SEARCH FOR THE TWELVE APOSTLES
by McBirnie Ph.D.
CHAPTER THREE - Part One
OF ALL ME HUMAN personalities whom Jesus remade, Simon Peter
is the one (next to Paul) about whom we know the most, and the
man who seems most like ourselves. As Dr.Stalker has said, "He
[Christ] managed the tumultuous and fluctuating elements of his
[Peter's] character as a perfect rider does a high mettled horse.
He transformed a nature as unstable as water into the consistency
of a rock."
The first meeting Jesus had with Simon, He addressed him
"Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas,
which is by interpretation 'a stone'" (John 1:42).
A great deal of misunderstanding has arisen from the
disputes over the real meaning of this word "stone." Dr.
Schofield's footnotes are correct when he comments as follows:
"There is in the Greek, a play upon the words Thou art Peter
(Peters-literally, 'a little rock' or 'pebble') and upon this
Rock (Petea) I will build my church. He does not promise to build
His church upon Peter, but upon Himself, as Peter himself is
careful to tell us." (I Peter 2:49) That there may be no
misunderstanding at this point, let the Apostle Paul settle the
issue once and for all as to what the Foundation of Christianity
'For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ' (I Cor.3:11)'
Had Paul ever understood that Peter was the foundation of the
church which Christ organized in Jerusalem, he would not have
said there is no other foundation but Christ Himself."
PETER'S HOME IN CAPERNAUM
The discovery of the house of St.Peter is a triumph of
modern archeology. For most of the 20th century, with some
interruptions, Italian archeologists have been digging and
restoring the town of Capemaum. The site is one of the most
visited spots in Galilee and yet many tourists who go there do
not recognize even yet the real link to the lives of the Apostles
which has been found there in St.Peter's actual home. Ancient
church history tells the story and has provided the vital clues
for the discovery of the history of St.Peter's house.
"In his Panarion - a treatise on heresies - St.Epiphanies
mentions the difficulties encountered in establishing a Christian
community in Kfar-Nachum which was still wholly Jewish till the
middle of the fourth century. Only when Count Joseph - a convert
to Christianity and Governor of Tiberias - managed to obtain from
the Emperor Constantine The Great [just a few years before his
death in 337] an Imperial decree to build a church on the
traditional site of St.Peter's house in Kfar-Nachum-could
preparations for this building start. And even then the actual
work on site did not begin until 352. In the came of time this
modest church was superseded by a splendid basilica frequently
mentioned in texts of the Pilgrims who visited it and appreciated
its beauty." (Capernaum, Baruch Sapir, Dav Ne'eman, p.22).
In his New Memoirs of St.Peter by the Sea of Galilee Virgil
"From the very first day Jesus visited Capernaum, the building
was marked out as 'the home of Simon and Andrew' (Mark 1:29).
Here, on the morrow, Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Peter.
Here, near the door, he cured a great number of other sick people
(Mark 1:33). Subsequently, it is made clear that he passed the
night under this roof (Mark 1:35). The house of hospitality is
next described as surrounded by such a crush of people seeking
Jesus that there was no room even outside (Mark 2:2). To this
home Jesus returned after his journeys round the Lake, and after
the official election of the twelve apostles (Mark 3:19). It was
here that he imparted his more intimate teaching (Mark 7:17).
There, one day, his mother appeared, together with his 'brethren'
It was in this very home that Jesus embraced a little child, to
give the Twelve a lesson in humility (Mark 9:33-37). Here
occurred the mirade of the healing of the paralytic (Mark
2:1-12). The last time the house is mentioned in Mark is when
Jesus came back from a tour of preaching (Mark 10:10).
In this list of events in Jesus life at Capernaum, we make
mention only of those involving the house of Simon Peter and
Andrew. It has been our good fortune to bring to light this very
building, so specially blessed by the presence of Christ. (p.10,
"The octagonal basilica was erected as a place of worship, not
for any ordinary needs of a Christian community, but as a
memorial. It stood over the ruins of a house which, from very
ancient times, bore proofs of veneration on the part of the
Christian community of Capernaum which was of Jewish origin. All
this had been long attested by tradition and was proven true by
The latter show most dearly that, beneath the octagonal basilica,
there lay buried a complex of small buildings of great antiquity.
The architect of the basilica took care to site the central
octagon directly above a room which was held in great reverence,
and even to follow its very dimensions. At the same time, while
removing the upper parts of the ancient buildings, he took care
to preserve the latter substantially when he filled in earth
round about them. In this respect, one discovery was most
striking. To preserve a doorstep which would normally have been
built into the foundations, the architect placed a little bridge
over it. Thus, we owe this unknown planner a deep debt of
gratitude. Designing his octagonal basilica, and placing its
floors a metre and a half above those of the ancient dwelling, he
could have obliterated the previous structure completely.
