Beloved Father and Lord,

Your are the Master of the Universe'time and history are in Your hands.  From the time of the fall of our first parents You set in motion Your divine plan for the salvation of mankind. You promised that from the "seed of the woman" [Genesis 3:15] our redeemer would come. You set aside a family and later from this family You chose –excluding all the other nations on the earth' a people from which our Messiah would descend, a people trained in holiness and prepared through the writings of the prophets so that when the time was fulfilled they would recognize Your Son and our Redeemer.  Father, just as You shepherded and preserved that holy remnant in the Old Covenant Church of Israel, shepherded and preserve the New Israel, Your Church today, and send us the Holy Spirit to shepherd us in our study of the foundation of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ.  We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +


"So we have confirmation of the words of the prophets; and you will be right to pay attention to it as to a lamp for lighting a way through the dark, until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds.  At the same time, we must recognize that the interpretation of Scriptural prophecy is never a matter for the individual.  For no prophecy ever came from human initiative.  When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them." 2 Peter 1:19-21


 "Now an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia; he was her chief treasurer.  He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  The Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join that chariot.' When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?'  He replied, 'How could I, unless I have someone to guide me?'  So he urged Philip to get in and sit by his side.  [...]. (vs34)The eunuch addressed Philip and said, 'Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?'  Starting, therefore, with this text of Scripture Philip proceeded to explain the good news of Jesus to him."  

Acts 8:27b-31, 34-35



When St. Paul composed his letter to the Christians of Rome in the winter of 57/58AD he was writing to the citizens of a city which enjoyed the unique status of being the capital city of the world super power'the Empire of Rome. What began in 753BC as a tiny village of outcasts and refugees on the banks of the Tiber River, 20 miles from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the western Italian peninsula was by the 1st century AD the most wealthy and influential political and cultural power of Western civilization, with a road system that linked Rome to every distant outpost of the Empire and a standard of living that would not be enjoyed by many Western nations from the fall of the Empire in 476AD until the technological advances after World War II. Initially Rome was dominated by the neighboring Etruscan kings but the Romans threw off the yoke of monarchy to establish a republican form of government which lasted from 508BC to 30BC.  After two centuries of political turmoil the great republic essentially died with Julius Caesar's assassination in 44BC, a murder which was ironically perpetrated in order to preserve the Roman Republic.  The ensuing civil war between Caesar's great nephew Octavian and Caesar's chief lieutenant Marc Antony ended in one of the great turning points in history'the sea battle of Actium in 31BC in which the Roman forces loyal to Marc Antony and his lover, Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and Cleopatra's Egyptian navy were defeated by the Roman forces led by Julius Caesar's great-nephew and heir, Octavian.  In 27BC, worn out from two centuries of civil war, the Roman Republic died with a feeble whimper when the Roman Senate elected Julius Caesar's great nephew Octavian, who adopted the title Caesar Augustus, "first citizen" for life and so engineered the death of the Roman Republic with the birth of the Roman Imperial Empire.  It was in the reign of Augustus that the hinge of all human history would turn in the Incarnation of God the Son, born of a virgin in the village of Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judea just as prophesized by Yahweh's prophet Isaiah in the 8th century BC [Isaiah 7:14] and the prophet Micah in the 6th century BC [Micah 5:1-3].


In the mid first century AD The Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the north to the banks of the Danube River in the East, across Greece and Asia Minor to Syria and the Euphrates River to Egypt and North Africa in the south'controlling 10 provinces including the province of Judea, formerly the Kingdom of Judah, conquered by the Roman general Pompey in 63BC. Under Roman domination the Kingdom of Judea had at first been governed by the last of the legitimate line of Hasmonean Jewish kings under the authority of a Roman "advisor" but in 37BC a client king, Herod an Idumean, was appointed King of the Jews by his friend and patron Marc Antony.  Upon Herod's death his kingdom was divided among his sons but after the ineffectual rule of his eldest surviving son, Archelaus, the major portion of the province of Judea fell under the direct control of a Roman prefect or governor who ruled the province from the Roman central headquarters at Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It was the Roman governor Pontus Pilate who condemned Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified in 30AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of this emperor [Luke 3:1, 23; also see the footnotes at the end of this lesson].

LIST OF 10 IMPERIAL PROVINCES in the first century AD













1. Herod the Great died (4BC ?) 1BC

5. Herod of Chalcis died 48AD

2. Archelaus deposed 6AD

6. Agrippa I died 44AD

3. Herod Antipas exiled 37AD

7. Agrippa II died 100AD

4. Philip Herod died?




Roman Emperor


Ruler in Judea

High Priest

*Boethus Family  +Ananus Family

Date of High Priest





















Herod the Great

37BC – 4/1BC








Archelaus, son of Herod

Ruled 4/1BC deposed by Romans after 2 years.  Herod's heirs Antipas, Agrippa I*, Herod of Chalcis, ruled the Galilee, & other territories


-Aristobulus (Hasmon prince and brother-in-law of Herod

-Jesus, son of Phabi

-Simon son of Beothus*

-Matthias son of Theophilus*

-Joseph son of Elam

-Joazar son (?) of Boethus*

-Eleazar brother of Joazar*



(Romans appoint High Priests)













































-Coponius (Prefect)


-Ambibulus (Prefect)


-Rufus (Prefect)


-Gratus (Prefect)


-Pilate (Prefect)


-Marcellus (Prefect )


-Marullus (Prefect)


-Joazar (reappointed)*

- Annas son of Seth +

(in Greek = Ananus)



-Ishmael son of Phabi

-Eleazar & Simon sons of Annas+

-Caiaphas son-in-law of Annas+


-Johathan, son of Annas+

-Theophilus, son of Annas+

-Matthias son of Annas+


















-Herod Agrippa I


(Matthias continues as High Priest)



















-Cuspius Fadus (Prefect)


-Tiberius-Alexander (P)


-Ventidius Cumanus (P)

-Marcus Antonius Felix

(Prefect) 52-60AD

-Porcius Festus (Prefect) 61-62AD

-Albinus (Prefect) 62-64

-Gessius Florus (Prefect) 64-66AD




-Ananias son of Nebedaeus


-Ishmael son of Phabi




-Annas son of Annas+











Michal Hunt,Copyright © 2000 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.




