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How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament 30 to 70 AD

- by D. J. McDonnell


Cover: Inside of cover: Front page: (pp. 1 & 2 3&4 5&6 7&8 9 & 10

title - (or repeat of title) Shroud photo/ How‌photographed‌ Peter & Paul pic, / Contents Augustus / Prologue Holy Land


The Holy Shroud


How Jesus Christ ‘Photographed’ His Death and Resurrection First photographed in 1898, our Lord’s burial shroud has since then withstood a century of the most exacting and thorough examinations by experts from every relevant field of modern science. These have found that the image had been ‘scorched’ onto the cloth by a split second flash of intense energy coming from within a real human body! Thus at the moment of His Resurrection our Lord had imprinted His image onto the shroud in which His dead body had lain. On this shroud He has left us a most detailed record (a ‘photograph’!) of all the cruel sufferings He had endured for our salvation. (This was what St. John (20:3-9) tells us was in the empty tomb when ‘he saw and he believed.’) How this portrait of our Lord, this perfect record of His sufferings, this awesome proof of His Resurrection must have inspired and galvanised motivated the Apostles during those first years in Jerusalem! Of course the Apostles and their successors took every care to keep and protect this, the greatest and most precious of all the Church’s relics. In the era of persecutions in the Roman Empire it found its way east beyond the Euphrates river to safety in the city of Edessa whose king Abgar IX in the late second century was the first king to be baptised a Christian. In troubled times later it was sealed away for safekeeping inside the city wall of Edessa. Here it remained for some centuries until 525 when a flood caused it to be rediscovered by engineers rebuilding that city’s flooddamaged city walls. It was then venerated in Edessa until 944 when the Emperor, to protect it from the Moslems, sent an army to bring it to Constantinople. Here it was kept until 1204 when this city was treacherously sacked by the Crusaders. It was then not seen again until 1357 when a Crusader’s descendant first displayed it for veneration at Lirey in France. In 1532 the Shroud was nearly destroyed by a fire. We can see the patches stitched by nuns over the black marks made over our Lord’s elbows by that fire. In 1578, to protect it from the chaos of France’s religious wars, the Shroud was, for safety, moved over the Alps to Turin in northern Italy. In 1978, to commemorate the 400 th anniversary of this move to Turin, the Shroud was put on display for veneration. After this exposition closed on Sunday 8 October, came the climax of scientific investigations of the Shroud. Taken out of its nitrogen-filled casing, it was subjected, over the following five days and non-stop by teams of scientists working in relays, to every variety of photographing, tests and microscopic examinations. Because it is today kept in the Cathedral of Turin the Shroud is today also known as the Holy Shroud of Turin.


How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament, 30 to 70 AD Introduction This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It sets out as detailed a narrative of this crucial era as the evidence will support. Contents Prologue

Dates of the Life of Jesus Christ


Chapter 1

Jerusalem, 30 to 40 AD



St. Peter’s Missions, 40 to 56



The Rise of St. Paul, 37 to 50



From Jerusalem to Rome: St. Paul’s Journeys, 50 to 61



Rome: 61 to 66



Rome, Jerusalem and Patmos, 66 to 70



Rome, Bishops and the Canon of Scripture


Appendix 1

Dating the Life of Jesus Christ



Dating the Second Visit of St. Paul to Jerusalem



Post Temple Judaism



The Gnostics



Paganism and its Propaganda



How the Bones of St. Peter were Recovered



124 How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament. Copyright © 2009 by Desmond J. McDonnell


Head of the Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.). After the Senate proclaimed a new Emperor, large numbers of statues and busts of him were made for distribution among all the Empire’s capitals and major cites to be enshrined in temples and court rooms etc. These were the focus for ceremonies of official state worship. Many of these statues and busts have survived to our time. Coin, a silver stater, of Augustus minted in Antioch. The inscription reads ΚΑΙΣΑΡΟΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΥ (‘Kaisaros Sebastou’: Caesar Augustus.) The reverse shows the city of Antioch represented as a queen sitting on the Orontes River (represented by its river god). This coin is dated by its inscription as having been minted in ETOYΣ ςK NIKHΣ (‘The year 26 of Victory’). A monogram for YΠA(TOY) (‘Consul’) followed by IB (‘12’) dates this coin in Augustus’ twelfth term as Consul. As the Victory referred to is that of Octavian (Augustus) over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 B.C., this coin was minted in 5 B.C., the year of our Lord’s birth. Another monogram - ANTX (Antch.) - denotes Antioch.



Dates of the Life of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was born on 25 December, 5 BC. On ‘the eighth day’ (a week) after his birth, on 1 January 4 BC, Jesus was circumcised. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the holy family now remained to live in Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, where the holy family now remained to live, in the City of David. In the Temple on 2 February 4 BC, His mother’s ceremonial purification took place and the infant Jesus was presented to His Father in the Temple. The prophecies by Simeon and Anna on this occasion meant that not only ‘Herod was disturbed’ but also ‘all of Jerusalem with him’ by the visit of the Magi in mid February. Of course Herod had the Magi watched. He was informed immediately of their departure from his domains not via Jerusalem but ‘by another way’. The full moon of mid February however facilitated the holy family’s escape so that they ‘left that night for Egypt’. The Massacre of the Innocents of Bethlehem probably took place on the following morning. After the death of Herod (c. 13 March 4 BC), the holy family was able to return from Egypt to attend the Passover of 4 BC (11 April). However with Bethlehem in a state of desolation after the Massacre, and with the news of Rome’s confirmation of Herod’s ruthless son Archelaus as ruler of Judæa, St. Joseph took his family back to Nazareth in Galilee. Here Jesus lived 30 years. While in Jerusalem for the Passover of 8 AD (8 April) when he was almost ‘twelve years old’ our Lord was ‘lost’ by his parents until they found Him in the Temple. Perhaps His purpose was to instruct his cousin St. John the Baptist to begin preparing for his mission as the Precursor, or to keep Messianic expectations fervent in Jerusalem. (It is notable that in 30, the year of His Passion, the Passover was again to fall on 8 April.) On 6 January 28, shortly after His thirty-first birthday, Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. After His forty days fast in the wilderness and just before the Passover of 28, He dramatically began His public life with His first Cleansing of the Temple. At the Passover of 29 (Monday, 18 April) Jesus prefigured the Eucharist when He fed the 5,000 by the Sea of Galilee. At last on Holy Thursday night, 6 April 30, He instituted the Priesthood and Eucharist of His ‘new and everlasting covenant’ before going the next day, Good Friday, 7 April 30, to consummate His holy Sacrifice on the hill of Calvary. At the time of His Sacrifice He had lived 33 years, 3 months and 2 weeks. In the early morning of Sunday 9 April 30 AD came His Resurrection from the dead. On Thursday 18 May, after 40 days of final instructions to His Apostles, our Lord made His Ascension into Heaven.


(For the evidence and reasons for these datings, see Appendix 1: Dating the Life of Jesus Christ.)


The Holy Land


Regions of and around the Holy Land regions Ar







Samaria (the district)



cities bs Bethsaida (St. Peter’s birthplace) cp Capharnaum (St. Peter’s residence here was used as base by Jesus during His public life, 28 to 30 AD) cs


c.p Caesarea Philippi (Near here our Lord formally gave St. Peter ‘the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ July 29 AD) d











Samaria (the city)





geographical D.s

Dead Sea


Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Sea of Tiberias, lake of Gennesaret)


Jordan River M.s

Mediterranean Sea


This vetro cemeteriale dating from the second or third century shows our Lady - representing the Church - at prayer between St. Peter and St. Paul. The tongues of fire represent the Holy Spirit. The letters read: ‘Petrus Maria Paulus.’ (Note that the ancient Romans used only ‘capital letters’ (A, B, C, D, E…). ‘Lower case’ letters (a, b, c, d, e…) were developed only later by the monks in the Middle Ages.) (Vetri cemeteriali (Italian: ‘Cemetery Cups’) were Christian glass cups found in the catacombs under Rome. Holy pictures made of gold leaf were sealed in their bases. An enlarged example featuring St. Peter and St. Paul can be viewed opposite this book’s contents page.)



Jerusalem, 30 to 40 A.D.

‘All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore out into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.’ 1

‘For behold I am with you all days, even until the end of the world.’ On Thursday 18 May in the year 30 our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven. His Apostles now quietly waited for the power from on high which they needed for the huge task which lay ahead. In each church late each Saturday evening thereafter, the table of the Lord was spread and before Him were gathered his Apostles and elders, while before His sanctuary knelt or stood praying His people. All were gathered in the full knowledge that He, the Christos Kyrios (‘Messiah and Lord’) was fully present there as the living bread from Heaven, the Eucharist, in their midst. What was the meaning of this new word ‘church’? Where had it come from? A ‘church’ is a formal ‘ingathering’, ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’ (qahal in Hebrew, ekklesia in Greek). Because of Christ’s sacrificial Presence in the Eucharist, each church was and is primarily a temple. Yet because of the sermons, Scripture readings and teaching which take place there, it was and is also like a synagogue. This new name of ‘church’ was given by our Lord for His new temple-cum-synagogue into which He gathered His followers.* 2

In Jesus, God had come among men. And He had come to stay. Indeed neither of the Apostolic Gospels (St. Matthew and St. John) mentions the Ascension. As Apostles, Matthew and John knew that the Incarnation was not temporary but permanent. Jesus remains among us in the Eucharist. Only in the later Gospels by non-Apostles, St. Mark and St. Luke, do we find mention of the formal departure (the Ascension) of the visible Jesus. The Apostles knew that their actions and teaching sacramentally continued those of Jesus Himself. Thus St. John later wrote of how ‘the whole world’ could not contain a record of Jesus’ actions, and St. Luke, opening his Acts wrote of how Jesus ‘began to do and teach’ until His Ascension. 3

On Pentecost Sunday (28 May, 30), some 3,000 Jewish pilgrims joined the newly born Church. As St. Luke’s list shows, they had come from almost every country of the eastern Mediterranean and west Asian world. But most of these newly baptised Jewish Christians could not remain in Jerusalem to live; they were pilgrims and would soon need to return to their faraway homelands. How were they to practise and preach their newfound faith? How were they to defend it? How were they to explain their faith that a recently crucified man whom most of them had never met had in fact returned from the dead and was in fact the long-awaited Messiah of Israel? How were they to withstand all the scoffing and hard questions which anyone accepting such apparently impossible claims must face and answer? 4

In short, all Jewish Christians from the beginning stood in dire need of a written summary of the Life and teachings of Jesus. While it is certain that literate disciples had kept notes of His words, actions and sermons, the fact


remains that Jesus had not written or dictated any formal Gospel. Instead He had simply chosen His Twelve, solemnly placed Simon of Bethsaida at their head with the new title of Kepha (Aramaic for ‘Rock’), and invested them with His own priestly, teaching and ruling power over his Church.* 5

During His public life, to ensure that they learned their Gospel properly, Jesus had sent his Apostles out in pairs on practice missions to preach it. These practice missions ensured that, by sheer repetition in preaching, teaching and answering questions, the Apostles quickly standardised their accounts and His essential teaching word perfect. In these very first years the Apostles may have wished to conform to the rabbinical precept to ‘Put nothing in writing’. (All the leading rabbis such as Hillel, Gamaliel and Shammai had followed this precept, and gloried in possessing all their learning in their memory alone.) In the wake of Pentecost however the demand for a written Gospel was soon too strong. In the first years after Pentecost the Apostles soon commissioned their ex-tax collector, Levi Matthew, to compose an official teaching summary of Jesus’ Life and Teaching: the Gospel according to St. Matthew. As the rabbis frowned upon writings on sacred matters in any language other than Hebrew, St. Matthew compiled his Gospel in Hebrew. His Gospel was written especially for Jews: it not only outlined the Life and teachings of our Lord, it also contained many quotations from the Scriptures (now called the Old Testament) showing how Jesus had fulfilled all the prophecies by which the true Messiah was to be recognised. Within a few years the Apostles had instituted the Diaconate, i.e. ‘Deacons’ (Greek diakonos: ‘minister’) for looking after the community’s material affairs. Deacons were also ordained to preach and baptise. Perhaps it was for their training and preaching needs that St. Matthew had first written. By 37 at the latest, in the wake of the Jewish persecution which followed the martyrdom of the Deacon St. Stephen (26 December, 36), St. Matthew was commissioned for formal use in the Nazarene churches being founded in the Jewish diaspora.* 6

St. Matthew’s Gospel was entrusted by the Apostles only to priests and deacons for use in preaching and at assemblies for offering the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was the first book officially for use in the Church’s liturgy. (For centuries the words of the holy Sacrifice itself were too sacred to be written at all. Only some five centuries later were they first fully committed to writing.) Certainly St. Matthew, like all the rest of the Church’s official teaching documents, was for centuries kept as utterly sacred, and was never meant to be published or sold like a common book. 7

In these earliest years the Apostles’ preaching was directed solely to those who were already familiar with the Old Testament scriptures and the Messianic promise. At this time their message was to the worldwide diaspora of the Jews and to such groups as the Samaritans and the Essenes. Indeed for the first twelve years after that first Pentecost Sunday, the Apostles concentrated their missionary efforts in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.*

1 8

The original Hebrew text of St. Matthew has been lost. In the mid second century a missionary named St. Pantaenus reported sighting a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew’s Gospel in India. In the fourth century St. Jerome saw a version of this Hebrew Gospel in the library at Caesarea in Palestine.* 9

Another work of these first years was the other Apostolic Gospel: the Gospel according to St. John. Unlike St. Matthew which was composed for ‘public’ use at Mass, however, this Gospel was originally composed for the followers of St. John the Baptist and for members of the Jewish priesthood. Its first readers were men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. These were each a priestly ‘leader in Israel’, already well-versed in Jewish Scripture and priestly orthodoxy. Like the followers of the Baptist these priests were the best of Jews: they sincerely awaited the Messiah. They needed however to be shown how their Jewish priesthood had been superseded by that of Jesus Christ. They were simply not yet fully convinced that Jesus was not only that Messiah but also was in Himself divine. As late as 54 in faraway Ephesus, individuals and groups were still being found who ‘knew only the baptism of John’. This Gospel was originally written for such as these: not for teaching already convinced believers, but ‘that you may believe’. 10

Unlike St. Matthew who focussed on Jesus as the Messiah, St. John emphasised His full divinity from eternity yet His full humanity in time. St. John also records His full teaching on His real Presence in the Eucharist and His formal institution, after His Resurrection, of the Sacrament of Penance. No doubt this Gospel was quickly found especially useful in the preparation of Christian priests. St. John’s heavily Semitic Greek indicates that this Gospel was translated from a Hebrew original. Indeed some Greek manuscripts contain variant readings which are readily explained as different translations of the same Hebrew expression. Because of its original special purpose for special groups, St. John did not come into ‘public’ use until 50 when its use at Mass was authorised by that year’s Council of the Apostles at Jerusalem. 11

These ‘Nazarenes’ continued to practise as Jews. As special leader in their efforts for the evangelisation of the Jews, the Apostles recognised Jacob bar Hilfai (James son of Alphaeus). This St. James was the ‘brother’ (cousin) of our Lord. Also called St. James the Lesser (to distinguish him from Jacob bar Zibdai, St. James the Greater, St. John’s brother), this St. James remained to head the church in Jerusalem. Leading a life of unremitting prayer in the Temple for his people, St. James scrupulously observed the full Mosaic Law of the Jews. According to traditions, St. James, at the time of his martyrdom in 62, was 89 years old. This ‘brother of the Lord’ had therefore been born about 26 BC, before our Lady herself had even been born!* 12

This St. James was the author of the Epistle of St. James. This ‘epistle’ (formal letter) was written in the first two decades when the Church’s missions were concentrated almost exclusively on the Jews. More than any


other epistle it is filled with reminders of the Sermon on the Mount. (Was it written to accompany St. Matthew?) It was written to be circulated among Christian Jews addressed as the Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion. Never does it even suggest any non-Jewish presence, let alone any of the tensions with ex-pagan Christians which arose after St. Paul completed his first Mission to the Gentiles in 48. The dangers which St. James warns against come not from heretics or pagans or Jews or the government but from the rich. 13

Yet even in these earliest years St. James took it for granted that even faraway Christian Jews could resort, if sick, to elders of the Church. These are able to ‘anoint him with oil and pray over him so that if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.’ An oil for forgiving sins? Clearly these ‘elders’ have power from God. These elders are priests administering a sacrament. In the first centuries the Church’s sacraments were mainly known as the ‘sacred mysteries’ (Greek: mysterion, Latin: mysterium, plural: mysteria). As the sacraments derive their powers from the solemn pledge given by Jesus to His apostles as His priests, and are backed by His power as God, the Greek mysterium was also known in Latin as a sacramentum. In pagan Latin a ‘sacramentum’ was a solemn oath or pledge of loyalty taken and annually renewed by the army’s legionaries to their commander, the Emperor. Similarly every Easter Christians solemnly took or renewed their sacramentum to Christ. Thus the sacramentum to His Church given by Christ on his Cross on Good Friday (and indeed as re-presented every Sunday) receives in return the sacramentum of His followers to Christ on Easter Sunday (and indeed every Sunday). 14

With its teaching that ‘faith without works is dead’, the Epistle of St. James has long been a vital counterweight against misuse of St. Paul’s teaching on the primacy of faith over ‘works’ (observances). This however had not been St. James’ original purpose in writing. The works spoken of by St. James were not the compulsory Jewish observances guarded against by St. Paul but the practical Christian virtues. St. James and St. Paul viewed the virtue of faith as vital to two quite distinct critical transitions in a Christian’s life: his first conversion and his death. While St. Paul looked to the faith needed for the transition from the death of sin to the life of grace, St. James looked to that faith which is proved by the good works it produces. St. Paul addressed every man; St. James addressed the Christian. 15

One should also note St. James’ use of the word synagogue (‘meeting’) for the church assembly. Note also the liturgical context of his concern: the rich should not be permitted to divide the Christian synagogue with their privileges. Nowhere in St. James is there any suggestion of a Gentile presence. In fact there is nothing in this epistle which goes beyond the first fifteen chapters of Acts (i.e. the period between 30 and 50). St. James seems to be addressing the Jewish Christians dispersed by and suffering from the persecutions which followed the martyrdom of St. Stephen in 36. This epistle seems therefore to have been written in the late 30’s or the early 40’s.


From this epistle we may further infer that some of those learned and pious Jewish pilgrims baptised after their conversion on that first Pentecost Sunday were ordained as elders by the Apostles. For their return to their faraway homelands, perhaps they were already armed with a Hebrew St. Matthew. However they were begun, organised and led, these churches formed the Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion addressed by St. James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem. 16

The Greek of St. James is of good quality. Close contacts have been noticed between this epistle and I St. Peter which was written in early 64. It was quickly appreciated as a useful corrective to St. Paul’s easily misunderstood and often misused teaching on the primacy of faith over works. Its formal reception in Rome seems therefore to have taken place in the period after the martyrdom of St. James in Jerusalem in 62 and before that of Saints Peter and Paul in 67. 17 In the autumn of 36 Pontius Pilate was abruptly recalled to Rome. Taking advantage of the absence of the Roman governor, the Jewish Temple authorities, on 26 December 36, inflicted the death sentence upon the deacon St. Stephen. A general persecution and scattering of the ‘Nazarenes’ followed. Protected by the popular awe at their healing miracles, the Apostles were still able to remain in Jerusalem. No doubt they began to develop security methods and perhaps, as had Jesus Himself, been regularly hosted by wealthier disciples in nearby villas or villages. Their ordinary followers were however not so protected. The likes of Saul of Tarsus were hounding them and hunting them down. These had to flee from Jerusalem. It was for their new churches that the Apostles in 37 had commissioned the formal ‘publication’ of St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel.* 18

In the shadow of this first Jewish persecution the Church’s first great missionary began his work: St. Philip the Deacon (called this to distinguish him from St. Philip the Apostle). This St. Philip evangelised first the town of Samaria, then the coastal towns of Gaza and Joppa and finally Caesarea where he stopped and settled. Here he could be under the protection of the Roman Procurator and could provide a base for disciples travelling between Jerusalem and overseas. St. Philip’s baptisms were followed up by St. Peter coming to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. Thus in Samaria St. Peter and St. John ‘prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet He had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When they laid hands on them they received the Holy Spirit.’ Rebuilt and renamed Sebaste by Herod the Great, the city of Samaria was the burial place not only of the prophet Eliseus (Elisha) but also of St. John the Baptist. Here would have been living the Baptist’s most devout followers. These would have been prime subjects for hearing not only St. Matthew’s but also St. John’s Gospel. 19

In the late 30’s St. Peter came to the town of Lydda. On the coast ten miles northwest from Lydda stood the port of Joppa (modern Jaffa). In the episode of the widow named Tabitha being raised from the dead at Joppa by St. Peter we glimpse how the Church’s charities were already being


conducted systematically by voluntary helpers organised in prayer households of ‘widows’. They were formally organised and St. Paul was later to list the qualifications necessary for a woman to be eligible for ‘enrolment’. Thus already by 40 A.D. groups of virgins and widows were already living in organised communities of prayer and charitable works, communities indistinguishable in all essentials from convents of nuns. The original model for these ‘convents’ is of course to be found in the group of ladies who accompanied our Lady and attended to the material needs of our Lord and His Apostles.* 20

By the end of the 30’s the time arrived for a firm Apostolic lead on the inevitable problem of missions to the Gentiles. The way had been prepared with the baptism of an Ethiopian official by St. Philip the Deacon. Indeed he was living in Caesarea at the time. In 40 however it was St. Peter himself who, by a special divine intervention, was brought to Caesarea personally to baptise the Centurion Cornelius as the first official convert from paganism. The Church in Jerusalem was disturbed by this. All could foresee the harsh implications. On his return to Jerusalem however St. Peter was able to win over to acceptance, at least in theory, of the coming Gentile missions, by all who fully accepted his authority. 21

After this baptism of the first Gentile at Caesarea in 40, it was only a matter of time before the Apostles would be forced to flee Jerusalem. At this time the Jewish authorities were preoccupied with forestalling the plans of the mad Emperor Gaius Caligula (who had succeeded Tiberius in 37) to have his statue erected in the Temple. Present in Rome in 40 as an eloquent speaker for the Jews was the Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Agrippa I. On 25 January 41, Caligula was assassinated. In the ensuing chaos, soldiers wandering in the palace found his uncle Claudius trying to hide. Jokingly they proclaimed him Emperor. Taking the joke seriously, his friend Herod Agrippa went to the Senate to propose, with brilliant eloquence and success, that Claudius be proclaimed as Emperor. For his vital assistance in securing Claudius the throne, Herod Agrippa I was rewarded by being made King of Judaea and Samaria, and indeed of all the territories formerly ruled by Herod the Great. With a Jewish King coming to Palestine, the Apostles at last were forced to begin in earnest their worldwide missionary journeys.* Notes Chapter 1 1 Pagan temples had almost never provided space for a congregation. Pagans gathered and conducted their worship in front of their god’s temple. As each Jewish synagogue was ruled by ‘elders’ (Greek presbyteroi), the Church borrowed this title for her priests. 4

The Aramaic word Kepha meaning ‘Rock’ was at first transliterated for Greeks as ‘Cephas’ ; it was then translated into Greek as ‘Petros’ from which it came into Latin as ‘Petrus’ and finally to our ‘Peter’ in English. 5

For the date of the composition of St. Matthew, the Church Fathers Theophylactus and Euphemius hold for the 8th year after the Ascension (i.e. 37);


Nicephorus and the Chronicle of Alexandria, the 15th, i.e. 44. These commemorate the years of the publication of the Hebrew Gospel in 37 and its Greek translation in 44. 7

That the Apostles remained 12 years in Jerusalem by our Lord’s command is found in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromata VI, 5, 43, and Apollonius (apud Euseb. H.E. V, 18, 14). 8

In the first century BC a Greek captain named Hippalos had discovered how to use the monsoon winds of the Arabian Sea for travelling directly across the Indian Ocean between southern Arabia and southern India. By the first century AD a trading fleet of some 120 ships was setting out every July from Egypt’s Red Sea port of Berenice to sail down the Red Sea to southern Arabia and thence on the summer monsoon to India. In November this fleet did the return journey on the winds of the winter monsoon. The Emperor Claudius received envoys from Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka). Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman trading settlement close by the southernmost tip of India. These trading fleets carried not only Christian missionaries to India but also Hindu missionaries from India to Egypt and the Roman Empire (where they were known as gymnosophistae, ‘naked philosophers’). Hindu ideas contributed greatly to the rise of second century Gnosticism. St. Jerome made a translation of the Hebrew text of St. Matthew which he had found in Caesarea. He then realised the manuscript had been adapted by a Jewish Christian sect to suit their own beliefs. 11

The Chronicon Alexandrinum (c. 630) says that St. Peter enthroned the new bishop, prior to his departure for Rome. The first Roman Martyrologies fixed 27 December as the feast of the Ordination of St. James by the Apostles. 17

On St. Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin, it has been remarked that ‘St. Stephen’s … mass of historical details…even the obscurity of his wording…testify plainly that no changes have been made to the Deacon’s speech. …In every trial at law, the secretaries of the Sanhedrin took down the words of the accused very exactly…It is their work we have before our eyes.’ (Fouard, p. 69) 19

The seaside town of Joppa (today Jaffa) takes from its beautiful hillside location its Hebrew name: Yapho, ‘Joy’s Watchtower’. According to the Romans Pomponius Mela (de Situ Orbis, I, 12) and Pliny (Historia Naturalis, v, 14), Joppa had been originally founded before the Deluge. It was also from Joppa that Jonah had sailed to escape having to evangelise Nineveh, the ‘Babylon’ of his day. As his work as a tanner needed a plentiful supply of water nearby, Simon the tanner lived by the sea. Entailing as it did much dirty working with animal carcases, tanning was for Jews a ritually impure work. Their regulations banished tanneries to ‘at least fifty cubits’ outside town limits. As had our Lord, St. Peter seems to have preferred to live ‘out of town’. 21

Brought up at the Court of Tiberius, Herod Agrippa I had led a disordered life until an idle remark caused him to be thrown into prison by Tiberius shortly before the latter’s death on 17 March 37. He was then promptly released by his former companion in debauchery, his mad friend Caligula. This new Emperor gave him the Tetrarchy of Philip, then that of Lysanias, with the title of king. In 39 Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee who in 29 had beheaded St. John the Baptist, was exiled to the Pyrenees in southern Gaul and his Tetrarchy passed to Herod Agrippa I.


Many early Martyrologies set down a feast of the Separation of the Apostles for the 15th July. As a formal occasion, this farewell would have taken place in 41.



Jerusalem, 30 to 40 AD


1:1 – 9:43

St. Peter formally reinstated

Sunday 7 May 30

The Ascension

Thursday 18 May 30

1: 1 – 11

The Replacement of Judas

Sunday 21 May 30

1:12 – 26

Pentecost Sunday

Sunday 28 May 30

2:1 – 41

Earliest Days in Jerusalem

St. John, 21

30 – 36

First conflict with the Sanhedrin

2:42 – 47 3:1 – 4:31

Community Life in Jerusalem

4:32 – 37

Death of Ananias and Sappphira

5:1 – 11

Prestige of the Apostles

5:12 – 16

Second conflict with the Sanhedrin

5:17 – 42

The ordination of the first Deacons

6:1 – 7

Martyrdom of St. Stephen

6:8 – 7:60

First general persecution

26 December 36 37

8:1 – 4

Gospel according to St. Matthew (in Hebrew) is commissioned Conversion of Saul St. Philip the Deacon

25 January 37

9:1 – 30

37 – 39

8:5 – 40

St. Peter in Lydda and Joppa

9:31 – 43 37 – 49

St. James writes his Epistle to ‘the twelve tribes of the Dispersion’


Silver denarius coin of the Emperor Tiberius (14 - 37). Around his portrait we read TI(berius) CAESAR DIVI AVG(usti) F(ilius) AVGVSTVS. Such a coin was presented to our Lord in St. Luke 20:24. Divi Augusti Filius (‘Son of the divinised Augustus.’) If a newly deceased Emperor had been popular, it was customary for the Senate to authorise that he be granted the status of a god. With the exceptions of Caligula, Nero and Domitian, all the longer-lived Emperors of the first century A.D. were voted divine honours after their deaths. (Famous for his wry humour, Vespasian is reputed to have said as his last words on his deathbed in 79: ‘Puto deus fio,’ ‘I think I’m becoming a god.’) On the reverse of this coin we see Tiberius’ mother, Livia (as Ceres, the goddess of crops), and read PONTIF(ex) MAXIM(us): Chief Priest (of the Roman state cult).

Coin of Herod Agrippa I. Its inscription (partly faded) reads (ΒΑΣΙ)ΛΕVΣ AΓ(PI Π ΠA) ‘(basi)leus Ag(rippa)’ ‘King Agrippa’). The reverse shows his son (Herod Agrippa II) riding on a horse, with the inscription: AΓ PI Π ΠA YIOV ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ (‘Agrippa son King’). The letters LB mean that this coin was minted in King Agrippa’s second (B) year, ie. in 42 A.D. (L indicates that what follows is a number.) (Numbers were indicated by letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus 1,2,3,4,5 were indicated by the first five letters of the Greek alphabet (A, B, Γ, Δ, Ε pronounced Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon).)


Eastern Missions of St. Peter, 44 – 45, 50 – 56

cities al












t Tarsus (Travel from Antioch into Asia Minor was via the ‘Cilician Gates,’ a pass cut through the Taurus mountains north of Tarsus.) provinces A










Seas Aeg.s

Aegean Sea



St. Peter’s Missions, 40 to 56 A.D.


