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Search for the TWELVE Apostles

The World of the Apostles

THE SEARCH FOR THE TWELVE APOSTLES

by McBirnie Ph.D.


CHAPTER ONE


The World of the Apostles


     A STRONG TIDE of optimism had begun to well up throughout
the vast reaches of the Roman Empire as the year 30 A.D. dawned.
Tiberius Caesar in his palace on Capri did not know it, but a new
force was being born that would one day inherit the empire. 

(Rome was inherited by the force of the false Christianity that
would rise to power after the first century - Keith Hunt)
 
     Under the iron grip of Augustus, the successor to Julius
Caesar, peace, even if the oppressive peace of a total conquest,
had come to be an accepted way of life for the people of the
Roman Empire.

The "Pax Romana"

     There were spots of local rebellion which grew hot from time
to time, but there was absolutely no doubt that Rome was the
saddle that was securely strapped on to Europe, North Africa and
Asia Minor. Augustus and his successor, Tiberius, sat long and
firmly in that saddle. Any client king who doubted it, or
rebellious province which had the temerity to challenge Caesar,
soon found out with bloodshed, just who rode the world. Further,
no one doubted that these affairs would continue, as indeed the
future state of the empire of the next three hundred years
confirmed. The prolongation of the Paz Romana brought prosperity,
trade, education, cultural and language homogeneity, and safe
travel; an ideal preparation for Christian apostles and
missionaries.

(Yes, ideal for a short time, per se. But enough time for the 12
apostles to reach the bulk of Israelites scattered and those
Israelites in Britain - Keith Hunt)
 
     There was one perpetually troublesome exception to the Pax
Romana, the land of Judea. There the Roman legions, as occupation
troops, constantly had to be on guard against an implacably
hostile population. The Herodian monarchs had ruled since the
days of the first Caesar only by the imposed power of Rome. They
all understood, if their people did not, that Rome was there to
stay and that the Pax Romana was undoubtedly the best of all
realistically possible conditions. The various Herods, one after
another, had sailed to Rome to visit the dazzling center of
power. There they saw the larger picture of the empire and could
more easily fit Judea into its small place. But the people they
ruled in Rome's name were provincial in the extreme and were able
to see no farther than their own borders. To the Israelites,
however just and fair they often tried to be, the Romans were
hated oppressors, idol-worshipping inferiors, outside the
covenant of God, and the proper objects of unceasing attempts at
rebellion and assassination. The Roman's haughty contempt for
Jewish pride created a resentment that would inevitably lead to
slaughter and dispersion for the Jews. In the end only Rome could
win. But rationally or not, in no people in the world of that
time did the passion for independence burn so fiercely as it did
among the Jews. Most Jews cared little for the safety and
prosperity they admittedly gained by being a part of a great
cohesive empire.
     Their resentment, being nationalistic and ideological, grew
primarily as a reaction to the infernal pride of the Romans. To
the Jews, nothing Rome could do could possibly be right. To the
Romans, granted the right of empire, (which we moderns cannot of
course grant) the choice was clear; keep Judea pacified or risk
the brush-fires of rebellion breaking out everywhere else. The
Romans sought to be as just as possible to make their empire
viable. But, just or not, Rome would rule whatever the people of
Israel did or however they felt. The clash of wills between
Jerusalem and Rome was the most troublesome political fact of the
first century. Eventually it could have but one tragic outcome
for Judea.
     The peace of Rome, disastrous and painful for the Jews,
nevertheless opened up a great share of the world to easy
penetration by the newly risen movement of Christianity. In every
Roman city godly Jews were already dwelling. All Israelites,
whether from the tribe of Judah proper, or of the remnants of the
thirteen tribes, now came to be called "Jews." Judah was the
Royal tribe of David, and "Jew" is simply an abbreviation for
Judah. It had spearheaded the Return of the Exiles from Babylon,
and now again possessed the capital, Jerusalem. It was the
strongest and most persistent of the tribes and it was the keeper
of the Temple in Jerusalem which was the proper geographical
focal point of prayer, wherever in the world Israelites were
themselves located. So gradually the Israelites of all the tribes
who cared about preserving their own national identity, and their
ancient Mosaic traditions and religious faith, came to be called
"Jews."

(The "Jewish" Israelites yes, but the other Israelites [those of
the Ten tribes or House of Israel, taken captive by the Assyrian
empire - 745-718 B.C.] became so-called "lost" - in time they
even forgot themselves that they were Israelites. But we know
James knew they were scattered abroad, all TWELVE tribes. See
James 1:1 - Keith Hunt)

     Intermarriage between the people of the various tribes of
Israel in the Diaspora doubtless helped bind all dispersed Israel
toward identification with Judah. Those who did not join this
spiritual and nationalistic movement were soon lost, not as whole
tribes, but as individuals, as intermarriage with Gentiles or the
attrition of death gradually exterminated or eliminated those who
were indifferent to their Israelitish heritage.

(McBirnie is very WRONG on this point, the Ten tribe House of
Israel was by-and-large in EUROPE and BRITAIN by the time the
apostles came on the scene - Keith Hunt)

     There was not just one single dispersion of the tribes of
Israel, though the process began in 725 B.C. 