St Paul to the Christians in Rome: "I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is talked of all over the world."  Romans 1:8


St. Paul's letter to the Church of Philippi from his Roman prison: "All God's holy people send you their greetings, especially those of Caesar's household." Philippians 4:22


Catholic historians positively affirm that St. Peter pastored the Church at Antioch, Syria before he went to fulfill his mission in Rome.  Antioch was the third most important city in the Empire after Rome and Alexandria, Egypt.   It was the capital of the Eastern Empire in the first century AD. Bishop Eusebius [4th century] stated that Peter was at Antioch 7 years and in Rome 25 years.  St. Gregory the Great also affirmed this testimony that Peter was first at Antioch when he recorded that "the Prince of Apostles was Bishop of that city [Antioch] for seven years." [Lives of the Saints, Fr. Hugo Hoever, page 82].  Most modern scholars date Peter's departure from Antioch for Rome between the years 42-44AD.  St. Jerome, writing in the 4th century, preferred the earlier timeframe and dates Peter's arrival in Rome in the year 42AD.


In Acts 12:17 St. Luke records that Peter left Jerusalem "for another place," but does not identify that "place" as either Antioch or Rome.  It is possible that for Peter's protection the Holy Spirit inspired writers did not wish to disclose his location or movements, after all the Apostle James Zebedee had been executed in 42AD and the execution of the other Apostles, with the exception of John, would follow.  Peter would have been a "marked man" as the leader of this new religion.  Peter maintains this secrecy about his location in his letter to the universal Church in 1 Peter 5:13 where he writes, "Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings, so does my son, Mark."  In this passage Peter is identifying a faith community in the feminine [Bride of Christ]. It is unlikely Peter is referring literally to the Mesopotamian city Babylon whose influence ceases near the end of the first millennium BC.  The Greek geographer Strabo who died circa 24AD traveled to the site of the fabled city and reported that it was only a disappointing ruin.  It would not have fit the pattern of the early Church leaders to establish a faith community in a ruin; instead the Apostles were drawn to large population centers as a more effective means of fulfilling the mission to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Early churches were established in each of the Roman regional capitals and trading centers of Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and North Africa.  It is more likely that Peter is referring to Rome as Babylon.  We also know from the testimony of the Church fathers that John Mark was Peter's secretary in Rome and we also know that it was common to use the name of an unholy city in both the Old and New Testaments to refer to a contemporary unholy city or country in much the same way we might refer to Las Vegas as Sodom.  In Ezekiel chapter 16 the prophet Ezekiel repeatedly refers to the apostate nation of Judah as a whore he calls "Sodom" who chases after false gods like a harlot chases after her lovers, and in Revelation 14:8; 16:19; and 17:5 the name "Babylon" is used in the same way for the city of Jerusalem.   We also have St. Clements's first century testimony, as quoted in Eusebius' Church History, that Peter was writing this letter not from Babylon but from Rome.  Eusebius writes in 2.15.4 "It is said also that Peter's First Epistle, in which he makes mention of Mark, was composed in Rome itself; and that he himself indicates this, referring to the city figuratively as Babylon...".  And in 2.14.6 Eusebius writes: "For immediately, during the reign of Claudius, the all-good and gracious Providence, which watches over all things, led Peter, that strongest and greatest of the Apostles, and the one who on account of his virtue was the speaker for all the others, to Rome against this great corrupter of life.  He like a noble commander of God, clad in divine armor, carried the costly merchandise of the light of the understanding from the East to those who dwelt in the West, proclaiming the light itself, and the Word which brings salvation to souls, and preaching the Kingdom of Heaven."


Even Protestant scholars cannot deny Peter's presence in Rome.  Respected Protestant theologian and historian Adolph Harnack writes, " deny the Roman stay of Peter is an error which today is clear to every scholar who is not blind.  The martyr death of Peter at Rome was once contested by reason of Protestant prejudice."  And Protestant theologian H. Lietzmann has come to the same conclusion, supporting Peter's presence in Rome by affirming that reliable written testimony from as early as the year 170AD concerning the graves of both Peter and Paul at Rome are historically correct.  This historical event is also reported in an even earlier document from the 1st century in Clement 5:24 which relates eyewitness accounts of the martyrdoms of both Peter and Paul in Rome [Pope St. Clement martyred circa 96AD].  There is also Bishop Eusebius' written account in Church History, 2.25.1-8 in which he quotes as a source, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth [c. ?160s-190s?], and St. Peter's tomb under the High Altar at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was discovered in 1939.  The bones, wrapped in purple cloth, were of a robust elderly man who had been crucified and whose bones were broken at the ankles with his feet missing.  According to the history of the Church, St. Peter requested to be crucified up-side down because he was not worthy to be raise on the Cross in the same manner as his Savior.  To remove the dead body it is more than likely that the Roman soldiers would have simply chopped down the corpse of an up-side body at the feet.  Peter's crucifixion fulfilled Jesus' prophecy of his death by crucifixion in John 21:18.


At the time St. Paul was writing his letter to the Christians in Rome in the winter of 57/58AD the Church in Rome was composed of both Jewish and Gentile New Covenant believers, some of whom were members of the "household" of the Roman Emperor Nero [ruled 54-68AD; see Philippians 4:2] who were worshiping in several church homes of Roman citizens. One such home was the residence of the Roman senator Pudens and another in the palace of the Roman matron Claudia. The Martyrologyies of Rome record the Natal Days of the early saints and mention the Pudens family, "May 17: Natal Day of the Blessed Pudens, father of Praxedes and Pudentiana.  He was clothed with Baptism by the Apostles, and watched and kept his robe pure and without wrinkle to the crown of a blameless life."  The Martyrologies also record that Pudens recovered the body of St. Paul after his execution by the Roman authorities in c. 67AD and interred it on his estate on the Via Ostiensa road.


