Dating a Death
One of our web fans writes:
Hey Mark! Today, a few of my friends and I were talking about the apostle Paul. We couldn't figure out between all of us how he died! I thought maybe he died in prison, someone thought he was crucified, and others thought he died a natural death...do you have any idea?
Thanks for asking, L.F!
Actually, the Bible does not tell us when or how Paul died. There are no references in the history of the time either. What we do have primarily is Church tradition.
From the Bible, we know that Paul was still alive, in Roman house arrest, in A.D. 63, when the book of Acts was written. We can also see that from Romans 15:28 that Paul intended to get to Spain. But we don't really know if he ever made it.
Eusebius, an early church father, (4th century) relates the idea that Paul was beheaded by Nero in 64-65 AD. 1 Clement, (about 100 AD) however, relates that Paul preached in the "East and the West." This leads us to believe that he made it to Spain and continued ministry. Some even think that Paul wrote his last letter (2 Timothy) as late as 67 A.D. certainly from some kind of prison, not just house-arrest. In this theory, his death, again at the hands of Nero, could be as late as 67-68.
Interestingly, an ancient Catholic tradition solemnly celebrates the death of both Peter and Paul on June 29. Some think they were killed on the same day...possibly the same year.
The truth is that it is a matter of debate - and probably always will be.