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.
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...