Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Historians Can't Agree --
When Did the Apostle Peter Meet His Death?
The date of Peter's death, it seems, has never been ACCURATELY determined. Some scholars have hit upon the correct year of his martyrdom, others the correct day or month; but nobody has put it all together and come up with the EXACT date! Can we, then, hope to determine what others have failed to accomplish? Indeed we can! By examining all the material (both traditional and historical) the exact date when one of YEHOVAH God's most powerful, and truly endearing, servants of the apostolic age drew his last breath can be discovered. Read on and discover the remarkable events surrounding the final days of Simon Peter -- apostle, friend, and companion of the living Messiah!
John D. Keyser
Can we know for sure the EXACT date of the apostle Peter's death in Rome?
Many different dates have been proposed over the centuries; and there seems to be as much confusion over this issue as there is regarding Peter's actual residence in the Imperial City.
Buckner B. Trawick, in his book The Bible as Literature, asserts the following:
According to tradition, he [Peter] visited Corinth and Antioch in Syria and founded the church at Rome, where, DURING THE NERONIAN PERSECUTION (A.D. 64) HE WAS CRUCIFIED (head down, at his own request, for he felt himself unworthy of the sort of execution suffered by Jesus). -- Barnes and Noble, N.Y. 1968, p. 78.
Funk and Wagnalls' New Encyclopedia supports this view with a proviso: "According to the tradition he [Peter] died in Rome during the persecution of the Christians under Roman Emperor Nero, WHICH, IF ACCURATE, would place the time of his death in the year 64." (Vol. 18, article "Peter," p. 465).
Bo Reicke, in his authoritative work entitled The New Testament Era, has a different date in mind:
Quite apart from the question of authorship, the Petrine letters confirm the ecclesiastical tradition according to which PETER FINALLY LABORED AND DIED AT ROME TOGETHER WITH PAUL. Peter appears to have come to Rome between 63 and 65: the Book of Acts mentions Paul alone there down to the year 62; on the other hand, THE MARTYRDOM OF BOTH IS DATED TO THE REIGN OF NERO, PROBABLY IN 65. -- Page 223.
To add further confusion, Thomas Lewin, in his excellent work on the apostle Paul, states that "it is said that the two great apostles, Peter and Paul, were together at Rome, and if so, the martyrdom of Peter must be placed sometime during Paul's second imprisonment, which was FROM THE LATTER PART OF A.D. 65 TO THE MIDDLE OF A.D. 66." (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. 2. London, 1874).
Smith's Bible Dictionary moves the date out a little further: "The time and manner of the apostle's martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, HE [PETER] SUFFERED AT OR ABOUT THE SAME TIME WITH PAUL, AND IN THE NERONIAN PERSECUTION, A.D. 67, 68." (Article "Peter," page 504).
The eminent historian of the 19th century, William Cave, quotes two ANCIENT authorities:
...he [Peter] probably came thither [to Rome] some few years before his death, joined with and assisted St. Paul in the preaching of the gospel, and then both sealed the testimony of it with their blood. The date of his death is DIFFERENTLY assigned by the ancients. EUSEBIUS PLACES IT ANNO 69, IN THE 14th [YEAR] OF NERO; EPIPHANIUS IN THE 12th. -- The Lives of the Apostles. Oxford, 1840.
Finally, Worldwide Church of God evangelist Ronald Kelly (in his thesis on Peter) claims the apostle wasn't put to death until around the year 80 A.D. Kelly bases this date on the modern hypothesis that I and II Peter weren't written until after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
There is, it appears, as much diversity of opinion regarding Peter's death as there are authorities on the subject! So, in light of this, can we cut through all the confusion and PINPOINT the date of Peter's death? Let us examine each of these opinions one by one and see if we can arrive at the CORRECT DATE by the process of elimination.
An Ignorant Fisherman?
Ronald Kelly's late date of 80 A.D. is a reflection of modern scholastic criticism that rejects both PLAIN internal and external evidence for an earlier dating of Peter's epistles.
The Bible as Literature, by Buckner B. Trawick, outlines this reasoning:
Although it [I Peter] has been TRADITIONALLY ASSIGNED TO THE APOSTLE PETER, for three reasons it is most unlikely that he was the author: (1) the Greek in which it is written is TOO CORRECT AND ELEGANT TO BE THE PRODUCT OF A GALILEAN FISHERMAN; (2) the epistle is saturated with Pauline doctrine which would have been both UNKNOWN AND UNACCEPTABLE TO PETER; and (3) its probable date is too late for Peter, especially if one credits the tradition that the Apostle was martyred about A.D. 65. The letter appears to have been WRITTEN IN ROME and addressed to all Christians -- both Jewish converts and Gentile -- of the communities named above. [Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythnia]. -- Page 137-138.
What unmitigated nonsense!