At the time Paul wrote to the Church in Rome Christians were not burdened with any organized persecution from the Roman authorities. In fact, St. Paul had found some Roman officials not only fair minded but interested in hearing the Gospel.  One such official was the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus who summoned Sts Paul and Barnabas during their mission in Cyprus, asked to hear the word of God and became a believer [see Acts 13:4-12].  Most Romans considered Christians to be a sect of the Jewish religion and viewed both with mild contempt.  The New Covenant people's chief enemies were, in fact, their Old Covenant brothers who murdered Sts Stephen [circa 35/37], James the Apostle [circa 42AD; Acts 12:1-3], and James Bishop of Jerusalem [62AD; Antiquities of the Jews, 20.196-200] and regularly stoned Christian missionaries like St. Paul and denounced them to the Roman authorities [Acts 14:19-20; etc.]. Feuding between Christians and Jews had become so troublesome in Rome that during the reign of the Emperor Claudius circa 49AD both Jews and Christians had been expelled from the city [see Acts 18:1-2; Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4].  However, state organized persecution of Christians was not initiated until 64AD when the Roman Emperor Nero blamed Christians of the city for the devastating fire that destroyed much of the city of Rome.  This was a man who carried the blood of the mortal enemies Marc Antony and Octavian in his veins and the result was "bad-blood" indeed!


But why was it that the Church in Rome came to hold the distinction as the geographic center of the New Covenant faith of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as Jerusalem had been designated the center of the Old Covenant faith?  Are there any Biblical passages that identify Rome as part of God's plan for the fulfillment of the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham and are these prophecies part of Paul's great desire to form a relationship with the Christians of Rome of whom he writes "your faith is talked of all over the world" [Romans 8:1]?





"From the beginning until 'the fullness of time,' the joint mission of the Father's Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work.  God's Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah.  Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation.  So, for this reason when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, 'who has spoken through the prophets,' wants to tell us about Christ." CCC# 702


Jesus to the Apostles in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday: "Then he told them, 'This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.'  He then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures... .'"  Luke 24:44-45


[St. Peter writing of Jesus Christ] "You have not seen him. Yet you love him and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.  This salvation was the subject of the search and investigation of the prophets who spoke of the grace you were to receive, searching out the time and circumstances for which the Spirit of Christ, bearing witness in them, was revealing the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow them.  It was revealed to them that it was for your sake and not their own that they were acting as servants delivering the message which has now been announced to you by those who preached to you the gospel through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  Even the angels long ago catch a glimpse of these things." 1 Peter 1:8-12


The first promise of a future Redeemer is found in Genesis 3:15 where Yahweh curses the serpent in 3:14 and promises in 3:15, "I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers [her seed]; it [he, she, or it = indefinite pronoun] will bruise [crush] your head and you will strike its [his] heel."  Note: "to strike the heel" is an idiomatic expression indicating violence.  Jesus uses this expression in John 13:18 when referring to Judas' betrayal where the literal translation is "He who eats bread with me lifts up against me his heel."  [the words in the brackets provide the literal translation]. 


Initially this curse/prophecy seems to be directed to the serpent and the woman Eve.  The "seed" or children of the serpent are humans who reject the One True God and therefore choose the serpent as their father [see Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7]. As in English, "seed" can be understood in the individual or collective sense.  Eve, the first to bear the title "woman", gave birth to generations of children by the laws of nature through intercourse with her husband, Adam, and the line of those children who remained in a covenant relationship with Yahweh lived in opposition to the "seed" of Satan.   But what about the curious wording "seed" of the Woman?  Does a woman have "seed" and can she give birth to a child/children without the "seed" of a man? This is the verse that the Fathers of the Church saw as the prophecy of a future redeemer and therefore the Church calls this passage, Genesis 3:15 the Protoevangelium, which means "the first good news" because it is the first announcement in Scripture of the promise of a future redeemer.


The promise of this future redeemer who will "crush the head of the serpent" implies that there will also be a "woman" who will bear this son without the "seed" of a man.  Other than Eve, who Adam first calls "woman" in Genesis 2:23, and later names Eve, "mother of all-living" in 3:20, there is only one other woman who has borne the title "Woman".  "Woman" was the first woman's origin and "Eve" was her destiny as the "mother of all living. Who is the only other woman in Salvation History who shared these titles?  The Virgin Mary is addressed as "Woman" by Jesus in John 2:4 at the Wedding at Cana and then again from the Cross in John 19:26-27 when Jesus gives His Mary to be the mother of the "beloved disciple" who represents the Church, making His Mother the Mother of all New Covenant believers'those who live eternally.  What links these two passages is not only that Mary is being addressed by the title "Woman", which links her to Genesis 3:15, but both these episodes involve the creation of a family'the first is the wedding at Cana in which the marriage is the beginning of the promise of a family and the second is the creation of a family by adoption when the children of the New Covenant, through their "brother" Jesus become children of God and thereby Mary's children.  It is here that Mary's destiny is defined as the Mother of the Church.  "Woman" was her origin from Genesis 3:15 and to be the Mother of "all who will live eternally" is her destiny.  The Fathers of the Church saw Mary as the "New Eve" and the promised "Woman" of Genesis 3:15.  In the late 100's Bishop Irenaeus, one generation from the Apostles, wrote "Thus the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith." [Against Heresies 3.22.4].


CCC# 411: "The Christian tradition sees in this passage [Genesis 3:15] an announcement of the 'New Adam' who, because he 'became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,' makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam.  Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the 'new Eve.'  Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ's victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life." Also see CCC# 70; 410; 489.


However, in order to preserve this line from which the Messiah would come God would have to preserve the promise seed from the line of Adam through his son Seth and later choose from among his descendants through Noah and his righteous firstborn Shem, a man to father the people from which "the Woman" and her Son would come.  This people would have to be set apart from all other nations.  They would have to be instructed in holiness and taught through God's prophet to recognize the promised Messiah when the time for His coming had been fulfilled. 

Question: Who was the man God chose to be the physical father of this people?

Answer:  Abraham, descendant of Noah's righteous son Shem.  It is through Shem that God's Covenant with Noah will continue and Scripture records this continuation of the holy seed through Shem in Genesis 9:26 when Noah prophesizes, "Blessed be Yahweh, God of Shem." Yahweh will establish the continuation of this covenant bond by forming a 3-fold covenant with Shem's descendant Abram [Abraham] within Shem's lifetime [see the Salvation History study, Lesson #4 and the Chart of Shem vs. Melchizedech in the Chart section].


