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§ 10. Time of the Council at Jerusalem.
We proceed with our investigations respecting Peter's abode. We have seen above, that Peter, up to about A. D. 45, when Herod put him in prison at Jerusalem, had not left Palestine. We will now see where he was from this time onward.
Luke indeed relates, that Peter in the same night when he was freed from prison by an angel, left Jerusalem (Acts 12: 17) —" And he departed and went into another place;" but in this it is not said that he went to Rome. If this had been the case, Luke would certainly have mentioned it; indeed he would have said he went to another country; another place indicates only a journey to another city in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. We may then properly suppose that Peter, having from fear of Herod left Jerusalem, betook himself to another city of Palestine, which lay in that portion not under Herod's sway. And since Herod, as Luke relates (Acts 12: 20—23), immediately after died at Cresarea, so nothing prevents us from supposing that Peter returned again to Jerusalem, the centre of his activity hitherto. This is probable, also, even in case that Peter had intended to leave Palestine and go to Rome. Such a journey, too, he could not enter on before A. D. 46, nor complete it before A. D. 47. But Peter certainly had not, at that time, undertaken this journey. In the first place Luke says nothing of this journey; and, though he is occupied from A. D. 45, after chapter xii., mainly with Paul, and is silent as to Peter, yet from this silence a journey to Rome cannot indeed be deduced, as in chapter xv. he introduces Peter as a member of the church of Jerusalem. Let us now look further:
Although it cannot be ascertained when Claudius forbade to the Jews admission to Rome (Suet. Claud., Acts 18: 2), yet it may be supposed that it took place in the first year of his reign. And even if we assume, with Baronius and Natalis, that this prohibition was in the ninth year of Claudius, yet it would only allow a two-years' abode of Peter at Rome, namely, from A. D. 47 to A. D. 49. But this cannot be assumed.
From Galatians 2: 7, and many other passages of Scripture, it is evident that the preaching of the gospel among the Jews was especially entrusted to Peter, as that of preaching it to the Gentiles was to Paul. Both of Peter's Epistles are directed to churches which he had formed of Jews in Asia Minor. In accordance with this his special calling, Peter was particularly pointed to the East; for here dwelt the Jews: first, in Palestine; then, in Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Media, Parthia, Egypt, and Asia Minor, as is evident from Acts 2:10,11. Now Peter had just turned to the Jews in Palestine; we have seen above that, up to A. D. 45, he had not yet passed out over the boundaries of Palestine. How can we then suppose, that wholly leaving aside and neglecting the other numberless Jews of the East, he had turned himself immediately to the West, to Rome, the seat of the Gentiles, where there were hardly any Jews (for it was first after the destruction of Jerusalem that they spread themselves in large numbers in the West)? It would, at all events, be strange if, merely to support the Ultramontanist fable of Peter's twenty-five years' bishopric in Rome, to say nothing of the Holy Scriptures and the oldest fathers, any one should assume that Peter had, at the very outset, become untrue to his calling to labor in the East, among Jews, where the harvest was so great, and turned to the Gentiles, whose apostle Paul preeminently was. If any one (for which there is absolutely no reason) will make Peter actually take his departure from Jerusalem and Palestine in A. D. 45 or 46, why should he exactly then journey to Rome, of which journey the oldest and most certain sources of authority mention nothing, and not to the East, where we find the Babylon from which Peter's first Epistle is dated; or to Asia Minor, where were many churches to whom Peter addressed his Epistle? Why must he, as we might say, per force travel off to Rome?
But we can pass in silence over this journey which, at least for the time named, has never risen above the rank of a groundless hypothesis. As we find Peter still in Jerusalem in A. D. 45 (Acts xii.), so he makes his appearance again here in chapter xv., and at the council which the apostles here held in reference to the circumcision of the Gentile Christians. At this council we find, once more, all the apostles together; afterward, never again: a proof that Jerusalem hitherto had been the central point to which they always returned (as did also Paul) from their excursions into neighboring regions, and which they now appear to have definitively left in order to scatter themselves abroad in the whole world. We hence conclude that Peter also, up to this time, had not left the churches of Palestine. Why should we suppose a journey to Rome, of which no authority makes any mention? How could he, then, be again in Jerusalem at the time of the council?
