It seems absolutely incredible today that when the Apostle Paul says the Gospel was spread throughout the entire world, this is what he meant.
When Paul wrote to the Romans (Rom 1:8), he talks of their faith of being known throughout the whole world, thus indicating that at this time the Gospel was being spread not only throughout the Roman Empire, but beyond the Roman Empire. So what about America and Australia?..
Before we deal with this problem let us think about this, it is not the rejection of the Gospel that leads a person to hell, it is sin that condemns. The Gospel when obeyed will save, and will continue to save a faithful person. Whether one has heard the Gospel or not, the Bible teaches that an accountable person who has not obeyed the Gospel will go to hell. Therefore it is not the disobeying Gospel that condemns, but sin. For all have sinned. If those who have never heard the Gospel are not condemned, then evangelism would be cruel. But the lost are going to hell, the Gospel is their only chance of salvation. It would have been horrific if people living in countries such as the Americas did not have any chance of salvation until the 1500s.
So how far could the Gospel have been spread in the early years of Christianity?
The earliest date for Christianity arriving in Britain has been set at the year 37 although other historians date it later at around the year 58/63. Eusebius the fourth century historian says "The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the isles called the Britannic Isles". Tertullian Says "The regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by Roman Arms have received the religion of Christ".
Now lets look at what the scriptures have to say on this (NKJV). In Rom. 1:8 we find "that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." Note, not 'part' world, or 'known' world but "whole world".In Colossians we find in chapter 1 verse 5 and 6 "because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of truth of the gospel which has come to you, as it has also in all the world,"
This should settle it, the gospel was heard throughout all the world in the first century. But how large is all the world? Only people are accountable to the Gospel, where there were no people, there was no need for the Gospel. This is important.
The Celts or Gauls were the descendants of Japheth and form the western Indo-European peoples. They brought with them a belief in the primitive pagan religions of the orient and east. From what we know of their religious beliefs we can see clearly eastern influence, which is to be expected if mankind originated from Babel (Gen. 10,11). Also the similarity of western (Druid), eastern, oriental and north/south American religious beliefs and practices seems to suggest a recent migration of mankind, agreeing with the Biblical account of nations.
For example, the mounds shown in the photographs in Britain were in use until recently. So recently that the Catholic Church took over their use. Yet such mounds are a world wide phenomena and recent.
We must not be trapped into accepting evolutionary times scales or ignoring the consequences of a retreating Ice Age caused by a recent global flood. The flood would have occurred only 2500 (approx.) years before the time of Christ. Then there was the time it took to migrate after the dispersion at Babel. Many natives of different continents have their own accounts of the flood, and some their account of the Babel dispersion. To date I have located over 280 different flood myths/legends. This is just what we would expect to find if the dispersion is recent, as the Bible teaches. Migration would not have reached the extent it has today. Both northern and southern hemispheres would have been much colder and sea levels lower, allowing access to 'land bridges'. There is no need to suppose for example that Australia had inhabitants. If this is correct, then there was no need for the gospel to be preached there and elsewhere. Two thousand years ago much of the earth's land mass would have been unpopulated. Therefore there was no need for the early church to reach these areas.
So what about America? Harvard professor Barry Fell, in his book America BC has listed a number of sites both in North and South America where ancient artefacts from the middle east and Europe have been found. Also a study of comparative pagan religions reveals a common link. Roman navigators knew the earth is round, not flat. The circumference of the Earth was measured two hundred years before the birth of Christ by Erastothenes. The Bible teaches that the Earth is a sphere. The British Celtic church taught that the Earth was round as the did the Catholic Church. So where did the idea of a flat Earth come from? The first author to promote a flat earth scenario in detail was Washington Irving. Irving, who died in 1859 wrote considerably on Christopher Columbus, to whom the glory is given for discovering the Americas. Several editions of his work was produced, the first in 1828. Some were single volume, others 2, 3 or 4 volume sets.
Native American legends tell of visitors from a strange land with strange powers, could this be Christians with the power of miracles in the first century? As we will see, Roman ships were capable of doing the voyage.
Sailors know the Earth is round, for when land disappears or another boat approaches it is the highest point that is seen first because the Earth's circumference hides the lower parts.
The legend of Columbus' sailors living in fear of falling of a flat Earth at the very edge of the sea grew from Irving's history. The religious world, particularly the Anglican faith in England, with their high church liberal theology eagerly accepted such stories, along in 1859 with Darwin's published theory of evolution 'The Origin of Species'. Two English atheists in the 1800s (John Draper d.1882 and Andrew D White d.1918) promoted even further the story of Columbus and a flat Earth. Yes, the idea that the early pre-reformation church taught that the Earth was flat is an fabrication by anti-Christian Humanists living in the nineteenth century! The work of Irving has been countered by Samuel Eliot Morison, an expert on Columbus who has opposed the 'flat Earth' story as "misleading and mischievous non-sense,...one of the most popular Colombian myths." Morison's book, Admiral of the ocean sea, a life of Christopher Columbus, came out in 1942.
