Skip to comments.WAS ST. PETER IN ROME?
Posted on 10/28/2006 7:13:58 AM PDT by Petrosius
The archeological proof of the existence of St. Peters tomb under St. Peters basilica in Rome.
"Nero...publicly announcing himself as the first among God's chief enemies, he was led on to the slaughter of the apostles. It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day. It is confirmed likewise by Caius, a member of the Church, who arose under Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome [about 200 AD.]. He, in a published disputation with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygian heresy, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are laid: "But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church." And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: "You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth." [Eusebius, [A.D. 303] (Church History 2:25:5-8)]
On Wednesday 26th June 1968, Pope Paul VI, conducting an audience in the basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, departed from his normal routine to issue a statement of enormous significance to the Holy See, Roman Catholics and Christians throughout the world: the Pope declared that the mortal remains of Peter, foremost of the Apostles of Jesus Christ, had been found beneath
the great church in which he was speaking. The statement marked the culmination of one of the most famous and important archaeological investigations of recent times; a vast undertaking which had engaged the talents of scientists, historians and linguists for a quarter of a century.
Since the reformation on of the oldest anti-Catholic "arguments" used by the Protestants in a attempt to discredit the position and authority of the Pope is the clame "Peter was never in Rome". Thanks to the extensive writings of the early church fathers and a exciting archeological discovery made in the last century We can finally put this Ridicules "argument" to rest. In a work issued in 1959, Father Kirschbaum, a member of the archeological commission excavating under the basilica during the 1940's, has given a summary of the findings. These are in brief that it is reasonably certain that the place where St. Peter was buried has been discovered.
|Among the more than 30,000 Greek and Latin inscriptions have been discovered in the catacombs of Rome, is this marble slab above is from about the year 313 A.D. The slab sealed the tomb of a little boy named Asellus and the inscription goes on to tell us that he had lived 5 years, 8 months and 23 days. To the left we see the images of the Saints Peter and Paul, with the monogram of Christ above the name of Peter. The fact that the Gospel of Jesus brought to Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul was clearly professed by the early Christian community there.|
According to historical records, supplemented by these new discoveries, this is the "history" of the tomb. The Christians buried the Apostle's body in a simple grave on the southern slope of Vatican Hill and covered it with a few brick slabs. Soon other graves were made near that of St. Peter, and these have been recently discovered. Their existence and inscriptions on the wall make clear that from the very first St. Peter's tomb was a place of pilgrimage so that there was uninterrupted Christian veneration and observation of this spot.
About the middle of the second century the grave was marked by a simple monumental slab, the "trophy" mentioned by Father Gaius about 200 A.D."But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church." . During Valerian's persecution, when Christian cemeteries were closed for the first time, St. Peter's relics, but probably only the skull, were moved to a more secure place on the Via Appia. They were returned in the fourth century when Constantine began the first basilica over St. Peter's tomb. To this end he went to great labor and expense to fill up piles on the sloping Vatican Hill to provide a level foundation. This is why St. Peter's tomb is at a considerably lower level than the floor of the Basilica of Constantine and its modern replacement.
St. Gregory the Great carried out extensive alterations between 594 and 604, placing an altar over the tomb, but leaving a shaft through which objects might be lowered to touch the tomb for the veneration of pilgrims. During a Saracen raid in 846 much of the basilica and tomb were plundered, although the actual grave was not penetrated. It was soon after, probably, that the skull was removed and placed, together with that of St. Paul, in the Lateran, where they still remain. To prevent further vandalism the tomb shaft was filled up and the crypt sealed.
In 1503, work was begun to construct the modern basilica which was built over the tomb without disturbing it. During construction some attempts were made to reach the tomb, but were abandoned, it is now clear, before reaching the actual grave. The discoveries of 1940-51, however, successively penetrated the various layers and reached the actual site of the original grave of St. Peter. Here were found bones, all belonging to the same person, "an elderly and vigorous man," with the skull missing.
|The Archaeologists found the early Christian Monogram used for the name of St. Peter over two dozen times, on and around the tomb of the Apostle.|
When Pope Pius XI died in February 1939, he was buried in the Grottoes alongside his predecessors. The new Pope, Pius XII, decided that the time was right to reorganize the space into a proper underground chapel. Under the direction of Monsignor Kaas, administrator of St. Peter's, the Vatican's architects and engineers estimated that the modifications could best be accommodated by lowering the level of the Grottoes by three feet.
As soon as the digging started, the anticipated hoard of ancient sarcophagi began to turn up. But at a depth of some two-and-a-half feet, the workmen hit something unexpected. Traces of the top of a walled enclosure were uncovered. The roof of the enclosure had been crudely sliced off, however, and the interior had been packed with earth. Intrigued by the building, the workmen began to dig down through the compressed fill. Fifteen feet down, they finally reached the floor of what was clearly a Roman mausoleum. Four inscriptions placed below funerary urns identified the owners as a family called the Caetennii. But there were indications that this mausoleum was not alone; it seemed likely that there were in fact other tombs on either side of it. The excavators informed the Pope and Pius XII abandoned the plan to create an underground chapel. Instead, he put together a team of Vatican officials who were to explore the site further: Two Jesuit archaeologists, Antonio Ferrua and Englebert Kirschbaum, undertook most of the work; the Vatican architect, Bruno Apollonj-Ghetti, and the Inspector of Catacombs, Professor Enrico Josi, oversaw the project, and all four were under the authority of Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, the Administrator of St. Peter's, answerable to the Pope himself. Pius XII commissioned them to investigate further but laid down one condition: they were not to encroach on the area beneath the high altar.
