|« Prev||Lecture II||Next »|
Romans, x. 14: ‘How shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?'
The narrative of St. Luke in that earlier part of the Acts of the Apostles which leads up and is introductory to the main theme of the work is obviously fragmentary. The object of the writer however stands out clearly. He intended to give such an account, step by step, of the beginnings of Christianity, as was necessary for a full understanding of the life-work and missionary labours of St. Paul up to the time of his captivity at Rome. Every episode appears to have been carefully selected with a definite and precise purpose, and if the story, as told by him, seems at times to be tantalisingly brief and scanty, even disjointed, we must remember that those for whom it was written had access to oral sources of information from persons who had witnessed or taken part in the events described, which would place each episode in its proper setting and give to it its rightful significance. This we cannot do now, but if we bear in mind that not only the facts recorded by Luke but even his silences are suggestive, we may, I think, by the help of evidence gathered in from various sources, from contemporary or nearly contemporary writings, from the accumulated results of archaeological research, and from well-authenticated tradition, be able to show that the spread of Christianity during the period covered by the Acts was not by any means confined to the sphere of Paul's activity, nor intended to be so confined, but that one most important field was reserved for the Apostle who fills the foreground 31of the Lucan narrative up to the year 42 A.D. and then, except for a single brief appearance, is seen no more.
It is, of course, evident from what I have said that I am assuming that St. Luke the physician, the travelling companion of St. Paul, was the author of the Acts of the Apostles. I do so without feeling that such an assumption at the present time requires defence. In these lectures it is my aim, as far as possible, to avoid the mere collecting or comparing of other men's opinions, or the balancing of the authority of one set of scholars against another. It is the results of personal investigation into the history of the Church in Rome in the first century that I am now specially desirous of bringing before you, not a recapitulation of what has recently been written about that history. My own experience has taught me that the only way to arrive at conclusions in historical questions satisfying to the historical conscience is to study the original authorities for oneself with an independent mind, using indeed all the light and all the suggestions that modern critical scholarship can throw upon the many problems and difficulties that have to be solved, but never accepting any of the so-called ‘results of criticism' without testing for oneself with the greatest care and at first hand the grounds on which they are supposed to rest.
The case for the Lucan authorship of the Third Gospel and of the Acts I consider however to have been so thoroughly established by the remarkable series of works published by Sir William M. Ramsay7373The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170, 3rd ed. 1894; St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, 7th ed. 1903; A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians; The Cities of St. Paul; Luke the Physician and other Studies in the History of Religion, 1908; The First Christian Century, 1911, etc. etc. and Dr. Adolf Harnack7474Lukas, der Arzt, der Verfasser des dritten Evangeliums und der Apostelgeschichte, 1906; Sprüche and Reden Jesu. Die zweite Quelle des Matthäus and Lukas, 1907; Die Apostelgeschichte, 1908; Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, etc., 1911. All these volumes have been translated into English and published as vols. xx. xxiii. xxvii. and xxxiii. of the Crown Theological Library. upon the subject, as to have been placed, if not beyond the reach of controversy—for alas ! the spirit of controversy is not 32quickly laid—on a solid bedrock of reasoned and exhaustive argument against which the waves of controversy will beat in vain. And not merely have they proved the unity of authorship. They have shown that we have in St. Luke a cultured writer possessed of literary power and historical grasp and well acquainted with the details of Roman provincial administration and of the distinct characteristics, geographical and political, of different localities, who in a considerable part of his work speaks as an eyewitness, and who elsewhere uses first-hand evidence, if at times with a certain freedom, yet always with honesty and intelligence. My own conviction that the book of the Acts must have been written during St. Paul's first captivity at Rome and completed before his release has long been firmly held, but this conviction has been strengthened and deepened by the extraordinarily powerful way in which Dr. Harnack7575Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, pp. 63–81. In this volume Dr. Harnack completes his defence of the date 62 A.D. for the Acts in favour of which he had already argued in his Apostelgeschichte, 5 Excurs, 217–221. How strong was the case he made out even in this earlier and more tentative argument may be judged by the following extract from Neue Untersuchungen, p. 64: ‘Nicht auffallend aber konnte es nur sein, dass andere sich durch die starken Argumente für die frühe Abfassung der lukanischen Schriften als vollkommen überzeugt erklärten. Nicht nur Delbrück hielt mir sofort vor, ich hätte mich in einer von mir selbst sicher entschiedenen Frage mit unnötiger Zurückhaltung ausgedrückt, sondern auch Maurenbrecher erkannte in meinen Beweisführungen die Lösung des chronologischen Problems. In seinem Werk “Von Nazareth nach Golgatha” (1909) S. 22–30, gibt er die wichtigsten der von mir geltend gemachten Beobachtungen für eine frühe Abfassungszeit der Acta zutreffend und eindrucksvoll wieder and beschliesst seine Darlegung also: “Die Annahme (eines späteren Ursprungs and geschichtlichen Wertlosigkeit der Lukasschriften) ist neuerdings immermehr gefallen and schliesslich durch eine gründliche Untersuchung von Prof. Harnack in allen Teilen gänzlich widerlegt and beseitigt worden. Viel mehr hat sich nach jeder Richtung hin, wenn auch nicht die unbedingte Glaubwürdigkeit, so doch das hohe Alter der Apostelgeschichte ergeben. Und wenn Prof. H. selbst nur zögernd und erst nur in letzten Moment seiner Arbeit die Konsequenz seiner Ergebnisse auch für die Datierung zog, so muss man doch sagen, dass nur in jener von ihm vorgeschlagenen Weise so wohl der Schlusssatz der Acta wie die ganze Tenor des Buchs verständlich wird, und dass daher schon um dieses äusseren Zeugnisses willen die Datierung auf d. J. 62 als bewiesen und nicht nur als möglich zu gelten hat.”' has quite recently set forth in serried array the reasons which 33have slowly driven him to abandon his earlier prepossessions on this question, and forced him (in spite of the knowledge that he was—to use his own words—‘creating a revolution within the domain of criticism'7676Eine Revolution innerhaib der Kritik, p. 65. ) to fix on grounds alike of external and of internal evidence the end of St. Paul's imprisonment as the date when the Acts, in the form we now possess the book, was finished.