First of all, Peter himself states in I Peter 5:12: "I write these few words to you THROUGH SILVANUS, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness." Obviously, Mr. Trawick failed to read the letter before commenting on its contents!
Secondly, if we go along with Mr. Trawick's reasoning here, Abraham Lincoln could not have written the inspiring and eloquent words that he did because he was the unschooled son of a restless frontiersman! The fact that Peter was a Galilean fisherman does not mean he was ignorant! Were Andrew, James and John also unlettered and uncouth because they were fishermen? Ridiculous!
Mr. Trawick's next point is even more ludicrous: "The epistle is saturated with Pauline doctrine which would have been both UNKNOWN AND UNACCEPTABLE TO PETER." Unknown and unacceptable? How did he arrive at this conclusion?
Let Peter himself refute this!
Think of our Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved: OUR BROTHER PAUL, WHO IS SO DEAR TO US, told you this when he wrote to you with THE WISDOM THAT IS HIS SPECIAL GIFT. He always writes like this when he deals with this sort of subject, and this makes some points in his letter hard to understand; these are the points that UNEDUCATED and UNBALANCED people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture -- A FATAL THING FOR THEM TO DO. -- II Peter 3:15-16.
Does this sound like Paul's doctrine was both unknown and unacceptable to Peter? Absolutely not! And Peter points out who the uneducated ones really are!
Mr. Trawick would next have us believe that I Peter was written at Rome. Once again, did he READ the letter? Notice chapter 5, verse 13: "Your sister IN BABYLON, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark."
At the time of the Messiah, the Jewish historian Josephus could speak of the Jews in Babylon as "innumerable myriads" (Antiquities, XI, V, 2). He also tells us of the 2,000 Jewish families whom Antiochus transferred from Babylon and Mesopotamia to Phrygia and Syria. Babylon on the Euphrates remained a focus of eastern Judaism for centuries, along with two other centers in the area -- Nehardea and Nisibis.
Also, it is to be noted that the countries of the persons addressed in Peter's letter are enumerated in THE ORDER IN WHICH A PERSON WRITING FROM BABYLON WOULD NATURALLY ARRANGE THEM, beginning with those lying nearest to him, and passing in circuit to those in the west and the south, at the greatest distance from him!
A Massive Persecution?
Mr. Trawick continues, in his book The Bible as Literature, to pile absurdity upon absurdity in a statement that is as ill-conceived as it is ill-researched:
The epistle's date and its purpose must be considered together. In a time of general persecution of Christians, it was written to bring hope and comfort to the sufferers and to exhort them to persevere in the faith and live blameless lives. The persecution reflected is MORE UNIVERSAL AND CONTINUOUS THAN ANY MENTIONED IN ACTS OR THAN THE NERONIAN MASSACRE OF THE SEVENTH DECADE OF THE CENTURY; IT APPEARS TO BE A LATER PERSECUTION, OCCURRING SOME TIME BETWEEN A.D. 80 AND 96. The letter was probably written during these sixteen years. -- Page 138.
To take the wording of I Peter and claim that there was a great, universal persecution against the Church of YEHOVAH God of the time is to stretch the context of the letter to the breaking point! The trials Peter talks about in 1:7 and 4:12 are DEFINED throughout the letter: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who SPEAK MALICIOUSLY against your good behavior in Christ MAY BE ASHAMED OF THEIR SLANDER" (I Peter 3:15-16).
Also, in chapter 4: "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. THEY THINK IT STRANGE THAT YOU DO NOT PLUNGE WITH THEM INTO THE SAME FLOOD OF DISSIPATION, AND THEY HEAP ABUSE ON YOU" (Verses 3-4).
In verses 12-14 of the same chapter, Peter continues: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful TRIAL you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. IF YOU ARE INSULTED because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you."
To take these verses and imply that Peter is talking of a great, universal persecution MORE SEVERE than the Neronian persecution is really stretching the intent of the original Greek! The Greek word for "trial" in verses 1:7 and 4:12 means "a trial, a temptation, a proving" (Dawson). Strong says, "a testing; by implication trustworthiness:- trial, trying." This in no way implies a massive persecution with thousands being put to death! Toward the end of the letter Peter offers this advice: "Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers THROUGHOUT THE WORLD are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (I Peter 5:9).
Indeed they were!
Anybody trying to obey YEHOVAH God in the pagan or Jewish societies of that time would be "spoken maliciously against," "slandered," have "abuse heaped on them" and "insulted" -- that was par for the course. But to say these trials were more continuous and severe "than any mentioned in Acts or than the Neronian massacre of the seventh decade of the century" is absurd and definitely NOT IMPLIED by Peter's letter!
Mr. Trawick flies in the face of tradition, internal evidence, external evidence and common sense when he claims Peter's first letter was written between 80 A.D. and 96; and Ronald Kelly is gullible in accepting such reasoning in his dating of Peter's death.
