Su hei Petros, kai epi taute petra oikodomeso mou ten ekklesian, kai pulai hadou ou katischusousin autes. -- Matt.16:18.
I. Genuine sources: Acts 2 to 12; Gal.2; and two Epistles of Peter.
Comp. the Commentaries on Acts, and the Petrine Epistles.
Among the commentators of Peter's Epp. I mention Archbishop Leighton (in many editions, not critical, but devout and spiritual), Steiger (1832, translated by Fairbairn, 1836), John Brown (1849, 2 vols.), Wiesinger (1856 and 1862, in Olshausen's Com.), Schott (1861 and 1863), De Wette (3d ed. by Brückner, 1865), Huther (in Meyer's Com., 4th ed.1877), Fronmüller (in Lange's Bibelwerk, transl. by Mombert, 1867), Alford (3d ed.1864), John Lillie (ed. by Schaff, 1869), Demarest (Cath. Epp 1879), Mason and Plumptre (in Ellicott's Com., 1879), Plumptre (in the |Cambridge Bible,| 1879, with a very full introduction, pp.1-83), Salmond (in Schaff's Pop. Com.1883). Comp. also the corresponding sections in the works on the Apostolic Age mentioned in §20, and my H. Ap. Ch. pp.348-377.
II. Apocryphal sources: Euangelion kata Petron oph Ebionite origin, Kerugma Petrou , Praxeis Petrou, Apokalupsis Petrou, Periodoi Petrou(Itinerarium Petri), Praxeis ton hagion apostolon Petrou kai Paulou(Acta Petri et Pauli). See Tischendorf's Acta Apost. Apocr 1-39, and Hilgenfeld's Novum Testamentum extra canonem receptum (1866), IV.52 sqq. The Pseudo-Clementine |Homilies| are a glorification of Peter at the expense of Paul; the, |Recognitions| are a Catholic recension and modification of the |Homilies.| The pseudo-Clementine literature will be noticed in the second Period.
III. Special works on Peter:
E. Th. Mayerhoff: Historisch-Kritische Einleitung in die Petrinischen Schriften. Hamb.1835.
Windischmann (R. C.): Vindiciae Petrinae. Ratisb.1836.
Stenglein (R. C.): Ueber den 25 jahrigen Aufenthalt des heil. Petrus in Rom. In the |Tübinger Theol. Quartalschrift,| 1840.
J. Ellendorf: 1st Petrus in Rom und Bishof der römischen Gemeinde gewesen? Darmstadt, 1841. Transl. in the |Bibliotheca Sacra,| Andover, 1858, No.3. The author, a liberal R. Cath., comes to the conclusion that Peter's presence in Rome can never be proven.
Carlo Passaglia (Jesuit): De Praerogativis Beati Petri, Apostolorum Principis. Ratisbon, 1850.
Thomas W. Allies (R. C.): St. Peter, his Name and his Office as set forth in Holy Scripture. London, 1852. Based upon the preceding work of Father Passaglia.
Bernh. Weiss: Der Petrinische Lehrbegriff. Berlin, 1855. Comp. his Bibl. Theol. des N. T, 3d ed.1880, and his essay, Die petrinische Frage in |Studien und Kritiken,| 1865, pp.619-657, 1866, pp.255-308, and 1873, pp.539-546.
Thos. Greenwood: Cathedra Petri. Lond., vol. I.1859, chs. I and II. pp.1-50.
Perrone (R. C.):S. Pietro in Roma. Rome, 1864.
C. Holsten (of the Tübingen School): Zum Evangelium des Paulus und des Petrus. Rostock, 1868.
R. A. Lipsius: Die Quellen der röm. Petrussage. Kiel, 1872. By the same: Chronologie der röm Bischöfe. Kiel, 1869. Lipsius examines carefully the heretical sources of the Roman Peter-legend, and regards it as a fiction from beginning to end. A summary of his view is given by
Samuel M. Jackson: Lipsius on the Roman Peter-Legend. In the |Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review| (N. York) for 1876, pp.265 sqq.
G. Volkmar: Die römische Papstmythe. Zürich, 1873.
A. Hilgenfeld: Petrus in Rom und Johannes in Kleinasien. In his |Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theol.| for 1872. Also his Einleitung in das N. T., 1875, pp.618 sqq.
