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 since John appears to use Babylon figuratively to represent Rome, or the world system. However, that was decades later. The largest diaspora Jewish population was in Mesopotamia which is where Babylon was located. In fact, Jews called Mesopotamia ‘Babel.” Since Peter was often known as the Apostle to the Jews, it is quite reasonable that Peter did indeed spend time in Mesopotamia ministering there. In the first couple of centuries, much of the most successful church growth actually happened along the boundary between the Roman and Parthian Empires. This is not that obvious from reading the New Testament, so it is understandable if people would take an Eastern location and assume that it is figuratively representing a Western location. Of course, we don’t know for sure. However, early church tradition identifies several apostles ministering Eastward, rather than Westward. That supports an understanding of the early church that the church expanded North, South, East, and West… not just North and West.
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.