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Gaul, and Britain, and even to Spain and Africa, and everywhere founded churches to which he assigned bishops from among his disciples. Finally he was put to death, together with Paul, at Rome, and there buried, under the reign of Nero, A. D. 65 (66, 67,69). Before his death he appointed Linus his successor as bishop of Rome and as the heir of his primacy, which in this way he transmitted to the Roman bishops."
This is the pith and substance of the tradition on which, as its foundation, rests the Primacy of the Romish bishops; thus has the Romish church, and thus for centuries have the most celebrated Roman Catholic theologians, as Bellarmin, Baronius, Abraham Echellensis, Leo Allatius, Halloixius, Pagi, Natalis Alexander, Valesius, Pamelius, Feuardent, Lupus, Thomassin and hundreds of others maintained it, and in their way proved and propounded it as irrefragable truth. This Tradition, on which as pillars the whole fabric of the Roman Catholic church rests, they have strove to sustain and uphold, well knowing that with it their whole structure goes down together. Hence this tradition, in the course of time, has received a dogmatical authority, and indeed, is almost in due form, elevated into a dogma; attacks on it in the Roman Catholic church are, at the outset, declared to be impious, schismatic and heretical, subject to be punished and to be put down by the several ecclesiastical penalties, while those made by Protestants, at the best, have been honored with a notice by individual learned Catholics only to refute them; but in general have been passed over, especially by Rome, with a contemptuous silence.
§ 2. Sources of this tradition.
If we inquire for the sources of this tradition, the Holy Scriptures afford us nothing but the bare facts that Peter officiated as an apostle in the church of Jerusalem and perhaps presided over it; that there, in A. D. 45, he was put in prison by Herod; but, miraculously delivered, he left the city to betake himself to another place; that he was present at the council of Jerusalem, in A. D. 51 (53), and soon after (Gal. ii.) he was at Antioch; and that finally, according to 1 Pet. 5: 13, he wrote from Babylon to the churches of Asia Minor, which were founded by him. We see that here there is not the slightest reference to be found to Peter's being at Rome. All that brings him in contact with Rome belongs to the purely historical, not to the biblical tradition.
The sources of the historical tradition are two-fold, apocryphal and true. The former may well be the oldest, as will be evident in the course of this investigation; they are from the second, third, and fourth centuries, and may be regarded as the special supports of this tradition; for their main purpose is to place Peter very early at Rome, make him bishop of the church there, and have him die there. This is carried out even to the minutest details. Here belong the Passiones Petri et Pauli, falsely ascribed to Linus, and to Dionysius the Areopagite; the Acta Marcelli, a biography of Peter; the Life of St. John by Prochorus, one of the seven deacons; the Recognitiones and Homilies of St Clement, a pretended successor of Peter, and his Letter to James, in which he announces to him Peter's death; the Apostolical Constitutions, made as pretended by Clemens; the Liber Pontificialis, falsely attributed to pope Damasus, etc. In these writings the Tradition originated, was developed and spun out, into the minutest particulars. Their authority, as historical testimonies, is good for nothing.
It is evidently from these turbid fountains, as we shall hereafter show, that Papias, Clemens of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen have drawn, to prove Peter's abode in Rome; and to them, too, may be joined Dionysius of Corinth. Irenffius is the first who names Peter with Paul as founders of the church of Rome; that by them both Linus was consecrated first bishop of Rome; and first in the third century, Stephen L and Cyprian name Peter as the first bishop of Rome. But these accounts are very short and are, for the most part, only notices incidentally thrown in.
The first detailed statement of this tradition is given us by Eusebius, who was bishop of CEesarea, about A. D. 350. He says that when Simon Magus went from Palestine to Rome, and there had led astray many persons, Peter, aroused by the Holy Spirit, hastened after him. He arrived at Rome in the second year of the reign of Claudius, A. D. 42; there he vanquished Simon, preached the gospel, founded a church, presided over it as bishop for twenty-five years, and suffered death under Nero, in A. D. 67. From Eusebius, Jerome took it verbatim, from whom it has flowed on, as a continued stream, through the church. Justin likewise relates the story of Simon Magus at Rome, but without any mention of Peter.
