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Early Church History: Part 7--The Church in Rome

Aug 01, 2007

In Acts 2:10 we find both "Jews and proselytes" from Rome witnessing the fulfillment of Pentecost when they all heard God speaking in their own languages. No doubt Luke included this detail, having specific people in mind. They were probably the first contacts from Rome who kept in touch with Peter, although the Recognitions of Clement, Book II, says that Aquila was "converted to the faith of Christ under the preaching of Zaccheus." Zaccheus was no doubt one of the 120 disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. The same source tells us that Peter later ordained Zaccheus as bishop in Caesarea.

When Peter visited Rome about a dozen years later, some time after the martyrdom of James, the brother of John  (Acts 12:2), it is likely that he held meetings in their home(s).

We find later that Aquila and Priscilla were Christians from Rome. Years later, Paul met them in Corinth, as we read in Acts 18:1, 2,

"After these things, Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth, and found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla; because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome."

The Emperor Claudius had issued his edict in early 52 A.D. Since the Romans still considered Christianity to be a sect of Judaism, this edict affected Christians as well as Jews. Thus, Aquila and Priscilla had moved to Corinth, where Paul later met them.

Later that year, the Romans won their decisive victory against the British and captured the entire royal family of Siluria. Caradoc escaped but was betrayed, and all of them were thus brought to Rome as war-captives. They were still in Rome when Paul penned his letter to the saints in Rome, for he addresses them specifically in Romans 16:7 as "my fellow-prisoners." Bullinger's notes on this tell us that the Greek word used is sunaichmalotos, which he says literally means "a war captive."

Caradoc was the primary war captive, the prize of Rome. Brought to Rome, he was paraded in the streets of the city in the "Roman Triumph," and brought before Claudius for judgment. Caradoc's speech is recorded by the Roman historian, Tacitus. It used to be memorized by British students, much like their American counterparts memorized Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Tacitus records the speech in Annals, 12:37,

"Had my government in Britain been directed solely with a view to the preservation of my hereditary domains, or the aggrandizement of my own family, I might long since have entered this city an ally, not a prisoner; nor would you have disdained for a friend a king descended from illustrious ancestors, and the dictator of many nations. My present condition, stripped of its former majesty, is as adverse to myself as it is a cause of triumph to you.

"What then? I was lord over men, horses, arms, wealth; what wonder if at your dictation I refused to resign them? Does it follow that because the Romans aspire to universal domination, every nation is to accept the vassalage they would impose? I am now in your power--betrayed, not conquered. Had I, like others, yielded without resistance, where would have been the name of Caradoc? Where your glory? Oblivion would have buried both in the same tomb. Bid me live. I shall survive forever in history one example at least of Roman clemency."

Against all precedent, the emperor spared his life. The only restriction was that Caradoc himself had to remain in Rome for seven years as an exile, and neither he nor any of his family were allowed to take up arms against Rome again. They agreed to these terms, though, of course, Caradoc's cousin, Arviragus, had replaced him as General of the armed forces in Britain.

Caradoc's oldest son, Cyllinus, returned to Britain almost immediately, in order to take over the reigns of government during his father's absence in Rome. A younger son, Cynon, stayed for a short time, but then returned to enter a religious order to devote his life to the service of Christ.

A third son, Linus, remained in Rome. According to The Apostolic Constitutions, Paul ordained Linus as the first bishop of Rome, probably in his final visit just before his martyrdom with Peter. Because Peter's ministry was primarily to Jews, and Paul's ministry was to non-Jews, and because there were two churches in Rome--one Jewish and the other British--it is very likely that Paul would have performed this ordination of Linus, even if Peter was present at the occasion.

Caradoc also had two daughters: Eurgain and Gladys. Eurgain is credited with being the first British woman to receive Christ after Joseph of Arimathea landed around 37 A.D. Her younger sister, Gladys, was actually born in 36 or 37 A.D. and was therefore in her 16th year in 52 A.D. when taken prisoner to Rome.

Rufus Pudens, who was in charge of the prisoners being transported to Rome, fell in love with Gladys. And later, the emperor himself was so taken with her that he adopted her and gave her his family name. As Claudia, she married Senator Rufus Pudens in 53 A.D., and their first son, Timothy, was born the next year. No doubt Paul's companion, Timothy, had visited Rome about this time, and so the baby was named after him.

This royal baby was destined to baptize his grand-nephew, the British King Lucius (Llewrwg) 83 years later. Lucius later declared Britain to be a Christian Nation either in 156 or 165, depending on which account is accurate. Lucius established a bishopric in London and later wrote to Eleutherius, bishop of Rome, asking for counsel to better govern his people. Eleutherius served in Rome from 177-198 A.D. His letter to Lucius is one of two letters still preserved in the records in the Church of Rome.

Lucius was the son of King Coel, son of Cyllinus, the oldest son of Caradoc. King Coel was the original "merry old soul" in the nursery rhyme, perhaps known for his good humor and quick wit.

Getting back to the war captives in 52 A.D., Caradoc's grandfather, King Llyr, died shortly after arriving in Rome. (He was made famous by Shakespeare by the play, King Lear.) His son, Bran, volunteered to take his place. Bran was the father of Caradoc who had previously abdicated his throne in favor of his son. Bran had then become the Arch Druid of Siluria headquartered in Trevnan.

Bran had become a Christian through the ministry of Joseph, and the entire Druidic religion of Siluria and other places had become a Christian organization. Druidism became increasingly Christian as the years passed, and its educational facilities became the bishoprics and Bible Colleges until finally, in the late fourth century, the merging of Druidism and Christianity were made official.

In Romans 16:10 Paul salutes "the household of Aristobulus." Aristobulus was the brother of Barnabas, Paul's first travel companion before Luke. Aristobulus had a daughter, who was Peter's wife, mentioned in Mark 1:30 and in Luke 4:38.

Aristobulus himself was not greeted, because he was absent, having gone to Britain. Aristobulus did most of his ministry in Wales after King Llyr had founded the first church there in Llandaff. There he was known as Arwystli Hen, the "bishop of the Britons." J. W. Taylor writes in a footnote on page 157 of his book, The Coming of the Saints,

"Cressy states that 'St. Aristobulus,' a disciple of St. Peter or St. Paul in Rome, was sent as an Apostle to the Britons, and was the first Bishop in Britain; that he died in Glastonbury A.D. 99, and that his Commemoration or Saint's Day was kept in the Church on March 15th (Rees, Welsh Saints, p. 81)."

Paul thus greeted the household of Aristobulus, along with others--even Paul's "kinsmen" and "mother." Wow!

This is the seventh part of a series titled "Early Church History." To view all parts, click the link below.

Early Church History

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones