mentions some of his traveling plans: "When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing" (Titus 4:12). The wording is such that Paul does not foresee any hindrances to his spending a winter in Nicopolis (though in II Timothy 4:21 he is asking Timothy to reach him before winter). In fact, the wording is such that it is likely Paul is writing Titus from Nicopolis.
My best guess is that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome and sent in the hands of Tychicus to be delivered. Philippians was written late in his imprisonment before he was released. Titus and I Timothy were likely written after his release and II Timothy came later after Paul was arrested again and just before his death. There is also a possibility that Titus was written in a much earlier time, before Paul's arrest in Jerusalem. However, we are then left to puzzle over just when Paul was in Crete. The only mention of his being in Crete is during his trip to Rome as a prisoner. Since it fits with all other evidence, it is best to assume that it was written from Nicopolis after Paul's release. There is even a possibility that Paul returned to Crete for a period of time after his release from Rome, traveling there with Titus, but then leaving Titus behind while he traveled on to eventually stay in Nicopolis.