reaction to the runaway success of Marcions Pauline
Christianity, scribes in Rome concocted a sacred history
to bolster their own claim to singular authority. Their chosen
hero figure was Peter, "first of the apostles".
did Rome need to make a saint out of Peter?
a Saint out of Peter
seems curious, to say the least, that a Galilean fisherman,
a married Jew and the designated apostle of the circumcision,
should become the iconographic, patronising and protecting
hero-figure at the heart of Roman Catholicism. With Jesus,
Mary and the Father already in the pantheon, why did the church
need another celestial hero?
The answer is: politics. The politics of power. In the first three
centuries of the Christian era, Rome was not an especially
important centre for the Faith. The great sees of the early Christian
world were Alexandria, Ephesus and Antioch each
a centre of early proselytising and of a large Christian community.
Each claimed some justifying link to an apostle. Paul had
lived in Antioch, for example and John, it was said, had seen out
his days in Ephesus. Mark was associated with Alexandria. Rome,
in contrast, had no direct apostolic connection.
the original Christian centre of the world and
anticipated venue for Christs descent from the clouds,
had been destroyed in 70 AD. To the pious mind, the pagan new
town of Aelia, built upon its ruins, had lowly status
and was subordinate to the see at Caesarea. Again, Caesarea
could claim an apostolic connection: here, Philip
the evangelist had supposedly lived. In these eastern cities,
the early church produced its first leaders, the Fathers
who made the earliest attempts at defining doctrine and establishing
the uniqueness of their faith. These were the apologists who
engaged in debate with Greek philosophers and competed with
the priests of Mithra and other mystery religions. It was their
stylii that wrote the earliest Christian scripture. For centuries,
schools of philosophy, mystics, prophets and magicians had
speculated on reality. Now that were joined by speculators
in Christ, many themselves trained in rhetoric and classical
Many Colours of Christianity
Christ legend, as it existed in the mid-years of the
second century, was still in the process of forming.
The churches of the Mediterranean world were functioning
as a number of autonomous entities, with only a minimal
degree of doctrinal agreement. Centuries later it would
be held that there had been some sort of orthodoxy from
the very beginning and everything else was a marginal heresy,
ultimately falling by the wayside as orthodoxy triumphed.
Yet this is very much, the history of the victors. In truth,
nothing was so clear cut.
All of the Church Fathers were heretics judged by the
standards of later centuries. In their own day, they clashed
violently with each other on central issues, such as: was Christ
God, an emanation of God or a creation of God? If Christ was a
creation, yet was himself a god, was Christianity a two god faith?
Jewish theologians certainly attacked the Christians for such an
apostasy. Again, if Christ was a creation, had there been a time
when he had not existed? Was the creation less than the creator?
If less than the creator, could his death atone for the sins of
the world? After all, would it not require the sacrifice of at
least a god to redeem the whole of humanity? Yet if Christ was
more than a normal man, could his death and resurrection be an
example for normal men to follow? Perhaps Jesus was a human upon
whom the holy spirit had descended or was he God taking on the
appearance of human form? If wholly or even partly God could he
have suffered an agonizing death or did it just appear so? The
questions were endless and the answers just as numerous.
of course, went hand-in-hand with secular authority; and
with secular authority went earthly rewards. Resolving
doctrinal issues by their own lights, the churches in Asia
Minor, Palestine, Egypt, Armenia and Syria spun off in their
own direction, establishing idiosyncratic versions of Christianity.
To proselytize their particular variation on a theme, they
wrote gospels which confirmed the correctness of their own
beliefs, attributing authorship to their adopted apostle. Each
Christianity sent out missionaries, some east, into Persia;
several of them to Rome, the great pagan city.
the second half of the first century, Christ-followers, like
the adepts of every other mystery religion, made their way
to Rome. For more than a century, the Roman church was
an evangelising mission run by Greek-speaking migrants from
individual churches in the east. The city was a magnet and
yet to the early Christians Rome was also the new Babylon,
the fount of baseness, false gods and the enslaver of mankind.
