(Rom. 1:8) What does Paul mean when he says that their faith reached the “whole world”?

CLAIM: Some Preterist interpreters argue that Paul really believed that the gospel had reached the entire world, as Jesus predicted before the end of human history (Mt. 24:14). However, the gospel has clearly not reached all nations yet.

RESPONSE: At the end of this same letter, Paul writes, “I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20). Later, he mentions desiring to travel to Spain to preach the gospel (Rom. 15:24). If Paul believed that everyone had heard the gospel, then he wouldn’t be planning a missionary journey to Spain. In Colossians 1:6, he writes that the gospel is “constantly bearing fruit and increasing.” These passages imply that Paul knew that the message of the gospel was still spreading across the world, and it had not yet reached the whole world.

Romans 1:8 is a case of hyperbolic language. A hyperbole is an exaggeration for effect. Paul was writing to the center of the known world in Rome, and he was writing to encourage them of the fact that people “throughout the whole world” were hearing of their faith. This would be similar to saying, “After you threw up in the cafeteria, the whole school was talking about it.”