PETER AND PAUL, THE TWO APOSTLES OF THE LORD JESUS
An investigation of the life and
ministry of Peter and Paul will deepen our understanding of the nature of the
divine call and the close relationship between our Lord and the disciples. We
learn that the all-out dedication, suffering, faith, stoic magnitude are the
necessary spiritual and moral qualities as required of every one of us. To
carry out the will of God to evangelize and strengthening the church ministry,
we must equip ourselves with the wisdom and power of God and become worthy
vessels of God in this eventful age.
This four-hour class will
concentrate on the details of life and ministry of Peter and Paul, while
leaving aside theological studies of the Petrian and Pauline
writings as they require a separate treatment.
Bible reading and discussion
(Lecture 60%; discussion and report 40%). A final open-book/note test is given
at the end of the class.
The Apostle Peter
Historical qualifications of the ‘apostles’ (the
Greek apostoloi, "messengers", and the
Hebrew counterpart ''Selihim, "agents")
Simon (or Symeon)
was Peter’s personal name. "Simon son of John” (John 1:42; 21:15-17).
Simon Bar-jona in Matt. 16:17 may well be an abridged
form of Yohannan, "John", rather than the
equivalent of the Hebrew name Jonah (yonaih,
"dove"). The name ‘Peter’ translates an Aramaic nickname Kepha or Cepha (Job 30.6; Jer 4.29) --- "rock", synonymous with the Hebrew sela` ("rock" or "crag") --- appears in
the NT (Jn 1.42; 1Cor 15.1.12; 3.22; 9.5; 15.5; Gal
1.18; 2.9,11,14). In Matthew’s account of the
confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus declared with the Greek Petros: "You are Peter, and on this rock (petra)
I will build my church" (Matt. 16:17).
The first group of fishermen
called to become the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1.26-20; Matt
4.18-22; detailed narrative in Luke 5.6-11 cf. Peter was summoned by Andrew in
John 1.40-42). In Jesus’ Galilean
ministry, Peter was of immediate help: healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark
1.29-31//Matt 8.14-15//Luke 4.38-39); his boat used for Jesus’ preaching (Luke
Role as Leading Disciple:
His name was listed first in
lists of the disciples (Mark 3.16; Luke 16.14; Matt 10.2), first of the three
members in Jesus’ inner circle: healing of Jairus’
daughter (Mark 9.2); at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17.1-8//Luke
9.28-36); confession of Jesus’ divinity at Caesaria
Philippi (Mark 8.29//Matt 16.16-17//Luke 9.20); at the Garden of Gethsemane
(Matt 26.36-46//Mark 14.32-42); he followed Jesus to the court of the house of
the high priest Caiaphas (Matt 26.
Special awareness of Jesus’ teaching
about ‘things which are clean’
(Matt 15.15) and footwashing (Jn
13.1-10); charged to deal with the question about tax (Matt 17.24-27);
receiving special instruction about ‘forgiveness’ (Matt 18.21-22); affirming
Jesus his master as ‘the Holy One of God’ (Jn
Simon Peter’s impetuosity (Mark 14.29//Luke
22.33-34//Matth 26.33-35) and his denial of Jesus at the latter’s arrest (Mark
14.53-72). What sort of lesson we learn for our spiritual life and ministerial
Through Jesus’ ‘payer’ Peter was ‘rehabilitated’
(Luke 22.31-32). What has it to do with the strength of intercession and love
for a restored faith. Specify the role of weakness and
the turning point from weakness to strength (e.g. Rom 7.18-25; the Prodigal Son
in Luke 15; Paul’s own expression in 2 Cor 12).