What did St. Paul understand about the significance of Abrahamic Covenant fulfilled in the New Covenant in Christ?  Turn in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 12



St. Paul writing to the Church of Galatia circa 54AD: "And simply by being Christ's you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise."  Galatians 3:29


Please read Genesis 12:1-3

Question: What were the 3 blessings Yahweh promised to Abram/Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3?

Answer: "Yahweh said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your kindred and your father's house for a country which I shall show you; and I shall make you a great nation.  I shall bless you and make your name famous; you are to be a blessing!  I shall bless those who bless you, and shall curse those who curse you, and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you."



1. "I shall make you a great nation": This is the promise of a nation or kingdom that will belong to Abram's descendants and over which they will rule.

2. "I shall bless you and make your name famous": This is the promised of the blessing of descendants.  A man's name was carried on by his offspring.

3. "All the nations on earth will bless themselves by your descendants":  This is the promise of a world-wide blessing that will come from the children of Abram.

These promises will become the 3-fold Covenant with Abram and his "seed"/descendants in chapters 15, 17 and 22, a period that covers approximately 40 years. 


1.     "I shall make you a great nation": Genesis 15:18 "That day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram in these terms: 'To your descendants I give this country, from the River of Egypt to the Great River [Nile to Euphrates]". This promise is repeated in Genesis 17:6-8, and 22:17.  =Abram is promised land/ a kingdom,

2.     "I shall bless you and make your name [shem] famous": Genesis 15:4-5 and in Genesis 17:4-8 Yahweh promises Abram: "And I shall grant a covenant between myself and you, and make you very numerous..." (verses 6-7) "I shall make you exceedingly fertile. I shall make you into nations, and your issue will be kings.  And I shall maintain my covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, as a covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.."  Also see Genesis 22:17, "I will shower blessings on you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore."  Abram is promised descendants, and

3.      "You are to be a blessing!" : Genesis 22:18 "Your descendants will gain possession of the gates of their enemies.  All nations on earth will bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed my command." Abram's obedience will result in a world-wide blessing.


Question: Are any of these promises/Covenant blessings fulfilled in Abraham's lifetime?

Answer: No.  Numerous descendants, dominion over the land, nations, and kings, will be partially fulfilled after Abraham's death in the formation of the nation of Israel and the conquest of the Promised Land.  In the 10th century BC the territory from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates will belong to David's kingdom and his son Solomon, but the nation of Israel did not extend to the Nile River.  All three blessings/ covenant promises will only be completely fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, descendant of Abraham through His mother Mary.


CCC# 706: "Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Abraham's progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed.  This progeny will be Christ himself, in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will 'gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.'  God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and 'the promised Holy Spirit...[who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.'"


Question: How are these covenant blessings promised Abraham perfectly fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah? What is the land/kingdom He will establish?  Who are the descendants and what is the world-wide blessing for all nations?


1.      Land: Jesus established the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, a kingdom we, as his heirs, have inherited as a royal priesthood of believers in the New Covenant. We took possession of this covenant promise on Pentecost Sunday ca. 30 AD when God the Holy Spirit came down in fire on the New Covenant Church praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.  Today, all nations of the earth have Christians living in them, lighting the way to salvation.


2.      Numerous descendants: All New Covenant believers, through the blood of Christ our Savior, have become Abraham's children and these children come from every nation on the earth.  St Paul in his letter to the gentiles and Jews of the New Covenant Church in Rome wrote about God's covenant promises to Abraham in Romans 4:16 "That is why the promise is to faith, so that it comes as a free gift and is secure for all the descendants, not only those who rely on the Law but all those others who rely on the faith of Abraham, the ancestor of us all (as Scriptures says: 'I have made you the father of many nations').  Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into existence what does not yet exist."  In Romans 9:6-8 Paul refers to God's instructions to Abraham in Genesis 21:12 that spiritual descent takes precedence over physical descent: "It is not that God's promise has failed.  Not all born Israelites belong to Israel, and not all the descendants of Abraham count as his children, for Isaac is the one through whom your Name ["shem" in Hebrew] will be carried on.  That is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs."


3.      Worldwide blessing: In Galatians 3:6-9 and in verse 29, Paul writes about the fulfillment of both the promises of descendants and worldwide blessing:" Abraham, you remember, put his faith in God, and this was reckoned to him as uprightness.  Be sure, then, that it is people of faith who are the children of Abraham.  And it was because Scripture foresaw that God would give saving justice to the gentiles through faith, that it announced the future gospel to Abraham in the words: 'All nations will be blessed in you.  So it is people of faith who receive the same blessings as Abraham, the man of faith." And simply by being Christ's, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise."  And continuing in verse 29 Paul writes: "And simply by being Christ's you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise."  In this last verse Paul is referring to the 3-fold promise of the Covenant with Abraham. 


Something to think about: The promises of Abraham's 3-part Covenant would not be perfectly fulfilled until the coming of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, approximately 2,000 years after Abraham's death.  If it took 2,000 years for the promise of Abraham's Covenant to be fulfilled does it seem so strange that we have been waiting almost 2,000 years for the promise of the Messiah's return?


Of the three blessings or promises God made to Abraham that became a 3-fold Covenant in Genesis chapters 15, 17 and 22, the promise of descendants and a nation were only partially fulfilled in the creation of the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai.  The promise of the world-wide blessing had not been fulfilled through the physical sons and daughters of Abraham at the time of the coming of the Messiah.  This promise would be fulfilled by spreading the Gospel message of salvation to every corner of the world by the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, the New Covenant believers of the Kingdom of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.  After the Second Great Pentecost in the spring of 30AD [the First Great Pentecost had been at Mt. Sinai; see Exodus 19-24], God the Holy Spirit would call physical and spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham to carry the world-wide blessing to nations of the earth.  St. Paul would be personally commissioned by Jesus and anointed by the Holy Spirit to carry the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentile nations of the Roman Empire. [For more information of God's Covenant with Abraham see the Salvation History Bible study, lesson # 4: Abraham the 3-Fold Promises and #5: Abraham and the 3-Fold Covenant Continues].


The promise of the 3-fold Covenant with Abraham is the first evidence Old Testament prophecy that points to the New Covenant believers, "as numerous as the stars of the heavens, establishing a Kingdom'the New Covenant Church-- from which all the world would be blessed [see Jeremiah 31:31-34]. 