It is needless to say that the acceptance of such a conclusion has a very important bearing on the subject of these lectures. For, if St. Luke wrote the Acts at Rome, the work must have been written in the first instance for the Roman Christians, but if so the question naturally arises, why should there be a total omission in the book of any reference to the founding of the Church in Rome or to the names of those who first preached the Gospel in that city? This is one of those silences of St. Luke, of which I have spoken already as being suggestive. A comparison of the last verses of the Third Gospel and of the Acts may help us to an answer.7777St. Luke, xxiv. 50-53; Acts, xxviii. 29-31. Had the Gospel stood alone all commentators and critics would have asserted unanimously that the Evangelist believed the Ascension of our Lord to have taken place on the evening of the day of the Resurrection.7878Codex Bezae D and the first hand of the Sinaitic Codex א1 omit καὶ ἀνεφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. The difficulty which these words raised was probably the reason for their omission. But from the opening passage of the Acts we learn that they would have been wrong, and that St. Luke in the conclusion of his Gospel deliberately foreshortened the events of six weeks in this way, because he intended to take up the thread of the story and fill in the details later. The. similar foreshortening of the events of two years, which we find in Acts xxviii. 30-1, suggests that St. Luke in writing this otherwise strangely puzzling and abrupt ending to his narrative had already planned in his mind a third book, which should supplement the Acts as the Acts had supplemented the Gospel, and that this book would have begun by taking up the account of Peter's life-work, so sharply 34broken off at his release from prison, and that a brief sketch would have been given of the history of the Church in Rome previous to St. Paul's two years'ministry during his captivity.
With this preface let us now turn to those introductory chapters of the Acts in which St. Luke sketches for us the steps by which Christianity emerged from the condition of a strictly Jewish sect to that of a universal religion intended for all mankind. It will be seen that the enlargement of view, which is so clearly traced, was very gradual; that it came from below rather than from above; from the subordinates, to some extent from the rank and file, rather than from the acknowledged leaders. On the Great Day of Pentecost when St. Luke so carefully enumerates the various nationalities from which the great crowd of pilgrims was drawn, it should be noted that St. Peter addresses them as ‘Men of Israel,' and his whole discourse is that of a man concerned only with proving to an assembly of Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of their sacred Scriptures. The passage is in fact a striking testimony both to the wide extent of the Jewish Diaspora and to the fact of the intense love and reverence for the Holy City and for the injunctions of the Mosaic Law, which brought together such a throng of worshippers from far-distant regions, including people speaking many different tongues, to this feast at Jerusalem. In the list of those forming St. Peter's audience we find the names of six different peoples and the inhabitants of nine different districts, and it is implied that Jews from these various places had come up specially for the occasion—with one exception. The phrase ‘the sojourning Romans, Jews as well as proselytes' seems capable of only one interpretation, that St. Luke is here referring to a body of Roman Jews and converts to Judaism, who were temporarily residing in Jerusalem, and whom it may be permitted with considerable probability to identify with the ‘Synagogue of the Libertines'7979An inscription at Pompeii contains the words ‘Synagoga Libertinorum,' Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, p. 310. mentioned 35in Acts vi. 9. Among this body may have been numbered the Roman Christians Junias and Andronicus, who were some quarter of a century later saluted by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans ‘as men of mark among the Apostles and who were in Christ before me.'
In his record of the period that follows St. Luke makes it quite clear that the first organised Christian community was at Jerusalem, not in Galilee.8080A striking testimony to the authenticity of the Johannine account of our Lord's ministry. Had our Lord's mission been confined to Galilee up to the last week of His life, as the Synoptic narratives appear to suggest, it is almost inconceivable that the home of the Christian Church should from the very first have been at Jerusalem. After the day of Pentecost when certain of the multitude exclaimed ‘Are not all these that speak Galilaeans?'—there is not a word in the Acts to indicate that the early Church had any connexion with Galilee. The Twelve, whose authority, as being derived directly from the Lord, no one called in question, made Jerusalem their headquarters from this time forward, and from this centre carried on their mission work. But that mission work was limited to. Jews. The Twelve, moreover, we are expressly told, visited the Temple regularly8181St. Luke, xxiv. 52, 53; Acts, ii. 46; iii. 1; v. 12, 25, 42. and they seem to have conformed in every way to the regulations of the Mosaic Law, and to have differed from the Jews amongst whom they lived only in that they taught that the crucified Jesus, to whose Resurrection from the Dead they bore personal testimony, had by His Resurrection proved Himself to be the Messiah.8282Acts, ii. 32-36; iii. 14, 15, 20, 21, 26; iv. 10, 33; v. 30-32, 42. Among the Twelve St. Peter on every occasion takes the lead and is the spokesman of the rest, and occupies a position of undisputed pre-eminence.8383St. John is singled out on several occasions by name, as being second only to St. Peter in influence and authority; see Acts, iii. 1; iv. 13; viii. 14. Compare Gal. i. 18; ii. 9; also St. John, xiii. 23-27; xviii. 15; xx. 3-10; xxi. 20-24. Again the history of the Acts confirms the account given in the Fourth Gospel. In all that they did during these years, which immediately followed their Lord's departure from them, it is scarcely possible that these personal disciples should not have been 36acting in strict accordance with their Master's last commands. Eventually they were to go forth upon a wider mission to the nations, but for awhile—an ancient tradition of considerable weight says definitely for twelve years8484Compare St. Luke, xxiv. 44–49; St. John, xiv. 26; xvi. 13. —they were to abide at Jerusalem, and restrict themselves to proclaiming in its simplest form the message of the Gospel to the Palestinian Jews, meanwhile resting in the promise that in the future whenever fresh calls should be made upon them they should receive illumination and guidance from the Holy Spirit.8585Harnack (Const. and Law of the Church, p. 31) describes this as ‘a very old and well-attested tradition.' Apollonius is stated by St. Jerome (De viris illust.) ‘to have learnt it from the ancients' and it is found in Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 5.
Not until the sixth chapter of the Acts do we find any indication of a widening of view. But here reading between the lines of the brief narrative one cannot but feel something more than a suspicion that the movement of which the appointment of the Seven was the outcome, and at the head of which St. Stephen placed himself, was not one with which the Twelve were at the time in entire sympathy. The work to which St. Stephen specially addressed himself was the preaching of the Gospel to the members of those Synagogues which were set apart for the use of the Hellenistic settlers and sojourners in Jerusalem, i.e. for Jews of foreign origin, speaking a foreign tongue, and trained amidst Gentile associations. Those mentioned seem to belong in order of importance to the chief Jewish Colonies of the Dispersion. The first place, be it noted, is assigned to the Libertines or Roman freedmen, men conspicuous probably alike for their wealth and their close connexion with the Imperial City. Then come the Alexandrians, members of a Jewish settlement of ancient date and high culture, in numbers exceeding probably the entire population of Palestine.8686Philo, In Flaccum and Leg. ad Caium. Philo describes the Jews at this time as occupying entirely two out of the five districts of Alexandria, and says that in Egypt their numbers amounted to 1,000,000. See also Josephus, cont. Apion. ii. 4; B.J. xii. 3. 2. And after 37them the Cyrenians,8787Josephus, xiv. 7, Life, 76, B.J. vii. last chapter. In the revolt of the Jews in the time of Trajan (116–117) the number of Jews who perished in the district of Cyrene is given as 22,000, no doubt an exaggeration but pointing to a very large Jewish population. second only to the Alexandrians in number, and like them thoroughly Hellenised. Lastly, mention is made of those of Cilicia and Asia—traders no doubt connected by ties of family and business with those characteristically Graeco-Asiatic cities, Tarsus and Ephesus. Among such a body of ‘Hellenists' the message of the Gospel would naturally be interpreted in a larger and more universal sense than in those stricter ‘Hebrew' circles to which as yet the Twelve had chiefly directed their appeal.
