image with the sign of Myriobiblos

Main Page | Library | Homage | Seminars | Book Reviews





Internet Dept.



Previous Page
Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

3. The papal primacy and the question of Peter's visit to Rome

Though Byzantine theologians rejected the major features of the Roman exegesis of Matthew 16.18-19, they did not doubt that Peter had visited Rome. Ιn recent times, however, this question has been hotly debated, and some modern scholars deny that Peter ever went to Rome.(21) They argue that the Epistles of Peter give no sign that they were written in Rome and that the New Testament itself nowhere indicates that Peter ever went so far west. Τo this argument the reply is made that the following passage in the First Epistle of Clement of Rome,(22) which was written ca. 96, proves that both Peter and Paul actually lived in Rome and were there put to death:

But, to cease from the examples of old time, let us come to those who contended in the days nearest to us. Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church endured persecution and persevered unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostle Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy suffered not one or two but many injuries, and, having thus given his testimony, went to the glorious place which was his due.

Clement then goes on to speak of Paul and his sojourn in the West. But he does not specifically connect Peter with Rome or state that Peter ever saw Rome or died there.

Nor can the section in the Epistle that Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, wrote to the Romans ca. 117, in which he says, "Ι do not command you as Peter and Paul did,"(23) be regarded as having probative force. The earliest authority which unambiguously places Peter in Rome is a letter written ca. 190 by Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, according to whom both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome at the same time.(24)

In the latter part of the second century, also, Irenaeus, a native of Asia Minor who became bishop of Lyon in Gaul (ca. 177-2Ο2),(25) named Peter and Paul (some MSS have "Paul and Peter") "the two most glorious apostles," as the founders of the Church of Rome, which he pronounced to be the oldest and greatest of all. Every church must be in agreement with Rome, he says because of the latter's "more authoritative origin" ( potentiorem principalitatem). Since the Greek original of this portion of Irenaeus has been lost and is known to us only through a Latin translation dated somewhere between ca. 200 and 420, difficulties of interpretation have arisen. Some believe that we have here an indication that the primacy of Rome was acknowledged by the end of the second century. But, even most Catholic scholars agree, what Irenaeus meant was that, because of the high distinction of its founders, Rome had won special recognition as a repository of the teaching of the Apostles, which was preserved in the same form by all the apostolic sees.(26)

Nevertheless, Irenaeus's testimony in favour of a sojourn by Peter in Rome cannot be doubted. After Irenaeus, witnesses of this sort become abundant, and no ancient author denies that Peter went to Rome. This is an important point, and to it should be added the fact that only the Roman Church claimed to have Peter's tomb. There were no other claimants. The argument from silence here is unusually powerful. For Peter visited many cities which might conceivably have boasted that they had provided a last resting place for him, had there been any persistent tradition to that effect. The archaeological evidence for the burial of St. Peter in Rome, beneath the Vatican itself is very complex. The excavators claim that they have found the site of Peter's tomb, but not the tomb itself. Nevertheless, there are still many sceptics, Roman and non-Roman, but most of the leading scholars of all faiths are convinced that Peter did carry the Gospel to Rome and establish a Christian community in that city.(27)


21. - Oscar Cullmann, "Peter: Disciple, Apostle, martyr, trans. from German by Floyd V Filson (London-Philadelphia, 1953, reprint New York, 1958), does not accept the Roman primacy, but believes that Peter went to Rome and gives the best general survey of the literature; cf. Kurt Aland, «Petrus in Rom,» "ΗistΖ", 183 (1955), 497-516, who accepts the Roman tradition. Hans Katzenmayer, «Petrus in Rom,» "Internationale kirchliche "Zeitschrift, 46 (1956), 28-40, in a review of Heussi, claims that decisive proof pro or con is impossible. The latest Roman champion is Antonio Rimoldi, "L'apostolo San Pietro (Analecta Gregoriana, 96, Series facultatis historiae ecclesiasticae", Sec. Β, 18 [Rome, 1958]), who gives an exhaustive bibliography and analyses the tradition down to 451. See also Bihlmeyer-Tüchle, "Kirchengeschichte", § 10. The Roman traditions about Peter are rejected by Karl Heussi, «Die vermeintlichen Beweise für das Kommen des Petrus nach Rom,» "HistZ, 186 (1958), 249-60; "idem, Die römische Petrustradition in kritischer Sicht (Τübingen, 1955), with bibliography; Johannes Haller, "Das Papsttum, 1, 9-21, 475-86; Ε. Τ. Merrill "Essays in early Christian history" (London, 1924), 267-333; Joseph Τurmel, an anti-Roman priest of the Catholic Church, who wrote a host of learned works under his own name and fourteen pseudonyms. "Histoire des dogmes, 3, La papauté (Paris, 1933), 93-106; on whom see Felix Sartiaux, "Joseph Turmel" (Paris, 1931); C. Guignebert, "La primauté de Pierre et la venue de Pierre à Rome" (Paris, 1909).