More Flimsy Evidence!
Mr. Trawick also claims II Peter was written at a late date, and bases this on more FLIMSY evidence:
The letter is very "late," probably to be about A.D. 150. Some such date is indicated by the following facts: (1) It incorporates almost the whole of the Epistle of Jude in 2:2-17; most scholars agree that II Peter is the borrower. (2) It mentions (3:4) the death of "the fathers" -- the early church leaders. (3) It alludes to the Pauline epistles as "scriptures" (3:15-16), a term applied during the Apostolic Age only to the books of the Old Testament.
Any similarities there may be between II Peter and Jude proves absolutely nothing -- both writers were inspired by the spirit of YEHOVAH God to warn YEHOVAH's people, and since YEHOVAH's spirit is a spirit of unity, His servants wrote in unity! Now, as far as II Peter borrowing from Jude, if we must look at it this way, the very opposite is true! Notice Jude 17-18: "But dear friends, REMEMBER WHAT THE APOSTLES OF OUR LORD JESUS FORETOLD. They said to you, 'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires!' " Now compare II Peter 3:3: "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires." Obviously, Jude is here quoting Peter!
The second point in Mr. Trawick's statement is even flimsier -- he claims that "the fathers" are the early church leaders. It is apparent this critic NEVER consulted the original Greek! The word for "fathers" in II Peter 3:4 is pater, meaning "a father, a progenitor." (Dawson). Strong says it means "father (lit. or fig., near or more remote):- father, parent." (No. 3962). To claim this refers to the early church leaders is not supported or implied by the scripture in question -- alone or in context! Mr. Trawick is once again grasping at straws!
His third point equally rests on quicksand. The Greek word for scriptures is "grafay," meaning "a writing" or "a document." It comes from "grapho" -- to write. Paul's letters were indeed "writings" or "documents." Just because this term is used only once in the New Testament, in reference to New Testament writings, proves absolutely nothing!
It should be easy to see that Ronald Kelly's dating of Peter's death, based on the supposition that I and II Peter were written after the fall of Jerusalem, just doesn't hold water. All VIABLE scholarship dates I and II Peter to the period between 62 and 68 A.D.
Peter Was Not a Scapegoat!
The 64 A.D. dating for Peter's death is also untenable for a number of reasons. The persecution of the Christians at Rome was seized upon by Nero to shift the blame for the fire that destroyed much of the Imperial City. People were summarily apprehended and sentenced in what were nothing more than assembly line kangaroo courts! In quick order, Christians were arrested, tried and executed, whereas tradition and historical references relate that Peter (after his arrest) LANGUISHED IN PRISON FOR NINE MONTHS.
Notice what William Cave says:
And being now by this means robbed of his dear favorite and companion [Simon Magus], he [Nero] resolved upon revenge, commanded Peter to be apprehended and CAST INTO THE MAMERTINE PRISON....(The Lives of the Apostles. Oxford, 1840, p. 204).
William McBirnie, in his book The Search For the 12 Apostles, speaks of this same imprisonment:
Maliciously condemned, Peter was cast into the horrible, fetid prison of the Mamertine. There, FOR NINE MONTHS, in absolute darkness, he endured monstrous torture manacled to a post. It can be seen to this day, with the dungeon and the pillar to which Peter was bound in chains.
Obviously, if Peter had been apprehended right after the great fire, he would NOT have died with the other poor souls at that time BUT NINE MONTHS LATER IN 65 A.D.!
Another consideration that would favor a later death for Peter is the MODE of execution. The executions following the fire in the summer of 64 were of TWO FORMS provided by law for arson: DISMEMBERMENT BY ANIMALS and PUBLIC BURNING. Clement, and the Roman historian Tacitus, record how women had to play the part of Dirce (a figure in Greek mythology) and be torn apart by bulls (I Clement 6:2), or how the victims were bitten to death by dogs and set afire as living torches (Tacitus Annales, xv. 44. 4).
Peter, on the other hand, suffered and died as the result of CRUCIFIXION:
Shortly after the dispatch of the second epistle [II Timothy] Peter arrived at Rome, and, according to the general tradition was CRUCIFIED there in the Vatican, the scene of the other [earlier] martyrdoms, with his head downwards. -- The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, by Thomas Lewin. Vol. 2, London. 1874, p. 368.
Peter died as a result of his preaching of the gospel and because of the death of Simon Magus, NOT as a scapegoat for the burning of Rome.