Christianity in Rome had to jostle with gods both old and new;
Mithraism in particular was a blossoming religion, also from
the east and with a character very similar to Christianity.
For the Christ-followers, theirs was the bridgehead at the
heart of a competitive pagan empire. The church in Rome had no
particular link with the distant land of Palestine,
maybe; no shrines or sacred tombs, no great theologians perhaps;
but nonetheless, it was there, at the very centre of the world.
early Roman Christians, far from being the epitome of orthodoxy,
were riven by all manner of division. Reflecting the diversity
of its founders, the Roman church was not one
but several churches, a constellation
of independent churches, meeting in the houses of the wealthy
members of the community. (Duffy, Saints and Sinners, p6)
Each church advocated its own particular variant of the new
faith and competed with the others for membership.
initially within the Jewish and Greek enclaves of the city,
membership only gradually spread into the native population
where traditional paganism was strongest. When it did, the
flow of ideas became two-way: the new faith was influenced by
the very cults it sought to displace. For example, icons
of the good shepherd a tussle-haired Greek
youth with a lamb upon his shoulders were an adaptation
of traditional images of the sun god Apollo.
Roman Church, for at least two centuries, remained junior to
others, even in the west. Well into the third century
Christianity in Rome would remain turbulent, divisive, prone
to split. (Duffy, Saints and Sinners, p11)
Even when the Greek influence diminished, in turns, Lyons, Carthage and Milan intervened
in the affairs of the Roman church, their elders commanding
greater authority. Yet the simple reality of geopolitics, gave
the Churches in Rome, in the eyes of its partisans at least,
special status, a reflected glory from the citys own
frightening pre-eminence. First, it had to put its own house
in order, and when it did so it was as a reaction to what had
As conflicting teachers
arose, each claiming to speak for true Christianity, a
tighter and more hierarchic structure developed.
– Duffy, Saints and Sinners, p7.
been diverse and ill-disciplined it became homogenous and
ordered. All it lacked was its own monarch and he
was about to take the regal throne.
The calling of Peter
Was it in Galilee and after John was imprisoned?
"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee ...
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men."
– Mark 1.14-17.
Or was it across the Jordan and before John was imprisoned?
"This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing ...
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus ... The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas, which, when translated, is Peter. The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee."
– John 1.28-43.
"After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside ... This was before John was put in prison."
– John 3.22-24.
a Bishop at Rome
120 AD there had been no bishop of Rome. One of the earliest
elders whom we can be confident actually existed, Clement (81-97),
though often referred to as a bishop or even as a pope was
actually a presbyter. He is credited as the author
of a letter to fellow Christians in Corinth, defending the
presbyters there who had been deposed by dissatisfied members.
But he does not identify himself in the letter. Unlike popes
of later centuries, he claims no highfalutin pre-eminence.
Just possibly he is the author of Shepherd of Hermas,
usually given an early second century date, which refers
only to elders in charge of the church.
The office of bishop, emerging from the body of presbyters, occurred
in Rome later than elsewhere sometime in the mid-second
century. Anicetus (156-166) was the first to be identified
as a bishop in correspondence with Polycarp of Smyrna. By Anicetuss
day, Christian hopes of an imminent Judgement Day (and, in consequence,
Christian rejection of the material world) had finally passed away. The
Church had become a property owner, as dying believers bequeathed
to her their estates. It became clear that the management of a
religion, and control of its justifying doctrine, were now paramount.
Earthly minds had to make decisions having profound secular consequences.
The newly elevated bishop moved first to establish discipline over
the warring cohorts. As patriarch of the great city Anicetus was
none too happy to play second fiddle to any cleric in the east.
But as yet, the Church in Rome could offer no clear lead in doctrine.
