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Proclaimed in All Creation

by Jefferson David Tant
via Biblical Insights, March 2011, page 9.

Some thirty years after Christ's death, Paul wrote to the Colossians. A year later, an earthquake destroyed Colossae along with Laodicea and Heirapolis. Among the interesting things in Paul's letter is the statement in Colossians 1:23, wherein he urges them to "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister."

Two thoughts come to mind. Adam Clarke says it is "A Hebraism for the whole human race, and particularly referring to the two grand divisions of mankind, the Jews and Gentiles:' Obviously not every human on the earth had heard the gospel, and while we understand Clarke's observation, we also understand that the gospel had been widely spread by the year 62 A.D. Remember, there were at least 15 nations represented on the Day of Pentecost, as people gathered in Jerusalem for the great feast (Acts 2:9-11). It's not unreasonable to suppose that the 3,000 baptized that day would represent many, if not all, of these nations.

We know many Christians remained in Jerusalem until the persecution arose following the stoning of Stephen, at which time the dispersion began (Acts 8:4). At first, the disciples carried the gospel to Judea and Samaria, but then the dispersion widened, as evidenced by Paul's journeys. We know that Paul reached as far northwest as Rome, thus taking the gospel into Europe, and he desired to go to Spain (Romans 15:28). And we would well suppose that the Ethiopian eunuch's return to his home in Africa would have spurred the spread of the gospel there.

But what about the gospel's spread to the east? History gives us information about extensive trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Orient in the first century. The conquests of Alexander the Great reached into Babylonia, Persia and northern India. Greeks became acquainted with the regions along the coast of the Persian Gulf from the mouth of the Euphrates to the mouth of the Indus River that bordered India. Spices and incense were traded as ships traversed the Indian Ocean up through the Red Sea. As there was no Suez Canal then, goods were transported over land to the Nile River and carried to the Mediterranean and vice versa.

As the Roman Empire grew after Alexander, Rome became the primary market for desired goods from Africa, Arabia, India and China. "According to 1st Century Greek geographer Strabo, in his time 120 Alexandrian ships sailed from Myos Horos to engage in trade with India every year" (Watchtower, 1/1/09). His guidebook, Periplus Maris Erythraei (Voyage Around the Erythreaean Sea), describes trade routes south of Egypt, as far as Zanzibar, south of India to Sri Lanka, and up into India as far as the Ganges River.

In India, the name for western merchants was Yavanas, and a Tamil poem mentioned them: "The beautifully built ships of the Yavanas came with gold and returned with pepper, and Muziris resounded with the noise:' Muziris was a destination at India's southern tip. (Those who keep up with current events know that the Tamil Tigers have been at war with the government forces in Sri Lanka, seeking independence.)

A copy of an ancient map, known as the Peutinger Table, shows the Roman world as it was in the first century, and indicates there was a temple of Caesar Augustus at Muziris, which obviously indicates Rome's contact with this part of the eastern world. Roman records also mention the visit of three Indian embassies to Rome during the time of Augustus, who ruled Rome at the time Christ was born. (Luke 1:1).

Evidence shows that citizens of the Roman Empire traveled as far as present-day Thailand, Cambodia, Sumatra and Java. The Hou Han-Shou (Annals of the Later Han Dynasty) recorded events of that dynasty in China (23 B.C. to 220 A.D.), and refers to the visit of an embassy from the king of Daqin bringing gifts for the Emperor Huan-ti. Daqin was the Chinese name for the Roman Empire. The gifts were from An-tun, which seems to be the Chinese name for the Roman Emperor in 166 — Atoninus.

As we go back to Acts 2, we note a few of the regions mentioned. Parthia was a part of northern Persia, while the Elamites were from the regions beyond the Tigris River. Cappadocia was an ancient kingdom of Asia including the area that lies between Mount Taurus and the Euxine Sea.

In view of this, it is not unreasonable to envision early Christians spreading the gospel to the known world within a relatively short period of time. They could have boarded ships and gone to many destinations. Thus we can have a fuller understanding of Paul's claim that the gospel was proclaimed in all creation.