What we do know is that St. Stephen's ardour and activity and the special character of his teaching speedily aroused the intense enmity of the Jewish rulers. He was seized, brought before the Sanhedrim, and without proper trial or condemnation in a sudden outburst of fanatic fury stoned to death. It was the signal for a persecution which scattered far and wide those who had attached them-selves to him and the doctrines that he taught.8888Acts, vi. 8, vii. 54-60, viii. 1–3.
But fierce though the persecution was, St. Luke expressly tells us, it did not touch the Twelve. ‘They were all,' we read ‘scattered abroad, except the Apostles.'8989πάντες δὲ διεσπάρησαν κατὰ τὰς χώρας τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Σαμαρείας πλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων. Apparently at this time the accusers of Stephen did not regard the Twelve, and the Judaeo-Christians who held with them, as men ‘speaking against this Holy Place and trying to change the customs that Moses hath delivered unto us.' As yet they (the original Apostles) seem not to have offended the susceptibilities of the High-Priestly caste by any neglect in their outward observance of the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law. But tliis scattering abroad of the friends and disciples of Stephen was to be, under God's providence, gradually productive of great results. It led directly to the conversion of Saul the persecutor. It brought Philip, one of the Seven, to Samaria, where many were converted by 38his preaching. Such indeed was his success that for the first time the Apostles broke through their rule of confining themselves to Jerusalem and its neighbourhood, and Peter and John, the two leaders, were sent to take official charge of the new field of missionary operations. And there at Samaria (mark the emphasis Luke lays upon the incident) Peter was confronted with the man who, under the name of Simon Magus, was according to tradition to exercise a large, perhaps a decisive, influence upon his action at a critical point in his career.9090Acts, viii. 5-24.
Nor was this all. After an interval, probably of some three years,9191Comp. Acts ix. 26-31 with Gal. i. 18. we find that persecution has for the time entirely ceased, and that already the Christian Church is peacefully and firmly established throughout the whole of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria,9292καθ᾽ ὅλης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Γαλιλείας καὶ Σαμαρείας. ix. 31. and Peter engaged on a tour of visitation in all parts.9393ἐγένετο δὲ Πέτρον διερχόμενον διὰ πάντων. ix. 32. Comp. xv. 41 and xviii. 23. Finally he reaches Joppa and there takes up his abode for some time in the house, we are told, of one Simon a tanner. Now this very fact, that the Apostle chose to reside with a man whose trade in the eyes of strict orthodox Judaism was unclean, points to the advance he had already made in casting himself loose from the fetters of Jewish prejudice. The vision which sent him to Cornelius was probably the reflection of the doubts and questionings which had been previously filling his thoughts and an answer to his prayers.9494We are here in presence of one of those strange psychical communications of which we have been learning so much in recent years. They are far more common than most of us dream of, and come we know not how or whence. In the trance into which Peter, exposed on the housetop to the full heat of the mid-day sun and faint for lack of food, fell, just in proportion to the deadening of the ordinary senses would be the sensitiveness of those faculties which lie below the threshold of wake-a-day consciousness. First the spirit of the Centurion in his anxious search after truth is moved to seek out Peter, as his guide and teacher; then the spirit of Peter, while still unconsciously conscious of the approach of the messengers who were on their way to seek him, receives the intimation, which is the response to his own prayers. Men like Peter and John and Paul were in a manner far beyond the normal, what we should now call ‘sensitives'; their spiritual faculties attuned to constant and intimate intercourse with that Divine Spirit who, their Master had promised, should in their hours of doubt and darkness be their guide and helper towards light and truth. It was a preparation for 39that which was to follow, for his visit to the Roman centurion was not merely to teach him that the law which forbade intercourse between Jew and Gentile was henceforth done away, but to open his eyes to the startling and all-important fact that it was the revealed will of God that uncircumcised Gentiles should be admitted to the full privileges of Christianity. The question how far such Gentiles would have to conform to the Jewish law was indeed not yet settled, nor was it to be settled without much prolonged and even embittered controversy in the years that were to come. The collocation by St. Luke in juxtaposition of the defence of St. Peter9595Acts, xi. 1-18. to the brethren at Jerusalem for his action in regard to Cornelius, and of the news reaching those same brethren that certain men from Cyprus and Cyrene, on their own initiative, without sanction or authority from the Mother Church, were preaching to the Greeks at Antioch and had converted a large number of them to the faith,9696Acts, xi. 19-27. These men were of those Hellenist Christians who had been driven from Jerusalem by the persecution which followed the death of Stephen. The exiles, St. Luke tells, preached the word in Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (and no doubt in many other places), but at first to the Jews only. Then, after an interval probably of five or six years, certain of them, who had meanwhile settled in Cyprus and Cyrene, came to Antioch, and, finding that the Greeks were willing to listen to their preaching, began with success a work of evangelisation among them. was clearly intentional. St. Peter's apologia was apparently somewhat grudgingly accepted, for there is little of spontaneous enthusiasm about the words—‘and when they had heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying “Then also—ἄρα γε καὶ—to the Gentiles hath God granted repentance unto life.”'
On receiving information, therefore, about what was occurring at Antioch, it was only natural that those at the head of the Church in Jerusalem should determine to send to the Syrian capital one of their own body with instructions 40to inquire personally into the truth of the reports that had reached them, and to establish official control over a movement which seemed at first sight to be revolutionary, and which was in fact a long step in advance towards a totally new conception of the mission of Christianity in the world.
