Sunday, 30 October 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 31

Scene from the Amana communities in 19th Century USA

For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time.

One think I love about Balleine is his wide learning. I had never learned about the Amana communities until I read this piece from Balleine.

by G.R. Balleine


Peter's experiment was so short-lived that it is often assumed to have been impracticable; but communities of this type have prospered. Among the Jews the Sect of the Essenes lasted three centuries, and in Philo's day (A.D. 15) had 4,000 members.

`They put whatever they earn,' he wrote, `into a common fund. They have a common storehouse, common expenditure, common raiment, and common food eaten in common meals.'

In the Christian Church the monasteries were another out-standing example. The Rule of St. Benedict ran: `No one shall presume to keep as his own anything whatsoever, neither book, nor tablet, nor pen. All things must be common to all.' The monks lived together, worked together, fed together; and so far from this leading to bankruptcy, it created such wealth that they grew lazy. The economic success of the system led to its undoing.

The Anabaptists were the left wing of the Reformation. By rejecting infant baptism they cut themselves off from their fellow Protestants, and this knit them closely together. In Moravia they had eighty-six colonies, some of which housed 2,000 people. Each had its large dining-hall, its common kitchen, its hospital, its school. They taught that no one is a Christian who does not share with his brethren. These Haushaben lasted a century, and were never more prosperous than when the Counter-reformation Bishops suppressed them for heresy.

A modern example is Amana. In 1842 some German Protestants emigrated to America, and built seven villages in Iowa. They pooled their resources. `In the family of God,' they said, `there is no mine or thine.' The land was worked as the property of all. Meals were eaten in common. And the communist system was strictly maintained till 1932, when the 1,240 members transformed themselves into a co-operative company.

The United States has had other similar colonies. One group built Harmony, another Zoar. In each they started as sturdy individualists; but common hopes drew them so close together, that they dropped private property as a form of selfishness. Both prospered amazingly. Harmony lasted a century, Zoar eighty years; and when they dissolved it was not for economic reasons, but because, like Amana, they lost faith in their fundamentalist theology.


Acts records two visits of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, one (xi. 30 and xii. 25) in 44, when they brought famine relief to the Elders (not to the Apostles, who had probably fled from Herod), another (xv) in 50 to settle the dispute about circumcision of Gentile converts. Which of these visits is described in Galatians ii?

Some say the first. If so, it does not concern our present subject, for in 44 Peter was far from Palestine. But most English scholars believe it was the second, and that is the view taken in the present book. Arguments in its favour can be found in Lightfoot's Galatians and Rackham's Acts of the Apostles.


We have two accounts of this Conference, one in Acts xv, one in Galatians ii. Of these Paul's is clearly the most reliable. He was present at the meeting, and wrote soon after it was over, whereas Luke, writing many years later about things that happened before he became a Christian, had to trust second-hand reports.

He found some Rules for Gentile Christians dealing with food problems: `Abstain from meat which formed part of an idol sacrifice. Avoid food forbidden to Jews, when feeding with Jewish Christians; for example, pork (porneia, fornication, is probably a copyist's slip for porkeia, pork), strangled poultry, and flesh which has not been thoroughly drained of blood.'

He assumed that this list came from the Jerusalem Conference; so he added it to his account. But he must have been mistaken. When Paul reported to Galatia the decisions of the Conference, he not only did not mention these conditions, but said that the only proviso was `that we should remember the poor'.

When he described the dispute with Peter, he never referred to these rules, though they would have settled the question. When writing to Corinth about meat offered to idols, he recommended the very course that these Rules forbade -'Eat and ask no questions, unless you cause a brother to stumble'.

He could not have ignored like this the bargain by which he had bought his converts' freedom. As a guess, these Rules may have been made by Peter for the Antioch Love-Feasts.


When the New Testament canon was formed about 160, numerous Gospels existed. `Many have undertaken,' said Luke, `to write an account of what happened.'

The four that survive are probably those of four of the great Churches. Mark was the Roman Gospel, `John' the Ephesian, Luke probably the Corinthian.

This leaves, since Jerusalem was in ruins, Alexandria and Antioch. Alexandria would never have sponsored so Jewish a Gospel as `Matthew'; so modern scholars regard Antioch as its original home: e.g. McNeile (Introduction to the New Testament), `Antioch is the place that seems to satisfy the conditions best'; Kirsopp Lake (The Beginnings of Christianity),

`The Epistles of Ignatius suggest that "Matthew" is the Antioch Gospel'; Streeter (The Four Gospels), `In the Church in Antioch, a city with an enormous Jewish population, we seem to have just the atmosphere of the Gospel, which, though frankly recognizing that Christianity is for all nations, is saturated with Jewish feeling, and is less touched by the spirit of Paul than any other book in the New Testament.'

Antioch, the third metropolis of the Empire, had a Church of great importance in the second century. If it had a Gospel of its own, it would not have allowed it to be excluded from the Canon.

The statement that Peter was the rock on which the Church was built was probably written in some city where Peter had been head of the Church; and Antioch claimed him as its first Bishop. In this Gospel Peter is specially prominent.

Ignatius, who was Bishop of Antioch, quotes `Matthew' in his letters, `and implies,' says Streeter, `that at Antioch in his day there was only one Gospel recognized as "the Gospel" by the Church'.

The stater, the coin in the fish's mouth, varied in value in different districts. Apparently the only places where it was worth two didrachnrae, the amount of the Temple tax, were Antioch and Damascus.

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