Below, an abridged translation from the second volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.
There is no evidence of Peter’s stay and death in Rome
Nor was he ever the bishop of Rome. It is an absurd idea, but it is the basis of a whole doctrine that the popes and their theologians literally put on the roof. There is no definitive proof, even that he was ever in Rome.
The Christian community of Rome was founded neither by Peter nor by Paul or the ‘blessed founding apostles’ (in the 6th century, Archbishop Dorotheus of Thessalonica attributed a double bishopric to them), but by unknown Judeo-Christians. Already then, between these and the Jews there were so serious disturbances that Emperor Claudius, in the middle of the 1st century, ordered the expulsion of Jews and Christians, among whom no differences were made: Judaeos, impulsore Chresto, assidue tumultuantes [Claudius] Roma expulit (‘Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome’—Suetonius).
Peter’s stay in Rome has never been demonstrated, although today, in the era of ecumenism and the approximation of Christian churches, even many Protestant scholars assume it. But assumptions are no demonstration. Even when according to legends full of fantasy, Peter suffered martyrdom in Rome and was crucified as his Lord and Saviour, although, out of a desire for humility, with his head down…
In reality, there is not a single solid proof about that. Not even Paul, who would be the one who founded the Roman community with Peter, and who writes his last epistles from Rome (although he never cites his adversary, Peter, in them) knows anything about it. Nor is there any data about it in the history of the apostles, the synoptic Gospels. Likewise, Clement’s important first Epistle, from the end of the 1st century, knows nothing of the history of ‘You are Peter’ or of another appointment by Jesus, nor of any decisive role of this apostle. Clement limits himself to reporting with imprecise words about his martyrdom. In short, throughout the 1st century there is silence in this regard, as well as in the 2nd century.
The oldest ‘witness’ of Peter’s stay in Rome, Dionysius of Corinth, is suspect. First, because his testimony comes from the year 170 approximately. Secondly, because this bishop is very far from Rome. And thirdly, because he affirms that Peter and Paul not only found together the Church of Rome but also that of Corinth: an aspect that contradicts Paul’s own testimony. Does a guarantor of this type deserve more confidence about the Roman tradition?
But those who doubt this, or even deny it, ‘only raise an infamous monument to their ignorance and fanaticism’ (Gröner, Catholic). But is not precisely the other way around? Is not fanaticism more frequent among the faithful than among the sceptics? And also ignorance? Don’t religions, Catholicism and the papacy live on it? Don’t their dogmas overflow in the irrational and supernatural, in logical absurdities? Do they fear nothing more than authentic criticism? Haven’t they instituted a strict censorship, the index, the ecclesiastical authorisation to be able to print, the anti-modernist oath and the bonfire?
Catholics need Peter’s visit, they need the corresponding activity of this man in Rome, who will head as ‘founder apostle’ the list of Roman bishops, the chain of his ‘successors’. In this theory the ‘apostolic’ tradition and the primacy of the pope are largely based.
They affirm therefore, especially in popular writings, that the presence of Peter in Rome ‘has been demonstrated by historical research beyond all doubt’ (F.J. Koch); ‘it is a result of the investigation confirmed in a general way’ (Kösters, Jesuit); it is ‘totally incontestable’ (Franzen); it is attested in ‘all the ancient Christian world’ (Schuck); there is ‘no’ news of antiquity ‘as sure as this’ (Kuhn), which does not make any more certain the image that Peter has ‘set up his episcopal chair, his seat, in Rome’ (Specht / Bauer).
In 1982, for the Catholic Pesch ‘there is no longer any doubt’ that Peter died martyred in Rome under Nero. (However, the martyred bishop Ignatius does not say anything about it in the 2nd century.) Pesch considers it unquestionable. But neither he nor anyone else provides any proof. For him it is only ‘an attractive idea to assume that Peter left for Rome’.
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