Peter and the Commission of the Lord Jesus:
Peter is said to have taken the initiative in
the arrangement to co-opt a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1.15-26);
Samaritan mission (Acts 15-17) and Simon the Magus (Acts 8.18-24); Cornelius
and the gentle mission (Acts 10); the responsibility to tend the flock of the Lord
In his ministry Peter receives power from the
Peter who makes the speech for
the defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8-12). When Ananias and Sapphira bring the apostles part of the proceeds from the
sale of their land, pretending to hand over the whole amount, it is at Peter’s
rebuke that they fall down dead, the one after the other (Acts 5:1-11). Later,
Peter embarks on a preaching and healing tour outside Jerusalem, in the area between the capital
and the Mediterranean coast. He cures a paralytic at Lydda
(Acts 9:32-35) and restores a Christian woman to life at Joppa (9:36-42); Peter
miraculously escaped from prison and, after announcing his escape to the
disciples who met in Mary's house, and who at that very time were praying for
his release, he left for an unknown destination, bidding them give the news of
his escape "to James and to the brethren" (Acts 12:17).
the historical and theological significance of ‘the apostolic message’ Peter
addresses to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.14-36) and other
occasions at the Temple
or before the Sanhedrin (council) (Acts 3.12-26; 4.23-31; 5.29-32; 10.34-43).
Conference at Jerusalem
After the fifteen days' visit to
Peter recorded in Gal. 1:18, Paul went to Syria
and Cilicia and did not see Peter again for
fourteen, or at least eleven, years. (It is uncertain whether the phrase
"after fourteen years" in Gal. 2:1 denotes fourteen years from his
previous visit or fourteen years from his conversion). On his second post-conversion
visit by Paul to Jerusalem, he and Barnabas (who
accompanied him from Antioch) had a private
conference with the leaders of the Jerusalem
church. In principle, Paul and Barnabas were to evangelize to the Gentile
world, just as Peter and Jerusalem
leaders were to evangelize Jews. (That Peter's missionary activity was not
restricted to Jews is implied here and there in the New Testament. Whatever
view be taken of the life-setting of 1 Peter, that letter is addressed in
Peter's name to Gentile converts in various provinces of Asia
Minor ---including two which were evangelized by Paul).
James, Peter and John are the ‘pillars’ (Gal
2.9), a figure of speech indicating the spiritual qualities needed in the
ministry of the true, spiritual temple
Confrontation at Antioch
Some time after the conference in
Jerusalem, Peter visited Antioch, and enjoyed table-fellowship with
Jewish and Gentile Christians alike (Gal 2.11ff). When the ‘circumcision party’
arrived, Peter withdrew from the Gentile Christians and ate with Jewish
Christians only. Peter's example, moreover, was followed by other Jewish
Christians there. In Paul's eyes, this was a piece of play-acting, and the
effect of this action on Gentile Christians must have been devastating; the
Christians at Antioch must have felt themselves relegated to the status of
second-class citizens in the church, with no hope of attaining first-class
status except by submitting to circumcision.
Appendix 1: Peter's wider ministry
Peter receives no further mention
in Acts. Such evidence from this period comes from Paul's Corinthian correspondence
suggests that, from about mid-century on, Peter engaged in a fairly
wide-ranging ministry and was no longer regularly resident in Jerusalem. Early
in A.D. 55 Paul received visitors who brought what for him was the disquieting
news that factions. One of the parties perhaps from Judaea and Syria
claimed Peter as its leader (1 Cor 1). Also, Peter
had probably visited the city in person, for in1 Corinthians Paul speaks of
certain rights to which, as an apostle, he would certainly be entitled, but
which he chose to forgo, such as the right to marry and take his wife around
with him on his missionary journeys, expecting the churches to support her as
well as himself, like "the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and
Kephas" (1 Cor. 9.5).
Why does he name "Kephas" separately from
"the other apostles"? Not because he did not include him among the
apostles (a view which has actually been defended) but because the Corinthian
Christians had actually seen Peter, and his wife too, on a visit to their city.
Appendix 2: Antioch,
Corinth and Rome
There are three places in the
Mediterranean world with which Peter's name is specially associated. Antioch and Corinth have
already been mentioned; the third is Rome.