Of Peter's abode at Rome, the following fathers are perfectly silent: Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Hermas, and Hegesippus.
§ 3. The Question proposed.
In this state of the authorities, it is nothing but a foolish arrogance to declare the examination respecting the trutli of the tradition as to Peter superfluous, indiscreet, altogether insulting to the Romish, and injurious to the whole church, which has so long established that tradition as a true, correct, and genuine historical one. Yet more: the dignity and importance of the subject, the freedom of historical investigation, which must examine everything that lies within its sphere, demands that this investigation be undertaken anew and carried out to the attainment of as sure a result as possible. If the tradition is true, and, as a genuine historical one, is sustained by the most credible witnesses, the Romish church need not shrink from the examination. If it is false, supported by no historical documents, then a regard for truth demands that the falsehood be exposed, and this tradition, with all that has been deduced from it, falls to the ground.
This investigation we will here undertake; we will subject the tradition relative to Peter to a historico-critical examination. To lay hold of the matter, as it were, at the root, we will concentrate it in this inquiry:
"Was Peter Ever In Rome?" Vol. XV. No. 59. 49
If we are obliged to answer this question in the negative, we need not further discuss all the other points of the tradition; Peter's Romish bishopric, the succession of the popes as the heirs of this bishopric and primacy, all vanish of themselves into nothing. If we are obliged to answer it in the affirmative, then we shall pass over to the other points above mentioned.
§ 4. Course of the Investigation.
We now propose, as the basis of the examination, the tradition of Peter's arrival at Rome in A. D. 42, and his twenty-five years' bishopric there; and we inquire : " Was Peter at Rome in A. D. 42, 44, 45, and 46; was he there in A. D. 51, in 52, in 58, 60, 61, 62, 63 or 65? Could he have been there? And if we are obliged to deny this, then we conclude that he never was there. For this purpose we shall most carefully examine the " Acts of the Apostles," then pass on to those Epistles of Paul which he wrote at that time when (as claimed) Peter must have been in Rome, as the Epistle to the Romans, or which were written from Rome, as the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, to the Hebrews, to Titus, Timothy, and Philemon, and we will examine whether these Epistles contain any traces of an abode of Peter at Rome. To these authorities we shall then add the Epistles of Peter, and especially the first one, and subject them to a similar examination.
This concludes the First Part of this work, which embraces the Biblical sources. In the Second Part we shall examine the Traditions of the fathers, whether they are authentic, probable, or true, and from what sources they have been derived. We shall here conclude with Origen and Cyprian, because it may be assumed as certain, that the fathers from A. D. 250 on, have only transcribed what their predecessors had transmitted to them.
Part I.— The Holy Scriptures.
§ 5. Opening of the subject.
We now seek the key for an answer to the inquiry. Here naturally first comes up the question for examination: Whether Peter journeyed to Rome in A. D. 42. In looking round for a fixed point of support, we find it in Gal. 1: 17 etc., where Paul states that after his conversion he did not' immediately go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles, but at first he "went into Arabia and returned to Damascus," and "then after three years," he "went to Jerusalem" to see Peter, and "abode with him fifteen days." Of this journey also Luke speaks in Acts 9: 23—30. To this event succeed several others, up to the imprisonment of Peter, which, coinciding with the death of Herod in the fourth year of the reign of Claudius, can be accurately determined.
First of all, therefore, we have to inquire when Paul was converted. This fixed, then his journey to see Peter at Jerusalem took place three years after; and as it is historically certain Peter was in Jerusalem A. D. 45, then the question at once comes up, whether it be true that Peter, from that first visit of Paul up to the second year of Claudius, was seven years bishop in Antioch, and could in that year have travelled to Rome.
§ 6. The time of Stephen's death and Paul's conversion.
Paul's conversion followed after Stephen's death. We will therefore first examine when this took place. According to Baronius, Beliarmin, Natalis, etc., it occurred shortly after the Pentecost; at the furthest it is placed eight months afterwards.
But this is not to be taken for granted. The Acts of the Apostles is the only authority from which we can here arrive at a decision. Let us see. Stephen's death is narrated in Acts vii. But how many events transpired before, which cannot be crowded into the space of eight months?