Upon his arrival in his new kingdom, Herod Agrippa I quickly launched against the ‘Nazarenes’ a persecution which was to last until his sudden death in early 44. This second Jewish persecution caused all the Apostles, except St. James, to leave Jerusalem and to begin in earnest their systematic missionary journeys. These three years of King Herod Agrippa saw the formal founding of the churches of Rome (in 42 by St. Peter), Alexandria (in 43 by St. Mark), and Antioch (late in 44 by St. Peter). 2

Now only one Apostle was able to remain in Jerusalem: St. James the Lesser. Famous for the scrupulous strictness of his observance of the Mosaic Law, St. James was in the Temple every day for the next twenty years, on his knees praying for hours on end – for this he was known as ‘camel knees’ – for the conversion of his people and for God’s forgiveness of their sins. The most notable victim of the new King’s persecution was St. James the Greater who, in early 42, was beheaded. 3

St. Peter himself was Herod’s intended next victim. He arrested St. Peter and intended to try and execute him after the Passover of 42. St. Luke’s Acts tells us how, on the eve of his trial, St. Peter was miraculously delivered from prison. Then, abruptly, ‘he left and went to another place.’ St. Peter disappears. St. Peter had dominated the first twelve chapters of Acts but from now on, except for a brief appearance at the Council in Jerusalem, we read in Acts nothing more about him. 4

St. Peter’s whereabouts were henceforth concealed because he was a prison escapee. Throughout the Empire the Roman government, as well as the Jewish authorities, had many spies and potential informers. As a prison escapee, with the Jewish leaders wanting him dead, and lacking the rights of Roman citizenship which were later to protect St. Paul, St. Peter was forced henceforth to keep his whereabouts a careful secret. But where was this ‘another place’? 5

This ‘another place’ was Rome. St. Peter arrived in Rome on 21 May 42. ‘Visitors from Rome’ had been converted on that first Pentecost Sunday in Jerusalem, so there were plenty of disciples there to welcome St. Peter and his companions when they arrived in Rome. At the head of these disciples welcoming St. Peter in Rome stood St. Barnabas. In 41 when the news had first arrived in Jerusalem that the Roman government in Judaea was to be replaced by a Jewish king, St. Peter knew that life in Jerusalem from now on would be too dangerous for him. He therefore sent St. Barnabas to Rome to prepare the way for his own coming.* 6

According to the early Church Fathers St. Justin, Tertullian and St. Hippolytus, soon after his arrival in Rome, St. Peter had to deal with Simon Magus (Simon the Magician). A man who seeks to control or command the powers of demons is known as a magus, or magician. Another magician, one Elymas Magus, a


power-seeking Jewish magician among the attendants of Sergius Paulus, the Proconsul of Cyprus, was to be worsted by St. Paul in 45. Likewise Simon Magus had gone to Rome in pursuit of power at the imperial court itself. Certainly St. Peter would have been horrified at the thought of this heretic – this Simon had been baptised! – grossly misrepresenting the Faith at the court of the Emperor in Rome itself! On his arrival in Rome, one of St. Peter’s first tasks, it seems, was to deal with Simon Magus. This magician was seeking to overawe the Emperor’s court with demonstrations of his command over the powers of evil spirits. It is difficult for us today to grasp how much pagan life was – and is! – plagued by evil spirits. (Just witness a Chinese New Year procession!) Because he knew how important to pagans was the Christian offer of freedom from this age-old bondage and terror which had gripped hitherto helpless mankind, St. Peter in his preaching (as preserved in the Gospel by his secretary, St. Mark) emphasised our Lord’s power over evil spirits. St. Justin tells us that finally Simon Magus arranged to give a demonstration of his command over the powers of demons by having them carry him flying through the sky in the full view of the Emperor and his court. St. Peter’s prayer as he stood in the watching crowd caused Simon Magus to come crashing ignominiously to the ground where he broke his legs. (The problem of Simon Magus was finally solved by Simon himself. With the promise that he would rise again on the third day, he had himself buried alive.)* 7

St. Peter quickly set about preaching to the Jews in their twelve synagogues in Rome. Among his Jewish converts in Rome were the wealthily endowed couple Aquila of Pontus and his wife Prisca (or Priscilla). Today’s church of Sta. Prisca on Rome’s Aventine hill rests on the site of the housechurch of Aquila and Prisca. Due perhaps to the dignity of its chief guest, this church headed the list of those later greeted by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans.* 8

With the aid of influential converts like perhaps the Centurion Cornelius and later (after 45) the Proconsul Sergius Paulus, St. Peter was soon able to preach to pagans. What an awesome experience it must have been to hear the Prince of the Apostles preaching there in Rome! How moving it must have been to hear him weeping as he offered the Holy Sacrifice and remembered yet again how he had denied his Master after that Last Supper before His Sacrifice! There is a tradition that St. Peter’s cheeks became permanently marked from the constant tears that he wept since that night when, as St. Mark put it, ‘he began to weep’. It is a measure of St. Peter’s authority over all four evangelists that he was able to ensure that all four recorded, and in detail, this story of his humiliation. To judge from the ‘huge multitude’ of Christians afterwards martyred by Nero, it is clear that thousands upon thousands of Romans were converted by St. Peter. 9 Among St. Peter’s non-Jewish converts, among the highest ranking was the Roman matron Pomponia Graecina. In 43 Pomponia’s husband, Aulus Plautius, had led the Roman invasion of Britain. In 47 the triumphant


general returned home to find his wife in apparently continual mourning. The ostensible cause of this mourning was the untimely death of her friend Julia (the daughter of Drusus) who, in 43, had fallen victim to the jealousy of Messalina, the Emperor’s wife. Pomponia’s ‘mourning’ however continued until (the historian Tacitus tells us) 57 when she was tried for her strange behaviour by a court composed, according to ancient patrician tradition, of her husband and family. Pomponia was acquitted by her family but her ‘mourning’ continued until her death in 83, some forty years after it had begun. She is probably the Roman matron who, under the Christian name of Perpetua, especially devoted herself to the burial of the martyrs and is today commemorated on 4 August. (Certainly Pomponius Graecinus, Pomponia’s grand nephew, was a Christian. His second century tombstone was found in the crypts of Lucina, the oldest parts of the catacomb of St. Callixtus.)* 10

Through Prisca and Aquila St. Peter was also introduced to the noble family of Cornelius Pudens. The early conversion of certain wealthy citizens like these helped to shelter the Church from popular curiosity. For example, as it was customary every morning for hundreds of ‘clients’ to gather outside the often vast residences of leading Roman citizens to salute their lords, if hundreds of Christians coming for Mass gathered in like manner, no none would have noticed. Even more available for use as churches were the burial parks which noble families possessed around the outskirts of the city. Besides the tombs, these burial parks enclosed many buildings – lodges for the keepers, large halls for festivals and sacrifices, cellars, wells and long galleries; further away were gardens and shady avenues, with orchards and vineyards. If not only on the feast days of the dead but also on oft-recurring anniversaries, these places had hundreds of visitors, no one would have needed notice anything unusual. Thus from almost the outset certain wealthy citizens were receiving their poorer fellow Christians in their private funeral parks. North east of the city, not far from the Praetorian Barracks, between the Via Salaria and the Via Nomentana, lay the ‘Great Cemetery’, the earliest of the Christian burial parks. Belonging to an unknown rich benefactor and later called the Ostrian Cemetery, it was also known as ‘the cemetery of the waters wherein Peter baptised’. In the Ostrian cemetery later was venerated the ‘First Chair occupied by Peter’. The fashion of travelling in chairs carried by bearers was introduced during Claudius’ reign. Short distance travel by such means would have assisted St. Peter in his need to preserve secrecy. Soon, by the Via Salaria and within property belonging to the Senator Pudens were begun the ‘catacombs of Priscilla’. Meanwhile, beside the Via Appia, the ‘crypt of Lucina’ was set apart from the burial ground of the Pomponia family. Later in the first century, on the Via Ardeatina, a daughter of the Flavians named Domitilla was soon to dedicate the funeral park over the catacombs that bear her name.* 11

This period – 41 to 44 – of the persecution by King Herod Agrippa I was one of vital importance in the history of the Apostolic Church. It saw not


only the foundations of the great Apostolic churches of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch but also the writing of the Gospels by St. Mark and St. Luke and the translation of St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel into Greek. Because of their many similarities to one another, these three Gospels are called the ‘synoptic’ (‘one view’) Gospels. 12

To ensure that the Gospel taught in each new church remained exactly the same as that being taught in Jerusalem, each travelling Apostle had always needed a written Gospel to leave with each new church he founded. At first St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel sufficed for such ‘Nazarene’ churches as those we know of in Samaria, Damascus, Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. According to traditions, most of the Apostles travelled eastwards, outside the Roman Empire. These seem to have concentrated their efforts on members of the Jewish diaspora. St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel would have remained sufficient for their purposes.* 13

Inside the eastern Roman Empire, however, Gospels in Greek were very soon needed. In 40 came the first Gospel in Greek, the Gospel according to St. Mark. From all the traditional accounts of how this Gospel first came to be written, it is clear that requests for a written record had been made to St. Mark not by St. Peter but by his hearers after St. Peter himself had departed elsewhere. The definite need for a Gospel in Greek existed from the time of Cornelius’ conversion. At the request of Cornelius and the new church in Caesarea, but after St. Peter had returned to Jerusalem, St. Mark first wrote his summary of St. Peter’s preaching. When he heard afterwards that his secretary had written in Greek a summary of his preaching, St. Peter had, at first, neither approved nor disapproved. St. Mark had written not a formal Gospel but rather a collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances. Many of the remembered episodes ended with a remark on the amazement of witnesses. For this reason this ‘Gospel’ originally had ended abruptly (at 16:8) with how, after the Resurrection, the women ‘said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid’.* 14

Only later, in 42, when he departed from Caesarea for Rome, did St. Peter approve St. Mark’s work for use as a Gospel. In 43 St. Mark was sent by St. Peter from Rome to found a church at Alexandria in Egypt. Thus in 42, and certainly by 43, St. Mark’s Gospel had acquired official status. It could now be copied and multiplied for use in the Greek-speaking churches being founded in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. (A copy even found its way to the Essene settlement at Qumran in the wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.)* 15

St. Mark did not remain long in Alexandria, but he remained the Apostolic episcopos (‘supervisor’) of that church until 62 when he was succeeded by St. Anianus, the city’s first resident bishop. In that year he returned to Rome where, along with St. Luke, he assisted St. Peter and St. Paul with finalising the New Testament scriptures and until their martyrdom. Because of the abrupt and unsatisfactory ending of his collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances, St. Mark later (with St. Luke’s assistance, possibly at


Antioch in 44/45 but more probably in Rome between 62 and 66) added what are now verses 16: 9 – 20. Many copies of his Gospel however were already in use and the churches which owned these copies often refused to accept the addition.* 16

As a Gospel for ex-pagans, however, St. Mark’s work was not fully adequate. It was only a stop-gap. Quite apart from its abrupt ending, it was too brief on our Lord’s teachings, crude in its Greek and full of Hebraisms and even Latinisms. It also took familiarity with Palestinian conditions too much for granted. It was in Antioch that the solution for this problem was quickly found. In 43 Saul was sought out in Tarsus by St. Barnabas and brought to Antioch. There they worked ‘for a whole year’ teaching this city’s rapidly expanding congregations of ex-pagan Christians. It was during this period (43 and 44) that St. Paul and the Antiochene church were confronted by the whole problem of the liturgical and teaching needs of ex-pagan Christians. How was our Lord’s Life and Gospel to be taught to people who knew nothing about Israel, its long history and expectations of a Saviour? Part of the answer, completed by late 44, was the Gospel according to St. Luke. 17

In 44, when he was compiling his Gospel in preparation for St. Paul’s first Mission to the Gentiles, St. Luke used St. Mark’s work as the source for the bulk of his material. The translator of St. Matthew’s Gospel into Greek, too, was working at this time, probably in Jerusalem, among the elders attending St. James. He too seems to have done his translation using St. Mark’s Remembrances. Certainly St. Luke knew of other work besides that of St. Mark, and that ‘many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events which have taken place among us…’ He knew of St. Matthew’s Gospel but did not use it as it had not yet been translated from the Hebrew. 18

Thus by 45 was completed St. Luke, the last of the three synoptic Gospels. While St. Matthew had written for the Jews on how Jesus was their Messiah, and St. Mark had written a summary of St. Peter’s teaching at Caesarea on Jesus as the all-powerful Son of God, St. Luke presented the Jesus of history whom St. Paul was preparing to preach to the Gentiles as the Saviour of all mankind. 19

After the sudden death of King Herod Agrippa I at Caesarea in the spring of 44, Judaea came once again under the rule of a Roman Procurator. Later in that year therefore St. Peter was able to return from Rome to Jerusalem. (The need for a more suitable Gospel for his church in Rome too must have been on his mind. This then seems the most likely occasion for his commissioning of the translation of St. Matthew’s Gospel into Greek.) Here, late in 44, with St. John and St. James the Lesser, he was visited by Saul and St. Barnabas.* 20

Saul and St. Barnabas had come with money collected from the church in Antioch for the Christian poor in Jerusalem. The famine foretold by the Christian prophet Agabus had begun. The crops of 44 had failed (as they were again to fail in 45, 46 and 47). Money was desperately needed in order


to buy wheat from Egypt. Saul brought the ex-pagan St. Titus with him. In Jerusalem he laid before the Apostles his plans for the evangelisation of the Gentiles, using the Gospel compiled by St. Luke: ‘and I brought with me the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles’. The Jerusalem Apostles approved St. Luke’s Gospel and Saul’s missionary plans. ‘So James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.’ St. Peter also gave leave for St. Mark to accompany his cousin St. Barnabas and Saul back to Antioch for preparations. This division of missionary fields was to be only temporary. After the Council held by the Apostles in Jerusalem in 50, it was abandoned in favour of a division which was territorial only. The congregations addressed in I St. Peter were clearly composed of ex-pagans. 21

In the winter of 44/45 St. Peter himself came to Antioch. This was the occasion of the famous rebuke of St. Peter by Saul. When he first arrived in Antioch, St. Peter had mixed and dined freely with the ex-pagans. When some Jewish Christians arrived in Antioch from Jerusalem however, St. Peter, to avoid offending them, returned to dining only with the Jewish Christians. He was thus effectively returning to treating the expagans as second-class Christians. This was tantamount to going back to the practice of the synagogue with its second-class Jews (the proselytes and ‘God-fearers’)! Seeing the full implications, Saul was horrified and confronted St. Peter over his scandal ‘to his face’. Coming from the Prince of the Apostles himself, such an example of reversion to Jewish exclusivist ways could only cause grave scandal and confusion among the ex-pagan Christians.* 22

This visit of St. Peter to Antioch in 44/45 was the occasion for the definitive founding of the church of Antioch. Saul and St. Barnabas had worked as teachers at Antioch ‘for a whole year’ before St. Peter’s visit, but the church at Antioch has always regarded St. Peter as their Founder and first Bishop. If this seems unfair to St. Paul, we should remember the liturgical, sacramental and indeed Eucharistic nature of a church. A city’s church is established not when its first Christians arrive or even when they first gather to pray: a city’s church is founded when the holy Sacrifice and Christ’s Eucharistic Presence and hierarchical priesthood are all formally and permanently established in that city. 23

Only on the eve of his departure in 45 on his first Mission was Saul, along with St. Barnabas, consecrated with full episcopal powers as a missionary bishop. Until then, St. Paul’s status was similar to that of the deacons St. Stephen or St. Philip. He could preach, teach and baptise, but he could not confirm or ordain. From now on he was a full Apostle, a full Bishop with full priestly and episcopal powers as a successor of the Apostles. St. Peter was there as the presiding Bishop at Antioch when in the spring of 45 ‘after fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them, then sent them off.’ 24

St. Peter soon returned from Antioch to Rome where he continued his work of evangelisation. In 49 however the riots of the Jews against his


preaching caused him to be expelled from the city. In that year the Emperor Claudius himself had ordered that, because of their chronic riots ‘at the instigation of a Chrestus’ all Jews be expelled from Rome. Many poorer Jews were eventually allowed to stay, but all their synagogues were closed. Also expelled along with St. Peter were Aquila and Prisca. These travelled to Corinth where they stopped and settled. St. Peter himself continued on to Jerusalem. St. Peter’s passing visit in 49 seems to have been the occasion for the formal founding of the church in Corinth. As with Antioch, and for the same reasons, the Corinthian church always remembered St. Peter (rather than St. Paul) as its founder. No doubt the home of Prisca and Aquila hosted this first and chief church in Corinth.* 25

It seems that in his absence St. Peter left in charge in Rome one St. Linus. Traditionally St. Peter’s first Successor, this St. Linus was not a Jew but an Italian from Tuscany. Henceforth the church in Rome was mostly nonJewish. 26

St. Peter’s absence from Rome was to last seven years. In 50, after the Council in Jerusalem, he travelled north to Antioch. He then used this city as his base for the evangelisation of cities in ‘Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia’. As with St. Philip the deacon in Samaria and along the coastal plain of Palestine, the first evangelisation of towns in these provinces was carried out by teams of disciples led by a deacon who preached, instructed and baptised. These missionary deacons were then soon followed up by St. Peter to administer Confirmation and to ordain ‘elders’. If we assign a year as having been dedicated to the evangelisation of towns in a particular province, then it seems that Pontus was evangelised by his deacons in 50 with St. Peter confirming in 51. Similarly St. Peter came to Galatia in 52, Cappadocia in 53, Asia in 54, and finally Bithynia in 55.* 27

It seems that St. Peter had ordered St. Paul not to evangelise in these regions. Early in his second Mission (that of 50 to 53), after revisiting his foundations in southern Galatia, St. Paul found himself ‘forbidden by the Holy Spirit’ and ‘the spirit of Jesus’ from evangelising in the provinces of either Asia or Bithynia. Instead he crossed over the northern Aegean Sea to evangelise in Macedonia and Greece. 28

On 13 October 54 Claudius died and was succeeded as Emperor by Nero. It had become customary for a new Emperor to win popularity by revoking the less popular edicts of his predecessor. In 55 St. Peter came to Corinth to await news on the revocation of the expulsion edict of 49. This edict was revoked in due course, and that autumn or in the spring of 56 St. Peter returned to Rome. 29

Upon his arrival back in Rome St. Peter returned to his work of evangelising the city. He also sent out disciples to evangelise other cities of Italy. Thus was St. Paulinus the first episcopos of Luca (Lucca), St. Romulus of Faesulae (Fiesole), and St. Apollinaris of Ravenna. All these were disciples


of St. Peter. The church in Mediolanum (Milan) claims St. Barnabas as having consecrated its first bishop, St. Anatelon, in 51. On landing at Puteoli (Pozzuoli) in 61, St. Paul found a church already there; the first bishop of that church was St. Patrobas whom he had saluted in his Epistle to the Romans. Truly remarkable further evidence of Christian evangelism in provincial Italy in St. Peter’s time has been found in Pompeii, a town hear Naples which was buried under volcanic ash from nearby Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. In Pompeii two examples of the famous ROTAS word square, scratched on walls, were found. It is proof that by 79 AD, the New Testament, or at least the ‘Our Father’ (Pater Noster) prayer had been translated into Latin, and that Christ as the Alpha and Omega of St. John’s Apocalypse (1:8, 21:6 & 22:13) was already known of in Italy.* 30

With the return of Jewish Christians to Rome after 55, frictions developed between these and the Gentile majority who were now looking upon their Jewish customs as Judaising innovations. St. Paul had many friends in Rome, and perhaps it was one of these, even St. Peter himself, who invited him to defend his fellow Jewish Christians by setting out his position in a systematic treatise. Thus St. Paul who in 49 in Galatians had vigorously attacked compulsory Jewish practices, in 58 in Romans now defended the tolerance of Jewish practices as long as they remained only voluntary. In 58 St. Peter received St. Paul’s mighty Epistle to the Romans. Prisca and Aquila had also returned to Rome and their names head the long list of Roman Christians greeted by St. Paul at the end of his letter. Perhaps his greeting to ‘the church that meets in their house’ was an indirect greeting to St. Peter, but St. Peter’s whereabouts, a careful secret since 42, remained secret in Romans. Nevertheless St. Paul still finds a way to address the head of the Church with a unique greeting: ‘All the churches of Christ salute you.’ 31

The house of Prisca and Aquila seems the most likely place of St. Peter’s residence in Rome. But they were not always living in Rome – Acts shows them living at Corinth and later at Ephesus – and many other Roman sites have traditional claims to have been visited or used by the Prince of the Apostles. (See ‘10’ above.) He himself seems to have preferred to live outside the city at a country estate called the Villa of the Acilii. Another such villa was that owned by the wealthy Cornelius Pudens and which was located a few miles out south east of the city on the Via Appia at a place called, after a small ravine in the area, ‘ad Catacumbas’ (‘The Hollows’). We glimpse this Pudens assisting St. Paul during his final captivity in 66. In the city his home stood on the wealthy street called the Vicus Patricius (‘Patrician Street’). Here today stands a church on its site dating from the time of St. Peter, the ‘Pudentian’ church (Sta Pudenziana).* 32

St. Paul had long wanted to come to Rome. In 50 in Jerusalem many matters of great importance had been decided. Since then however many more matters of greatest importance had arisen which needed to be attended to. St. Paul had also written his Epistle to the Romans as St. Peter’s return there had made a visit there possible. St. Peter alone could control the antiPauline faction of Jewish Christians at Rome.


But who was this Paul? He had not been one of the original Twelve. How had he come to be so important, and why, among most Jews, did he arouse such violent antipathies? Notes Chapter 2 5

According to St. Jerome (de Viris Illustribus, 1 & 11), St. Peter came to Rome ‘in the second year of Claudius’ i.e. in 42. The Liberian Liber Pontificalis gives St. Peter’s pontificate in Rome as having lasted ‘25 years, 1 month and 9 days’. This means, counting back from the date of his martyrdom on 29 June 67, that St. Peter arrived in Rome on 21 May 42. It has been suggested that St. Luke’s ‘to another place’ is a coded reference to Ezekiel 12:11. This refers to exile ‘to another place’ which verse 12:13 then identifies as Babylon. St. Peter and St. John both used ‘Babylon’ as a code for Rome. The tradition that St. Barnabas came to Rome in the year before St. Peter is found in the Datiana Historia (an 11th century chronicle of the diocese of Milan commissioned by Datius, the then Archbishop of Milan). After accurately relating the choice of him and St. Paul as apostles to the Gentiles ‘in the fourteenth year after Christ’s Passion’ (i.e. 44 AD), this account proceeds to state that ‘in the first year of Claudius’ St. Barnabas ‘took ship with some of his disciples to Rome, as one desiring to gaze upon the mistress of the whole world’. 6

We read of St. Peter’s worsting of Simon Magus in St. Justin Martyr’s I Apol. 16: 1 – 3. That Simon Magus encountered St. Peter in Rome is also attested to by St. Hippolytus of Rome in his Refutationes, 6:15. The account of Simon’s demise is found in the Philosophumena (of c. 225) Indeed the power of exorcising demons was claimed by many early Church apologists and Fathers as an infallible proof of the divine truth of the Christian religion. (e.g. Tertullian, Apologeticus 23; Justin Martyr, I Apol. 2,6; Minucius Felix, Octavius 27; Theophilus 2,8; Origen, Contra Celsum 7,67.) 7

In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey had captured Jerusalem and had led some of the Jewish royal family and their followers captive to Rome. Rome thenceforth had a most considerable Jewish community. Following the example of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar had regarded them highly, and Augustus granted them a special exemption from the normal obligations of the Empire’s subjects to partake in the Empire’s official state pagan cults. The wide variety of Roman districts where the Jews lived – the Porta Capena, the Campus Martius, the Trans Tiberim and the Suburra – shows that they were not in a ‘ghetto’ but were free to reside where they wished. 9

Upper class Christians normally kept their former names in public life and used their new baptismal names only in the Church. Because he could no longer, in conscience, perform the innumerable acts of pagan worship inevitable in Roman public life or attend at the cruel spectacles in the amphitheatre, the Christian aristocrat was forced to withdraw from public life. This and his persistence in a life of retirement were later to be recognised by the pagans as the surest signs that an aristocrat had become a Christian. 10

This portable ‘Chair of Peter’ is now venerated in the Vatican.


Acts 11:19 refers to Jewish Christian foundations in Phoenicia, Cyprus & Antioch.


The record (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 6, 14) that St. Mark wrote at the request of the equites Caesareani (‘Caesarean knights’) after the ‘departure’ (exodos) of St. Peter has


often been taken as meaning that he only wrote after the death of St. Peter and at the request of Caesarian knights in Rome. 14

Notes in the margins of many early Greek manuscripts of St. Mark assert that this Gospel was compiled in the ‘tenth’ (and some others in the ‘twelfth’) year after the Ascension, i.e. in or by 40 or 42. It is possible that St. Mark had simply translated his Gospel from an already existing set of Remembrances in Hebrew. Fr. Jean Carmignac, a Dead Sea Scrolls translator and an expert in the Hebrew in use in the time of Christ experimented to see what St. Mark would yield when translated back into the Hebrew of Qumran: ‘I was dumbfounded to discover that this translation was extremely easy. I was convinced that Mark was in reality only the Greek translation of an original Hebrew.’ He said that the Greek translator of St. Mark had ‘slavishly’ kept to the Hebrew word order and grammar. The Essenes had built their settlements in the wilderness like that at Qumran (discovered in 1947) specifically in response to the words of Isaiah quoted at the beginning of St. Mark. While all the writings found in all the other caves near their settlement were in Hebrew or Aramaic, ‘Cave 4’ and, directly above it, ‘Cave 7’, contained a total of 25 scraps of papyrus carrying Greek writing. The fifth largest scrap found in Cave 7 (called 7Q5) has been identified as bearing St. Mark 6:52 – 53. After its discovery (in 1955) but before it was deciphered (in 1972) this papyrus had been dated, on the grounds of its writing style, as having been written between 50 BC and 50 AD. In Cave 4 was also found a pottery jar upon the neck of which ‘Rome’ in Hebrew letters (rwm), marked twice, indicated the origins of its contents. Along with the Roman province of Africa, Egypt was a major food supply source for the city of Rome. Every year great numbers of Alexandrian ships loaded with grain for Rome sailed north from Alexandria to the port of Myra on the south coast of Asia Minor before sailing westwards to Italy. During the famines of 44 to 47 bread riots in Rome caused the Emperor Claudius to legislate state insurance for African and Egyptian grain ships. Thanks to these grain ships, communications between these two great cities were so good that, until the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west in the fifth century, the churches of Rome and Alexandria remained close friends and firm allies. 15

In as late as the fourth century the otherwise nearly complete Bible manuscript called Vaticanus B ended its text of St. Mark at 16:8 but left a blank space big enough in case the Church authority decided, as it did, that 16: 9 – 20 should be included. 19

That the translation of St. Matthew into Greek was not done by St. Matthew himself seems indicated by its apparent mistranslation of St. John the Baptist’s words (3:11) pronouncing himself ‘unworthy to carry His sandals’ while all others render these words more naturally as ‘unworthy to untie His sandals’. The Hebrew words for ‘untie’ and ‘carry’ use the same consonants. (In ancient Hebrew vowels were not indicated.) St. Matthew himself would not have made such a mistranslation. Josephus (Antiquities 19.8.2) tells us that the death of King Herod Agrippa I took place shortly before the Passover of 44. 21

St. Jerome’s Latin and the Syriac translations of Eusebius’ Chronicon both state that St. Peter had gone to Rome in the second year of Claudius, and to Antioch two years later. 24

Suetonius (Vita Claudii, 25) tells us that ‘Since they were in a constant uproar at the instigation of a Chrestus he (Claudius) expelled the Jews from Rome.’ (Iudaeos impulsore Chresto adsidue tumultuantes Romā expulit.) Obviously Suetonius was under the impression that ‘Chrestus’ was a rabble-rouser present in person. (‘Chrestus’ (Greek for ‘useful’) was a common slave’s name.)


Another historian, Dio Cassius (lx, 6) informs us that the edict of expulsion, owing to the hardship that it caused, was only partially carried out, but that the synagogues were closed. The fifth century Christian historian Paul Orosius (Histor., 7:6, 15) dated this edict of expulsion to the ninth year of Claudius, i.e. 49. 26

Origen (In Luc. 6) and St. Gregory (Epistulae, 7, 40) tell us that St. Peter’s absence from Rome lasted seven years. Perhaps it was at the request, and with the assistance, of Aquila of Pontus that St. Peter evangelised Pontus first. The churches of two seaside cities of Pontus Amasea and Sinope - had always claimed St. Peter as their founder. 29

A total of seven examples of this famous Latin cryptogram (called a ‘palindrome’ because its letters read the same backwards) have been found in places as far apart as Cirencester and Manchester in Britain and Dura Europos in Mesopotamia. Like the famous ‘fish’ symbol, the ROTAS square was a sign which only Christians could read. A Christian seeing this sign posted or scratched on the wall outside a house knew that fellow-Christians were within. P This cryptogram reads as: ROTAS and solves as: A OPERA T TENET E AREPO R SATOR PATERNOSTER O S T E ARA O O (Note that ‘arā oro’ means ‘I pray by the altar’. Was this an intended extra part of the reading?) The Datiana Historia, a history of the church in Milan from 51 to 304, names St. Barnabas as having first evangelised the city. It names one St. Anatelon as St. Barnabas’ disciple and as the first bishop of Milan from 51 to 63 and as being succeeded by Caius as bishop from 63 to 84. In his fifth year, i.e. 67, this Caius visited Rome. 31

The house of Pudens seems to have been the normal residence of the Bishops of Rome during the first two centuries. The apocryphal but very ancient letters of Pastor and Timotheus tell us that Pudens had a kinswoman named Priscilla, and that this Priscilla gave her name to the catacombs by the Via Salaria. In the ‘Catacombs of Priscilla’ the tombs of a Pudens and his two daughters Pudentia and Praxedes have been discovered. This hypogeum also contains sepulchres bearing the names of Aquila and Prisca. The archaeologist de Rossi identified these two with the saints the site of whose house on the Aventine is now occupied by Sta. Prisca. Very likely it was as a son-in-law of Pudens, or else as a fellow Christian, that the Jew Aquila came to be interred in a burial place belonging to members of the Roman nobility. The oldest parts of the Catacomb of Priscilla are regarded by the archaeologists de Rossi, Marucchi, Lanciani and the best authorities as dating from the middle of the first century, i.e. from the time of St. Peter. The 2nd century Ebionite and Gnostic apocryphas, which invented a thousand fables concerning Saint Peter, never located his Episcopal See anywhere else but in Rome.



St. Peter’s Missions, 40 to 56

Acts 10:1 – 12:25

St. Peter… …is visited in Jerusalem by Saul


9:26 – 30 Gal. 1:18 – 19

…baptises Cornelius


10:1 – 11:18

St. Mark compiles ‘Remembrances’ of St. Peter Beginning of church in Antioch

40 – 44

11:19 – 30)

Persecution by Herod Agrippa I

41 – 42

12:1 – 3

…is miraculously delivered from prison 42 (Passover eve) 12:4 – 19 …authorises Greek Gospel according to St. Mark and departs from Palestine …founds the church in Rome Death of King Herod:

21 May 42 44 (pre Passover)

12:20 – 23)

…is visited in Jerusalem by Saul

44 (autumn)

Gal. 2:1 – 10

…is corrected in Antioch by Saul

44 / 45 (winter)

Gal. 2:11 – 14

…authorises Greek St. Matthew and approves Gospel according to St. Luke …consecrates Saul & Barnabas missionary bishops …is expelled with Jews from Rome


…is in Jerusalem for Apostolic council

49 / 50 (winter)

…is based at Antioch

50 – 55

…founds churches in





13: 1 – 4

15:2 – 11

I St. Peter 1:1

Cappadocia 53 Asia




…visits Corinth & returns to Rome

55 – 56

I Cor. 1:12; 9:5


Coin of Caius Caligula who was Emperor from 37 to 41. The Latin inscription reads C(aius) CAESAR AVG(ustus) GERMANICVS PON(tifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunitia) POT(estate) which means ‘Caius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Chief Priest, with Power of Tribune (to make laws).’ On the reverse side are represented his three sisters Agrippina, Drusilla and Julia with symbols representing Security, Peace and Prosperity. S(enatus) C(onsultu) means ‘By Decree of the Senate.’

This coin was minted at Damascus by king Aretas who ruled that city from 37 to 40. On one side we read the Greek characters ΔΑΜΑCΚΗΝωΝ (Damascenon: ‘of Damascus’). On the other side we read ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΡΕΤΟΥ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ (Basileos Aretou Philellenos: ‘King Aretas Friend of Greeks.’)


St. Paul. This typical example of the traditional portrait of the Apostle of the Gentiles is found in the 5th century Archiepiscopal chapel at Ravenna in Italy.



The Rise of St. Paul, 37 to 50 A.D.


On 25 January 37, at the height of the persecution which had broken out with the martyrdom of St. Stephen, on the road approaching the city of Damascus, the arch-persecutor Saul of Tarsus had his dramatic encounter with the risen Christ. A month previously, this Saul had assisted personally at the killing of the deacon St. Stephen. Now he was leading an officially authorised arrest party coming to raid the synagogues of Damascus in search of ‘Nazarenes’. Suddenly, just within sight of the city, he was struck to the ground and blinded by Jesus Himself crying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Jesus knew His man and his moment. For Saul burned not merely with hatred of Nazarenes but also with love of the truth. The fierce persecutor fell to the ground and arose, a moment later, to become His most ardent Apostle. He had just received his first revelation, his first lesson in ecclesiology: assaults on His Church are assaults upon Christ Himself.* 2

This revelation on the road outside Damascus was to be the first of a series of personal revelations by the risen Christ to Saul, revelations which were to climax seven years later, in 44. In this, His first apparition to Saul however, Jesus did not immediately tell him of his mission to the Gentiles. Instead it was to an elder of the church in Damascus, Ananias, that He first revealed about Saul that ‘this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the gentiles and gentile kings’. Thus was Saul immediately taught by Christ to await his call, his vocation not only from God but also from His Church. 3

After his baptism in Damascus by Ananias, Saul retired for a ‘three years’ sojourn ‘in Arabia’. Although the region then called Nabataean Arabia extended south from Damascus as far as the city of Petra south of the Dead Sea, the traditions give no reason to believe he travelled far from the area of Damascus. There was a settlement of Essenes near Damascus, and perhaps it was with a group converted from these fervent waiters for the Messiah that he stayed. 4

In 39, during his third year of prayer and penance for his past life as a persecutor, Saul began to preach in Damascus. His courageous preaching quickly provoked an order for his arrest to be issued by the Ethnarch of the Nabataean King Aretas IX. After making his famous escape from Damascus by being let down over the city walls in a basket, Saul made his first postconversion visit to Jerusalem. 5

Apparently in connection with preparations for his projected invasion of Britain, the new Emperor Caligula in 37 had set about resolving territorial disputes in the East by vigorously parcelling out districts in the region to local rulers. Thus by 38 Aretas IX, King of the Nabataean Arabs since 9 BC, had been given control of Damascus. After a reign of 48 years, this King Aretas died in the winter of 39/40.*

3 6

In the winter of 39/40 Saul came to Jerusalem wishing to see St. Peter. Such was still his bad reputation that all avoided him. Finally St. Barnabas ‘took him and led him’ to St. Peter with whom he stayed for ‘fifteen days’. It was during this visit that, in the Temple, he had another vision from our Lord, this time directing him to devote himself to evangelising the Gentiles. As in Damascus, his aggressive preaching in Jerusalem quickly provoked more murder plots. This time he was rescued by the Apostles. In 40 they sent him under escort to the port of Caesarea, and thence home by sea to Tarsus. Saul had already received his mission from our Lord. Now however, in the spirit of true obedience, he remained in Tarsus to await his final vocation, his call from the Church. 7

Three years later his vocation from the Church finally came. In 43, news arrived in Jerusalem that a flourishing church of Gentile converts was springing up at Antioch. (News of the baptism of Cornelius had no doubt spread.) Again St. Barnabas was sent with instructions to assess and act on the situation. Seeing that the time was now truly ripe for Saul’s final vocation, St. Barnabas ‘left for Tarsus to seek out Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. They were active in that church for a whole year, and instructed a great number of people.’ Thus began in earnest Saul’s life’s work as a missionary to the Gentiles. Already even the pagans could see that these were not just another sect of Jews, mere ‘Nazarenes’: ‘It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians’.* 8

During this year of teaching at Antioch, it became clear that a new Gospel was needed for use at these Masses where the congregation was composed mostly of ex-pagans. St. Mark’s collection of St. Peter’s Remembrances was available, but it was not fully adequate as it was too abrupt and brief. Strong on our Lord’s miracles but giving little of our Lord’s teaching, St. Mark’s work was also not suitable for ex-pagans who needed to be weaned away from the whole pagan mythological way of thinking. These new Christians at Antioch needed not only a more detailed summary of our Lord’s teachings, they also needed an outline of His Life which was clearly no myth but was carefully located in history. 9

A highly educated deacon or elder of the church at Antioch, a lawyer and medical doctor named Luke (Greek: Lucas), was therefore commissioned to research and compose an official teaching Gospel. The expenses for the research and ‘publication’ of this Gospel were paid for by a wealthy church member named Theophilus. St. Luke therefore prefaced his work with the customary (in ancient times) address to the wealthy patron who was paying his publication expenses. Composed especially for use with converts from paganism, this Gospel was also being prepared for use by Saul on the missionary journey he was planning to launch in the following year, in 45. Due to the persecution by Herod Agrippa in Palestine, it was most likely at this time that our Lady was, under the protection of St. John, sojourning at Ephesus. Perhaps it was in these years of 43 and 44 that St. Luke visited there and obtained from her the details for his surpassingly beautiful ‘infancy narrative’, as well as the abundance of details of feminine interest to be found in his Gospel.

