Western Europe and Africa

To the ancient Israelites, the distant regions of western Europe and Africa would have been regarded as the edge of the world, for beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and the coasts of Spain lay the vast, impassable Atlantic Ocean. Some scholars speculate that Tarshish, mentioned throughout the Old Testament as a far off land (Genesis 10:4; 1 Kings 10:14-25; 22:48; 2 Chronicles 9:21; Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 23; 60:9; 66:19; Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27; 38:13; Jonah 1:3), may have been located somewhere in these regions, perhaps Tartessos in Spain or one of the large Mediterranean islands. Throughout ancient times the empires of Carthage and Greece competed for the islands and coasts of the western Medterrenaean Sea until the growing Roman Empire seized the entire region by the end of the Punic Wars in 146 B.C. The Romans likewise captured the region of Gaul by about 50 B.C. and firmly established themselves as the uncontested power in the western Mediterranean. During the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome and spoke of his desire to visit them on his way to Spain (Romans 15:23-29). It is not clear from Paul’s later letters if his intentions were ever fulfilled, although church tradition holds that they were.

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