Question: In Isaiah 51:1-2 with what does Yahweh compare Abraham?  What is the significance of this symbolic reference?

Answer: "Consider the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug.."  Abraham is the "rock" of the Old Covenant from which the people of God are "hewed", or physically descend.  "Rock" is also one of Yahweh's titles, for example read Psalms 18:2 and Deuteronomy 32:4 "He is the Rock, His work is perfect."  Deuteronomy chapter 32 records the "Song of Witness" that the Children of Israel are commanded to sing at every Sabbath liturgy, God is called "Rock" five times.  In sharing the title "rock" with Abraham Yahweh, who is the Father of all mankind, is sharing Himself in a mystical way with a man who will be come the human father of His holy people.  In 1 Corinthians 10:4 St. Paul also tells us that Jesus is "the Rock" who gave life giving water to the children of Israel on their wilderness journey to the Promised Land.


The next Covenant promise that looks forward to Jesus' Kingdom of Heaven on earth is the Covenant promise made to David in 2 Samuel chapter 7 and is also recorded in 1 Chronicles chapter 17.

Please read 2 Samuel 7:1-17:  YAHEWH'S COVENANT WITH DAVID

"Your dynasty and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be for ever secure."  2 Samuel 7:16-17


 Yahweh's Holy Temple in Jerusalem: Please read Genesis 22:1-18; Deut. 12:11; 2 Samuel 24:21; 1Chronicles 21:18-22:1; 2, and 2 Chronicles 3:1.


Yahweh promises David that his kingdom will last forever in 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and in 1 Chronicles 17:1-15.  In 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 Yahweh promises David: "Yahweh moreover tells you that he will build you a dynasty.  And when your days are over and you have gone to join your ancestors, I shall appoint your heir'who will be one of your sons'to succeed you, and I shall make his sovereignty secure.  He will build a temple for me and I shall make his throne secure forever.  I shall be his father and he will be my son, and I shall not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor.  I shall set him over my temple and kingdom forever and his throne will be for ever secure."  This prophecy was only partially fulfilled in David's son Solomon.

Question: Where does God instruct David to command his son Solomon to build His Temple?  What significant event occurred at this site during Abraham's lifetime?  See 2 Chronicles 3:1.

Answer:  The Temple is to be built on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem'the former site of a threshing floor when the grain that is harvested is separated from the unusable shaft or stubble.  "Solomon then began building the house of Yahweh in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah where David his father had had a vision'on the site which David prepared'on the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite."  It is the site where Abraham was commanded by God to offer his only beloved son Isaac in sacrifice [Ishmael was exiled from the family].  The site of Golgotha, the crucifixion site of Jesus Christ, the beloved, only begotten Son of God is part of Mt. Moriah but just below the site of the Temple.


The Temple in Jerusalem will be built in the 10th century BC by King Solomon [Solomon ruled c. 970-930BC; see 1 Kings 5:15-8:13; 2 Chronicles 3:1-6:2, & 7:1-8:16].  The physical rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant'the earthly throne and place of the presence of God'will rest is called the ebensheteyah, the "foundation stone".  Today you can see what is believed to be this stone under the Moslem shrine known as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.  The Holy of Holies of the Temple stood on the ebensheteyah. It is the flat stone outcropping, the highest point on Mt. Moriah, and is approximately 30 feet x 30 feet, the dimensions of the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple.


Question: Was Yahweh's Covenant promise to David ever fulfilled?

Answer: The Covenant promise of David's everlasting kingdom would be not be fulfilled in his lifetime, nor in the lifetime of his son Solomon but St. Paul would become a part this promise fulfilled in the establishment of God's Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the universal Church, ruled by David's descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, as Peter preached in his first great homily on Pentecost Sunday and the birth of the New Covenant Church: "Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried; his tomb is till with us.  But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, he spoke with foreknowledge about he resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not see corruption.  God raised this man Jesus to life, and of that we are all witnesses.  Now raised to the heights by God's right hand..."  Acts 2:29-33


The books of the Prophets use symbolic imagery like brides and beast, harlots and horses, vines and vipers to express Yahweh's relationship, or lack of relationship, with His Covenant people [see the Bible study: How to Study the Books of the Old Testament Prophets].  Two exceptions are the Book of the Prophet Jonah, which prefigures Christ's redemption of the Gentile nations and the Book of the Prophet Daniel which provides a historical countdown to the coming of the Messiah.  Among the prophetic books Daniel is the only prophetic book besides Isaiah that reveals a suffering Messiah who would die for His people.



The Prophet Daniel received prophecies from the late 7th century to the mid 6th century BC.  The visions Daniel received concern 4 historical empires that succeeded each other before the coming of the Messiah.

Vision of Daniel chapter 2: The Statue: "what is to take place in the final days" [2:28] circa 604BC [2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign].  Daniel 2:29-45


THE STATUE                                    PROPHECY OF EMPIRES                         .

1. Head of fine gold:

2:31-32, 38

Babylonian Empire. vs. 38, Daniel to the Babylonian king, "you are the golden head.".

2. Chest and arms of silver: 2:32, 39

Persian Empire.  Cyrus I defeats Babylon in 539BC and transforms a Babylonian provincial kingdom into the Persian Empire.  "And after you another kingdom will rise, not as great as yours." [2:39]


3. Belly and thighs of bronze: 2:33, 39

Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. Persians defeated by Alexander the Great "..then a third [empire] of bronze will rule the whole world" 2:39. After his death the Greeks split into 4 different kingdoms.  Two of those kingdoms, Greek Egypt and Greek Syria fought for control of Judah

4. Legs of iron, feet part iron , part clay

2:33, 40-43

Rome and her province of Judea.  "There will be a 4th kingdom, will crush and break all the earlier kingdoms" 2:40The 4 Greek kingdoms were conquered by Rome in campaigns from 197-63BC.

5. the stone that struck the statue

2:34-35, 44-45

The Everlasting Kingdom: "..the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will  shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last forever"  [2:44-45].  The Kingdom of Heaven on earth = the New Covenant Church.  The stone that struck the statue = Jesus "the cornerstone"

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2000, revised 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


The Persians, the Greeks and the Romans are the 3 historical kingdoms that succeeded the Babylonian Empire.  Each of these historical empires fulfills the prophecy of Daniel.

