Where Was Peter When Paul Wrote Romans?

Hint: Not Where Moses Was When the Lights Went Out.

This perennial chestnut of anti-Catholic polemics is under discussion with a puzzled Catholic reader over at the Register.

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  • http://www.christiandemocracymagazine.com/ Jack Quirk

    Or, maybe, simply addressing his letter to “all that are at Rome” was sufficient to be understood as addressing Peter. After all, Clement, the third successor from Peter, began his letter to the Corinthians thus: “The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth,” without naming himself.”

    Paul’s letter wasn’t meant to be a personal letter, but to the church at Rome as such, and is so addressed. At the same time, Paul doesn’t write “salute Peter,” as he does with respect to other people at the end of his letter because he understands that Peter will be reading the letter, and it would be meaningless to ask Peter to say hello to himself.

    The main thrust of Romans is Paul explaining his mission to the Gentiles. Although Peter was the first to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, that later became specifically Paul’s mission while Peter concentrated on the Jews. So Paul is writing to what would have been a predominantly Jewish church at Rome to explain the theology behind his Gentile mission. Notice that Romans contains no rebuke about obeying Jewish customs, nor does it even caution against it, while with Gentiles he is quite insistent that the ritual aspects of the Jewish law be avoided. On the contrary, in Romans he is quite tolerant on the matter, saying this:
    “As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:1-6)

    Vegetarianism may have been the practice of some Essenes, and Paul’s reference to observing days was doubtlessly about the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holy days. It is clear from elsewhere that Paul considered Jewish observances for Jewish Christians to be optional.

    So the letter actually is to Peter, but in his official capacity, and so he is not named, which would have been customary at the time.

    How’s that?

  • Dustin

    I posted the following to the combox at the Register a short while ago, but I’d also like to post it here, as I’m genuinely interested in hearing some responses and counter-arguments:


    “[T]here is not a single piece of reliable literary evidence (and no archaeological evidence either) that Peter ever was in Rome.”
    —Pieter W. van der Horst, reviewing Otto Zwierlein’s “Petrus in Rom.” Unfortunately, the book isn’t available in English yet. It’s also absurdly expensive. The review’s solid, though. Provocative arguments on the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles and 1 Clement. Something to contend with.

    • Mark Shea

      “Peter is within”: Ancient Inscription on the tomb of a crucified man buried directly beneath the High Altar. I’d call that archeological evidence. And “provocative” (i.e dubious and crappy) biased attempts to dismiss 1 Clement and the Ignatian epistles. Duly noted.

    • Claude

      That was fascinating; thank you for posting it. You might be interested in James D. G. Dunn’s review of Petrus in Rom. Dunn is moderately critical which is interesting in itself.


  • Clifton

    It is VERY probable that when Claudius, who was Emperor from 41 to 54 A.D, expelled the Jews and Christians from Rome that Peter left with them and then returned at a later date. We know that he left for Rome approx 45 A.D and that he was in Jerusalem in the year 50 for the council. We know he also traveled to Antioch and also to the Churches in Asia minor. It is highly probable that he was simply not in Rome at the time Paul wrote his epistle.