Church Fathers from the east continued to interfere
in the nascent Roman Church and were themselves appealed to as
authoritative figures in schismatic feuding.
venerable Polycarp of Smyrna (he was in his eighties at the
time) visited the city and held discussions with Anicetus over
the dating of Easter. In the eastern sees, the Jewish Passover
festival, held on the 14th of Nisan, had been modified into a
Christian Easter pageant. In Rome, there was
as yet no special annual festival, the passion being
marked in some fashion on every Sunday. Anicetus would not
give way to the eastern practice and continued to expel any
of the brethren who followed the so-called Quartodeciman calendar.
may not have been able to compete with Polycarp on theology
but he was certainly struck by how Polycarp constructed his
argument. The old man claimed to have known the Apostle
John when they had both lived in Ephesus and that the Easter
festival had been taught him by the apostle himself! Who could
argue with the authority handed down from an apostle? Anicetus
must have had his shovel ready before the old sage had left
the city, and lo! nearly a century after the supposed
event he was able to find the very spot where the
apostle Simon (aka Peter) had been buried! Anicetus
had a so-called trophy a pagan-style altar built
on the spot. Adding to his delight he was soon able to identify
the place where Paul had been intered linking
Rome to not one but two apostles! Says the leading Church
scholar, W. H. Frend, with charming disingenuousness:
it was only after nearly a century that the Roman Christians
selected this spot as the burial place of Peter (and
Paul) is a mystery."
– Friend (The
Rise of Christianity, p27)
With an apostolic connection provided
by a grave, the first pious drop of sanctity in a veritable
holy flood to come, the age of shrines had arrived in Rome!
Fortunately a supply of holy relics was assured by the extensive
catacombs and pagan graveyards just beyond the city walls.
Anicetus was among the first of a new breed of worldly clerics.
The physical evidence of bones was useful but
a doctrinal problem for the Roman Church was
that the whole birth/ resurrection story,
and the meanderings of apostles, had been played out in
distant lands in the east, which gave the churches there
so much more authority. How, then, could Rome claim a grander
Man of Many Names
to concoct a story that Simon (soon to be Peter) the Apostle
had, say, visited or even died in Rome, would scarcely serve
to elevate the Roman see above the others. What was needed
was a ringing endorsement from the godman, Christ himself.
A place for the insertion of such an accolade was found in
what would become Mark 8.29,30:
he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter
answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And
he charged them that they should tell no man of him."
clever scribe penned a memorable multi-lingual pun that slid
into this passage and it surfaced in the sixteenth chapter
of Matthew (16.15,20):
saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living
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. And
I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And
I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou
shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose
on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus
abridged version of the same interpolation was later added
to Johns Gospel (this time moved forward to the very
beginning of Jesuss ministry) and with subtle differences
when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son
of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation,
curious about all this is, what language is Jesus speaking? Petros
(the name Peter) / petrus (a stone) makes a pun in Latin and
he surely wasnt speaking Latin? Matthew seems
to suggest the use of Greek, yet the pun
(Cephas, a rock / Simon, the name) breaks down in Greek and would the holy carpenter
have used clever Greek to unlearned and ignorant (Acts
4.13) Aramaic-speaking fishermen? The author of John in
using Cephas implies the use of Aramaic, hence he had to attach
the translation into Greek which is by interpretation,
a stone for the benefit of his Greek readers. But the
pun does not work in Aramaic Kipha, a rock / Shimeon,
a name although we could allow calling someone Rocky. The
dialogue would be something like Shimeon, you are
if the language was Aramaic, in that case, what on earth did
Jesus use to express church, heaven and hell?
For example, ekklesia Latin and Greek for church in
the modern sense, has no equivalent in Aramaic. There was nothing
like ecclesia known to the Jews. Why should there be? First-century
Judaism was based upon the one and only Temple and its daily
sacrifice, not on a geographically dispersed hierarchy of clerics
owning landed estates! Similarly, heaven and hell are
late Christian constructs, used to induce and frighten
converts. Judaism had no notion at this stage of life after
death, merely a belief in a temporary existence in gehenna,
prior to oblivion. The later Jewish sheol contained both the
righteous and the wicked; it was neither the Christian heaven
nor hell. And the terms bind and loose are
suspicious, being drawn from jurisprudence not theology.
of course, was redolent with meaning in second century Rome.