Instead, he providentially preserved for all posterity its
venerated remains" (p.21,22).
The archaeologists who have long and painstakingly excavated
the house of St.Peter in Capernaum have unearthed a great deal of
interesting and vital information which is not generally known.
Father Corbo continues his description:
"The archaeological excavation beneath the pavements of the
Byzantine church has not only brought to light a network of
habitations of the first century of our era, but has demonstrated
with the same evidence also the evolution of a cultic character
which made itself known in these habitations around the largest
room of the complex. The sacred character of this hall is known
from ancient Christian tradition, which has reached us through
the testimony of pilgrims; today we know this independently of
the testimonies, also from the testimonies of the archaeological
excavations, which we will present in a complete manner to
scholars in the final publication of these researches.
Peter the Deacon reports an ancient text ascribed to Egeria. In
Capharnaum, however, a church has been made out of the house of
the prince of the Apostles; its walls are standing until today as
they were. There the Lord cured the paralytic. A writer known as
'Anonymous of Piacenza' (570 A.D.) writes, 'We likewise came into
Capharnaum into the house of blessed Peter, which is now a
basilica.' (Enchiridion Locorum Sanctorum, Baldi, O.F.M, p.299,
Father Corbo describes the rooms of St.Peter's house:
"The principal and largest room of a very poor habitation was
venerated by the Jewish Christians of the first generation and in
the following centuries by adapting some dependencies into a
place of reunion and of prayer it order to preserve in this place
the sacred character which it derived both from the person of the
proprietor Peter and also from the consecration given to it by
the long stay of the Lord. So whilst around this hall the cult of
the primitive Jewish Christians of the community of Capharnaum
was centered, the other surrounding rooms continued to throb with
the ordinary life of men. The house of Peter, in the following
centuries, continued to be indeed the house of the Lord and the
house of men (p.54).
"Among the objects found on the floor of the house church I
mention two fishhooks and behind the east wall of the central
octagon a small axe for cutting stones" (p.70).
Father Corbo sums up the conclusions of the findings at
"Having reached the end of this report we consider it useful to
sum up in a few points the principal discoveries which we made in
these first two campaigns of excavation in the area of the
Christian church at Capharnaum, constructed over the house of St.
1) A complex of habitations of the first century of our era has
been found in the entire area of the excavation.
2) In this complex of very poor habitations one hall was
venerated in a special way from the first century onwards by the
local community of Jewish Christians, who transformed this area
into a place of cult, whilst they continued to live in the other
rooms next to this one.
3) From the late Roman period (about the fourth century onwards)
the community of Jewish Christians of Capharnaum enlarged the
primitive house church by adding to the venerated hall an atrium
on the east and dependencies on the north by enclosing the entire
small 'insula' of the house of Peter within a sacred precinct.
4) The belief of the community of Jewish Christians of Capharnaum
and of pilgrims in the sanctity of the place, indicated as the
house of St.Peter by tradition, finds expression in incisions of
symbols and graffiti on the walls of this venerated hall.
5) A church with a central plan (two concentric octagons with a
portico on five sides and sacristies and subordinate loci on
three other sides) was constructed at Capharnaum towards the
middle of the fifth century over the venerated house of St.
Peter" (The House of Saint Peter at Capharnaum, Father Virgilio
THE CONVERSION OF PETER
Peter was brought to Christ by his brother Andrew. They were
both fishermen, plying their trade on the sea of Galilee. Peter
was a young man when he first met Christ, and certainly he was
interested in the Messiah. When his brother Andrew announced that
he had found the Messiah, Peter eagerly dropped his nets and went
along to see for himself. Then he returned to his trade.
It was sometime later that Jesus came to the shores of
Galilee and there found Peter who had talked with Him before.
There the invitation of Christ came, 'Follow me and I will make
you to become fishers of men.' (Matt.4:19) Peter and Andrew
straightway left their nets and boats and followed Jesus. He was
married and his mother-in-law apparently lived with him and his
Much has been made of Peter's temperament. He was not
particularly modest, but usually was self-assertive. He
frequently stood in the early days at the forefront of the
Apostles and was their spokesman. It remained only for Paul to
outshine him. But Peter always remained firm in the affection of
the early Christians as the first among the great Christians.