3 10

Like all the other Gospels (with the partial exception of St. Mark), the Gospel according to St. Luke was never a merely private initiative. It was, from the beginning, an official Church teaching text for use at Mass. In each of the new churches to be established by Saul, a copy of this Gospel was to be left to be jealously guarded, carefully studied and regularly and formally read out at Mass.* 11

St. Luke knew that ‘many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events which have taken place among us’. He used St. Mark’s work, but used neither St. Matthew’s nor St. John’s. In 44 these were not yet available in Greek. St. Luke’s own command of Greek was excellent, but his careful respect for his sources caused him to preserve many Semitic forms. This is especially true for his first two chapters, his magnificent ‘infancy narratives’. For these it seems most likely that he visited our Lady who at this time was living under St. John’s protection at Ephesus. The bulk of St. Luke’s material came from St. Mark’s work which he trimmed down and cleaned up its Latinisms and some of its Semitisms. (For example, he freely used ‘Truly’ rather than ‘Amen’. In these earliest days he could not take it for granted that his ex-pagans could understand what ‘Amen’ meant.) Thus by 45 was completed the last of the three ‘synoptic’ Gospels.* 12

In 44 in Antioch Saul was visited by our Lord and entrusted with a final and most important set of revelations. In 57 he spoke of ‘the visions and revelations I have received from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago…was caught up into…heaven…I was given an angel of Satan to beat me and prevent me from pride.’ Later in that same year, then, Saul journeyed to Jerusalem to obtain the Church’s (i.e. the Apostles’) approval for his revelations. His instructions from our Lord were presumably with regard to St. Luke’s Gospel and his planned systematic missions to the Gentiles. As he wrote in 49: ‘I went up to Jerusalem again…because of a revelation, and I brought…the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles…so James, Cephas and John, these leading pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me to token our unity: we were to go to the Gentiles...’ 13

After the sudden death of King Herod Agrippa I in the spring of 44 direct Roman rule was restored in Judaea. St. Peter therefore was able to return to Jerusalem. As a suitable Gospel for his church in Rome must have been on his mind, this appears to have been the most likely occasion for his obtaining a translation of St. Matthew’s Gospel into Greek. The crops of 44 had failed. Saul and Barnabas therefore also brought with them money collected in Antioch. This was to be used for buying Egyptian grain for the poor of the church in Jerusalem.* 14

After their meeting with the Apostles in Jerusalem, Saul and St. Barnabas returned to Antioch for preparations for their first mission, due to begin with the sailing season of 45. St. Peter too came to Antioch to consecrate them as missionary bishops. It was at this time (in early 45) that Saul’s famous confrontation with St. Peter took place. At Antioch at this time Saul was still only of deacon status, a


junior leader. In the hierarchy at Antioch, after ‘St. Barnabas, Simon Niger, Lucius of Cyrene and Menahem’, he is listed by St. Luke, still as Saul, last. When we remember that he was still on probation, his status as a great missionary far from yet established, we can appreciate Saul’s courage at this time in confronting the Rock himself of the Church ‘to his face’. 15

In the spring of 45, Saul, St. Barnabas and St. Mark sailed to St. Barnabas’ home island of Cyprus. Disembarking at Salamis they took advantage of the custom whereby learned visitors were invited to speak in the synagogue. As the senior Apostle, St. Barnabas was at first the leader. Thus ruptures with the Jews seem to have been kept to a minimum as they worked their way the sixty miles across the island to Paphos, the capital. Here in Paphos however, at the court of Sergius Paulus, the Proconsul of Cyprus, Saul worked his first recorded miracle. By striking the Jewish magus blind, he had demonstrated that the religion of Jesus was the infinite superior of any and every system of magic conjured up by magi bargaining with demons. Saul now took over leadership of the mission and permanently adopted his Roman name of Paul. Refusing to accept the new leader and perhaps quailing at this new leader’s courageous and provocative methods, St. Mark abandoned his part in the mission after they left Cyprus. He returned to Jerusalem. 16

In his missionary methods, St. Paul was not only courageous and provocative, he was also most systematic. Travelling with at least a senior and a junior assistant St. Paul, when he entered a town, would attend and preach at the local synagogue. When he was finally expelled, he would take with him those Jews, proselytes and ‘God-fearers’ who were prepared to follow him, and would then, either in the forum or in a hired hall, preach directly to the pagans. Thus each of his new churches was founded by a process of splitting off from the local synagogue. While he continued to preach and debate, his assistants gave further instructions to converts in preparation for their reception of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. His pattern of evangelisation differed considerably from that of St. Peter who had deacons prepare his way for him. St. Paul did his own first evangelising and confirming, and even his own follow up visit to ordain priests. (In 65, however, he was leaving this final sacrament to his delegate, St. Titus.) 17

St. Paul and his assistants observed the full régime of daily prayer using the Psalter. They expected all their new deacons and prospective elders to continue to do likewise after their departure. All these lived in community in the best available residence – held for the Church in the name of a wealthy convert – which also became the meeting-place of the church. Here, late every Saturday night, his new church would gather for an agape (‘love feast’) followed by a pre-dawn of readings, lessons, hymns, prayer and sermons. At dawn came the climax with Jesus Himself coming among them to re-present His holy Sacrifice of the Mass. From among the more learned, talented and willing men able regularly to attend the daily round of prayer, some were selected for extra instruction and training as deacons and as prospective elders. After ordination as


deacons, these were entrusted with a copy of (at least) St. Luke’s Gospel and leadership of the new church. Some months or a year or so later St. Paul would revisit his new churches to ordain as elders those deacons who had remained faithful to their duties of prayer, administration and leadership. (In these earliest years, rather than ordain one of them as a full bishop, he remained their missionary episcopos or ‘supervisor’ himself.) Community prayer was conducted at every third hour, i.e. at dawn and the third, sixth and ninth hour of every day, then at sunset and the third, sixth and ninth hour of every night. (Later the midnight prayer was joined to that of 3 a.m.) This, the Church’s formal and official daily prayer, is called the Divine Office. By the end of the first century the agape was, because of abuses, being celebrated not on Saturday evenings but on Sunday, after Mass. 18

As he and his party systematically travelled and evangelised along the lines of Roman land and sea communications, St. Paul took full advantage of the protection afforded to him by his Roman citizenship. Thus on his first mission (45 to 48) he founded churches in such smaller Hellenistic or Romanised towns as Antioch-in-Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, all in southern Galatia and on the road between Antioch and Ephesus. (Such larger nearby cities as Barada and Laranda, as they were neither Hellenistic nor Romanised, were left to later.) On his second mission (50 to 53) he founded churches in the Roman colony of Philippi in Macedonia, and the Greek city of Thessalonica. Both these cities lay on the Via Egnatia, Rome’s main road across Macedonia and northern Greece. After these he based himself at Corinth, the Greek port for Rome’s sea communications with the East. Finally, on his third mission (54 to 57), St. Paul based himself at Ephesus, the commercial capital and gateway to the Roman province of Asia. 19

As particular problems of doctrine and church order quickly arose in individual churches, St. Paul very soon began to write official letters, called epistles, to deal with these problems. From almost the beginning, he intended that these epistles were to be preserved and used at Mass: ‘this epistle is to be read out to all the brethren.’ Indeed St. Paul’s first five epistles were occasioned by the internal problems of the Galatian churches after his first mission, the Thessalonian church in his second mission, and the Corinthian church during his third mission. 20

In 46 the missionary party, now under St. Paul’s leadership, crossed over to the mainland and made their way up into southern Galatia. Archaeology has found that the ‘Paulli Sergii’ were a leading clan at the Roman colony at Antioch-in-Pisidia, so perhaps it was with letters of introduction from Sergius Paulus, that St. Paul there had begun his mission in earnest. His address to the synagogue of this Antioch was preserved by St. Luke as a summary and typical example of how St. Paul spoke to the Jews when he first attended a synagogue in a new town. St. Luke also recorded the


essentials of this particular sermon because of its importance: for the first time St. Paul addressed both Jews and Gentiles together as ‘brethren’ without distinction or apology. After their expulsion from this Colonia Antiocheia, St. Paul and St. Barnabas proceeded on to evangelise Iconium. Here they stayed for a ‘considerable time’, the winter of 46/47.* 21

In 47 the missionary party founded churches in two towns on the Lycaonian plain: Lystra and then Derbe. Lystra was the home town of St. Timothy. At Lystra, after his healing of a cripple had caused him and St. Barnabas to be taken for the gods Mercury and Jupiter, St. Paul was nearly killed by stoning. After being ‘dragged out of the town and left for dead’ however, he regained consciousness and, on the following day, left for Derbe. In Derbe they ‘taught many’ and St. Paul stayed to recuperate over the winter of 47/48.* 22

In 48, St. Paul and St. Barnabas returned to complete the establishment of their new ‘Galatian’ churches. Thus ‘in each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting entrusted them to the Lord.’ (This ‘prayer and fasting’ makes it clear that these were more than mere administrative arrangements. These were sacramental acts for conferring priestly powers.) Used in preference to the normal pagan Greek word for ‘priest’ (hiereos) this title of elder was borrowed from the synagogue. These elders (‘presbyteroi’) were naturally ‘supervisors’ (‘episcopoi’) over their churches. While the Jewish term emphasised their priestly dignity, the Greek term emphasised their protective duty. Later in 58 we will glimpse St. Paul at Miletus exhorting his ‘elders’ from Ephesus to ‘be on your guard…over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the supervisors, to feed the church.’ Later still, in 65, St. Paul will instruct St. Titus in Crete to ‘appoint elders in every town’; he then lists the criteria for the choice of each elder ‘since as a supervisor he will be God’s representative’. 23

In the autumn of 48, after ordaining priests for each of their four new Galatian churches, the missionaries returned south to Perge and the port of Attalia and thence by sea to Antioch. In 49 however St. Paul in Antioch received news that his Galatian churches had been plunged into crisis by visiting ‘Judaisers’. A Judaiser was a Jewish Christian who taught that all baptised Christians, ex-pagans included, were bound to observe all the prescriptions of the full Mosaic Law, including circumcision. Failing this, they wanted all ex-Gentile Christians to be kept in a second class status similar to that of the proselytes or ‘God-fearers’ in the synagogues. They would have kept the newly born Church as a Jewish sect. Had these Judaisers come armed with St. Matthew’s Gospel newly translated into Greek? Such verses as our Lord’s words in 5:17-19 would surely have made their arguments most formidable.


cities a.p

Antioch in Pisidia















provinces & regions Cy








4 24

It was not only for the sake of peace with their fellow Jews that these Judaisers wished to keep the new-born Church as a Jewish sect. They also wished to keep their exemption as Jews from the obligations of the Empire’s citizens to participate in the pagan cults of the Roman state. In short the Judaisers wished to be free from persecution not only by the Jews but also by the pagans. As St. Paul wrote in 49: ‘Only because of self-interest do they want to force circumcision onto you: they wish to escape persecution.’ These Jewish Christians were also panicking at being swamped by St. Paul’s Gentiles and at the prospect of losing their Jewish identity entirely. 25

In 49, when he received the news of the Judaisers’ activities in his Galatian churches, St. Paul was horrified. In his confrontation with St. Peter in early 45 he had already encountered this tendency in even the Prince of the Apostles to treat ex-pagans as second-class Christians. Now he saw his new churches being torn apart by these intruding Judaisers. These Judaisers accused St. Paul of hypocrisy. They accused him of observing the Law himself in order to please the Jews yet hiding from the Galatians their duty to observe the Mosaic Law in order the more easily to convert them. These Judaisers were also contrasting Saints Peter, James and John as true Apostles with St. Paul as an innovating upstart. He was not, after all, one of the original Twelve. Could he not therefore be represented as a dangerous innovator trying to take over the Church? Could he not be accused of wishing to impose a new revelation, an upstart’s new gospel, to rival that given to the true original Apostles by Jesus Himself during His earthly Life? 26

Stung, St. Paul replied with his first epistle, his Epistle to the Galatians. In 49 he dictated this epistle ‘amazed at how quickly you have been turned away from the one who called you…towards another Gospel… Oh you stupid Galatians!’ In this epistle we see the vigorous arguments with which he was to carry the day at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem held at the end of that year. Galatians was devoted to St. Paul’s vigorous rejection of the Judaisers’ demand that the new Christians had to embrace all the practices of the Jewish Mosaic Law. As for his own authority, from the very beginning of this epistle St. Paul made it abundantly clear that he had not received his Gospel from the Apostles, but by revelations from the risen Lord Himself. These revelations, as well as our Lord’s personal commission to him, were what qualified St. Paul as an Apostle. He nevertheless went on to make it clear that his revelations had afterwards also been fully approved by the Apostles themselves in Jerusalem. He made it clear he was their equal, an Apostle himself, and not simply their delegate. (Besides Judaisers, there also had arisen teachers of libertinism: these taught that St. Paul’s doctrine of freedom from the Mosaic Law meant freedom from all moral law altogether. These were quick to abuse St. Paul’s doctrine of salvation by faith rather than works to preach immorality. To make it clear that his doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ in no way licensed sin, St. Paul was careful to include in the latter part of nearly all his epistles after Galatians a sizeable section devoted to exhortations to the various virtues of the Christian life.)*

4 27

Still, the problem of the Judaisers needed more than an impassioned Epistle to the Galatians from St. Paul to deal with it. St. Paul wanted a full, public and official endorsement of his doctrine by the Apostles themselves assembled in Jerusalem itself. St. Peter had been expelled from Rome that very year and had returned to Jerusalem. This was St. Paul’s opportunity. Late in 49 therefore St. Paul and St. Barnabas came to Jerusalem to report on their mission, and to obtain the full and official endorsement of all the Apostles for what St. Paul had argued so strenuously for in Galatians: that the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law were not to be held as binding on Christians. 28

The Baptism of Cornelius ten years previously had already settled the question forever, and to this baptism St. Peter appealed at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem in the winter of 49/50. The Apostles fully supported St. Paul against his opponents and decreed accordingly. At the behest of St. James, however, an order was added to the Apostolic decree that the expagan Christians were to abstain from certain pagan dietary permissions which were more clearly repugnant to the Jewish sensibilities of Jewish Christians. (The specific prohibition of ‘fornication’ was directed against the libertines.) The breach with the old Israel was now official. The Assumption of our Lady into Heaven seems to have taken place at the time of this Council. At the request of St. Thomas after his late arrival from India, the Apostles reopened her tomb and found it empty.* Notes Chapter 3 1 Note again the identification of Christ with His Church. Our Lord did not say: ‘Why are you persecuting my disciples?’ or ‘Why are you persecuting my Church?’ 5

Thus Caligula granted Commagene to Antiochus, Ituraea to Soaemus, to Cotys he gave Lesser Armenia, and part of Thrace to Rhaemetacles. Similarly did Damascus come into the hands of Aretas, king of the Arabian kingdom with its capital at Petra. Archaeology has found that coins minted in Damascus bore no Roman insignia from 33-4 until 62-3 AD. 7

Note that Christian is a Latin-derived coinage. (Its Greek-derived equivalent would have been ‘Christid’ !) The word ‘Christianus’ seems therefore to have originated in the Latin-speaking élite in Antioch, the capital of Roman Syria. 10

Because he was writing in Antioch in 44, St. Luke was using not our Roman calendar but the Macedonian or ‘Eastern’ calendar. (The use of this calendar had been spread over the eastern Mediterranean world after its conquest by Alexander the Great. The ‘year 1’ of this calendar was 312 BC, and its New Year began on about 1 October.) In the Eastern calendar the ‘first year of Tiberius’ lasted from the death of Augustus on 19 August until c. 1 October 14 AD. His ‘second year’ lasted from c. 1 October 14 to c. 1 October 15 AD, etc. Thus St. Luke, telling us that St. John the Baptist began preaching ‘in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar’ meant between c. 1 October 27 and c. 1 October 28 AD. St. John the Baptist therefore began preaching in late 27 and our Lord was baptised on 6 January 28. However as they had assumed St. Luke was using the Roman calendar, the Church fathers located Tiberius’ fifteenth year in 28 and our Lord’s baptism on 6 January 29. In Pontius Pilate’s time of rule (26 to 36) 30 and 33 were the only two years in which the Passover fell on a Sabbath. As this left no time for the three Passovers in St. John’s Gospel before the Passover of 30, the Fathers chose 33 as the year of the Passion. Many then counted back to 2 BC as the year of the Nativity, and finally in 525 Dionysius Exiguus counted back to the 1 AD we have today.


None of the New Testament was written for silent reading, even by individuals. In ancient times, even private reading was done aloud. In Acts 8 we see how St. Philip the Deacon overheard the Ethiopian court official reading as he travelled along in his carriage. Silent reading seems only to have begun in the fourth century. In a famous passage in his Confessiones, St. Augustine tells of his surprise in Milan at coming upon St. Ambrose in his room reading silently. St. Augustine had not until then thought that this was possible. 11

There is a tradition that our Lady dwelt for some time at Ephesus. This seems most likely to have occurred during the persecution by king Herod Agrippa I in the years 41 to 44. Even in his own lifetime St. Luke was personally famous for his beautifully written Gospel. In 57 St. Paul spoke of how ‘We have sent with him (St. Titus) the brother whose praise has been in the Gospel amongst all the churches.’ 13

According to Josephus (Antiquitates 20, 5, 2) the famine ‘in the fourth year of Claudius’ (44) was particularly bad in Palestine. Josephus mentions this great famine as occurring in the time of the Procurators Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander – i.e. between Fadus’ entry into office in 44, and 47, when Tiberius Alexander was replaced. It was at the time of this famine that king Izates of Adiabene and his mother queen Helen visited Jerusalem from their kingdom beyond the Tigris river. These had been converted to Judaism and they too had come with relief supplies for the poor of Jerusalem starving as a result of the famine. Their tomb is still visible in Jerusalem. 20

Antioch-in-Pisidia, Lystra and Derbe were Roman colonies. They had been settled some 50 years previously by retired Roman soldiers. Iconium was a free Hellenistic city. Of these four cities, only Iconium, known today as Konya, still stands. Like Damascus, Iconium was an oasis city famed for its beauty. Like Damascus too it was also famous in ancient times as having been one of the first cities rebuilt after the Deluge. One Nannakos had been a king of Iconium before the Deluge, and ‘as old as Nannakos’ was a proverbial saying among the Greeks for anything of immemorial age. Archaeology has found that the Roman family of the Paulli was powerful in the district of Pisidian Antioch (Colonia Antiocheia.) Since the 1980’s in this district, now near the Turkish village of Yalvac, several inscriptions bearing the name of Paullus Sergius have been unearthed. 21

Pisidian Antioch was discovered by archaeologists in1833, Lystra in 1885, and Derbe in 1888. 26

There was once some uncertainty over just who these Galatians were to whom St. Paul had written his first epistle. Nowhere in Acts did St. Luke tell us of St. Paul evangelising in the original Galatia which lay in northern central Asia Minor. In fact St. Luke, always carefully precise, never referred to Galatia as such but only to the ‘Galatian region’ as merely being ‘passed through’ by St. Paul. From archaeology we know today that, for administrative purposes, the Roman government had expanded ‘Galatia’ southwards. After the death of the client king Amyntas of Pisidia in 25 BC, Augustus had divided his kingdom into two Roman provinces named Pamphilia and Galatia. To this latter province, in 41 AD, the town of Derbe was added. In this way the Roman province of Galatia came to include Antioch (in Pisidia), and Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (in Lycaonia), all cities to the south of the original Galatia. 28

The text of Acts up to 15:29 bears traces of having been translated from a Semitic original. St. Luke’s account of St. Paul’s first mission seems therefore to have been delivered originally to the Apostles’ Conference in Aramaic or even Hebrew.



The Rise of St. Paul, 37 to 50

Acts 9; 13:1 – 15:35

Conversion of Saul

25 January 37

9: 1 – 8

Saul… …is baptised …preaches in Damascus

27 January 37 37

9: 9 – 19 9: 20 – 22

…is ‘in Arabia’ for ‘three years’

37 – 39

Gal. 1: 17 – 18

…escapes from Damascus

39 / 40 (winter)

…stays with St. Peter in Jerusalem


9: 23 – 25 II Cor. 11: 32-33 9: 26 – 30 Gal. 1: 18 – 24

…waits in Tarsus

40 – 43

9: 30; 11: 25

…is summoned by St. Barnabas


11: 25

…teaches ‘a whole year’ in Antioch

43 – 44

11: 26 – 30

…receives an important revelation


…makes his 2nd visit to Jerusalem(autumn) …is commissioned by the Apostles …is ordained missionary in Antioch …takes over mission in Cyprus

Gal. 2: 1 – 2 II Cor. 12: 1 – 9 11:30; 12:25 Gal. 2: 1 – 10

44 / 45 (winter) 45

13: 1 – 3 13: 4 – 12

St. Paul… First Mission …leads mission in southern Galatia 46 at Antioch-in-Pisidia Iconium 46 / 47 (winter) Lystra 47 Derbe 47 / 48 (winter)

13:13 – 14:27 13:13 – 52 14:1 – 6 14: 6 – 20 14: 19 – 20

…revisits to ordain elders …returns to Antioch

48 48 (autumn)

14: 20 – 22 14: 23 – 27

…writes his Epistle to the Galatians


15: 1 – 2

…is supported by Council in Jerusalem 49 / 50 (winter)

15: 2 – 30


Coin of the Emperor Claudius (41 - 54). The inscription around his portrait reads TI(berius) CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG(ustus) P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunitia) P(otestate) IMP(erator) which means ‘Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Chief Priest, with Power of Tribune, Commander (of the army). The inscription on the reverse reads EX S(enatus) C(onsultu) OB CIVES SERVATOS which means ‘From the Decree of the Senate, on account of the citizens saved.’

A coin of Athens showing the head of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts. On the reverse we glimpse the Acropolis (the Citadel of Athens) as it appeared in St. Paul’s time. On the left stands the famous temple (to Athena) called the Parthenon; next to this stands the 70’ tall ivory and gold lined statue of Athena complete with her lance and shield; next to this stands the Propylaeum and ‘sacred stairway.’ In the hillside we see the shrine and cave of the Greek god Pan. The inscription reads ΑΘΗΝ(ωυ): ‘Athens.’



From Jerusalem to Rome: St. Paul’s Journeys, 50 to 61


Immediately after the Apostles at Jerusalem had settled the problem of the Judaisers in St. Paul’s favour, he returned to Antioch to prepare for his next mission. Here however he rejected St. Barnabas’ insistence that his cousin St. Mark should again accompany them. St. Barnabas therefore took St. Mark with him and the two departed for Cyprus. St. Paul meanwhile chose as his senior assistant St. Silas (‘Silvanus’). These two then set out from Antioch to travel overland to revisit the new churches in southern Galatia. To these churches they passed on the decree of the Council which upheld what St. Paul had so passionately argued for in his epistle to them: that ex-pagan Christians were not bound to observe the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. 2

It seems that St. Paul already had in mind a replacement for St. Mark. During the troubles with the Galatian churches in 49, the name of a certain young man of Lystra had been brought to St. Paul’s notice for his good leadership and diplomatic qualities, and for his own and his family’s fervent faith. This young man’s name was Timothy. St. Timothy’s father was pagan but Eunice, his mother, was Jewish. This qualified him as a Jew by birth, but since he had not been circumcised he would not have been acceptable to Jews as St. Paul’s companion in the synagogues. St. Paul therefore had him circumcised – St. Timothy was certainly fervent! – and he was to become St. Paul’s most trusted assistant and representative. 3

Bypassing northern and western Asia Minor – being evangelised by St. Peter during his enforced absence from Rome – St. Paul with St. Silas and St. Timothy went overland to the northwest coast of Asia Minor, opposite Macedonia. Here at the port of Troas they were joined by St. Luke who was perhaps to be their guide. With him they sailed across the Aegean Sea to the port of Neapolis in Macedonia. From there they travelled inland to Philippi. Perhaps the mysterious prohibitions in Acts 16: 6 – 7 are a disguised reference by St. Luke to St. Peter’s instructions that he would himself be covering the evangelisation of cities in these regions from his new base in Antioch. (In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, St. Peter held formal lies to the Church and himself as head to be lies to the Holy Spirit and the ‘Spirit of the Lord’. In Acts 13:2 it is most likely St. Peter speaking.) After some time preaching in Philippi St. Paul and St. Silas were imprisoned, only to be released that same night by an earthquake. This seems to have made a deep impression on the people of Philippi. Perhaps because it lacked a synagogue, St. Paul made it his headquarters in Macedonia. He seems to have left St. Luke in Philippi as its church’s supervisor. Until he rejoined St. Paul at Philippi in 58, St. Luke did not accompany him on his travels again. The Philippian colonists had the full rights of Roman citizens. The Jews had no synagogue there so, under St. Luke’s guidance, this church flourished


free of doctrinal disputes. St. Paul’s happiest epistle was that which he dictated in early 63 to the Philippians: ‘You are my joy and crown’.* 4

In 51, after wintering in Philippi, St. Paul’s party travelled down the Via Egnatia to Thessalonica (today’s Salonika). This was not an orderly Roman colony but a true Greek city. When the Jews stirred up local market place loafers into a mob to riot against him, St. Paul was forced to flee southwards, off the Via Egnatia, to Beroea (Verria). Again expelled by mob violence he fled to Athens. From here he sent St. Silas and St. Timothy instructions that, after they had organised these two churches, they should join him at Athens. The missionary pattern which he established in his first mission was continued: he would preach in the synagogue until he was expelled, then he would preach to the Gentiles until he was again expelled by official action or mob violence. Meanwhile his converts were instructed and prepared for the sacraments by his assistants. He ordained a few as deacons to whom, months or a year later, he would return to ordain as priests. These deacons were also entrusted with a copy of at least the Gospel of St. Luke. After his ‘premature’ expulsion from Thessalonica, it was becoming clear that the pattern he had followed in southern Galatia was becoming impracticable. In Greece at this time there were present many Jews who had been expelled from Rome in 49. These were only too free and willing to hound St. Paul from town to town. He was now being forced to leave before he could properly complete his instructions to his new churches and their deacons. St. Paul decided therefore to settle in the provincial capital where his Roman citizenship would assure him the protection of the Roman governor, and to work more through epistles and delegates. (He continued often travelling himself, but from now on his journeys were from out of a safe base. In this way he now avoided a travel pattern which could be predicted and intercepted by the Jews.) 5

While alone and waiting in Athens for St. Silas and St. Timothy to join him, St. Paul tried preaching directly to the local pagans. In his address to the Athenians we find all the essentials of how he preached to pagans lacking in any of the preliminary Jewish grounding in morality and scripture. Here we see the beginnings of apologetics: the Faith is true because it accords with human reason, and because its high morals promote the good human life. In fact his speech to the Athenians was a masterpiece of apologetic. It was also a failure. He had tried to use only pagan philosophical ideas, and found himself being treated as a lone crank. Home to Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, this ‘university town’ was too proud, complacent, idle, immoral, ‘learned’ and ‘smart’ for St. Paul to handle alone. One of his few Athenian converts however was a member of the Areopagus (‘Senate’) of Athens, named Dionysius. This St. Dionysius the Areopagite was to become the first bishop of Athens.* 6

St. Paul soon gave up waiting in Athens. Leaving St. Dionysius as a deacon for the new church in Athens, he made his way from this ‘university town’ to the tumultuous port and city life of nearby Corinth. In late 51 St. Paul arrived in Corinth still smarting from his perceived failure in Athens. As he wrote later to the Corinthians, ‘When I first came to


you, it was not in grandeur of speech…for I decided not to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and I was among you in weakness and fear and much trembling.’ In Athens St. Paul had discovered that mere philosophy was not enough – it too often made men proud and complacent and full of strategies for remaining comfortable in their despair – and that they could not be simply reasoned out of these things. For ‘your faith should not depend on human philosophy, but on the power of God.’ Men, he now realised, needed to be shocked by the facts of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Judgement to come. 7

Late in 51 St. Silas and St. Timothy joined St. Paul in Corinth bringing the good news that the church in Thessalonica had been stabilised. Inside this new church however there had arisen some misunderstandings with which St. Paul’s assistants had not been able to deal satisfactorily. These misunderstandings especially concerned the Second Coming or Return of our Lord, the Parousia: many believed that it was imminent any day, and were therefore neglecting their daily duties. As he could not come personally to Thessalonica, St. Paul decided to dictate for them an epistle to explain that the Second Coming was not to be expected as necessarily coming in their own lifetime. Rather it would come ‘like a thief in the night’. Thus, late in 51, was written St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Idlers however were still denying the need to work and indeed some forged letter was being circulated purporting to be from St. Paul. In 52 therefore St. Paul dictated another epistle to explain how certain ‘signs’, certain events, were necessarily to come before the Parousia. Thus did St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians come to be written.* 8

These two epistles were dictated by St. Paul in Corinth where he based himself for a ‘year and six months’ (from the winter of 51/52 to the spring of 53). Here he had met Prisca and Aquila who had, like St. Peter, been exiled from Rome. With these he lodged and, to set an example for his Thessalonians, worked at his trade as a tent-maker. Corinth was the capital of Roman Greece (‘Achaia’) and was ideally located on Rome’s lines of sea communications with the East. The city lay by its narrow isthmus with its two ports of Cenchreae to the east, and Lechaeum to the west. Especially in the winter, when ships were confined to port, St. Paul’s skills as a tent-maker were here very much in demand for repairing sails. 9

After the Jerusalem Council in 50, all the Gospels, including St. John’s seem to have gone into official use in the churches. Thus in 51 St. Paul could refer to a doctrine found in the Gospels only in St. John: ‘As for loving the brothers, you have no need that I write to you about it, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another.’ (Notice the exalted status of Gospel readings.) Later in this same epistle, St. Paul refers to doctrines from St. Matthew and St. Luke as already common knowledge: ‘There is no need for writing to you about ‘times and seasons’, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord will be coming like a thief in the night.’


Never in any of his epistles does St. Paul recount any episodes from the Life of our Lord, or (with the exception of His words of institution at the Last Supper) quote any of His words. That the hearers of his epistles already know of our Lord’s life and teachings from their regular hearing of readings from the Gospels he always simply takes for granted. 10

In the earliest years, the bulk of Scripture readings at Mass were from the Old Testament. The pattern followed was no doubt like that set by the risen Jesus himself with the disciples travelling to Emmaus: ‘beginning with Moses and the prophets, He explained to them all those scriptures which were about Himself.’ Later too, ex-pagan Christians found themselves, from hearing Scripture readings from the Old Testament, learning a whole new past, a whole new history: that of the old Israel. From 50 the Life and teachings of our Lord were being taught in all churches by means of the Gospels. But what about the proper teachings about our Lord, and about the more practical aspects of Church life and morals? If the inherited mass of Jewish practices was no longer binding in all the new churches being founded how were problems to be solved? How was unity and correct teaching to be assured? 11

The formal Church letter, the epistle, was the answer. St. Paul’s fiery Galatians and its arguments must have made a deep impression at the Council and upon St. Peter. After his triumph in Jerusalem St. Paul now acted as one authorised not only to write and propagate epistles, but also to command that they be read and obeyed. Thus at the end of his epistle of 51 we glimpse the beginning of formal readings of epistles at Mass: ‘I order you by the Lord that this epistle be read out to all the holy brethren.’ In 52 St. Paul made it clear he meant his epistles to be taken seriously: ‘keep the traditions you have learnt, whether by word of mouth, or by our epistle…if anyone does not obey our word by epistle, note him and avoid associating with him.’ 12

As the capital of the Roman province of Achaia (Greece), Corinth was the seat of its Proconsul. Soon after Gallio began his year’s term as the Proconsul officially on 1 July 52, the Jews brought St. Paul before him to accuse him as a troublemaker. They were hoping to exploit the newly arrived governor’s newness to his duties. Gallio however wanted to have nothing to do with what he regarded as a mere internal religious squabble of the Jews.* 13

In the spring of 53, with Prisca and Aquila, St. Paul left Corinth. Via Ephesus and Caesarea he made his way to Jerusalem. During his stopover at Ephesus he decided that this city should be the base for his next mission. Here then he left Prisca and Aquila for preparations. After visiting Jerusalem he went on to spend the winter of 53/54 at Antioch, probably with plenty of opportunities to confer with St. Peter who at this time was still based there. In 54 he travelled from Antioch overland via the ‘Galatian region’ (i.e. his churches in southern Galatia) and Phrygia to Ephesus where he arrived at the end of the year. Here in Ephesus, the commercial capital of the Roman province of Asia, not only was he able to preach and teach as usual, he was also


conveniently located for supervising the affairs of his young churches to the east in Asia Minor and to the west in Achaia and Macedonia. St. Luke tells us that St. Paul remained in Ephesus for ‘three months’ arguing with the Jews until he was expelled from their synagogue, and then for ‘two years’ preaching to the pagans (i.e. from the end of 54 to the spring of 57). In Ephesus St. Paul also trained and sent out his own deacons as missionaries. One such missionary was Epaphras who founded the church at Colossae in nearby Phrygia. St. Paul also frequently journeyed out himself. As he wrote in 57: ‘three times have I been shipwrecked and once adrift on the open sea for a night and a day. Constantly travelling…’ 14

In 53, after St. Paul’s visit to Ephesus, there had arrived in that city a highly educated and eloquent Alexandrian Jew named Apollos whom Prisca and Aquila converted to Christ. In 54 this Apollos went to Corinth where the eloquence of his preaching won for him a following which claimed him as their leader. St. Peter too had come to Corinth in 55 to await news of the expected lifting of Claudius’ ban on Jews in Rome. In the summer of 56 however, after St. Peter’s departure from Corinth, faction brawls broke out between his followers and those of Apollos and those of St. Paul. There was even a fourth faction which claimed to be ‘of Christ’. These apparently claimed to be independent of any interceding pastor at all. The speed with which Apollos had attained preacher status so soon after his baptism is remarkable. His quick rise to leadership points back to the earliest days when deacon status was readily conferred on any learned and able Jewish convert. The fact that the split in the Corinthian church was four-sided also suggests that each faction was treating each leader as preaching a different Gospel. Had Apollos seized upon one of the Gospels and used it against the others? 15

In mid 56 therefore a delegation of three elders – Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus – was sent from Corinth across the Aegean to St. Paul in Ephesus. These brought a list of doctrinal questions and practical questions needing to be dealt with. For besides party divisions, other threats to the Corinthian church had arisen from: an extreme case of immorality, appeals to pagan tribunals, attendance at pagan banquets, glossolalia and misbehaviour at Mass, the place of women in the church assembly, and misunderstandings about the nature of the Resurrection. Married converts were also thinking that they might ipso facto cast off their non-Christian consorts, and slaves were holding themselves now free to disobey or leave their masters. Was Galatians 3:28 already beginning its long career of misuse as a charter for license and disorder in the Church? St. Paul would not have his new Christians upsetting the social order. Once again, this time because of the four-sided split at Corinth, he was unable to come personally. His first reaction appears to have been to send St. Timothy and a fiery epistle. Finally however, in the autumn of 56, he dictated a longer and calmer epistle for the three Corinthian delegates to take back to their church. This is the epistle we know today as St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.*



Second Mission of St. Paul (50 – 53) cities an


a.p., i, l., d.

