The Catholic Encyclopedia maintains that Peter was in Rome, saying, “St. Peter’s residence and death in Rome are established beyond contention as historical facts by a series of distinct testimonies extending from the end of the first to the end of the second centuries.”[1] Similarly, the New Catholic Encyclopedia observes, “It is quite certain that Peter spent his last years in Rome …  All that can be said with certainty is that he went to Rome and was martyred there.”[2]

Was Babylon Some Cryptic or Code Name for Rome?

1 Peter 5:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.

The New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011) reads,

1 Peter 5:13 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

13 The chosen one[a] at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.

[a] The chosen one: feminine, referring to the Christian community (ekklēsia) at Babylon, the code name for Rome in Rev 14:8; 17:5; 18:2. Mark, my son: traditionally a prominent disciple of Peter and co-worker at the church in Rome, perhaps the John Mark referred to in Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; and in Acts 15:37–39, a companion of Barnabas. Perhaps this is the same Mark mentioned as Barnabas’s cousin in Col 4:10, a co-worker with Paul in Phlm 24 (see also 2 Tm 4:11).


Karen H. Jobes in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (1 Peter), writes, “There is virtually unanimous agreement among modern interpreters that the referent of ‘Babylon’ is actually Rome (Achtemeier 1996: 354; W. Barclay 1976: 278; Best 1971: 178; Clowney 1988: 224; Cranfield 1958: 123; J. H. Elliott 2000: 883–86; Goppelt 1993: 374–75; Grudem 1988: 201; Kelly 1969: 218; Kistemaker 1987: 209; Michaels 1988: 311; Perkins 1995: 81; Reicke 1964: 134; Selwyn 1958: 243).[3]

Let us begin by saying that the majority of anything does not automatically equal being right. It is the evidence that makes something right. First, let us look at the apostle Paul, who wrote several letters from Rome at the very time Peter was supposedly in Rome: Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians-Philemon (c.[4] 60-61 C.E.), 2 Timothy (c. 65 C.E.), and Hebrews (c. 61 C.E.).[5] However, not once does Paul mention, Peter, as though he were in Rome. For example, Paul closes 2 Timothy with, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.” (4:11-12) Then we have the letter that Paul sent to the congregation in Rome, the book of Romans (c. 56 C.E.), wherein he greets twenty-six people, mentioning thirty-five Christians in all, but there is not one mention of Peter. If Peter were truly in Rome, could Paul have ignored him? Such an idea is impossible that Paul would mention so many not so well known Christians, and leave out one of the originals of twelve apostles. The case of Peter being in Rome is so weak that commentators must bend reason itself by suggesting that Babylon is a cryptic term for Rome.

Thus, the notion that Babylon means Rome is merely an interpretation but has no facts to support such a concept. Even Roman Catholic scholars of the past take issue with such an interpretation: Peter de Marca, John Baptist Mantuan, Michael de Ceza, Marsile de Padua, John Aventin, John Leland, Charles du Moulin, Louis Ellies Dupin and the renowned Desiderius (Gerhard) Erasmus. Church historian Dupin wrote:

The First Epistle of Peter is dated at Babylon. Many of the ancients have understood that name to signify Rome; but no reason appears that could prevail with St. Peter to change the name of Rome into that of Babylon. How could those to whom he wrote understand that Babylon was Rome?[6]

Within the highly symbolic book of Revelation, we have a reference to “Babylon the Great.” (Rev 17:1-6, 9-12, 15, and 18) However, the only actual city named Babylon within Scripture was the “city-state in southern Mesopotamia during OT times, which eventually became a large empire that absorbed the nation of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem.” (Brand, Draper and Archie 2003, 156) Is this the city from which Peter wrote?

In the East As a result of the Babylonian Exile of Judeans after 597 B.C., a sizable Jewish Dispersion developed in the eastern regions: Babylonia, Elam, Parthia, Media, and Armenia. These lands were not part of the Roman Empire and had not been substantially influenced by Hellenistic culture. Consequently, the Jewish communities that flourished there were quite distinct from those of the Western Dispersion. … The Babylonian Jews were considered of purer stock than Palestinian Jews, which led to some jealousy and pride. They remained true to the tenets of Judaism and became exceptional students of the law and oral tradition. In the 6th cent. A.D. their rabbis produced the Babylonian Talmud, the most extensive and influential piece of postbiblical Jewish literature. (Bromiley 1986, Volume 1, Page 963 (ISBE))

Therefore, one of the largest Jewish populations at the time of Peter’s writings was the literal city of Babylon and the surrounding region. Thus, Peter meant exactly what he wrote, i.e., he wrote from the literal city of Babylon. Some years before Peter wrote his first letter, there was a decision made, which makes Babylon the place from which he wrote. Peter, in a meeting with Paul and Barnabas, agreed that he would focus his attention on the Jews, while Paul was directed to the Gentiles.

