Vlasto Chamberlain To Herod Agrippa, 44 A.D.
The Bible Acts Xll, v. 20 1998
Soon after the crucifiction of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, the apostle Peter emerged as the leader of the small but growing community of Christians. Not surprisingly he was soon arrested and imprisoned on the orders of King Herod Agrippa. The account of Peter's 'miraculous' escape from prison appears in chapter Xll of the Acts of The Apostles in the Bible where, in verse 20, there is mention of the Greek administrator Vlasto who was the king's Chamberlain. It is very probable that it was Vlasto who, on orders from Rome, made secret arrangements for Peter's escape and who may have played a role in the subsequent mysterious death of Herod himself.
A Vlasto is referred to as Chamberlain to Herod Agrippa. This would almost certainly have been a political appointment by Rome. It was customary in Rome for its emperors to employ accomplished Greek administrators (such as Vlasto) to ensure Roman influence and dominance over local rulers such as the puppet king Herod in the Roman province of Judea. The position of chamberlain would have been a highly influential appointment in a problematical region at a crucial period for the Roman Empire: the expansion of Christianity in the face of growing local hostility and Jewish religious intolerance.
It was about this time that King Herod attacked certain members of the church. He beheaded James (the apostle), the brother of John, and then, when he saw that the Jews approved, proceeded to arrest Peter also. This happened during the festival of Unleavened Bread. Having secured him, he put him in prison under a military guard, four squads of men each, meaning to produce him in public after Passover. So Peter was kept in prison under constant watch, while the church kept praying fervently for him to God.
On the very night before Herod had planned to bring him forward, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, secured by two chains, while outside the doors sentries kept guard over the prison. All at once an angel of the Lord stood there and the cell was ablaze with light. He tapped Peter on the shoulder and woke him. "Quick! Get up," he said, and the chains fell away from his wrists. The angel then said to him, "Do up you belt and put your shoes on". He did so. "Now wrap your cloak around you and follow me". He followed him out with no idea that the angel's intervention was real: he thought it was just a vision. But they passed the first guard-post, then the second, and reached the iron gate leading out into the city, which opened for them of its own accord. And so they came out and walked the length of one street; and the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself. "Now I know it is true," he said. "The Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." When he realised how things stood, he made for the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where a large company was at prayer. He knocked at the outer door and a maid called Rhoda came to answer it. She recognised Peter's voice and was so overjoyed that instead of opening the door she ran in and announced that Peter was standing outside. "You are crazy," they told her. But she insisted that it was so. Then they said: "It must be his guardian angel".
Meanwhile Peter went on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astounded. With a movement of the hand he signed to them to keep quiet and told them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Report this to James and the members of the church," he said. Then he left the house and went off elsewhere.
When morning came, there was consternation among the soldiers: what could have become of Peter? Herod made a close search but failed to find him, so he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution.
Afterwards he left Judea to reside for a time at Caesarea. He had for some time been furiously angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon who now, by common agreement, presented themselves at his court. There they won over Blastus (Vlasto) the royal chamberlain, and sued for peace, because their country drew its supplies from the king's territory. So, on an appointed day, attired in his royal robes and seated on the rostrum, Herod harangued them; and the populace shouted back: "It is a god speaking, not a man!" Instantly an angel of the Lord struck him down because he had usurped the honour due to God: he was eaten up with worms and died.
Meanwhile the word of God continued to grow and spread.
Barnabas and Saul, their task fulfilled, returned from Jerusalem, taking John Mark with them.
If one discounts the intervention of angels, it seems more likely (and is generally believed) that Peter's 'escape' was ordered by Rome and probably organised at the instigation of Vlasto in order to achieve two political objectives:
Finally, it would be interesting to know whether it was the worms that killed Herod or whether his end was hastened for him and if so, by whom? Poisoning was then the preferred method of political assassination. Was Vlasto involved in this too, on orders from Rome?
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