Though the record indicates that John and Paul were also highly
regarded, nevertheless, in the lists of Apostles in the
Scriptures, we find the name Peter preceding the rest of the
Peter was impulsive. He often acted first and thought
second. He quickly dropped his net at the invitation of Christ.
When Jesus walked across the water Peter stepped over the side of
the boat and walked on the water toward Him. After the
Resurrection, Peter threw himself into the sea and swam
impulsively to shore, not waiting for the slow rowing of the boat
Peter's character was not at fast as firm as it might have been.
He was the loudest in his avowals of loyalty to Christ the night
before Jesus was seized. That night, with all the rest, he
forsook Him and cursed His Name. Then in another impulsive
reversal, after Jesus looked at him, Peter went out and wept
Peter was a rare combination of courage and cowardice, of
great strength and regrettable instability. Christ spoke more
often to Peter than to any other of His disciples, both in blame
and praise. No other disciple is so pointedly reproved by our
Lord as Peter, and no disciple ever ventured to reprove his
Master but Peter! However, by degrees and under the teaching and
example and the training of Christ, Peter's overly tempestuous
character was gradually brought under control, until finally
after Pentecost it became the personification of faithfulness to
There was one redeeming factor about Peter's character and
that was his exquisite sense of sin. He was extremely sensitive
and tender in his spirit in this respect. It was Peter who said,
"Depart from me O Lord for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:8) Peter
sinned as grievously as did Judas. Judas sold Jesus. Peter cursed
Him. There is no essential difference, except that Peter repented
and Judas did not. It is revealing to read from his own epistle
the following words written in the evening of his life.
"Ye, therefore beloved, seeing ye know all these things beware
lest ye also fall from your steadfastness, but grow in grace and
in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom
be glory both now and forever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:17-18).
FACTS THE BOOK OF ACTS REVEALS ABOUT PETER
In the Book of Acts we note that Peter takes a unique and
early position of importance in the church in Jerusalem. In fact
the first division of the Book of Acts is composed largely of the
Acts of Peter, just as the second division of the book contains
the stories of the Acts of Paul. The Book of Acts was originally
written to show the transition of Christianity from a Jewish sect
to a world faith. Therefore, the story of Peter is told us there
that we might see how Peter who had the leadership position in
the early church gradually carried the gospel beyond the
boundaries of the Jewish into the Gentile world. Then the story
is transferred to Paul who became uniquely the Apostle to the
It was Peter who prompted the choice of the twelfth disciple
to take the place of Judas. It was he who spoke to the assembled
multitude on the day of Pentecost. It was he who performed the
healing miracle on the lame man. In Galatians 2:9 Paul speaks of
Peter with James and John as "pillars" of the church. It was
Peter who defended the cause of the gospel when the authorities
of the Jews took action against the Apostles. He exercised church
discipline in the congregation in the case of Ananias and
(This was a very usual "church discipline" - and not the norm by
any imagination. Peter had miraculous power and inspiration in
this particualr case. This example does not prove a teaching that
"one" man has power of church discipline, and can cast people out
at his personal wim - Keith Hunt)
He also spoke out against Simon, the magician who sought to
buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts emphasizes the
faith of the common people in the miraculous power of Peter. They
considered his shadow capable of effecting a healing. Peter was
delegated by the Twelve in Jerusalem to go to Samaria to look
into the genuineness of the spiritual renewal which was going on
there under the direction of Philip. Following this, Peter
appeared in missionary activities in Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea,
where he is especially mentioned as having been led to baptize
the house hold of the Gentile, Cornelius.
Finally Peter appeared at the Apostolic Council where he
defended the inclusion of Gentiles in the Christian movement.
From this point Peter disappears from the narrative in the Book
of Acts. Paul mentions him in his epistles only in regard to
Peter's mistake when in Antioch he feared the Jewish Christians
from Jerusalem who demanded separation from the Gentile
Christians on the part of Jewish Christians. Paul says in his
statement that Peter was to blame and that therefore he, Paul,
had withstood him to the face! Peter apparently backed down
before Paurl's fierce logic.
We are on certain ground in tracing St.Peter to Corinth
after St.Paul had founded the church there and before Paul wrote
his epistles to the Corinthians. Jean Danielou observes:
"In Corinth the memory of Peter was closely associated with that
of Paul by the bishop Dionysius. It is evident from the Letter
that Clement of Rome wrote to the members of the Church at the
beginning of the second century that there were links between
Corinth and Rome, with which Peter and Paul were also associated.
The Letter shows that the town was torn by discord, the
presbyters against another party, perhaps that of the deacons"
(The Christian Centuries, Jean Danielou, p.51).