Question: If the 4th Kingdom is Rome with the legs of iron, to what does the part iron part clay refer?  Hint: God is the potter and His holy people the clay [Isaiah 64:8].

Answer: The Davidic Kingdom of Judah had become the Roman province of Judea.  The Jewish authorities worked in cooperation with the pagan Roman government'they even made sacrifices to Yahweh on behalf of the Roman Caesar at Yahweh's Temple and the crowd cried out against Jesus at his trial before the Roman governor Pilate in John 19:15, "We have no king but Caesar!"

Question: What is the 5th kingdom which will follow the empire of the Romans which will never be destroyed and is promised to conquer all other kingdoms and last forever?  See promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7.

Answer: The Kingdom of Heaven on earth'the universal Church which is the everlasting Kingdom ruled by a Davidic descendant.  Note: In the significance of numbers in Scripture, the number 5 symbolizes power and grace.


Question: In Daniel 2:34-35 "a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and clay and shattered them."  The pervious kingdoms were like chaff on the threshing-floor and the "stone" grew into a great mountain, filling the whole world.  How does Daniel interpret this part of the dream in verses 44-45 and what is the significance of the mention of the threshing-floor and the mountain?  See 2 Chronicles 3:1. 

Answer:  The threshing floor is a reference to the Old Covenant Temple, the house or presence of God in Jerusalem which was built on what was a threshing-floor, becoming the great store house of God, who would separate the good from the bad'the wheat from the chaff [see Matthew 13:30, 36-43].  The great mountain is a symbolic reference to the New Covenant Church which will become the "great mountain filling the whole world."

Question: Who is the stone which broke away [from the old mountain/ Old Covenant]?  Read Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:13-15; 28:16; Zechariah 3:1-10; Matthew 21:42-46; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Romans 9:30-33

Answer: The stone is Jesus the Messiah.  In His Incarnation the Temple no longer had any meaning'the presence of God was with us physically and spiritually in the man/God Jesus of Nazareth.

References to "mountain" in Sacred Scripture have theological significance.  The great revelations of God are always associated in some way with a mountain: Eden, Ararat and the Ark, Mt. Sinai and the first Church, Mt. Moriah and Abraham's test and the Temple, the Mt. of Transfiguration, etc.  See a complete list in the Charts section.


Compare the historical progression of the world powers that controlled the Holy Land with Daniel's vision in chapter 7.

Vision of Daniel chapter 7:1-9, The 4 Beasts: [circa 555BC]

            BEAST                                                           EMPIRE

1. Lion with wings

Babylon [Lion with wings was the royal symbol of Babylon]

2. Bear with 3 ribs in its mouth

Persians conquer the 3 provinces of Babylon: Lydia in 546BC; Babylon in 539BC; and Egypt in 525BC.

3. Leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads

Alexander the Great and his 4 generals who won his victories and who will divide his empire into 4 smaller empires

4. 4th beast with  iron teeth &10 horns

Rome with her 10 client kings who rule her 10 provinces [or perhaps the10 Caesars from Augustus Caesar and the birth of Christ to Vespasian and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant in 70AD]

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2000, revised 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


In Daniel chapter 7:9-10, in another vision the 4th Kingdom is represented as a beast more terrible than all the others with 10 horns which could represent Rome's 10 provinces or even the 10 Roman emperors. The "little horn" in verse 8 could be the Emperor Nero who came to the throne as a teenager and was the first Roman emperor to vigorously persecute Christians.  The three Roman emperors before him had all died violently: the pedophile Tiberius smothered on his sick-bed, the insane Caligula murdered by his guard, and deformed Claudius poisoned by his wife, Nero's mother.  Nero had the dubious distinction of being a great-great grandson of both Octavian [Augustus Caesar] and his arch enemy, Marc Antony.  Nero, cruel and conscienceless, murdered both his mother and his pregnant wife.  He was full of boasts, considering himself a great artist, musician, and divine genius.  He competed in the Olympics as a charioteer, failed to finish the race, and took first prize.


 Beginning in Daniel 7:9 the prophet Daniel has a vision of the heavenly throne room where God sits in judgment on mankind: "The court was in session and the books lay open."  The "books" are the Book of Life, a record of the names of the redeemed, and the Book of Works [see Revelation 20:12]. And then in Daniel 7:13-14 the prophet has a vision of one like "a son of man".  Other descriptions of the heavenly court of Yahweh are found in Exodus 24:9-11; Isaiah 6:1-9; Ezekiel 1:4-28, 10:1-17; and Revelation chapters 4-5.


 "Son of Man" was Jesus' favorite title for Himself'He uses it at least 30 times to describe Himself in the Gospels and that He intended the title "Son of Man" be linked to this vision in the Book of Daniel is evident at His trial before the Sanhedrin when He quotes part of this passage concerning the "son of man"; "And the high priest said to him, 'I put on you an oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus answered him, 'It is you who say it.  But, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.'  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has blasphemed.  [...].  He deserves to die.'"  [Matthew 26:63-66].  Immediately the High Priest realizes Jesus is declaring that He is the divine Messiah of Daniel 7:14.  The High Priest tears his garments and declares Jesus guilty of blasphemy [see Matthew 26:64] for claiming to be a divine Messiah. 

Question: How is it that Daniel sees the one like a "son of man" in his vision, and to whom is He presented and what honor is He given?  Has this vision been fulfilled?

Answer: It is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in the Ascension who is taken up to heaven in a cloud [see Acts 1:9 & 2:34-35] to come before God the Father and to take His place on the right hand of God.


