Thursday, August 24, 2006

Was Peter in Rome? A Look at the Arguments and Evidence used by Roman Catholics (Part 1)

The following is from a paper I wrote in June 2004

The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is "head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth."-Catechism of the Catholic Church

Roman Catholics firmly believe that Peter established the church at Rome, served as its first pope, and was eventually martyred there. This historical information plays a key role in the establishment of the Papacy. The apologetics organization Catholic Answers states, “It is enough to say that the historical and scientific evidence is such that no one willing to look at the facts with an open mind can doubt that Peter was in Rome. To deny that fact is to let prejudice override reason.” Likewise the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “…[W]e may conclude that Peter laboured for a long period in Rome. This conclusion is confirmed by the unanimous voice of tradition which, as early as the second half of the second century, designates the Prince of the Apostles the founder of the Roman Church.” The claims are imposing, and the evidence put forth can appear compelling.

While certain facets of the tradition of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome seem probable, it is my contention that the overall evidence does not support Peter establishing the church in Rome. The “Tradition” that Roman Catholics utilize as substantiation for their beliefs about Peter in Rome comes with a set of insurmountable historical difficulties. This entry will evaluate the claims made by Roman Catholics on this topic. It will be shown that neither the Biblical evidence nor the testimony of “Tradition” establishes what seems so certain to Roman Catholics. F. J. Foakes-Jackson, in his book Peter: Prince of Apostles, rightly says, “It must strike every student that, whereas the unanimous voice of the Church from the first acknowledges and reverences St. Peter as the founder of the Roman Church, when we search for a strictly historic proof of even his having ever visited Rome, we have to acknowledge that it is wanting”[Source: F.J. Foakes-Jackson, Peter: Prince of Apostles (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1927), p. vii].


Roman Catholic Claims About Peter

In order for Rome to validate its supremacy over the Christian world, Peter had to establish the Papacy in Rome. It is claimed that Christ ordained Peter head of the church in Matthew 16:18, thus the church is said to be built on Saint Peter. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Here then Christ teaches plainly that in the future the Church will be the society of those who acknowledge Him, and that this Church will be built on Peter."

Since every sovereign has a kingdom from which to rule from, Peter established his “throne” in the city of Rome. Since “the gates of Hell will not prevail” over the church, the Roman Church must always exist as the ecclesiastical head of all Christendom. The office that Peter held in Rome is passed on from generation to generation. It is essential that Peter went to Rome at some point in his life.

However, Catholic Answers argues: “if Peter never made it to the capital, he still could have been the first pope, since one of his successors could have been the first holder of that office to settle in Rome. After all, if the papacy exists, it was established by Christ during his lifetime, long before Peter is said to have reached Rome. There must have been a period of some years in which the papacy did not yet have its connection to Rome”) . What makes this answer interesting is that it allows for the possibility of uncertainty that Peter was actually in Rome. The answer suggests that it is not essential for Rome to be the headquarters of the Church and the Papacy. This would contradict the Catholic Encyclopedia which sees it as “essential” for Peter to be in Rome: “The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.

The Catholic Encyclopedia argues, “…Christ conferred upon St. Peter the office of chief pastor, and that the permanence of that office is essential to the very being of the Church. It must now be established that it belongs of right to the Roman See. The proof will fall into two parts: (a) that St. Peter was Bishop of Rome, and (b) that those who succeed him in that see succeed him also in the supreme headship.”

And also:

The significance of Rome lies primarily in the fact that it is the city of the pope. The Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and visible head of the Catholic Church. Rome is consequently the center of unity in belief, the source of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the seat of the supreme authority which can bind by its enactments the faithful throughout the world. The Diocese of Rome is known as the “See of Peter,” the “Apostolic See,” the Holy Roman Church, the “Holy See” — titles which indicate its unique position in Christendom and suggest the origin of its pre-eminence." [U. Benigni, “Rome,” Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), XIII, p. 164.]

“Tradition” posits that Peter (and Paul) established the Roman Church in the early 40’s. Peter is said to have remained in Rome for twenty-five years, preaching the Gospel, and eventually writing the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter. Some versions of this twenty-five year period include Peter’s travels, with Rome serving as his “home base” when he wasn’t on missionary trips or attending church councils. For instance, Roman Catholic writer Art Kelly states, “As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter had a universal responsibility. Like Pope John Paul II, who has visited 117 countries and traveled the equivalent of nearly 28 times the circumference of the earth, St. Peter undoubtedly traveled frequently throughout the known world.”

