Paul’s Library at Troas

The last letter that the apostle Paul wrote was likely Second Timothy, and on the last page of the current issue of Touchstone magazine there is a thoughtful column about it (Patrick Henry Reardon, “As It Is Written …:  The Library Left Behind,” Touchstone, July/August 2024, at 56; here’s the link).  The column focuses, in particular, on II Timothy 4:13:  “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”  And here’s how the column ends:

And now, years later in Rome and near the end of his life, Paul wanted to have these things back. Timothy, he hoped, would pick them up at Troas and bring them. We do not know if Timothy managed to get this done. I have always suspected that Paul died without recovering his library.

Chrysostom and Damascene remarked on the irony that his personal books were on Paul’s mind at the very end of his life. He was, however, a writer after all and obviously thought of writing as an important component of his ministry.

Indeed, it was originally through Paul that the Christian faith entered into the world of letters. That little library left behind at Troas, which undoubtedly included the Holy Scriptures, may have contained other works as well. I like to fancy that the Iliad was one of them. Think: Carpus’s house was located within walking distance of the ruins of Priam’s citadel.

Quite dramatic — and recall that Troas was the scene of an even more dramatic earlier event involving Paul, as discussed in a book review here on this blogsite:

Thus, when [the book’s authors] Muggeridge and Vidler are at Troas in what is now Turkey, the discussion gives one goosebumps. Recall that it was there that Paul makes the decision, not to continue preaching in Asia, but to go to Greece; he does so because of a plea he received in a night vision (Acts 16:9). “And his acting upon it was without any exaggeration one of the very decisive moments in history,” says Muggeridge (94), and Vidler responds, “Unquestionably; it meant that the Christian faith was for the first time brought into what we now call Europe” (95). And Muggeridge (95): “How extraordinary, how fantastic, it is to reflect that Paul came to this place where we now are and took a decision whereby two thousand years of Christendom, of our civilization, of our history, all came to pass. … And so they sailed across to what is now northern Greece, carrying the gospel to Europe.” On the next page, Muggeridge observes, “It is difficult also to think of any comparable arrival [to Paul’s in Greece]. Perhaps, on an infinitely lower scale, Lenin arriving unknown at the Finland Station in Petrograd in 1917.”  [Addendum:  Here’s [another] recent piece from Touchstone magazine about Troas and history: .]

The Christian West is Athens and Jerusalem, so I love these ancient connections between the two.