Galatian churches (Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe)



















provinces Ach

Achaia (Greece)

















seas Aeg. s

Aegean Sea

5 16

Meanwhile St. Paul’s work in Ephesus had been so successful that the profits of the city’s pagan silversmiths were clearly declining. These had made and sold miniature silver replicas of the city’s vast temple to the goddess Diana (Greek: Artemis). St. Paul and his assistants seem to have been evangelising among the pilgrims who came from all over Asia to visit this world famous shrine which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. Finally in early 57 poor sales for that year’s spring festivals for Diana’s ‘birthday’ provoked the silversmiths into riots. St. Paul was forced to flee the city. He nevertheless remained preoccupied with the problems of the church in Corinth. He went first to Troas where, after failing to meet St. Titus for a report on the situation in Corinth, he went on to Macedonia. Here, probably at Philippi, after receiving St. Titus’ report, he dictated his Second Epistle to the Corinthians.* 17

Prisca and Aquila, at great risk to themselves, had rescued St. Paul from the rioters. In 57, ending their four year stay in that city, they too departed from Ephesus. As St. Paul had by now resolved to visit St. Peter in Rome, they returned to Rome to prepare the way for his coming. St. Paul’s epistles could only partially deal with the mass of new problems revealed by the Corinthian chaos. As after the Galatian crisis of 49, he needed to consult with St. Peter and engage his full Apostolic authority. For the rest of 57 St. Paul worked not only in Macedonia but also as far northwest as Illyricum, founding churches along the main Roman road. Finally he returned to spend the winter of 57/58 in Corinth. 18

During these ‘three months’ which he spent wintering in Corinth, St. Paul dictated his greatest epistle, his Epistle to the Romans. Since at least the outbreak of the Corinthian crisis, St. Paul had long needed and wished to visit Rome and consult St. Peter. Since the return of Jews to Rome after 55 however there were also now many Jewish Christians there. Many of these were violently antipathetic to St. Paul and his doctrine as he had vehemently set it out in Galatians. A calmer and more thorough statement of his doctrine – that we are justified not by the works of the Mosaic Law but by faith in Jesus Christ – was needed. Indeed since Rome’s majority of ex-pagan Christians were tending to view their Jewish practices as Judaising innovations, St. Paul in Romans also defended his fellow Jewish Christians. Thus the St. Paul who in Galatians had vehemently attacked compulsory Jewish practices, in Romans now defended voluntary Jewish practices. 19

This epistle St. Paul dictated to the scribe Tertius, and entrusted to the deaconess Phoebe of Cenchreae who was sailing to Rome. To avoid a Jewish plot to murder him on the ship bound for Syria, he made his way to Macedonia where he celebrated Easter in Philippi. Here he was joined by St. Luke. Before going to Rome, St Paul wanted to take a great collection of money to the poor of the church in Jerusalem, where he wished to be in time for the Pentecost of 58. (We glimpse this collection in its early stages in


I Corinthians, 16, in its middle stages in II Corinthians, 9, and in its final stages in Romans, 15) After the shock of the Corinthian splits of 56, one of St. Paul’s primary concerns was to ensure Church unity, that there be no schism in the worldwide Body of Christ. A prime purpose of his great collection of 56 – 58 on behalf of the poor of the church in Jerusalem was precisely to demonstrate the unity of his new Gentile churches with the Jewish church centred on Jerusalem. After a week in Troas and a meeting with his priests at Ephesus whom he summoned to nearby Miletus to avoid risks of further delays, St. Paul and his party sailed to Caesarea in Palestine where they disembarked and journeyed up to Jerusalem. 20

Jerusalem at Pentecost was, as usual, full of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the Jewish world. Some of these from the province of Asia recognised St. Paul and stirred up a riot against him. He was only rescued from this riot by being taken into protective custody by the Temple’s Roman guard. A Jewish murder plot then caused St. Paul to be taken under heavy guard to Caesarea. Here he was to remain in captivity for the next two years, until 60 when Antonius Felix was replaced as Procurator by Porcius Festus. As Festus seemed inclined to send him to Jerusalem for trial, St. Paul resorted to claiming his right as a Roman citizen to have his case tried before Caesar in Rome itself. 21

In 52 Gallio, the Proconsul of Achaia, had declared to the effect that, as far as he was concerned, the Christians were but a Jewish sect. Did this mean that the Christians could continue to shelter under the immunities granted to the Jews? By his appeal to Caesar in 60, it seems that St. Paul was indeed hoping to win for the Church, from the Emperor’s own court, an explicit extension of the Jews’ exemptions under Roman law to cover Christians. St. Luke accompanied St. Paul as his legal adviser. Indeed the last eight chapters of Acts seem to be largely composed of materials compiled for use at St. Paul’s trial in Rome. In Romans in 58, perhaps to allay fears of the disruption that the prospect of his presence for an indefinite time in the city would cause, St. Paul had presented his intended visit as being made only in passing as he made his way on a missionary journey to Spain. But this was much more important than a mere passing sightseer’s visit, for Jesus Himself appeared to St. Paul to confirm him in his resolution to go to Rome. 22

The sailing season of 60 was already far advanced when the ship carrying St. Paul’s party sailed out from Caesarea. At Myra they were nevertheless able to catch one of the Alexandrian grain ships which routinely sailed northwards from Egypt to Myra before turning to sail westwards to Italy. Their ship however was caught in a storm which left them shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Here they spent the winter of 60/61. Another Alexandrian grain ship had wintered in Malta and on this, in the spring of 61, they sailed on to disembark at Puteoli. From here they journeyed up the road to Rome.





Via Egnatia (Egnatian Way)


Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople)










Notes Chapter 4 3

Troas, a seaport and Roman colony on the Asian coast opposite Macedonia, played an important part in St. Paul’s travels. Very near the ruins of ancient Troy, its strategic locality made it a good rendezvous. Here St. Paul was joined by St. Luke on the eve of his European mission; here we glimpse him at Mass in a house church in 58. This town’s strategic locality however also made it useful as a government ‘check point’ on travellers, so here finally St. Paul was arrested in 66. Founded by King Philip II of Macedon (d. 356 BC), strategically located and the scene of important battles in Rome’s civil wars, Philippi had been refounded as a Roman colony for veteran soldiers after those wars ended in 31 BC. From Philippi ran the Via Egnatia to Dyrrachium on the Adriatic opposite Brundisium (modern Brindisi). From Brundisium ran the famous Via Appia northwest across southern Italy to Rome. In his accounts of St. Paul’s journeys in Acts, St. Luke included some narrative in the first person plural: the so-called ‘we sections’. These ‘we sections’ are found in three places in Acts: the journey from Troas to Philippi in 50, from Philippi to Jerusalem in 58, and from Caesarea to Rome over the winter of 60/61. It has always been inferred by scholars that St. Luke was a member of St. Paul’s party on these three journeys. Minute textual examination by modern scholars has confirmed that the author of the ‘we sections’ was the same author as of the rest of the text of Acts. 5

Until its closure by the Emperor Justinian in 529, the Academy founded by Plato in Athens was to remain a centre of pagan resistance to the Church. 7

In II Thessalonians, 2, St. Paul reminded his Thessalonians that before the Second Coming there must necessarily first appear the ‘man of sin’ (St. John’s ‘antichrist’). He then referred them to a ‘that which’ (2:6) – cum - ‘he who’ (2:7) stands in the way of this antichrist. He treated his Thessalonians as already familiar with this now mysterious person-cum-thing which still thwarts the antichrist and who/which must first be removed before the antichrist can begin his reign. The Church fathers speculated that this person-cum-thing was the Roman Empire whose rule of law sheltered the Church from northern and southern barbarism and eastern despotism. Only today, as we witness the evils unleashed after the liturgical chaos of 1964 – 1970, can we see that this mysterious person-cum-thing which had held back the man of sin is the Eucharist. 12

An inscription discovered at Delphi and published in 1905 has enabled us to locate Gallio’s year as Proconsul of Achaia. This inscription records a letter of the Emperor Claudius to the city of Delphi. The letter named Gallio as Proconsul and dated itself as having been sent in the period following Claudius’ 26 th acclamation as Emperor, i.e. after 25 January 52. As his 27th acclamation took place on 1 August 52, Gallio’s year as Proconsul of Achaia must therefore have lasted officially from either 1 July 51 to 30 June 52 or from 1 July 52 to 30 June 53. It was, of course, early in the sailing season (which lasted from April until September) that governors sailed to their overseas posts. Junius Annaeus Novatus Gallio was born in Cordova, Spain, the eldest son of L. Annaeus Seneca and his wife Helvia. He had two brothers, L. Annaeus Seneca, the famous author, philosopher and tutor of Nero, and Annaeus Mela, the father of the poet Lucan. There are several references to Gallio in classical literature. Seneca dedicated his essays De Ira and De Vita Beata to him, and spoke of his charming disposition, a quality praised also by the poet Statius, who calls him ‘sweet Gallio’. He died in 65, the same that his famous brother was forced by Nero to suicide. 15

Our two epistles to the Corinthians seem to be the surviving second and third of three letters which St. Paul had dictated. He seems to have suppressed a first letter – to which he refers in I Corinthians, 5, and in II Corinthians, 2 and 7 – because of its


scandalous subject, the sharpness of its tone and because it contained nothing which was not better said in our surviving two epistles. 16

The Temple of Diana at Ephesus was one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’. The ancient Greek traveller Pausanias said that it ‘surpassed every structure raised by human hands’. Another ancient writer said: ‘I have seen the walls and hanging gardens of Old Babylon, the statue of Olympian Jove, the Colossus of Rhodes, the great labour of the lofty Pyramids, and the ancient tomb of Mausolus. But when I beheld the Temple at Ephesus towering to the clouds, all these other marvels were eclipsed.’ Today only one of these Seven Wonders survives: the pyramids of Egypt.

A cargo ship as represented on a bas relief dating from the reign of Claudius and found in 1863 at the port of Ostia (near Rome).



St. Paul’s Journeys from 50 to 61

St. Paul… Second Mission …leads mission in Macedonia & Achaia 50 – 53 …recruits St. Timothy (in Galatia) 50 …evangelises Philippi Thessalonica Beroea Athens Corinth …dictates I & II Thessalonians …is accused before Gallio in Corinth

50 / 51(winter) 51

…returns to Antioch via Jerusalem


Acts 15: 36 – end

15: 36 – 18:18 16: 1 – 5

16: 6 – 40 17: 1 – 9 17: 10 – 14 17: 15 – 34 51(end) - 53(spring) 18: 1 – 18 51 / 52 52 (July) 18: 12 – 17

Third Mission …frequently journeys from Ephesus 54 (end) – 57

18: 18 – 22 18:23 – 20:1 II Cor.11:23 – 27

…dictates I Corinthians …is expelled by silversmiths’ riot …dictates II Corinthians

56 57 (spring) 57

19: 23 – 20:1

…stays ‘three months’ in Corinth

57 / 58 (winter)

20: 2 – 3

…dictates Romans 58 …makes final journey to Jerusalem via Philippi Troas Miletus Tyre, Ptolemais & Caesarea

20:3 – 21:17 20: 3 – 6 20: 6 –15 20: 16 – 38 21: 1 – 17

First Captivity …is captive in Jerusalem & Caesarea 58 – 60 …addresses Jews in Jerusalem 58 (Pentecost) Felix the Governor 58 Festus & King Agrippa 60

21: 17 – 26: 32 22: 1 – 21 24: 10 – 21 26: 2 – 23

…journeys to Rome …is shipwrecked & winters on Malta

60 / 61

27: 1 – 28:15 27: 13 – 28:11

…is captive in Rome

61 – 63

28: 14 – 31



Rome: 61 to 66 A.D.


In the spring of 61 St. Paul’s party arrived at last in Rome. The next ten years were to be the most tumultuous and momentous in the history of the Apostolic Church. In this period, too, were written all the final books of the New Testament. 2

In Rome St. Paul was to remain in captivity for another two years. Unlike his captivity in Caesarea, St. Paul’s first captivity in Rome was under the mild conditions of a custodia militaris, a house arrest. He was able to rent his own lodgings and to receive visitors freely. His lodgings were in the northeast of the city near the barracks of the Praetorian Guard. These supplied the guard who was to keep him chained and to whom he was always to remain chained when out visiting. (This was no doubt due to the good offices of the Centurion Julius under whose charge St. Paul had made his journey from Caesarea. No doubt too the official documents relating to St. Paul’s trial had been lost in the shipwreck, and now needed to be replaced by the governor in Judaea. Things were complicated further still by the sudden death of that governor, Porcius Festus, in 62.) 3

By his appeal to Caesar and his journey to the metropolis of the world, St. Paul wished to stand before the Empire’s supreme tribunal. The Law of Associations, introduced by Augustus, had prohibited all societies which failed to register and obtain permission to hold meetings. The Jews had obtained such a permission. Assisted by St. Luke as his legal adviser, St. Paul was hoping to obtain for the Church a legal status similar to that granted to the Jews. Success in St. Paul’s trial would mean ‘Jewish’ status and privileges for the Church and a charter of freedom to preach the Gospel openly in every part of the Empire. Clearly St. Paul and St. Luke were hoping that a decision by an official of high standing, such as Gallio in 52, if it could be used as a precedent, could be used to establish a rule for later governors in their dealings with Christians and their Jewish accusers. In his Acts St. Luke shows us Roman governors (Sergius Paulus in 45 and Gallio in 52) as witnesses that St. Paul’s preaching was in no way a danger to the state. Felix in 58 and Festus (as well as King Herod Agrippa II) in 60 did not find St. Paul guilty of a capital charge, or indeed of any charge. The tribune Claudius Lysias was determined to save St. Paul, and the centurion Julius held him in the highest regard. The Asiarchs of Ephesus were leading citizens of the province of Asia and officials in charge of the imperial cult in their province. St. Luke records how in 57 they too were convinced of St. Paul’s political loyalty and religious harmlessness, and sought to protect him.* 4

Would the government in Rome take St. Luke’s skilfully made point, accept these precedents, and decide likewise? Or would they listen instead to the Christians’ Jewish accusers? St. Paul’s trial had been coming for the last eight chapters of Acts. What was the result? St. Luke does not tell us. After eight chapters of building up for St. Paul’s trial, there in Rome, St. Luke’s


account abruptly ends. What had happened? St. Luke simply refers to St. Paul’s staying in Rome for a further ‘two years’. This indicates that St. Paul’s case never came to a full and proper trial. Instead he was released under the rule of Roman law that an accused person should be released if his accusers failed to appear for his trial within two years. In the light of the following quarter millennium of official and often bloody persecutions, it may seem strange to us that a negotiated peace with a pagan ‘god’ had ever been thought by an Apostle to have been possible. And what was St. Paul doing being friends with Asiarchs, officials in charge of the local Emperor-worship cult? In fact in the histories of Joseph with the Pharaoh and of Ezra and Nehemiah with the Persian kings, the Old Testament provides clear examples of close cooperation by holy men with rulers officially held by their subjects to be divine. With Nero however the pagan Empire declared war on the Church, and with the Apocalypse, St. John on behalf of our Lord and His Church responded in kind. 5

It was in 63 then that St. Luke completed his magnificent narrative of the Church’s first thirty years, his Acts of the Apostles. As a whole, Acts seems to have been compiled by St. Luke for St. Peter and St. Paul as a general summary and review of the Church’s missionary effort up until that time. It does not seem that St. Luke had at first compiled his Acts for reading at Mass. Containing hardly any internal doctrine (didache), but abounding in examples of kerygma (‘proclamation’) or preaching directed to non-believers, certainly Acts would soon have been a most useful ‘missionary’s manual’. As papyrus rolls, St. Luke’s two books came to almost 31 feet in length each; each was already at the maximum possible length for a papyrus roll and is longer than any other book of the New Testament. Perhaps this is the simple reason for St. Luke’s failure to add any ‘updates’: such would have required starting on a whole new papyrus roll. 6

Both St. Peter and St. Paul had been shocked and warned by what had happened in Corinth in 56. Their major preoccupation in their final years was therefore with the establishment not just of churches but with the Church: the problem of how to keep all their new churches united and orthodox beyond their own lifetime and into the indefinite future. In his epistles written during his captivity in Rome, his so-called ‘captivity epistles’, St. Paul therefore emphasised the unity of Christ with His world-wide Church. 7

Problems in the churches remained and, in his chains in Rome, St. Paul did not need to wait long before being reminded. Among his visitors in 62 was a certain Epaphras. This Epaphras was a deacon of St. Paul who had helped found a church at an Asian city inland from Ephesus named Colossae. This church’s membership seems to have been mostly of pagan rather than Jewish background, but seems to have been infected with quasi-Jewish angelogical ideas. The Colossians were being invited to approach God not through Christ but through angels. St. Paul therefore dictated his Epistle to the Colossians in which he emphasised the infinite superiority of Jesus Christ over any and


all angels. This made Colossians St. Paul’s Christological epistle: his epistle on the nature of Christ.* 8

A disciple named Tychicus (‘Lucky’) was the courier entrusted to take this epistle to Colossae. This Tychicus carried another epistle besides that to the Colossians. This was a general epistle intended for circulation among the other churches of Asia. It was meant to be a general preventative against what had infected the Colossians in particular. Tychichus took this epistle to Ephesus where it was copied for distribution to the various churches of Asia. This general circular letter is today therefore known as the Epistle to the Ephesians. While Colossians was a polemic emphasising Christ’s infinite superiority over all angels, Ephesians was didactic, emphasising the worldwide Church as one with Christ.* 9

Accompanying Epaphras and Tychicus back from Rome to Asia was one Onesimus. This Onesimus was a slave who had escaped from his master, Philemon of Colossae. He had come to Rome where he was converted by St. Paul. St. Paul now sent him back with a personal letter, his Epistle to Philemon, to reconcile him with his master. The common theme of these three epistles being carried to Asia in 62 was unity: the unity of the Church throughout the world which united Christians in their local churches in a brotherhood in Christ which transcended all divisions, even that division, as in Philemon, between master and slave. Thus what was argued in Colossians was set out at more length in Ephesians, and was applied to a specific individual case in Philemon. This epistle to Philemon reflects a change which was to be of immense importance in the social history of Christian countries. For in it St. Paul made it clear that henceforth it was to be a matter of indifference to any Christian if he happened to be a slave, because his Baptism made him a freedman of Christ. In gruesome contrast the Roman historian Tacitus tells us that in 61 Nero upheld the Roman law whereby the murder of the Roman Prefect Pedanius Secundus by one of his slaves had led to his entire household of slaves being put to death. Thus St. Paul began the destruction of the till then universal institution of slavery not by attacking it directly but by making it a matter of indifference among Christians. The Roman archaeologist de Rossi tells us that whereas pagan tomb inscription always stated whether the deceased was free or a slave, of 11,000 Roman Christian tomb inscriptions only six gave any such information. No acrimonious arguments, no corrections of specific abuses are to be found in these three epistles. What St. Paul had fought for in Galatians and systematically set out in Romans, he now takes for granted. Henceforth St. Paul’s preoccupation was with preparations for the long-term future: how to ensure that the Universal Church would remain firmly united after his and St. Peter’s departure.* 10

Another visitor to St. Paul in Rome was one Epaphroditus from Philippi. During his stay in Rome this Epaphroditus had fallen dangerously ill. At about the same time, as his appeal for release under the two-year rule was due to be officially considered, St. Paul had been moved to the tighter


cities br

Brundisium (in Italy)













regions Da




islands Cr






seas Ad.s

Adriatic Sea


confines of the Praetorian barracks. He is optimistic that a decision for his release is imminent. He hopes to send St. Timothy and to come soon himself to Philippi. His Epistle to the Philippians is therefore to be dated to the eve of St. Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment, i.e. in the spring of 63. St. Paul was proud of his church at Philippi. No factions or defections were there needing to be dealt with. He wrote mainly to relieve their concern with his removal to the Praetorian prison, and over the illness of their compatriot. Indeed it was Epaphroditus himself who took this epistle back to his fellow Philippians. St. Paul also wrote to let them know that, after his release from prison, he hoped to come and visit them soon. This epistle also reflects his doctrinal preoccupation at that time with the worldwide unity of the Church in the mystery of Christ. In this epistle too we glimpse his preoccupation with the composition of Hebrews which was taking place at this time. Indeed in this epistle we find his clearest single statement of the mystery of Christ’s pre-existent divinity in eternity and His incarnation in time. 11

In 62 the Procurator of Judaea, Porcius Festus, died suddenly. Once again the Temple authorities seized the chance offered by the absence of a Roman governor. While Albinus the new Procurator was still on his way from Egypt, the High Priest Ananias II brought about the death of a group of ‘Nazarene’ leaders in Jerusalem. These included the Apostle, St. James the Lesser, the Bishop of Jerusalem. According to Josephus, this Ananias ‘profiting by the fact that Festus was dead and that his successor Albinus had not yet arrived, summoned the Sanhedrin, and caused to be brought before it the brother of the Lord called James, and some others, as guilty of having violated the Law; he had them stoned.’* 12

Jewish Christians were always under tremendous pressure to revert to the safety of their Jewish status, with its privileges under Roman law. It was therefore at about this time, in the shadow of the martyrdom of St. James the Lesser and his priests in Jerusalem in 62, that St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews came to be written. This sublime treatise on the divine High Priesthood of Jesus Christ may have been composed by St. Paul himself, but although its teachings are his, its style is not. For while St. Paul generally quoted Old Testament texts loosely from memory and frequently fused texts, in Hebrews the citations, often lengthy, are word for word from the Septuagint (the Greek Bible) even where this differs notably from the Hebrew Bible. Later St. Jerome, discussing the problem of the authorship of Hebrews, simply leaves his reader to choose from among St. Barnabas, St. Luke and St. Clement of Rome. The Greek of Hebrews has been described as the finest in the New Testament. This argues for St. Luke as its immediate writer. Neither at the commencement nor anywhere else in this epistle does St. Paul name himself. Knowing the execration in which his name was held amongst Jews and many Judaeo-Christians, he simply did not wish to distract with his name his fellow Jewish Christians already distracted in the wake of the death of St. James. As the end of his captivity is near, this epistle seems to have been written in early 63. Whoever actually composed Hebrews, St.


Paul endorsed it for circulation among the Jewish Christian groups and churches, especially those in Palestine.* 13

At the beginning of Philippians the words episcopoi and diaconoi (bishops and deacons) appear for the first time in a Pauline epistle. Indeed the problems of Church hierarchical order were to be the preoccupation of St. Paul’s last epistles, his three so-called ‘pastoral epistles’ to his delegates St. Timothy and St. Titus. St. Paul was also concerned with the settling down of the Church’s liturgy into stable patterns for the long term future. This concern is reflected in his frequent quotes, in his later epistles, of Church hymns. In 63, after his release, St. Paul may have made his journey to Spain of which he spoke in Romans. His visit, if any, was brief – although the church at Dertusa (today’s Tortosa) claims him as its founder. He had written to the Philippians of his hope to come and visit them soon, and very soon he was back in the east. Here he was preoccupied with the problems of how to ensure the best episcopal leadership for the churches after his and St. Peter’s departures. He visited Ephesus where he left St. Timothy in charge while he himself went on to Macedonia (to Philippi as he had promised). In Philippi in 64 he dictated a letter to St. Timothy instructing him on his duties as a bishop. This letter we know today as the First Epistle to St. Timothy.* 14

In 65 St. Paul set about evangelisation work on Crete. Here he left St. Titus to complete his first foundation work on the island by ordaining priests for each of the churches he had founded. On his return to the Greek mainland he wrote to St. Titus a letter of instructions summarising his duties as a missionary bishop. This letter is known today as the Epistle to St. Titus. This St. Titus was a gentile member of the church at Antioch who in 44 had accompanied St. Paul and St. Barnabas to Jerusalem. St. Jerome says that St. Titus was employed by St. Paul as his secretary just as St. Mark was employed by St. Peter. In 57 he was sent by St. Paul to pacify the church in Corinth. We glimpse him in 65 being instructed to ordain priests in Crete, and being sent thereafter to evangelise in Dalmatia. He is clearly a leading associate of St. Paul’s, yet nowhere is he mentioned in Acts. It has been speculated that he was a brother or close relative of St. Luke who suppressed St. Titus’ identity from the narrative just as he suppressed his own. Similarly St. John in his Gospel had avoided naming either himself or his brother St. James the Greater. We may assume that St. Paul fulfilled his intentions, expressed in his letter to St. Titus, of spending the winter (of 65/66) at Nicopolis in Epirus, and that St. Titus had been able to join him there. In 66 St. Paul sent St. Titus northwards from Epirus to do missionary work in Dalmatia. 15

In the wake of the outbreak of the Jewish rebellion in August 66, St. Paul was arrested at Troas and taken to Rome. Here he dictated a letter to St. Timothy in which he summoned him from Ephesus to Rome and asked him to bring St. Mark with him. This, his Second Epistle to St. Timothy, was to be his final testament. He knows that his death is near. In this epistle, too, we catch our final glimpse of St. Paul’s key assistants, Prisca and Aquila. They are now in Ephesus. In 49 they had


moved from Rome to Corinth, and in 53 from Corinth to Ephesus. They too had been forced to leave Ephesus at the time of the silversmiths’ riot in early 57 and were back hosting a church in Rome when St. Paul wrote Romans in early 58. No doubt their return to Ephesus had taken place after Rome’s Great Fire in July 64. While St. Luke referred to her more familiarly as Priscilla, St. Paul referred to her more respectfully as Prisca. The precedence of her name before that of her husband indicates that she was a Roman matron of independent and wealthy means. Able to travel often and to host house churches for the Apostles themselves, this couple were certainly more wealthy than could be accounted for by Aquila’s profession as a tent-maker. 16

In the first churches the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament had been used for teaching and preaching at Mass. From the time of the first dispersion in 37 every newly founded church had at least one Gospel, and probably all four Gospels after 50. In the thirty years between St. James (the earliest epistle) and 67, the epistles were successively added as supplements for teaching on doctrine, morals and Church order. Since at least I Thessalonians (51) St. Paul had been systematic in propagating his epistles. The four Galatian churches in 49 would each have kept their own copy of their epistle, and the three magnificent epistles to the Corinthians and the Romans would have been quickly copied and shared out among other churches. St. Paul’s epistle ‘to the Ephesians’ was in fact, from the start, meant to be copied and circulated among all the churches. (Ephesians was St. Paul’s only epistle meant from the start to be a circular. In contrast, of the seven epistles of the other Apostles, five were meant to be circulars.) He asked the Colossians to get a copy of Ephesians from, and to share their own epistle with, their neighbours in Laodicaea.* 17

In the end 14 of the 27 works comprising the New Testament carried the name of St. Paul as their author. To summarise then St. Paul’s contribution to the New Testament: his first five epistles had been provoked by the internal problems of the Galatian (49), Thessalonian (51, 52) and Corinthian (56, 57) churches. Next came his formal treatise to the Romans (58) and then four Roman ‘captivity epistles’ (62, 63) – personal letters to Philemon and the Philippians, and two treatises (Ephesians, and to the Colossians) on the unity of the world-wide Church with Christ. Finally, after he endorsed a treatise to the Hebrews (63), came his three ‘pastoral’ epistles (64 to 66) on the selection and duties of the Church’s rulers. To summarise more briefly still, St. Paul followed his first six epistles on disciplinary matters in individual churches and on doctrine with five Roman ‘captivity’ epistles on the Church’s unity in Christ’s priesthood and finished with his three ‘pastoral’ epistles for Church rulers. 18

By 63 the Church had come a long way since that first decade when St. James wrote his epistle full of practical wisdom for Jewish Christians who had only ‘the rich’ to fear. Now dangers threatened externally not only from the Jews and the Jewish Temple and synagogue authorities but also increasingly from ordinary pagan citizens and from the imperial pagan authorities.


