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);
Published on Nov 29, 2011
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...