In none of these places was Peter
directly associated with the founding of the church; yet such was the prestige
of his name that all three laid claim to him as apostolic founder - in
partnership with Paul. Thus, in the
fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, the first two post-apostolic bishops of
Antioch are said to have been Euodius, ordained by
Peter, and then Ignatius, ordained by Paul.58 These two ordinations are quite
unhistorical, but they reflect the desire of the church of Antioch to make the
most of the two apostles who, for a shorter or longer period, were present with
it in its early days.
Even more remarkably, Dionysius,
bishop of Corinth, writing to the bishop of Rome about A.D. 170, refers to the
Roman church's claim to have been founded by Peter and Paul and makes a similar
claim for his own church: "for both of them taught together in this
Corinth of ours and were our founders". Paul would certainly have
disclaimed any part in the planting of the Roman church, which he recognized to
be "another man's foundation”60 (Rom. 15.20), but what he would have
thought of the suggestion - made by a Corinthian bishop, forsooth - that Peter
was joint-founder with him of the church of Corinth taxes one's imagination!
As for Peter's association with
the Roman church, this was not only a claim made from early days at Rome; it was conceded by
churchmen from all over the Christian world. In the New Testament it is
reflected in the greetings sent to the readers of 1 Peter from the church
(literally, from "her") "that is in Babylon,
elect together with you" (1 Pet. 5:13) if, as is most probable, Babylon is a code-word for Rome.
Constantine's erection of the
basilica of St. Peter on the Vatican hill was based on the belief that Peter's
body was buried there - a belief going back at least to A.D. 180, when the
Roman presbyter Gaius said that he could point out Peter's “trophy” or funerary
monument on the Vatican hill.67 The actual monument to which Gaius refers may
well have been discovered in the course of excavations beneath St. Peter's in
1941 - a simple aedicula comprising three niches, in
relation to which Constantine appears to have orientated the basilica. If (as
seems likely) the monument is of the same date as a small water-channel in its
immediate vicinity, it can be assigned to the time of Marcus Aurelius, whose
name is stamped on several bricks of the channel - perhaps before his accession
to the principate in A.D. 161, since he is designated
Caesar, not Augustus.68
The rival site for Peter's burial
(along with Paul) near the Memoria Apostolorum ad Catacumbas, on the
Appian Way, must not pass unnoticed.69 We cannot here discuss the respective
claims of the two sites, but even in their rivalry they do together confirm the
antiquity of the tradition of Peter's death and burial in Rome.
The Apostle Paul
Chronology of Paul's Apostolic Career
References in Paul’s writings: "Three
years" of Gal. 1:18, the "fourteen years" of 2:1, and the other
"fourteen years" of 2 Cor. 12:2; "I
will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost" (I Cor.
16:8) and "Achaia has been ready since last year" (2 Cor. 9:2; cf. 8:10).
In Acts, Barnabas brought Paul to
Antioch, and met the church there "for a
whole year" before they were sent on their famine-relief mission to Jerusalem (Acts 11:25); an
interval of time by transitional formulas like "after some days"
(15:36). The chronological details are most precise when Luke described his
voyages with Paul; his diary reads like a logbook (cf. 16:11; 20:6-16; 21:1-8;
27:1-39; 28:11-17). Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth
(18:11), between two and three years in Ephesus
(19:8-10; 20:31), and three months in Greece
immediately before his last journey to Palestine
(20:2f.). Two years that elapsed between Paul's arrest and Felix's recall from
the procuratorship of Judea (24:27; this, and not the
duration of Felix's procuratorship, is certainly what
is meant), the three months' wintering in Malta (28:11), and Paul's two-year
house arrest in Rome (v. 30).
Note: The Judean famine of Acts 11:28 is dated in
the reign of Claudius (A.D.41-54), and as Acts 12 suggests, near the death of
Herod Agrippa I in 44. When he arrived in Corinth Paul met Aquila and
Priscilla, who had recently left Italy
because of Claudius's edict expelling Jews from Rome (18:2) - an edict for which Orosius's date of 49. Gallio's proconsulship of Achaia—lasted no longer than a year before
being terminated by an attack of malaria (Seneca, Ep.
