Continuing the series first posted by me on the Catholica Forum.
As I wrote in Part II, the fully fledged tradition of Peter's twenty-five year episcopacy and martyrdom in Rome reached its final form with Jerome.
This tradition is not only bereft of any evidence but is also demonstrably false as it contradicts statements from the New Testament and the events of secular history.
In Part II, I posed the question: "If Peter was never in Rome, then where was he?" The interplay between two sources of information — the New Testament and the record of secular history — may provide us with the answer.
This evidence falls into two categories: the ministries of Peter and Paul, and the presence or absence of Peter at certain times and in certain places.
Before the death of Jesus...
Peter and the other disciples were instructed by Jesus not to go into the "way of the Gentiles" or to enter "any city of the Samaritans". Before his death, Jesus' instruction was restricted to the area of his own ministry: Galilee and Judah.
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Matthew 10:5-6]
Take note that:
- Jesus specified "the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
- In Part V of the Virgin Birth series, I drew attention to the fact that in Luke 1:32-33 the messenger Gabriel tells Mary that her son to be born would rule over the House of Jacob forever. We will, in due course, discuss the implications arising from these two statements.
The care of these same "lost sheep of the house of Israel" is committed to the care of Peter and the other disciples.
"Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory." [1 Peter 5:1-4]
After the death of Jesus
The Great Commission:
In Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus says to his disciples:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples among all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'."
Because of Jesus' status transformation through being raised by God, his authority is now universal and the disciples are told to go to Israelites living "among all nations" and not just to the regions of "the house of Israel" living in Galilee and Judah, as in the former command of Matthew 10:5-6. [Note: It should be obvious that "nations" cannot be discipled. Therefore, the correct translation of this verse is not "go and make disciples of all nations" but rather "go and make disciples among all nations".]
"The move away from the region of Jesus' ministry to the wider reaches of the Roman Empire where countless Israelite émigrés lived, served to clarify and justify how Matthew's followers of an Israelite Jesus got to be his disciples although they did not live in the land of Israel. In the Gospel story, sayings such as 'I tell you, many will come from east and west and eat with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven' [Matthew 8:11] refer to the many Israelites who would be gathered from east and west to feast in the forthcoming theocracy, to be located in Israel's promised land."
The role of the Hebrew Messiah is Israelite-specific, a role undertaken on behalf of Israel. Hence, when the disciples are told to teach "all nations", it always means to teach Israelites living among "all nations".
A division of ministries between Peter and Paul
Following the instructions of Jesus, the gospel message carried by Peter and the other disciples was directed toward Israelites only. Paul, however, not being a disciple of Jesus, argued that if non-Israelites followed the teachings of Jesus and accepted Abraham as their "father", then they too could be grafted into the tree of Israel: they too could enter into a covenant relationship with the God of Israel. His convincing arguments from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves, against the initial reluctance of Peter and other followers of Jesus, eventually carried the day.
Both Peter and Paul eventually agreed to a clear division of duties. Read about it in Paul's Letters to the Romans, Galatians, 2nd Timothy, and in the Book of Acts.
In Romans 15:15-16, Paul stated that:
"I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
In 2 Timothy 4:16-17:
"At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it."
And in Galatians 2:8:
"For God who made Peter an apostle to the Jews also made me an apostle to the Gentiles. Recognising the favour bestowed on me, those pillars of our society James, Cephas (Peter) and John accepted Barnabas and myself as partners and shook hands on it."
This point of division of ministries is reaffirmed by both Peter and Paul many times in their writings; Rom. 11:13, 15:16-20, 1 Pet. 1.1. Paul always claimed his mission to the Gentiles to be directed by God and not a delegation from men; Acts 22:21, 23:11, 2 Tim 1:11. Equally, he denied several times that he built on other men's foundations or works; 2 Cor. 10:15, Rom. 15:20. It must be pointed out that Paul, however, not being restricted by any personal instructions from Jesus one way or the other, ministered to both Jew and Gentile wherever he found them.
This was not the case with Peter. Peter was personally instructed by Jesus to go only "to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" living among all nations. It is untenable to suggest that Peter, having denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion to save his own life, only to come face to face with Jesus later, would even consider disobeying the instructions of the man now demonstrated by God to be the Hebrew Messiah. Peter would not deny or disobey his risen Lord again.
To be continued...