I’m just back from a short trip to Cappadocia in modern Turkey. I had no idea it was such an interesting place – amazing rock formations, cave churches, and icons. My purpose in being there was to help to make a documentary for the BBC. Following the success of his documentary on Paul a year or two ago (In the Footsteps of Paul), David Suchet was back, this time looking for remains of Peter. Of course the natural place to go would be Antioch, but modern Antakya isn’t perhaps the most sensible place to visit just now, given its location right on the Syrian border. So it was Cappadocia. But is there any evidence that Peter ever visited this amazing place?
It seems to me that there are two things to consider:
First is the notice that there were Cappadocians at Pentecost in Acts 2.9. However we judge the historicity of these early chapters, they may well preserve a memory that Cappadocian Jews did become followers of the way early on. And if that was the case, and if they took the message back to their home land, perhaps spreading the word in their own syngagoues, it’s not impossible that someone like Peter might have visited them – particularly when Jerusalem became dangerous after the Agrippa affair, and Peter seems to have embarked on his own missionary journeys. We hear of Peter (and his wife) later on in Corinth, and perhaps he journeyed by land, taking in Cappadocia on the way.
Second is the dedication in 1Peter 1.2: ‘To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia . . .’ Like most scholars, I don’t think that this letter was written by Peter: it’s far too well written and seems to me to reflect a later time when the ‘name’ Christian was a punishable offence. But it’s clearly written by a disciple, or a ‘school’ of Peter – at the very least someone who holds the memory of Peter in great respect. And perhaps the note that Peter visited these places, or was at least acquainted with them, has some historical currency. Why, after all, choose these places rather than others?
So the evidence is far from conclusive, but there seems to be to be at least a few distant traces that do link the apostle with this weird and wonderful region. If only we knew more about what he got up to on his visits!
[For anyone interested, David Suchet’s programme will be going out at Easter, in two hour-long episodes.]