The Christians had adapted the term from its original (Greek)
meaning, the assembled community of a city state.
In Rome, the ecclesiasta was coming into its own, as matrons bequeathed
their fortunes to clerics administering to their spiritual
needs. The fact that the holy carpenter had expected an imminent
return in first century Judaea scarcely leaving time
for a Church to form could be over-looked:
I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall
not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming
in his kingdom. (Matthew
16.28) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall
not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass
away." (Matthew 24.34,35)
"But I tell
you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall
not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Luke
9.27) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not
pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall
pass away: but my words shall not pass away." (Luke
the whole sorry Petrine saga is undermined at every turn.
For example, when Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans he
greeted twenty nine of the brethren there by name and Peter
was not one of them! (Romans 16.3,16). A holiday aside,
there was of course no particular reason for Peter to be
in Rome. Indeed, what makes the Cephas/Petros pun seem even
more fraudulent is that in Corinthians 1 Paul only refers
to Cephas and in Galatians 2 Paul refers to Cephas and Peter as
if they were separate individuals:
contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision
was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision
was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought 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, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands
of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because
he was to be blamed."
– Galatians 2.7,11.
is likely that Paul only ever referred to a Cephas and, separately,
to a Simon, and that all the Peter references were a later
substitution. Giving the game away, even Jesus reverts
to referring to Simon as Simon, not Peter or Cephas!
son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
this three times as the risen Christ (John 21.15,17).
From two apostles to one apostle
a number of years both Peter and Paul shared a joint patronage
of Rome. But in the mid years of the century, another eastern
bishop, Marcion, had commandeered and popularised
the foremost of them, Paul, in his Gospel of the Lord.
Originally a financial backer and ally of the Roman church,
Marcion and the church elders had parted acrimoniously. According
to Irenaeus, Marcion was excommunicated because
of a rape committed on a certain virgin
returned to Asia and set up his own church. To Anicetus and
the Roman presbyters, Paul (at least in the hands of Marcion)
was dangerously gnostic. His letter-writing and missionary
work, however, provided a model for a more orthodox figure. The
Roman church slowly dropped the duality of Peter and
Paul and Peter began his towering ascent. Various gospels
began circulating, containing passages suggesting he was a
leadership figure, always addressed first. Peter was
about to become a super-apostle, one who could overshadow Paul
and forge a solid link between the drama of Christ
in Judaea and the Bishop of Rome.
Gospel for Peter: Marks!
Peter, as a figure of legend, of course wrote nothing, and
Paul had written a great deal his letters make up
a quarter of the entire New Testament. How, then, to elevate
Peter as an literary source? Mark provided
the answer. Versions of this early gospel were in wide circulation
and yet Mark was not an apostle. Taking advantage of this
short-fall, Mark was adopted as the companion
of Peter and Marks gospel became, effectively, the
gospel that Peter would have written, boosting
the apostles status.
of Alexandria, at this stage allied with the Roman see, spread
rumours that, though seemingly written in Alexandria, Mark had
been writing in Rome, recalling the deeds of his master Peter as
best he could. In the intense rivalry of Christian sees,
that link was at best tenuous and not convincing, not least
because Peter had been proclaimed the apostle of the
circumcision with a mission to the Jews. He
had even been linked to Antioch. Peter needed missionary activity
equal to Pauls, journeys that would place him incontrovertibly
Man with a Mission
far, the apostles had been rather shadowy figures one
can imaging them as the crowd in a resurrection
pageant, barely named as characters and scattering at the
end of the drama. Now they would acquire an heroic story Acts
of the Apostles. The work barely merits the title for
it is really about just two of them (Philip gets a
brief role, Stephen The Martyr even less; but
the others, including seven new appointees, are
mere shadows). Acts 1- 12 tell Peters story; chapters
13 - 28 tell Pauls or rather, the first part
is the fabricated tale of a fictional character (not mentioned
after chapter 15); the second half is a re-write of Paul,
purged of his gnosticism and made into a conservative
disciplinarian. Amazingly, the join is very visible the
narrative switches from the third person to the first person
at chapter 16! In a clumsy bit of invention Acts has
the real Paul, shortly after his conversion, meet the imaginary
apostles. According to Pauls own epistle he was in
Arabia at the time!
