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Peter's escape to Antioch with John-Mark's help

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  • Richard Fellows
    Dear listers, I will argue that after Peter escaped from prison he went to Antioch with John-Mark. Acts 12:25 says that John-Mark accompanied Barnabas and Paul
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 17, 2007
      Dear listers,

      I will argue that after Peter escaped from prison he went to Antioch with John-Mark.

      Acts 12:25 says that John-Mark accompanied Barnabas and Paul from Antioch to Jerusalem. At least this is the plain meaning of the most probable text. The main difficulty is that Mark lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12; 13:13). If Mark was in Antioch before the journey to Jerusalem that is mentioned in Acts 12:25, what was he doing there, and why does Luke not tell us?

      Now, as Stephen Carlson has pointed out, the reading, "he came" in Gal 2:12 is the best attested and harder reading. If we accept this reading, as I think we should, we get the following sequence:
      1. Peter was in Antioch on one occasion and ate with Gentiles at that time. Then he left.
      2. The men 'from James' arrived. (these could be the men from Judea of Acts 15:1).
      3. Peter came to Antioch (again) and Paul opposed him.
      Now this is important because it suggests that Peter visited Antioch at some stage before the Jerusalem council.

      So, we have evidence that both Mark and Peter made early visits to Antioch that Luke does not mention. I would like to offer a simple hypothesis that I think explains why they went to Antioch and why Luke does not mention it. After Peter escaped from prison he went to 'another place'. I suggest that he went to Antioch and was accompanied by Mark.

      It is clear, I think, that when Peter went to 'another place' he was going into hiding. Antioch would have been a likely place for him to go since it was far from Jerusalem and Peter had many friends there. It had been a place of refuge for many of those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen (Acts 11:19). Also, it was a large city so Peter would be able to go un-noticed there.

      Now, after Peter escaped from prison he chose to go only to the house of Mark (or Mark's mother) (Acts 12:12), and I think this is significant. I suggest that Peter chose to go to this house because he wanted Mark to help him escape. Mark would have been able to travel to Antioch without arousing suspicion: he would be able to do so on the pretext that he was visiting his uncle or friend, Barnabas. Also, the house seems to have been large, so we can assume that Mark's household had money to help Peter and Mark escape to Antioch.

      Luke's silences now make perfect sense. If he had mentioned this journey by Peter and Mark to Antioch he would have endangered the church of Antioch and Mark himself (if he was still alive) by revealing to both friends and foes that they had aided a fugitive. Luke, I suggest, chose to protect the identities of those who had helped Peter at this time. His silence about Mark's purpose in Antioch therefore matches his silence about the name of the city that Peter went to.

      Acts 12:25 on its own does not prove that Mark had been in Antioch, and Gal 2:12 on its own does not prove that Peter escaped to Antioch, but the mention of Mark's mother's house in Acts 12:12 ties the two hypotheses together such that they give each other mutual support.

      Any comments?

      Richard Fellows.




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    • Karel Hanhart
      It appears to be a plausible solution, Richard. Peter s going to another place invites the question: to where did he go? Since Herod s arm would be strong
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 26, 2007
        It appears to be a plausible solution, Richard. Peter's going "to another place" invites the question: to where did he go? Since Herod's arm would be strong enough to reach Antioch, the argument for secrecy on Luke's part seems valid. The proposal would strengthen the theory the author of the Gospel was John Mark and worked with Simon Peter, even though he appears to be deeply influenced by Paul.

        cordially

        Karel Hanhart


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Richard Fellows
        To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Monday, December 17, 2007 9:11 AM
        Subject: [XTalk] Peter's escape to Antioch with John-Mark's help


        Dear listers,

        I will argue that after Peter escaped from prison he went to Antioch with John-Mark.

        Acts 12:25 says that John-Mark accompanied Barnabas and Paul from Antioch to Jerusalem. At least this is the plain meaning of the most probable text. The main difficulty is that Mark lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12; 13:13). If Mark was in Antioch before the journey to Jerusalem that is mentioned in Acts 12:25, what was he doing there, and why does Luke not tell us?

        Now, as Stephen Carlson has pointed out, the reading, "he came" in Gal 2:12 is the best attested and harder reading. If we accept this reading, as I think we should, we get the following sequence:
        1. Peter was in Antioch on one occasion and ate with Gentiles at that time. Then he left.
        2. The men 'from James' arrived. (these could be the men from Judea of Acts 15:1).
        3. Peter came to Antioch (again) and Paul opposed him.
        Now this is important because it suggests that Peter visited Antioch at some stage before the Jerusalem council.