Mor. 104.1)-- coincided with or at least overlapped Paul's stay in Corinth (v. 12). In a rescript of
Claudius to the citizens of Delphi dated to
Claudius's twenty-sixth acclamation as imperator
(W.Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum,
11 [4th ed. 19601, no. 801). Other inscriptional evidence (Corpus Inscriptionum
Latinarum, III, 476; VI, 1256) points to the
first seven months of 52 as the period of this acclamation. Since proconsuls
normally entered their office on July 1, Gallio
probably became proconsul of Achaia on July 1, 51. Paul's Corinthian ministry
may thus have run from the autumn of 50 to the spring of 52, and his Ephesian ministry (which was separated from his Corinthian
ministry by a hasty visit to Palestine)
from the autumn of 52 to the summer of 55.
of Felix as procurator of Judea may be dated
to 59 by a change in provincial coinage in Nero's fifth year (cf. R W Madden,
History of Jewish Coinage , p. 153). Since Paul was sent by sea to Rome
shortly after Festus's arrival in Judea, another, more tenuous argument in
support of that year is that in A.D. 59 the Day of Atonement appears to have
fallen rather late (Oct. 5), as Acts 27:9 suggests: "even the fast (the
Day of Atonement] had already gone by”.
With these few aids to fixed dating,
the following tentative chronological outline of Paul's career may be drawn up.
Conversion - A.D. 33
Visit to Jerusalem
- A.D. 35
Joins Barnabas at Antioch – A.D. 45
Famine-Relief Visit to Jerusalem – A.D. 46
Accompanies Barnabas to Cyprus and Asia Minor
– A.D. 47-48
At the Council of Jerusalem – A.D. 49
Journey with Silas and others to Philippi,
Thessalonica and Corinth
– A.D. 49-50
– A.D. 50-52
– A.D. 52-55
At Troas (2 Cor. 2:12) -
autumn of A.D. 55
and Illyricum – A.D. 55-56
- winter of A.D. 56-57
Arrival and Arrest in Jerusalem - May of A.D. 57
Detention in Caesarea – A.D. 57-59
Voyage to Rome
– A.D. 59-60
Under House Arrest in Rome – A.D. 60-62
Outbreak of Neronian
Persecution – A.D. 64
Last imprisonment, Trial and Execution – A.D. 65
Paul the Roman Citizen.
"Saul, who is also called Paul"
(Acts 13:9), was born in Tarsus, the principal
city of Cilicia in southeast Asia
Minor (9:11; 22:3). His description of himself as a "Hebrew"
(2 Cor. 11:22), "a Hebrew born of Hebrews"
(Phil. 3:5) -- his parents though living in the Diaspora among the Greeks, but
remained faithful to the language and customs of Palestinian Jewry. Paul's
ancestors belonged to Gischala in Galilee and migrated
to Tarsus at the time of the Roman conquest of Palestine (63 B.C.): the
accuracy of this tradition is uncertain. Although born into an orthodox Jewish
family Paul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28); thus his father must have
been a Roman citizen before him.
Note: On three occasions Paul appealed to his
rights as a Roman citizen -- at Philippi (Acts 16:37), to protest his having
been beaten with rods by the lictors attendant on the
chief magistrates of the colony before he had received a proper trial; some
years later, at Jerusalem (22:25), to avoid being scourged (much more murderous
than a beating with rods) by authorities who wanted to know how he had enraged
the Jews in the temple court. He later
availed himself of his citizen rights when he appealed to Caesar (25:11).
Paul the Pharisee.
Since Paul's parents were
themselves adherents of the party of the Pharisees (23:6), Paul was educated in
became a pupil of the elder Gamaliel, leader of the
school of sacred learning founded in the previous generation by Hillel. He
claimed that he had outstripped his contemporaries in the knowledge and
practice of the Jewish religion (Gal. 1: 14; Php 3.6;
Paul Begins to Be a Christian.