according to Acts:
Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles,
and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord
in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and
how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the
name of Jesus. And he was with them coming
in and going out at Jerusalem." (Acts
according to Paul:
went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles
before me; but I went into Arabia,
and returned again unto Damascus. Then after
three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,
and abode with him fifteen days. But other
of the apostles saw I none, save James the
Lords brother." (Galatians I.17,19)
Peters mission takes
him to the coastal cities of Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea.
Actually, not very impressive compared to Pauls
epic voyages. 'Apocrypha' rescues
the situation by sending Peter into Syria,
Cappadocia, Pontus and beyond. Indeed, a startling
amount of the Petrine fable comes from documents
even the Catholic church regards as spurious. The
Gospel of Peter, for example, was
condemned at Rhossus (near Antioch) in 190 as heretical'. The
Apocalypse of Peter, provided a graphic
description of hell. The Preaching of Peter furnished
more astounding miracles and the Acts of
Peter gave a description of his martyrdom.
All this prolific romantic fiction of
the second century provided the currency of the
legend, generating the belief and tradition that
the hero had been active in Rome.
however, does not fail in the miracle department,
attributing Peter with many astounding deeds. Peter
it seems both restored life (he raised Dorcas from
the dead (Acts 9.32,43) and dispensed death (poor
Ananias and his wife Sapphira wasted by Jehovah
for holding back some of the proceeds from the sale
of their land!) (Acts 5.1,11).
Jesus himself, Peter cured the sick and healed the
lame according to Matthew, of course, he had
even walked on water! In fact, the No. 1 apostle healed
a multitude merely by allowing his shadow
to fall on them, way beyond anything Paul could
accomplish! (Acts 5.15,16) Angels abet Peters
escape from prison, even if it resulted in the execution
of his guards. Paul, sadly, needed a military escort
when the procurator took him from gaol and on another
occasion, The timely intervention of Roman
troops from the Antonia fortress rescued Paul from
a lynch mob. (Two Kingdoms, p36)
No guardian angel for him!
Visions, Better Conversions
a truly stunning vision Peter, it seems, learned
that all his food did not need to
be kosher, because a great sheet descended from the
sky wherein were all manner of fourfooted
beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping
things, and fowls of the air and that
incorrigible meat-eater Yahweh boomed out Rise,
Peter; kill, and eat.! (Acts 10.9,16) Not
quite as subtle as Pauls scholarly discourse
on dietary prohibitions, but a colourful story for
the rednecks. The miracle served as a prologue to
getting at the goyim without the permit, Peter,
sectarian Jew that he was, would have been stymied.
Peter was no light-weight when it came to conversions.
A gnostic magician and half Jew Simon
Magus had built up a personal following in
Samaria. Peter, after the display of 'talking in tongues' at Pentecost, takes the power of summoning the Holy Ghost to Samaria, where he completes the baptisms made by Philip with the laying-on of hands. But the apostle refuses to sell this 'power' to the magician and, it seems, upbraids Simon on the folly of his ways (Acts 8.20,24). The remorseful arch-enemy of Christ (a would-be convert?) is left to his fate and all future gnostics would be deemed his acolytes!