Dangers had also arisen internally from ‘false brethren’, i.e. from tensions between Jewish and gentile Christians and from wandering preachers, mostly Judaisers, preaching docetism and libertinism. 19

St. Paul had no illusions. As he said in his farewell speech at Miletus to his priests from Ephesus in 58 ‘I know that when I am gone fierce wolves will invade you’. St. Paul and St. Peter most certainly intended to do whatever they could to protect the Church from these ‘fierce wolves’. In Rome during his captivity St. Paul was now very much thinking of the future, of about how they could do all they could to ensure that the Church would remain united, strong, growing and above all orthodox after his own and St. Peter’s passing. They needed to ensure that they were succeeded by properly chosen, prepared and ordained Church leaders dedicated to the preservation both of their teaching, the holy Sacrifice and sacraments, and of the properly authorised Scriptures of what we now know as the New Testament. Note that St. Paul fully expects that these ‘fierce wolves’ will come ‘from out of your own ranks’. They will be priests gone bad. 20

St. Peter and St. Paul were founding fathers and they knew it. As St. Peter put it: ‘I know that the time for taking this tent off is coming soon, as the Lord Jesus Christ foretold to me, and I shall take great care that after my departure you will still have the means to recall these things to memory.’ Indeed in 66 in his final epistle St. Peter endorsed St. Paul’s epistles as ‘scripture’. St. Peter and St. Paul also knew how to read the ‘signs of the times’. Everywhere pressures were building up which were to explode in the terrible Neronian persecution which broke out after the Great Fire of 64, and in the terrible Roman-Jewish war of 66 to 70. 21

We glimpse St. Mark in Rome with St. Peter in 63 and with St. Paul during his first imprisonment there. During his final imprisonment in Rome (in 66 – 67) St. Paul asks St. Timothy to bring St. Mark with him from Ephesus to Rome, and also ‘the books, especially the parchment notebooks’. Expensive but much more durable than papyrus, parchment (made from animal skins) was the material not for mere notes but for important, official and frequently used documents like Gospels and Epistles. This indeed seems the most likely occasion for St. Mark’s addition of a last twelve verses to help upgrade his Remembrances into a more proper Gospel. ‘Luke alone is with me.’ As these extra verses contain four references otherwise found only in St. Luke and Acts, it seems that St. Luke had assisted in their composition.* 22

Thus guided by the Holy Spirit, St. Peter and St. Paul set out to establish in Rome an authenticating authority, i.e. an authority able not only to guarantee which scriptures and teachings were truly those of Christ’s Church but also, thenceforth and forever, to condemn and proscribe all writings and teachings which contradicted these. Indeed the very smallness of the New Testament is a proof of the presence of the hierarchical and intensely conservative Church priestly and teaching authority they had established. (By comparison, when the growth of


the Jewish Talmud was finally stopped in the fifth century, its assortment of works amounted to over 70 times the size of the Old Testament!) 23

With the death of Claudius on 13 October 54, Nero, at the age of seventeen, was acclaimed Emperor. This new Emperor was a murderous and cowardly weakling. For the first five years of his reign however he was kept under control by his tutor Seneca, by Burrhus the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and above all by Agrippina, his terrifying mother, to whose murderous intrigues in fact he owed his throne. In 58 however Nero met and quickly fell under the seductions of one Poppaea Sabina. In 59, after a number of sometimes bizarre attempts, he finally managed to murder his mother. (He needed to make her death seem accidental. Finally, one night in the bay of Naples, he managed to have a ship sink under her. She swam away but, after she arrived ashore, she was hunted down and clubbed to death.) In 62 Poppaea Sabina became pregnant. She could not however marry Nero while his wife Octavia still lived. Nero repeatedly raised the question of a divorce with his advisers, but on this Burrhus was adamant. ‘If you want to divorce her,’ he said, ‘you must give her back her dowry.’ By this he meant the Empire itself, for she was Claudius’ daughter. The death of Burrhus by poisoning cleared the way for the divorce, exile and on 9 June, the execution of Octavia ‘for adultery’. With the rise of Poppaea Sabina and the removal of the restraints imposed upon him by his mother, Burrhus and Seneca, Nero, as the 60’s progressed, grew ever more public and dangerous in his madness. As Poppaea Sabina was a leading protectress of the Jews, her triumph soon meant the triumph of the Jewish accusers over their Christian adversaries.* 24

For the endless accusations of the Jews were beginning to bear fruit in a steadily growing general hostility among the pagans towards the Christiani everywhere both in Rome and in the East. Incidents were multiplying. In 63 or early 64 therefore, with St. Silas as his secretary, St. Peter, to steel them against the persecutions which were breaking out upon them, dictated the First Epistle of St. Peter to the churches he had founded in northern and western Asia Minor. In this epistle we see that the Christians were being calumniated, slandered and reproached for the name of Christ. In all this we can see the hostile behaviour of individuals rather than administrative persecution. The Neronian storm was brewing but had not yet broken in its full fury and cruelty. Christians must be ready to give pagans the reasons for their hope, and to endure all things as Christ had suffered. Also they must ‘honour the Emperor’ who at this time was Nero. I St. Peter is remarkable for the extent of its indebtedness to other epistles. Many of its passages show an acquaintance with St. James, and scholars have found more than forty marginal references from chapters 12 to 14 of Romans, as well as twenty such references from the first three chapters of Ephesians. Considerable parts of I St. Peter were also most suitable for use in instructions for Baptism. At the time however the main purpose for which this epistle was composed and sent was similar to that of its contemporary


Hebrews (which was specifically for Jewish Christians). Seeing the coming storm, St. Peter was writing to console, encourage and strengthen his increasingly beleaguered churches of ex-pagans in their faith. 25

After the martyrdom of St. James the Lesser in 62, his brother St. Jude wrote his brief circular Epistle of St. Jude to his fellow Jewish Christians. In 66 parts of this epistle were incorporated by St. Peter in his Second Epistle of St. Peter to his ex-pagan Christians. Both epistles were written to warn against wandering teachers taking advantage of St. Paul’s doctrine of free grace to preach immorality (i.e. libertinism). St. Jude was the only one of ‘the Lord’s brothers’ who we know to have been married: his descendants were later brought before the Emperor Domitian. Writing to his Corinthians, St. Paul had referred to St. Peter and ‘the Lord’s brothers’ as examples familiar to the Corinthians of missionaries who were assisted in their travels by ‘a sister’. This suggests that St. Jude too had visited Corinth, and had therefore travelled to Rome. Thus St. Peter followed up his I St. Peter fortifying his churches against external attacks from pagans with II St. Peter warning against internal attacks by heretics. In the first epistle St. Peter names St. Silas as his secretary. To St. Silas then this epistle’s high quality Greek may be credited.* 26

In much the same manner as II St. Timothy was St. Paul’s last testament, II St. Peter was St. Peter’s. Both warned against the heretics who have afflicted and always will plague Church life, and whose fantasies, immorality and calumnies will always provoke divisions, scandals and persecution. Indeed false teachers and false notions concerning Jesus Christ had abounded from the beginning. The water of his baptism had hardly dried off when Simon Magus made his bizarre request. After the Judaisers who urged the compulsory retention of Jewish practices and had tended to deny the preexistent divinity of Jesus Christ, had come the libertarian abusers of St. Paul’s doctrine of free grace. In these earliest days all heresy sprang from a Jewish root. The wandering false teachers who had devastated St. Paul’s Galatian churches always claimed to be ‘Teachers of the Law’, and advocated circumcision, various Mosaic rites and all the observances of the Sabbath. By the time of the three ‘pastoral epistles’ the Judaisers were teachers of ‘fables and endless geneologies’ and ‘all their strivings are about the Law’. To the minute Mosaic observances they advocated they progressively added doctrinal speculations and a very definite asceticism involving wholesale abstinence from meat, wine and even marriage as necessary for salvation. These false teachers had quickly found a ‘market’ in the many people who wanted teachers who could dazzle them with their learning or clever philosophical speculations, who restricted their demands to external practices only or else who would simply let them keep their vices. Many teachers became progressively more immoral in their teachings. Wild swings between extremes of ‘encratism’ (forbidding nearly everything) and antinomianism (forbidding nothing) became characteristic of them. The Apostles’ work of preparing for the future was well done indeed. In St. Paul’s three ‘pastoral’ epistles and in II St. Peter we glimpse not only the


spreading of heresies and heretics but also the growth and strengthening of Church institutions to guard against these.* 27

‘My dearest people, do not be amazed that you should be tested by fire …for the time has come for the beginning of judgement in God’s household.’ So had prophesied St. Peter in early 64. On 19 July 64 near the Circus Maximus the Great Fire of Rome broke out. This fire rapidly spread to engulf vast portions of the city, and raged until it was finally extinguished ten days later. Of Rome’s fourteen districts three had been totally, and eight partially destroyed. Only three districts escaped unscathed. A few areas were not affected by the fire, such as the Trans Tiberim and the densely populated districts near the Porta Capena and on the Aventine. Many in these undamaged quarters were Jews. Indeed as the Jewish areas of the city had almost entirely escaped the ravages of the fire, envious suspicions began to fall on the Jews. The Emperor however had acted strangely during the fire, on one occasion playing a lyre and singing poems about the burning of Troy. Also it was being said that during the fire men were seen throwing firebrands into buildings and claiming that they were acting on orders ‘from the top’. Nero was in fact becoming the chief suspect and was quickly in search of a scapegoat. The Christians themselves were being taught that the world would end by fire. The Jews therefore had little difficulty, thanks to the influence of Poppaea Sabina, in deflecting the imperial guilt and popular wrath onto their Christian adversaries.* 28

‘All we know about this sect is that opinion everywhere condemns it.’ So said the Jewish leaders to St. Paul in 61. (Their cautious answer to St. Paul shows that they were not ‘buying into’ any more brawls such as had caused them to be expelled only twelve years previously.) According to Tacitus, the Christiani were popularly thought of as harbouring ‘hatred of the human race’ (odium humani generis, in Greek: misanthropeia). Decades of calumny had done their work. Besides the Jews there was also a large body of Jewish Christians at Rome who were bitterly opposed to St. Paul. Tacitus tells us that the first Christians to be arrested denounced their co-religionists. Similarly St.Clement of Rome seems to imply that it was Jewish Christians who denounced St. Peter and St. Paul to the authorities. The temptation for Jewish Christians to save themselves by reverting to the safety of their Jewish status must always have been most strong.* 29

Thus in the wake of the Great Fire of Rome began the Empire’s first great persecution of the Church. This persecution raged at least until Nero’s suicide in June 68. (Indeed while active persecution may have ceased with Nero’s death, his anti-Christian decree – called the Institutum Neronianum – was his only law to remain untouched in the law books after his fall. The Church’s officially outlaw status was to last a quarter of a millennium.) Late in that summer of 64 the martyrdoms began. The Christians burnt in Nero’s gardens on the ager Vaticanus (the ‘Vatican field’) were suffering the punishment prescribed under Roman law for arsonists. Tacitus tells of the ‘huge multitude’ (multitudo ingens) of Christians martyred by Nero. The


martyrdoms continued over the following years with tortures so varied and cruel that, according to Tacitus, even the long-brutalised Roman mob began to be disgusted. In early 65 a conspiracy, called the Pisonian conspiracy after Piso its alleged leader, against Nero was discovered. The arrest of the multitudo ingens was continuing at the same time as the trials of the Pisonian conspirators. Tacitus relates how ‘afterwards endless trains of chained prisoners were dragged along to stand at the gates of the imperial gardens.’ These were not Pisonian conspirators because in that conspiracy only 41 persons in all were implicated. (Of these, twenty were found guilty and sixteen were executed while the rest were acquitted.) Tacitus himself thought that these great numbers were being arrested in an anti-Pisonian reign of terror.* In her terrible sufferings however the Church was soon to be joined by the Romans and the Jews. Within a few years their two great cities were to endure terrible sufferings of their own. Notes Chapter 5 3 The Muratorian Canon states that St. Luke accompanied St. Paul to Rome ‘quasi ut iuris studiosum’ (‘as his legal adviser’). Named after its discoverer, Ludovico Muratori, who published it in 1740, the Muratorian Canon is a 9th century Latin manuscript giving a list of the works being used as New Testament Scripture in the Roman church in the mid second century. Examples of St. Luke’s studious accuracy abound in Acts. In Thessalonica archaeologists have found many inscriptions bearing the specific title of Politarch. The title of Asiarch has been found only in Ephesus, that of First Man only in Malta. 7

Angelology – the study of angels – was very important among Jews in the last centuries before Christ. According to Josephus, the Essenes, for example, attached great importance to knowledge of the names of angels. In the second century BC some thousands of Jews had been deported from Palestine to the district of Colossae by Antiochus III. Their descendants and the region inherited certain garbled Jewish angelogical beliefs which were causing trouble in the churches at Colossae and nearby Laodicaea. The infection was to prove persistent. As late as 363 the Council of Laodicaea decreed in its Canon 35 that ‘It is not lawful for Christians to abandon the Church of God in order to turn away and invoke angels.’ 8

Ephesians begins with ‘To the saints who are (at Ephesus) and faithful in Jesus Christ’. Some important manuscripts leave out ‘at Ephesus’ and leave ‘who are’ hanging ungrammatically in the air. This means that a blank space had been left for the insertion of the name of the church to which each copy was being sent. 9

As societies became Christian, slavery slowly died out. Eventually indeed the general absence of servile labour led to the invention, in Christian societies, of energy harnessing devices such as the water- and wind-mills in the Middle Ages, and later still to the industrial revolution of modern times. For a thousand years after its invention in China in c. 100 AD, paper making in China, India and Islamic countries entailed servile labour. On its arrival in Europe (13th century Spain) its making was immediately mechanised. 11

The quote on the death of St. James is from Josephus, Antiquities, 20.9.1.


St. Jerome discusses the authorship of Hebrews in De Viris Illustribus, 5.

7 13

Scholars have identified some seven passages as extracts from Church hymns: Ephesians 1:3 – 12; 5:14; Colossians 1:15 – 20; Philippians 2: 6 – 11; I St. Timothy 3: 16; 6: 15 – 16; & II St. Timothy 2: 11 – 13. The second century Roman Muratorian Canon says that St. Paul journeyed ‘ad Spania’; St. Clement of Rome in the first century says that St. Paul ‘journeyed to the furthest limits of the west’. 16

Some scholars speculate that an epistle of St. Paul to the Laodicaeans was lost in the earthquake which devastated the city of Laodicaea in about 61. This seems most unlikely as St. Paul’s scribe would have kept a copy, and copies were quickly multiplied with each church wanting a full set of epistles of its own. Also at the end of Colossians St. Paul did not refer to any ‘epistle to the Laodicaeans’ but to ‘the epistle from Laodicaea’. 18

Docetism: belief that in Jesus God did not really become man but only ‘seemed’ (Greek: dokein – seem, appear) to be a man. 21

St. Paul’s request that St. Timothy bring the ‘parchment notebooks’ (‘membranae’, 4:13) with him to Rome reflects a development of immense historical significance. A membrana (Latin: ‘skin’) became in the plural membranae, a ‘notebook’ (made of parchment). A membranae was composed of four sheets of parchment folded twice and cut to yield a notebook of 16 leaves (or 32 pages). It was then but a short step to sewing these membranae together to form a codex, the ancestor of our modern book. Unlike the papyrus scroll, the codex allowed use of both sides of a sheet. As it was more compact and more easily carried and concealed, and as it allowed quick movement between Epistles and Gospels, the codex was quickly adopted by the Church. In the late first century the codex was used among pagans. Soon however as use of the codex became identified with the Christiani, they avoided it until after the triumph of the Church in the fourth century. In his Chronicon of 221, Julius Africanus listed the ten predecessors of Demetrius who had become Bishop of Alexandria in 189. Julius listed their names as, in order of succession, Anianus, Abilius, Cerdo, Primus, Justus, Eumenes, Marcus, Celadion, Agrippinus and Julian, and the length of the reign of each which added up to a total of 128 years, this making Anianus the successor of St. Mark in 61 or 62 AD. This means that in or by 62 St. Mark had ceased to be the missionary episcopos of the church in Alexandria. The bodies of St. Mark and his episcopal successors rested in a sanctuary in a suburban locality east of Alexandria called Boucolia. (In 830 the body of St. Mark was taken by Venetian merchants to Venice.) 23

The date of Octavia’s murder is remembered as it was on this same date that, six years later, Nero committed suicide. 25

Eusebius (Hist. Eccl.) tells us that late in the first century the Emperor Domitian, after hearing that the Jews were expecting to be liberated by a Messiah from the House of David, had St. Jude’s grandsons brought before him in Rome. After seeing their hands calloused by their poverty and hard work as peasants, the Emperor dismissed them as obviously harmless. 26

On the basis of stylistic similarities between II St. Peter and the Epistle to the Corinthians by St. Clement of Rome, this latter has been thought by many scholars to have been St. Peter’s secretary for the writing of II St. Peter. The oldest surviving papyrus codex of II St. Peter, the P72, written in the third century gives 1:15 not in the future but in the present tense: ‘I am making every effort…’

7 27

That Nero had ordered the Fire was the consensus of his contemporaries, and, with the partial exception of Tacitus, of Roman historians. Indeed Subrius Favus, a tribune of the Praetorian Guard, when on trial for his life in April 65, as a Pisonian conspirator, did not scruple to tell the Emperor to his face that he was an arsonist. Poppaea’s Jewish sympathies were noted by Josephus (Vita, 3), and Tacitus Historiae, 1, 22. 28

St. Clement of Rome (Corinthians 5, 2) indicates that it was Judaeo-Christians who had denounced St. Peter and St. Paul to the authorities. 29

Continua hinc et vincti agmina trahi ac foribus hortorum adiacere. (Tacitus, Annales, 15, 58)

Mosaic of the Fishes – found at Pompeii in the house where the ROTAS squares were found


Rome, 61 to 66 AD


Martyrdom of St. James in Jerusalem


In captivity in Rome, St. Paul dictates Colossians Ephesians Philemon Philippians …& authorises



…released from captivity, he visits Spain then returns to the East. St. Luke completes his Acts of the Apostles From Rome St. Peter sends I St. Peter


From Macedonia St. Paul sends I St. Timothy to St. Timothy in Ephesus Great Fire of Rome Neronian Persecution

July 64 – 68

Evangelising in Crete St. Paul sends St. Titus 65 …& winters at Nicopolis in Epirus



A vetro cemeteriale base celebrating the sacrament of marriage. VIVATIS IN DEO (‘May you live in God.’)

Early Christian ring bearing the Alpha and Omega of Christ.



Rome, Jerusalem and Patmos, 66 to 70


In the wake of the Great Fire of 64, Nero’s extravagant plans for the rebuilding of Rome (which he wanted to rename Neropolis!) quickly began to be implemented. In September 66 Nero himself however set out on his famous tour of Greece, a tour from which he was not to return until March 68. Thus while he may have been involved in sentencing Saints Peter and Paul, he was not in Rome at the time of their deaths in June 67. From St. Clement of Rome we learn that St. Peter and St. Paul suffered ‘under the rulers’, that is, while Nero himself was absent from Rome. These rulers were the freedman Helius and his assistant Polycleitus. These were left with full power to govern in Rome and Italy during Nero’s absence in Greece. 2

Protected by now routine secrecy and their well-organised followers, St. Peter had continued working and St. Paul his missionary travels until at last, with the outbreak of the Roman-Jewish war in the summer of 66, government surveillance on Jews in general and their leaders in particular was tightened up throughout the Empire. Now Peter, hearing all these entreaties (to flee) responded, ‘No-one come with me. I will change clothes and go by myself.’ The following night, after liturgical prayer, he took leave of the brethren and, recommending them to God with his blessing, he left, alone … He was about to pass through the gate of the city when he saw Christ coming towards him. He adored Him and said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Christ replied, ‘I am going to Rome to be crucified once again.’ Peter said, ‘Lord, will you be crucified again?’ And Christ replied, ‘Yes, I will be crucified again.’ Peter responded, ‘Lord, I am returning to follow you!’ Then the Lord returned to Heaven. Peter followed Him with his gaze, weeping tears of consolation. Considering all this, Peter understood that the words referred to his own martyrdom, that is, how the Lord would suffer in him as He suffers in the elect by means of merciful compassion in their glorious celebration. Thus he returned to the city, radiant and glorifying God. He related to the brethren that the Lord had met him and told him that He, the Lord, would be crucified anew in him. Thus did our Lord Himself ensure that St. Peter’s martyrdom and allimportant tomb would be in Rome.* 3

St. Paul was arrested at Troas (a port used by the government as a checkpoint on travellers between Asia and Macedonia) and brought to Rome. According to traditions, both St. Peter and St. Paul were kept for some nine months in the Mamertine prison (close by Rome’s Forum) before their martyrdom. The date for their execution was set for 29 June, the pagan feast day of Romulus, the semi-legendary founder of pagan Rome. No doubt the execution of these two ‘Jewish leaders’ was to be presented as a patriotic gesture on such a day. Four legions were now


engaged in putting down the great revolt which, in the summer of the previous year, had broken out in Judaea. As a Roman citizen, St. Paul was entitled to have his execution a quick one by beheading. Thus by a small road branching off near the third milestone on the Via Ostiensis leading south from the city to the port of Ostia died St. Paul the great Apostle of the Gentiles. The locality, called Aquae Salviae, and the site is today occupied by the monastery of Tre Fontane (‘Three Fountains’). His body, as precious as his memory, was carefully buried in a nearby graveyard, by the Via Ostiensis. Since the fourth century his tomb has been guarded by the mighty Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.* 4

Meanwhile spectacles in honour of Romulus were being held that day at the chariot racing course in the ager Vaticanus, northwest of the city. Among the cruciarii hanging that day on their crosses on the spina which ran down the middle of the circus, hung Simon bar Jona, of Bethsaida, given the till then divine title of Rock by God Himself and made Prince of His Apostles, visible head of His Church and now historical Founder of Christian Rome. Such gruesome spectacles were a ‘normal’ sight at chariot race courses, and cruciarii were nailed in all sorts of positions to ‘crosses’ of all shapes. St. Peter’s executioners no doubt readily granted his request to be crucified hanging upside down. That evening St. Peter’s body was removed from its cross by being cut off at the ankles, was carefully retrieved by his priests and buried just outside the northern side of the circus. It was laid in ground that was already Christian, already sanctified as the resting place of so many who had given their lives for the Faith. Daily, perhaps even from the year of his death in 67, holy Mass has been offered over St. Peter’s tomb. Certainly St. Peter’s in Rome has remained the oldest continually functioning church in the world. (Indeed the only rivals in antiquity for St. Peter’s church are other Roman churches: the Sta. Prisca, the Sta. Pudenziana, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.)* 5

Not that the Roman church was ever unaware of its primacy and dignity as the See of the Prince of the Apostles. In the catacombs of Rome we find everywhere, in paintings and sculptures dating from the first to the fifth centuries, St. Peter identified with Moses himself. He is thus solemnly celebrated as the Moses of the New Testament, the Lawgiver and Ruler of the whole Christian world. Indeed we know of the personal appearance of St. Peter and St. Paul from their many representations to be found in the catacombs and on Roman artefacts dating from the earliest Christian centuries. As the Roman church’s most precious treasure, St. Peter’s tomb was of course concealed and maintained with the utmost care. After the Circus Maximus (where the great fire had started) was rebuilt, the circus of Nero fell into disuse and, over the following centuries, a cemetery gradually grew up over the ager Vaticanus. As Roman law protected all cemeteries as sacred, this facilitated concealment of St. Peter’s tomb. More than ten bishops of Rome were buried close by the Galilean fisherman’s tomb over the following century as a secret church complex grew up around the site.


A Roman vetro cemeteriale showing St. Peter and St. Paul standing by a pillar bearing the crossed Chi and Rho representing Christ. Note the extra scroll representing St. Peter’s second Epistle.

This coin shows the Emperor Nero with his full name and some of his titles: NERO CLAVD(ius) CAESAR AVG(ustus) GERM(anicus) P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunitia) P(otestate) IMP(erator) P(ater) P(atriae). On the reverse side we see Nero dressed up and playing as a lyre player. Suetonius (Vita Neronis 25) tells us that Nero ‘statuas suas cytharaedico habitu … qua nota nummum percussit.’ (‘He had statues made of himself dressed up as a lyre player … and had coins struck in this style.’)


In the early Church, the fact that the tomb of St. Peter was in Rome was challenged by no one. It was taken for granted by all. No other city ever thought to dare to claim to have St. Peter’s tomb. Ephesus was to have the tomb of St. John, and Hierapolis the tomb of St. Philip, but no other early church, not even Alexandria or Antioch, could even remotely rival the prestige of Rome, the earthly resting place and shrine of Saints Peter and Paul.* 6

These Apostles had done everything they could to prepare the Church for the shock of their departure, but a terrible shock and crisis for the Church it still was. In the wake of the chaos and carnage of that terrible decade which swept away St. Peter and St. Paul along with tens of thousands of fellow martyrs, who was to oversee the vital transition from the temporary personal rule of the Apostles to the permanent institutional rule of bishops? To ease this terrible shock and transitional crisis, divine Providence now raised up the last of the great Apostles: St. John. Our Lord had sent His Apostles out preaching in pairs, and early in Acts we see St. John as St. Peter’s regular companion. He was with St. Peter when, with St. James, they were visited by Saul and St. Barnabas in 44. St. John seems to have first sojourned at Ephesus when he took our Lady there for safety from the persecution by King Herod Agrippa I (41 to 44). He was however back in Jerusalem and with St. Peter when Saul visited there in the autumn of 44. He was also no doubt present at the Council of Jerusalem in the winter of 49/50. Perhaps he assisted St. Peter in his missionary work in northern and western Asia Minor between 50 and 55. Traditions imply however that St. John did not base himself permanently in Ephesus until after the time of St. Paul. 7

In August 66 the great Jewish revolt exploded in Judaea. Upon his arrest at Troas, St. Paul was transferred to Rome to where he summoned St. Timothy with St. Mark from Ephesus. We have already seen how in their final epistles St. Peter and St. Paul were filled with concern about how their new churches were to deal with wandering false teachers – Judaisers and teachers of docetism and immorality. Someone was especially needed in Ephesus to keep general charge of the churches in Asia Minor and to oversee the Church’s combat against these false teachers. St. Paul does not seem to have regarded St. Timothy as equal to the enormity of the task. In the autumn of 66, in Ephesus, St. John could see from the last epistles of St. Peter and St. Paul (II St. Peter and II St. Timothy) that their martyrdom was imminent. Time therefore was short if he wished ever to see them again in this life. To confirm that St. Peter’s three denials had been forgiven and that he had been formally reinstated by our Lord, St. John now decided to add one final 'chapter' to his Gospel. He determined therefore to journey to Rome in order to obtain St. Peter’s (and St. Paul’s) endorsement for this final addition to his Gospel. In this final 'chapter' he makes it clear not only that St. Peter had been fully reinstated after his triple denial of our Lord and had been solemnly made the Shepherd of all Christ’s sheep, but also that our Lord had foretold his martyrdom by crucifixion. Finally he wished to scotch notions that he himself was necessarily going to live until the Second Coming.


St. John then dictated the First Epistle of St. John and a note advising of his intended visit, the Second Epistle of St. John. I St. John was meant to accompany his Gospel as a summary of that Gospel’s ethical implications. It refers to itself as a letter but lacks any introduction or conclusion. It begins and ends abruptly. The function of introduction and conclusion was filled by II St. John. A copy of these two letters was sent on ahead from Ephesus via Corinth to Rome to notify those churches of his impending visit. A church leader in Corinth however, Diotrephes by name, not only refused hospitality to St. John’s emissaries but had even taken it upon himself to expel their sympathisers from his church. His messenger carrying II St. John having been intercepted at Corinth, St. John therefore dictated the Third Epistle of St. John as a letter of commendation for his messenger Demetrius, and of introduction for Demetrius to Caius, a leading member of the church in Corinth. (This Caius had been baptised by St. Paul and had hosted St. Paul in the winter of 57/58.) This Caius was now able to host St. John’s party for the winter of 66/67 in Corinth. The behaviour of Diotrephes was perhaps a legacy of the splits in the Corinthian church which had taken place ten years previously and which had occasioned I Corinthians. That any church leader should have an insolent attitude towards the messengers of an Apostle is strange, and indicates that St. John had not yet been long established at Ephesus. Perhaps it was for security reasons that St. John put his doctrine in one epistle and its introduction and his travel intentions in a separate letter. His self-concealment however seems to have been too successful. To us it can only be amazing that any church leader could dare to oppose and expel the personal emissaries of an Apostle. Just who was this Diotrephes? (Certainly he was an example of a church leader with a strong protective instinct, if not of a bishop taking his disciplinary duties most seriously.) As the Emperor Nero had been in Greece since September, perhaps this Diotrephes, in a Corinth swarming with government agents and spies, was merely being overcautious. Given also the outbreak of the Jewish rebellion since August, perhaps he simply did not want to be seen near Jews of any sort, Christian or not.* 8

Thus St. John completed his journey from Ephesus to Rome. Arriving in the spring of 67, he was able to make contact with St. Peter and St. Paul and obtained their endorsement of the new ending of his Gospel: ‘and we know that his testimony is true.’ (These words of endorsement are not by St. John’s disciples. To be of worth they must be by fellow witnesses of the events narrated, i.e. by his superior and peers – St. Peter and fellow Apostles such as St. Jude – who had witnessed the original events described.) It is notable that both St. Peter and St. John referred to Rome as ‘Babylon’ and to their churches as ‘the Elect Lady’ (‘Electa’) or as ‘the co-Elect Lady’ (‘Coelecta’) and to themselves as ‘the elder’ or ‘your fellow-elder’. Because of their association with this enormously important journey of St. John to Rome, II St. John and III St. John were kept and treasured by the church in Rome. Indeed only Rome could have the high authority necessary for preserving and propagating two such brief covering notes as these. Only Rome could ensure their ultimate acceptance in the canon of the New Testament by all the world’s churches.*

8 9

In March 68 Nero in Greece received news of military revolts in Gaul and was nearly shipwrecked as he hurried back to Italy and Rome. Upon Nero’s suicide on 9 June, the Senate proclaimed Galba, the Governor of Spain, as Emperor. In Judaea the general, Vespasian, on receiving the news of Nero’s death, called off his siege of Jerusalem. His plea was that, with the death of the Emperor, his commission had lapsed. Nero’s extravagances having emptied the treasury, the necessarily parsimonious Galba was unable to lavish the expected money on his army, or even upon his Praetorian supporters in Rome. On 1 January 69 the legions in Germany therefore failed to renew their oath of loyalty to him, and on 3 January proclaimed their own commander, L. Vitellius, as Emperor. Thus began for Rome a terrible year: the ‘Year of the Four Emperors.’ As the Germanic legions began preparations to take their new Emperor to Rome, on 15 January, the Praetorian Guard proclaimed one Otho, a former governor of Lusitania, as Emperor. Carried in triumph through the heaps of dead bodies of Galba’s followers, and surrounded by the heads of the most important of them, Galba’s included, stuck on poles, Otho made his way to his throne. It was as much as he could do to prevent a massacre of the Senate itself. Like Galba before him and Vitellius later, Otho was the helpless figurehead of his turbulent supporters who set about massacring, burning and looting in Rome itself and throughout Italy. After the defeat of his armies at Bedriacum in northern Italy by those of Vitellius in April 69, Otho suicided. With the treasury still empty, Vitellius was as unable as Galba or Otho to pay off his supporters who, like theirs, gave themselves up to another round of license and looting not only in Rome but throughout Italy. On 1 July 69 the Prefect of Egypt, Tiberius Alexander, supported by C. Licinius Mucianus, the Governor of Syria, proclaimed T. Flavius Vespasianus as Emperor. Vespasian now proceeded to Egypt where he stopped all grain ships destined for Rome and waited while Mucianus set out with an army to travel overland via the Danube provinces to Italy. The Danube legions however threw in their lot with Vespasian and rushed on ahead of Mucianus into Italy. After the defeat of his army in northern Italy, again at Bedriacum, Vitellius abdicated. He could not prevent yet another burning of the Capitol and yet another reign of terror and sacking of the city, this time by Vespasian’s supporters, before being lynched himself in December 69. After the storming and burning of the Capitol by the foreign mercenaries of Vitellius, had come the subsequent capture and sacking of the city by the infuriated Flavian army under Mucianus and Antonius Primus on December 19 to 21, 69. On the first burning of the Capitol Tacitus wrote: ‘Thus the Capitol…was burned to the ground. …From the foundation of the city to that hour the Roman commonwealth had experienced no calamity so deplorable, so shocking as that.’ And again on the capture of the city by the Flavian troops he wrote: ‘The city exhibited one entire scene of ferocity and abomination …Rivers of blood and heaps of bodies…’ From December 69 to June 70, Vespasian’s 18 year old younger son, Domitian, ruled in Rome as Praetor on his father’s behalf. He shared the Praetorship with Mucianus, while his older brother Titus and his father were Consuls for the year 70. His rule was so high-handed that his father later 10


wrote to him ironically ‘I thank you, my son, that you are willing to allow me to be Emperor.’ Another sinful city now was about to suffer its greatest agonies: Jerusalem: ‘that great city known symbolically as Sodom or Egypt, where too their Lord was crucified.’ For also apocalyptic were the events taking place at this time in Judaea. In the early 60’s in order to confiscate their wealth for his rapidly emptying treasury, Nero had already begun frequent ‘treason’ trials of prominent Roman citizens. The Emperor’s covetous thoughts now turned to the vast treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem. In 64 he appointed as Governor of Judaea one Gessius Florus, a governor so bad that the historian Josephus expressed his suspicions that he had been sent deliberately to provoke the Jews into revolt. The army necessary had become available. By 64, thanks to the good work by the brilliant and popular general Corbulo, a lasting peace settlement had been arranged with the Parthians over Armenia. At vast expense to the Roman treasury King Tiridates of Armenia made the long journey with virtually his whole court overland to Rome where he made his submission and received his crown from Nero. The journey took nine months and the new king did not arrive back in Armenia until 66. The peace established however was to last nearly fifty years, until late in the reign of Trajan. Meanwhile this peace settlement with the Parthians meant that the five legions normally stationed in Syria were now free to be engaged elsewhere.* 11

Thus finally in the summer of 66 broke out the terrible Roman-Jewish War. After he had crucified some Zealots, Gessius Florus was driven from Jerusalem. In September a Roman force under Cestius Gallus, the governor of Syria, came to Jerusalem, but was driven back with heavy losses. Meanwhile the church of Jerusalem, under St. James’ successor, St. Simeon, fled the doomed city to take refuge across the Jordan River in the pagan city of Pella. Nero ordered that four of the legions stationed in Syria be sent to reconquer Judaea and named T. Flavius Vespasianus as their commander. In 67 as Vespasian’s army of 60,000 was reconquering Galilee, the Zealots led by John of Gischala seized Jerusalem and massacred the High Priest, Ananias II and other leading citizens. In early 68 Vespasian completed the conquest of the coastal plain and the Jordan valley. He began to invest Jerusalem, but in June after he received news that the Emperor had suicided he called the siege off. Jerusalem now was under the rule of Simon Bargiora and his Zealots, the sicarii (‘daggermen’). In July 69 Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor and later departed for Rome, leaving his son Titus to complete the siege of Jerusalem. In April of 70, with four legions, Titus invested the city crowded with pilgrims for the Passover. Weeks of starvation, disease, massacres and cannibalism within and constant fighting without were climaxed with the Roman capture of the Inner Court and the burning of the Temple on 29 August. This last was done against Titus’ orders by Roman soldiers frenzied by the summer heat and endless fighting. 12


Rome commemorates the Fall of Jerusalem

In 71 Rome celebrated with a triumphal procession the completion by Titus of the reconquest of Judaea. Near the Roman Forum, to commemorate the war, a triumphal Arch was built. Above we see this procession as depicted in stone on the upper inner wall of this, the Arch of Titus, which still stands today. Among the Temple treasures being carried in the procession we see the solid gold Menorah, the seven-headed candlestick which, in the Temple, had stood in the Holy of Holies. (The Menorah was stored in a Roman temple. Here it remained until it vanished in the sack of Rome by Genseric and his Vandals from Africa in 455.