Galatians 2:7-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

For the above reason, Peter would have focused his attention on an epicenter of Judaism, which was certainly in the Babylon and its surrounding regions, as opposed to Rome, the latter having a predominate Gentile population, which is why Paul was there. Thus, there is nothing within Scripture itself, which would support Peter being in Rome, or that Babylon was some cryptic name for Rome. The Encyclopaedia Judaica, when discussing the production of the Babylonian Talmud, refers to Judaism’s “great academies of Babylon” during the Common Era.[7] What about early Christian writers?

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome is listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian as the overseer of Rome.[8] Clement held the office of overseer from 92 to his death in 99 C.E. He is considered the first Apostolic Father of the Church. It is used to confirm that Peter was in Rome. He wrote:

(3) Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. (4) There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. (5) Because of jealousy and strife, Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. (6) After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, (7) having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance. (Holmes 2007, I Clement 5.3-7 (AF:ET))

Concerning these comments, Roman Catholic scholar Lardner remarked:

From these passages, I think it may be justly concluded that Peter and Paul were martyrs at Rome, in the time of Nero’s persecution. For they suffered among the Romans, where Clement was bishop, and in whose name he was writing to the Corinthians. (Gallagher 1894, p. 34)

However, is this actually, what Clement said? No. It is true that Clement mentions bot Peter and Paul in reference to remaining faithful in the face of persecution. He mentions Peter in verse 4, but then transitions to Paul in verses 5-7. Look closely, he does not say they were both martyred in Rome. He completes his example of Peter in verse 4. Then, Clement moves on to Paul in verse 5 through verse 7, saying that Paul “had preached in the East and in the West,” inferring that Peter was never in the West. He is contrasting Paul against Peter as far as the evangelism goes. The reason implication works is because Peter had only served in the East, i.e., Babylon. Therefore, Clement’s testimony for Peter having ben in Rome is no real testimony at all, as Peter was never in Rome.

Ignatius of Antioch

“Ignatius (50–110 [C.E.]) was bishop [overseer] of Antioch and is known for the seven letters he wrote to the churches at Philadelphia, Smyrna, Ephesus, Tralles, Magnesia, Rome, and to Polycarp (69–155 [C.E.]), the bishop of Smyrna. He wrote these letters under armed guard on his way to be martyred in Rome.” Further, he was an Apostolic Father and student of the apostle John. Ignatius is also used as evidence for Peter being in Rome. He Wrote, “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man.” In reference to these words, The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “The meaning of this remark must be that the two Apostles laboured personally in Rome, and with Apostolic authority preached the Gospel there.”

Is this really what was meant by the words used? Is The Catholic Encyclopedia correct in its interpretation? No. All Ignatius said was that ‘Peter and Paul issued commandments to you.’ We should keep in mind that Both Peter and Paul issued commands through their letters, as well as messengers, or when they visited. There is no need to jump to the conclusion that this reference is that Peter and Paul issued these commands in person at Rome. In addition, this is not to say that Peter penned some letter specifically to Rome. First Peter is specifically addressed to the “exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1:1) Second Peter was addressed “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours” (1:1), including those he had mentioned in First Peter, as well as others to whom Peter had preached. We know that apostle letters were passed around as a sort of circuit letters, and clearly, Peter far away in Babylon had read many of Paul’s letter, for of them, he writes, “there are some things in them that are hard to understand.” Peter regarded them as “Scripture.” (2 Peter 3:16) Thus, there is little doubt that the congregations in Rome had an opportunity to read a copy of Peter’s two letters as well, as Peter had an opportunity to read many of Paul’s letters.

At the time of writing, most of Paul’s letters were circulating among the congregations and were known to Peter, who regarded them as inspired of God and classed them with “the rest of the Scriptures.”

Irenaeus of Lyons

Irenaeus (between 120 C.E. and 140 C.E. to 202 C.E.) wrote his Against Heresies c. 175-185 C.E. He was an early Church Father and apologist, who was a student of Polycarp (Cruse 1998, Book v. Chapter v.), who in turn was traditionally a student of the apostle John.

Irenaeus, unlike the above, has writings attributed to him that say Peter was in Rome. We read, “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.2 [ANF1]) Irenaeus also wrote,

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority,3that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.3.2 [ANF1])

This may very well not be exactly what Irenaeus said. We should not that we do not have Irenaeus’ original Greek writings. The above attributed to him that say Peter was in Rome are from a poor late fourth-century Latin translation. We will return to this point in a movement.

Irenaeus focuses on the church of Rome which he describes as “greatest, most ancient and known to all, founded and established by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” Here we must acknowledge a bit of rhetoric, as the church of Rome was obviously not so ancient as those of Jerusalem or Antioch, nor was it actually founded by Peter or Paul.[9]

We also start with the simple fact that Peter and Paul could not have “founded and organized” the church at Rome. Paul was in the city of Corinth in 56 C.E., when he penned the letter known as Romans, to an already established church in Rome, a place where he had never been at this point, his third missionary journey, which was made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians. How and when did the congregation get its star in Rome? There was a large Jewish population in Rome that dates back to Pompey’s capturing Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E., some 113 years earlier than Paul’s letter to the Roman congregation. At Acts 2:10, i.e., Pentecost 33 C.E., several years before Paul became a Christian; it specifically states that Jews from Rome were in Jerusalem, listening to Peter and the 120, who had met in the upper room. Peter spoke to “sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes” (ASV) at Jerusalem. These converted Jews from Rome had heard the gospel at that time, staying in Jerusalem for a time to learn more from the apostles. In addition, more Jews from Rome returned to Jerusalem just before or in 36 C.E., just before the persecution broke out in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:41-47; 8:1, 4)

