Was Peter Ever
in Rome ?

Topic:   Romanism Type: Article Author:  A. Allison Lewis

Was the Apostle Peter Ever in the City of Rome?

Was Peter, the apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the City of Rome at any time during his life here on the Earth?

And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest were gathered together at Jerusalem. When they had set them in the midst, [that is Peter and John] they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "You rulers of the people and elders of Israel, 'If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him does this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'" [ACT 4:5-12].

Salvation is only through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the rock. He is what the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is founded upon. He is the Head, and those of us who have been born again by the grace of God, regardless of what local church we might be a member of or of what age we find ourselves in (Old Testament Saint or New Testament Saint), are part of the body of Christ.

There is no man on this Earth who is the head of the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the head of His body which is the Church. He says very plainly that there is no salvation—there’s no remedy for sin except the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father sent Him into the World, as Peter put it to bear our sins in His own body on the tree [1PE 2:24]. Yes, He died in our place, and that sacrifice was sufficient for all our sins. We have people who say that His death was necessary and that it was a part of the remedy for our sin, BUT then we have to add our works to it. However, the Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that it is ALL of Gods grace: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast [EPH 2:8, 9]. And when we come to the place where we can say, "O.K., God, I did something, now you’ve got to save me," we are boasting. We are boasting in our goodness—in our works—and the Bible makes it plain that our works are as filthy rags before God [ISA 64:6]. The very best that we can do—is as filthy rags. No, we’re saved by grace, and as Peter preached, he said, Neither is there salvation in any other: [Not in some church leader. Not in some church organization. Not in some local church. Not in some church ceremonies.] for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

This man, the Apostle Peter, was a man that the Bible speaks of as being married. He had a mother-in-law [MAT 8:14]. Then in 1 Corinthians 9:5, which Paul wrote around 58 AD, we see that Peter was traveling with his wife. He was an itinerant missionary travelling from place to place. Much of the time, apparently he took his wife along with him.

Then we see in Galatians 2:7-9: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel to the uncircumcision [Gentiles] was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision [Jews] was unto Peter; (For He Who worked effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me [Paul], they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen [Gentiles], and they unto the circumcision.

Peter was the apostle of the Jews. Paul was the Apostle to the gentiles–to the foreigners, to the heathen. Now the question we want to look at for a few moments is: "Was Peter the Apostle ever in the city of Rome?" Did he spend time in the city of Rome, preaching the Gospel, establishing a church in that city?

First of all, there is no place in the New Testament where there is any hint or any record of any kind that Peter was in Rome. In 1 Peter 5:13, it tells us very plainly that he wrote that epistle from the city of Babylon [In Peters day Babylon was still a city and a territory—See Josephus, Antiquities, Book xv, Ch 2, 2. "The ancient city of Mesopotamia, an area which was then a center of pure and uncompromising Judiasim" p. 65, 1 Peter by A. M. Stibbs. ACT 2:9 tells us they were in the Pentecost crowd. "After the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 Babylonia became, and for centuries remained, a seat of Jewish Schools devoted to the study and interpretation of the law" Dictionary of the Bible, p. 72, by J. J. Davis]. This is far to the east of the Roman Empire and not in Rome which is in the western part of the Empire. This is where Peter apparently had much of his ministry among the many Jews scattered there from previous centuries. He was there preaching that the Messiah had come, that Jesus Christ was that promised Messiah, and that Jesus Christ was the only hope of salvation. He was there preaching to those people when he wrote the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter. He wrote to those who were in what is now Asia Minor or what is now modern Turkey. All of these districts that he mentions are in a little section of eastern Turkey. The New Testament gives no statement or hint whatever that Peter was ever in the City of Rome, the Capital of the Roman Empire in his day.

There is some groundless tradition that says Peter was in Rome. One problem with the tradition is that the tradition is full of errors, mistakes, things that are incorrect. I’ve read parts of Josephus, all of the Apostolic Fathers, in English translation. Time and time again, as I read in these old writings, or check some writers reference to them. The references are there but in the very context in which the references are found the whole thing was full of things that are contradictory to the New Testament. Therefore being contrary to the New Testament their evidence is worthless.