Joseph, surnamed Barnabas, whom they selected as their emissary, was a man singularly well qualified for dealing wisely and sympathetically with the new situation. He had been intimately associated from the very first with the Jerusalem Church.9797His aunt Mary resided in Jerusalem, and her house appears to have been used as a place of assembly (Acts, xii. 12); indeed there is a tradition that the upper room of the Last Supper was in this house. Bamabas himself seems to have had property in Jerusalem or its neighbourhood. Acts, iv. 37. He was at once a Levite and a Cypriote Hellenist, and the surname which was given to him by the Apostles themselves tells us that he was a man endowed with prophetic gifts for the exposition and interpretation of Scripture.9898Bar-nabas = son of exhortation; Nabi = a prophet. The Greek form υἱὸς παρακλήσεως may be illustrated by Acts xiii. 15, where Barnabas and Paul are asked by the rulers of the Synagogue if they have any λόγος παρακλήσεως to address to the congregation. Compare also παράκλητος =Comforter, Advocate, Helper, St. John, xiv. 16, 26. In accordance with his surname we find that on his arrival at Antioch Barnabas παρακάλει πάντας. In Acts xiii. 1 Barnabas is classed as ‘a prophet and teacher.' And he was to remain for some years, probably to the end of his life, a mediator and reconciler between the opposing schools of thought and ideals of Christianity associated later with the names of St. James and St. Paul. It is noteworthy how large a part Barnabas, who had now gone to Antioch as the representative of the Church at Jerusalem, took in preparing the way for him who was to be pre-eminently the Apostle of the Gentiles. The two men may possibly have first become friends in their youth, when Saul of Tarsus was studying at the feet of Gamaliel. In any case when Saul, three years after his memorable conversion, came up to Jerusalem to make the acquaintance of Peter, he found, perhaps not unnaturally, that the brethren looked askance at the erstwhile persecutor, until Barnabas took him by the hand and, as it were, stood 41voucher for his good faith.9999Acts, ix. 25–27; Gal. i. 18-21. His reception, however, on this occasion appears to have been so far discouraging that Saul withdrew for a considerable time to his native place Tarsus. Thither Barnabas after a brief sojourn at Antioch now went to seek in his retirement the man whom he knew to be specially well fitted to act as his colleague at this juncture. His judgment and prevision were more than justified. For a whole year, we read in the Acts, Barnabas and Saul taught with such success that the assemblies of the faithful, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, met together harmoniously and in such numbers100100Acts, xi. 26. This seems to be the force of the words συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ. that even in this vast city,101101The population of Antioch at this time was probably about half a million. Ottfried Müller (Antiquitates Antiochenae) has collected all that can be learnt from ancient sources about Antioch. of mixed population, professing every known variety of religion, the new sect became sufficiently large and well known to attract public attention. The scoffing nick-name, Christiani, was now for the first time given to the disciples of Jesus by the pagan Antiocheans—a term of shame and reproach, which soon was to become a title of glory.
While at Antioch under the leadership of Barnabas the preaching of the Gospel was thus making rapid progress, events were taking place in Judaea of critical importance for the future of the Church. The peace which the Christians in Palestine enjoyed in the period preceding the conversion of Cornelius had been due, not to any increase of good-will on the part of the Jewish rulers, but to the fact that thesewere too much occupied at that time with their own serious troubles. The order given by the Emperor Caligula to place his statue in the Holy of Holies had filled the whole nation with horror and made them resolve rather to be massacred than allow such a profanation of the Temple.102102Josephus (Ant. xviii. 8) and Philo (Leg. ad Caium) tell the whole story in detail, and also the fruitless efforts made by Agrippa to induce the Emperor to abandon his intention. The assassination of 42Caligula alone averted a general revolt. According to Josephus, Herod Agrippa, who was then in Rome, played a very important part in securing the peaceful accession of Claudius, who rewarded him for his services by bestowing upon him, in addition to Galilee, Peraea and the territory beyond the Jordan with which he had been invested by Caligula, also Judaea, Samaria and Abilene, making his kingdom thus equal in extent to that of his grandfather Herod the Great.103103Jos. Ant. xix. 4, 5; B.J. ii. 11. H. Lehmann, Claudius und seine Zeit (Leipzig, 1877), 118–121, 161–164. Milman, Hist. of the Jews, ii. 126–158. Claudius became emperor, January 24, 41 A.D., and towards the end of that year King Agrippa went to Palestine with the intention of using every means to ingratiate himself with his new subjects. He was especially desirous of impressing them with his careful observance of the Mosaic law and his zeal for the national religion, being to some extent suspect through his long residence in Rome and alien descent.104104Jos. Ant. xix. 6. Jost (Geschichte des Judenthums, i. 420 ff.) quotes many anecdotes from the Talmud of Agrippa's eagerness to give proof of his orthodoxy and piety. See also Fouard, S. Pierre, pp. 207–212. Accordingly having gone to Jerusalem to keep the first Passover after his accession, he resolved to give a signal mark of his fervour as a defender of the faith, by the summary execution of James the son of Zebedee. Possibly he was the only one of the Christian leaders on whom for the moment he could lay hands. But finding his action had pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also, and, as the days of unleavened bread had already begun, he placed the Apostle in prison under the strictest guard with the intention of bringing him forth before the people as soon as the Passover was over.105105St. Luke, xii. 1–18. The story of his escape as told by St. Luke, which ends so abruptly, has every internal mark of having been derived directly from the maid-servant Rhoda, whose name is otherwise so unnecessarily mentioned. We learn from this graphic narrative that the house in Jerusalem where the disciples were 43accustomed to hold their gatherings for prayer was that of Mary, the mother of John Mark, and the aunt of Barnabas. It was to this house that the Apostle naturally turned his steps, as soon as he found himself outside the prison gates, but with no intention of remaining in so well known a spot. As he entered the room with a movement of his hand he at once checked their cries of astonishment, briefly told his tale, probably almost in the rapid words recorded, asked his hearers to repeat it to James and the brethren, and then immediately, while it was still dark, he went out to betake himself to a more secure hiding-place. And as the Apostle disappears into the obscurity of the night, so does he, so far as his active career is concerned, disappear henceforth from the pages of St. Luke's history.
There are difficulties in this brief account of the Herodian persecution of the spring of 42 A.D. There is no hint that the Twelve were at Jerusalem at this critical time. St. Peter himself does not seem to have been there when St. James was beheaded. His parting words point to two conclusions: (1) that the other James, the Lord's Brother, was already the recognised head of the Jerusalem community; and (2) that the speaker had no expectation of being able to tell his tale to ‘James and the brethren' in person. The explanation however lies to our hand, if we accept the ancient and well-attested tradition of which I have already spoken, that the Lord Jesus had bidden his Apostles to make Jerusalem the centre of their missionary activity for twelve years, after which they were to disperse and go forth to preach to the nations. Already before Herod Agrippa struck his blow the Twelve had begun to set out each one to his allotted sphere of evangelisation, the care of the Mother Church being confided to James, the Lord's Brother, assisted by a body of presbyters, of whom he was one, but over whom he presided with something of monarchical authority. It would be an anachronism to give him the Gentile title of Bishop, but in this earliest constitution of the Jerusalem Church we have the model which other Churches were to follow and out of which episcopacy grew.44
But even if this be granted, it throws no light on the after-life of St. Peter.
For his after-life we have again to fall back mainly upon tradition, a tradition already referred to by me at the close of my first lecture, which makes St. Peter to have been the founder of the Church in Rome. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, as I have shown, speaks of that Church as already in 57 A.D. long established and of world-wide repute, into which as being built on another man's foundation he had not thought it right to intrude.106106Supra, pp. 28–9. The question then arises, what grounds are there for believing that the man to whom he refers was St. Peter?