Peter also pre-empted Paul by converting the first
non-Jew. Odd for the apostle of the circumcision
but quite appropriate for forging links to the Roman
see, Peter converted a Roman centurion no less, Cornelius,
a centurion of the band called the Italian band (Acts
whole point was to establish an apostolic pecking
order in which Peter prevailed over Paul and
the Roman Church could claim a superiority over its
contenders. But still there was a struggle to get
Peter into Rome. In a story so patently silly that
it did not make it into Acts but is to be
found in the Clementines second-century
texts described as curious religious romance by
the Catholic Encyclopedia Peter
and Simon Magus are placed in Neros palace
in Rome competing in magic. Peter bests his adversarys
levitation trick by bringing him down with a well-aimed
prayer. Compare this with the supposed encounter
of Paul with the magician Elymas ("a
Jew whose surname was Bar Jesus"!) to be
found in Acts 13.6,11. Paul merely blinds
of this ilk had to suffice, allowing the tradition to
emerge that Peter not only met his death in the city
(at the hands of Nero) but also (a mutually exclusive
proposition!) that he had been the Bishop of Rome
for twenty five years! But none of this is to be
found anywhere in the Bible. The story of this Prince
of the Apostles peters out in chapter 12 of Acts
with a fuzzy reference to him going to another
place. Thereafter, no word is to be found of
any visit to Rome, of founding a church, of martyrdom,
etc. Nor does any scrap of archaeology or secular
history confirm that the character ever existed.
Legend and tradition alone fills the void. And a
legend that the Roman church inherited from earlier
times was of Janus, a fisherman-god, keeper of the
heavenly keys, who had had a shrine on the Janiculum
hill close by the site of the Vatican!
Legend, More Authority
Bishop not of Rome but of Lyons, was among the earliest
clerics to boost Romes maturing pretensions.
Perhaps because his own diocese was a provincial new
town he more readily identified with the imperial
city. At the time (170s-180s), Irenaeus was in conflict
with heretics, independent theologians
whose musings increasingly fractured aspirations
of a universal church.
was very much an ecclesiasta, an apparatchnik who
put the organisation first. His gnostic
opponents claimed the authority of a secret knowledge,
handed down to initiates from Christ himself. Impatient
with such anarchic, individualistic ideas, Irenaeus
countered with bishop lists,
purporting to show that it was the succession of
bishops clerical managers rather than theologians who
had the divine seal of approval. For example, the
first bishop of Rome, said Irenaeus, had been Linus, appointed
by the apostle Paul. The next making the chronology
a complete farce was Anacletus, appointed
by the apostle Peter! (Peter could hardly have
perished at Neros hand yet appointed a bishop
ten years later!) He listed ten others, up to
his own day to make up the magic number twelve. Rather
suspiciously, the obscure (non-existent!) sixth bishop
Irenaeus identified as Sixtus!
Jewish/Christian theologian, Hegesippus (160s/170s),
had probably been the source for Irenaeus. He drew
up one of the earliest Church histories in
an attempt to answer pagan critics. Origen, an Alexandrian
theologian, introduced a novel twist of his own to
the story of Peters death: at his own request (out
of respect for the Lord) Peter had been crucified
upside down, though quite how the suffocation
process would have worked that way is hard to say.
successor, Clement of Alexandria (150-215) added
to the growing myth by adding in Peters children
and his wifes martyrdom. It
is also at this time that some questionable epistles
appear. New Pauline letters (the so-called
Pastorals, universally recognised as fakes - Timothy
1 & 2, Titus and probably Ephesians) and the
equally fraudulent epistles of Peter. Their
purpose was to refute widespread gnostic doctrines.
Attaching apostolic authorship to them was a simple
device which gave them authority. Famously, the fraudulent
1 Timothy 2.11,14 has Paul say:
the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam
was not deceived, but the woman being deceived
was in the transgression."
the close of the century, a North African Victor (189-199) became
the first Latin-speaking Bishop of Rome. Latin
lacked the subtlety of Greek, and tended to lock
the Roman church out of the doctrinal debates raging
in the east. But Victor scored in other ways. He
was an associate of a mistress of the dissolute
emperor Commodus. He began to clash regularly with
the Greek churches, notably over the continuing
issue of Easter. Rome had adopted its own calculation
of the date and forbade observance of the eastern
practice. The result was a feud with Polycrates,
bishop of Ephesus leader of the largest
Christian community who reminded him that
Easter was the date kept by the great
luminaries, the apostles John and Philip.
church in Carthage rallied to Victors support.