Notice what Lactantius says in his letter to Pope Donatus:
And while Nero reigned, the apostle Peter came to Rome, and, through the power of god committed unto him, wrought certain miracles, and by turning many to the true religion, built up a faithful and steadfast temple unto the Lord. WHEN NERO HEARD OF THOSE THINGS, and observed that not only in Rome, but in every other place, a great multitude REVOLTED DAILY FROM THE WORSHIP OF IDOLS, and, condemning their old ways, went over to the new religion. He [Nero], an execrable and pernicious tyrant, sprung forward to raze the heavenly temple and destroy the true faith. He [Nero] it was who first persecuted the servants of God; he CRUCIFIED PETER, and slew Paul....(Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, chap. 2. "The Ante-Nicene Fathers," vol. vii).
The Acts of Peter, a document of spurious origin, backs this up when it states that Peter was executed because he induced prominent Roman ladies to leave the religion of Rome, an action which quite often caused family rifts and breakup (The Church in Rome in the 1st Century, by George Edmundson. London, 1913. P. 108).
Another factor in Peter's death was Nero's FRIENDSHIP WITH SIMON MAGUS. During his 25 years in Rome, Magus became a favorite of both Claudius Caesar and Nero; and Hegesippus, who wrote in the 4th century, describes the contest between Peter and Simon Magus over a kinsman of the emperor raised from the dead, and how Magus reached a dramatic end. Because of Magus' death, Nero was so enraged that he had Peter cast into prison. As far as Nero was concerned, this was the straw that broke the camel's back!
William Cave also mentions this:
Such was the end of this miserable and unhappy man [Simon Magus]: which no sooner came to the ears of the emperor [Nero], TO WHOM BY WICKED ARTIFICES HE HAD ENDEARED HIMSELF, but it became AN OCCASION OF HASTENING PETER'S RUIN.
The emperor probably had been before displeased with Peter, not only upon the account of the general disagreement and inconformity of his religion, but because he had SO STRICTLY PRESSED TEMPERANCE AND CHASTITY...(The Lives of the Apostles).
Since Simon Magus died in 67 A.D. after residing in Rome for 25 years (42-67 A.D.), this PLACES PETER'S DEATH AT THE VERY END OF NERO'S REIGN -- after Magus' ignominious death.
Some Practical Questions
There are a number of questions that come to mind when considering Peter's purported death during the Neronian persecution of 64 A.D. Would it have been possible for the hunted Christians to identify, recover and bury the body of Peter during such a time? Also, would friends have been able to bury Peter's body, if recovered, in the pagan cemetery in the very neighborhood of Nero's gardens -- as some traditions state?
When the area under St. Peter's in Rome was excavated during the Second World War, thousands of bones of many different individuals were discovered all jumbled together in a common grave. This, it would seem, was the only burial possible under the terrible circumstances following the burning of Rome.
Following the fire, Nero had thrown the whole area open to the homeless population of Rome -- in order to divert suspicion that he was the possible originator of the conflagration. The chances of a group of Christians burying peter in a fitting manner, in a PAGAN cemetery no less, amidst all these people during this chaotic time is well-nigh impossible!
The Martyrdom of Paul
And what about Paul? Author Bo Reicke stated that "Peter finally labored and died at Rome TOGETHER WITH PAUL." He goes on to say "the martyrdom of BOTH is dated to the reign of Nero, probably in 65." This presents some difficulties: (1) If Paul had died at the same time as Peter during the Neronian persecution, then he too would have died in the same fashion as Peter, and been buried in the same area. (2) The commonly accepted date of Paul's death is several years AFTER Nero's persecution of 64-65 A.D.
Now regarding the mode of Paul's death, we find recorded that he was BEHEADED and buried on the OSTIAN WAY.
Notice what James Hardy Ropes says in his book The Apostolic Age in the Light of Modern Criticism:
It is unquestioned that 150 years after Peter's death it was the COMMON BELIEF at Rome that he [Peter] had died there, as had Paul. The "trophies" of the two great apostles could be seen on the Vatican Hill AND BY THE OSTIAN WAY....(pages 215-216).
Regarding the date of Paul's death let's read what Smith's Bible Dictionary has to say:
The apostle [Paul] appears now [second imprisonment] to have been treated not as an honorable state prisoner, but as a felon, 2 Tim. 2:9; but he was allowed to write the second letter to Timothy, A.D. 67. For what remains we have the concurrent testimony of ecclesiastical antiquity that he was BEHEADED AT ROME, BY NERO...A.D. 67 OR 68. -- Article "Paul," page 494.
The KEY to fixing Paul's death is found in the work of Clement of Rome, who places the martyrdom of Paul "BEFORE THE RULERS" and during the year Nero was IN GREECE. While absent from Rome, Nero left the government of the city in the hands of Helius and the Praetorian Guards, headed by Tigellinus (First Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians, 5:4).