        So, we have evidence that both Mark and Peter made early visits to Antioch that Luke does not mention. I would like to offer a simple hypothesis that I think explains why they went to Antioch and why Luke does not mention it. After Peter escaped from prison he went to 'another place'. I suggest that he went to Antioch and was accompanied by Mark.

        It is clear, I think, that when Peter went to 'another place' he was going into hiding. Antioch would have been a likely place for him to go since it was far from Jerusalem and Peter had many friends there. It had been a place of refuge for many of those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen (Acts 11:19). Also, it was a large city so Peter would be able to go un-noticed there.

        Now, after Peter escaped from prison he chose to go only to the house of Mark (or Mark's mother) (Acts 12:12), and I think this is significant. I suggest that Peter chose to go to this house because he wanted Mark to help him escape. Mark would have been able to travel to Antioch without arousing suspicion: he would be able to do so on the pretext that he was visiting his uncle or friend, Barnabas. Also, the house seems to have been large, so we can assume that Mark's household had money to help Peter and Mark escape to Antioch.

        Luke's silences now make perfect sense. If he had mentioned this journey by Peter and Mark to Antioch he would have endangered the church of Antioch and Mark himself (if he was still alive) by revealing to both friends and foes that they had aided a fugitive. Luke, I suggest, chose to protect the identities of those who had helped Peter at this time. His silence about Mark's purpose in Antioch therefore matches his silence about the name of the city that Peter went to.

        Acts 12:25 on its own does not prove that Mark had been in Antioch, and Gal 2:12 on its own does not prove that Peter escaped to Antioch, but the mention of Mark's mother's house in Acts 12:12 ties the two hypotheses together such that they give each other mutual support.

        Any comments?

        Richard Fellows.

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      • Ttimvee@aol.com
        Hi Richard, I really like the proposal, but I have one or two questions which I hope are probing enough. As a general question;- 1. If indeed the reference to
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 1, 2008
          Hi Richard,

          I really like the proposal, but I have one or two questions which I hope are
          probing enough.

          As a general question;-

          1. If indeed the reference to 'another place' is intended to maintain
          secrecy because of a present threat at the time of writing then what does that
          imply about the dating of this passage of Acts at least?

          But against the secrecy theory ...

          2. Wouldn't the very mention that Peter went to a 'named house' in the first
          place have risked uncovering his destination by virtue of the fact that
          Herod would have known who had helped him and subjected them to 'cross
          examination' (nice euphemism!) as well as the guards? In other words, Luke's silence
          might have aided the Church at Antioch but why did he not do the same for the
          Church in Jerusalem, including his mother, which, given Peter's recent
          experience was in even more immediate danger?

          And

          3. Is there any sense in which Galatians 2:11-12 could indicate that the
          Peter/Paul argument occurred in Antioch because of what Peter was doing there,
          while Paul had in fact heard he had done the opposite elsewhere? In other
          words he had not gone to Antioch straight from prison? For the sake of argument,
          presumably Herod would have known of the Church at Antioch, and if as Karel
          has said his arm would have been strong enough to reach there too, that would
          be as good a reason as any for him not going there.

          My first contribution, hope they are not stupid questions!

          Best wishes,

          Tim Vickers
        • Richard Fellows
          Karel Hanhart wrote:
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 1, 2008
            Karel Hanhart wrote:
            <<The proposal would strengthen the theory the author of the Gospel was John Mark and worked with Simon Peter, even though he appears to be deeply influenced by Paul.>>

            Thanks, Karel. I agree. Papias wrote that Mark accompanied Peter and was his interpreter, and that he wrote the gospel. This suggests a close relationship between Peter and Mark (see also 1 Peter 5:13). Papias's witness therefore fits well with the proposal that John-Mark helped Peter escape to Antioch.

            Tim Vickers wrote:
            <<1. If indeed the reference to 'another place' is intended to maintain
            secrecy because of a present threat at the time of writing then what does that
            imply about the dating of this passage of Acts at least?>>

            Good question. Herod died shortly after Peter's escape from prison (see Acts 12:23). Presumably the death of Herod and the passage of time removed the threat to Peter and allowed him to return to Jerusalem, for we find him there in Gal 2:9 and Acts 15:7. But that does not mean that Luke and Paul would thereafter have been free to discuss in writing how Peter had been given refuge by Mark and the Antioch church. If Luke had written about how the church had protected Peter from the authorities, he would have given Christians in general and the Antioch church in particular the reputation for harbouring fugitives, and he did not want to do this. The church needed to keep quiet about the existence of its safe houses so as not to jeopardize their future use. It is interesting that the only place that is mentioned in any of our sources as a place where a Christian fugitive went was the house of Mary the mother of John Mark. By telling this story was Luke giving too much away? I don't think so. Firstly, Luke is silent about any material help that anyone may have given to Peter. Secondly, by the time that Acts was written John Mark's mother was probably dead or had moved away from Jerusalem because of the war of 66-70. Perhaps Luke calls it the house of Mark's mother instead of the house of Mark himself to give Mark himself some additional protection. Anyway, I hope this goes some way towards answering your first two questions.