For conservative evangelical Christians, the strongest evidence against the claims attributed to Irenaeus that Peter and Paul “founded and organized” the church at Rome is the Bible itself, because it is inspired of God, as Holy Spirit moved along the writers. In other words, it is fully inerrant. The Greek New Testament is restored to 99.95 percent of what the originals were. You cannot logistically have Paul writing to an already established church in Rome about 56 C.E., meaning it was already “founded and organized” by others long before, and at the same time claim Paul “founded and organized” the church in Rome. We find this being acknowledged by Catholic scholars in the introduction to the book of Romans in the Catholic New American Bible:

Since neither early Christian tradition nor Paul’s letter to the Romans mentions a founder of the Christian community in Rome, it may be concluded that the Christian faith came to that city through members of the Jewish community of Jerusalem who were Christian converts.

In fact, Acts 2:10 may be the text that led to the tradition that Peter founded the church in Rome, as he did, in fact, convert the Jews from Rome at Pentecost, as well as staying in Jerusalem for a time to learn more from the apostles, which would have included Peter. However, the facts of Scripture show, this is no reason to accept one late Latin manuscript translation from 380 C.E., and the church tradition of men who have an agenda over and against Peter’s own word that he was in Babylon. The Catholic Church and some of their historians would like us to believe that Peter was the first pope of the Roman Church. This is just not the case as Peter was in Babylon. What about archaeological evidence, does it support Peter ever being in Rome?

Archaeological Evidence

What seems like evidence from early Christian writers to support Peter was in Rome is really no evidence at all when examined closely. We will find that this is also applicable to the co-called archaeological evidence.

Between 1939 and 1949, the Vatican-led archaeological team overseen by Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, who had overall authority over the project, had uncovered a complex of pagan mausoleums under the foundations of St. Peter’s Basilica (the so-called Vatican Necropolis), dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. No mausoleum had ever been built directly beneath the present high altar of St Peter’s, which did, however, contain shallow burials, one dated by an impressed tile to the reign of Vespasian; subsequently, they had been attended with care, as later burials clustered round but did not encroach upon the space. There was a [aedicula][10] small niched monument built into a wall [about] 160 C.E.[11]

Lastly, and rather puzzlingly, some human remains were discovered, which, it was claimed that they came from one of the two sidewalls. Thus, begins the interpretation. We have a number of Catholic scholars, who say the finds are that of Peter’s residence and martyrdom in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, possibly even during Mero’s persecution of 64 C.E. The argument is that these remains are relics of the apostle Peter, which are evidenced as such by an inscription, which is interpreted as reading, “Peter is here.” “Pope Pius XII stated in December 1950 that none could be confirmed to be Saint Peter’s with absolute certainty. However, following the discovery of further bones and an inscription, on June 26, 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that the relics of St. Peter had been identified.”[12] However, “The Italian Catholic newspaper L’Avvenire, in an article written when Ferrua turned 100, said the Jesuit repeatedly said he was not convinced they were the saint’s bones. L’Avvenire described Ferrua as a ‘scholar of great rigor, who has never been touched by any ideological interference.’ Ferrua was also considered a leading scholar in epigraphy, the study of ancient Christian inscriptions.”[13]

All of the Protestant and Catholic scholars, as well as the church leaders and churchgoers, who sincerely believe that Peter was in Rome, he was martyred in Rome, his tomb was in Rome, must do so on the unreliable traditions if men or to believe the trustworthy Word of God. Christians, who are after truth can set aside centuries of traditions from men, who have a motive of wanting Peter in Rome (i.e., he being the first pope), and move toward pure worship (not veneration of idols) that is acceptable to God. These ones ‘look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,’ the one who has left us an example, so that we might follow in his steps.’


[1] Kirsch, J. P. “Peter.” In THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, by Edited by Charles George Herbermann, Volume 11, 748. Albany: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

[2] Heraty, J. New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volumes 1-18. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 1979, 204.

[3] Jobes, Karen H. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Peter. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005, 322.

[4] “circa,” or “about.” (used before dates)

[5] Who Authored the Book of Hebrews: A Defense for Pauline Authorship

[6] Gallagher, Mason. Baker Was the Apostle Peter Ever at Rome?: A Critical Examination of the Evidence and Arguments Presented on Both Sides of the Question. New York: Hunt & Eaton, 1894, 70.

[7] Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 15, col. 755.

[8] Gr., episcopos

[9] Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 147

[10] In ancient Roman religion, an aedicula (plural aediculae) is a small shrine. The word aedicule is the diminutive of the Latin aedes, a temple building or house.


[12] IBID

[13] Reports, Times Staff and Wire. “Antonio Ferrua, 102; Archeologist Credited as Finding St. Peter’s Tomb.” Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2003: 102.