Paul's conversion was followed almost
immediately by his call to be Christ's apostle to the Gentiles. Paul's own account of the matter suggests
that he lost no time in beginning to discharge his commission. Jesus' dying the
death on which the divine curse rested no longer meant that He could not be the
Messiah but instead had to be related to His being the Messiah. The solution stated in Gal. 3:13,
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for
us," must have commended itself to Paul early in his inward readjustment
to the revelation that he had received.
The impact of the Lord’s revelation on the way
(cf. Gal 1.16). What has it to do with the turning point of Paul in his
life-long commitment to the Law and the meaning of ‘Messiah’ in Jesus
What could Paul have done during his
‘sojourning’ in Arabia?
Paul’s First Missionary Journey (Acts 133-15.35)
-- Paul and Barnabas.
After visiting Jerusalem
three years after his conversion (Gal 1.18; Acts 9.26-30), Paul returned to his
native Cilicia, and there he disappeared from
NT records for some years. The news kept reaching the ears of the disciples in Judea that their former persecutor was propagating the
faith that he had once attempted to destroy (Gal. 1:23). To this period (ca.
A.D. 42) perhaps belong the ecstatic experience described in 2 Cor. 12:2ff, which left its mark on Paul forever afterward,
and at least some of the five beatings inflicted on him by synagogue
authorities (2 Cor 11:24).
This obscure phase of Paul's
Christian career ended ca. A.D. 45 when Barnabas fetched him from Tarsus to
join him in the care of the young church of Syrian Antioch, where a group of
Hellenistic believers had some time previously embarked on an extensive program
of gentile evangelization (Acts 11: 19-26). About 46 A.D. the Antiochene Christians charged him and Barnabas to convey a
gift to their Jerusalem brethren at a time when Judea was hard hit by famine (Acts 11:27-30; Gal.
2:1-10). Shortly after their return to Antioch Barnabas and Paul were sent by
its church, in response to a prophetic utterance, to evangelize the areas to
the west and northwest more particularly, the island
of Cyprus and the southern part of the
Roman province of Galatia in central Asia Minor.
This has been described as the Paul’s Missionary Journey. There they preached
the gospel and planted churches, among which those of Pisidian
Antioch, Iconium, Lystra,
and Derbe are mentioned by name (Acts
Note: The Antiochene
Incident (Gal 2:11-14) occurred during this phase of Paul’s ministry. Paul
described what happened in Gal. 2:11-14. Paul reacted sharply because he saw
that Peter and Barnabas withdrew from uncircumcised gentile believers when
members from Jerusalem
arrived. Paul's subsequent references to Barnabas (cf. I Cor.
9:6) do not suggest any permanent breach of friendship, although there was no
further collaboration between the two.
Conference at Jerusalem:
The dispute about the Gentile believers and the ordinances had to be settled
"at the highest level," and Barnabas and Paul led a deputation from
the church of Antioch
to discuss the matter with the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. In Acts 15, James summed up the
debate, and gave his judgment that no conditions were to be imposed on Gentiles
as necessary for salvation beyond the condition of faith in Christ. At James's
insistence, the letter sent from the Council "to brethren who are of the
Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia" (Acts 15:23),and her daughter
churches included a ruling that gentile Christians should abstain from certain
kinds of food that their Jewish brethren would find offensive, and conform to
the Jewish marriage laws.
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (Acts
15.36-18.22)--Paul in Macedonia
Shortly after the Council of Jerusalem Paul parted
company with Barnabas (due to their failure to agree whether to take Mark,
Barnabas's cousin, with them on a further visit to the recently founded
churches of Asia Minor (Mark had set out with them on their previous journey to
Cyprus and Asia Minor but had left them in the course of the journey and had
returned to Jerusalem). Paul no longer made Syrian Antioch his missionary base.
With Silas (Silvanus), a
like-minded member of the Jerusalem church who
appears to have been a Roman citizen like Paul himself, Paul revisited the
churches of south Galatia.