            You also asked about Gal 2:11-12. To clarify, I believe that Peter came to Antioch twice. The second visit was after Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10 (=Acts 15), and involved the conflict with Paul, and is mentioned in Gal 2:11 and 12b. The first visit, I propose, was when he was in hiding after his escape from prison and is mentioned in Gal 2:12a. The well attested reading "he came" in 2:12b makes 2:11-12 rather clumsy, but this may simply show that Paul is tripping over himself in an attempt avoid making too obvious a reference to Peter's first visit to Antioch.

            Now, the arrival in Antioch of the men "from James" was probably BEFORE Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10 (=Acts 15), for two reasons:
            1. Acts mentions men from Judea coming to Antioch before the council (Acts 15:1,24)
            2. James, who was supportive of Paul's cause (see Acts 15), would surely have learned from his mistake in sending the men of Acts 15:1,24 to Antioch, and would not have sent other members of the circumcision party to Antioch without clear instructions on how to behave there. It is hard to imagine James sending the delegation to Antioch AFTER the events of Acts 15:1-29.

            It seems likely that the Antioch incident was after Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10, so the sequence should be:
            Peter visits antioch and eats with Gentiles, Peter returns to Jerusalem, men from James arrive in Antioch, Paul visits Jerusalem, Peter returns to Antioch and is opposed by Paul.

            All this is important because it lets James off the hook. The men whom he sent to Antioch did not have instruction from him to disturb the believers there (see Acts 15:24).

            You also ask whether Antioch would have been far enough from Herod. Perhaps Karel or others could comment on the evidence that we have about the extent of Herod's reach. At this early date (44) there were Christians in Judea, Samaria, Damascus, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and we have very little evidence of Christians anywhere else. So Peter did not have a large choice of destinations where he had friends who would protect him. Now, of these places, Antioch was the furthest from Jerusalem, so I would think it might be a good choice for a place where Peter could escape Herod. There is another possible reason why Peter may have chosen Antioch. Acts implies that Peter was arrested to please the Jews. Their complaint against Peter may have been that he ate with Gentiles (Acts 11:3). Peter may have felt that he would be safer in Antioch, where the Jews accepted Gentiles into their community. Josephus says of the Jews of Antioch that "they were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves" (BJ 7.45). The Jews of Antioch would be much less likely than the Jews of Judea to turn Peter over to the authorities for extradition, I would think.

            There may be a further instance in Acts where Luke is conspicuously silent about John Mark's residence in Antioch. In 13:5 John Mark is introduced abruptly as accompanying Paul and Barnabas. He is not mentioned as having been appointed by the church of Antioch or as having accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Seleucia or having sailed to Salamis. It makes sense that he was with Paul and Barnabas from the start of their journey in Antioch, but it is odd that Luke does not say so. It is possible, therefore, that this is a further instance where Luke cautiously avoids mentioning the secret stay of Mark and Peter in Antioch.

            After indicating Peter's return to Jerusalem (Acts 15:7) Luke is safe to mention Mark's presence in Antioch at Acts 15:37-39. It is only Mark's earlier visit to Antioch that Luke consistently side-steps. Now, it is interesting that Luke calls him just "Mark" in 15:39, whereas he calls him "John" in 13:5,13 and John Mark elsewhere. This is odd since Luke gives others their Hebrew names in Antioch (Saul, Barnabas, Manaen, and Simeon (not Simon) Niger). However, it makes sense if John Mark was in Antioch to protect Peter. John may have used his lesser known name, "Mark", while in Antioch for his own protection and that of Peter. Indeed, it is possible that John was not previously known as "Mark", but adopted the name as an alias at that time. The double name "John Mark" does not fit the pattern of other double names as the two names have no phonetic resemblance (contrast Saul-Paul, Silas-Silvanus, Joseph-Justus, Jesus-Justus, and Titus-Timothy) and neither name has a significant Christian meaning (contrast Simon-Peter, Joseph-Barnabas, Titus-Timothy, Ignatius-Theophorus etc.). Anyway, whether the name "Mark" was originally adopted as a protective alias or not, Acts 15:39 may be a hint that John chose to go by the name "Mark" in Antioch and this would be consistent with our hypothesis.

            Can anyone recommend any works on fugitives in the ancient world? Did people hide out in large cities or small towns and villages?

            Richard Fellows

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