The Temple stores of the documents preserving the lineage of the Jewish priestly and other families burned with such intensity that the gold plating which covered much of the Temple’s roofs and walls was melted. Not a stone was left upon a stone by those who later dug them up in search for the Temple gold which had dripped down between these stones. In September the Upper City and the Palace of Herod fell. The surviving population was sold into slavery or condemned to the mines. The vast treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem refilled the Roman government’s coffers and enabled Vespasian to establish the rule of his family, the Flavian dynasty, and to establish in the Empire a peace, order and prosperity which was to last for over a century. The greatest monument of the Flavian era was the Roman Colosseum, opened by the Emperor Titus (79 - 81) in 80 A.D. In this mighty amphitheatre thenceforth a new kind of blood sacrifice replaced that of the Jerusalem Temple, the blood of the Christian martyrs.* In the midst and in the immediate wake of these ‘apocalyptic’ events St. John came to complete, in 70, his Book of the Apocalypse (or ‘Revelation’), the last book of the New Testament. As narrated above, Rome in 69 was the scene of repeated appalling massacres, looting and destruction, ample punishment for the Neronian slaughter of the Christians, and ample fuel for St. John’s visions of Babylon’s destruction. A little later, during the time of Domitian’s rule as Praetor in Rome (December 69 to June 70) St. John himself was arrested, miraculously survived his martyrdom in a cauldron of boiling oil, and was banished to the island of Patmos in the Aegean sea near Ephesus. The conditions of St. John’s exile on Patmos seem to have been comfortable enough. He is able to write and send messages. It is possible he was hiding there because of the Neronian proscription and the Jewish war rather than confined there as a prisoner. On Patmos in mid 70, our Lord came personally to St. John and revealed to him His messages to the bishops of seven of the Asian churches under St. John’s general care. These messages comprise the first three chapters of Apocalypse. In these messages, only two churches, those of Philadelphia and Smyrna, escape being reproached either for tolerating false teachers or for lack of fervour. St. John then collected and added his previous visions. These make up the main body of the book. This main body contains two Apocalypses. The first Apocalypse (chapters 4 to 11) is a series of visions about the struggle of the Church against the old Israel, the Jews. The second Apocalypse (chapters 12 to 18) deals with the struggle against the worldwide Empire of the pagan Romans.* 13


The Apocalypse is also about the whole of human history and the end of the world. Since late Roman times endless ingenious attempts have been made to sort out from the Apocalypse a detailed timetable of future historical events leading up to the end of the world. St. John however was not writing only a cryptogram but above all a message of consolation and hope to the Church. This message can only be read by those who were already deeply


The Seven churches of the Apocalypse















islands: pt



Thera (volcano active from 46 AD)


familiar with the Old Testament prophets, especially Daniel but also Isaiah (chapter 27) and Ezekiel (chapters 37 and 38). 15

Thus in the first Apocalypse we find such visions as that of the Heavenly Court (ch. 4) in which takes place the enthronement of Jesus Christ as the slain Lamb (ch. 5). The Lamb’s breaking of the first six seals (ch. 6) leads on to the triumph of the faithful of old Israel (ch. 7). The breaking of the seventh seal leads on to the sounding of the first six trumpets (chapters 8 and 9) in which the Exodus-eve plagues are turned upon the faithless Jews. Before the seventh trumpet the seer is made to eat a scroll of prophecies (ch. 10) and, like Lot from inhospitable Sodom and Moses from persecuting Egypt, the Church, the new Israel, flees from the old Jerusalem (ch. 11). The second Apocalypse then begins with a vision of the Church as a ‘woman clothed with the Sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.’ She bears Christ into a pagan world ruled by a ‘great red dragon’ which seeks to devour them. (ch. 12) This Beast and its Prophet (ch. 13) array and war against the Lamb (ch. 14), but upon them is poured out the seven bowls of God’s wrath (chapters 15 and 16) and their city ‘the great harlot… Babylon’ is finally destroyed (chapters 17 and 18). The final chapters - on the struggle between the Church and the world till the end of the world - begin with the first heavenly triumph of the Lamb. This is followed by the two great battles of the end. After the first of these battles (ch. 19) ‘the dragon, that primeval serpent which is the devil and Satan’ is ‘chained up for a thousand years’ and ‘priests of God and Christ … reign with Him for a thousand years’. After this ‘thousand years’ he is then released and gathers all his forces for the final battle in which he is finally destroyed and after which comes the last Judgement (ch. 20). Finally comes the magnificent vision of the Church Triumphant in the Heavenly Jerusalem (chapters 21 and 22). 16

Apocalyptic literature flourished in the Jewish world in the last two centuries BC and the first two centuries AD. This was a period of great stress in which foreign occupation made it necessary to clothe prophetic messages of hope in frightening but heavily coded form. The Book of Daniel in its chapters 7 to 12 contained the first Jewish Apocalypse. (The last of the Old Testament prophets was Malachi which was written in about 450 B.C. Thereafter no prophet appeared in Israel until St. John the Baptist in late 27 AD.) Whereas the prophets had spoken with an eye on current events and the near future, Apocalypses were heavily coded in numbers and symbols and spoke about the end of the world. Apocalyptic messages are heavily coded in conventions which must be understood if they are to be read properly. In these codes numbers play a major part. Thus 2 symbolises witness, 3 divinity, 4 the universe, 7 and 12 (3+4 or 3×4) perfection (of the universe by the divine), and 6 (7-1, or 12÷2) imperfection, lack or evil. Thus the second century Muratorian Canon noted that in writing to the seven churches St. John was in fact writing to all churches, the whole Church. On reading then, for example, Apocalypse 5:6 we should not struggle to visualise a young sheep with seven eyes and seven horns. Using the code of lamb = Jesus Christ in His perfect innocence, 7 =


divine fullness, eye = knowledge, horn = power, we see that Apocalypse 5:6 means that Jesus Christ enjoys the divine fullness of knowledge and power. For another example, the twenty four elders with their golden crowns and white vestments: their golden crowns represent royalty, their white garments represents their priestly function as intermediaries offering up the prayers (incense) of the saints, their number (24, i.e. 2×3×4) their role as witnesses (2) between heaven (3) and earth (4). They represent the saints of the Church Triumphant guiding and interceding for the Church Militant below. In the main body of the Apocalypse developments are arranged in 3 series of Seven: 7 Seals (being decrees of God), 7 Trumpets (the carrying out of these divine decrees) and 7 Bowls (their examples in the 60’s AD). In each of these series, after the 6th and before the 7th, there is an interruption. For just as the original creation had taken place over 6 days before the rest of perfection on the 7th day, so shall the destruction of evil take place throughout all the cycles of history (6 × 7 = 42). The classic pattern for this was set by Nero’s career of madness and cruelty leading via chaos to his own destruction. 17

After his arrival in Rome in June 70, the new Emperor Vespasian commissioned a lieutenant named Nerva to review all his son’s sentences of exile. Intent upon bringing an end to the civil strife as soon as possible, Vespasian instructed Nerva to cancel all arbitrary or unjust sentences of exile. Later in 70, therefore, upon Nerva’s recommendation, St. John was permitted to return from Patmos to Ephesus. (Here he was to remain based until his death ‘in the third year of Trajan,’ i.e. in the year 100 A.D.) Domitian later became Emperor (reigning from 81 to 96) and was succeeded by Nerva (96 to 98). The Church remembered that St. John had suffered under Domitian’s orders and had been released by Nerva. St. Irenaeus, writing in 180 recorded that, before he wrote, St. John had suffered his exile on Patmos ‘late in the reign of Domitian.’ This gave rise to the belief that St. John did not write his Gospel and the Apocalypse until late in his old age, i.e. in about the year 95.* 18

By the 60’s all the churches were long familiar with St. Matthew’s chapters 24 and 25 in which Jesus had prophesied not only the end of Jerusalem’s Temple but also the end of the world. But even today a reader of this chapter finds it difficult to distinguish which of these two terrible events both of which, in the 60’s, were still in the future – our Lord was referring to. (At the beginning He is clearly referring to the fall of Jerusalem, and at the end He is clearly referring to the end of the world. At what stage did He change from one subject to the other and what was the connection between these two events?) Since 66 the terrible Roman-Jewish war had been raging to its terrible climax. Jerusalem was doomed. Christ’s prophecy was coming true. But had not our Lord also said ‘I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away, all these things will have come to pass’? Did this mean then that the end of the world too was at hand? Our Lord came to St. John on Patmos to reveal to him that the answer was No. St. John’s Apocalypse told the beleaguered Church that neither its sufferings nor even the fall of Jerusalem, and the end of its Temple and its Sanctuary meant the end of the world.


The disasters of the previous ten years were not signs that the end of the world was at hand, but constituted a ‘type’, a pattern of what would happen again and again to the Church throughout the rest of history. 19

In Rome itself, with the reception of St. John’s Apocalypse, probably late in 70 A.D., the canon of the Scriptures of the New Testament was complete. In the wake of the Neronian carnage and the deaths of saints Peter and Paul, the Apocalypse’s message of reassurance and consolation was badly needed and much welcome. Assailed from without by persecution and from within by heresy, the young Church, with St. Peter and St. Paul now gone, stood in dire need not only of St. John’s steadying hand but also of the consoling message of the Apocalypse: that in the end good will triumph and evil will be destroyed. Notes Chapter 6 2 This quotation - the famous ‘Quo Vadis?’ story - comes from the Martyrium b. Petri a Lino ep. Conscriptum, 6, 7 3

Built in 398 the ancient basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was burnt down in 1823. In 1838, during its rebuilding, workmen found that St. Paul had been buried in an ancient Roman cemetery. 4

Eusebius (Chronicon, II) tells us that St. Paul was martyred in the 14th year of Nero, i.e. in 67. St. Jerome tells us that St. Peter died ‘in the fourteenth year of Nero’ (i.e. 67, de Viris Illustribus, 1) and St. Paul ‘on the same day as Peter’ (‘eodem die quo Petrus’ in de Vir.Ill., 5) In de Vir. Ill. 12 St. Jerome noted that Nero’s tutor Seneca had died two years earlier. We know from Tacitus that Seneca had been forced to suicide in the consulate of Silius Nerva and Atticus Vestinus, i.e. in 65. The sixth century Liber Pontificalis states that ‘Peter was crowned with martyrdom along with Paul in the 38th year after the Passion of the Lord. (i.e. in 67) He was buried on the Via Aurelia near the temple of Apollo, alongside the Circus of Nero near the area called Triumphale, in the area where he was crucified, the 29 th of June.’ The Liber Pontificalis thus tells us that the grave was near the place of martyrdom. The Acta Petri tells us that his place of martyrdom was on the spina of the Circus ‘intra duas metas’ (‘between the two markers’); the Martyrium B. Petri Ap. adds that it was ‘close to the obelisk’. (These markers stood at each end, and the obelisk in the middle, of the spina which ran down the middle of the circus around which the chariots raced.) In the early 17th century the obelisk was moved to its present location in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. A marker for its original location can be seen hard by the basilica’s façade. In 1626 workmen uncovered the graves of St. Peter’s first ten successors gathered, like spokes around the hub of a wheel, around his tomb. Upon contact with the air their bodies, still in their robes, crumbled to dust. In 1942 St. Peter’s bones were retrieved by archaeologists but were not properly identified until 1963. Every bone of his body was represented except his feet from the ankles down. His body seems therefore to have been removed from its cross hastily and by a brutal cutting off at the ankles. From 1942 to 1963 the bones of St. Peter had lain in a chapel storeroom. In 1968 Paul VI ceremonially replaced them in their crypt below the high altar of St. Peter’s. In the thirteenth century Waldensian sectarians in northern Italy became the first to claim that St. Peter’s tomb was not, in fact, in Rome. In 1545 (to deter his followers


from attending the Council of Trent) in a pamphlet entitled Against the Roman Papacy Instituted by the Devil, Martin Luther revived this notion and began its popularisation. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, all the evidence had been gathered and scoured and the obvious conclusion could no longer be avoided. As the leading Protestant scholar von Harnack admitted in 1904: ‘To deny Peter’s coming to Rome was a great mistake, for it is as clear as daylight to every student of history who does not purposely wish to close his eyes.’ (Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius, I Band, Leipzig, p. 244, note.) An advertisement found at Pompeii for games to be held in the ampitheatre of the nearby town of Cumae tells us that ‘20 pairs of gladiators will compete among themselves on the Kalends of October, followed by 20 substitute pairs; then there will be some cruciarii, then battles with the beasts ...’. The sight of cruciarii was a part of the day’s entertainment! 5

According to St. John Chrysostom (In Heb., xxvi) in the 4th century only the tombs of four Apostles were known. Besides those of Saints Peter & Paul (in Rome) & John (at Ephesus) there was the tomb of St. Thomas at Edessa (to where his remains had been transported from where he had suffered martyrdom in India). From the time of St. Peter there began, and over the following centuries there grew, beneath the outskirts of the city of Rome, the maze of cemetery tunnels known today as the catacombs. (The oldest parts of the Catacomb of Priscilla are regarded by the archaeologists de Rossi, Marucchi, Lanciani and the best authorities as dating from the middle of the first century, i.e. from the time of St. Peter.) The galleries (c. 8’ high and 5’ wide of the known catacombs extend over 900 miles in length and give access to the tombs of c. 6 million early Christians buried there between the first and the fifth centuries. On their walls and mortuary slabs and in their chapels, as well as on their sarcophagi, we find proof of the antiquity of all the teachings of the Catholic Church: the presence and primacy of St. Peter, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, the veneration not only of the martyrs but also of our Lady, prayers for the dead, Purgatory etc. ‘There is no doubt that the likenesses of St. Peter and St. Paul have been carefully preserved in Rome ever since their lifetime, and that they were familiar to everyone, even to school-children. These portraits have come down to us by scores. They are painted in cubiculi of the Catacombs, engraved in gold 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 genuineness of both types cannot be doubted.’ – Prof. Rodolfo Lanciani (Pagan and Christian Rome, McMillan, 1892) 7

Of course St. John himself did not think of this final material added to his Gospel as an extra chapter. The Scriptures were not divided into chapters until the 13 th century. Nor was its text numbered out into verses until the 16th century. 8

Impressive evidence of St. John’s leading influence in Rome is to be found in the Catacombs. Here the NT images which heavily predominate are not from the synoptics but from St. John’s Gospel: the Good Shepherd (commonly with the features of St. Peter), the Raising of Lazarus, the Miracle of Cana (although here the water pots are never six, as St. John so carefully records, but either three or seven. They obviously represent either the Seven Sacraments or else the three Sacraments - of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist - which, in the early centuries, were administered together on the night before Easter Sunday. They reminded the Christian viewer of how the same power which had turned water into wine at Cana gave the outer forms of the Sacraments their all-important spiritual powers of giving supernatural life and powers to souls. 11 Corbulo himself however was summoned in 67 to appear before Nero’s court at Corinth where he was promptly ordered to suicide. He complied immediately, merely


saying, mysteriously, ‘I deserved it.’ Outrage in the army over Corbulo’s miserable fate led directly to the military revolts of 68 and 69. 12

With the partial exception of Domitian (81 to 96) all the Roman Emperors from 69 to 180 were popular and able. This era ended with the accession of Commodus (180 to 192) whose antics recalled those of Nero. 13

The tradition of St. John’s ‘martyrdom’ in Rome is preserved by Tertullian: ‘How glorious was that church ... where Peter was matched to the Lord’s passion, where Paul was crowned with John’s (the Baptist’s) manner of death, where the Apostle John, after being plunged into boiling oil, suffered nothing and was banished to an island’. (Ista quam felix ecclesia... ubi Petrus passioni Dominicae adaequatur, ubi Paulus Ioannis exitu coronatur, ubi apostolus Ioannes, posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus, nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur.) This is cited by St. Jerome: ‘Refert autem Tertullianus quod Romae (most manuscripts here have ‘a Nerone’: by Nero) missus in ferventis olei dolium purior et vegetior exiverit.’ (‘Tertullian tells that at Rome after being thrown by Nero into a cauldron of boiling oil he came forth cleaner and livelier.’) The church of St. John at the Latin Gate was erected in Rome by Pope St. Damasus (366 - 384) to commemorate this event. The volcano on the island of Thera (near Patmos) erupted violently in 196 BC and again in 46 AD. The ‘air pollution’ created by the latter eruption could well have contributed to continuing the eastern famines of 44 and 45 into 46 and 47. This volcano remained violently active for the rest of the first century, and along with the burnings of Rome in 69, no doubt helped fuel St. John’s visions in 70 on nearby Patmos. After the first century it was quiescent until it exploded again in 726. 17

Only a few sources directly support an early dating for St. John’s work. The Muratorian Canon and the apocryphal Acts of John place the writing of Apocalypse in the reign of Nero. These are supported by St. Epiphanius who says that St. John ‘published his prophecy when living on the island of Patmos during the reign of Claudius Caesar’. Nero’s full name was Nero Claudius Caesar. Also by the process called gematria - the addition of the numerical values of the letters of a name - the name Nero Caesar in Hebrew (nrwn qsr) gives 666. (Apoc. 13: 18) St. Irenaeus was puzzled by the fact that he found in some copies the number 616 instead of 666 - one such manuscript exists still. If the Greek spelling of Nero Caesar be transliterated into Hebrew and the numerical values of the Hebrew letters added together they make 666. If however the Latin spelling be treated in the same way, the total comes to 616. Apocalypse 17:10 refers to ‘seven kings; of these five have fallen already; one is reigning now; the last has not come yet, but his reign will be short.’ This too fits with Nero who as the sixth Emperor (after Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius) was to be followed by Galba who reigned from June 68 till January 69. This part therefore of Apocalypse was written late in the reign of Nero. One objection to the earlier dating of Apocalypse arises from the fact that Laodicaea, almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in about 61, is addressed as a rich church (3:14,17). But Tacitus (Annales, 14:27) tells us that this city had taken great pride in having rebuilt itself without needing to wait for help from imperial funds. Finally the persecution by Domitian in no way remotely rivals that by Nero for cruelty and numbers slain. The origin of this persecution by Domitian was not so much religious as fiscal. In his search for new sources of income, Domitian had begun to insist upon the stricter exaction of the Didrachma tax (formerly paid by Jews for maintaining the Temple) not merely from practising Jews but from all who ‘lived in the Jewish manner,’ i.e. Christians.



Rome, Jerusalem & Patmos, 66 to 70 AD 66

Outbreak of Jewish War August (Nero tours in Greece September 66 to March 68) St. Paul… …is arrested & brought to Rome


…dictates II St. Timothy

late 66

Assisted by St. Luke, St. Mark adds final 12 verses to his Gospel. Also arrested, St. Peter, using St. Jude, sends II St. Peter. St. John sends I St. John & II St. John …& III St. John for his journey from Ephesus to Rome. St. John winters with Caius at Corinth


…& in Rome adds ‘chapter 21’ to his Gospel


St. Peter & St. Paul are martyred

29 June

(Nero suicides, 8 June 68 Galba Emperor, June 68 to January 69 Rome endures its ‘Year of the Four Emperors’: 69) 70 Exiled by Domitian as Praetor from Rome to Patmos… St. John completes his Apocalypse (Jerusalem & the Temple are destroyed) …released at Nerva’s recommendation, he returns to Ephesus. St. John dies & is buried at Ephesus



Coin of Nero. On the reverse the goddess Roma sits on a throne composed of shields, helmets and armour, and holds in her hand a statue of the winged goddess of Victory who offers her a victor’s laurel wreath.

A medallion struck for the occasion of Nero’s visit to Greece in 66 68. Around Nero’s head appears the inscription NEPΩ ΚΛΑΥ(ΔΙΟΣ) ΚΑΙΣ(APOΣ) ΣΕΒ(AΣΤΟΣ) ΓΕΡΜ(ΑΝΙΚΟΣ) which means Nero Clau(dius) Caes(ar) Aug(ustus) Germ(anicus). On the reverse we see a ship over which is the inscription ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΦΟΡΟΣ (Sebastophoros: ‘Carrying the Emperor.’)



Rome, Bishops and the Canon of Scripture


On 29 June 67 in the blood shed on the ager Vaticanus and beside the road to Ostia, Christian Rome was baptised. Henceforth, as ancient pagan Rome had set out to conquer the world for Rome and for Caesar, so now Christian Rome was setting out to conquer the world for Christ: ‘Let us get on with our warfare under His unerring directions,’ wrote Pope St. Clement I later in the first century. ‘Think of the men who serve our commanders in the field, and the prompt and orderly obedience with which they go about their duties … each at his own level executes the orders of the Emperor and the military commander.’* 2

As his first Successor as Bishop of Rome, St. Peter had nominated one St. Linus (who headed the church till 79). After St. Linus were elected St. Cletus (or Anacletus, 79 to 91) and then the famous St. Clement I (91 to 101). With St. Clement of Rome’s Epistle to the Corinthians we arrive at one of the very earliest Christian works outside the New Testament. At some time in the latter part of the first century trouble had broken out in the church in Corinth when some priests were expelled from their congregation. St. John the Apostle himself was living in nearby Ephesus, but appeal was made not to the nearby Apostle but to the church in faraway Rome. St. Clement of Rome settled the matter by sending his famous epistle with three delegates, Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Vito and Fortunatus, to ensure that order in the church in Corinth was restored. 3

In St. Clement’s epistle we see not only the Roman church authoritatively intervening in the internal disputes of another church but also the Christian priesthood in full liturgical function. Directly derived from the Temple chant, the Roman church’s liturgical chant of this earliest century slowly developed until in the 7th century it came to be known as ‘Gregorian’. (St. John was of impeccably Levitical and indeed priestly background. In view of the ending of the Temple sacrifices in 66 and the long since divinely prophesied and now visibly imminent destruction of the Temple, had St. John in Rome between 67 and 70, supervised not only the burials of St. Peter and St. Paul but also the full inauguration of the Roman liturgy? Should not St. John indeed be ranked along with St. Peter and St. Paul as a third founder of Christian Rome? Moreover, his Apocalypse, abounding as it does in images of candles, incense and priests, is by far the most ‘liturgical’ work in the New Testament.) In St. Clement’s epistle we can glimpse the Christian priesthood as already the fully aware and confident successor to the Old Testament order of worship which had been destroyed with the Jerusalem Temple in 70. Thus according to St. Clement: ‘There ought to be strict order and method in the performance of such acts as the Lord has prescribed for certain times and seasons. Now it was His command that the offering of gifts and the conduct of public liturgy should not be haphazard or irregular, but should take place at fixed times and hours. Moreover in the exercise of His sovereign will He has himself declared in what place and by what persons He desires this to be done…’*

9 4

St. Clement’s epistle was well received. In his Epistle to the Philippians (which he wrote after 107) St. Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna quoted St. Clement’s epistle over 40 times. In the Corinthian church itself, a century after St. Clement’s time it was still being read in church almost on a par with St. Paul’s epistles. 5

At his episcopal seat at Ephesus, St. John the Apostle lived, the last of the Apostles, until 100 A.D. According to St. Jerome, he ‘founded and ruled all the churches of Asia.’ For the first three centuries Asia was by far the most Christian province in the Empire. Among St. John’s disciples at Ephesus were the great martyr-bishops St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107) and St. Polycarp of Smyrna (70 – 155). Along with St. Clement of Rome, these two bishops, played a leading role in the critical transition from personal Apostolic to institutionalised episcopal rule.* 6

In the days of St. Peter and St. Paul, full episcopal powers only lay with the Apostles and their travelling delegates such as St. Barnabas and St. Mark (for St. Peter) and St. Timothy and St. Titus (for St. Paul). Nevertheless it was the intention from the beginning that each church would be modelled on the example of Christ and His Twelve. In the earliest years only one such settled church is visible in Acts: that of St. James and his priests in Jerusalem. Full formal episcopal power to ordain priests and to rule could not, of course, immediately be vested in one of the priests ordained for each new church by St. Peter and St. Paul. This first generation was necessarily different from all which came after. In these earliest times, everyone was necessarily a new convert and therefore everyone was necessarily on probation. Nevertheless it was only a matter of time before the era of the travelling Apostle and his travelling delegates came to a close and each of their churches settled down to life under a bishop of its own. 7

The first Bishop of Antioch was St. Evodius. In about 67 he was succeeded by a disciple of St. John, the famous St. Ignatius of Antioch. In about the year 107 St. Ignatius was condemned to die being eaten by beasts in the Colosseum in Rome. During his journey to Rome St. Ignatius dictated seven epistles. These epistles have been preserved because, like St. Clement’s epistle, they had become popular and famous in the churches during the second century. These seven epistles of St. Ignatius were written to the Asian churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia and Smyrna, to Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna and to the church of Rome. Throughout the epistles of St. Ignatius the hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons is taken for granted. Never does he say that churches should have bishops, priests and deacons. He simply takes them for granted as part of the very being of each church: ‘Let all likewise reverence deacons as Jesus Christ, and likewise the bishop as an image of the Father, and priests as the Senate of God and Council of the Apostles. Without these there is no church.’ In fact St. Ignatius expressly refers to these hierarchical ranks as ‘ordained according to the instructions of Christ.’* 8

In his epistles to the five Asian churches a recurring theme of St. Ignatius was the duty of Christians to obey their bishops. The problem was


never theoretical but always simply practical: ever prone to self will, men ever needed reminding of obligations which had always existed. To quote another example: ‘Follow your Bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too, as you would the Apostles … Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the Bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the Bishop himself, or by some person authorised by him.’* No such warnings and reminders however are to be found in his Epistle to the Romans. He had heard that moves were afoot in Rome to save him from death in the Colosseum. He wrote therefore to the Romans begging them not to intercede to save him. He begged them not to deprive him of the martyr’s crown for which he yearned ‘not that I am issuing orders to you as though I were a Peter or a Paul.’ St. Ignatius’ Epistle to the Romans was to be immensely popular, a virtual ‘martyr’s manual’ of the early Church. 9

In Rome itself the Church kept a low profile indeed. The poets Martial (d. 104) and Juvenal (d. 140) were sharp observers of the Roman life of their time and were merciless satirists, for example, of the Jews. Yet we search their works in vain for the slightest reference to the Christians.* 10

Inside the Church however the second century saw an acute struggle on two fronts: against the Judaisers and the Paganisers (the Gnostics). These represented the two opposite extremes of those who longed to return to the legality and safety of Jewish status, and those who wanted to paganise Christ and the whole Gospel. 11

In the second century the Judaisers were represented by the Ebionites. These recognised only their own version of St. Matthew and believed that our Lord was not the Son of God, but the son of Joseph. In the course of the second century, in their struggles with the Church, they produced two sets of apocryphal writings which they attributed to St. Clement I of Rome: the ‘Clementine’ Homilies, and the Recognitiones. These writings cast St. Paul in the role of villain and in struggle against the Twelve Apostles led by St. Peter and St. James. Eventually defeated in their judaising endeavours, the Ebionites retreated into bitter isolation and slowly died out over the following centuries.* 12

Meanwhile the first open challenge to the integrity of the New Testament Scripture came from a Gnostic named Marcion of Pontus. Arriving in Rome in the reign of Pope St. Hyginus (138 – 142), Marcion published his own version of the New Testament which he had reduced to his own edition of the Gospel of St. Luke and the Epistles of St. Paul. (Not surprisingly, though, he rejected all three of the ‘pastoral’ epistles.) He was excommunicated by Pope St. Pius I (142 – 155) at a synod for that purpose held in July 144. Marcion was a Gnostic. He claimed that the Old Testament and the New Testament were from two different gods, the old one being bad and Jewish and the new being good and Christian. He represented an opposite extreme to the Ebionites. While they accepted only their version of St. Matthew and upheld the importance of observing the Jewish Law, Marcion accepted only his own version of St. Luke and St. Paul’s Epistles (purged of


what he regarded as additions by Judaisers), and freely accused his orthodox opponents of being Judaisers. Church scholars fought back and battle was joined. ‘I call my Gospel the genuine one,’ wrote Tertullian later in 207, ‘Marcion maintains that his is genuine. I say his is adulterated. He says mine is! What is to decide between us but the argument from time: that authority lies with that which shall be shown to be the older, and that that is adulterated which can be convicted of being later? …‘And the same authority of the Apostolic Churches will stand guarantee for the other Gospels too... I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew. Moreover the Gospel which Mark published may be termed Peter’s, for Mark was his interpreter, just as people customarily assign Luke’s digest to Paul. And indeed what the disciple publishes should rightly be assigned to his master. ‘Consequently Marcion must be called to account regarding these other Gospels. Why did he omit them and especially insist upon that of Luke? As though these latter were not from the beginning in full use in the churches just as was Luke’s? Indeed it is quite believable that these other Gospels are of even greater authority. They came first because they were from Apostles, and had come into being at the same time as the churches themselves.’ The ‘Apostolic churches’ referred to here by Tertullian were the churches founded by Apostles. Note that Tertullian is quite unaware of any late writing of St. John. Indeed he takes it for granted that, like the rest, St. John was in use from the first founding of the churches.* 13

With the reception of St. John’s Apocalypse in the church in Rome, probably by the end of 70, all the 27 works in the canon of today’s New Testament were gathered together for the first time in that one place. All these books were written by churchmen for churchmen and were kept for use only in church. Indeed they have never been properly comprehensible anywhere else. With St. Peter and St. Paul gone however no Apostolic authority remained willing to authorise any substantial clarifications or amendments or further additions to the canon of Christian Scriptures. As writings of Apostolic authorship or authority, the texts of the 27 works now comprising the New Testament were now sacred Scripture and untouchable. It was now too late authoritatively to remove any of the apparent inconsistencies among the four Gospels, or to clear up some of the more troublesome of St. Paul’s obscurities and breaches of the rules of grammar. 14

Amongst orthodox Christians, none of the four Gospels was ever challenged, although some early writers did feel the need to excuse St. Mark for having written his Gospel without prior authorisation from St. Peter. Being the shortest and simplest Gospel, St. Mark was often used for instructing Catechumens. For the same reason this Gospel played little part in the great doctrinal battles of the first centuries. Thus while heretics had begun writing commentaries on St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. John in the early second century, it was not until the fifth century that anyone at all wrote a commentary on St. Mark.*


Rome in the First Century AD

The crosses indicate the entrances to catacombs. These mazes of cemetery tunnels were dug between the first and the fifth centuries. While the pagans cremated their dead, the Christians, as an expression of their belief in the resurrection of the dead, followed the Jewish custom of burying their dead in cemeteries (from the Greek for ‘sleeping place’). As Roman law forbade tombs within the city limits, the catacombs are all outside the city limits.


hills A Cl. C E P Q Vm

Aventine (Mons Aventinus) Caelian (Mons Caelius) Capitol (Mons Capitolinus) Esquiline (Collis Esquilinus) Palatine (Mons Palatinus) Quirinal (Collis Quirinalis) Viminal (Collis Viminalis)

districts C.M. Campus Martius F.R.

Forum Romanum


Trans Tiberim district (It. Trastevere)


Ager Vaticanus (imperial gardens, later a cemetery area)

major buildings C.Pr. Barracks of the Praetorian Guard (Castra Praetoriana) Col.

Colosseum (completed 80 A.D.)


Circus Maximus


Nero’s circus (a.k.a. Caligula’s circus)


Mamertine prison

churches Pt.

St. Peter’s tomb


St. Paul’s tomb


House of Pudens (Sta Pudenziana)


House of Prisca and Aquila (Sta Prisca)

ad C. ‘ad Catacumbas’ villa of Pudens gates & roads p.C. Porta Capena v.A. Via Appia v.O. Via Ostiensis (road to Ostia)

1 15

On the apparent discrepancies among the Gospels, a number of attempts were made in the following few centuries to compile a ‘harmony’ of the four Gospels (i.e. to combine them all into one continuous text and narrative). The most famous of these was the Diatessaron (‘after the four’) compiled in the latter part of the second century by St. Justin Martyr’s disciple Tatian. Tatian’s Diatessaron was used by the Syriac churches until the fifth century.* 16

Otherwise all the churches were intensely conservative and treasured and guarded their Scriptures jealously. Each individual church possessed its own complete set of Scriptures, and so the sheer number of copies ensured that no major changes crept into the text. Nevertheless, minor variations of the text abounded. For individual bishops and scribes each had their own temptations to make minor changes to the text. A bishop might wish that this or that verse or passage was clearer or easier for the less educated to understand, or that it did not risk giving scandal. Thus some manuscripts of St. John, for example, omitted 8:1-11 because this passage, seeming to show our Lord failing to condemn adultery, was being abused by heretics claiming that our Lord was licensing that sin. Likewise some manuscripts omitted St. Mark 3: 21 which seems to tell us that our Lord’s relatives thought He was mad. Similarly a scribe, and especially a translator will find himself wishing that this or that verse or passage was less clumsy or more elegant. What was natural in Hebrew could look clumsy in Greek and later on what was natural in Greek could look clumsy in Latin or Syriac or Sahidic (an Egyptian dialect) etc. Thus translators and scribes were liable frequently to change the words of Scripture in the direction of greater clarity or elegance. 17

Indeed it is because of different choices between fidelity and elegance that two ancient manuscripts of the Bible, the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Vaticanus, stand at the head of two lines of manuscripts quite different from one another. With its less faithful but more elegant Greek, the Alexandrinus line became the official text of the Byzantine Greek church of the East. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 it came to the west where it was admired by Erasmus and became the basis for the beautiful King James Bible of 1611. In this manuscript tradition, beauty of language triumphed. In the other tradition however, that of the Vaticanus, fidelity to the original came first. Indeed ‘Vaticanus B’ has been described as ‘by far the greatest and best of all the manuscripts of the New Testament which have come down to us. If every other manuscript of the New Testament had perished, and the text was printed from B alone with only the correction of the obvious and superficial errors, we would still have in all essentials a true text of the words of Jesus and the Apostles.’ It is to his undying credit that, in preparing his Latin Vulgate, St. Jerome remained faithful to the much less elegant but more faithful Vaticanus tradition.* 18

The liturgical context of the works in the New Testament should never be forgotten. With the exception of III St. John and Philemon (which were written to individual churchmen), St. Paul’s three ‘pastoral epistles’ (for


bishops) and possibly the original Hebrew St. John and Hebrews (for priests) all the works of the New Testament were, from the beginning, written for listeners assembled in church. From the beginning they were official Church documents to be read out aloud not in classrooms but to congregations gathered in Jesus Christ’s Eucharistic Presence and Sacrifice to worship Him and with Him and to listen to Him in His Gospels and about Him in the Epistles. In the first centuries the New Testament and all matters to do with the Sacraments (also called the ‘Sacred Mysteries’) were subject to the disciplina arcani (‘rule of secrecy’) the rule of silence which forbade the mention of sacred things in any writings which might fall into heathen hands. Even such formulae as the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer (the ‘Our Father’) were treasured secrets to be concealed from the outsider and to be revealed only gradually to Catechumens preparing for Baptism. The pagans were therefore left to the most bizarre misconceptions of what the Christiani believed and practised. In c. 170 came from one Celsus, a professional philosopher, the first great formal philosophical attack upon them. His misconceptions were so strange that it seems that his principal informants could not have been Christians but were rather Jews or Gnostic sectarians. Never until the invention of printing in early modern times (the mid 15 th century) was the New Testament published to be read by private individuals. In these earliest centuries it was only under the duress of persecution that a Christian might yield up copies into pagan hands. Such an individual who did so was called a traditor (a ‘hander-over,’ whence comes our word for traitor). 19

Nor in these earliest centuries were all the works of today’s New Testament necessarily regarded by all as suitable for public use in church. In the course of the second and third centuries various controversies caused some Church leaders to question the suitability of this or that New Testament work for ‘public’ use. We have already noted the two Gospels favoured for opposite reasons by the Ebionites and Marcion. The upholding of St. James by the Ebionites as an authority against St. Paul too seems to have caused St. James to be regarded with distrust by some in Rome during the second century.* 20

In about 172 came one Montanus claiming that he was the Paraclete promised in St. John by our Lord at the Last Supper. This Montanist abuse of St. John even caused a small group in Rome in about 200 to develop their serious reservations about the suitability of St. John itself for public use! (The small group in Rome who were ready to question the suitability of St. John for public use were later nicknamed the alogoi (‘no-Worders’).) Abuse by the Montanists and later (in the mid third century) by the rigorist followers of the Roman priest Novatian, moreover caused Hebrews to be withheld from public use in the church in Rome. 21

Rigorism - the denial of the possibility of forgiveness by the Church for certain sins - was a big problem in the Roman church in the third century. In Rome from the mid second century and throughout the third century, because of the abuse of such strict words as those in 6:4-8; 10:26-31 and 12:17 by the Montanists and the Novatians, Hebrews was kept from public reading. The


abused verses of Hebrews appeared to make a certain sin (clerical apostasy) unforgivable. In contrast, Alexandria and the East in general had, from the beginning, always accepted Hebrews without question and as having come from Rome and from St. Paul himself. One early author explained why, during the third century, Hebrews was not being used in church in Rome: Non legitur propter Novatianos. (‘It is not read because of the Novatians’). 22

In contrast again the Apocalypse was always accepted in Rome but, because of abuse of its millenarian verses by Millenarian groups in the East, was unpopular with many Church leaders there. (In the fourth century St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Gregory Nazianzen did not number Apocalypse among the New Testament writings, while St. John Chrysostom and Theodoret never used it.) Because of its heavy coding and many obscurities it was also a difficult text for use in teaching. Also, because of its sharp thinly disguised attacks upon pagan Rome as ‘Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of every abomination on earth ...drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,’ it was politically dangerous.* 23

A few objected to II and III St John as being too brief and as they contained hardly any doctrine. Others objected to St. Jude because of its apparent use of episodes from apocryphal works, and to II St. Peter because of its use of St. Jude. No objection by any orthodox Church leader was ever based on any suspicion of fraudulence or on any consciousness of a different tradition as to authorship. All objections were based simply on grounds of suitability for use in church. The earliest extant listing of all and only the 27 books of the New Testament as we have it today is found in St. Athanasius’ Easter Letter from Alexandria in 367. Notes Epilogue 1

St. Clement, Corinthians, 37.


