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You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phy′gelus and Hermog′enes.

Many commentators interpret this to refer to those who were with Paul in Rome but had now abandoned him. Others, however, understand it more generally, to refer to a period in which Pauline Christianity in general had temporarily suffered setbacks in its struggle with the Jamesian "works righteousness" movement.

Based on the text and what we know from sources such as Acts and early church history, how should we understand "all who are in Asia," and what does this sentence mean in terms of the level of success of Paul's ministry when 2 Timothy was written?

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  • 2 Timothy was the last of Paul's letters to be written while he was under house arrest in Rome (~60-67AD) -- the others being: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians, 1Timonthy, Titus, 2Timothy. So, his ministry at that time, apart from those who came to visit, was by letters only, which must be considered a remarkable success, given the scope of their outreach.
    – enegue
    Dec 14, 2022 at 21:53

2 Answers 2

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2 Timothy 1:15 - 15 You know that everyone in the Province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

There is no reason to read this another was other than everyone means ‘All of Asian’ I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest otherwise.

There is clear evidence that many in Asia that were not happy with Paul as he was preaching something different to what was preached by Jesus and the disciples. So much so, that the Ephesians wrote to the elders for help.

False teachers were expected

Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Many passages in the bible about false prophets / teachers that will come.

False teachers to Asia

Rev 1:10-11 - 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

Rev 2:1-3 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

The Nicolaitans are mentioned as are some others. But it mentions false prophets – so many were to come.

Paul rejected:

A number of reasons why they thought of Paul as a false apostle;

Paul goes to Ephesus - Acts 19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples

Paul calls himself an apostle - Ephesians 1:1 – Salutation - 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul goes against the holy spirit – but still went - Acts 16:6 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

Paul clearly in disagreement with others - Acts 19:8-9 -8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; 9 but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyran′nus.

Ask the elders for help against Paul - Acts 21: 27-28 27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.”

why was he rejected

Clearly Paul was teaching different to Jesus and the other disciples, his teachings in mnay ways are contradictory to the message of Jesus such as the law, a few examples.

Matthew 5:17-19 - 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”— Mat 19:17

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. — Rev 22:14

Luke 16:17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. — Rev 14:12

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. — Rev 22:14

Conclusion

Paul is the only one that portrays himself an Apostle, albeit he was not 1 of the twelve. The holy spirit forbid him to go to Asia, Paul preached contrary to Jesus and the disciples, Paul was rejected.

For more on Paul and the Law see: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/78251/33268

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  • + 1 A very challenging analysis. I can't say I necessarily agree but this is very good food for thought. Jan 10, 2023 at 21:06
  • I think you’re off. The men at the temple are Jews not Christians or members of the way. Also Polycarp was from Ephesus and quotes Paul as an apostle beliefmap.org/paul/apostle/says-church-fathers. Prior to your Acts 19 quote, Paul lays hands to give the Holy Spirit to the men. He then argues with the Jews that Jesus is the messiah. When Paul withdraws from the synagogue, God continues to do might signs to confirm Paul’s teachings. Your own references argue against you.
    – Virmundi
    Apr 6 at 2:47
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Interestingly, the Holy Spirit forbade further preaching of the Word in Asia:

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6)

In favor of pushing westward onto the European continent:

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. (Acts 16:9-10)

Perhaps this was in preparation for the invasion of 'Jamesian works righteousness' into areas that Paul had previously covered with the Gospel of the Grace of God.

In addition, the heretical movements along with forged letters and credentials heaped added pressure on Paul's early converts, as the book of Galatians clearly outlines.

I think it would be safe to say that central Asia (today's nation of Turkey) was essentially lost to the Grace Gospel, as evidenced by its lack of impact in the early church. Eastern Syria, North Africa, and finally Rome became the centers of early Orthodox Christianity.

A sobering message for us today .. to stand for Paul's Gospel of Grace against any other supposed 'gospels'.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel (Romans 2:16)

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