For instance in the Apostolic Fathers, in THE DIDACHE, or TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES we find a paragraph in which many people wish to use a statement there about Baptism. That reference to Baptism is found in a very short paragraph which contains things that are contradictory to the New Testament. Therefore we cannot give any weight to one little statement that people want to use to help them in their false idea of what Baptism is about. Now whether they are intentional or not is beside the point. The errors are there. So it is an unreliable piece of writing. There may be some things there that are interesting and some things that are helpful and there may be some things that are true, but it is unreliable [The Apostolic Fathers, translated by J. B. Lightfoot and edited and completed by J. R. Harmer, 1973 (rpt of 1891 edition), Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Book House. p. 126].

Josephus' writings contain so much that is fanciful and even just plain ridiculous that a person has to try to pick out what is fact and what is fiction. You cannot just say Josephus said such and such and say that is a fact; that is true. No, you have to weigh the things that he says very carefully. Is it true? Are there other things in the history of that time that corroborates what he says. You cannot just take it because Josephus said it and say, "that’s a fact!" Many times he contradicts what the Bible says. When he gives the "History of the Jews", the history of Israelite people, time and time again, he contradicts what the Old Testament says concerning the history of the Jewish people. So you have to be very careful when you read these writings. Old? Yes, they are. Josephus wrote around the time shortly after Christ lived. He probably died shortly after 100 AD, himself. So he was living in old times.

You have to be careful concerning the tradition that Peter was in Rome. We find something of this written in Irenaeus, one of the Early Church Fathers. He says in one place in his writings that Matthew wrote his gospel while Peter and Paul were in Rome preaching the gospel and founding the Church there. All right, he makes a very plain statement. He says Peter and Paul were in Rome preaching the gospel and founding the church there. He says that Matthew wrote his gospel at that time. Eusebius, who lived in the 400s AD, says that Peter founded the Church in Rome. Eusebius did not live when Peter lived. Josephus did live while Peter was still alive, but Eusebius is using the records that are available to him to get his information and he says Peter, having founded the church at Antioch [which he did not], departed for Rome, preaching the gospel. So both of these, Eusebius, three centuries later, and Irenaeus in the 200s or late 100s says that Peter was in Rome. The only trouble is, both of these statements contain error, false information. Peter did not found the church at Antioch, yet this is what Eusebius records. It says after Peter founded the Church at Antioch, he departed for Rome. Peter did not found the church at Antioch. Nor did he and Paul preach together at Rome. So both Irenaeus and Eusebius in their writing what they believed was history were in error concerning what they say about Peter and Paul. So the tradition is not reliable. We cannot take it for any worth whatever. Take it as they say with a grain of salt and better take a lot of salt with it.

Then, we come to something else which is far more important, [i.e.] the silence of the Apostle Paul with respect to the Apostle Peter and the city of Rome. As you recall, Paul wrote much of the New Testament. They cover a tremendous number of years and that’s not all, one of the books (one of the major ones) was written to the Christians who lived in Rome. Also there were four written from Rome, during his first imprisonment and then a couple of more written from Rome during his last imprisonment shortly before he was killed because of his faith and preaching the Gospel. In all of these letters of Paul to the churches (to the Christians) either at Rome or from the city of Rome to others he mentions Christians in each of them. In fact he mentions by name a great number of them. And do you know what, he NEVER mentions Peter!

Now let’s look a little more closely at what he says. In the book of Romans, chapter one verses 1 and 7 he says: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, [and then verse 7] To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Then as he completes his salutation he says, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, … an apostle to all who are in Rome, Beloved of God, called to be saints. This would be better translated as the New American Standard Version puts it, "To all who are believers loved of God in Rome." He wasn’t just writing to the general population of the city of Rome. He was writing to the Saints. The New American Standard says, to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called saints. This is who he was writing to and as he wrote to them, when you come down to the last chapter of the book of Romans, he sends greetings to 27 members of the church, members of the body of Christ, the saints in Rome, BUT he doesn’t mention any Peter! He said nothing whatever about the Apostle Peter, and according to the tradition of the Church of Rome, Peter was there from 42 to 67 AD. When did Paul write the book of Romans? He wrote the book of Romans around 58 AD. Now if Peter was in Rome from 42 to 67 AD that means by 58 AD, that Peter should have been there for about 16 years. Not only that but their tradition tells us that he was the head of the church. He was the chief pastor in the city of Rome. What would we think or what would any church think, or what would the ethics and morals of a man be who wrote to a church and didn’t even mention the pastor—mentioned 27 other people, 27 other saints of God there, but didn’t say a word of greeting to the pastor! Sound’s kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it. Well, really the reason Paul didn’t mention Peter is because Peter wasn’t there. Peter wasn’t the pastor. Peter wasn’t the preacher there of the saints in the church at Rome. Paul doesn’t mention Peter because he was not there. This point alone, I think, should be sufficient to open the eyes of the most blind, the most stubborn, to the fact that Peter was not the founder of the church in Rome. He was not there when Paul wrote around 58 AD—supposedly 16 years after Peter was there and founded the church!