But Bellarmin, Baronius, Natalis Alexander, etc., know of an expedient. They say that precisely then Claudius had banished the Jews from Rome, and on this account Peter returned back to Palestine. But where does this stand written? What authority has transmitted it to us? It is nothing but an empty, airy opinion of these men. And now granting that this edict of the emperor was issued precisely before that time of the council of Jerusalem, what then justifies us in concluding that it caused Peter to flee from Rome, i. e. from fear of men, to leave his church and be untrue to his calling? Who can say that the edict affected him, as he was not a Jew but a Christian, and as such presented to the former a remarkable contrast? And though he had now left Rome, why must he, precisely then, return directly back to Palestine? Had he then convened that council, as Natalis would have it, or was it called by the common agreement of the apostles, in which Peter likewise took a part? or, finally, as it had its occasion in the controversy between the Gentile and Jewish Christians at Antioch (Acts 15: 1, 2), had they advised Peter thence and enabled him to leave Italy and hasten to Jerusalem to the council? 1 Of all these
1 This could not be, «9 thcro would not be time for Peter lo receive the messtge and to make the journey from Home, after the arrival of Paul and liaruahypotheses, not one is supported by authoritative testimony. Luke simply says (Acts 15: 1, 2) : " And certain men which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."
We see that this mission followed soon after the beginning of the dissension. It was sent to the apostles at Jerusalem; the expression used indicates that they were, the greater part of them, in Jerusalem. Indeed it authorizes us to conclude, that up to this time Jerusalem was, among all, the supposed and well-known place of abode of the apostles. The council was held. Peter was present at it (ver. 7). Of his return from the West, nothing is mentioned; what hinders us from supposing that up to this time he never had gone thither? Indeed, the circumstance that Peter and James are introduced as the only speakers, and are represented as the principal persons of the council, allows us to conclude that they had hitherto, Kar e^o^v, especially presided over the church of Jerusalem, at that time the centre of all, and therefore they had remained at Jerusalem. Of James it is certain, and of Peter it may be taken for granted.
Now the main question is: When was this council? For this, Paul's Epistle to the Galatians gives us the key. Paul states there (Gal. 1:18), that three years after his conversion he went up to Jerusalem, for the first time, to meet the apostles; which journey Luke relates (Acts 9: 26, etc.). Gal. 2:1, Paul says: "Then fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, and took Titus with me." That this was the journey which Luke relates in Acts, chap, xv., is evident enough from Gal. 2: 3, 4, etc., and will be denied by no one.
The time of the council, therefore, is accurately de
bus at Jerusalem, which gave rise to the Council, as is evident from Luke's account, and which was immediately held.—Tb.
fined after the time of the conversion of Paul. If, with Natalis Alexander, Baronius, etc., we place this in A. D. 34, then the council falls in A. D. 48 or 51, according as those fourteen years in Gal. 2: 1, are reckoned from Paul's conversion or from his first journey; if we place this (Paul's conversion), as we have done, in A. D. 38 or 39, then the council (according to the different reckoning of that fourteen years) falls either in A. D. 52 (53) or 55 (56). The latter figures are plainly too late. Therefore we assume without doubt, that those fourteen years are to be counted from Paul's conversion, and not from his first visit to Jerusalem. As a reason for this, it may be justly claimed, that reckoning those fourteen years from the first visit onward, there would not remain sufficient material, from Paul's life, to fill up such a succession of years. For Paul did not stay long in Tarsus, and afterward he abode one year at Antioch (Acts 11: 26). In A. D. 45, he returned with Barnabas and Mark from Jerusalem (Acts 12: 35), and, not long after, they seem 1o have entered on their travels to Cyprus and Asia Minor. We must therefore, in order to fill up these fourteen years, cither suppose that Paul spent five or six years idly at Tarsus (and this is contrary to the fact that Barnabas brought him thence soon after his arrival at Antioch, which, according to Acts 11: 19,22,etc., occurred not long after Paul's conversion),or, reckon for his first mission to Asia more than five years, which is evidently too much. For this journey embraced merely Cyprus, Pamphylia, and the southern part of Lycaonia (Acts xiii. and xiv.), a tract of country which, in all, is not over a thousand German square miles, — about three thousand English square miles. There lay on the route from Perga (where Paul and Barnabas landed), through Antioch of Pisidia to Lystra, Iconium and Derbe (Acts 13:13,14,51. 14: 1, 6, 7, 19), only a few cities; and they returned back again to Perga, through the same places (Acts 14: 20), and afterwards sailed from Attalia, which was in that vicinity, again to Antioch and Syria. If we take into consideration that on their journey to Derbe they stayed only a few days in the principal places, namely at Antioch in Pisidia one