Work began in 1941 and within months it had become clear that a major area of archaeological importance had been discovered. A whole street of tombs came to light, some 300 feet long, with tombs on both sides. Some were simple structures, small and unadorned; but others were sumptuously decorated with wall paintings, stucco decoration and even expertly finished mosaics. In these tombs, the Vatican excavators found hundreds of burials. Over half were cremation-burials, the rest inhumations and many of the dead were named. Their names proved to be an important means of dating the street. It seems that the burial area was dominated by freedmen and their families. Slaves customarily took the names of their former masters on manumission and a small but significant number of the freedmen buried in the street of tombs had been owned by Roman emperors of the second century. There was evidence also that Christians had used the street of tombs. In one tomb, the excavators found a breathtaking golden mosaic which depicted Christ driving a chariot across the sky, a motif borrowed straight from depictions of the Sun God Sol or Helios.
But two striking finds convinced the investigators that they were on the verge of some great discovery: First, they noticed the way in which the street of tombs had been destroyed. The roofs of many of the tombs stretching eastwards down the Vatican Hill had been crudely hacked off. Some of the tombs themselves had had buttress walls inserted into them, running north to south; and all had been filled in with a vast quantity of earth, estimated at 1 million cubic feet.
The excavators knew well that the emperor Constantine had built a church in honor of Saint Peter in the 320s AD and the transverse walls inside the tombs were clearly part of the foundations of that church. But the way in which the tombs had been damaged and filled in indicated that Constantine had been determined to build his church on precisely that alignment on the Vatican Hill. He had in effect sawn off the top of the hill and deposited it further down to create a vast platform on which to build his basilica. But there could only be one reason for this: there was something on the hill that he wanted to preserve and place in the focal point of his church. The excavators had discovered that the street of tombs which Constantine had destroyed was leading straight under the high altar.
|The second important discovery made by the Vatican investigating team was a graffito on the wall of another tomb. They found two Crudely sketched heads which date from about 290-310 AD. were on the wall of the central niche in the Valerius tomb [about thirty feet from the tomb of St. Peter]. The upper drawing represents Christ , the lower depicts Peter. under the sketch was found the Latin inscription:
"PETRUS ROGA CHRISTUS JESU PRO SANCTIS HOMINIBUS CRESTIANUS AD CORPUS TUUM SEPULTIS"
This translates as:
"Peter pray Christ Jesus for the holy Christian men buried near your body"
|The Crude early Christian sketch of Christ and Peter found about thirty feet from the tomb of St. Peter.|
These developments, communicated to the Pope, caused him to change his mind about the scope of the excavations. He ordered the team to penetrate the zone beneath the high altar of Saint Peter's basilica. Once again, however, a stern command was issued: not a breath of their activities was to be communicated to the public until the work had been completed and a full report published. Thus, while the Second World War ravaged Europe, Monsignor Kaas and his colleagues burrowed unnoticed under one of the most revered sites in Catholic Christendom.
This phase of the excavators' work presented the greatest difficulties. There was absolutely no question that the Basilica of Saint Peter could be closed for the duration of the project and yet its progress had to remain secret. The present high altar of the basilica was very carefully supported through the skill of Vatican engineers and the drainage problems were solved by hydrologists. The excavators themselves had been forbidden to use power tools and had to conduct the investigation with trowels and spades and an army of Sampietrini (Vatican workmen).
Three years of digging, first from the west, then the south and north, finally brought this part of the street of tombs to light. Directly beneath the area of high altar of Saint Peter's basilica lay a paved courtyard, 7 metres by 4. The westernmost limit of this courtyard was provided by a thick red brick wall to which the excavators gave the name the muro rosso, the Red Wall. Built into this wall was a structure rising to a height of about 2 metres from the floor. Although its upper portions had been badly damaged, its overall shape could be reconstructed. It had an upper and a lower niche, a pediment topped the upper niche and the lower was framed by two short columns. The remains of a slab of marble lay on top of the two columns. Because of its appearance, the excavators called this structure the "aedicula", the "little temple".
On the floor of the courtyard, at the point where the aedicula met the Red Wall, a second slab of marble had been set into the ground. It had come from another tomb in the area and a rectangular hole had been cut into it. To the right hand (or north) side of the aedicula a small buttressing wall had been placed in front of a crack in the Red Wall at a date after the completion of the aedicula itself. This wall had been faced with plaster which had been scratched and scored by ancient visitors to the site. Also, the builders of this wall which the excavators called "the Graffiti Wall" had inserted into it a small marble-lined space to which the team gave the name the "loculus".
The crucial question was the date of this little complex. The investigators regarded the courtyard and the four tombs around it as being constructed at the same time. These tombs around the courtyard yielded names, but nothing strictly datable. However, when the archaeologists explored the sloping alleyway on the western side of the Red Wall they discovered that someone had installed a drain to carry away the rain on the hill. The drain had been made with bricks from a Roman workshop and five of them bore the same maker's stamp. They came from a factory in production between AD 147 and 161.
The excavators concluded then that the basic structures at this end of the street of tombs had been laid down in the middle of the second century AD. They had in fact discovered the structure which the churchman Gaius described, when he was writing around the year AD 200. But although this evidence indicated an impressively early date for the aedicula and the courtyard, it was still at least three generations later than the traditional date of the death of Saint Peter. Was there anything earlier? The excavators decided to push down through the floor level of the courtyard.
