Hi Arch!I would love to hear your thoughts on early Christianity!
I think the scriptural and historical discussion of the absence of Paul and Peter from the founding of the church at Rome is a good place to demonstrate what it means to read Scripture like the Bereans.
In the letter to the Romans Paul makes the following claim, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” (Rom 11:25-26, KJVA)
A person familiar with Scripture will recognize that the statement is not something which Paul made up regarding church history or Christian history. They will recognize it as something foretold by the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel. “16. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. 17. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” (Eze 11:16-17, KJVA) In short, it is in the going out of the gospel into the whole that those of Israel scattered by God throughout the world shall be saved.
Can and do people interpret Romans 11 differently? Sure, but they aren't the ones who are particularly aware that Ezekiel was to speak those words to those of the Babylonian captivity or exile.
The Holy Spirit went into exile with the people of God into Babylon, see Ezekiel. And He indeed was a sanctuary unto them. Did all return to Israel? No. There remained a community and school in Babylon for well over a thousand years.
During the passion and for a time afterwards the Christians or followers of The Way were not yet associated with the Roman civil government. Travel to and from Babylon from and to Israel was not yet scrutinized in the way that it later would be.
The point is that the gospel would and did indeed travel to Babylon according to the word of God. When Peter wrote of the greeting from those in Babylon, elect with others of the dispersed throughout the world, he was indeed referring to Babylon.
On the other hand, if one is a Gentile or unfamiliar with the law and the prophets then one might be tempted to take the imagination of Tertullian with regard to Nero and Rome in the Apocalypse and run with it. His imagination could lead those unfamiliar with Scripture to conclude that Peter was not in Babylon at all but instead in Rome.
"The gospel is true and people believe it. The gospel is never true because people believe it." Our Great Heritage, Vol I, (c)NPH.