22. - Ed. and trans. Kirsopp Lake, "The apostolic fathers", 1 (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), 16; cf. Jalland, "The Church and the papacy", 47 ff., 65 ff.

23. - 4, 3, Lake, op. cit., 1, 230.

24. - Quoted by Eusebius, "ΗΕ", 2, 25, 8, ed. and trans. Kirsopp Lake (Cambridge, Mass., 1953), 182.

25. - Irenaeus, Adversus haereses", 3, 3, 2; ed. and trans. F Sagnard, "Irénée de Lyon, Contre les hérésies", SC, 34 (Paris, 1952), 102; ed. W. W. Harvey, 2 (Cambridge, Eng., 1857), 9.

26. - "Ibid.": «Ad hanc enim ecclesiam, propter potentiorem [v.1.: potiorem] principalitatem, necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam,-hoc est eos qui sunt undique fideles,-in qua semper, ab his qui sunt undique, conservata est ea quae est ab apostolis traditio.» The numerous interpretations are admirably surveyed by Sagnard, "loc. cit., 103-7, 414-32; and Jalland, "The Church and the papacy", 109-15. See further Altaner, "Patrologie", § 27; Ρ Nautin, «Irénée, 'Adv. haer'., 3, 3 2: Eglise de Rome ou église universelle?» "RHR", 151-52 (1957), 37-78.

27. - Β. Μ. Apollonj-Ghetti, Α. Ferrua, Ε. Josi, Ε. Kirschbaum, L. Kaas, C. Serafini, "Esplorazioni sotto la confessione di San Pietro in Vaticanο, 2 vols. (Vatican City, 1951), the principal publication on the excavations; Ε. Kirschbaum, "Die Gräber der Apostelfürsten" (Frankfurt am Main, 1957); the excavators (the above-named authors) claim that they have found the site of Peter's tomb, but not the tomb itself. Margherita Guarducci, "La tomba di Pietro (Rome, 1959); eadem, I graffiti sotto la confessione di San Pietro in Vaticano", 3 vols. (Vatican City, 1958); José Ruysschaert, «Réflexions sur les fouilles vaticanes, le rapport officiel et la critique,» "RHE", 48 (1953), 573-631; 49 (1954), 5-58 concur. Miss Guarducci provides data from the graffiti (rude carvings on walls), which, she believes, prove that the cult of Peter in this vicinity goes back to the latter part of the second century. Jocelyn Toynbee and John W. Perkins (Protestants), "The shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican excavations" (New York, 1957), 161, conclude that the excavators have uncovered a shrine ("aedicula") of the mid-second century, which may «mark the site of an earlier grave,» and that, «although there is nothing to prove that this grave was that of St. Peter, nothing in the archaeological evidence is inconsistent with such an identification»; cf. "ibid.", 127-94; Αrmin von Gerkan (Protestant), «Ζu den Problemen des Petrusgrabes;» "JbAChr", 1 (1958), 79-93; "idem", «Basso et Trisco consulibus» "Bonner Jahrbücher", 158 (1958), 89-105; and Theodor Klauser (Catholic), "Die römische Petrustradition im Lichte der neuen Ausgrabungen unter der Petruskirche (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen", 24 [Cologne-Opladen 1956]); agree that the famous tropaion of Peter mentioned by Gaius (Eusebius, HΕ, 2, 25, 6 f), has been discovered, but not the actual grave or its location. Klauser holds that the cult of Peter on the Vatican hill is not earlier than 165. It is interesting that the earliest unambiguous evidence connecting Peter with Rome, both literary and archaeological, dates from the latter part of the second century.

Previous Page