Directly beneath the marble slab set into the pavement at the point where the aedicula joined the Red Wall, the archaeologists discovered what was clearly a grave. A cavity, measuring only 72 cm from side to side and approximately 1.4 m deep, was clearly visible. Several attempts had been made to line this cavity with simple stone walls to protect its sides but it had still been badly damaged. Innumerable ancient coins from all over Christian Europe lay all around the floor of this space and indicated that a large number of pilgrims had visited this site, dropping coins into the grave through the little rectangular window in the marble slab over it.
Of bones, however, there was at first no sign; the grave seemed to be empty. But when Kirschbaum looked more carefully inside the cavity, he noticed that right at one end, where the grave stretched underneath the Red Wall, there was a small pile of bones. The Vatican excavators summoned the Pope immediately and shortly after the closing of the basilica Pius XII seated himself on a stool beside the cavity and watched Englebert Kirschbaum slowly hand out the fragments of bone to his colleagues. Most of the fragments were small but some were larger. Part of a breastbone was handed out, and then half of a shoulder blade. There was no skull. This absence of the remains of Peter's head did not disturb Pius XII or the excavators, on the contrary, it actually confirmed one of the great traditions of the medieval church. All those present, the Pope and the excavators, knew that a skull in the basilica of Saint John Lateran since at least the ninth century, was widely believed to be that of Peter. Obviously, the skull had been taken from this grave at some stage in the early medieval period to adorn the parish church of the Pope himself.
The bones recovered from the niche beneath the aedicula were carefully placed in a number of lead-lined boxes and given for formal identification, to Pius XII's personal physician Dottore Galeazzi-Lisi. There was, however, as the team knew very well, no actual indication of the date of this grave. Among the coins of all ages which had covered the floor of the cavity, there were several which were much too early, including one from the reign of Augustus, who had died in AD 14, when Peter was only a boy. So the coin evidence could not be conclusive. The excavators turned their attentions to other burials within the vicinity of what they took to be Peter's grave.
Two proved to be particularly important. Two meters below the floor of the courtyard the excavators unearthed a child's grave which they called 'Gamma'. The small sarcophagus had been placed in a short trench from which, leading to ground level was a narrow lead tube. Pipes of this kind were a common feature of pagan tombs and on the anniversary of the child's death the family of the deceased would gather at the grave and pour a little wine down the tube as an offering to the departed shade. At the point where the pipe emerged from the earth, a crude altar had originally been constructed, again with a pagan cultic purpose, but the makers of the aedicula had destroyed most of it in building their own monument. Lastly, the child's grave had a distinctive orientation, slightly off a true west-east axis.
The same orientation was notable in the second important grave, to which the excavators gave the name 'Theta'. This was a much humbler burial. The corpse had been placed in the earth and covered over with brick tiles, leaning together like a roof. Crucially, for the excavations, one of these tiles bore a maker's stamp. It had been manufactured in a Roman workshop during the reign of Vespasian, emperor from AD 69-79, and well within a generation of Peter's death.
Now when the excavators looked closely at the aedicula, and more specifically, when they examined the slab of marble that had been set into the floor of the courtyard where the aedicula met the Red Wall, they noticed that it too was slightly off the perpendicular. Its orientation was in fact exactly the same as the early burials Gamma and Theta. Also, when they looked again at the foundations of the Red Wall, they discovered that whoever had constructed it had made a curious rise in the foundations at precisely the point where it met the cavity. It seemed to the excavators that the builders of the Red Wall, whom we know carried out the task in the second century, had, during the work of laying the foundations, come across something in the ground which they did not want to disturb. Furthermore, those who placed the marble slab on top of the remains marked by the aedicula placed it in line with a body that was not lying perpendicular to the Red Wall. That body was in fact in alignment with the earliest burials at the site, one of which had apparently taken place between AD 69 and 79.
To the excavators, the task seemed complete and their confidence turned to joy several months later when Dr Galeazzi-Lisi reported back on the remains discovered beneath the aedicula. They were the bones of a powerfully built man who had been 65 or 70 years of age at the time of his death. But it is a tribute to the professionalism of the excavators and the caution of Pius XII himself that the Pope reported the discoveries to the world in the following terms in his Christmas broadcast on 23rd of December 1950:
Has the tomb of Saint Peter really been found? To that question the answer is beyond all doubt yes. The tomb of the Prince of the Apostles has been found. Such is the final conclusion after all the labor and study of these years. A second question, subordinate to the first, refers to the relics of Saint Peter. Have they been found? At the side of the tomb remains of human bones have been discovered. However, it is impossible to prove with certainty that they belong to the apostle. This still leaves intact the historical reality of the tomb itself.
|One reason for the Pope's caution was the absence of any physical reference to Peter in the vicinity of the aedicula. But that evidence arrived in startling circumstances just after the excavators had sent their final report to the Vatican publishers. Antonio Ferrua was visiting the site on his own one evening when he noticed that a piece of plaster from the wall on the right hand side of the shrine had worked itself free from the back of the wall, where it was placed against the crack in the Red Wall. Ferrua looked carefully at the fragment and noticed that some unknown hand had scratched two lines of Greek. On the upper line only the letters pi, epsilon, tau and rho were still visible, while of the lower line only epsilon, nu and part of a vertical line survived. Ferrua, however, with his grounding in Christian epigraphy, immediately restored the missing letters in his mind, so that the short inscription read "Petr[os] en[i]", "Peter is buried in here". He believed that at last, and through a stroke of fate that was almost miraculous, a crucial reference associating Peter with the aedicula had been found.|
|As we saw, Pope Pius XII had been cautious in his Christmas broadcast of 1950 about the identification of the bones found in the space beneath the aedicula. Eighteen years later (June 28, 1968) After a extensive scientific investigation Pope Paul VI would announce to the world with a certainty "The relics of St. Peter have been identified...."
