Peter And Paul

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "How much time did the apostle Paul spend with the apostle Peter?"

I do not know, but it may be worthwhile to look at what the New Testament says about their relationship. Let us trace the activities of Paul, since we know more about his work from Acts and his letters than we do about Peter's and see what we can discover.

We do not know whether Paul's and Peter's paths crossed at all before the conversion of Paul (or Saul). If so, we would doubt that they spent much time together. The first possible time they could have spent together as Christians is in Acts 9:26-30, which tells us that Paul was introduced to the apostles by Barnabas and that Paul was with them at Jerusalem until the Grecian Jews sought to kill him. We do not know how much time that may have been, but it may have been only a very few days, and we do not know how much of that time Paul may have spent with Peter. Actually, the same thing is true of most of the other times they were together.

Acts 11:29-30 and 12:25 records a visit of Paul to Jerusalem along with Barnabas for an unspecified but probably short time, and nothing is said about whether Paul saw Peter on that trip. The next time they met that we know of was at the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15:2-29 and Galatians 2:1-10. Paul was in Jerusalem, again, at the end of his second journey (Acts 18:22), but we do not know anything about this brief visit.

Paul spent about a week in Jerusalem at the end of his third journey (Acts 21-23), during which he must, at least, have seen Peter, since he met with all the elders there (Acts 21:18). However, Peter is never mentioned by name as being with Paul at this time, and this is the last we read in Acts of their potential meetings.

In addition to the Jerusalem conference, the letter to the Galatians mentions two other times Paul was with Peter. Gal. 1:18 says Paul spent 15 days with Peter three years after Paul's conversion (the visit of Acts 9:26-30) or else three years after he returned from Arabia to preach in Damascus (a visit not recorded in Acts). During this visit, Paul stayed with Peter and saw James but none of the other apostles (Gal. 1:19). Another occasion when Paul and Peter were together was at Antioch (Syria) when Paul and Barnabas were preaching there. Gal. 2:11-21 speaks of this as though Peter stayed there for some days (weeks?), long enough to eat with Gentiles on some occasions but refuse to eat with them after some Jewish Christians came down from Jerusalem.

It is possible that Paul's mention of Peter (Cephas) in 1 Cor. 1:12 means that Peter visited and preached at Corinth while Paul was there, and Peter's writing to Christians in Asia Minor (1 Pet. 1:1) and his reference, "our beloved brother Paul" (2 Pet. 3:15), may suggest more working together, but we do not know.

Is it not great that Peter and Paul, as different as they were in so many ways, were willing to work together and spoke highly of each other? Why cannot all Christians do that? 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.


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