Other versions have Peter going to Rome shortly after the Jerusalem council in 49 AD, and then returning to Rome just prior to 60 AD. Yet another version has Peter going to Rome one time only: towards the end of life during Nero’s reign.

Roman Catholic accounts speak of Peter’s martyrdom (with Paul) in Rome by Nero in the late sixties. According to “Tradition,” Peter was crucified at Rome. Since earlier in his life he had denied the Lord, Peter is said to have requested to be crucified with his head downward. Peter felt himself not worthy to die in the same exact manner as Jesus Christ.

There are three lines of evidence used by Roman Catholics to substantiate these claims:

1. Biblical evidence
2. Historical evidence from “Tradition”
3. Archaeological evidence

Continued: A look at the Biblical Evidence allegedly saying Peter was in Rome.

18 comments:

mark_5 said...

John Owen makes a brief case for Peter not founding the church at Rome (or ever being there at all) in his preface to Calvin's commentary on Romans.

I look forward to your next segment. :)

Apolonio said...

James,

First, I would say that the quotation from Jackson, "when we search for a strictly historic proof of even his having ever visited Rome, we have to acknowledge that it is wanting" is simple dumb. I think anyone who denies or doubts Peter being in Rome or to say that there is no proof of visiting Rome is a lunatic. That Peter died in Rome and founded a church there is revealed by the fact that there lacks legendary details concerning his life there (the same argument can be made for the Resurrection stories by the way, that the stories lack legendary details). Yeah, one can speak of the story of Peter trying to run away from martyrdom and Jesus appearing to him saying "Where are you going?" And this made him go back. But that's 1) secondary detail and 2) I don't see why a Christian should see that necessarily as legendary. Also, there is no good reason to make up such an event. Why should Christians make up a legendary martyrdom of Peter? If one denies Peter ever going to Rome, then I don't see why a person should think that Mark was a student of Peter and wrote the Gospel of Mark.

Now to the quote by Catholic Answers saying that "if Peter never made it to the capital, he still could have been the first pope" contradicting the quote “The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.” You said, "What makes this answer interesting is that it allows for the possibility of uncertainty that Peter was actually in Rome." Actually, no, that's not what that allows for. The statement "if Peter never made it to the capital, he could still have been the first pope" means that the office of the Papacy being in Rome is a **contingent** truth and not a necessary one. In other words, there is a possible world where Peter could have died in Antioch and still be the Pope. Does that contradict the Encyclopedia? No. You are equivocating on the word "essential" here. The author was not speaking of "essential" as a rigid designator or saying that Peter dying in Rome is true in all possible worlds where Peter exists. The Encyclopedia is speaking of "what constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome" in the actual world. In other words, we have the bishop of Rome claiming that he is the successor of Peter and have universal jurisdiction. What the author is saying is *if* Rome is making this claim, it is essential that Peter must have died in Rome. The author is not saying that if Peter never made it to Rome, he would not have been the Pope. To put it in another way, the Catholic Answer article concerns the jurisdiction of Peter (papacy--that if he is not in Rome he would still be the Pope) and the Encyclopedia concerns the jurisdiction of Rome. One can distinguish them. So there is no "possible uncertainty" of a historical event here, only a logical possibility.

Apolonio said...

John Owen's arguments are terrible. The Acts of the Apostles make no mention of Paul's martyrdom. Does it mean that he wasn't martyred? No. It could mean that Acts was written before or that Acts was not a biography. So just because Paul does not mention Peter, it does not mean that he wasn't there. To make that conclusion is terrible. It's an argument from silence. But historians should look at the evidence. Historical evidence clearly show that Peter was in Rome. Unless you are a member of the Jesus Seminar who are critical with everything, there is no good reason to deny such a thing.

Apolonio said...