Those bones had been entrusted to Dr. Galeazzi-Lisi for examination and he had identified them as the bones of a powerfully built man who at been 65 or 70 years of age at the time of his death. Judging by fragments of fabric found we know that the bones had been wrapped in a cloth of royal purple, a sure indications of the unusually high dignity accorded the man. Threads of gold in the cloth reinforced this impression , since the combination of purple and gold indicate imperial honors.
|We may conclude, then, that not only St. Peter's authority and spirit, but even the relics of his body, have remained in Rome. Nature and grace have conspired to justify the Latin inscription on the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, towering some 400 feet above the once simple earthen grave: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and I will give you the keys of heaven."|
Say what you will about what authority St. Peter exercised at Rome, to say that he was never there and was not martyred and buried there is just pure foolishness.
Now, the Catholic church is trying to have it both ways. They believe they've discovered "evidence" that Peter was in Rome, want to call Reformer liars even thought the REFORMERS wanted the CATHOLIC church to adhere to Biblical teachings which wasn't and still doesn't the Catholic church doesn't adhere to or teach this day - just a few things here and there that fits in to their ancient heresies ... .
I have to disagree with what you are writing. There are many Protestants that claim there is no evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. This could mean simply that he could have been, but there's nothing conclusive to say so. A sort of "agnostic" thought on the topic. However, many will cite this lack of evidence to knock down the Catholic belief about the Papacy and Papal primacy.
The person who writes this is obviously a devout Catholic and therefore prejudiced. I would look for proof of Peters footsteps in Rome from a source without such a strong church oriented reason to put Peter in Rome.
Inasmuch as the overwhelming majority of real Protestants are pretty sure St. Peter is both a saint and was in Rome, I really don't where this guy finds his argument ~ maybe a rumor at the monestary or something?
Very strange way to begin a discussion of the archaeological authenticity of Peter's presence in Rome. It could be he's simply trying to distract us from some of the weaker threads of support.
Who you been talkin' to.
Go read one of the two threads currently up today about this topic. Plenty of people questioning the idea that Peter was ever in Rome.
But are they "real Protestants"?
Historical fact that Peter ever went to Rome is missing. Show me any evidence that Peter was ever in Rome and I might reconsider my basic protestant argument. After many hundreds of years, Rome has yet to give any proof that Peter ever set foot in Rome.So if you think that some Protestants do not make this claim then your dispute is with those that do, not with me. Please be more retrospect before you charge someone with lying or creating a straw man.
--doc1019, post #5
Like most historians, Im still waiting for proof that Peter ever ventured to Rome. Why would he, he had already shown that he was unworthy by denying Christ three times. And after denying Christ, we dont hear about him much. So this has been , denier (sp) of Christ went on to Rome and became the first pope . Excuse me if I dont buy into this whole thing.
--doc1019, post #5
Irenaeus tells us several things. First, Peter AND Paul established the Church of Rome. Second, when the Church of Rome was established they left it in the hands of Linus. Finally, they left Rome.
--HarleyD, post #27
Where is this "documentation from the earliest Christians" on this matter. Please post all that you have. Search the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers and send them to me. We are doing a wonderful ecumenical treatise on the Evidence that Saint Peter was in Rome for that 25 year Bishopric as Saint Jerome pontificates and to date we have no evidence from Scripture or the "earliest Christians" or the Ante-Nicene Fathers, other than Jerome and Eusebius, of course, way off in the 4th century. But what were their sources????
They didn't pontificate on this matter without proof, did they? Or were their sources that thin over their heads there on Vatican hill or perhaps that ream of whole cloth down there in the basement that the magisterium have been using for years?
Please post all that you have from the Ante-Nicene Fathers that in the wildest imagination could be construed by the most rhetorical among us to possibly be some shred of evidence of that legendary Petrine Bishopric in Rome followed by upside down crucifixion under Nero. Just the words not the rhetoric.
--Uncle Chip, post #43
What proof is there that Peter was martyred upside down in Rome. We know Paul was because of the books he wrote.
--wmfights, post #59
This still does not answer my original question were is there physical proof that Peter ever visited Rome?
--doc1019, post #61
Neither lived contemporaneous with Peter. Tertuillian AD 145-220, Ireneaus AD 120-202. So anything they have to report would be hearsay. They never claim to have actually seen Peter walking the streets of Rome.
--doc1019, post #62
This is the crux of the problem. St. Jerome lived from 347AD-420AD. How could he assert who was in Rome 300 years before? Did he have tangible proof?
--wmfights, post #64
If the 'pope' was in Rome, wouldn't the chief Jews already have heard of Peter, and been preached the Kingdom of God??? Of course they would... But the chiefs of the Jews knew nothing about the Kingdom of God other than the small talk and rumors they heard about another sect of religious nuts...And since the Jewish people were Peter's responsibility, that's a pretty good indication Peter was no where near the area...
--Iscool, post # 99
Sounds like somebody is pulling your leg, or maybe we've finally identified the FR names of those strange people over at Westboro Baptist ~ they're not real Protestants either ~ not even Christian ~ just trash.
