Was St. Peter Ever in Rome? -- By: E. Schuyler English

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:496 (Oct 1967)
Article: Was St. Peter Ever in Rome?
Author: E. Schuyler English

Was St. Peter Ever in Rome?

E. Schuyler English

[E. Schuyler English, Editor, The New Scofield Reference Bible.]

[Editor’s note: In this article Dr. English examines New Testament and early extra-Biblical evidences concerning the Apostle Peter’s activities between his imprisonment in Jerusalem and his martyrdom.]


In the circus in front of St. Peter’s in Rome stands an obelisk that is said to mark the place of Simon Peter’s martyrdom. It is claimed that the Basilica of St. Peter’s was built above Peter’s tomb. Roman Catholic teaching affirms that St. Peter began his residence in Rome in A.D. 42 and that he remained there until his martyrdom in A.D. 67. He is said to have been the first Bishop of Rome. To these traditions the Catholic Church holds firmly.

Tradition may be based upon truth, partial truth, or falsehood; or its original truth may become distorted. For tradition is that which is handed down orally from generation to generation without contemporary memorials to substantiate it. Is there Biblical or contemporary extra-Biblical evidence to support Catholic claims concerning Peter’s residence in Rome and his bishopric and martyrdom in that city?

Roman Catholic theologians confess that “it is nowhere explicitly stated in the New Testament that St. Peter ever went to Rome; but tradition on this point is unshakable, and in its light certain passages of the New Testament seem to confirm it.”1 The author of this citation, who was professor of New Testament Exegesis in the Collegio Angelico, Rome, early in the present century, offers two Scriptures as his confirmation: (1) that when Luke writes that Peter, after his miraculous release from his imprisonment in Jerusalem by Herod, “went into another place” (Acts 12:17), “it is possible that [that place] was Rome;” and (2) that “we are compelled

to understand as Rome” the apostle’s reference to Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13.2 However, Catholic tradition leans more heavily on the writings of the early church fathers than on the New Testament, as indeed it must. Is there any contemporary literature that offers support to tradition?

Early Extra-Biblical Writings

The early writings of Clement, Bishop of Rome, are dated about A.D. 96-97, thirty years after Simon Peter’s death. If Peter had been Bishop of Rome, Clement was either his immediate successor or second after him to hold that office.

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