By the way, without avoiding arbitrariness, if one denies the historical evidence, such as the Fathers and early testimonies of Peter in Rome, then why shouldn't we deny Paul being there or being martyred there? Peter and Paul are usually connected and to arbitrarily take out Peter because, say, prejudice against the Church's claims is a bad reconstruction of history. But suppose one says that we can say that Paul was in Rome because we have other evidence like the scriptures which say he was in Rome. But why does that make us deny that Peter was there? The wedding of cana story is only in the Gospel of John which is written around 55-60 years later after Christ's death and resurrection. Should we deny it because it's not in any other scripture? Isn't that what the liberal scholars argue? So just because the scriptures *may* not speak of Peter being in Rome but we have testimonies saying that not only was Paul there but also Peter does not justify us from denying he was ever there or formed a church there (all the apostles formed or founded churches so we shouldn't exclude Peter).

Micah said...

apolonio... at least there is Biblical evidence that Paul actually was in Rome to begin with. ;)

Apolonio said...

Micah,

"Peter was in Rome" is a historical assertion. History is not limited by biblical evidence.

I mean really, it's ridiculuous that James would write posts about this. I had respect with the materials he has written and that's why I have tried to interact with it. But to make such a post questioning whether Peter was ever in Rome is a bit..well, dumb (I'm trying to be nice but I can't help use that word). And if one is going to assert such a thing, I would challenge the person to step up and give me a much better hypothesis on where Peter was. When John Dominic Crossan denies that Jesus was ever risen, at least he gave his own hypothesis on what happened, no matter how stupid it was. So I'm asking James to do the same. Tell me what happened to Peter. To just say, "Well, I don't know, but we know he didn't go to Rome!" is cowardice. If one is going to assert things about Jesus, like his crucifixion never happened, I assume that one will step up and tell us why someone would make such a thing up in a second temple Judaism context. So why would people make up Peter being in Rome? Oh and I'm sure you have read William Craig's use of McCullagh's. With regards to evidence, tell me the hypothesis which beats "Peter was in Rome," that is, which has a greater explanatory scope, power, plausible, not ad hoc (good luck with that one!), and in accord with accepted beliefs.

James Swan said...

Apolonio,

Before you throw the word "dumb" around, you should read a bit more closely:

"While certain facets of the tradition of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome seem probable, it is my contention that the overall evidence does not support Peter establishing the church in Rome. The “Tradition” that Roman Catholics utilize as substantiation for their beliefs about Peter in Rome comes with a set of insurmountable historical difficulties. This entry will evaluate the claims made by Roman Catholics on this topic. It will be shown that neither the Biblical evidence nor the testimony of “Tradition” establishes what seems so certain to Roman Catholics."

Regards,
James

Apolonio said...

James,

I read that and I gave a couple of arguments for that. I would say that the hypothesis "Peter, with Paul, established a church in Rome" is much stronger than any alternatives. Since you are dealing with the historical evidence, it would be interesting to see your reconstruction. My comments above apply to that thesis as well.

James Swan said...

Apolonio,

I appreciate your comments, time allowing, I will deal with them after I finish this little series. I wrote this stuff 2 years ago, and as of right now i'm missing a large section of it-

Robbie said...

Apolonio,

For what it is worth, you made a response that sounded a bit like Art Sippo. That would be a bad thing, since Art is all trash and no substance. You, on the other hand, are a Catholic I have always enjoyed reading, even if I might disagree. Please don't lower yourself to the standards of Art Sippo By using words such as "dumb" or "coward." You are much better than Art.

Robbie

Apolonio said...

Sorry. I will try to clean up my language.

James Swan said...

That Peter died in Rome and founded a church there is revealed by the fact that there lacks legendary details concerning his life there (the same argument can be made for the Resurrection stories by the way, that the stories lack legendary details).

The fact that there is no fact equals a fact. Interesting. This is an interesting approach Apolonio

James Swan said...

So I'm asking James to do the same. Tell me what happened to Peter. To just say, "Well, I don't know, but we know he didn't go to Rome!" is cowardice.

It's possible Peter was martyred in Rome.

On the other hand, the Biblical record does not support his founding of the Church in Rome. To conclude contrarily that "Tradition” proves Peter (and Paul) established the Roman Church in the early 40’s and Peter is remained in Rome for twenty-five years, preaching the Gospel, and eventually writing the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter" is not easily proved. In fact, it can't be proved from the Biblical record or history.

Apolonio said...

James,

The position I hold is simpler: Peter established a church in Rome and died there. That is all. I don't know when he went there and established it, but we can estimate the dates when he died there. I'll wait for your alternative where Peter went.

James Swan said...