You're the last person I'd expect to post this, nmh! I about fell off my chair. :-)
But, I'm curious. What passage are you referring to? 1 Pt 5:13 greets the recipients in the name of "she who is at Babylon," the "she" probably being the church at "Babylon". Some people argue that this "Babylon" is the real Babylon, in Mesopotamia, but the historic Babylon had been abandoned about 2 centuries before. Besides, the Christians of Iraq have no corporate memory of St. Peter preaching to them; they consider their churches to have been founded by St. Thomas. So "Babylon" is probably a code word for somewhere else, perhaps Rome.
I'm unaware of any other Scripture passage placing St. Peter at Rome.
This puts them outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy, and unless you're "inside" the pale you can be neither Protestant nor Catholic.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Every word in the Bible is true, but there are no words that state that Peter was ever in Rome.
The Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy is written by Paul from Rome - most likely just prior to his death at the hands of Nero. At the close of this letter, in Chapter 4, Paul speaks of those that left him, and those that are with him ("...only Luke is with me."). Nary a word about Peter. I infer that Peter was not in Rome at this time - and if Peter was ministering to the Jewish-Christian community in Babylon, that would fit the greeting found in the 2nd Letter of Peter.
Now its certainly possible that Peter went to Rome after Paul's death -- but scriptures are silent on that point.
The net of all this? It doesn't matter to me whether or not Peter ever made it to Rome. He was an Apostle of the Lord and we are blessed to be built upon the foundation that they provided, purchased by the blood of Christ, and made alive by the Spirit
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
I'm a Protestant, and I have no problem whatsoever to believe that St. Peter was (or is) in Rome.
1) "Babylon" was used as a code word in the NT to represent Rome. This is well known -- so well known that it crops up throughout Protestantism. Here's just one example: http://www.armageddonbooks.com/226rev.html
"(3) That Rome was the city that was designated as Babylon. The Apocalypse would indicate that the churches would understand the symbolic reference, and it seems to have been so understood until the time of the Reformation. The denial of this position was in line with the effort to refute Peter's supposed connection with the Roman church. Ancient tradition, however, makes it seem quite probable that Peter did make a visit to Rome (see Lightfoot, Clement, II, 493 ff).
"Internal evidence helps to substantiate theory that Rome was the place from which the letter was written. Mark sends greetings (1 Pet 15:13), and we know he had been summoned to Rome by the apostle Paul (2 Tim 4:11). The whole passage, "She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you," seems to be figurative, and that being true, it is natural that Babylon should have been used instead of Rome. The character of the letter as a whole would point to Rome as the place of writing. Ramsay thinks this book is impregnated with Roman thought beyond any other book in the Bible (see The Church in the Roman Empire, 286)."
"It is generally agreed that "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5:13 is a cipher for the city of Rome. The great city in Mesopotamia was no longer such in the first century. Diodorus of Sicily (56-36 BCE) writes: "As for the palaces and the other buildings, time has either entirely effaced them or left them in ruins; and in fact of Babylon itself but a small part is inhabited at this time, and most of the area within its walls is given over to agriculture." (2.9.9) Strabo, who died in 19 CE, writes: "The greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say . . . 'The Great City is a great desert'." (Geography 16.1.5) Also, no church other than Rome was claimed in ancient times to be the resting place of Peter. The Sibylline Oracles (5.143-168; 5.434), the Apocalypse of Baruch (10:1-3; 11:1; 67:7), 4 Ezra (3:1, 28, 31), and Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-21) also refer to Rome as "Babylon." There was a reason for connecting the Babylonian and Roman empires, as Norman Perrin writes, "Rome is called Babylon because her forces, like those of Babylon at an earlier time, destroyed the temple and Jerusalem" (Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom, p. 58)."
It is only with the advent of Protestantism that some Christians began to routinely deny the commonly held belief that Peter had been in Rome.
The Case of the Ossuary of Shimon bar Jonah
Filed under: Archaeology James Tabor @ 10:16 pm
In all the controversy over whether or not the Talpiot Jesus Family tomb might have been that of Jesus of Nazareth there is another ossuary about which few outside the academic world have ever heard. Rather than stirring worldwide headlines and passionate debate, it has largely gone unnoticed, since it is not a part of the Israeli State Collection. It is presently on display in a small Franciscan museum along the Via Dolorossa that is open only odd hours during the week. As far as I know it has not drawn the attention of Christian pilgrims.
The ossuary was found in 1953 on the Mt. of Olives by the the Franciscan Fr. Bagatti. It was part of in a fascinating necropolis of over a five hundred burial tombs that some scholars have identified, in whole or in part, with the early pre-70 CE Jewish-Christian communitythat is, Jewish followers of Jesus who lived, died, and were buried as good Jews. This ossuary is inscribed: Shimon bar Jonah, or in English, Simon son of Jonah, the name of the apostle Simon Peter (Matthew 16:17). This name is attested nowhere else, neither in inscriptions nor in literature. Further, the Simon, son of Jonah, ossuary was found just meters away from a tomb just outside of Bethany containing a single ossuary with two indviduals: Mary and Martha, and nearby another, inscribed Lazarus. I discuss these briefly in my book, The Jesus Dynasty (pp. 235-237), but a fuller treatment, accessible to the non-specialist, is available in Jack Fingegans The Archaeology of the New Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, reprt 1979), pp. 359-375.