Author Thomas Lewin also emphasizes this important point:
Clement, the CONTEMPORARY and disciple of the apostle, speaks only of Paul having PLEADED HIS CASE BEFORE "GOVERNORS," but from this we may infer that the emperor DID NOT PRESIDE AT THE FINAL HEARING IN PERSON. For the word "governors" [oi nyoumevoi] is employed several times in the same epistle, and in nearly all the instances denotes SUBORDINATE RULERS, and in none is applied to the supreme monarch, and is sometimes even used in contradiction to that sense. -- The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. London, 1874).
And when was Nero in Greece and the government of Rome in the hands of "subordinate rulers"? Notice O'Connor again: "Among those who have been suggested as the "oi nyoumevoi" (5:7) are Helius and the Praetorian Prefect Tigellinus who were left in charge of Rome WHEN NERO VISITED GREECE DURING A.D. 67. If Paul had appeared before the emperor himself, the fact would surely have been noted."
The Cambridge Ancient History, page 735, records that Nero set out from Rome at the END OF SEPTEMBER, 66 to go to Greece. Miriam T. Griffin concurs, showing that Nero LEFT ITALY early in October: "Through the connection of these vows (Smallwood, "Documents" #26) with Nero's departure for Greece means that he sailed late in the sailing season when there was some risk (Vegetius 4:39), that is not a good reason for doubting it; the Arval records also show that a conspiracy was uncovered some time between 19 June and 25 September, which would have delayed departure. The Areval vows could relate to Nero's departure from Rome or to his departure from Italy. In the FORMER CASE, he would not have LEFT ITALY UNTIL ABOUT 12 OCTOBER, still arriving before the close of the sailing season on 11 November." (Nero: The End of a Dynasty. Yale University Press, p. 280).
The Cambridge Ancient History (page 738) also mentions the emperor RETURNED TO ITALY IN JANUARY OF 68; therefore Paul must have died BETWEEN LATE SEPTEMBER 66 AND JANUARY OF 68!!
Many other authors and historians support this dating. William Steuart McBirnie states that "St. Paul's entire ministry thus was conducted during the time of Claudius and Nero, the latter [Nero] OUTLIVING THE GREAT APOSTLE BY PERHAPS A YEAR AND A HALF AFTER HE ORDERED ST. PAUL'S EXECUTION IN A.D. 67." Since Nero committed suicide in June of 68, this places Paul's death in JANUARY OF 67!
Interestingly enough, the Roman Martyrologies show that "JANUARY 25 commemorated the DEATH AND BURIAL OF PAUL in the Via Ostia. The word "conversio" was added to the notice of January 25 since this is the most spectacular event in the life of Paul" (Peter in Rome, by O'Connor).
Furthermore, Eusebius, in the Armenian version of the Chronicle, together with the Agapio, states unequivocally that the death of Paul occurred in the 13th YEAR OF NERO (BETWEEN OCTOBER 3, A.D. 66, AND OCTOBER 12, A.D. 67)!
R. W. Morgan claims "there are SIX YEARS of St. Paul's life to be accounted for, between his liberation from his FIRST IMPRISONMENT and his martyrdom at Aquae Salviae in the Ostian Road, near Rome." Since Paul was liberated from his first imprisonment in 61, this brings us to 67 A.D. ONCE AGAIN!
Euthalius, who flourished 458-490 A.D. also placed Paul's martyrdom in the 13th year of Nero (67 A.D.) -- see The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, page 409. Archimandrite Theodoritos Bournis, in his book I Was in the Isle Patmos... also supports this: "After the dormition of the virgin and apostle Paul's martyrdom, THAT IS AFTER 67 A.D., he [John] comes to Ephesus where he settles himself" (Athens, 1968. Page 13).
Did Peter and Paul Die At the Same Time?
Why am I stressing the date of PAUL'S DEATH? Because Bo Reicke and other authors claim Peter and Paul died ABOUT THE SAME TIME in Rome. Actually, however, Peter died AFTER PAUL!
Eusebius, in "The Ecclesiastical History", in a passage in which he quotes from Dionysius of Corinth, mentions that Peter and Paul died at the same time. [However] this may not necessarily mean the same day, the same month, or even the same calendar year. Considered alone, however, it CANNOT BE CONSTRUED TO EXTEND OVER A PERIOD OF MORE THAN TWELVE MONTHS. From this note, together with information found in the "Chronicle," it is gathered from Eusebius that PETER AND PAUL DIED AT THE SAME TIME OF THE YEAR BUT IN DIFFERENT YEARS. This is also indicated by Tertullian. -- Peter in Rome, by William O'Connor.
The idea that Peter was martyred LATER THAN PAUL is discussed by James Hardy Ropes in his book The Apostolic Age in the Light of Modern Criticism: "As to the date of Peter's death, it may be added that if I Peter is genuine, PETER WOULD SEEM TO HAVE SURVIVED PAUL, and to have written, after the latter's death, a letter to Gentile Christians in the provinces of Asia Minor" (p. 217). This hypothesis could not have been uncommon, for we find a painting by the German artist Hans Holbein the Elder (1460-1524) showing Peter at the martyrdom of Paul!