7:23-28 Daniel has a more complete vision of the 4th Kingdom and the tribulation which the "holy ones of the Most High" would have to endure.  Paul and the other disciples would have seen these passages fulfilled in their lifetime.  Please read Daniel 7:15-28



Daniel receives a vision of "Holy Ones of God" who must endure tribulation and suffering before victory and a kingdom will be given to them [Daniel 7:25-27]. While in prayer for the sins of his people Daniel receives a prophecy delivered by the angel Gabriel [Daniel 8:15-9:27] which concerns a divine Messiah, one who is like "a son of man", a Messianic prince, an Anointed One who suffers and dies "outside the city" [9:25-26].  Gabriel is only mentioned 4 times in Scripture:

  1. interprets Daniel's vision in chapter 8 [8:15-26]
  2. Daniel's vision of the suffering Messiah [9:20-27]
  3. He delivers the message of John the Baptist's birth [Luke 1:19], and
  4.  He announces of the birth of the Messiah to Mary [Luke 1:26]. 


Question: In Luke 1:11-19 the priest Zechariah is in prayer for the sins of his people at the hour of sacrifice when the angel Gabriel delivers the news of the birth of a son.  When Zechariah expresses disbelief that in their old age he and his wife will be blessed with a son, what is Gabriel's unusual response and what does his response mean?  Hint see Daniel 8:15-9:27

Answer: Knowing the prophecies of the Prophet Daniel and the passages in which this angel interprets a prophetic vision, Zechariah would have understood that Gabriel's message to him, delivered most likely at the same time of the day that Daniel was praying for the sins of his people'at the hour of the daily sacrifice, is linked to the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom.  Instead of explain God's plan the angel only response with his name: "I am Gabriel who stand in God's presence..."; for Zechariah the revelation of his name would have been enough.



The Kingdom of the Messiah, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth = the Church is patterned after the Davidic Kingdom in fulfillment of the covenant made with David.  Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth/ the Church, and the king's chief minister is his Steward/ Prime Minister or Vicar who rules with the King's authority.  Please see Isaiah 22:20-23 concerning the investiture of Eliakim as Steward/prime minister or Vicar of the King of Judah.

Question: What are the marks of the Eliakim's authority?



Please read Matthew 16:13-20

Question: In this passage Jesus confers upon Simon the title "rock".  Who is the only other man to be called "rock" in Salvation History and what is the connection between these two men?

Answer: Abraham was the physical "rock" from whom the "people of God" of the Old Covenant where hewn while Simon-Peter will become the spiritual rock upon which Jesus will build His Church and Peter will become the spiritual father of the people of the New Covenant.

Question: What signs of authority does Jesus confer upon Simon-Peter and his successors the Popes of the Catholic Church and how do they compare with the signs of authority given to Eliakim in Isaiah chapter 22?


Also see CCC# 552-553; 586; 868; 880-882; Matthew 18:18; Luke 22:29-30; John 20:23


In Matthew 16:17 Jesus refers to Simon-Peter as "Simon son of Jonah" but in John's Gospel he is identified as "son of John" four different times: in 1:42 where Jesus first calls Simon "Rock", Kepha [ka-fah] in Aramaic but translated "Petros" or Peter in the Greek as a masculine title, and later after His Resurrection in John 21:15, 16, and 17 when Jesus invests Peter as shepherd of His flock, the New Covenant Church and commands him to feed and tend both the sheep [the leadership of the Church] and the lambs, the people the sheep must lead.

Question: Is the discrepancy between Matthew 16:17 where Jesus calls Simon "son of Jonah" and the 4 different references to Simon as "son of John" in John's Gospel an example of an error in Scripture or is there another explanation?  See "son of John" references in John 1:42 [where Jesus first gives Simon the title "Rock"]; and John 21:15, 16, 17.

Answer: Since all Scripture is Holy Spirit inspired there cannot be an error in Scripture.  Since John's Gospel identifies Peter as a son of a man named John, or Yehohanan in Hebrew, there must be something significant about Jesus addressing him as the "son of Jonah" in the Matthew passage.



In the Gospel of Matthew Jonah is named 5 times before Jesus calls Simon "son of Jonah":

1. Matthew 12:39

"The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah."

2. Matthew 12:40

"For Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for 3 days and 3 nights, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights."

3. & 4. Matthew 12:41 (twice)

"On judgment day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and they will be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented; and look, there is something greater than Jonah here."

5. Matthew 16:4

"It is an evil and unfaithful generation, and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah."

Matthew 16:17

"Jesus replied, Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man because it was no human agency who revealed this to you but my Father in heaven."


In the Gospel of Luke Jonah is referenced 4 times in 3 verses:

1. Luke 11:29

"The crowds got even bigger and he addressed them, 'This is an evil generation, it is asking for a sign.  The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah."

2. Luke 11:30

"For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation."

3. & 4. Luke 11:32

"On judgment day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented, and look, there is something greater than Jonah here."

Jonah is the only Prophet of God who came from the Galilee

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2004 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.



The story of Jonah foreshadows redemptive work of Jesus Christ.



1. His mission was to go to the capital city of the world super power and call the gentile Assyrians of Nineveh to repentance and acknowledgement of Yahweh as the source of their salvation [Jonah 1:1; 3:1-2].

1. His mission was to call all of mankind, including the gentile nations, to repentance and into Covenant with Yahweh [Matthew 28:18-20].

2. Jonah was willing to sacrifice his life for the salvation of his shipmates [Jonah 1:12].

2. Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life for the salvation of the world [Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 1:29; 1 Timothy 2:6].

3. He was entombed in the belly of a great fish [Jonah 2:1].

3. After Jesus' death He was placed in a tomb [Matthew 27:60; Mark 6:29; Luke 23:53].

4. On the third day Jonah was "resurrected" from the belly of the fish [Jonah 2:11].

4. On the third day Jesus was resurrected from the tomb [Matthew 17:23; 20:19; 28:1-10; Mark 9:31; 10:34; 16:1-7; Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7; 24:46].

5. After his "resurrection" from the belly of the fish, Jonah continued his mission to call the gentile Assyrians to repentance and salvation [Jonah 3:1-3].

5. After His resurrection from the tomb, Jesus continued His mission to found the universal Church and to commission the Apostles to spread the gospel to every nation on earth; it is a mission that continues even after His Ascension [Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:12-20; Luke 24:13-53; Acts chapter 1].

6. Jonah preached that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days if the people did not repent [Jonah 3:4].