With permission I reproduce this edited version of an article on this ossuary written in 1960 by F. Paul Peterson just when the discovery of the cemetery complex with its interesting clusters of names had caused a stir in certain quarters of the Protestant Christian world. For the most part the ossuary was marginalized and forgotten and the standard defense became operativethese names are common, they could have belonged to any Mary, Martha, Lazarus, or Simon son of Jonah we could identify from historical records. Indeed, there must have been another family, with those very names, buried very near another Simon bar Jonah. There seems to be a great aversion to ever thinking anything could be found that would directly connect to names of people we read about in our gospels.
The article is quite naive and tendentious, and very much a period piece, in terms of its style and approach, but it captures I think a moment in time, with some reflection of how the academic community, as well as different Christian communities, Catholic and Protestant, reacted to the discovery of the ossuary.
Peters Tomb Recently Discovered In Jerusalem
by F. Paul Peterson
Saint Peters Tomb: The Discovery of Peters Tomb in Jerusalem in 1953
While visiting a friend in Switzerland, I heard of what seemed to me, one of the greatest discoveries since the time of Christthat Peter was buried in Jerusalem and not in Rome. The source of this rumor, written in Italian, was not clear; it left considerable room for doubt or rather wonder. Rome was the place where I could investigate the matter, and if such proved encouraging, a trip to Jerusalem might be necessary in order to gather valuable first hand information on the subject. I therefore went to Rome. After talking to many priests and investigating various sources of information, I finally was greatly rewarded by learning where I could buy the only known book on the subject, which was also written in Italian. It is called, Gli Scavi del Dominus Flevit, printed in 1958 at the Tipografia del PP. Francescani, in Jerusalem. It was written by P. B. Bagatti and J. T. Milik, both Roman Catholic priests. The story of the discovery was there, but it seemed to be purposely hidden for much was lacking. I consequently determined to go to Jerusalem to see for myself, if possible, that which appeared to be almost unbelievable, especially since it came from priests, who naturally because of the existing tradition that Peter was buried in Rome, would be the last ones to welcome such a discovery or to bring it to the attention of the world.
In Jerusalem I spoke to many Franciscan priests who all read, finally, though reluctantly, that the bones of Simon Bar Jona (St. Peter) were found in Jerusalem, on the Franciscan monastery site called, Dominus Flevit (where Jesus was supposed to have wept over Jerusalem), on the Mount of Olives. The pictures show the story. The first show an excavation where the names of Christian Biblical characters were found on the ossuaries (bone boxes). The names of Mary and Martha were found on one box and right next to it was one with the name of Lazarus, their brother. Other names of early Christians were found on other boxes. Of greatest interest, however, was that which was found within twelve feet from the place where the remains of Mary, Martha and Lazarus were foundthe remains of St. Peter. They were found in an ossuary, on the outside of which was clearly and beautifully written in Aramaic, Simon Bar Jona.
The charcoal inscription reads: Shimon Bar Yonah which means Simon [Peter] son of Jonah.
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
I talked to a Yale professor, who is an archaeologist, and was director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He told me that it would be very improbable that a name with three words, and one so complete, could refer to any other than St. Peter.
But what makes the possibility of error more remote is that the remains were found in a Christian burial ground, and more yet, of the first century, the very time in which Peter lived. In fact, I have a letter from a noted scientist stating that he can tell by the writing that it was written just before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D.
I talked to priest Milik, the co-writer of this Italian book, in the presence of my friend, a Christian Arab, Mr. S. J. Mattar, who now is the warden of the Garden Tomb This priest, Milik, admitted that he knew that the bones of St. Peter are not in Rome. I was very much surprised that he would admit that, so to confirm his admittance, I said, to which he also agreed, There is a hundred times more evidence that Peter was buried in Jerusalem than in Rome. This was something of an understatement, for he knew as I know that there is absolutely no evidence at all that Peter was buried in Rome
I have spoken on the subject to many Franciscan priests who either were or had been in Jerusalem, and they all agree that the tomb and remains of St. Peter are in Jerusalem. There was just one exception which is interesting and which only proves the point. The Franciscan priest, Augusto Spykerman, who was in charge of the semi-private museum inside the walls of old Jerusalem, by the site of the Franciscan Church of the Flagellation, was that exception. When I asked to see the museum, he showed it to the three of us, Mr. Mattar, who in addition to being warden of the Tomb of Christ, had been the manager of an English bank in Jerusalem, a. professional photographer and myself. But he told us nothing of the discovery. I knew that the evidence of Peters burial was there, for priests had told me that relics from the Christian burial ground were preserved within this museum. People who lived in Jerusalem all their lives and official guides who are supposed to know every inch of the city, however, knew nothing of this discovery, so well was it withheld from the public. I had asked an elderly official guide where the tomb of St. Peter was. He responded in a very profound and majestic tone of voice, The Tomb of St. Peter has never been found in Jerusalem. Oh, I said, but I have seen the burial place of Peter with my own eyes. What, he replied, you a foreigner mean to tell me that you know where the tomb of St. Peter is when I have been an official guide for thirty-five years and know every inch of ground in Jerusalem? I was afraid that he would jump at my throat. I managed to calm him as I said, But sir, here are the pictures and you can see the ossuary, among others, with Peters name in Aramaic. You can also see this for yourself on the Mount of Olives on the Franciscan Convent site called, Dominus Flevit. When I finished he slowly turned away in stunned amazement. A person who has seen this Christian burial ground and knows the circumstances surrounding the case could never doubt that this truly is the burial place of St. Peter and of other Christians. I, too, walked around in a dreamy amazement for about a week for I could hardly believe what I had seen and heard. Since the circulation of this article, they do not allow anyone to see this burial place.