Now there are traditions and traditions. First let it be premised that we are not dealing here with a tradition handed down orally by illiterate people. Not that oral tradition is to be neglected or despised. There is abundant evidence to show with what accuracy historical traditions including long lists of names have been handed down from generation to generation even among tribes unacquainted with writing. After describing the pre-Hispanic civilisation in Peru, a recent writer remarks: ‘It is not surprising, in spite of the fact that no form of writing was known, that the people capable of such political organisation had pre-served in traditional form much of their early history. Feats of memory, which seem almost miraculous to civilised races, who have become dependent on written records, have been chronicled of several peoples below the Peruvians in the scale of culture. The nobility among the Polynesians received regular instruction in their past history, and the chiefs could repeat long genealogies, which had been faith-fully handed down from generation to generation. Even among African races traditional records are not unknown, and in one case a list of even one hundred chiefs, together with historical details, has been recently obtained from a tribe in the heart of the Southern Belgian Congo.'107107Joyce, South American Archaeology, 1912, p. 76. In the first century, however, in Rome and in all the chief centres 45of population, where the early Christian Churches were established, writing was familiarly employed by all classes. At one time it was assumed, with an assurance that had absolutely no basis, that the events of early Christian history could only have been known through oral transmission, that it was most unlikely that anything was committed to writing at the time, and the idea that the separate Churches kept any records of the appointment of their officers, or any statements concerning the various vicissitudes of their fortunes, was dismissed as untenable. ‘There is a very strong body of opinion,' said Sir W. Ramsay108108Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, 1904, pp. 4, 5. about nine years ago, ‘that the earliest Christians wrote little or nothing. It is supposed that partly they were either unable to write or at least unused to the familiar employment of writing for the purposes of ordinary life. Put aside that prejudice, and the whole body of opinion, which maintains that the Christians at first did not set down anything in writing about the life and death of Christ, strongly and widely accepted as it is, dominating as a fundamental premise much of the discussion of this whole subject in recent times, is devoid of any support. . . . One of the initial presumptions, plausible in appearance and almost universally assumed and conceded, is that there was no early registration of the great events in the beginning of Christian history. This presumption we must set aside as a mere prejudice, contrary to the whole spirit and character of that age and entirely improbable.' Such a presumption has in fact been proved by recent discoveries to be in all probability quite erroneous, and indeed there are strong grounds for making an assumption of a precisely opposite character, i.e. that the chief Christian Churches did keep more or less regular archives, which, like the bulk of ancient records, perished through fire or other accidents,109109In sixteen years three great fires destroyed much of Rome and an enormous quantity of documents, i.e. in 64, 69 and 80 A.D. There was a most destructive fire in the reign of Commodus 191 A.D. Think of the meaning of the following facts: Rome was taken and sacked by Alaric, 410 A.D.; by Genseric, 455 A.D.; by Ricimer, 472 A.D. ; by Vitiges, 537 A.D.; by Totila, 546 A.D. In 846 A.D. the Saracens plundered Rome. See Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, pp. 147–9; also The Destruction of Ancient Rome, p. 131. through the ruthless sacking of the city by barbarian conquerors, and in the case of these 46Christian archives by systematic destruction at the hands of the imperial authorities, more especially during the persecution of Diocletian. But though the documents themselves disappeared,110110Horace Marucchi, Eléments d'Archéologie Chrétienne, vol. i. xiv. writes thus: ‘Malheureusement les Actes [des Martyrs] authentiques ont presque tous disparu. . . . L'Eglise romaine non possède aucun. Les actes de ces martyrs ont dû être détruits pendant la grande persécution de Dioclétien; il est certain qu'à cette époque on a brûlé les Archives de de 1'Eglise romaine; on a d'ailleurs agi de même en Afrique, ainsi que nous 1'apprend S. Augustin.' Of the principal contemporary historians of the period dealt with in these lectures—Fabius Rusticus, Cluvius Rufus, and Pliny the Elder—not a single line has survived. A. Peter (Hist. Rom. frag. pp. 291–324) gives a list of thirty-five historical writers upon the period from Caligula to Hadrian (37–138) all of whose writings have perished. Of the works of Tacitus only a portion have come down to us, and the Histories in a single MS. the memory of their contents would remain to be worked up afresh into new narratives tinged with the opinions, beliefs and modes of thought of the time at which they were written, and in such a setting as the pious fancy of the compilers thought to be edifying, and in harmony with their subject. What criteria then, it may be asked, have we for judging whether these later Acts and Passions of Saints and Martyrs contain in the midst of apocryphal accretion a real core of sound and trustworthy historical fact? A tradition before it can be accepted as embodying authentic history should, I think, satisfy the following conditions: (1) It must be concerned with an event or series of events that had a great number of witnesses, and of witnesses who would have a strong motive to record or bear in memory what they had seen. (2) The beginning of the tradition should appear at a time not too remote from the facts it records, at a time, that is to say, in which it should not be possible for the notices handed down by contemporaries to be obscured. (3) Shortly after that time to which the beginning of the tradition goes back there should appear in 47the community to which it relates a firm and general persuasion of its truth. (4) This persuasion should spread gradually until everywhere the facts are accepted as true without any doubts being raised even by those who, had they not been plainly true, would have desired to reject them.
Let us now apply these criteria to the Petrine tradition at Rome. That Peter visited Rome between the years 62 A.D. and 65 A.D. and that he was put to death there by crucifixion is admitted by everyone who studies the evidence in a fair and reasonable spirit.111111Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, p. 125. This is not a tradition, it may rather be described as a fact vouched for by contemporary or nearly contemporary evidence. On this point no statement could be stronger than that of Professor Lanciani: ‘I write about the monuments of Rome from a strictly archaeological point of view, avoiding questions which pertain or are supposed to pertain to religious controversy. For the archaeologist, the presence and execution of SS. Peter and Paul in Rome are facts established beyond a shadow of doubt by purely monumental evidence.' It is now generally conceded that the first epistle bearing the name of Peter was written from Rome. The ‘Apocalypse of St. John' and the ‘Sibylline Oracles' show that Babylon was a common synonym for Rome in the second half of the first century.112112In that portion of the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles which was probably written 71–74 A.D. the flight of Nero from Rome is thus described; v. 143 φεύξεται ἐκ Βαβυλῶνος ἄναξ φοβερὸς καὶ ἀναιδής. The language of Clement of Rome113113Clement Rom. 1 Cor. v. in his Epistle to the Corinthians leaves no doubt—for it is the witness of a contemporary—that Peter was martyred at Rome. ‘But leaving ancient examples let us come to the athletes who were very near to our own times, let us take the illustrious examples of our own generation. . . . Peter who through unjust jealousy endured not one or two but many sufferings and so having borne witness—μαρτυρήσας—departed to the place of glory that was his due.' The 48statement in the apocalyptic ‘Ascension of Isaiah'114114See Clemen, ‘Die Himmelfahrt des Isaia, ein ältestes Zeugnis für das römische Martyrium des Petrus' in Zeitsch. für Wissensch. Theologie, 1896. The discovery among the papiri of Lord Amhurst of the Greek text of the Ascension makes the reference clear. καὶ (τ)ῶν δώδεκα (εἷς) ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ π(αραδ)οθήσεται. Grenfell, The Amhurst Papiri. Ascensio Isaiah, etc., 1900. —also the work of a contemporary—that ‘a lawless king, the slayer of his mother, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands' can scarcely refer to another event than the death of Peter at the time of the Neronian persecution. A comparison of St. John xxi. 18, 19 with St. John xiii. 36, 37 and with 2 Peter i. 14 is evidence as to the manner of that death. The question of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel or of 2 Peter is immaterial, for the writers, whoever they were, belong to the first century, and the testimony to the received belief of the Christian Church which they give is authentic.