The westward way to Ephesus, which apparently
they had hoped to take, was barred to them, so, turning north and northwest,
they reached the Aegean coast at Troas and crossed the sea to Neapolis in Macedonia. By this time Timothy, a young convert of Lystra, was henceforth Paul's faithful lieutenant. Another
companion, Luke, the gentile physician of Antioch,
modestly indicates his presence with Paul and the others at this stage by using
the pronoun "we" instead of "they" in his narrative (Acts
After landing in Macedonia they made short stays in Philippi and in Thessalonica, the capital of the
province. Churches were quickly planted in both cities, and these continued to
thrive, although the missionaries, and particularly Paul, were compelled to
leave sooner than they wished. In Philippi he and Silas were accused before the
Roman magistrates (Philippi being a Roman
colony) of interference with citizens' property rights; this was one of the
occasions on which Paul (as well as Silas) appealed to his Roman citizenship.
In Thessalonica the charge against him and his companions was more serious. The
Thessalonian citizens who had given hospitality to
Paul were brought before the politarchs and charged with
harboring the men who had "turned the world upside down," flouted
Caesar's decrees, and proclaimed a rival emperor, one Jesus (Acts 17:6f.). The
wording of the accusation, as Luke recorded it, suggests that subversive
characters had been active elsewhere among the Jewish communities of the
empire, and Paul and his companions were represented as being of their number.
Paul's friends took him out of Thessalonica quickly for his own safety - and
theirs. The accusation was a most serious one, and the politarchs
could not afford to treat it lightly. Paul's two letters to the Thessalonian church, which were written only a few weeks or
at most months after his departure from their city, bear witness to an intense
eschatological excitement among the Christians there, and perhaps among the
Jews also. In both Epistles Paul found it necessary to insist on a more sober
outlook on the last things and pointed out that certain events precede the day
of the Lord: "That day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first,
and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and
exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he
takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
From Thessalonica Paul went to Beroea in Thessaly, and when similar trouble threatened to
break out there, he was sent by sea to Athens.
There he waited for his companions Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. (Luke
apparently remained in Philippi.)
The apologia before the Athenian Areopagus in Acts 17:22-31 as a successful testimonia about the revelation of God in creation and
providence, and the need to believe Jesus Christ the Saviour
and Judge for eternal life.
was only a temporary halting-place; after a few days Paul moved on to Corinth, a busy seaport and prosperous city of the province of Achaia. There for the first time since
he found a base where he could stay for a considerable time and both plant and
consolidate a center of Christian witness. Some months after his arrival in
Corinth an attempt was made to restrain him; the leaders of the Jewish
community of Corinth accused him before Gallio
proconsul of Achaia of "persuading men to worship God contrary to the
law" (Acts 18:13). They charged Paul with propagating an illegal religion,
implying what he was preaching was certainly not Judaism, which enjoyed the
recognition and protection of imperial law except when its practice or
propagation endangered public order. Their hope lay in convincing him that
Paul's activity constituted a contravention of Roman law, which it was Gallio's business to maintain. Gallio,
however, summed up the situation quickly and dismissed the case as that of
Jewish law he had not intention to meddle with.
For the pastoral issues at
Corinth, Paul's task was rendered the more difficult because he had to wage war
on two fronts: against those who thought that the gospel emancipated them from
all ethical conventions, and against those who (partly, no doubt, by way of
reaction to the former) went to the opposite extreme and tried in the name of
Christianity to set up taboos against marriage, against animal food, and so
forth. Thus, on the one hand Paul was doing all he could to restrain the
libertarians who misinterpreted Christian liberty to do anything they chose. On
the other, he was obliged to deal firmly with the ascetics who wanted to
introduce a new set of prohibitions that would have banished Christian liberty
altogether. The guiding principle is the truth of the Gospel and spiritual
freedom in the Spirit of the Lord.