Before things had gone very far, I had been quite discouraged for I could get no information from the many priests with whom I had talked. However, I continued questioning priests wherever I would find them. Finally one priest dropped some information. With that knowledge I approached another priest who warily asked me where I had acquired that information. I told him that a priest had told me. Then he admitted the point and dropped a little more information. It went on like that for some time until I got the whole picture, and I was finally directed to where I could see the evidence for myself. To get the story, it made me feel as though I had a bull by the tail and were trying to pull him through a key hole. But when I had gathered all the facts in the case, the priests could not deny the discovery of the tomb, but even confirmed it, though reluctantly. In fact, I have the statement from a Spanish priest on the Mount of Olives on a tape recorder, to that effect.
But here we were talking to this Franciscan priest in charge of the museum, asking him questions which he tried to evade but could not because of the information I had already gathered from the many priests with whom I had spoken. Finally after the pictures of the evidence were taken, which was nothing short of a miracle that he allowed us to do so, I complimented him on the marvelous discovery of the tomb of St. Peter in Jerusalem that the Franciscans had made. He was clearly nervous as he said, Oh no, the tomb of St. Peter is in Rome. But as he said that, his voice faltered, a fact which even my friend, Mr. Mattar, had noticed. Then I looked him squarely in the eyes and firmly said, No, the tomb of St. Peter is in Jerusalem. He looked at me like a guilty school boy and held his peace. He was, no doubt, placed there to hide the facts, but his actions and words, spoke more convincingly about the discovery than those priests who finally admitted the truth.
I also spoke to a Franciscan priest in authority at the priests printing plant within the walls of old Jerusalem, where their book on the subject was printed. He also admitted that the tomb of St. Peter is in Jerusalem. Then when I visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, I encountered a Franciscan monk. After telling him what I thought of the wonderful discovery the Franciscans had made, I asked him plainly, Do you folks really believe that those are the remains of St. Peter? He responded, Yes we do, we have no choice in the matter. The clear evidence is there. I did not doubt the evidence, but what surprised me was that these priests and monks believed that which was against their own religion and on top of that, to admit it to others was something out of this world. Usually a Catholic, either because he is brainwashed or stubbornly doesnt want to see anything only that which he has been taught, will not allow himself to believe anything against his religion, much less to admit it to others. But there is a growing, healthy attitude among many Catholics, to prove all things, hold fast to that which is good as the Master admonished us all.
Then I asked, Does Father Bagatti (co-writer of the book in Italian on the subject, and archaeologist) really believe that those are the bones of St. Peter? Yes, he does, was the reply. Then I asked, But what does the Pope think of all this? That was a thousand dollar question and he gave me a million dollar answer. Well, he confidentially answered in a hushed voice, Father Bagatti told me personally that three years ago he went to the Pope (Pius XII) in Rome and showed him the evidence and the Pope said to him, Well, we will have to make some changes, but for the time being, keep this thing quiet. In awe I asked also in a subdued voice, So the Pope really believes that those are the bones of St. Peter? Yes, was his answer. The documentary evidence is there, he could not help but believe.
I visited various renowned archaeologists on the subject. Dr. Albright, of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, told me that he personally knew priest Bagatti and that he was a very competent archaeologist. I also spoke with Dr. Nelson Gluek, archaeologist and president of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I showed him the pictures found in this article, but being with him for only a few minutes I therefore could not show him the wealth of material that you have before you in this article. However, he quickly recognized the Aramaic words to be Simon Bar Jona. (Aramaic is very similar to Hebrew). I asked him if he would write a statement to that effect. He said to do so would cast a reflection on the competency of the priest J. T. Milik, who he knew to be a very able scientist. But he said that he would write a note. I quote,
I regard Father J. T. Milik as a first class scholar in the Semitic field. He added, I do not consider that names on ossuaries are conclusive evidence that they are those of the Apostles. Nelson Glueck
I quote this letter of Dr. Glueck because it shows that priest Milik is a competent archaeologist. As I have mentioned, I was only able to be with him for a few minutes and was not able to show him but a very small part of the evidence. Anyone, including myself, would readily agree with Dr. Glueck that if only the name Simon Bar Jona on the ossuary was all the evidence that was available it would not be conclusive evidence that it was of the Apostle Peter, though it would certainly be a strong indication. The story of the cave and the ossuaries and the regular cemetery just outside of the Convent site is this: It was a Roman custom that when a person had died and when the body had decomposed, the grave would be opened. The bones would be placed in a small ossuary with the name of the person carefully written on the outside front. These ossuaries would then be placed in a cave as in the case of this Christian burial ground and thus making room for others. But this cave or burial place where the ossuaries were found and which was created and brought about through the natural and disinterested sequence of events, without any reason to change facts or circumstances, was a greater testimony than if there were a witness recorded, stating that Peter was buried there. And yet, even that is unmistakenly recorded in the three words in Aramaic of the ossuary, Simon Bar Jona. Herein, lies the greatest proof that Peter never was a Pope, and never was in Rome, for if he had been, it would have certainly been proclaimed in the New Testament. History, likewise, would not have been silent on the subject, as they were not silent in the case of the Apostle Paul. Even the Catholic history would have claimed the above as a fact and not as fickle tradition. To omit Peter as being Pope and in Rome (and the Papacy) would be like omitting the Law of Moses or the Prophets or the Acts of the Apostles from the Bible.
