Did Anyone Exist in the First Century, part 3: positive evidence Peter and Paul

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Peter's house in Capernaum

In this third part I will examine positive evidence that Peter and Paul existed. I do want to point out, however, that we don't need to prove their existence. History has accepted them for 2000 years. The mythers want to change that they must prove their assertions and doubts. They have the burden of proof because they seek to make the change. Yet there is some evidence that they existed, aside from the fact of Pauline letters in the NT. But the letters themselves are a good place to start.The ignorance of Jesus mythers has gotten to the point where they just dogmatically regard the Bible as practically non existent. But that's par for the course with all of "new atheism" (Dawkamentalism). The Dawkies don't understand the concept of treating text as artifacts. Someone wrote of them, the texts illustrate what the people who compiled them or copied and passed them on believed. Scholars accept that a core of Pauline corpus is authentic since it is consistent, clearly by the same author and fits what we have come to think of as characteristics of Pauline theology and tendencies from Acts..[1]The extra Biblical case for Paul is not that strong but there is a case to be made. For Peter there isn't much of a case he's pretty much part of the package for the Gospels. But Paul speaks of confronting Peter in Galatians, one of the authentic books. So Paul confirms the existence of Peter.

Of course Acts is the major extra Pauline evidence for Paul since it is mostly about Paul. The real theme of Acts seems to be that Paul was a team player, the early church had unity. For that reason Mythyers like Humphrey's take the spin doctoring of "Luke" as proof that Paul did not exist. Mind you no real academic scholars take this seriously.[2] There is good evidence that whomever wrote Acts was on the first missionary journey.

True basic proof of this is, as pointed out in previous post, he get's the names and titles right of all the functionaries they met on the trip. As Stephen Neil said:

The author of Acts knew the correct titles and used them with varying precision. In the words of Ramsey: 'the officials with whom Paul and his companions were brought into contact are those who would be there. Every person is found just where he ought to be; procounsuls in senatorial provences, asiarchs in Ephesus, strategoi in Philippi, politarchs in Thessolonica, magicians and soothsayers everywhere.' The Most remarkable of these titles is Politarch the ruler of the city used in Acts 17:6...previously this word had been completely unknown except for this passage in Acts. It has now been found in 19 inscriptions dating from he second century[3]
For much more on defending of Luke as historian and Acts as historical see my page on refuting Richard "Bayes Boy" Carrier's attack on Acts; on my website The Religious A priori.[4] There is more archaeological evidence documented there. The point being Luke (the author) was on the trip, he travailed to those places at that time. No one would do that to gain authentication for a made up story so the odds are he really was on the trip. We should assume, therefore, that Paul was there too and he knew Paul. He claims Paul was there. It would make sense that one might use the doings of a famous figure to write propaganda. It makes no sense to make up such a figure then tell people he was famous and use that for propaganda.

Moreover, there may be archaeological evidence for PeterThere is a possibility that archaeologists have found Peter's house:

The house was built in the first century, it became a center of religious activity [in Capernaum] already in the second half of the first century Jewish-Christians (or Mimin..as they were called) were numerous and lived continuously in Capernaum and kept this tradition alive [the site for the house of Peter--which is mentioned in Mark; their graffiti on the plaster wall of the place of worship testify to their faith in Jesus, the Lord, the Most High, the good, and to their veneration of Peter.[5]

The house was taken over by Gentile Christians in the 5th century, and then over it was built a splendid basilica. Now of course the skeptic will say "O, they just chose any old spot and said it was the right place for the pilgrims in the middle ages." But Pilgrims did troop to the Holy land as early as the fifth century, however, as Corfeld shows, most of these sites were already old by the fourth century. The tomb, Peter's house, The Bethlehem Grotto, Mary's house in Nazareth, and many other such sites, were already venerated as far back as the first century. While there is no definitive proof that these sites are the actual locations, the evidence is stronger than it seems at first glance. Pilgrims marked the site early on with a synagogue and that was used to keep track of where it was. In Constantine's time or after that site was covered with an octoganol fountial that was part of a church.

The site was a regular house at first then it was transformed into a place of worship. This change took place after the death of Christ but questions remain as to weather it was first or second century. It is possible that the evidence points to first century. It also points to the original owners being fishermen (they found fishing tackle). The description of the roof matches it's description in Mark 2:1-12. J. Murphy O'Connor asserts authenticity, but of courser others do not. One key to the issue is that the name Peter is on the wall and the plastering that marks the change from home to worship site is probably first century[6]

Biblical archaeology discoveries are not cut-and-dry cases. Though there is no definitive proof in this instance that the house ruin uncovered by the excavators actually is the ancient house of Peter, there is layer upon layer of circumstantial evidence to support its importance in early Christianity and its association with Jesus in Capernaum and his foremost disciple, Peter. Were it not for its association with Jesus and Peter, why else would a run-of-the-mill first-century house in Capernaum have become a focal point of Christian worship and identity for centuries to come?[7]
As I said Paul proves Peter existed by confronting him in gelation's. There are two NT sources that mention Paul and post NT sources as well. 2 Peter 3:16 mentions Paul. James mentions Paul. Both are too disputed to be of much use.