Thomas Lewin claims that "the martyrdom of Peter must be placed sometime DURING Paul's second imprisonment, which was from the latter part of A.D. 65 to the middle of A.D. 66." WHY? Couldn't Peter have died AFTER Paul? Peter of Alexandria (circa 311) PLAINLY says that he did: "This Peter, the first of the apostles, having been often arrested and cast into prison, and treated with ignominy, was LAST OF ALL crucified in Rome" (Who Was the First Bishop of Rome? by C. de Lisle Shortt. Edinburgh, 1935, p. 158).
In II Timothy, which Paul wrote probably in late summer or autumn of 66 (see II Tim. 4:21) no mention is made of Peter being there. If Peter arrived in Rome shortly after the dispatch of Paul's letter, let's say in September, then PETER HAD TO HAVE DIED AFTER PAUL because it is confirmed by many historians that Peter spent NINE MONTHS IN PRISON before his execution! September 66 plus nine months equals June 67! We have already seen that Paul died in January of 67 A.D.
The Winter Sailing Season
Mr. Lewin's dates for Paul's imprisonment are too early. Consider these facts from MR. LEWIN'S OWN PEN: "On the day fixed for the second trial [Paul's], NERO WAS PROBABLY IN ACHAIA [GREECE], or on the road to it, and it is likely that the case fell under the jurisdiction of Helius, the emperor's representative, or of Sabinus, the Prefect of the Praetorium, or the consular deputy who heard appeals from Asia" (page 398). Since we have earlier seen that Nero left Rome in the latter part of September, Paul's first trial or "Prima Actio" (the preliminary investigation preceding the final trial) took place in the summer of 66 A.D.
Samuel G. Green, in his work The Apostle Peter: His Life and Letters, states that Paul arrived at Rome in 66 (Appendix I). It is likely his trip to Rome occurred AFTER February or March when the sailing season began.
In II Timothy Paul writes as though his execution is imminent and that he is writing under its shadow: "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have kept the faith" (4:6-7). Later on, in verse 21, Paul tells Timothy: "Do your best to get here BEFORE WINTER." The original Greek reads, literally, "SPEED UP before winter to come," indicating Paul WAS writing very close to the winter season and wanted Timothy to get there with his cloak (verse 13) before winter set in and the sailing season ended with the setting of the Pleiades (November 11).
ALL THIS CONFIRMS THE JANUARY 67 DEATH OF PAUL.
Can We Know the Exact Date?
Author William Cave declares that Eusebius places Peter's death in anno 69 -- in the 14th year of Nero, and Epiphanius in the 12th. Unfortunately, the 14th year of Nero WAS NOT 69 A.D.! Nero died in his 14th year -- JUNE 68. So who is right, Cave or Eusebius? Epiphanius is totally off base because the 12th year of Nero was 66 A.D. -- BEFORE Paul's martyrdom.
Now we come to Smith's Bible Dictionary. The author asserts that Peter "suffered at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67, 68." The dating here is, as we shall see, accurate, except for one thing -- the Neronian persecution occurred 64-65 A.D.!
So where does this leave us? Can we, as I asked earlier, know FOR SURE the EXACT date of Peter's execution in Rome? Yes, with some research and the fitting together of pieces of the historical puzzle we CAN arrive at the EXACT date of Peter's death!
Peter's Arrival in Rome
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge narrows the time-frame down:
It seems most probable, on the whole, that Peter died a martyr's death in Rome TOWARD THE CLOSE OF NERO'S REIGN [54-68 A.D.], some time AFTER the cessation of the general persecution [64-65 A.D.]. -- Funk & Wagnalls, N.Y. & London. 1910. Article "Peter."
Onuphrius, an historian of great learning and accuracy in matters of antiquity, corroborates this by declaring: "He [Peter]...having spent almost the whole reign of Nero in several parts of EUROPE, returned, IN THE LAST OF NERO'S REIGN, to Rome, and there died...." (The Lives of the Apostles).
Ivor C. Fletcher maintains that "The 12th YEAR OF NERO'S REIGN [66 A.D.] is given by several early writers as THE DATE THAT PETER...ARRIVED AT ROME (The Incredible History of God's True church, page 128).
This agrees with Cardinal Baronius (1538-1607), the Vatican librarian, who quotes the 10th-century writer Simon Metaphrastes in saying that "Peter spent some days IN BRITAIN, and enlightened many by the word of grace; and having established churches and elected bishops [overseers], presbyters and deacons, came again to Rome IN THE 12TH YEAR OF NERO [66 A.D.]...." Notice that this also agrees with Onuphrius who stated Peter was in several parts of Europe prior to returning to Rome.