(actually in 745 B.C. and ended 718 B.C. for the house of Israel
- Keith Hunt)

when Assyria carried off many people out of the Northern tribes.
Instead, there were successive waves of removal from Palestine
which scattered the Israelites everywhere. (Recently a colony of
Jews which has lived in Cochin, India, since 70 A.D. has come to
world attention, as emigration to the modern state of Israel has
finally depleted that section of Indian Jewry. This event reminds
us that people travelled much more widely in the first century
A.D. than is commonly realized, a fact that has a bearing on the
genuineness of the apostolate of St.Thomas in India during the
first century.)

(Yes SOME Israelites, probably from the Judah captivity by the
Babylon Empire - 604-586 B.c., were indeed over in the India area
of the world - Keith Hunt)

     The Biblical Research Handbook (Vol.2) provides a reminder
of the dispersion of the Jews in the pre-Christian era. As the
Apostles always went first to the Jews in their missions, this
passage is very illuminating:

"... Armenian and Georgian historians record that after the
destruction of the First Temple ... Nebuchadnezzar deported
numbers of Jewish captives to Armenia and the Caucasus. These
exiles were joined later by co-religionists from Medes and Judea
... at the end of the fourth century there were Armenian cities
possessing Jewish populations ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 ...
Monuments consisting of marble slabs bearing Greek inscriptions
and preserved in the Hermitage St.Petersburg, and in the museum
at Feodosia (Kaffa), show that Jews lived in the Crimea and along
the entire eastern coast of the Black Sea at the beginning of the
common era, and that they possessed well-organised communities
with synagogues. They were then already Hellenized, bearing such
Greek names as Hermis, Dionisiodorus and Heracles. In the reign
of Julius the Isaurian (175-210) the name 'Volamiros' was common
among the Jews of the Crimea. This was the origin of the Russian
name 'Vladimir' ... " (Bible Research Handbook, Vol.2, pages
unnumbered)

(Exactly! Proves what I just said above. The "Jewish" Israelites
were also scattered. But the MAIN part of the house of Israel
Israelites were in Europe and even Britain by the first century
A.D. - Keith Hunt)

     Greek culture had penetrated as far as France, then called
the land of the Gauls, by the middle of the first century B.C.
The various languages of each country were used locally of
course, but throughout the Roman Empire both Greek and Latin were
widely and universally employed. This fact made it possible for
Greek philosophy and culture to affect the Roman world
profoundly.
     Later it would provide common literary and linguistic
vehicles for the Christian gospel.
     The splendid Roman roads, many of which can still be seen
today, related the cities of all countries to each other. Over
those safe and straight highways and the increasingly viable sea
lanes came a busy interchange of goods and customs. These same
highways would soon be the paths of the propagation of the faith.
     Thus in the first century the Roman world, with all its
initial cruelties and harsh conditions, was changing and uniting
into the largest and most continually ruled empire the world has
ever known. In the Middle Ages the Mongol Empire briefly ruled a
larger area, and perhaps more people, but it left no enduring
civilization since it was an empire of destruction which soon
faded back into the vast emptiness of Asia from which it had
come. Rome brought a culture which remained. Indeed, that culture
still remains today and its influence is as strong as ever.

(Yes, indeed, so much so that it gave rise to the MYSTERY BABYLON
RELIGION of the Roman Catholic church which has planted its
theology and customs, practices, traditions, all over the world,
especially the Western world. The nations of Israel are today IN
Babylon, deceived by a false Babylon/Roman Christianity - Keith
Hunt)

     Rome had drawn much of her civilization from others; at
first from the mysterious Etruscans. But by the first century,
the Etruscans had been so completely swallowed up as to have
disappeared into history. We cannot read their language even now.
Egypt also had given much and would give more. But Egypt had lost
the civilization of the Pharaohs and had become Hellenized.
Greece itself was still the cultural and medical center of the
Roman Empire, but it had become little more than a province which
fed its influence into the bloodstream of the empire. Greece was
of course eventually to triumph over Rome and rise again, not in
Athens but in Constantinople. During the first century, however,
Rome was the greatest political fact in the world.

(And Rome was to be the MOST false influence on the world over
the next 2,000 years to today and still counting - Keith Hunt)

     This, then, was the world of Jesus and His Apostles. On the
narrow land bridge between three continents the people of Israel
had come and gone, and come again. The Greeks, and afterwards the
Romans, had conquered Palestine, but had never really subdued her
people. Rebellion continuously simmered. It frequently flared
with little provocation into revolution against Rome. If the
Herods could not put the rebellion down, the Romans could and
would. And when this happened, the Herodians lost face and paid
severe penalties to Caesar. For this reason the Herodians were
zealous to stamp out any sedition before it could be embarrassing
to them. It was on a charge of sedition that Jesus was tried and
in an illegal trial, which soon got out of hand, was falsely
condemned to death for blasphemy and treason, though the Roman
governor Pilate had declared Him innocent.