But a solitary brief visit to Rome after St. Paul had previously spent in that city two years of fruitful work does not account for the position assigned by tradition to St. Peter in relation to the Roman Church. Though the two names are on several occasions coupled together, as joint founders of the Roman Church, in all the earliest notices in which the two are named together the name of Peter stands first. Thus Ignatius in his Epistle to the Romans written about 109 A.D. says: ‘I do not command you like Peter and Paul; they were Apostles; I am a condemned criminal.'115115Ep. S. Ignatii ad Romanos, c. iv: οὐχ ὡς Πέτρος καὶ Παῦλος διατάσσομαι ὑμῖν· ἐκεῖνοι ἀπόστολοι, ἐγὼ κατάκριτος. Dionysius of Corinth 171 A.D. writing to Soter bishop of Rome116116Quoted by Eus. Hist. Eccl. ii. 25: ταῦτα καὶ ὑμεῖς διὰ τῆς τοσαύτης νουθεσίας τὴν ἀπὸ Πέτρου καὶ Παύλου φυτείαν γενηθεῖσαν Ῥωμαίων τε καὶ Κορινθίων συνεκεράσατε. A comparison with the passage from the Ascension of Isaiah, from which a quotation has already been made, is most interesting. ὁ βασιλεὺς οὗτος (Nero the matricide) τὴν φυτείαν ἣν φυτεύσουσιν οἱ ἀπόστολοι τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ διώξει καὶ τῶν δώδεκα εἷς ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ παραδοθήσεται. a speaks ‘of the plantation by Peter and Paul that took place among the Romans and Corinthians.' Irenaeus a few years later is filled with respect 49for ‘the most great and ancient and universally known Church established at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, and also the faith declared to men, which comes down to our own time through the succession of her bishops. For unto this Church, on account of its more powerful lead, every Church, meaning the faithful who are from everywhere, must needs resort; since in it that tradition which is from the Apostles has been preserved by those who are from everywhere. The Blessed Apostles, having founded and established the Church, entrusted the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul speaks of this Linus in his epistles to Timothy, Anencletus succeeded him, and after Anencletus, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement received the episcopate.' Now Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, and acquainted with others who had known St. John, and who in 177 A.D. became bishop of Lyons, had spent some years in Rome. This passage was written, as he tells us, in the time of Eleutherus, probably about 180 A.D.117117Irenaeus, Adv. Haereses, iii. 3; Eus. Hist. Eccl. v. 6.
Eusebius of Caesarea has left us two lists of the Roman bishops, one in his ‘Ecclesiastical History,' the other in his ‘Chronicle.' The first is the list of Irenaeus, the beginning of which has just been quoted. The second is derived from the lost ‘Chronicle' of Hippolytus, bishop of Portus, written about half a century later. In the ‘Chronicle' St. Peter's episcopate at Rome is stated to have lasted twenty-five years.118118Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. v. 6, see also iv. 22. Hippolytus' Chronicle was written during the first quarter of the third century and was undoubtedly used by Eusebius. For an account of this learned and essentially Roman writer see Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers, part i. vol. ii. pp. 317–477. The original Greek of Eusebius' Chronicle or Chronography is lost, but it survives in three translations, a Latin version by Jerome, a Syriac and an Armenian. The Hieronymian and Syriac versions give twenty-five years as the length of Peter's episcopate. On the other hand the Armenian has twenty years, but Duchesne (Liber Pontificalis, p. v) says: ‘Ann. XX dans le texte arménien, évidemment fautif.' The Armenian version has in fact many divergences from the Hieronymian, but Lightfoot, who has discussed the matter very thoroughly (Apost. Fathers, part i. vol. i. pp. 212–246), comes to the conclusion that these divergences are due ‘probably to the errors and caprice of transcribers' (p. 245). Duchesne, Mommsen, and others hold the Latin Chronography, known as the Liber Generationis, to be a translation from the Greek of Hippolytus' Chronicle dating from about 234 A.D. In the ‘Ecclesiastical History' we read—‘under the 50reign of Claudius by the benign and gracious providence of God, Peter that great and powerful apostle, who by his courage took the lead of all the rest, was conducted to Rome.' In other passages his martyrdom with that of Paul is represented as taking place after Nero's persecution.119119Eus. Hist. Eccl. ii. 14—the whole of this passage will be considered later. For the death: Hist. Eccl. ii. 25, iii. 1, 4. The interval between these two dates would roughly be about twenty-five years. Now it is evident that these figures, derived as they are from men like Irenaeus and Hippolytus, who had access to the archives and traditions in Rome itself, cannot be dismissed as pure fiction. They must have a basis of fact behind them. Eusebius tells us ‘that after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter Linus was the first that received the episcopate at Rome.' Now the date of this martyrdom was according to the received tradition the fourteenth year of Nero or 67 A.D.; if then we deduct twenty-five years, we arrive at 42 A.D., which is precisely the date given for St. Peter's first visit to Rome by St. Jerome in his work ‘De Viris Illustribus.' Remembering that Jerome was a translator of the Eusebian Chronicle his words may be taken to embody a close acquaintance with Eusebius' works, including his lost ‘Records of Ancient Martyrdoms,' and with the sources that he used. Jerome writes as follows: ‘Simon Peter, prince of the Apostles, after an episcopate of the Church at Antioch and preaching to the dispersion of those of the circumcision, who had believed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, in the second year of Claudius goes to Rome to oppose Simon Magus, and there for twenty-five years he held the sacerdotal chair until the last year of Nero, that is the fourteenth.'120120Jerome, De Viris Illust. i. Jerome must have had access to the Chronography of Julius Africanus, the Chronicle of Hippolytus, the Memorials of Hegesippus, and other lost works. Now here amidst a certain confusion, which will be dealt 51with presently, a definite date is given for Peter's first arrival at Rome, and, be it noted, it is the date of his escape from Herod Agrippa's persecution and his disappearance from the narrative of the Acts.
This evidence of Jerome, it will be thus seen, rests upon that of Eusebius, and that of the earlier authorities which that historian consulted. It has been said that one of the conditions of the soundness of an historical tradition was the wideness and unanimity of its reception. Now probably never was any tradition accepted so universally, and without a single dissentient voice, as that which associates the foundation and organisation of the Church of Rome with the name of St. Peter and which speaks of his active connexion with that Church as extending over a period of some twenty-five years.