Thomas Lewin, whom we have already quoted, plainly says that "SHORTLY AFTER THE DISPATCH OF THE SECOND EPISTLE [II TIMOTHY] PETER ARRIVED AT ROME, and, according to the general tradition was crucified there in the Vatican, the scene of the other martyrdoms, with his head downwards" (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, page 368).
Further evidence comes from an interesting work entitled, St. Paul in Britain; and author R. W. Morgan boasts:
....the foundations of the British church were apostolic, being coeval, within a few years with those of the Pentecostal church in Jerusalem...PRECEEDING THE ARRIVAL OF ST. PETER AT ROME, as fixed by the great majority of Roman Catholic historians, by THIRTY YEARS...(page 128).
Since this same volume states the Church of YEHOVAH God in Britain was founded by JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA in 36 A.D., this places Peter's arrival in Rome IN THE YEAR 66! Notice! "Gildas, the British historian, who flourished A.D. 520-560, states EXPRESSLY that it [the Church of God] was introduced [into Britain] the LAST YEAR OF THE REIGN OF TIBERIUS CAESAR" (Page 68). Now, since Tiberius died in March of 37, his last year of reign must therefore have been from March 36 to March 37, and that dates Peter's arrival in Rome 30 YEARS LATER, TO BETWEEN MARCH 66 AND MARCH 67 A.D.!
The erudite Archbishop Ussher, in his monumental work Brittannicanum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, confirms Gildas' dating: "The British National Church was founded A.D. 36, 160 years before heathen Rome confessed Christianity."
This is further reinforced by George F. Jowett:
Peter first went to Rome twelve years after the death of Jesus [assuming a 32 A.D. crucifixion], IN THE YEAR A.D. 44, EIGHT YEARS AFTER JOSEPH [OF ARIMATHEA] AND HIS BETHANY COMPANIONS ARRIVED IN BRITAIN [36 A.D.] and two years after the Claudian campaign of persecution began against Christian Britain. -- The Drama of the Lost Disciples, page 113.
The Claudian campaign commenced in 42 A.D. when emperor Claudius issued a decree to destroy Christian Britain -- man, woman and child, along with its great institutions and libraries. To this end Claudius equipped the largest and most efficient army ever sent by Rome to conquer a foe, and provided it with his most able generals.
Clearly, all evidence points to a 66 A.D. arrival of Peter in Rome. Since Paul made NO MENTION of Peter in his last letter from Rome (II Timothy -- and we have shown this epistle was written in the late summer of 66 A.D.), and tradition maintains Peter actually met Paul and was present at his death, then PETER MUST HAVE ARRIVED BETWEEN THE LATE SUMMER OF 66 AND PAUL'S DEATH IN JANUARY, 67! Hence the 66 A.D. dating!
Let's go a step further.
What About Simon Magus?
Simon Magus died in Rome after an extended residence of 25 years.
Over the centuries, Magus' time in Rome has been confused with that of Peter, and as a result the Roman Catholic Church claims that Peter, as the first pope, presided over the Roman See for 25 years. This also accounts for the COMMON dating of 67 A.D. for the death of Peter. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge makes it clear that "the 25-year episcopate of Peter at Rome is evidently due to the statement of Justin Martyr REGARDING THE LABORS OF SIMON MAGUS AT ROME." (Funk & Wagnalls, London & N.Y. 1910).
During those years Simon Magus became a favorite of both Claudius and Nero Caesar. Since he arrived in Rome in 42 A.D. -- two years BEFORE Peter's first visit -- his death occurred in 67, the same year Nero was absent in Greece. This is confirmed by numerous historians, notably William Cave.
Most of the engravings and paintings extant, dealing with the death of Magus, show that Nero was NOT PRESENT at the confrontation between Peter and the magician, and also show the PREFECT and officials present dressed in WINTER GARB, including cloaks. This would indicate the downfall of Simon Magus occurred in the WINTER MONTHS of 67!
Since Peter was present and witnessed Magus' plunge to his death from the tower, PETER HIMSELF WAS OBVIOUSLY STILL ALIVE DURING THE WINTER OF 67. This fits perfectly with the period of time BETWEEN Paul's death in January of 67 and Peter's arrest in May of the same year -- as we shall see later.
The Man Called Linus!
At the very end of II Timothy Paul writes: "Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, LINUS, Claudia and all the brothers." (4:21). Who is this Linus? What part does he play in the dating of Peter's death? Let's take a look.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, under "Linus," tells us he was "one of the saints of the Gregorian canon, whose festival is celebrated on September 23. His name appears at the HEAD OF ALL THE LISTS OF THE BISHOPS OF ROME. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. iii, 3.3) identifies him with the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in II Timothy 4:21."