     Of course, sedition was only the ostensible reason why Jesus
was condemned. As the Apostles saw clearly then, and history's
long judgment has since con firmed, the greatest reason for his
condemnation was the fact that Jesus had lanced through the
swollen hypocrisy of the Jewish political and ceremonial religion
and the religious bureaucracy of professional priests, Pharisees
and Sadducees. So all the main Jewish leaders, including the
official party of the Herodians called by that name, consented to
or sought his death.
     When men gain high places and hold them precariously, they
often stoop to fatal compromises. When they do so in a
semi-religious state they also have a bad conscience. When they
are exposed and their real motives are laid bare, they tend to
strike back with fangs bared and venom dripping. Jesus aptly
called them, "A generation of vipers", and for this most of all
they lay in wait, coiled, and then struck Him down. Their charges
against Him were blasphemy and sedition. Thus Rome was induced to
join with Jerusalem to crucify the Son of God.

     His Apostles, after the resurrection, enjoyed a great
resurgence of popularity in Judea. The guilt for the death of
Jesus lay on the public conscience and the Apostles assured those
who would repent that this guilt, and all other sinful guilt, had
been atoned for by the true Lamb of God. Thousands professed
conversion to Christ soon after the resurrection, and day after
day were added to the growing Jerusalem church.
     Soon no public or private building could contain their
assembly. Steps were taken by the authorities to discourage the
Apostles lest again Israel be troubled. But this time there was
no stopping them.

     Despite martyrdoms, such as those of Stephen and James the
brother of John, and the imprisonment of Peter, the church grew,
spilled out over Judea, Samaria and the whole of Palestine. Then
it leaped to Antioch in Syria which, during the first century,
was the third city of the Roman Empire and the true crossroads of
east and west. 

     From Antioch the newly named "Christians" sent forth as
missionaries, Barnabas, who had come from Jerusalem to shepherd
the vigorous church in Antioch, and Saul of Tarsus, whom Barnabas
had befriended in Jerusalem and had called from Tarsus to aid him
in Antioch. Their missionary destination was Barnabas nearby
island home of Cyprus, and their targets were first the Jews, and
then the Gentiles. They journeyed, after notable triumphs on
Cyprus, to the mainland of Asia Minor which Saul (now called
Paul) apparently felt was ripe for the Christian message. The
experience of these two eager Apostles, first at Antioch and now
in Cyprus and Asia Minor, had confirmed that the gospel had
indeed been intended for all and could be well received by the
Gentiles as well as the Jews. Thus a milestone in Christian
history was passed. The process had begun which would tear
Christianity loose from its Jewish exclusiveness and make it an
universal movement for all men.

     Paul and Barnabas did not break the first ground to extend
Christianity to the Gentiles. That had been done on the day of
Pentecost when people from many parts of the Roman world had
heard the message, shortly after the ascension of Jesus. But in
the Jerusalem church, conversions of the Gentiles were rare and
incidental.

     The Twelve Apostles, now reduced by the death of James to
eleven, had remained in Jerusalem or at least in Palestine. It
seemed they could not bring themselves to the world apostolate
which Jesus had commanded. Soon however, Jewish persecution would
force some of them out. The nation of Israel was still not
willing to accept Jesus as the Christ. Soon the Twelve would also
have to turn to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas had successfully
shown the way. From this time forth the Apostles would go first
to the Jews and then, if rejected, turn to the Gentiles. The book
of Acts is the record of how Christianity was thus moved by both
example and persecution, out of Jerusalem into the rest of the
Roman world with a universal message to both Jews and Gentiles.
While Rome herself was even more hostile to Christianity than was
Jerusalem, many Jews and Gentiles everywhere received the new
faith. 

     Within the life time of the Apostles the gospel of Christ
had spread over the long Roman roads, as well as by the sea, to
such far o$ places as Gaul and Britain to the northwest,
Alexandria and Carthage on the coast of Africa to the south,
Scythia and Armenia (now the Soviet Union) to the north and
Persia and India to the east. In the course of this initial
outburst of Christian fervor, the Twelve Apostles, and many
others also called apostles, carried the Christian message to
great extremes of distance and into perilous lands both near and
far, even beyond the Roman Empire. There they died, but their
message and the churches they founded survived them.

     Early in its progress Christianity recorded histories and
legends which tell of the high adventures the Apostles had in the
initial years of Christian expansion. The Apostles themselves
apparently did not seem aware that their mission was historic so
they kept few records which have remained. Such records as we
have, apart from the Scriptures, are not without flaw and often
lean towards the fanciful. Yet so much more is to be learned
about the Apostles than the general Christian public knows, or
has ever been written by the scholars in a single history, to
this end this account of the lives of the Twelve Apostles will
serve to illuminate the earliest days of the Christian mission.

     Hopefully it may help to recover the Apostles as real
people.

                            ..................


(Actually there is more written records, and traditions
[traditions are often based on the ground of fact] of the 12
apostles and their travels than McBirnie realized, or certainly
the popular so-called "scholarship" of the Catholic and
Protestant world of Christian religion - Keith Hunt)

                                     

To be continued

Entered on this Website November 2007


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