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
Published on Nov 29, 2011
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...