Vynette's series grows more and more like an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes detective puzzle as it proceeds. In today's instalment the chief objective is to try and establish the whereabouts of St Peter from around the time of the first Pentecost up until the time of his death in 67AD.
In Part II, I posed the question: "If Peter was never in Rome, then where was he?"
Now we will try to pinpoint Peter's location in places other than Rome at various times. This task requires us to glean every possible grain of information available to us from the New Testament and from the record of secular history.
Peter is recorded in Acts as being present in Jerusalem from the death of Jesus until the execution of Stephen. Thereafter, he is recorded as being either in Jerusalem or travelling on various missionary journeys throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. This period extends from 30 AD to 50 AD.
A pinpoint in time from which we can establish more specific details, however, is given to us in Acts 18:12:
"While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court."
Gallio's original name was Lucius Annaeus Novatus. He was the son of the rhetorician Seneca the Elder and the elder brother of Seneca the Younger. He was adopted by Lucius Junius Gallio from whom he took the name of Junius Gallio. Gallio is mentioned in several Roman sources.
It is now possible to establish the exact year of Gallio's proconsulship through the discovery of the Delphi Inscription of the Emperor Claudius in which Gallio is referred to as the Proconsul of Achaia. By combining the date of the Claudius' Inscription with other historical factors, Gallio's proconsulship in Achaia can be precisely dated between late spring and late October 52 AD.
Using this pinpoint in time, in combination with other information provided in Acts and in Paul's letters, we can now work backwards from this precise date of 52 AD to establish an early chronology of Paul's travels. For our purposes, we will focus only on those aspects of the chronology which enable us to fix Peter's presence with reasonable accuracy at various times and in various places.
Peter in Jerusalem : 30 – 33 AD
Peter confronts Jerusalem elites from Pentecost until the execution of Stephen, which took place before Paul's epiphany on the road to Damascus. [see Acts 1- 7 and Galatians 1]
Peter in Jerusalem : 36-37 AD
"Then after three years [from his epiphany on the road to Damascus], I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother." [Galatians 1:18-19. Read in conjunction with Acts 9:26]
Peter in Jerusalem : March-April 43 or 44 AD
Peter is jailed by Herod Agrippa I, King of Judea and Samaria A.D. 41-44, grandson of Herod the Great.
"It was about this time [the time of the famine reported in Acts 11] that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover." [Acts 12:1-4]
Peter escapes before his trial is to begin and departs to "another place" [Acts 12:1-17].
Note: The parallels between the recounting of the death of Herod Agrippa in Acts 12:19-23 and Josephus' account of the same event [Ant. 19.343-52, cf.18.200] are quite striking.
Peter in Jerusalem : 50 AD
The necessity or otherwise of circumcision for Gentile believers had caused conflict in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas, along with "some other believers", were appointed to go and discuss the issue with the elders and apostles in Jerusalem. A decision was reached by the apostles and elders in the name of the whole Jerusalem church that the Gentiles should not be required to be circumcised, although they should still observe some Levitical laws regarding diet and morality. The elders and apostles send a letter to that effect to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. [See Acts 15:1-35]
The scholarly consensus is that the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 is the same meeting that Paul describes in Galatians 2. In verse 9 of Galatians 2 we read that:
"James, Cephas and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised."
By analysing all the above information, it is reasonable to conclude that between 30 AD and 50 AD, between Pentecost and the Jerusalem Council, Peter had been pursuing his mission to the Jews and, according to Paul, his intention in 50 AD was to continue the way he had begun, as the Apostle to the Jews.
Peter in Antioch
"When Peter came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." [Gal. 2:11-13]
Scholars are divided on the date of this incident. It can be narrowed down, however, to just before the Jerusalem Council or just after so it makes little difference for our purposes, which are to demonstrate that there is sufficient data in Acts and Paul's letter to the Galatians to situate Peter either in Jerusalem, or engaged on various missionary journeys in the regions of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, or finally in Antioch between 30 AD and 50 AD.
As we have arrived in Antioch, it is perhaps noteworthy to point out that the Papacy is not the only claimant to Apostolic Succession through Peter.
The Syrian Orthodox Church claims an unbroken Apostolic Succession beginning with Peter founding the Church at Antioch and continuing to this day. They give the dates 37AD-67AD for Peter's Patriarchate.
Even though I place as little credence in their supposed line of succession as I do in that of the Papacy, there was a great deal of apostolic activity at Antioch and at least Peter was recorded in the New Testament as actually being in that city, whereas the only New Testament reference that supporters for Peter's presence in Rome can muster up is:
"She who is in Babylon salutes you and so does my son Mark" [1 Peter 5:13]
It is necessary to deal with this assertion at length so, once we have exhausted all the other sources, we will take a look at the Petrine Epistles.
To be continued...
Vynette Holliday, 20 Jan 2011
What are your thoughts on this commentary?