W. Krafft: Petrus in Rom. Bonn, 1877. In the |Theol. Arbeiten des rhein. wissenschaftl. Predigervereins, | III.185-193.
Joh. Friedrich (Old Cath.): Zur ältesten Gesch. des Primates in der Kirche. Bonn, 1879.
William M. Taylor: Peter the Apostle. N. York, 1879.
The congregation of Jerusalem became the mother church of Jewish Christianity, and thus of all Christendom. It grew both inwardly and outwardly under the personal direction of the apostles, chiefly of Peter, to whom the Lord had early assigned a peculiar prominence in the work of building his visible church on earth. The apostles were assisted by a number of presbyters, and seven deacons or persons appointed to care for the poor and the sick. But the Spirit moved in the whole congregation, bound to no particular office. The preaching of the gospel, the working of miracles in the name of Jesus, and the attractive power of a holy walk in faith and love, were the instruments of progress. The number of the Christians, or, as they at first called themselves, disciples, believers, brethren, saints, soon rose to five thousand. They continued steadfastly under the instruction and in the fellowship of the apostles, in the daily worship of God and celebration of the holy Supper with their agapae or love-feasts. They felt themselves to be one family of God, members of one body under one head, Jesus Christ; and this fraternal unity expressed itself even in a voluntary community of goods -- an anticipation, as it were, of an ideal state at the end of history, but without binding force upon any other congregation. They adhered as closely to the temple worship and the Jewish observances as the new life admitted and as long as there was any hope of the conversion of Israel as a nation. They went daily to the temple to teach, as their Master had done, but held their devotional meetings in private houses.
The addresses of Peter to the people and the Sanhedrin are remarkable for their natural simplicity and adaptation. They are full of fire and vigor, yet full of wisdom and persuasion, and always to the point. More practical and effective sermons were never preached. They are testimonies of an eye-witness so timid a few weeks before, and now so bold and ready at any moment to suffer and die for the cause. They are an expansion of his confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, the Saviour. He preached no subtle theological doctrines, but a few great facts and truths: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, already known to his hearers for his mighty signs and wonders, his exaltation to the right hand of Almighty God, the descent and power of the Holy Spirit, the fulfilment of prophecy, the approaching judgment and glorious restitution of all things, the paramount importance of conversion and faith in Jesus as the only name whereby we can be saved. There breathes in them an air of serene joy and certain triumph.
We can form no clear conception of this bridal season of the Christian church when no dust of earth soiled her shining garments, when she was wholly absorbed in the contemplation and love of her divine Lord, when he smiled down upon her from his throne in heaven, and added daily to the number of the saved. It was a continued Pentecost, it was paradise restored. |They did take their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.|
Yet even in this primitive apostolic community inward corruption early appeared, and with it also the severity of discipline and self-purification, in the terrible sentence of Peter on the hypocritical Ananias and Sapphira.
At first Christianity found favor with the people. Soon, however, it had to encounter the same persecution as its divine founder had undergone, but only, as before, to transform it into a blessing and a means of growth.
The persecution was begun by the skeptical sect of the Sadducees, who took offence at the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, the centre of all the apostolic preaching.
When Stephen, one of the seven deacons of the church at Jerusalem, a man full of faith and zeal, the forerunner of the apostle Paul, boldly assailed the perverse and obstinate spirit of Judaism, and declared the approaching downfall of the Mosaic economy, the Pharisees made common cause with the Sadducees against the gospel. Thus began the emancipation of Christianity from the temple-worship of Judaism, with which it had till then remained at least outwardly connected. Stephen himself was falsely accused of blaspheming Moses, and after a remarkable address in his own defence, he was stoned by a mob (a.d.37), and thus became the worthy leader of the sacred host of martyrs, whose blood was thenceforth to fertilize the soil of the church. From the blood of his martyrdom soon sprang the great apostle of the Gentiles, now his bitterest persecutor, and an eye-witness of his heroism and of the glory of Christ in his dying face.
The stoning of Stephen was the signal for a general persecution, and thus at the same time for the spread of Christianity over all Palestine and the region around. And it was soon followed by the conversion of Cornelius of Caesarea, which opened the door for the mission to the Gentiles. In this important event Peter likewise was the prominent actor.