Dr. Glueck, being Jewish, and having been to Jerusalem, no doubt, is fully aware of the fact that for centuries the Catholic Church bought up what were thought to be holy sites, some of which did not stand up to Biblical description. For instance, the priests say that the tomb of Jesus is within the walls of the old Jerusalem, in a hole in the ground; whereas, the Bible says that the tomb where Jesus was laid was hewn out of rock and a stone was rolled in front and not on top of it. The Garden Tomb at the foot of Golgotha, outside the walls of old Jerusalem, meets the Biblical description perfectly. In fact, all those who were hated by the Jewish leaders, as Jesus was, could never have been allowed to be buried within the gates of the Holy City. The tomb where Jesus lay was made for Joseph of Arimathaea. His family were all stout and short of stature. In this burial place you can see to this day where someone had carved deeper into the wall to make room for Jesus who was said to be about six feet tall.
When Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be an article of faith in 1950, the Catholic Church in Jerusalem then quickly sold the tomb of Mary to the Armenian Church. Ex-priest Lavallo told me personally that there is another tomb of St. Mary in Ephesus. But the tomb of St. Peter is altogether different for they would rather that it never existed, and to buy or sell such a site would be out of the question. It fell upon them in this manner, as I was told by a Franciscan monk of the monastery of Dominus Flevit. One of their members was spading the ground on this site in 1953, when his shovel fell through. Excavation was started and there, a large underground Christian burial ground was uncovered. The initial of Christ in Greek was written there which would never have been found in a Jewish, Arab or pagan cemetery. By the structure of the writings, it was established by scientists that they were of the days just before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D. On the ossuaries were found many names of the Christian of the early Church. It was prophesied in the Bible that Jesus would stand on the Mount of Olives at His return to earth. You can see then, how the Christians would be inclined to have their burial ground on the Mount, for here also, had been a favorite meeting place of Jesus and His disciples. In all the cemetery, nothing was found (as also in the Catacombs in Rome) which resemble Arab, Jewish, Catholic or pagan practices. Dr. Glueck, being Jewish, is not fully aware, no doubt, that such a discovery is very embarrassing since it undermines the very foundation of the Roman Catholic Church. Since Peter did not live in Rome and therefore was not martyred or buried there, it naturally follows that he was not their first Pope
As I have mentioned, I had a very agreeable talk with priest Milik, but I did not have the opportunity to see priest Bagatti while in Jerusalem. I wrote to him, however, on March 15, 1960, as follows: I have spoken with a number of Franciscan priests and monks and they have told me about you and the book of which you are a co-writer. I had hoped to see you and to compliment you on such a great discovery, but time would not permit. Having heard so much about you and that you are an archaeologist (with the evidence in hand), I was convinced, with you, concerning the ancient burial ground that the remains found in the ossuary with the name on it, Simon Bar Jona, written in Aramaic, were those of St. Peter. It is remarkable that in his reply he did not contradict my statement, which he certainly would have done if he honestly could have done so. I was very much convinced with you - that the remains found in the ossuary were those of St. Peter. This confirms the talk I had with the Franciscan monk in Bethlehem and the story he told me of Priest Bagattis going to the Pope with the evidence concerning the bones of St. Peter in Jerusalem. In his letter one can see that he is careful because of the Popes admonition to keep this discovery quiet. He therefore wrote me that he leaves the whole explanation of the Aramaic words, Simon Bar Jona, to priest Milik In priest Bagattis letter one can see that he is in a difficult position. He cannot go against what he had written in 1953, at the time of the discovery of this Christian-Jewish burial ground, nor what he had said to the Franciscan monk about his visit to the Pope. However, he does raise a question which helps him to get out of the situation without altogether contradicting himself and at the same time putting a smoke screen around the truth. He wrote,
Supposing that it is Jona (on the ossuary) as I believe, it may be some other relative of St. Peter, because names were passed on from family to family. To be able to propose the identification of it with St. Peter would go against a long tradition, which has its own value. Anyway, another volume will come soon that will demonstrate that the cemetery was Christian and of the first century to the second century A.D. The salute in God most devoted P. B. Bagatti C. F. M.
As I have shown, after the admonition of the Pope to keep this thing quiet, priest Bagatti leaves the interpretation of the whole matter to priest Milik who offers several suggestions but in the end declares that the original statement of priest Bagatti may be truethat the inscription and the remains were of St. Peter. It is also very interesting and highly significant that priest Bagatti, in his attempt to neutralize his original statement and the consternation the discovery had and would have if it were generally known, says in reference to the name Simon Bar Jona (St. Peter), It may be some other relative of St. Peter, because names were passed on from generation to generation. In other words he says that Peters name, Simon Bar Jona, could have been given him from a relative of the same name of generations before him, or, could belong to a relative generations after St. Peter First of all, it could not refer to a relative before St. Peter for the Christian burial ground could only have come into being after Jesus began. His public ministry and had converts; and therefore, could not belong to a relative before Peters time, since only those who were converted through Christs ministry were buried there. Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and left it desolate. Therefore, it is impossible that the inscription could refer to a relative after Peters time
This ancient Christian burial ground shows that Peter died and was buried in Jerusalem, which is easily understandable since neither history nor the Bible tells of Peters having been in Rome. To make matters more clear, the Bible tells us that Peter was the Apostle to the Jews. It was Paul who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and both history and the Bible tells of his being in Rome
Scans from Bagattis offical excavtion report: Gli Scavi del Dominus Flevit
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