So what is the real story of Columbus? The Celts, and later British sailors had been reaching North America by way of Greenland and across to Newfoundland for centuries prior to Columbus reaching America in 1492. Also Nordic Vikings had been making the same perilous journey from about 1000 A.D.
So why was Columbus out in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans? He was trying to find an alternative route to the spice islands to avoid Muslim pirates. Knowing the earth is a sphere he attempted to establish a route that would avoid the Muslim pirates.
Early sea travel was dangerous, death was common, if the small boats did not sink in a storm, they could be lost due to poor navigation. Illness, particularly Scurvy was rampant after two to three weeks away from fresh fruit and vegetables. Diet was meat and biscuit when the fruit ran out.
Columbus was a business man. He wanted to find an effective trading route from the East Indies. He knew of the British fishing fleets of Newfoundland and the impossibility of finding a passage there. He decided to go south, far more dangerous, but if he could find a passage for trading vessels, he would be rich.
We also know from archaeology that the Celts, Iberians, Egyptians Libyans and Phoenicians visited the Americas. In 1 Kings 10:22 the scripture reads, "For the king had merchant ships at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys."
King Hiram was king of Phoenicia, the Phoenicians were capable of going to the Americas. These ships were away for three years, we can guess they were not out on a day trip down the coast!
It was possible in the first century to make long sea journeys to the Americas. It is unlikely to have been undertaken by Roman naval transports, but privately owned trading ships. Roman ships were often huge, even by today's standards. The emperor Caligula in the first century AD had one luxury ship of 240 feet in length with marbled, mosaic heated floors and at the beam, it was 60 feet in width. This proves that the Romans were capable of building huge ships, as the grain carriers were reputed to be. Before the excavation of these barges from lake Nemi, scholars had often ridiculed the idea that the Romans had that degree of sophistication needed to build a truly large ship. Below is the hull of one Roman ship recovered from Lake Nemi, in the foreground are people!
The Roman ship Isis was a very large ship that operated on the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire around 150 CE. The sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athen's seaport Piraeus. The Isis apparently was 180 feet long and had a beam of 45 feet. Its cargo hold was 44 feet deep.
It is also now known that the Romans had navigational aids, though very primitive, they did allow them to sail out of sight of land. It had been taught until recently that early sailors sailed in sight of land. This is now known to be incorrect. The Roman's even had primitive analogue navigational computers to allow them to make sea journeys away from land. These mechanical devices were able to assist navigators using the the sun and stars to keep to a course when away from land. Remains of Roman shipwrecks have been found of the eastern coast of the Americas, the idea that Roman sailors could not sail away from land is nothing more than a myth.
In 1843 the SS Great Britain was the first ocean-going ship to have an iron hull and a screw propeller and, when launched in 1843, was the largest vessel afloat. She was 322 feet long, and 50 feet wide at the beam, ten feet less that the big Roman boats and only eighty feet longer. HMS Victory, launched in 1765 was 186 feet long (gun deck) and just under 52 feet in width at the beam, again, less than the big Roman boats.
To be saved without Christ (John 3:16-36; Mark 16:16) is impossible. All who have sinned are lost without putting on Christ (John 14:6). So the world is lost without Christ. This is of deadly importance, because of Adam sin entered the world and through sin, death (Gen. 3:3, 19 Rom. 5:12-19 and 1Co 15:45-49). In Romans 3:23 we learn that all have sinned. So because of the transgression of Adam and his wife we need another Adam the man Jesus Christ who laid down His life as a sacrifice for all of mankind, so that we may be saved (1Co. 15:21,22, 45). The Bible describes all humans as sinners, since the beginning, and it follows that all humans have descended from the first man, Adam, except Eve his wife (Gen. 3:20. Acts 17:26). We learn therefore that there is no salvation through Christ if Adam was not a real person and the first male. There is no room for long timescales or evolution here. There is no case not to believe as Paul wrote under inspiration, that the Gospel was taught to the "Whole World" in the first century. That mankind has rejected that Gospel, the same Gospel we have today is not the issue, man has been given the opportunity. The greatest obstacle in promoting the gospel to a lost world is the rejection of the Gospel by a lost and dying world.
My main sources are listed below, others are too numerous to mention.
Ante Nicene and post Nicene Church Fathers.
An Ice Age Caused By The Genesis Flood, by M J Oard.
A Study of The Biblical Flood, by brother M Fox (highly recommended).
Unlocking The Mysteries of Creation, by D Petersen. (I don't agree with everything Petersen writes, but the book is worth having).
FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS, A Quest for the Beginning and the End, by Graham Hancock. First printed 1995. (some useful material from an agnostic!)
FOLK-LORE in THE OLD TESTAMENT, Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend and Law by Sir James George Frazer (Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge), 1918 in three volumes.
TRUE SCIENCE AGREES WITH BIBLE, by Malcolm Bowden.
America BC, ancient settlers in the New World, by Harvard professor Barry Fell, 1972.
Admiral of the ocean sea, a life of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1942.
A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, by Washington Irvine, several editions from 1828.