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (Acts
After his departure from Ephesus in the summer of 55 Paul spent some time
revisiting the churches of Macedonia
and Achaia (Acts 20:1-3 and Rom. 15:19). He preached the gospel to the areas as
far west as Illyricum - the Roman province bordering the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, NW of Macedonia. The interval following his
Ephesian ministry is the only one into which a visit
to Illyricum can be fitted. It was the latest
episode in his missionary activity at the time of writing - ca. early 57. One
reason that Paul wrote to the Roman Christians then was to prepare them for a
visit that he hoped shortly to pay them. But he told them that before he could
set out for Rome he had to discharge a commission in Jerusalem - the delivery
to the Christians there of a monetary contribution that he had been organizing
in the churches of his gentile mission field for three or four years (Rom.
15:25ff.; cf. I Cor. 16:lff.; 2 Cor.
Paul Comes to Rome.
Paul formulated his plan to visit
Rome toward the
end of his Ephesian ministry (Acts 19.21). The
reasons are simply as follows. 1) Paul had a settled policy of preaching
Christ where the gospel had not previously been heard. 2) He is unwilling to
"build on another man's foundation," and so most of the other
Mediterranean lands would not become targets of his further apostolic activity.
3) No one had carried the Christian message to Spain. To Spain, then, Paul would go. And on
his way to Spain he would
have an opportunity to realize a long-cherished desire to see Rome, and not only to see it, but, by the
goodwill of the Christians there, to make it his base for his Spanish mission
The circumstances in which Paul
were different from any that he could have foreseen. While he and the delegates
from the gentile churches received a friendly welcome from James and his fellow
elders in Jerusalem, he was set upon in the
temple by some Jews from the province of Asia
and charged with violating its sanctity (Acts 21.27-30). He was taken into
custody by members of the Roman garrison in the adjoining Antonia fortress
(22.34). When their commander discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen and the
mob was about to ambush Paul, he sent him under armed escort to Felix
procurator of Judea at Caesarea (22.22-23.24).
The Jewish authorities sent a deputation to Caesarea
to press two charges against Paul - the particular charge of sacrilege, which
could not be substantiated because the witnesses failed to appear, and the more
general charge of being a subverter of public order
throughout the whole Diaspora. To both charges Paul returned a firm plea of Not
Guilty, but Felix deferred sentence until his recall from office in 59. His successor Festus reopened the case with
every intention of acting in accordance with the highest standards of Roman
justice. When, however, he spoke of
holding the trial at Jerusalem and not at Caesarea, Paul was afraid that through the new governor's
inexperience he might be put into the power of his enemies. Accordingly he availed himself of a Roman
citizen's privilege and appealed to Caesar (Acts 25: 11).
The provincial judge had to send
an explanatory statement (litterae dimissoriae, "letter of dismissal") along with
the accused man. The inexperienced Festus was certainly glad to have the aid in
drafting this document of the younger Agrippa, king of the areas NE of the
Roman province of
Judea. Agrippa had come
to Caesarea to pay his respects to the new
procurator on the morrow of Paul's appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:13ff.). From 48 to
66 the Jewish high-priesthood was in Agrippa's gift, and he was reputed to be
well versed in Jewish religious practice. This king had an opportunity of
hearing Paul for himself and agreed that he could not reasonably be convicted
on any of the serious charges brought against Paul. Indeed, Paul might have
been discharged there and then, had he not appealed to Caesar. But for Festus
to prejudge the issue now by discharging him would have been impolitic, if not
ultra vires (beyond his authority) (Acts 26:32). To Rome, then, Paul was sent,
under the custody of the centurion Julius (27:lff.).
Luke recorded in considerable
detail Paul's voyage to Rome, shipwreck on the
way, and a three-month winter stay in Malta (Acts 27:1-28:10). When at
last he and the other prisoners on board reached Rome, they were handed over by
the centurion who had charge of them to the official called "stratopedarch" (Western text of Acts 28:16). Under
house arrest, Paul was thus free to receive visitors, although he could not
move about freely himself. The pattern of Jewish refusal of the gospel and
gentile acceptance of it is recorded definitively in Rome, with Paul's conclusive last word (after
his quotation of Isa. 6: 10): "Take knowledge,
then, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will
listen to it" (Acts 28:28).
