peter and paul
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Possibly born in Cyprus, Barnabas was one of the earliest Jews to spread the word of the Jesus movement outside Jerusalem. He invited Paul to Antioch, where they ministered together before undertaking a missionary journey through Cyprus to the Turkish coast and over the mountains to the interior of Turkey.

Herod the Great

Client king of Judea and surrounding territories under Augustus, Herod came from a ruling family that had lost power after Roman liberation of the territories a generation earlier. As king, Herod promoted Hellenistic culture, rebuilt much of Jerusalem, and established the port city of Caesarea Maritima. Under his rule, the office of high priest was separated from secular king. Herod executed his wife and three of his sons. At his death in 4 CE, civil unrest led Rome to impose more powerful Roman administrators.

Herod Agrippa

Grandson of Herod the Great, Agrippa grew up in Rome in the company of the imperial family. Upon the ascension of Caligula, he was given some of the territories of his grandfather. He petitioned Caligula to cancel the erection of a statue in the Temple at Jerusalem, but seems to have taken on pretensions of divinity in the style of the Roman emperors. At the ascension of Claudius, he was given Judea as well. He persecuted the early Christians. At his death in 44 CE, Claudius annexed his territories to the empire, removing any semblance of independence.


The Gospels call James the brother of Jesus, and he was an early leader of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem. He seems to have advocated strict observance of Jewish Law within the early movement.


Member of distinguished Jewish priestly family in Jerusalem, he lived from ca. 37-101. He acted as diplomat and military commander in relations with Roman occupying forces, and was one of two survivors of the mass suicide after the siege of Jotapota. He also survived the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and was taken prisoner by the Roman general Vespasian, with whom he returned to Rome, where he was given his freedom in 69. As a writer, his lengthy Jewish Antiquities and History of the Jewish Wars provide information found nowhere else.


Writer of the Gospel of Luke and possibly the Book of Acts. His Gospel tells the story of Jesus' life and resurrection; the Book of Acts describes how Jesus' followers spread the gospel, spreading the movement from rural communities into the cities of the Roman Empire. He probably lived late first century in one of the Greek cities in Asia Minor, modern Turkey. He may have been a doctor, and probably was a Gentile. His writings are often scrutinized for seeds of anti-Semitism.


Self-appointed apostle of Jesus, whom he never met, Paul was born Saul in Tarsus and was probably a Roman citizen. He was definitely a devout Jew, and among those who persecuted the early followers of Jesus for breaking Jewish law. He changed his name to Paul after a revelation convinced him of the truth of Jesus' divinity-this is often called his conversion, though it did not require him to deny Judaism in any way. Paul spent the rest of his life spreading the new faith, and his letters to the various congregations around the Eastern Mediterranean are the only contemporary records from the movement.


Friend and disciple of Jesus, Peter was a fisherman from Galilee. He is sometimes called "Cephas," the Aramaic form of his name, which means "rock." He is often called the leader of the twelve apostles, and by some accounts was the first to call Jesus "Messiah." Immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus, he left Jerusalem, returned after having a vision of Jesus' resurrection. He was present at the revelation of the holy spirit at Pentecost, and imprisoned for his beliefs. According to tradition, he traveled to Rome and served as the first Bishop of Rome before being crucified upside-down.

Priscilla and Aquila

Jewish followers of the Jesus movement, they left Rome in the expulsion of Jews under the reign of Claudius. Paul met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth. Like Paul, they were tentmakers, and they served as his host for eighteen months in Corinth before relocating to Ephesus to begin a congregation there. Paul worked with them again during his three-year stay in Ephesus.