I Clement, is the earliest known example of extra Biblical Christian writing. It dates to A 95, and according to tradition is the work of the Biship of Rome, Clement, to the Church at Corinth. The issue was rebellion in the ranks of Presbyters. Be that as it may, the author does mention the Apostle Peter and Paul as having been with them in Rome during his own time.

Let us come to the Heroes nearest out own times. Let us take the noble examples of our own generation; by reason of rivalry the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] were persecuted and battled to the death. Let us set before our eyes the nobel Apostles; Peter who...frequently endured suffering and thus wen to the glorious place which he merited...Paul showed how to win the prize for patient endurance.... (5:2-5). a foot note of the editor adds that this is good evidence for Peter's martyrdom in Rome[8]
This not only documents the connection to Paul, but also to Peter. He speaks of them as part of "our own generation" indicating that this was common knowledge to all of them, that he himself was witness to the presence of these men in Rome. Writing in 95, the events described (64 AD) would have been within living memory of the older members of the congregation. While it is true that this is not direct evidence for Jesus existence, it is evidence that Peter was a real historical person. Since Peter was involved in the center of the action, it is absurd to claim that those events recorded in the Gospels did not take place. We can be certain that they at least had their referent in actual historical events. It is also hard to see how Peter would give his life to a lie, if he made it up or participated in a hoax, never gain from it, and eventually die for that lie.

1 Clement talks about both Peter and Paul placing them both in Rome and perhaps implying that the author (Clement of Rome--a Bishop writing to the Church at Corinth).Traditionally the book is ascribed to 90-95 AD. It is the first known Christian writing outside the NT (if that date is accepted). There are scholars who place it as late as 135-165.The traditional date hinges upon general statements about "troubles" being taken for the Domitian persecution. That need not be the case. Welbourn: "There are references to the letter by the middle of the next century in the works of Hegesippus and Dionysius of Corinth (apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 3.16; 4.22; 4.23). Thus one may place the composition of 1 Clement between A.D. 80 and 140."[9]

Loisy maintains that the author of 1 Clement was a distinguished Roman elder who flourished 130-140 and that this Clement was named in the Shepherd of Hermas (Vision, 8:3), which is also to be dated to the mid second century. Notably, a writing is mentioned in 1 Clement 23:3 in which the challenge is quoted, "These things we did hear in the days of our fathers also, and behold we have grown old, and none of these things hath befallen us." Because this source document for 1 Clement must have been written when the hope of the imminent parousia was waning, and because 1 Clement itself must have dealt with the same issue, the document can scarcely be dated to the time of the first Christian generation. Other indications of lateness include the tradition in chapter 5 that Paul traveled to the extremities of the west (i.e., Spain) and the emphasis on the appointment of "bishops and deacons" (42:1-5). Most notably, there is stated to be "a
[10] Clement is not the only apostolic "parent" to speak of apostles. Ignatius speaks of Peter and Paul. It's clear he considered them to be real people. To the Romans (as he said to the Trillions), in speaking of strife in their ranks, “I do not order you as did Peter and Paul"(Romans 4:3). He is grounding the order of church in authority of Bishop and that, in teachings and ordination given by Apostles. This means that to him Peter and Paul were not mythological legends but real to people. Their memories are preserved in community and passed on from real people of real people. But these are not just anonymous communal memories passed from forgotten shadow people. Ignatius knew John. Polycarp said he did. That's important because Polycarp also claimed to have known the apostle John, and he said, as reported by his student Irenaeus that both he and Ignatius learned under John together.

According to Iranaeus Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Martyred in AD 155?) knew the Apostle John. This doesn't seem likely and has been denounced by the great Church historian B.H. Streeter (The Primitive Church ,1923) and others. The date of Ploycarp's Martyrdom is fixed by W.A. Waddington [11] The tradition recorded in the Martyrdom of Polycarp says that he was 86 years old when he went to his glory as a martyr. This would place his birth in the year 69 AD. Assuming he was a teenager (and he was supposed to be very young) when he knew John, this would place their friendship around the late 80s. Is it possible that John lived this long? Clearly legend has it that John lived to be over 100, returned from Patois and worked in the church of Ephesus. But those legends are probably driven by the statements in the Gospel which imply that John would not die or would be very old when he did die. If Johannie authorship holds up, and John was in Ephesus in 90 to write his Gospel, than it is possible that he knew Polycarp. The information that these two men did know each other comes through Iraneaeus who did know Polycarp.
For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events (inasmuch as the experiences of childhood, keeping pace with the growth of the soul, become incorporated with it); so that I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse-his going out, too, and his coming in-his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eyewitnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures. These things, through, God's mercy which was upon me, I then listened to attentively, and treasured them up not on paper, but in my heart; and I am continually, by God's grace, revolving these things accurately in my mind.[12]
So Polycarp knew John, maybe other apostles. Is it likely that John never told him about Peter? Ignatius also studied under John, never told them Peter was real? Ignatius mentions Peter. Is it likely h never mentioned Paul? Polycarp speaks of Paul:“For neither am I, nor is any other like me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul.” (Philippians 3:1–2).[13]

The real point, however, is not the house or who knew the Apostles. Let's assume all of this evidence is wrong in terms of direct proof. Say none of these men knew Apostles and it's not Peter's house. The house still shows us that as early as some time in first century Peter was already famous and revered and identified with some local(the graffiti and the church was built close to mid century).).[14] The study of the Passion narrative shows Peter is part of the story mid first century (pre Mark redaction).Moreover the Gospel of Peter uses that same narrative in a version independent of the synoptic tradition. That means that even though GPete was written second century it draws upon an early pre Mark redaction that is independent of the canonical Gospels)[13] Yes the gospel of Peter has a lot of Peter in it, including the only long first person account supposedly rom Peter. I am not suggesting that Peter wrote it but that he was understood to be as real guy ads early7 as mid first century.

The main thing that myths do is change. Given enough time, a myth will transmography until the names of the heroes are different, how they died is forgotten and retold so many times, there came to be multiple versions of their death. Myths change over time, but history does not. People remember a basic event they know its real, they don't forget it. Hercules has two deaths, in one he's poisoned, in another shot with an arrow. There are about 14 versions of the Tamuz myth. But there is only one way for the guys at the Alamo to die, there is only one death for Arthur, and there is only one way that Jesus Christ is ever portrayed as dying, that's by the cross. Why? Because that's how he really died. No one could deny it, so no one ever proposed another method.

I have made the argument, on message boards, that there are no alternate versions of the basic Gospel story. The point being, there are many versions of most myths. The fact that with tons of "other Gospels" not a one of them before the fourth century gives an alternate account of Jesus life, death, burial and resurrection is a good indication that everyone knew the basic facts, they were public knowledge because they were history; these things happened before the community of Jerusalem, the whole community was a witness and no one could deny it. Now skeptics have responded that certain alternate Gospels deny the resurrection. They name the Apochraphon of James. This is not true. As will be seen from what I quote below James does mention the resurrection. Some of the latter Gnostics denied the theology of the Virginal conception, but they still allude to the story. They denied that Jesus' death was real, but they do not deny that it happened, only that he was not a flesh and blood being and so could not die. What they accept is that the illusion of a flesh and blood man lived on the earth and was taken for a real person why all who saw him.

This argument also works for Peter and Paul. There are no versions of the Jesus story in which is top side kick is Harvey rather than Peter. There is no Acts of Irving and Theckla. If you think this I all a bit speculative, it's teir burden of proof.

[1] James Taber, "Quest for the Historical Paul," Bible History Daily, Biblical Archeological Society,(Aug 14, 2014) on line resource URL: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/the-quest-for-the-historical-paul/ core books accepted as authentic by most scholars: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon (50s-60s A.D.)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Stephen Neil, The Interpriation of the New Testament:1861-1961, London: Oxford Univesity press, 1964, 143.

[4]Joseph Hinman, "Richard Carrier: Acts as Historical Fiction, Or Atheit Fictional History. The Religious A Priori, website URL:

http://religiousapriorijesus-bible.blogspot.com/2010/05/richard-carrier-acts-as-historical.html accessed 12/6/15.

Note: my position on Acts is that it is more historically reliable than Taber thinks. Taber doesn't rule it out. I think it's reasonable to see it as "spin" but spin does not mean fiction or lie it means told in such a way as to favor a certain view, not made up from scratch. Taber offers criteria for accepting Acts:

1.Never accept anything in Acts over Paul’s own account in his seven genuine letters.
2.Cautiously consider Acts if it agrees with Paul and one can detect no obvious biases.
3.Consider the independent data Acts provides of interest but not of interpretive historical use.

[5] Gaylia Cornfeld, Archaeology of The Bible: Book by Book. New York: Harper and Row, 1976, 288.

[6]Peder Johan Borgen, David Edward Neotestamentica Et Philonica: Studies in Honour of Peder Borgen, Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklyke.2005, 61.

the fising hooks in fn 90 page 61

[7] Staff writer, "The House of Peter: Home of Jesus in Capernaum," Bible History Daily, (March 29, 2011). on line URL


[8]Peter Richardson and Eugene R.Fairweather, et al. Early Christian Fathers, New York: MacMillian, 1970,45-46.

[9]Peter Kirby quoting Welborn writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 1, p. 1060) in Earky Christian Wriutungs, URL: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/1clement.html

[10]Loisy in Kirby Op.cit.

[11] Richardson, Early Christian Fathers,op. cit., 144.

[12]Alexander Roberts,The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to A. D. 325 .New York:Cosimo, Inc., .edited by Alexander Roberts, 2007, 583.

[13] Richardson, op cit

[14] Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development. Bloomsbury: T&T Clark, 1992, 218.

[15] Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave, A commentary on the Passionnarratives in the Four Gospels. Volume 2. New York: Dobuleday 1994 1322 [15]


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