Simon Peter was crucified in 46 AD alongside James by governor Tiberius Alexander.
Acts 12:1ff reports that only James was executed and Peter survived. This contrasts with Josephus’ report in Ant. 20.5.2, according to which both James and Simon were executed:
… the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain… The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified.
This raises several questions. 1) Do these texts refer to the same event? 2) When and by whom was the sentence of death pronounced? 3) Did Peter survive? I assume that the simplest explanation is the correct one. The answers follow in the next theses.
The dominant master narrative about the disciples states that the disciples were Jesus’ personal followers,
whom he had sought out and appointed. Many of them were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee; after their encounters with Jesus they left their work and families to join Jesus, the itinerant preacher. Peter was the leader of the disciples; he and the brothers James and John were the most important disciples.
And these are my theses about the disciples: Jesus’ disciples were not fishermen. They were preachers of the astrological Age of Pisces (the star sign), the new spring constellation that they interpreted as a heavenly sign of God’s kingdom that they were expecting.
Jesus’ disciples were not his personal followers.
The disciples were independent political and religious leaders in early Christianity; the great disciples James, John and Peter aspired to succeed Jesus as Messiah after his death.
An ecumenical movement: between 62 and 64 AD the Apostolic Council took place in Jerusalem, where Paul and Barnabas,
the Apostles to the Gentiles, met the heads of the Palestinian Jesus Groups of Peter, James and John.
Reports about the Apostolic Council show that the Jesus Groups in Palestine still existed as separate organisations but that they worked together, and that Paul and Barnabas were recognised as representing the Gentile Christian church, but their work was also viewed with distrust.
The encounter: the Jesus Groups from the different movements
met each other during their missionary activities. They recognised that they had a lot in common and worked together, but retained their separate structures and links with their original movements.
The most important event of the mission in Palestine was that the Jesus Groups founded communities in Jerusalem, though these remained strictly separate along confessional lines until the end of the Jewish Revolt. The Israelite group of James was transformed during this process from a Samaritan to a Jewish-Christian Jesus Group.
The Jesus Groups did not restrict themselves to peaceful missions; they also played a robust role in social conflicts. One example for this is the execution of James and Peter in 46 AD, probably after food riots in which they took a leading part.
The deaths of the two leading Apostles was a significant turning point in the history of early Christianity.
Original movements and Jesus Groups: the Samaritans, the baptism sect and the Gnostics around Simon Magus
had few solid structures and little in the way of binding dogmas. They were groups with many different views, and Messianic ideas were widespread at the time, so Jesus’ followers within these movements could form groups without leaving the movement.
What we seen in the Gospels are a range of interpretations of Jesus that can be attributed to the movements named and to which we can allocate disciples’ names. These names are James (Israelites), John (Baptists) and Simon Peter (Gnostics).
These men clearly led Jesus Groups that remained within their movements. We can see the conflicts among the Christian Jews that they were confronted with. The disputes always focused on the issue of how far a Jesus Group could or should distinguish itself within the parent movement.