It is needless to multiply references. In Egypt and in Africa, in the East and in the West, no other place ever disputed with Rome the honour of being the see of St. Peter; no other place ever claimed that he died there or that it possessed his tomb. Most significant of all is the consensus of the Oriental, non-Greek-speaking, Churches. A close examination of Armenian and Syrian MSS.,121121P. Martin, ‘S. Pierre, sa venue et son martyre à Rome,' Rev. des Questions historiques, xiii. 5, xv. 5, xviii. 202. This writer gives an array of quotations from Armenian and Syrian (Jacobite and Nestorian) authors from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries. and in the case of the latter both of Nestorian and Jacobite authorities, through several centuries, has failed to discover a single writer who did not accept the Roman Petrine tradition.
No less striking is the local evidence (still existing) for a considerable residence
of St. Peter in Rome. ‘There is no doubt,' is the judgment of Lanciani, once more
to quote his well-known work ‘Pagan and Christian Rome' (p. 212), ‘that the likenesses
of St. Peter and St. Paul have been carefully preserved in Rome ever since their
lifetime, they are familiar to every one, even to school-children. These portraits
have come down to us by scores. They are
52painted in the cubiculi of the Catacombs, engraved in gold leaf in
the so-called vetri cemeteriali, cast in bronze, hammered in silver or copper, and
designed in mosaic. The type never varies. St. Peter's face is full and strong with
short curly hair and beard, while St. Paul appears more wiry and thin, slightly
bald with a long pointed beard. The antiquity and the genuineness of both types
cannot be doubted.' Other noticeable facts are: (l) the appearance of the name
of Peter, both in Greek and Latin, among the inscriptions of the most ancient Christian
cemeteries, especially in the first-century catacomb of
Priscilla.122122 The oldest parts of the Catacomb of Priscilla are regarded by De Rossi, Marucchi,
Lanciani and the best authorities as dating from the middle of the first century.
The most ancient inscriptions are in red and many in the Greek language. Among them
is one containing only the single word
. Another on the left side of the main gallery thus:—
In this catacomb is the mausoleum of the Acilii Glabriones, the family of the consul M. Acilius Glabrio, put to death by Domitian in 95 A.D. His own tomb has been destroyed. According to the Liber Pontificalis Pope Leo IV, in the ninth century, removed from this catacomb the bodies of Aquila and Priscilla, with others, into the city to protect them from profanation at the hands of the Saracen invaders. Marucchi, Archéologie Chédtienne, vol. ii. pp. 586 ff; Le Memorie degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo in Roma, p, 119, pp. 160–164. On p. 162 may be seen a copy of the beautiful medallion containing the heads of SS. Peter and Paul found by Boldetti in the first-century catacomb of Domitilla and now in the Museo Sacro delta Biblioteca Vaticana. The appearance of this unusual name on these early Christian tombs can most easily be explained by the supposition that either those who bore it or their parents had been baptised by Peter. In any case it may be taken that his memory was held in 53especial reverence by them. Again, on a large number of early Christian sarcophagi now in the Lateran Museum the imprisonment of Peter by Herod Agrippa and his release by the angel is represented. The French historian of the ‘Persecutions of the first two Centuries,' Paul Allard,123123Allard, Hist. des Persécutions, vol. i. p. 15. was the first to point out that the frequency with which this subject was chosen might be accounted for by the existence of a traditional belief in a close connexion between this event and the first visit of St. Peter to Rome. Orazio Marucchi, the learned and accomplished pupil and successor of De Rossi, in his latest volume upon recent researches in the catacombs, commenting upon this suggestion of Allard, adds that this scene is often united to others, in which Moses and Peter appear as the representative founders of the Jewish and Christian Churches with particular reference to the Church in Rome.124124Roma Sotterranea Christiana (nuova serie) Tom. I.: Monumenti del Cemitero di Domitilla sulla Via Ardeatina descritti da Orazio Marucchi, 1911, p. 9. In some representations may be seen the Lord handing to Peter a volume on which is written Lex Domini, or beneath which is the legend Dominus Legem Dat.125125Marucchi, Le Memorie degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo in Roma, pp. 180–182. More remarkable still are those in which Moses, with the well-known traits of St. Peter, strikes the rock out of which flow the waters of cleansing through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.126126 G. B. de Rossi, Bullettino di Archeologia Christiana, 1868, p. 1 ff.; 1874, p. 174; 1877, p. 77 ff.
In the Vatican museum this scene is depicted on two glasses. Behind the figure striking the Rock is written the word ‘Petrus.' There is no doubt a reminiscence here of St. Paul's words, 1 Cor. x. 4: ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας· ἡ δὲ πέτρα ἦν ὁ Χριστός, and of the declaration of Christ: Σὺ εἶ Πέτρος καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, St. Matt. xvi. 18. Taken together all these authentic records of the impressions that had been left upon the minds of the primitive Roman Church of a close personal connexion between that Church and the Apostle Peter cannot be disregarded. They are existent to-day to tell their own tale.