6. After His resurrection, Jesus taught the New Covenant Church for 40 days before His Ascension [Acts 1:3].

7. Jonah taught that failure to repent sin brings judgment but salvation is a gift of God [Jonah 1:1; 3:4-5, 9-10]

7.  Jesus taught that failure to repent sin brings judgment but salvation is a gift of God [Matthew 5:21-22; John 5:22-29; 8:34-36; Luke 24:47; John 3:17; 5:34; 10:19; Acts 2:21].

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2005 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.


Question: What then is the connection between Simon-Peter's mission as the Vicar of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, Rome as the geographic center of the New Covenant people of God and Peter's link to the Prophet Jonah?  Hint: what was Jonah's mission?

Answer:  Like Jonah, Simon-Peter will be sent to the capital of the world super-power to bring repentance and salvation. 


The New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ will use the roads and enforced peace of the Roman Empire as the vehicle by which to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the world, fulfilling the promise of the world-wide blessing made to Abraham in the circa the year 2000BC.  Knowing the prophecies of Daniel and the Covenant promises made to David and to Abraham, St. Paul is ready to form a partnership with the New Covenant people of God in Rome and to use the resources of the prophesied, and soon to be defeated 4th kingdom of Rome as the engine by which to spread the good news of salvation in the West and across the known world in fulfillment of the prophecies of the rule and dominion that were promised to the Everlasting 5th Kingdom'the Universal Church! 


Paul to the Christians of Rome: "...I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is talked of all over the world."Romans 8:1


Question for discussion:

Question: When did the Church become both "Roman" and "Catholic?" 

Answer: The oldest existing record of the term "catholic", meaning universal [katholikos from the Greek, which was the international language of the first century Church], used as a title for the Church founded by Jesus Christ is a letter by St. Ignatius Bishop of Antioch.  St. Ignatius, who was martyred circa 107AD, is the third Bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius who was the immediate successor of St. Peter the Apostle.  In his letter to the Church at Smyrna in Asia Minor he wrote, "Wherever the Bishop appears there let the people be, just as where Jesus is there is the Catholic Church" [Ignatius, Smyrn. 8.2].  About 40 years after Bishop Ignatius' letter a document telling the story, in the form of a letter, of the martyrdom of Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna [m. circa 156 at 86 yrs. of age], a disciple of the Apostle St. John, records in the first lines of the document the name of the Church at Smyrna responsible for the writing the account of St. Polycarp's martyrdom and that of the addresses, the Church at Philomelium and "all the communities of the holy and Catholic Church, residing in any place." And writing of the final prayer of the beloved Bishop just before his death the document records "When he had at last ended his prayer, in which he remembered all that had met him at any time'both small and great, both known and unknown to fame, and the whole would-wide Catholic Church'the moment of departure arrived..." [Martyrdom of Polycarp, 8].


 Initially the term "catholic" or "universal" referred to the Church's geographical mission and expansion, as is found in an early baptismal formula written sometime circa the 2nd century AD which states, "the Church is called Catholic because it is throughout the world, from one end of the earth to the other."  As the Church of Jesus Christ grew, retaining its solidarity in belief "Catholic" assumed a more doctrinal connotation and came to describe its universality in the sense of continued obedience and fidelity to the original teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.  In the 3rd century St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage [martyred 258AD] expressed this unity of belief in the document On the Unity of the Catholic Church, where he wrote that Catholic belief was from God because those who professed it were united through Christ in the same unity of belief.  Cyprian also correlated the center of Christianity with the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter's successor the Bishop of Rome and therefore "Roman" with "Catholic" and so from his time forward the two terms were interchangeable [see quotation in footnotes].  Theologians who followed St. Cyprian affirmed this doctrinal universality like the great 5th century theologian Vincent of Lerins [died 434] who defined the Church's catholicity as "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all."  The Roman Catholic Church continues in this tradition, faithfully handing down to the faithful of the universal Catholic Church today the same teaching received from Jesus Christ and given to His Apostles, the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant people of God.



Caesar Augustus died on the 19th of August, 14AD and was succeeded by his step-son Tiberius.  The 15th year of Tiberius reign could therefore be dated from the 19th of August 28AD to the 18th of August 29AD.  However, if the Syrian method of calculating the year is being observed then the 15th year of Tiberius' reign would be from September-October 27 to September-October 28AD. According to Luke 3:23 Jesus began His ministry in His 30th year, in what was the 15th year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius [Luke 23:1], which would make the first year of His ministry, according to our calendar, the year 28AD.  Therefore, if according to John's Gospel Jesus kept 3 Passovers in 3 years of ministry, He died and was resurrected in the spring of 30AD.


The title "Rock" is a common title for Yahweh in the Old Testament [i.e 5 times in the Song of Witness in Deuteronomy 32] and St. Paul identifies Christ as "the Rock" in 1 Corinthians 10:4.  The only other person called "rock" in Sacred Scripture was Abraham in Isaiah 51:1-2.  Abraham was the physical father of the Old Covenant people while Peter is the spiritual father of the New Covenant people, therefore it is fitting that both men were given this title by God.  No document has ever been found where the Hebrew or Aramaic word "rock" has ever been used as a proper name except in the case of Peter.


On the Unity of the Catholic Church, first edition, written in 251AD by St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage.  Chapter 4 [referencing the Gospel of St John 21:15-17]: "And again He says to him after His resurrection: 'Feed my sheep.'  On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity.  Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; put a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair.  So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord.  If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith?  If he deserts the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church? [...].  The church is bathed in the light of the Lord, and pours her rays over the whole world; but it is one light that is spread everywhere, and the unity of her structure is undivided."


RESOURCES used in this lesson:

Lives of the Saints, Fr. Hugo Hoever, Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York, 1967


Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts, Ralph Martin Novak, Trinity Press International, 2001.


The First Christian Centuries: Perspectives on the Early Church, Paul McKechnie, InterVarsity Press, 2001.


Augustus to Constantine: The Rise and Triumph of Christianity in the Roman World, Robert M. Grant, Westminster Press, 2004


Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, MJF Books, New York, 1944.


The Faith of the Early Fathers, volume 1, edited and translated by William Jurgens, The Liturgical Press, 1970.


The Dawn of the Messiah, Edward Sri, Servant Books, 2005


Letter and Spirit, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, 2005


Church History, Bishop Eusebius


The Writings of Clement, Ante-Nicene Fathers

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.