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
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...