Corinthians, 40. St. Clement’s epistle is usually dated to c. 96 by its internal reference to its having been delayed by some ‘sudden and repeated calamities which have befallen us’. (Corinthians, 1.1) If these ‘calamities’ were those of 64 to 70, St. Clement’s epistle would then have been written in the early 70’s. 5

St. Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, 9.


The first quote is from Trallians 3, 1. The second is from the beginning of Philadelphians. 8

The example quoted is from Smyrneans, 8


In the first century the Christians had one safeguard in having the magistrates regard them as merely a Jewish sect. 11

That forgers were claiming his name and prestige for their writings shows how important St. Clement of Rome was regarded as being during the second century. In the 19th century anti-Church scholars have used the ‘Clementine’ writings as authority for their picture of the Apostolic church as a battleground between ‘Petrine’ and


‘Pauline’ factions. These presented the older more primitive and more authentic Jewish ‘Petrines’ being slowly ousted by the later Greek ‘Paulines’ who made Jesus into a God and invented miracle stories and a Resurrection to prove it. Their followers today dominate all modern Scripture scholarship and firmly resist all evidence and proofs of the earliness, authenticity and historicity of the New Testament scriptures. The firmness of their resistance to the New Testament is based on the firmness of their belief in the impossibility of miracles. Since for them miracles cannot happen, any document recording miracles is necessarily fictional. For them the New Testament thus is necessarily fictional. 12

This quotation is from Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem, IV, 4 – 6.


A papyrus published in 1973 referred to what is clearly St. Mark as a ‘Gospel for Catechumens.’ St. Mark’s Gospel was long to suffer from St. Augustine’s dim view of it as a clumsy attempt to abbreviate St. Matthew: ‘Mark seems to have followed him (Matthew) as a kind of camp-follower and abridger.’ (Marcus eum (Matthaeum) subsecutus tanquam pedisequus et breviator videtur.) In fact St. Mark was not summarising St. Matthew’s Gospel: in the many passages in common between these two Gospels, St. Mark’s is very often the more detailed version. 15

The ‘Syriac’ churches were the churches of Syria. They all looked to Antioch, the Greek speaking capital of Syria, as their mother church. Their language, Syriac, however, belonged in the Aramaic speaking world which stretched out eastwards from Antioch outside the Roman Empire and beyond the Euphrates and the upper Tigris rivers. 17

Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) was a famous Dutch scholar of the neopagan ‘Renaissance’. In 1516 he published, from the Alexandrinus, the first Greek edition of the New Testament. It was from this text that, in 1521, Luther translated the New Testament into German. Only in the late 19th century, after scholars had discovered the much greater fidelity of the Vaticanus tradition, was the King James Bible substantially revised and reissued as the Revised Standard Version (RSV). The quotation is from Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861 – 1961 (The Firth lectures, 1962) (London, 1966), pp. 74 and 75. 19

Although frequently alluded to by S. Clement (ad Cor. 10, 17, 23, 31, 38) in the first century, St. James is not in the works listed as being in Church use in Rome’s second century Muratorian Canon. This reflects the fact that his name and memory was at that time being misused by the Ebionites as an authority against St. Paul. 22

People who believe that Jesus will come personally and visibly to reign for a thousand years on our present world are called Millenarians (‘thousand-yearers’). It may be observed however that, between the destruction of classical paganism in the 4th century and the resurgence of neo-paganism in the ‘Renaissance’ from the 14 th century (during the 70 year papal absence in Avignon), a thousand years elapsed. During that millennium our Lord’s Eucharistic Real Presence was worshipped throughout the Christian world.


This medallion struck in Constantinople shows the Labarum or standard of Constantine piercing the Serpent, the symbol of the devil and of paganism. In the first centuries our Lord’s name was represented by a crossing of X and P (chi and rho) the first two letters of His name in Greek (XPIΣΤΟΣ: Christos). From Constantine’s time onwards the Chi-Rho was carried on top of the Emperor’s battle standard which was known as the Labarum. The inscription reads SPES PVBLICA (‘the public hope.’) and CONS(tantinopoli): ‘at Constantinople.’ The Emperor Constantine (306 - 337) rebuilt the ancient city of Byzantium, renamed it ‘Roma Nova,’ and on 11 May 330 formally proclaimed it as the new capital of the Roman Empire. Rebuilt as a Christian city and soon known as Constantinople, ‘Constantine’s city’ was so well located and fortified that it withstood all sieges for over a thousand years. Finally in 1453 it fell to the Moslem Turks using cannons made in Europe. Today it is known as Istanbul.


Appendix 1:

Dating the Life of Jesus Christ


Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on 25 December 5 B.C., and was 33 years three months and two weeks old when He died on Good Friday, 7 April 30 A.D. 2

According to astronomical records, in 5 B.C. the Passover had fallen on its earliest possible date, 21 March, and had been followed by a full eclipse of the moon on the night of 23 March (beginning at 7:45 pm). It was at this time that the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place. (Indeed in 5 B.C. two full eclipses of the moon took place: on 23 March and 15 September. Noteworthy too is the astronomer John Williams’ 1871 authoritative list of sightings of comets. His ‘Comet number 52’ appeared over southwest Asia for 70 days early in 5 B.C.) Immediately after this Passover and the Annunciation, our Lady went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth. Here she remained until Elizabeth was delivered of her son, St. John the Baptist, traditionally on 24 June, in 5 B.C. 3

Since our Lady, His family or the Church would not have forgotten His birthday, it is certain that 25 December was our Saviour's birth date. ‘For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem eight days before the Kalends of January (25 December) on the fourth day (Wednesday) under Emperor Augustus…’ – St. Hippolytus (d. 235) Commentary on Daniel 2.4. (In his Homily for the Feast of the Nativity in 386, the Bishop of Antioch, St. John Chrysostom explained why his church had, ten years previously, adopted this Roman dating for Christmas. He referred to this date for our Lord’s birth as having been commemorated in the Roman church ‘since earliest times’, i.e. since the time of St. Peter.) 4

St. Matthew tells us (2:1) that Jesus ‘was born in the days of King Herod.’ He was therefore born before the death of Herod the Great which took place in 750 A.U.C. (4 B.C.) The official year of Rome’s foundation (the year 1 A.U.C., anno urbis conditae) was 753 B.C. We know that King Herod died in 750 A.U.C. (4 B.C.) from the Jewish historian Josephus (Jewish War, 1.33.8). Josephus (Antiquities, 17.6.4) records that Herod the Great died before the Passover and that, at the time, there occurred an eclipse of the moon. This lunar eclipse (not full but 35%) took place on the night (2:41 a.m.) of 13 March 4 B.C. 5

St. Luke tells us that Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem because His parents had been required to travel there due to a census held ‘while Cyrinus was Governor of Syria’ (2:2). Now this Cyrinus (or P. Sulpicius Quirinius, to give his proper Latin name) was Governor of Syria in about 11 to 9 B.C. Some have therefore felt the need to locate our Lord’s birth in 8 or 7 B.C. closer to this period of Quirinius’ rule in Syria. This is not necessary. According to Josephus, and confirmed by an inscription found at Tibur (modern Tivoli, near Rome), this Quirinius served as


Governor of Syria a second term which began in 6 A.D. As St. Luke does not distinguish one or other of these two periods of rule by Quirinius over Syria, we may take him as referring only generally to the whole period of about 20 years during which Quirinius was coming and going on government duties in and around Syria. In fact as St. Luke's Greek does not use the noun 'governor' but the participle 'governing', his words seem best translated as ‘This was a census when Quirinius was governing Syria.’ 6

St. Luke (3:1) tells us that St. John the Baptist began to preach ‘In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.’ Now the ‘first year’ of the Emperor Tiberius began with the death of his predecessor, the Emperor Augustus, on 19 August, 14 A.D. In the Eastern calendar his ‘second year’ began on about 1 October, 14 A.D. Tiberius’ ‘fifteenth year’ (in the Eastern calendar) was therefore c. 1 October 27 to c. 1 October 28. St. Luke’s use of the Eastern (rather than the Roman) calendar reflects the fact that he was writing his Gospel at Antioch in 44 rather than later at Rome in the early 60’s. (See chapter 3, note to paragraph 10.) Under Jewish Rabbinical law, no man was permitted to teach or preach until he had completed thirty years of age. (The Rabbis applied to themselves the minimum age limit of thirty years set (in Numbers 4:3) for those Levites who were to be eligible to serve at the altar.) Our Lord therefore had to wait until after his thirtieth birthday before He was of eligible age and acceptable as a preacher in Israel. St. Luke (3:23) tells us that ‘When He began to teach Jesus was about thirty years old.’ On 25 December 27 A.D. He completed His thirty-first year. On 6 January 28, He was baptised by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River. In the first centuries the Eastern churches had celebrated the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, His Baptism and His first miracle (at Cana) all on 6 January in a feast to celebrate the ‘divine manifestation’, the Epiphany. Of these only His Baptism was a public event before many witnesses. It seems then we should accept the 6 January as the date of the actual occurrence of His Baptism in the Jordan. 7

After His forty days fast in the wilderness, He dramatically began His public life just before the Passover of 28 with His first Cleansing of the Temple. This is confirmed by the fact that St. John tells us that the Jews said to Him at the time: ‘It is forty-six years that the Temple has been rebuilt’ (2:20). According to Josephus (Antiquities, 15.11.1) King Herod began rebuilding the Temple in the winter of his eighteenth year, i.e. 20/19 B.C. The 46th year after 20 BC was 28 AD (1 BC was followed by 1 AD. There was no year 0!) ‘I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I am constrained until it be accomplished!’ Our Lord wasted no time. He began His public life as soon as He was clearly of eligible age. His public life was extremely brief – spanning hardly more than the two years which elapsed between the three Passovers of 28, 29 and 30 AD. From astronomical data and official records we know that the Passover fell on 18 April in 29 and 8 April in 30. At the Passover of 29 Jesus prefigured the Eucharist when He fed the 5,000 by the Sea of Gallilee. At last, on Holy Thursday night 6 April 30 He instituted the Priesthood and Eucharist of His


‘new and everlasting covenant’ before going the next day, Good Friday 7 April 30, to consummate His holy Sacrifice on the hill of Calvary. 8

The Passover (or Pasch from the Hebrew Pesah) was the greatest of the three main feasts of the Jewish liturgical year. It was celebrated on the fifteenth day of the lunar month of Nisan (15 Nisan) which was the first month of spring. This feast therefore was always to fall on the first full moon after the spring equinox, 21 March. The Passover was celebrated to commemorate that night in Egypt in about 1270 B.C. when the people of Israel were spared the tenth Plague inflicted upon Egypt by God because their homes had been daubed by the blood of a sacrificed lamb. Called the Passover Lamb, this lamb had been specially prepared and sacrificed on God’s instructions so that His exterminating angel would ‘pass over’ and not kill the first born males in the households so marked. On the day before the Passover, 14 Nisan, the Passover lamb was slain. It had to be eaten that evening after sunset. (As the first sighting of the new moon signalled the beginning of the new month, it had become the Jewish custom to reckon a new day as having begun after the previous day's sunset.) The Passover meal followed a standard pattern. First came an opening prayer and then the blessing and passing around of the first cup of wine. The story of the first Passover was recounted, and then the second cup was filled and passed around. The climax was the festive meal of the roast Paschal lamb, which was followed by the third cup of wine. After this came the final psalm followed by the fourth cup of wine. At the Last Supper, our Lord sang this final psalm (St. Matthew 26:30) but it was not until He was about to complete His suffering on the cross (when He called ‘I thirst’) that He drank this fourth cup) to signal and complete His offering of Himself as the new and everlasting Paschal Lamb. St. John agrees with the others that our Lord died on a Friday – on the eve of a Passover which that year fell on the Sabbath, i.e. Saturday. St. John however says that the priests were eating Passover not on Thursday but on Friday evening. The apparent discrepancy is explained by the fact that besides the official day measured from evening to evening there persisted the ancient method which measured a day from morning to morning. This older system was kept because of the thousands of people wanting to have their Paschal lambs ritually slain in the Temple. Those from the Galilean (northern) part of the country were accorded the old way of dating, while the local Judaean (southern) part of the country followed the official dating method (from evening to evening). This way there were two afternoons when lambs were being killed in the Temple for sacrifice and eating, both for 14 Nisan. In 30, the Galilean worshippers had their lamb killed on Thursday (6 April) for eating that evening (when the official 14 Nisan began), while the Judaeans had theirs killed on Friday (7 April) for eating that evening. Thus as a Galilean our Lord ate Passover Supper on Thursday. On the following day, the official and Judaean 14 Nisan, at 3 p.m., when the burnt corporate sacrifice for the whole nation was offered, He died on the cross. At


the very moment that Jesus cried out 'It is finished!' from His cross, in the Temple the priest's knife slew the Pascal lamb! 9

In the first Christian centuries, Church writers had dated an event either according to its years in an Emperor's reign or from the 'year of the Ascension' (or the ‘year of the Passion’). Later, after the Western Empire had fallen, Pope St. John I in 525, wished to replace the calendar which had been instituted by the persecuting tyrant Diocletian. He commissioned a learned monk named Dionysius Exiguus to calculate, exactly and officially, the Year of the Nativity. In the period of Pontius Pilate’s rule over Judaea, 779 – 789 AUC (26 – 36 AD), the Passover fell on the Sabbath twice: in 783 and 786 AUC (30 and 33 AD). As they assumed that St. Luke had been using the Roman calendar, the early Fathers had regarded 783 as too early. The 16 years between Tiberius’ accession (767 AUC) and 783 did not seem to provide enough time for the 15 years of Tiberius and the minimum three known Passovers of our Lord’s public Life.) They therefore accepted 786 as the Year of the Ascension. Earlier calculations had simply added 15 to 767 AUC to locate 'the fifteenth year of Tiberius' in 782 AUC (29 AD) and counted back the 'thirty years' of our Lord's then age to arrive at 752 AUC (2 BC). The Fathers St. Irenaeus, Tertullian and Eusebius all settled on 752 AUC as the year of our Lord’s Nativity. This is still preserved in today's Roman Martyrology reading for the Midnight Mass for Christmas which locates the nativity "in the 194th Olympiad (i.e. 4 - 1 BC), the 752nd year since the foundation of the City of Rome, the 42nd year of Augustus". (After the murder of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Augustus (as Octavian) late in 43 BC had begun ruling with Antony and Lepidus as a member of the ‘Second Triumvirate’.) Likewise basing his calculations on 786 AUC as the year of the Ascension, Dionysius Exiguus simply counted His 33 years back inclusively to arrive at 754, the 1 AD we have today. 10

The trouble with all these Patristic calculations, of course, is that our Lord was born ‘in the days of King Herod ’. How do we know King Herod the Great had died in 4 BC? How had the Fathers believed he had died later? In 707 AUC (47 BC) Herod’s father Antipater, the minister of King Hyrcanus in Jerusalem, had helped rescue Julius Caesar trapped in Alexandria. Josephus tells us (Antiquities, 14.9.2) that at this time Herod was Governor of Galilee and as ‘being decidedly young’: 15 years old! Josephus elsewhere states (Jewish War, 1.33.1) that when he died, Herod was 69 (‘almost 70 years old ’). The Church Fathers thus believed King Herod the Great had died in about 760 AUC (7 AD). Josephus however also says (Antiquities, 17.14) that after his recognition as King of Judaea by the Senate ‘in the Consulate of Domitius and Pollio’ (40 BC), Herod had reigned for 37 years. This means that when Herod died 37 years later aged 69 it was not in 760 but in 750 AUC: 4 BC. In these years, a pre-Passover eclipse of the moon (referred to in Antiquities, 17.6.4 as preceding Herod’s death) occurred only in 750 AUC. Since the 16th century, therefore, scholars have routinely corrected Herod’s age in 707 AUC from a highly improbable ‘15’ to a far more probable ‘25’.


Appendix 2:

Dating the Second Visit of St. Paul to

Jerusalem 1

A survey of biographies of St. Paul shows a wide variety of datings, especially of his conversion. While most scholars have dated his conversion in 37 A.D., others have dated this crucial event in 36, 35, 34 or even as early as 31, the year after that of the Ascension itself! The source of all the trouble is Galatians 2:1: ‘It was not until after fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again.’ No commentator has ever been able satisfactorily to locate this ‘fourteen years’ between St. Paul’s first and his second visits to Jerusalem after his conversion. Modern commentators have assumed that St. Luke and St. Paul have here contradicted themselves or each other. To give one example: ‘But it is notorious that some of the statements in Acts, e.g. about Paul’s visits to Jerusalem, are inconsistent with what he himself tells us in his letters. Ingenious scholars have gone to great lengths to iron out the differences, but in my opinion these earnest endeavours are unnecessary. We should accept Paul’s own testimony and admit that Acts can be in error.’ (A. Vidler, p. 153) No such admission can be made. That either St. Luke or St. Paul recorded factual error is of course unacceptable to a Christian. Nevertheless no commentator has ever been able to fit this ‘fourteen years’ into any chronology of St. Paul’s life without violating or ignoring solidly based scriptural or archaeological evidence. Such a long time! What an uncharacteristically slow response to his divine call! Clearly there is something wrong with this ‘after fourteen years.’ 2

Three solutions to this problem can be suggested: Since ‘after four years’ would fit perfectly, it may be suggested that St. Paul’s scribe may have committed a very common scribal error called a dittography - where a writer, forgetting that he has already written a word, writes it again. When St. Paul said ‘dia tessaron’ (‘after four’) the scribe wrote (in shorthand) ‘dia dia tessaron.’ When he came to write up the final longhand copy he saw the abbreviated ‘dia dia tessaron’ and wrote it as ‘dia dekatessaron’ (‘after fourteen.’) 3

Alternatively, it may be observed that the Greek shorthand for ‘4’ and ‘14’ are highly similar: LΔ and IΔ. In the Greek-speaking world in St. Paul’s time, numbers were represented by Greek letters. Thus, for example, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 were represented by the first letters of the Greek alphabet: A, B, Γ, Δ, E (pronounced alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon). As an extra precaution, that a letter was being used for a number was shown by placing an ‘L’ in front of it: thus 1 to 5 were LA, LB, LΓ, LΔ, LE. (Note how IB represents ‘12’ on the coin of Augustus, and how LB represents ‘2’ on the coin of King Herod Agrippa I.) Similarly 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 were represented by IA, IB, I Γ, IΔ, IE. Perhaps St. Paul’s scribe’s ‘LΔ’ was mistakenly copied as ‘IΔ,’ and remained


in this shorthand version in the longhand manuscript sent to the Galatian churches for reading and copying. Why did St. Paul not see and correct the error? There is plenty of evidence that St. Paul suffered from poor eyesight, possibly even an eye affliction. He dictated his Epistles, and if he wrote anything it was only at the end and 'in large letters'. His Galatians (4:15) had once been ready to give him their own eyes! Before the Sanhedrin (Acts, 23:4-5) he had been unable to distinguish the High Priest from the rest. 4

Otherwise it may also be observed that St. Luke’s year for St. Paul’s second post conversion visit to Jerusalem – the year of Herod Agrippa’s death, 44 A.D. – was indeed 14 years after the Ascension. Indeed it has been noted that in their quotes of Galatians 2:1 the late second century Fathers St. Irenaeus and Tertullian both omit ‘again’ (Greek: palin). They have St. Paul saying: ‘It was not until fourteen years had passed that I went up to Jerusalem again.’ Perhaps St. Paul was in fact referring to this fourteen years which had elapsed since the Ascension. Since St. Luke was clearly locating St. Paul’s second journey to Jerusalem in 44, the ‘fourteen years’ may be read either as ‘four years’ or as referring to the fourteen years since 30, the year of the Ascension. Notes Appendix 2 “What was he doing during these long years? … It is remarkable that a man of Paul’s burning zeal could have been lost for all this time.” H. V. Morton, In the Steps of St. Paul (London, 1936) In 238 B.C. Ptolemy III had first ordered (for Egypt) the leap year system of the Calendar as we have it today. In 47 B.C. Julius Caesar, ordering that the Calendar be brought back into line with the seasons by making 46 B.C. a total of 445 days long, applied this Egyptian system throughout the whole Roman Empire. He also ordered that the year should no longer begin on 25 March (the spring equinox in those days) but on 1 January. In the first century counting methods for time were not standardised. Counting could be inclusive or exclusive or neither. From Sunday to Sunday could be counted as eight days (inclusive), six days (exclusive), or seven days. Thus between St. Peter's confession and the Transfiguration there lapsed 'six days' (St. Matthew 17:1, St. Mark 9:1) or 'eight days' (St. Luke 9:28). We would say 'seven days'! The Jewish tradition was that sailing was only safe from the feast of Pentecost until the feast of Tabernacles (i.e. from May until September). In the Roman Empire, until the fourth century, winter shipping was forbidden by custom and, in the case of imperial transports, by law, from the end of October until the beginning of April. The calendar laid down by the military writer Vegetius in his De Re Militari (4:39) was apparently in effect: from March 10 to May 27 (spring), and from September 14 to November 11 (autumn), sea travel was possible but dangerous; from November 11 to March 10 the seas were ‘closed.’


Appendix 3:

Post Temple Judaism


By its very smallness, the New Testament is a tribute to the strength and vigilance of the early Church’s hierarchy. The Jews were not so fortunate. The original and true Jewish religion had been a priestly religion. After the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in 587 BC however the exiled Jews developed a religious way of life centred less on the Temple and more on the Synagogue (Greek: ‘meeting’ or ‘meeting house’). Synagogue services were conducted not by priests offering sacrifices but by members of the community who were personally learned in the Scriptures. These came to be called Rabbi (Hebrew: ‘Master’). His learning qualified a Rabbi to explain the Scriptures, to give sermons, to lead the prayers, to teach the young and to adjudicate disputes. All these activities took place in the Jewish community’s synagogue. 2

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, in the centuries after the resumption of Temple sacrifices in 515, the ancient Levitical priesthood, apparently under pagan Greek influence, degenerated until it fell under the domination of the Sadducees (‘Zadokites’). Denying the existence of spirits or of the afterlife, and apparently wide open to pagan Greek ideas and practices, the Sadducees were a small priestly caste of virtual agnostics. They also denied Scriptural status to any books outside the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Few in numbers, rich, cynical and offering no hope, they lost their leadership of the people. As the duty of interpreting the Scriptures was relinquished by the priests it was steadily assumed by the scribes and the lawyers. Calling themselves the haberim (‘associates’) but known to their opponents as pherisim (‘exclusives’ hence pharisees) the scribes and lawyers of Pharisaeism grew in power. Finally, in the reign of Queen Alexandra (76 to 67 BC), their most illustrious members were admitted into the Sanhedrin, the 71 man ruling council itself of the Jewish world. 3

With the final destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD the Sadducees were destroyed and disappeared from history. Judaism ceased to be a priestly religion, and has remained, ever since, the religion of the scholars of Pharisaeism. At Jamnia (a.k.a. Jabneh) in Palestine in 90 AD took place a meeting of rabbis which marked the formal foundation of post Temple and non sacrificial Judaism. This important meeting decreed that no book written outside of Palestine or after the time of Esdras (or Ezra, c. 450 BC) belonged among the inspired Scriptures. At this meeting ‘Gamaliel was deposed and Eleazor ben Azariah made head of the school … the excluding act which segregated the apocrypha was the work of Pharisaeism triumphant.’ – Max Margolis, Hebrew Scriptures in the making (Philadelphia, 1922) p. 91 4

Later one Elias Levita, a contemporary of Luther, was to advance this Jewish doctrine that the canon of the Hebrew Bible had been completed and closed by ‘the men of the Great Synagogue,’ presided over by Ezra (Esdras).


This idea encouraged the Protestants to adopt the Hebrew Canon rather than the traditional Christian Canon of the Septuagint. Protestant bibles therefore do not contain seven books ousted as ‘apocrypha’ by the Rabbis at their meeting in 90 AD: Wisdom, Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus and I and II Maccabees. 5

At first writing had been avoided. By means of the halakha (‘oral transmission’) in the schools of the Rabbis, the words of the great Rabbis had been passed, with great attention to verbal accuracy, from generation to generation. After 90 AD however there grew up a literature called the Haggadah. This literature was less authoritative but covered a huge range of subjects including magic and astrology. From the second century onwards these collections simply kept growing with the addition of all kinds of often gross and strange writings until, by the fifth century, it had become a small library called the Talmud (‘teaching’). The Talmud consists of the ‘Mishnah’ (‘repetition’), the body of Jewish law, and rabbinical comments (‘Gemara’) which often take the form of stories and folklore. The codification of the Mishnah happened in the second century AD, but its sources are much older. The Gemara was collected during the following two or three centuries. The Mishnah (in the Talmud) contains a codification of the traditional prescriptions of the Rabbis. Although this compilation of Jewish customs and legalistic refinements dates from about 140 AD, there is no doubt that it gives a true impression of the common observances of our Lord’s day. There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud (‘Talmud Yerushalmi’) and the Babylonian Talmud (‘Talmud Bavli’). The latter became the authoritative version. It contains thirty-six tractates of about two and a half million words. Its translation has been published in 73 volumes. 6

On our Lord, all the Talmud shows us is that, however much they wished to, the Jews could not deny that He existed, or that He worked miracles. Otherwise for extra information on our Lord’s Life, the Talmud is worthless. In the Talmud five disciples are assigned to Jesus, of whom only Matthew (‘Matthai’) is named. These are able to work cures in his name. He himself is accused of using magic spells learnt in Egypt. This almost complete silence of the Jewish records on our Lord can only reinforce our conviction of the authenticity both of His Resurrection and of the New Testament scriptures about Him. (Such ‘extravagant’ claims as those made by the Apostles about our Lord would have been easily discredited, if they had been in any way false.) The Jews possessed an efficient world wide intelligence network and certainly, had any ‘confessions’ of body-stealing or of forgery of scriptures been forthcoming, the Jews would certainly have seized upon and broadcast such confessions as much as possible and preserved them in their Talmud. 7

Indeed the Romans likewise possessed an efficient empire wide intelligence network. They too would have been only too willing to seize upon and publicise any ‘confessions’ for discrediting and thereby destroying the foundation event and documents of the newly born Faith.


Appendix 4:

The Gnostics


Many a new Christian was liable to lapse back into old ways. (In Ephesus St. Paul’s converts had to be shocked by a demoniac before they finally got around to organising a bonfire of their books of magic!) From the days of the Apostles there was always to be found on the fringes of the Church an array of teachers who claimed to possess a ‘knowledge’ (Greek gnosis) superior to the ‘teaching’ (didache) revealed by Christ, taught by the Apostles and guarded by the Bishops. At first these false teachers had been simply Judaisers urging return to the legality and safety of Judaism. These were dealt with by Galatians in 49 and the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem in 50. Quickly however these teachers began to exploit St. Paul’s doctrine of freedom from the Mosaic Law to preach immorality, an early version of ‘salvation by faith alone’. 2

Soon too they were wandering back into magical practices and were receiving powers and ‘revelations’ from demons. These were the Gnostics. As the first religious ‘choosers’ the Gnostics were the first outright heretics (‘choosers’: Greek: hairesis: ‘choice’). Indeed every heretic is a Gnostic in his implicit claim to possess a divine gnosis (‘knowledge’) and thereby an authority superior to that of the Church. The magician’s quest for power over nature and others drives the Gnostic in his search for the key, ‘Enlightenment’, the Gnosis of power. Such men were inevitably the prey of demons which were often permitted by God to appear to them and might dictate to them ‘secret gospels’. Thus during the second century a number of Gnostic gospels came to be written. Almost all historically worthless, the Gnostics’ ‘gospels’ – or ‘epistles’ or ‘revelations’ etc., some 48 at a recent count – always claim to contain secret revelations by ‘the risen Jesus’ to this or that specially privileged Apostle. That Jesus revealed two religions – a public and false one for the Church, and a secret true one to a small élite – is esotericism, a Gnostic characteristic. 3

Another Gnostic characteristic is syncretism: the belief that the best religion is a mix of them all. The Gnostics were syncretists. They borrowed freely from all the religions of the day, as well as the terminology and speculations of the Greek philosophies. To them the Gospel was just so much new material to incorporate into their speculations, magic, rituals, initiations, divine genealogies and doctrines of reincarnation etc. borrowed from all the ancient religions of the East, of Chaldaea, Persia, Syria, Egypt and even of India. Like today’s ‘New Age’ devotees, the Gnostics subjected all things to their free ranging imaginations. As St. Irenaeus observed in about 180 ‘Every day every one of them invents something new.’ 4

Alexandria, with its world famous library, was a natural centre for pagan speculations and Gnostic ‘learning’. Paganism necessarily denies the uniqueness of Jesus, His Church and the Christian Revelation. These the Gnostics sought to absorb back into their pagan world of innumerable greater


and lesser divinities and demons all presided over by Fate and Fortuna (Latin for 'Luck' or ‘Chance’). The course of the second century saw a proliferation of Gnostic sects which all sought to paganise the faith of the Church. Gnosticism in doctrine is easily detected. Gnostics always reject the three fundamental doctrines of Christian revelation: God the Creator, the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation. For the origins of things, the Gnostics rejected the doctrine of Creation. Like all pagans they believed that the universe is eternal, moving in endless cycles from chaos to cosmos and from cosmos to chaos. They speculated endlessly about how things might have come into being by processes of ‘emanation’ from creative sources called ‘aeons’. 5

Gnostics always deny the goodness of the Creator and instead preach dualism: that the universe is itself uncreated and eternal and is the product of an eternal struggle between two principles or gods: one good and spiritual, the other evil and material. They also always deny the reality of the Incarnation; they deny that God could Himself become truly a man, and claim that Jesus only seemed (Greek: dokeo ‘seem’ hence ‘docetism’) to be human, and only seemed to suffer and die on the cross. 6

Thus during the second century a large number of rival Gospels, today called apocryphal Gospels, came to be written. All these Gospels invariably claimed to have been secretly revealed in an apparition by ‘the Risen Lord’ to one of the Apostles. This Apostle was then commissioned to transmit his ‘secret Gospel’ secretly to his own élite of secret disciples who alone were privileged to have the one full and true Gospel. This is elitism, another Gnostic characteristic. ‘Apocryphal’ means ‘hidden away’ or ‘secret.’ In modern times it has been customary to create the impression that these apocryphal Gospels were at some time considered for admission to the Canon of the New Testament. In fact the attitude of the Church has always been one of firm rejection. The attitude of the Church was always that expressed by St. Jerome (Epistulae 96: 20): “We repudiate those scriptures termed ‘apocryphal’, that is ‘hidden,’ for ‘In secret I have spoken nothing’ says the Lord.” 7

In 1945 a caché of twelve Coptic codices and fragments was discovered in a cave in the desert near the village of Nag Hammadi on the Nile in Egypt. Deposited in the late fourth century this collection of about 50 Gnostic works has enabled scholars to confirm the justice of the early Church’s condemnation of the Gnostics’ works as ‘entirely absurd and impious.’ Indeed the contrast between the apocryphal and the canonical Gospels is lurid. To try to read these blasphemous Gnostic fantasies is only to become even more trusting of the canonical Gospels and more thankful to the Church authority which had always carefully excluded these deranged imaginings. 8

A few of the more well known and leading Gnostics should be noted: About 120 in Alexandria one Carpocrates was teaching (like Cerinthus, St. John’s rival) that the world had been created by angels, that Jesus was St. Joseph’s son and that a Power had come down upon him only


at his Baptism in the Jordan. Whoever partakes of this Power becomes an equal to Jesus and is able to scorn the archons (rulers) who made this evil material world and can accomplish the same miracles as Jesus did. This Carpocrates also blasphemed the goodness of the Creator and His creation and preached rebellion not only against the Jewish God but also against the Law. This violent rejection of the Creator and His creation in favour of total freedom from the moral Law is antinomianism ('no-law-ism'), another characteristic of the Gnostics. They always opposed a good, knowing and spiritual God the Saviour to a bad, ignorant and material God the Creator. Holding that salvation depended solely upon ‘the knowledge’ (gnosis) many indulged in and preached extremely licentious behaviour. They claimed they could not be stained by any external mud. Carpocrates for example urged his followers to sin, and his son Epiphanes taught that promiscuity was God’s law. Others, such as the Cainites honoured Cain and other villains of the Old Testament, and the Ophites (Greek: ophis serpent) honoured the Serpent for bringing ‘knowledge’ to Adam and Eve. 9

The Gnostic denied that the unity of soul and body was natural and proper to man; he believed rather that each of us was a ‘divine spark’ trapped in a flesh which needed to be, as much as possible annihilated or ignored. They sought either to indulge all the body’s desires (libertinism) or to eliminate them altogether (with asceticism). This led them to swing wildly between extremes of libertinism and asceticism. They often taught also that humans were originally unisex and that the creation of woman was the source of evil while procreation of children was evil because it simply multiplied the souls in bondage to the powers of darkness. 10

Another of these new Gnostic masters was Basilides who taught at Alexandria all the usual Gnostic doctrines such as a dualist creation and a docetic Christology. He taught also of innumerable lesser deities and demons who dwelt as intermediaries between the strictly unknowable supreme God, the immutable One of Greek philosophy, and this ever-changing world of matter. The teachings of Basilides were taken up by Valentinus, an Egyptian who, according to St. Irenaeus ‘came to Rome under Hyginus, flourished under Pius and remained there until Anicetus.’ (Adv. Haer. III, iv, 3. These three Popes ruled from 138 to 142 to 155 to 166 respectively.) His ‘Valentinians’ were, of all Gnostic sects, the most numerous and powerful, and flourished until the early third century. 11

Another leading Gnostic was Marcion of Pontus who, too, came to Rome under Hyginus. Marcion’s teacher had been a Syrian Gnostic named Cerdo who had developed his new religion in Alexandria. Marcion’s basic teaching was that God the Creator, as found in the Old Testament, was evil, and had been ousted by the good God of the New Testament. His Antitheses, his only book, largely consisted of Old Testament and New Testament passages set side by side to show, by their contrast, how they represented two Gods. ‘Marcion of Pontus’ wrote St. Justin Martyr in about 150, ‘professes belief in a God superior to the Creator.’ This was a hallmark of Christians from


a pagan background who found the doctrines of God the Creator and Original Sin (in Genesis) difficult to accept. At a synod held in July 144 Pope St. Pius I declared Marcion excommunicated. 12

The Church fought the inroads of the Gnostics not only by excommunications but also by: (1) a thoroughgoing exposure and criticism of Gnostic teachings especially by that published in 180 by St. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons. In this work, his great Exposure and Refutation of the False Knowledge, better known as Adversus Haereses (the title of its early and accurate Latin translation), St. Irenaeus laid down the rule that it was by the yardstick of Tradition that all heresy could be exposed and rejected as novelty. This great work of St. Irenaeus was, after 200, followed up by Tertullian with his De Praescriptione contra Haereticos. (2) Conditions for admission to the Church were tightened up with the institution of a three year Catechumenate whereby candidates for Baptism (‘catechumens’) were thoroughly taught the Faith as summarised in a clear Creed to be memorised. (3) Systematic scripture scholarship was undertaken to investigate and reconcile the apparent contradictions between the Old and the New Testaments. This last was undertaken especially at the great Catechetical School founded in about 180 by St. Pantaenus at Alexandria. By the early third century the various Gnostic sects had passed their peaks and were generally disintegrating quickly and easily. 13

Under the influence of the Gnostic error that material creation is evil however, some rigorist groups in the Church fell into encratitism. Encratites (‘abstainers’) tended to ban wine, meat eating and marriage. When they made these necessary for salvation however they became outright heretical.