Once more the number of legends and the quantity of apocryphal literature that grew up around the Petrine tradition are witnesses not merely to the hold that it had upon popular regard but to its historical reality. Many of these legends, much of this literature may in the main be evidently fictitious, but even in those which are most clearly works of imagination, there is almost always a kernel of truth overlaid with invention.127127‘Les Actes des Martyrs. Supplément aux Acta sincera de Dom Ruinart,' par Edmond Le Blant. Mémoires de l'Institut Nat. de France, tom. xxx. part 2, p. 81: ‘Les gentils, aux temps de Dioclétien, avaient recherché, pour les anéantir, les livres, les écrits religieux des fidèles. Cette destruction, qui nous est attestée par des procès-verbaux contemporains, fut rigoureusement poursuivi, et l'Eglise, après la tourmente, dut pourvoir à la réfection de ses archives dévastées. Ce fut souvent à l';aide de souvenirs de traditions orales, que l'on dut réconstituer alors nombre d'Acta et de Passiones et souvent . . . ces rédactions nouvelles furent accommodées, pour le détail, à la mode du temps où elles étaient faites'; p. 81: ‘Ces interpolations, à mon avis, ne doivent donc ni déconcerter ni rébuter la critique. Sous la couche des inventions, les traits originaux existent, et un grand nombre d'entre eux apparaissent come à fleur de sol. Il les faut dégager patiemment,' p. 87. It is perfectly well known that most of these documents have behind them other documents, which are now lost, but out of which those we now possess have grown by gradual accretions and interpolations.128128G. B. de Rossi in an Archaeological Conference held at Rome, December 11, 1881, said: ‘Che nella formazione degli Atti dei martiri devono esser distinti e considerati molti periodi successivi; it primo della relazione contemporanea dei testimoni oculari; il secondo delle interpolazioni fatte al testo originale fino dal seculo incerca quarto e forse prima: poi vengono le amplificazioni e parafrasi composte dai retort nei secoli quinto e sesto: finalmente le abbreviazioni delle prolisse parafrasi ad use delle Lectiones liturgicae, e le nuove forme di stile date alle vecchie leggende dal seculo decimo in poi per opera di scrittori diversi, i cui nome in parte conosciamo; i quali vollero togliere ogni oscurità e rossezza al dettato e vestirlo di nuove fogge di lingua. In tutte queste trasformazioni naturalmente si venne assai alterando l'indole genuina dei documenti; furono aggiunti prolissi discorsi, circostanze meravigliose, leggende strane, ma generalmente rimase sempre il fondo e la sostanza del primitivo discorso.' Bullettino di Arch. Chr. serie IV. 1882, p. 162. But it is not impossible even now for sound and scholarly criticism to arrive with fair certainty in many cases at the ultimate basis of fact on which the edifice of fiction rests. One of these apocryphal documents we 55have in a very early form—the Ebionite ‘Preaching of Peter'—which was produced in the first decade of the second century; as a proof of its early date it may be mentioned that it was used by Heracleon in Hadrian's time.129129Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 5. 6. 15; Origen, tom. xiii., comment on St. John, c. 17. It is from Origen we learn that the κήρυγμα was known to Heracleon. Clement regards the work as genuine, but Origen doubted. The work bears on the face of it testimony to the fact that Peter did labour and preach at Rome, for it was written at a time when some of those who actually saw and heard him may have been still alive, and there must have been numbers whose fathers were grown-up men even in the time of Claudius. The traditions connected with the cemetery ‘ad Nymphas' where Peter baptised, with the primitive chair now in St. Peter's Basilica, with the very ancient churches of St. Pudenziana, St. Prisca and St. Clement, with the Quo Vadis? story, whatever their real historical value or lack of value, undoubtedly stretch back long before the fifth and sixth centuries, when pilgrims flocked to Rome with their ‘itineraries' in their hands, and they spring from a general and deep-rooted belief in a long and active ministry of the Apostle in the See that had become identified with his name.130130Carlo Macchi, La Critica Storica e l'origine della Chiesa Romana, 1903, p. 93: ‘Non tutte le memorie di S. Pietro in Roma hanno per se stesse il medesimo valore. Altre sono d'indubitata autenticità; altre sono d'autenticità probabile, altre per se stesse neppur di probabile. Ma quando anche si prescinda dai monumenti per se stessi autorevoli, l'unione di tante memorie in Roma e nella sola Roma è un fatto che non può spiegarsi, se non si ammetta quel che abbiamo già dimostrato con argotnenti, i quali crediamo the non possano venir dispregiati da una critica veramente sincera.'
Returning then once more to the undisputedly historical ground of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, we find that in 57 A.D. there was in Rome a Christian community not of yesterday, but of many years' standing: an important community, whose faith and whose high repute were well known in all churches of the Empire with which the writer was acquainted. Further that St. Paul himself for some years past had been longing to visit this Rdman community, 56but had been hindered from doing so by the restriction he had imposed upon himself of not building on another man's foundation. If again the question be repeated—Who was this man? with greater emphasis than before the same answer must be returned—It cannot be any other than St. Peter.
But having arrived so far, we are confronted with certain difficulties that arise in making this earlier ministry of St. Peter at Rome fit in with the New Testament records relating to the same period. These difficulties will be dealt with in the next lecture. To-day I shall confine myself to pointing out that the circumstances which led to St. Peter's mission to Rome very soon after his escape from prison in the second year of Claudius were strictly analogous to those described in the earlier part of the present lecture, which led first to the mission of Peter accompanied by John to Samaria, and then to that of Barnabas to Antioch.
The dispersion of the Hellenist disciples of St. Stephen, after the persecution in which their brilliant leader died a martyr's death, was the direct cause of the evangelisation first of Samaria and then some years later of Syrian Antioch. Philip, like Stephen one of the Seven, preached in Samaria meeting with great success, and there encountered a certain man, Simon by name, who gave himself out to be some great one, and who had by his sorceries astonished and drawn to him great numbers of the people. On the news of this state of affairs being brought to the Apostles at Jerusalem, Peter and John were despatched in the name of the Twelve, to deal with the situation authoritatively. The result for a time, according to the Acts, was the triumph of St. Peter, Simon himself being baptised and seeking to be endowed by the Apostle with a portion of his wonder-working spiritual gifts. And as with Samaria so it was with Syrian Antioch. Men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who had been obliged to fly from Jerusalem ‘upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen,' after preaching in their own native regions found their way to Antioch, and preaching in that city of mixed nationalities, not only to Jews but also to the Greeks, converted many. 57This news again, that a Church was arising in the Syrian capital with a considerable Gentile element in its midst, when it reached the Twelve at Jerusalem, led to immediate action being taken. Barnabas was sent to exercise super-vision over the new movement, and to see that a precedent of far-reaching consequences should not be established with-out the knowledge and sanction of those in authority.
Events at Rome probably followed on precisely the same lines. Just as the men of Cyprus and Cyrene in the face of persecution made their way back to their own homes carrying with them the message of the Gospel, so would it be with some of ‘the sojourners of Rome' belonging to the Synagogue of the Libertines. They would return to the capital inspired by the spirit and example of St. Stephen to form there the first nucleus of a Christian community. As I have already suggested, St. Paul's salutation to Andronicus and Junias seems to point to these two men as the leaders of this first missionary band. Among those converted would be, as at Antioch, both Jews and Gentiles.
Some time may well have elapsed before any news of these first small beginnings of Christianity in Rome reached Jerusalem. Possibly St. Peter's intercourse with Cornelius the centurion and his relatives and friends at Caesarea first made him acquainted with the fact that the Gospel had obtained a foothold in the capital, for the body of troops to which Cornelius belonged—the Cohors Italica—consisted of volunteers from Italy.131131Cohors Italica. Vid. Gruter, Inscr. p. 434: ‘Cohors militum Italicorum voluntaria, quae est in Syria.' From this source too he may in due course have learnt that Simon Magus was in Rome, and that there as in Samaria previously he was proclaiming himself ‘to be the Great Power of God' and was leading many astray by his magical arts.
This information in any case, whether derived from Cornelius or from Roman Christians, who came up for the feasts, would reach the Apostles about the time when their twelve years' residence in Jerusalem was drawing to a close, and when, according to tradition, they divided among 58themselves separate spheres of missionary work abroad. To St. Peter, as the recognised leader, it may well have been that the charge of the Christian Church in the Imperial capital should have been assigned as the post of honour. If so, it will be seen that the persecution of Herod Agrippa only hastened on a journey already planned. After his imprisonment and escape St. Peter's first object would be to place himself out of the reach of the persecutor and to set about his voyage as quickly as possible. If so, his arrival at Rome would be in the early summer of 42 A.D., the date given by St. Jerome.59
|« Prev||Lecture II||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version