In the Epistles of Ignatius there is a reference to St.
Peter at Antioch. Eusebius quotes the passage:
"About this time flourished Polycarp in Asia, an intimate
disciple of the Apostles, who received the episcopate of the
church at Smyrna, at the hands of the eyewitnesses and servants
of the Lord. At this time, also, Papias was well known as bishop
of the church at Hierapolis, a man well skilled in all manner of
learning, and well acquainted with the Scriptures. Ignatius,
also, who is celebrated by many even to this day, as the
successor of Peter at Antioch, was the second that obtained the
episcopal office there." (Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History,
Eusebius, p.120 ).
The church historian Jean Danielou discusses the presence of
St.Peter at Antioch:
"It remains true that if the Church of Antioch was not typically
Petrine, it had many ties with Peter; we have seen that he had
stayed there at a very early date. The Petrine apocryphal
writings were popular in Antioch, as Theophilus and Serapion
show. The Ascension of Isaiah is the first work to mention
Peter's martyrdom. Antiochene Judaeo-Christianity thus appears as
representing the Petrine position. We have also noticed its links
with the Phoenician sector, which was specially dependent on
Peter. The same links are to be found in the other regions which
came under Peter's influence and which were in communication with
Eusebius tells us that Pontus and the neighbouring regions of
Bithynia, Cappadocia and Galatia were dependent on Peter; other
facts confirm this. The First Epistle of Peter was addressed to
the Christians of these regions. That may be the source of
Eusebius's information, but this hypothesis is far from certain,
since there is other evidence for the link. Pontus and Cappadocia
are geographically an extension of North Syria and it was in that
direction that Syria usually expanded. In a letter of Dionysius,
Bishop of Corinth in the middle of the second century, we see the
links between Corinth and Pontus. Now Corinth was in Peter's
sphere of influence. In the Paschal controversy, the bishops of
Pontus were in agreement with the Bishop of Rome and in
disagreement with the Asiatic bishops." (The Christian Centuries,
Jean Danielou, p.50).
(The "Paschal controversy" in the second century, was the Roman
church adopting the pagan "Easter" over what some called "The
Jewish Passover." It makes no difference as to the geographical
area of the Roman Empire - if those churches agreed with Rome,
they had fallen into leaving the faith once delivered to the
saints, they were moving away from the truth of God - Keith Hunt)
There is widespread confirmation that St.Peter did indeed
make Antioch his headquarters; Hugo Hoever in his "Lives of the
Saints" writes as a Catholic scholar:
"Church historians affirm positively that St.Peter founded the
See of Antioch before he went to Rome. Antioch was then the
capital of the East. St.Gregory the Great states that the Prince
of the Apostles was Bishop of that city for seven years" (p.82).
In the memorial book called "Souvenir-India" in an article
entitled, "The Hoply See of seleucia-Ctestphon" by V. K. George
is recorded the traditions of the church of the East.
"Meanwhile, the Apostles set out to preach the Gospel. The first
missionary field of the Apostles was the Jews. They were their
own racial kinsmen. They were the people who were waiting for the
coming of the Messiah. Hence the work among them was very easy.
The Apostles had only to add a few articles to their existing
faith that the Messiah had come; that he had died for their sins
and risen for their salvation; that he had ascended into heaven
and had sent His Holy Spirit to his disciples; and that he was to
be worshipped as God:
At that time Mesopotamia. was one of the strongest centres of
Jews. It was there that the 'Lost Tribes' were living.
(No, they were not the "lost tribes" per se. They were Jews from
the the House of Judah captivity by the Babylon Empire; 604-586
B.C. The "lost sheep of the House of Israel" captivity; 745-718
B.C by the Assyrian Empire, had moved further west into Europe
and Britain by the first century A.D. - Keith Hunt)
They were very rich and influential and they had commercial
settlements in many places on the coast of India, Ceylon, Malaya
and on the farthest coast of China. We see that Jesus Himself had
sent the seventy apostles to Mesopotamia during his ministry on
And therefore it was natural that the Apostles chose that area
for their first missionary activity. St.Thaddeus, (Mar Addai)
went to Edessa to fulfil the promise of Our Lord to King Abgar of
Edessa. St.Peter also preached the Gospel in Babylon and the Holy
Bible proves it: "The chosen Church which is in Babylon and Mark,
my son, salute you: (I Peter 5:13). St.Thomas had worked among
the Jews of Mesopotamia and later on went in search of their
small colonies on the coast of India and reached Cranganore in 52
A.D. St.Bartholomew and Mar Mari of the Seventy were also the
founders of this Church.
