The Missionary Journeys of Peter (Part 2)

In Part One, I talked about how much of the history of the early church was structured around the Acts 1 version of the Great Commission, with the missionary journeys of Paul providing much of the narrative. In Part One, I suggested that we may have enough information on the Mission Journeys of Peter to use these as the running narrative. Or perhaps it would be better to say that it had the potential to have been used that way.

First Missionary Journey of Peter (circa 35AD)— The Samarian Mission. Acts 8. Left Jerusalem to go to “a city in Samaria.” There, he experiences the revival there and then returns to Jerusalem slowly, preaching in various Samarian villages along the way.

Second Missionary Journey of Peter (circa 35AD)— The Judean Mission. Acts 9. Heals and preaches in Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea. First Gentiles recognized as part of the church.

Third Missionary Journey of Peter (circa 50AD)— The Hellenistic Mission. Galatians 2. Paul speaks of a contentious meeting between himself and Peter when Peter visits the church of Antioch. It is also quite likely that he visited parts of what is modern-day Turkey. In support of this is that the epistle of First Peter was written to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Some have also theorized that he also visited Corinth. In I Corinthians, Paul speaks of factions in the Corinthian Church— those who identify with Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Christ. Since both Paul and Apollos had clear roles in the founding or growth of that church, it is possible that Peter also had been there. On the other hand, some have suggested that Paul’s faction identified with Peter as a fellow “apostle” and the Apollos faction identified with Christ (not directly drawing from the apostolic line). Alternatively, perhaps there was a separate group following Peter, who identified with a traditional Hebraic rather than Hellenistic Christianity. So we don’t know if Peter went to Corinth. However, he did visit Samaria to see what God was doing there, and then went to Antioch to see how the Jerusalem Council affected things there.

Fourth Missionary Journey of Peter (circa late 50s or early 60s)— The Babylonian Mission. In his first epistle, Peter says that he was writing from Babylon. It is has been common to assume that Peter was writing from Rome. There are a few reasons for this.

(1) Babylon was a city in decline and mostly unpopulated in the first century.

(2) John used the name Babylon symbolically, apparently, for Rome in Revelation.

(3) There is pretty good reason to believe that Peter died in Rome

However, I believe there are good reasons to think that Babylon did not refer to Rome here.

(1) Babylon may have been a dying city, but the term was used more broadly in the region, as well as in the Hebrew Bible. Relatedly, Jews called Mesopotamia “Babel.’

(2) John may have used Babylon symbolically for Rome, but as far as we know, no one used the term that was prior to Revelation.

(3) Peter finishing his ministry in no way is in conflict with him spending time in the region of Babylon.

(4) More positively, Peter was described as the “Apostle to the Jews.” The largest Jewish population was in the region around Babylon. For example, one of the two Talmuds was the Babylonian Talmud (“Talmud Bavli”).

(5) There has been a tendency in Western scholarship to focus on the Spread of Christianity westward and northward. However, much of the growth of the early church was Eastward and beyond the borders of the Roman (and later Byzantine) Empire. This preference may have led to a rather doubtful interpretation.

Obviously, I can’t say for sure that Peter went to the region of Babel or Babylon. But if Peter is correctly understood as the “Apostle to the Jews” it begs the question why he would NOT go there. The reference in I Peter seems to me a strong support of the idea that he did go there prior to his last journey.

Fifth Missionary Journey of Peter (circa mid-late 60s)— The Roman Mission. The Roman Catholic Church has long identified Peter as its patron saint, seeing him as their founder. While it is pretty clear from the New Testament that Peter did not found the church in Rome, it is certainly quite reasonable to think he died there. There seems to be solid documentation supporting that he was martyred, and decent support that his death happened in Rome. It is hard to see whether he came to Rome through mission work or in chains. Either way, the story of Peter appears to end as does Paul.

Looking at these Five Missionary Journeys we see the progress of the church from Jerusalem to Samaria, to Judea, the the Hellenized World, to Parthia and finally to Rome.

It is a great way of showing the growth of the church. This, of course, does not undermine the structure of the book of Acts. It, however, is a reminder that history is the connection of moments— and one has the ability to connect many different moments. There is not a history of the early church— there are many many HISTORIES OF THE EARLY CHURCH.

The Mission Journeys of Peter would be ONE good way of doing this.

One thought on “The Missionary Journeys of Peter (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: The Missionary Journeys of Peter (Part 1) – MMM — Mission Musings

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