A fellow North African bishop, Tertullian, writing
at the end of the second century, contributed additional
details of the apostles death; a few
years later, he was the first to make reference to
Peters keys in a little
tract called Scorpiace (The Scorpions
Sting) written about 211. In this he says:
though you think heaven is still shut, remember
that the Lord left to Peter and
through him to the Church, the keys of
it." (Scorpiace, x; ANF. iii,
Quite probably Tertullian was the "clever scribe" who penned that memorable multi-lingual pun of Matthew 16, taking as his source and inspiration Isaiah 22, where the prediction is made that Eliakim will become "chief minister of the kingdom" for Hezekiah, the 7th century BC king of Judah. Eliakim also gets a key and the power to "bind and loose".
|Where DID they get their ideas?
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah ... and I will commit thy government into his hand ... And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open."
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
The old senatorial class in Rome were more able to come to terms
with the upstart Christian religion when it took on familiar
forms. Remnants and residue of the old religions became part
of the popes inheritance, the fixtures and fittings of
the previous tenant. Images of Peter were fashioned after
traditional statues of Jupiter. The mystery religions had
symbolic keys to the inner mysteries; keys now found
their way into papal regalia. The pontiffs inherited a throne,
decorated with the twelve labours of Hercules, which the Popes
used for centuries. The Popes retinue of cardinals took
on the title from cardo, meaning hinge,
from the hinge on the door guarded by Janus, the god of
entrances. Peter himself, of course, would similarly become
the doorman on the pearly gates of heaven.
half-century later, friction with the east was still
continuing, but now the North African church was
also alienated. Pope Stephen I (254-257) the
first to claim Petrine authority by quoting
Matthew 16.18,19 clashed with the Greek theologian
Cyprian of Carthage. The immediate issue was Romes
recognition of baptisms performed by heretical priests.
In the drive for recruitment, it mattered little
to Stephen who had performed the sacrament. But Cyprian
was more sensitive to the nuances of theology.
Cyprians hands apostles were interpreted as
the first bishops - and bishops in turn
were called apostles. Not just anyone
could perform baptism. Establishing authentic Apostolic
Succession (or divine spiritual descent)
became more important than ever. It now became orthodox
to believe that the first pope had been Saint Peter
himself and by calculation it was adduced Peters
sojourn in Rome had lasted a quarter of a century!
Says the Catholic Encyclopedia:
the Roman list of bishops dating from the second
century, there was introduced in the third
century the notice of a twenty five
year pontificate for St Peter."
Peter, posthumously promoted
to first Pope, now acquired a feast day: 18th January the
first day of the Mithraic zodiac!
initially junior, and rent by sectarian divisions,
by the close of the third century the Roman Church
had brought discipline into its own ranks and was
asserting Roman imperium in a new guise. It had built
a claim to command the one true faith on
the fabrication of an apostolic commander-in-chief, fused
from Jewish scripture and re-worked pagan motifs,
particularly Mithras and Janus.
re-written gospel as its justifying doctrine, a
fraudulent apostolic succession to give credence,
and obsequious toadying to superstitious emperors
to win imperial endorsement, Roman Catholicism
set about the task of re-conquering
Alan Hall, The History of the Papacy (PRC, 1998)
Michael Grant, Saint Peter (Weidenfeld & Nicolson,1994)
Henry Hart Milman, The History of the Jews (Everyman, 1939)
Alan Bernstein, The Formation of Hell (UCL Press, 1993)
Leslie Houlden (Ed.), Judaism & Christianity (Routledge, 1988)
W. H. Friend, The Rise of Christianity (Augsburg, 1986)
Arthur Frederick Ide, Unzipped: The Popes Bare All (AAP,1987)
Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem (Harper Collins, 1999)
Robert W. Funk, Honest to Jesus (Harper, 1996)
J.N. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (OUP, 1986)
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
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Copyright © 2004,
2006 by Kenneth Humphreys.
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