"As in the Roman Empire, so also in the Persian Empire,
Christianity had the beginning in important cities and spread
into the interior. Thus Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Alexandria,
Rome, etc., in the Roman Empire and Edessa, Arbil,
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, etc., in the Persian Empire became strong
(The above proves "Jews" from the House of Judah cativity by the
Babylonians were still out in many of those lands to the East.
Yes, Peter went to "Babylon" itself - 1 Peter 5:13. The apostles
did start by going to the Jews first just as Paul started that
way, until he was inspired to mainly go to the Gentiles - Keith
The Coptic church historians agree with the Roman Catholics:
"Moreover, Eusebius asserts that the church of Antioch was
founded by St.Peter, who became its first bishop even before his
translation to the See of Rome. According to tradition, he
presided for seven years over the newly established Antiochene
church, from 33 to 40 A.D., when he nominated St.Euodius as his
vicar before departure to the West. While the circle of preaching
the Gospel was widened towards the East in Edessa, Nisibis and
distant Malabar by the Apostle Thomas and Mar Addaf (St.
Thaddaeus), the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. could only
have increased the number of Christian Jewish emigrants to
Antioch." (A History of Eastern Christianity, Aziz S. Atiya,
PETER AND ROME AND BABYLON
Here we must part company with Eusehius. There is no
evidence that St.Peter was in Rome as early as 44 A.D. It is much
more likely that he was in Babylon, as the Eastern churches
claim. In the Epistle to the Romans St.Paul makes no reference to
St.Peter. The First Epistle of Peter comes from Babylon according
to the plain statement of the writer. Peter could hardly have
been in Rome until after the Epistle to the Romans was written
since he apparently stopped over in Corinth after St.Paul was
there, as St.Paul states in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.
There are, as we have noted, references in Paul's First
Epistle to the Corinthians that indicate that Peter had visited
Corinth and preached there for awhile. Apparently Peter took his
wife with him on his journey as we learn in First Corinthians
9:5. Having been in prison twice in the city of Jerusalem, Peter
left Jerusalem and went into other parts of the world. His
epistle notes that it was written in "Babylon". Many have
wondered if this did not mean Rome which was fre-quently called
"Babylon" by the early Christians.
The actual city of Babylon, however, still was of
importance. It was a great center of Jewish colonists and was a
powerful center when Peter ministered there for a time. The
Eastern churches trace their lineage to Babylon, and hence to St.
Peter, to this day.
In Acts 12:17 we are told that Peter "went to another
place". We do not know this was Babylon, nor, if he went, how
long he stayed. But the tradition of the Eastern churches is
united that he did indeed go to Babylon, from which he wrote his
first epistle. There was no need to use "Babylon" as a symbol of
Rome as there was later when St.John wrote the Book of the
Revelation. John was writing literature deliberately designed to
pass the Roman censors (No, I do not think so. He wrote straight
up-front about "prophecy" - no needd to be censored by anyone -
Keith Hunt) but obviously Peter was not.
According to Galatians 2:9, a decision had been reached by
the Apostles in Jerusalem to the effect that Paul and his
fellow-workers were to go to the Gentiles, while the missionaries
from Jerusalem (probably meaning Peter and his workers) went to
the circumcised (that is, the Jews). Thus Peter was identified
from the beginning with the Jewish party within Christianity as
Paul was identified with the Gentile party, though there are many
evidences that both men went over the line and dealt with people
of the other group. One should not imagine, however, that Peter
considered himself the opponent of Paul, despite Paul's arguments
as recorded in Galatians. Peter, himself, no doubt stood nearer
to Paul than did the other members of the Jerusalem church. There
is absolutely no evidence that Paul ever recognized the "primacy"
of Peter in his relationship to Paul. And in Corinth, Paul did
not permit a "Cephas party" any more than be did any other party
To be continued
What we are seeing here is indeed the "going to the Jews" first.
The Jews were scattered all over the old Babylon area and further
East. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah make it very clear that only
a "protion" of Jews RETURNED to Jerusalem and Palestine, or Holy
Land. Most of them were content to stay in the East, even move
further East, and North East.
The work of going to the lost sheep of the House of Israel was
yet ahead for the 12 apostles. Most so-called "scholars" of
secular and "church" history will not see, or admit, that the
BULK of Israelites, and especially the House of Israel
Israelites, had, by the first century A.D. moved into Eastern and
Central Europe, and some even into the British Isles - Keith Hunt
Entered on this Website November 2007