But what of the "two full
years" of Paul's detention? What
happened at the end of this period? Some have assumed quite confidently that it
ended with Paul's trial, conviction, and execution (cf. J. V. Bartlet, Expos., 8th ser., 5 , 464ff.). Others have
thought that it ended with his release, either because he was tried and
acquitted or because the case went against his accusers by default (cf. K.
Lake, Interpreter, 5 [1908/091, 147ff.; W. M. Ramsay, Teaching of Paul in Terms of the Present Day, 346ff.; H. J.
Cadbury, BC, V, 297ff., esp. 326ff.).
The prolongation of Paul's stay in Rome over two full years could have been due
to congestion of court business as much as anything else; if indeed he was
discharged without being tried, this act could have resulted from Caesar's
exercising his imperium. "Perhaps Paul benefited from the
clemency of Nero, and secured a merely casual release. But there is no
necessity to construe Acts to mean that he was released at all" (A. N.
Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman
Law in the NT , p. 119).
Paul's Epistles must be examined to discover if they throw any more
light on the question than Acts does.
If Paul was released after his
two years of captivity in Rome,
where did he go next? The possibilities are as follows: 1) His letter to
Philemon (if it belongs to his Roman captivity) indicates that he expected soon
to be discharged and to revisit his friends in the province of Asia. "Prepare a guest room for me," he said,
"for I am hoping through your prayers to be granted to you" (Philem. 22); 2) The Pastoral Epistles provide unmistakable
references to some activity by Paul in the eastern Mediterranean, which cannot
well be dated anywhere before his arrest in Jerusalem and voyage to Rome. In
addition to the province of Asia, he appears to have visited Macedonia (I Tim. 1:3), Crete (Tit. 1:5), and Epirus
(Tit. 3:12). In Acts 20, Paul told the
elders of the Ephesian church when he took his leave
of them at Miletus that they would never see him again (Acts 20:25, 38), but at
that time he was planning to set out for Spain as soon as he had completed his
business in Jerusalem and did not foresee the disruption in his plans that his
arrest in Jerusalem would cause.
Was he ever able to fulfill his
hope of preaching the gospel in Spain?
To this question no certain answer can be returned. Two Roman documents suggest
that he did go there. Clement of Rome
in his epistle to the Corinthians (ca. 96) reminded them how Paul "went to
the limit of the West" and bore his testimony before rulers before he
departed from the world (I Clem. 5:7). Whether Clement meant "the limit of
the West" or was speaking simply of Paul's reaching "his goal in the
West," as a Roman writer he likely was referring to a place farther west
than Rome. The
second document, Muratorian Canon (ca. 190), also
seems to say that Luke omitted both Peter's martyrdom and Paul's departure from
the capital for Spain
(lines 37-39). This apparent assumption that Paul did set out for Spain
could, however, be nothing more than an inference from Rom. 15:24, 28; indeed,
the same might be said, though with less probability, of Clement's
mention of his going to "the limit of the West." The question must
On the final scene of Paul's life
there is more certainty. The Roman Christian writer and presbyter Gaius (late
2nd cent.) said that he could point out on the Vatican hill and by the road to Ostia the
"trophies" (funeral monuments) of the apostles (i.e., Peter and Paul,
respectively). Eusebius, a 3rd century ecclesiastic historian, quoted Gaius to
this effect (HE ii.25.7) by saying how Dionysius bishop of Corinth (ca. 170) in
a letter to the Roman church recalled the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Italy
around the same time - presumably in the persecution under Nero that broke out
in 64. 2 Tim. 4:6-18 may well refer to a second imprisonment and trial of Paul
at Rome which
issued in his condemnation and execution. As a Roman citizen, Paul would have
been beheaded with the sword. But that
would have been a small matter in the eyes of one who had long recognized that
"to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21); what filled him with joy was that his
appearance in court gave him one more opportunity to bear witness to the
gospel: "the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word
fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it" (2 Tim. 4:17).