After some seven years of repose the church at Jerusalem suffered a new persecution under king Herod Agrippa (a.d.44). James the elder, the brother of John, was beheaded. Peter was imprisoned and condemned to the same fate; but he was miraculously liberated, and then forsook Jerusalem, leaving the church to the care of James the |brother of the Lord.| Eusebius, Jerome, and the Roman Catholic historians assume that he went at that early period to Rome, at least on a temporary visit, if not for permanent residence. But the book of Acts (12:17) says only: |He departed, and went into another place.| The indefiniteness of this expression, in connection with a remark of Paul.1 Cor.9:5, is best explained on the supposition that he had hereafter no settled home, but led the life of a travelling missionary like most of the apostles.
The Later Labors of Peter.
Afterwards we find Peter again in Jerusalem at the apostolic council (a.d.50); then at Antioch (51); where he came into temporary collision with Paul; then upon missionary tours, accompanied by his wife (57); perhaps among the dispersed Jews in Babylon or in Asia Minor, to whom he addressed his epistles. Of a residence of Peter in Rome the New Testament contains no trace, unless, as the church fathers and many modern expositors think, Rome is intended by the mystic |Babylon| mentioned in 1 Pet.5:13 (as in the Apocalypse), but others think of Babylon on the Euphrates, and still others of Babylon on the Nile (near the present Cairo, according to the Coptic tradition). The entire silence of the Acts of the Apostles 28, respecting Peter, as well as the silence of Paul in his epistle to the Romans, and the epistles written from Rome during his imprisonment there, in which Peter is not once named in the salutations, is decisive proof that he was absent from that city during most of the time between the years 58 and 63. A casual visit before 58 is possible, but extremely doubtful, in view of the fact that Paul labored independently and never built on the foundation of others; hence he would probably not have written his epistle to the Romans at all, certainly not without some allusion to Peter if he had been in any proper sense the founder of the church of Rome. After the year 63 we have no data from the New Testament, as the Acts close with that year, and the interpretation of |Babylon| at the end of the first Epistle of Peter is doubtful, though probably meant for Rome. The martyrdom of Peter by crucifixion was predicted by our Lord, John 21:18, 19, but no place is mentioned.
We conclude then that Peter's presence in Rome before 63 is made extremely doubtful, if not impossible, by the silence of Luke and Paul, when speaking of Rome and writing from Rome, and that His presence after 63 can neither be proved nor disproved from the New Testament, and must be decided by post-biblical testimonies.
It is the uniform tradition of the eastern and western churches that Peter preached the gospel in Rome, and suffered martyrdom there in the Neronian persecution. So say more or less clearly, yet not without admixture of error, Clement of Rome (who mentions the martyrdom, but not the place), at the close of the first century; Ignatius of Antioch (indistinctly), Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus of Lyons, Caius of Rome, in the second century; Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, Tertullian, in the third; Lactantius, Eusebius, Jerome, and others, in the fourth. To these patristic testimonies may be added the apocryphal testimonies of the pseudo-Petrine and pseudo-Clementine fictions, which somehow connect Peter's name with the founding of the churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Corinth, and Rome. However these testimonies from various men and countries may differ in particular circumstances, they can only be accounted for on the supposition of some fact at the bottom; for they were previous to any use or abuse of this, tradition for heretical or for orthodox and hierarchical purposes. The chief error of the witnesses from Dionysius and Irenaeus onward is that Peter is associated with Paul as |founder| of the church of Rome; but this may be explained from the very probable fact that some of the |strangers from Rome| who witnessed the Pentecostal miracle and heard the sermon of Peter, as also some disciples who were scattered abroad by the persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen, carried the seed of the gospel to Rome, and that these converts of Peter became the real founders of the Jewish-Christian congregation in the metropolis. Thus the indirect agency of Peter was naturally changed into a direct agency by tradition which forgot the names of the pupils in the glorification of the teacher.
The time of Peter's arrival in Rome, and the length of his residence there, cannot possibly be ascertained. The above mentioned silence of the Acts and of Paul's Epistles allows him only a short period of labor there, after 63. The Roman tradition of a twenty or twenty-five years' episcopate of Peter in Rome is unquestionably a colossal chronological mistake. Nor can we fix the year of his martyrdom, except that it must have taken place after July, 64, when the Neronian persecution broke out (according to Tacitus). It is variously assigned to every year between 64 and 69. We shall return to it again below, and in connection with the martyrdom of Paul, with which it is associated in tradition.