Next let us look at Romans 1:11 which reads: For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established. Peter spent 16 years there and the church is still not established!! The apostle had not taught the church the things it needed to know! Boy, Peter must have been some incompetent! Couldn’t establish a church, couldn’t teach them proper doctrine in 16 years. So Paul says, I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift. To the end, [or for the purpose] that you may be established. No, Peter wasn’t there. None of the other apostles had been there. How had the church become established in Rome? There were people on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem from the city of Rome, and those saints, as they went back to Rome, started the church there. They met in homes or wherever they could. They gathered around the word of God (Old Testament), and they studied the word of God, and they witnessed for their Lord, and won other converts, but they had no apostle. No apostle had ever been there to establish them, to give them authoritative teaching. And Paul said, I long to go, I long to teach you that you might be established. Then Paul says in Romans 15:20-24: Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. Here, again, he points out the fact that he wanted to come, he tried to come, but so far he had been hindered from coming. Then he says in verses 23, 24: But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you whenever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way there by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. Paul was looking forward to that first time that he could be in the city of Rome. It had to be sometime after the AD 58 because this is when he wrote the epistle to the Romans. So he is still looking forward. He said it has been years that I have longed to come that I might establish you in the faith. None of the apostles had been there.

Later in Paul’s ministry, he went to Rome, however, he did not go as a free man as he had planned to do. He didn’t take a missionary journey to Spain as he had planned. I’m not saying he never went to Spain. It is possible that between the two prison terms that he got to go to Spain, but he did not go on his trip as he had hoped to Spain, and on the way stop by and meet with the Roman church—the saints in Rome. He went to Rome as a prisoner of the Roman Government. He was in his first imprisonment by the Romans for approximately four years, but it was only the last two that he was in Rome, itself. He spent the other time in Palestine. The last two years 61-63 AD, he was in Rome under Roman guard. Now as the epistles make plain, he wasn’t in a dungeon. He was not even in a prison. He was able to live in a house by himself and he had visitors come and go. Yet he was a prisoner, he was under (as it were in our societies terms) under house arrest. During this time he wrote epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and to Philemon between 61-63 AD. Now then, if Peter was in Rome from 42 to 67 (a period of 25 years) and Paul was there under house arrest surely he is going to have some information about Peter. Surely as he writes to the Ephesian Christians, the Philippians, the Colossians or to Philemon, surely he is going to have something, some greeting to give from Peter the apostle. No, he does not even mention him! He mentions many of his fellow helpers—several names are given, but no Peter. Thus we come down to 62 or maybe 63 AD. Peter has not been in Rome. Then we come to Paul’s second imprisonment. He was set free for a while but again in 67 AD we see him back in Rome, a prisoner of the Roman Government and this is apparently when he was put to death. What does the tradition say? It says that Peter was in Rome from 42 through 67 AD. The same time that Peter supposedly ends his ministry in Rome. Yes, Paul was imprisoned the second time in 67 AD. Now again he wrote a couple of letters. He wrote the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 13:24, it says from Italy and then he also wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his death. This is the very year that Peter supposedly was martyred and you know what? There’s still no mention of Peter. Peter was not there. Peter was not in the city of Rome or ever in the city of Rome.

In 2 Timothy 4:10, 11. Paul says only Luke was with him. Peter never was in the city of Rome. The whole organizational structure of the Church of Rome is built on false tradition and tragic misinterpretation of our Lord's words. It is built on tradition that is just not true.

Either the statements presented in the Bible are true, OR the contrary traditions are true. The traditions however have obvious errors thouroughly embeded in them and are clearly unreliable. One or the other has to be false. The Bible is the revelation from God and it proves itself to be what it claims to be. It is true. Peter never was in the city of Rome.

We encourage you to check your Bible to see what the truth is. Do not listen to some man or the tradition of fallible men. If it’s false, it’s going to lead you to Hell and eternal damnation. Neither Peter NOR Mary is a way to Heaven? Do you want to have your sins forgiven or do you want to be bound with the chains of a false religion? The Apostle Peter said: Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved [ACT 4:12].

Return To Main Index

This Page Last Updated: 01/16/06 A. Allison Lewis aalewis@christianbeliefs.org