Well Apolonio,

You can believe what you want to. But, I would be very careful not to use words like "dumb" and "cowardice" if you're unwilling to actually look at the Biblical evidence.

The Catholic claim that Peter founded the Church in Rome does not find support in the New Testament- and the New Testament is an infallible historical source.

Since the Biblical record can't be used convincingly by Catholics, most Catholics appeal to "tradition" as "proof." You simply seem to be saying, "I believe because I want to."

There are two strong possibilites of where Peter was: Babylon and Jerusalem. I've already provided alot of information on Babylon, and I was going to post this eventually as well- this material compliments of the Preterist archive:

3a - After the great persecution the church was scattered, but the apostles (i.e. Peter) stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

3b - When Philip preached in Samaria, the apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to them. Thus Peter must have been living there (Acts 8:14).

3c - When Herod Agrippa imprisoned Peter, he was in Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-4).

3d - Three years after his conversion, Paul goes to Jerusalem to see Peter and even abides with him there. Therefore, Peter must have lived there (Galatians 1:18).

3e - Fourteen years after his conversion, Paul again returns to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Peter is there again and even named as a "pillar" in the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1, 9).

3f - Paul tells us that Peter was intimidated by "Jews from James (i.e. Jerusalem)". Surely this would be because Peter's residence was there and he had to live with these people (Galatians 2:11,12).

3g - In the scripture in question (1 Peter 5:13), who is Marcus? If it is a reference to John Mark then we presumably know that his original residence was in Jerusalem in the house of his mother. So if Marcus is John Mark, then the "church" would also be at Jerusalem (Acts
12:12).

I do know, however, that Peter did some evangelical traveling with his wife as is stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and therefore could have visited Babylon, although I don't know why. Continuing . . .

4 - Peter was the "apostle to the circumcision" (Galatians 2:7-9), and if there were no Jews in Babylon, why would he take up residence
there?

5 - The most prominent population of Jews in Peter's day was at Jerusalem, so this is the most logical place for the "apostle to the circumcision" to reside.

6 - If 1 Peter 5:13 references John Mark, then his residence is also established at Jerusalem.

Apolonio said...

James,

I think it is clear that "I believe because I want to" is my argument. And we Catholics don't believe in sola scriptura anyway, so I don't see why it necessarily has to be in scripture. Nothing suggests that "Peter establishing a church in Rome" contradicts scripture. Again, this is a historical assertion. None of the 6 points you made interact with the historical evidence of people claiming that Peter was in Rome. To make a historical assertion that Peter simply resided in Jerusalem (why couldn't he have resided in Jerusalem then move to Rome?) and limit your evidence to the New Testament is laughable to a historian. One would never limit one's sources to Iraqi sources when it comes to the Gulf War. One would never limit one's sources to the New Testament when it comes to Paul. So you still have to show how your conclusion will fit to other historical evidences where it clearly says that Peter was in Rome. Why would these sources make it up?

Also, if Peter's residence is at Jerusalem and if he did not go to Rome, then the thesis "Peter established a church in Rome and died there" has more explanatory power and scope since it explains why these sources speak of Peter being in Rome. Yours doesn't. So far, your thesis is weak.

Apolonio said...

"The Catholic claim that Peter founded the Church in Rome does not find support in the New Testament- and the New Testament is an infallible historical source."

Response:
You are equating "does not support" with "silence." There is silence in the Scriptures about Peter being in Rome. But so what? And so what if the New Testament is an infallible historical source? How does it follow that we should simply stick to infallible historical sources when it comes to history anyway? "Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologiae." Uh oh, it's not in the Scriptures and the Scripture is an infallible historical source! Does it mean that Aquinas did not write the Summa Theologiae? And why should we limit our sources to the New Testament anyway? Fallible sources is a great source for history. A fallible source such as Josephus tells us a great deal about the Jewish mindset in the first century. The historian N.T. Wright says,

"First, history. I take it as basic that the historian of any period covets, dreams about, lusts after *evidence*. Every coin, every half-erased inscription, every fragment of papyrus is precious. Who cares whether the evidence comes from a 'heretical' sect? If it is evidence, we want it." (The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions Borg/Wright, HarperCollins 2000, pg. 19)

Apolonio said...

Correction: I think it is clear that "I believe because I want to" is NOT my argument.