Appendix 5:

Paganism and its Propaganda


On the religion of the Christiani, pagan authors were at first content with passing references to their exitiabilis superstitio (‘pernicious superstition’ Tacitus, c. 110), superstitio prava et immodica (‘depraved and gross superstition’ - Pliny, c. 112) or superstitio nova et malefica (‘new and malicious superstition’ - Suetonius, c. 120). 2

In his famous rescript to Pliny the Governor of Bithynia in 112, the Emperor Trajan (98 – 117) had, while ordering that anonymous denunciations be ignored, confirmed Nero’s ban. Very practical but quite inconsistent, Trajan had ordered that Christians were not to be hunted but if caught were to be put to death. Trajan also ordered, again inconsistently, that if the Christian renounced the Christian name and proved it by offering pagan sacrifice, he should be spared. No actual criminal act was needed: the mere wilfulness of holding to the Christian name itself was capital crime enough. 3

In 124 conditions for the Christiani eased a little when Hadrian (117 – 138) ordered that false informants against them were to suffer under the Roman law against calumnia. (This law against calumny ordered that a false accuser should suffer the crime’s penalty as if he had committed it himself. If the accused Christian apostatised, his pagan denouncer could be tortured, burnt or thrown to the beasts instead!) Would-be accusers now needed to be more careful. Thus began the era of the Christian apologists. The most famous of these was St. Justin Martyr (100 to 165). In about 130 on the beach near Alexandria, St. Justin, a professional philosopher, had been converted by his encounter with an aged Christian. In about 150 he was publicly conducting a school of ‘Christian wisdom’ in Rome itself. With the precious tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul to guard, however, the Church hierarchy in Rome remained carefully secretive. No official representative was publicly available for pagan enquirers. Such enquirers could only approach these individual learned Christians like St. Justin who were presenting themselves in public as apologists (i.e. ‘defenders’) of the religion of the Christiani. Thanks however to these apologists, the Christiani could no longer be ignored. Ignorance, calumny and persecution notwithstanding, their numbers were steadily growing. The case being put so eloquently by the apologists needed to be answered. 4

At last in c. 170, a pagan philosopher named Celsus published the first systematic attack upon the Christiani. His book, sarcastically entitled The True Doctrine, has not survived. We only have a very comprehensive selection of quotes from it as preserved by the great Christian scholar Origen who, in 235 in his Contra Celsum, set out systematically to refute it. Celsus was a professional philosopher who seems to have first made his name by publishing a book on witchcraft. He seems to have set out to learn as much as he could about the Christiani but was the willing victim of the prejudices of his informants. He did not consult such apologists as St. Justin but seems rather to have consulted the Jews and possibly Gnostic sectarians.


Indeed he treated the Christian religion as a heresy of Judaism and devoted a whole chapter of his book to the objections of the Jews. He also had free access to the books of the Old Testament. He had, however, so many astonishing misconceptions about Christian beliefs that his ‘Christian’ informants, if any, seem to have come from the many odd Gnostic sects which were flourishing in his day. 5

Underlying his approach to the Christian phenomenon was his conviction, as he is quoted by Origen, that ‘No God nor Son of God ever came down from Heaven, nor ever will.’ Celsus did very much believe in the existence and power not only of witches but also of demons. Otherwise items in his litany of complaints are often remarkable for their ring of ‘modernity’. Celsus was the first to describe the Christiani as “ignorant…low class…fear-stricken…unpatriotic…narrowminded…obsessed with sin…They are like frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, debating which of them is the most sinful.” He is indeed the father of anti-Christian polemic. The ancient claim that the Church would substitute credulity for a reasoned intelligence is indeed ancient. It first appears in Celsus: “We must follow reason and a reasonable leader. The Christians say: ‘Do not enquire, only believe. Thy faith shall save thee. The wisdom of this world is evil, and folly is good ’.” (Contra Celsum, II, i, 8,9) Celsus again and again claimed that the Christians seek their converts among the ignorant and do all they can to depreciate education. “The Christian religion is one of terror; its adherents are overcome with dread, but there is nothing behind it all. It is much the same as in Egypt: magnificent temples with nothing in them to worship but a dog.” (Contra Celsum, II, iii. The reference by Celsus to ‘magnificent temples’, incidentally, is one of a number of references to be found in second century authors which indicate that the Church’s worship, even under the circumstances of persecution and secrecy, was already fully liturgical.) “Christianity is a rite of foreign and barbarous origin. The Apostles were worthless individuals, tax-farmers and low-class sailors.” (II, i, 65). “Christianity is unpatriotic. We must help the Emperor with all our might, labour for him, fight for and under him. We should take office in the government of the country; yet Christians selfishly disqualify themselves from all such responsibilities.” (II, viii, 73 – 5) Although the response of Tertullian and Origen to this last objection was frankly pacifist, the Church in fact always allowed members to take up normal military service. Indeed it is a remarkable fact of the first three centuries of the history of the Church that never once in this era did the Christiani take up arms against their persecutors. “The Christian Church is so narrow-minded. God is the God of all men. It is absurd to think that He would insist on being worshipped in the Christian way alone. Christians ought, at any rate, to join with us in our public feasts.” (II, viii, 21) Celsus nevertheless finds scandal in the Christians’ sectarian divisions. The Gnostic sects were still flourishing at this time: “After all, there are so many kinds of Christians disagreeing with each other that the sensible man will take no notice of any of them.” (II, iii)

1 6

In 180, when the Emperor Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his worthless son Commodus, the Golden Age of the Roman Empire came to an end. After the murder of Commodus in 192, the ensuing round of civil wars produced the African Septimius Severus as Emperor (193 – 211). During this, the era of the Severan Dynasty (193 – 235), the Emperors’ mothers and wives – Julia Maesa, Julia Domna and Julia Mamaea – patronised various oriental ‘mystery religions’ as well as various syncretic experiments of their own. Thus began a golden age for syncretism and of ‘Mystery Religions’ each offering salvation by initiations into a mystical union with its god. Of these the most widespread were the cults of Isis (from Egypt) and of Mithra (from Persia). Only the ‘narrow-minded’ Christians and Jews resisted, so in 202 Septimius Severus decreed that these two religions were to cease seeking and receiving converts. A new round of persecution and martyrdoms was thus quickly underway – this time the persecution was not of the baptised but of catechumens preparing to be baptised. With the Christiani again filling the Empire’s arenas with martyrs and saints, state paganism needed a saint of its own. Early therefore in the third century, a certain Philostratus published a ‘Life’ of one Apollonius of Tyana, whom he represented as a miracle-worker and saint, a demi-god who in the end leaves the earth for heaven in a mysterious manner. It was hoped that this would fill the gap: a miraculous life, an attractive personality and above all no unpleasant demands for a strict reform of life. The big disadvantage, of course, was that this Apollonius was an imaginary god. Under the influence of the Empress Julia Domna some small cult of Apollonius was started, but the unreality of the whole business soon became all too apparent. A similar failure attended other attempts to provide paganism with a saint such as by idealising the philosopher Pythagoras. Julia Mamaea listened to speeches from the great Christian scholar Origen, and her son Alexander Severus (222 – 235) even had statues of Jesus and Moses in his collection of gods and heroes in his private chapel. 7

(Indeed in the late nineteenth century the papyrus texts of ancient ‘mystery religions’ were discovered in ancient Egyptian rubbish dumps. Their publication over the following decades led to a huge rash of books claiming that the Church and the Christian Faith was descended from this or that ancient pagan mystery religion. Thus around the beginning of the twentieth century an enormous popular literature mushroomed up devoted to proving that the Church’s sacraments were nothing but pagan ‘mysteries’ a little adapted. This was the heyday of the ‘syncretist’ schools of speculation which found Christian origins in this or that mystery religion. In the excitement of the time, a bewildering variety of assertions were made by a great array of scholars. Gunkel and Zimmern, for example, derived Christianity from Babylonian religions, while Dietrich and Pfliederer found the Church’s spiritual ancestors among the devotees of Mithraism. One Bossuet found the Faith’s progenitors among the Greeks, one Issliet among the Egyptians. Meanwhile Koch and Reinach were finding the Church’s ancestors among the devotees of Persian Parsism!


Basing themselves on various similarities of language used in the various pagan mystery religions and that used by the Church, these scholars built up a whole vast literature of learned speculation. S. Angus in London in 1925 gave a bibliography of some 35 pages! The manner and date of the asserted origin and infiltration of these various ideas and rites were most disconcertingly various. Some asserted a direct influence upon our Lord Himself, some upon St. Paul, others upon St. John. Others locate the foundation of the Church late in the second century, still others, like Brillioth, ‘in the period after Constantine’.) 8

From the work of Plotinus (205 – 270) came Neoplatonism, a synthesis of Platonic with Aristotelian and other Greek philosophical ideas to comprise the last great classical pagan philosophy. It however quickly proved to be too vague on key philosophical points and was always too intellectual to function as a rival religion to Christianity. Neoplatonism’s God as absolutely One, however, has long survived as an impersonal pagan rival to the personal Trinity of God as revealed by our Lord. (That God is a person able to appear and speak for Himself is a revelation unique to Christ. Indeed the mystery of the Trinity may be simply the mystery of how God knows Himself as other perfectly objectively and loves Himself perfectly unselfishly.) While the Neoplatonists of Alexandria made their peace with the Church, the pagan Neoplatonists of Athens survived until their school was suppressed by the Emperor Justinian in 529. 9

The last gasp of ancient official paganism came with the reign of Julian the Apostate (361 – 363). As a child Julian had never been free from fear of a violent death and had learned to hate the Arian surroundings amidst which he had grown up. Indeed Arianism, falsifying Jesus Christ as a lesser created god, was itself a paganisation of Christianity. Julian tried to reform the pagan religion in order to make it a source of upright morals, led by its priests who were to be models of the spiritual life. Nobody was less enthusiastic than the priests themselves at this prospect, and at Julian’s death in battle, the Empire was simply relieved to be rid of a crank. 10

Under the intellectual hammer blows of St. Augustine (in his vast de Civitate Dei, (City of God) published in 420), classical paganism finally collapsed. For a thousand years, paganism lay in ruins, practised in the west only by diminishing numbers of barbarians and a few witches. In the end it was the superstitious elements at the heart of paganism – astrology, horoscopes, augury and oracle-mongering – which have proved to have the greatest vitality.


Appendix 6:

How the Bones of St. Peter were Recovered


Tradition has always located the tomb of St. Peter directly under the high altar of St. Peter’s church in Rome. In February 1939, Pope Pius XI died. Workmen digging for this pope’s tomb in the Vatican grottos under St. Peter’s church came upon an ancient Roman necropolis (graveyard) of great archaeological interest. In 1940, on the advice of his adviser on German affairs, one Msgr. Kaas, Pope Pius XII gave permission for a systematic archaeological search for St. Peter’s grave. He set the condition that the whole work should be completed by 1950. The Pope was hoping to announce during the Holy Year of 1950 that St. Peter’s bones had been found and definitely identified. 2

An officially authorised team of four archaeologists set to work and in the first months of 1942 arrived at the area directly below the high altar of St. Peter’s. By this time they had excavated their way down a whole short ‘street’ of mostly pagan mausoleums. They had now arrived at an enclosed whitetiled courtyard dominated by a 26 foot long red wall in the midst of which had stood a marble shrine. This marble shrine stood directly below the high altar of St. Peter’s. It was soon identified as the tropaion or ‘trophy’ referred to by a Roman priest named Gaius in the late second century and quoted by Eusebius in his Church History (324 AD): “But I myself can point out the trophies of the Apostles. For if you wish to go out to the Vatican field or down the Ostian Way, you will find the trophies of those who founded this church.” (Historia Ecclesiae, II: 25, 7) Directly beneath this marble shrine was found a partially destroyed grave site lying at an odd angle from the Red Wall. Pains had been taken to preserve as much as possible of this grave. This grave moreover lay directly under not only the marble ‘trophy’ but also under the high altars built in the 7 th century, the 11th century and the present one built in the 16 th century. 3

This obviously had been St. Peter’s grave. When a bone was found encrusted in its soul, it was gingerly replaced, and the Pope was immediately notified. Within ten minutes Pope Pius XII arrived. After discussion with the four archaeologists of the digging team, he gave the ‘go ahead’ for the removal of all the bones from this central grave and their transferral to the lead-lined boxes specially prepared for them. The Pope sat on a chair on some marble pavement just above the pit and watched prayerfully over the next several hours as each bone was prised loose from the soil and reverently deposited in the boxes at his feet. But something was wrong. There were too many bones. The grave had certainly been that of St. Peter, but among those bones found had any actually belonged to the Prince of the Apostles? In the Holy Year of 1950 no announcement could be made that the true bones of St. Peter himself had actually been identified. Only in the spring of 1956 did the Pope finally direct that the bones be thoroughly re-examined by the best possible specialist available: Professor Venerando Correnti, archaeological anthropologist at Palermo University. Correnti found that the


bones belonged to at least three individuals: two males in their 50’s, and probably a female. Correnti completed his report in 1960, but Pope Pius XII had died in 1958 with the knowledge – one of the sharpest disappointments of his reign – that the bones found in St. Peter’s grave were almost certainly not those of St. Peter. (In early 1942 he had already seen that the bones from the central grave had belonged to more than one individual. But surely St. Peter’s bones had not been mixed up with others! From that day onwards, what a pall must have hung over the Vatican!) Had the Roman church really and forever lost its most precious and hitherto most carefully guarded treasure? Where in fact were the bones of St. Peter? 4

Directly next to the marble ‘trophy’ over St. Peter’s original grave stood the seemingly interfering bulk of a short wall jutting out from the Red Wall. This short wall had been built in the 250’s and, because of the mass of ancient ‘graffiti’ which covered it, was called the ‘Graffiti Wall’. These graffiti were the special object of study by Dr. Margherita Guarducci, a professor of Greek epigraphy (ancient inscriptions) at the University of Rome. Dr. Guarducci had first begun work under St. Peter’s in May 1952, but it was not until September 1953 that she began work at untangling and deciphering the mass of ancient scribble on the Graffiti Wall. Her special interest was to find any firm evidence of belief that St. Peter’s tomb was nearby. Dr. Guarducci first arranged a series of photographic enlargements of the whole Graffiti Wall. After every morning studying the Graffiti Wall itself, she spent every afternoon studying these enlargements. The weeks however passed and she remained as perplexed as ever in her efforts to untangle this mass of ancient scribble. 5

At last one morning, as she stood gazing at the Graffiti Wall, she looked yet again at the cavity low in that wall. Inside this cavity had been a marble-lined repository. According to the official report, all that had been found in this marble-lined repository had been a few bits of bone, some minor debris and a coin of c. 900 AD from Limoges in France. Working nearby was Giovanni Segoni, the foreman of the Sampietrini (the hereditary corps of Vatican workmen), and the two began to discuss the Graffiti Wall. Finally she pointed down at the cavity opening into the marblelined repository: “Tell me, Giovanni, do you remember what sorts of things were found inside that cavity?” “Yes, I emptied it myself,” Segoni replied after a moment’s thought, “when old Monsignor Kaas gave the order. I can show you the things if you want.” Dr. Guarducci was desperate for any clue she could find about the Graffiti Wall, so she accompanied Segoni to the small storeroom behind the Chapel of St. Columban. Here he ferreted out a wooden box labelled ‘Ossa – urna – graf.’ which he took to a less cluttered and better lit room nearby. The box’s label – ‘Ossa – urna – graf.’ – meant that its contents were ‘bones – repository – graffiti wall’. Yet when the box lay open on the table before her, Dr. Guarducci knew that the official report on the contents of the


marble-lined repository in the Graffiti Wall had been wrong. Here was a very substantial collection of bones, some of them up to ten inches long. No Limoges coin here either. So what had happened? It did not occur to Dr. Guarducci at the time that these might be the bones of St. Peter. Nevertheless she replaced the bones in their box and ordered that they be properly locked away for a full investigation later. The date was 25 September, 1953. 6

Nowhere on the Graffiti Wall meanwhile could she find the name ‘Peter’ in full. Everywhere however she found it abbreviated and in monograms. In 1950, in the back of the marble-lined repository in the Graffiti Wall, one Fr. Ferrua SJ, an archaeologist, had found a piece of red plaster from the Red Wall which only recently had dislodged and fallen into the repository. On it were scratched in Greek letters two inches high: PETR., and below this ENI… These words were quickly identified as ‘Petros eni’, Greek for ‘Peter is within’. This discovery had been made in December 1950, too late to be included in the official report for Pius XII and the Holy Year. Nor had it been noted in the official report consulted by Dr. Guarducci in 1953. 7

Not until October 1962 – the month in which Vatican II opened – was Professor Correnti able to turn his attention to the bones rescued in September 1953 by Dr. Guarducci. In the week following the death of John XXIII on 3 June 1963, Dr. Guarducci visited Dr. Correnti in his Vatican workroom where they had a brief conversation later recorded by Dr. Guarducci: “You know,” remarked Dr. Correnti, “it is very curious. In that little box of bones I have found the remains of only a single individual, and not of many, as in the first and second groups.” “A single individual? And have you established the sex?” “Yes, masculine.” “And the age?” “An advanced age. Between sixty and seventy years.” Correnti mused, then added, “It is a man of robust constitution.” Correnti went on to remark that every bone in this man’s body was represented except the feet. From the ankles down, the feet were entirely missing. The body itself had lain in the bare earth, but the bones had later been taken and wrapped in purple cloth. (It has been known from tradition that St. Peter had been crucified upside down. That the removal of his body from his cross had been so hasty as to entail cutting off his feet below the ankles however is a gruesome detail which does not seem to have been preserved by tradition.) 8

From the following day Dr. Guarducci remembered and began to be haunted by the words ‘Petros eni’ found in the marble-lined repository back in 1950 by Fr. Ferrua. Could these be St. Peter’s bones? But why had they not been in the original grave? Why had they been taken and hidden almost two feet away and five feet above in an obtrusive new (in c. 250) wall which was soon all


covered in graffiti? Why had the official report of 1950 said that inside that Graffiti Wall’s marble-lined repository practically nothing had been found? After two meetings with Pope Paul VI in early 1964, Dr. Guarducci obtained permission for tests to establish: (1) the type of the soil encrusted in the bones, and (2) whether the cloth found with the bones contained threads of real gold and true Roman imperial purple. The first test showed that the soil encrusted with the bones matched exactly that to be found in the original central grave (a soil called ‘sandy marl’, a soil clearly distinguishable from ‘blue clay’ or ‘yellow sand’ found over most of the Vatican area.) The second test confirmed that the bones had been wrapped in cloth dyed in true Roman imperial purple and threaded with real gold. (Roman imperial purple was a very special dye kept under firm state control. Its method for making had been a state secret and has only been rediscovered in recent times: it was made from an extract from the Mediterranean shellfish, murex brandaris or murex trunculus. Worn only by governors and kings, it was the colour of imperial and royal power.) These bones therefore had definitely been in the original central grave and had been treated with the highest reverence. But why were they not in the original grave? Why had they been hidden in a nearby wall built in the 250’s? 9

The graves of St. Peter and St. Paul had at first always been safe because Roman law had always protected burial places as sacred. In the persecution of 258 however, the Emperor Valerian had ordered the confiscation of all Church properties, including her burial places. Being therefore in danger of being seized and destroyed, the bones of St. Peter and St. Paul were taken and hidden elsewhere. The locality used for the hiding place was later, in memory of its distinguished ‘visitors’, occupied by a church called the Basilica Apostolorum (‘Basilica of the Apostles’) and is today the Church of St. Sebastian’s. In 260, with the defeat and capture of Valerian by the Persians, the persecution ended. Some 18 months then after their removal into hiding, the bones of Saints Peter and Paul were returned to their respective shrines. For extra security, however, St. Peter’s bones were placed in a marble-lined repository in a new wall (soon covered with ‘graffiti’) built at the time to jut out from the Red Wall and hard by St. Peter’s 2nd century ‘trophy’. Below the high altar of St. Peter’s the bones now lay some two feet to one side and five feet above the original grave and there they remained – until 1942. But what had happened in 1942? How come the four official archaeologists had found hardly anything in the marble repository in the Graffiti Wall? 10

In his notarised affidavit of 7 January 1965, the foreman Giovanni Segoni described what had happened. Very early in 1942, a day or so after the archaeologists had first uncovered the Graffiti Wall, Segoni had accompanied Msgr. Kaas on his routine evening round of inspection prior to locking the site up for the night. They saw the newly uncovered opening to the marble-lined repository, and Kaas asked Segoni if he could see anything inside. Segoni stooped


down, peered in, and told Kaas he could see some bones and some debris. Kaas thereupon ordered him to remove them for safekeeping. Segoni placed the bones and ‘debris’ in a wooden box which he labelled, at Kaas’s direction ‘Ossa – urna – graf.’ Msgr. Kaas was the official head of the investigation team. Because of his abrupt peremptory manners, however, he had developed a poor working relationship with the four archaeologists. Conversation had fallen to a bare minimum. When the archaeologists returned to the site several days later, he told them nothing about what he had done. Why? Msgr. Kaas was deeply engrossed in politics. He was a chief advisor to the Pope on German affairs. He had been a member of the preHitler Bruning government. His aim was to assist the Pope in finding a way to negotiate an end to the war then raging. Instead, on 1 January 1942 Stalin and his allies had issued their ‘United Nations’ declaration against anyone making a separate peace with Germany. The war was now definitely going to be as long and as bestial as possible. Day and night bombing of Germany was already beginning. Germany’s doom was sealed. Perhaps it was simply Msgr. Kaas’s gloomy preoccupation with the Pope’s and his own failure at peace-making, and his homeland’s plight and imminent ruin which had made him so abrupt and absent-minded in early 1942. 11

In February 1965 Dr. Guarducci published her book giving in detail the evidence for her conclusion that the bones found in the marble-lined repository in the Graffiti Wall were indeed the bones of St. Peter himself. From the world’s scientists, however, an outcry of pained disbelief greeted her book. Dr. Guarducci quickly realised her mistake: out of misguided charity she had tried to protect the reputation of Msgr. Kaas. In July 1967 she published a pamphlet answering all her critics in detail and told the full truth about Msgr. Kaas’s silent interference. On 26 June 1968, Pope Paul VI officially announced to the world that the bones of St. Peter Prince of the Apostles had, beyond any rational doubt, been identified. On the following day, 27 June 1968, he ceremonially returned the bones, along with everything found with them, to their ancient and original resting place.


Bibliography James L. Kelso, An Archaeologist Follows the Apostle Paul (Waco, 1970) Cornelius Hagerty, C.S.C, The Authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures (Houston, 1969) Werner Keller, The Bible as History, Archaeology Confirms the Book of Books (London, 1956) John Evangelist Walsh, The Bones of Saint Peter (London, 1982) James Stevenson, The Catacombs, Life and Death in Early Christianity (London, 1978) Fabrizio Mancinelli, The Catacombs of Rome and the Origins of Christianity (Florence, 1981) Jean Daniélou, Jean, Fr., The Christian Centuries, Volume 1: the First Six Hundred Years, (V. Cronin, tr.) (London, 1964) Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture, a Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (Oxford, 1940) Arthur S. Barnes, Fr., Christianity at Rome in the Apostolic Age (London, 1938) Bamber Gascoigne, The Christians (London, 1978) George Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century (London, 1913) Gen. Hughes de Nanteuil, The Dates of the Birth & Death of Jesus Christ (Paris, 2008) Robert Jewett, Dating Paul’s Life (London, 1979) Jean Daniélou, Jean, Fr., The Dead Sea Scrolls and Primitive Christianity (New York, 1958) Michael Gough, The Early Christians (London 1961) Arthur S. Barnes, Fr., The Early Church in the Light of the Monuments (London, 1913) L. Duchesne, Msgr., Early History of the Christian Church from its Foundations to the End of the Third Century (London, 1929)


Orazio Marucchi, The Evidence of the Catacombs for the Doctrines and Organisation of the Primitive Church (London, 1929) W. Barclay, The First Three Gospels (London, 1976) M. Hopkins O.P., Fr., God’s Kingdom in the New Testament (Chicago, 1964) H. Schumacher, Fr., A Handbook of Scripture Study, Vol. III, The New Testament (St. Louis, 1922) C. R. Haines, Heathen Contact with Christianity during its first Century and a Half, being all References to Christianity in Pagan Writings During that Period (Cambridge, 1923) Claude Tresmontant, Fr., The Hebrew Christ, Language in the Age of the Gospels (Paris, 1983; Chicago, 1989) Carsten Peter Thiede, The Heritage of the First Christians Tracing Early Christianity in Europe (Zurich, 1992) Tim Dowley (ed.) The History of Christianity (London, 1977) J. Lebreton, Fr. & J. Zeiller, The History of the Primitive Church, Vol I: the Church in the New Testament (London, 1942) Jean Comby, How to Read Church History (Paris, 1984) Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861 – 1961 (Firth Lectures, 1962) (London, 1966) H. V. Morton, In the Steps of St. Paul (London, 1936) Ronald Cox, Fr., It is Paul who Writes (Auckland, 1956) Henri Daniel-Rops, Jesus and His Times, Volume 1 (New York, 1958) Carsten P. Thiede, Jesus: Life or Legend? (Oxford, 1990) Carsten P. Thiede & M. d’Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus (London, 1996) Ian Wilson, Jesus, the Evidence (London, 1984, 1996) P. Albers, Manuale di Storia Ecclesiastica Volume I (Turin, 1920) L. Bacuez, Fr., Manuel Biblique: Nouveau Testament (Paris, 1891) C. Lattey, S.J., Fr. (ed.) The New Testament, Papers read at the Summer School of Catholic Studies, held at Cambridge, 31 July to 9 August, 1937 (London, 1937)


F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (London, 1969) M. Muggeridge & A. Vidler, Paul, Envoy Extraordinary (London, 1972) Umberto M. Fasola, Peter and Paul in Rome (Rome, 1980) William Ramsay, Sir, Pictures of the Apostolic Church (London, 1910) C. Lattey, S.J., Fr. (ed.) The Pre-Nicene Church, Papers read at the Summer School of Catholic Studies, held at Cambridge, 28 July to 6 August, 1934 (London, 1934) D. I. Lanslots, Fr., The Primitive Church, The Church in the Days of the Apostles (St. Louis, 1926, TAN, 1980) John A. T. Robinson, The Priority of John (London, 1985) Guy Schofield, The Purple and the Scarlet, A.D. 39 – 155, The Historical Sequel to the New Testament Philip R. Davies, Qumran, (Southampton , 1982) Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P., Fr., Record of the Fulfilment: the New Testament (London, 1968) John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London, 1976) GÊrald Gassiot-Talabot, Roman and Palaeo-Christian Painting (Geneva, 1968) Leonardo B. Dal Maso, Rome of the Caesars (Florence, 1974) Constant Fouard, Fr. Saint Peter and the First Years of Christianity (New York, 1892) John-Mary Simon, O.S.M., A Scripture Manual directed to the Interpretation of Biblical Revelation, Volume II (New York, 1928) Vittorio Guerrera, Fr., The Shroud of Turin a Case for Authenticity (TAN, 2001)


(for back cover)

Forty Years which Changed the World Forever In what years, exactly, did Jesus live? Are the stories of His Apostles as found in the New Testament really history? What exactly can we know about the work and travels of the great Apostles, saints Peter and Paul, James and John? Who wrote all those magnificent works in the New Testament? When? Where? Why? From the archaeological discoveries and scriptural studies of the past two centuries how much more do we know today than we did one or two hundred years ago? All these and many more vitally important questions are explored in this book: How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament. Although this is a book for students, the general reader too will find here a gold mine of information and insight on the dramatic events of the years 30 to 70 AD. In these forty vital years the Apostles founded the Christian Church. In these forty years they changed the world forever.


6 Rome’s confirmation of Herod’s ruthless son Archelaus as ruler of Judaea, St. Joseph took his family back to Nazareth in Galilee. Here Jesus lived 30 years. 9 (Vetri cemeteriali (Italian: ‘Cemetery Cups’) were Christian glass cups found in the catacombs under Rome. Holy pictures made of gold leaf were sealed in their bases. An enlarged example featuring St. Peter and St. Paul can be viewed opposite this book’s contents page.) 36 example, he freely used ‘Truly’ rather than ‘Amen’. In these earliest days he could not take it for granted that his ex-pagans could understand what ‘Amen’ meant.) Thus by 45 was completed the last of the three ‘synoptic’ Gospels.* 49 mouth, or by our epistle…if anyone does not obey our word by epistle, note him and avoid associating with him.’ 70 Examples of St. Luke’s studious accuracy abound in Acts. In Thessalonica archaeologists have found many inscriptions bearing the specific title of Politarch. The title of Asiarch has been found only in Ephesus, that of First Man only in Malta.

87 From 1942 to 1963 the bones of St. Peter had lain in a chapel storeroom. In 1968 Paul VI ceremonially replaced them in their crypt below the high altar of St. Peter’s.

109 confession and the Transfiguration there lapsed 'six days' (St. Matthew 17:1, St. Mark 9:1) or 'eight days' (St. Luke 9:28). We would say 'seven days'!

124 Gen. Hughes de Nanteuil, The Dates of the Birth & Death of Jesus Christ (Paris, 2008)

125 Ian Wilson, Jesus, the Evidence (London, 1984, 1996) 126 F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (London, 1969)

How the Apostles Wrote the New Testament  

This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...

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