Ethel Ross Barker, in Rome of the Pilgrims and Martyrs, claims the following:
Linus, an Italian by nation, of the region of Tuscia; his father was Herulanus. He sat (in the episcopal chair) 11 YEARS 3 MONTHS 12 DAYS. He lived in the time of Nero, FROM THE CONSULSHIP OF SATURNINUS AND SCIPIO (56 A.D.) TO THAT OF CAPITO AND RUFUS (67 A.D.). He is crowned with martyrdom....He was buried...in the Vatican ON DECEMBER 23RD. -- London, 1913, page 64.
His DEATH by martyrdom is recorded in the Roman Martyrologies, as follows: "NOVEMBER 26. Natal day of St. Linus, bishop of Rome." (Martyr, Rom., ad diem; Martyrologies of Ado; Greek Menologies; Usuard, & c.). The "natal day" of a martyr is the day of his martyrdom.
Although there is some disagreement on Linus' ethnic background, the dating of his overseership of the Church of YEHOVAH God at Rome is VERY IMPORTANT in determining Peter's time of death.
R. W. Morgan claims Linus was the brother of Claudia (II Tim. 4:21) and the second son of Caractacus, the British king who successfully kept at bay and decimated the legions of Rome for many years. Listen to what this author says: "...and that Linus was appointed by the...apostle [Paul] FIRST BISHOP [OVERSEER] OF THE CHURCH OF ROME" (page 127).
This is confirmed by another author -- George F. Jowett:
Linus, the son of Caractacus, who had remained at Rome, had long before been baptized and confirmed by St. Joseph of Arimathea in Britain....It was Linus whom St. Paul chose and personally consecrated to be THE FIRST BISHOP OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AT ROME....St. Peter affirms the fact. He [Peter] says: "The first Christian church above ground in Rome, was the palace of the British. The FIRST CHRISTIAN BISHOP [OVERSEER], WAS A BRITON, LINUS, SON OF A ROYAL KING, PERSONALLY APPOINTED BY ST. PAUL....(The Drama of the Lost Disciples. London, 1980).
According to the Liberian Chronicle Linus was appointed overseer in 56 A.D., thus confirming Ethel Ross Barker's dating. Hippolytus, who has been described as the first Christian scientific chronologer at Rome, placed the appointment of Linus 26 YEARS AFTER THE ASCENSION OF THE MESSIAH. Since this same chronologer dates the Messiah's death to 30 A.D., then the appointment of Linus must have taken place in 56 A.D.!
What about the length of Linus' overseership? Can Ethel Ross Barker's dating be confirmed? In the Hieronymian version of Eusebius' Chronicle this comes to light: "Peter the apostle...when he had first founded the Antiochean church, sets out to Rome...preaching the gospel. AFTER PETER LINUS FIRST HELD THE ROMAN CHURCH FOR ELEVEN YEARS." Eleven years from 56 A.D. brings us to 67 A.D.! Ethel Barker's dating remains inviolate!
Icing on the cake comes in the form of the original Latin inscriptions of the early Roman lists: "Linus, Ann. XII. m. iiii, DIES XII. FUIT TEMPORIBUS NERONIS, A CONSULATU SATURNINI ET SCRIPIONIS [A.D. 56] USQUE CAPITONE ET RUFO [A.D. 67]." (Apostolic Fathers, by Lightfoot, p. 253).
Recapping, we find that in the year 56 A.D. the apostle Paul appointed Linus overseer of the Church of YEHOVAH God at Rome -- along with one Cletus. (A study of the New Testament shows that TWO OVERSEERS were appointed for each congregation -- see Titus 1:5).
Rufinus of Aquileia understood this:
Since Linus and Cletus were bishops [overseers] in the city of Rome before this Clement, how could Clement himself, writing to James, say that the chair of teaching was handed over to him by Peter? Now...we have heard this explanation, that Linus and Cletus were indeed bishops [overseers] in the city of Rome before Clement, but during the lifetime of Peter: THAT IS, THAT THEY UNDERTOOK THE CARE OF THE EPISCOPATE [CHURCH OF GOD AT ROME], AND THAT HE [PETER] FULFILLED THE OFFICE OF APOSTLESHIP....(The Ante-Nicene Fathers. New York, 1926, p. 76).
Irenaeus, who lived during the second half of the 2nd century, claims that Linus was the FIRST OVERSEER, followed by Cletus (Anacletus) then Clement. Irenaeus is, however, the EXCEPTION. In every case except his, the records of succession state that Clement was the SECOND OVERSEER and followed directly after Linus.
The Ordination of Clement
So Paul appointed Linus and Cletus overseers of the Church at Rome; and Linus served YEHOVAH God's people for 11 years 3 months and 12 days before his martyrdom in November of 67 A.D. -- LEAVING AN EMPTY POSITION! Now, why is this so important in dating Peter's death? Because of the following:
Iltigius, in De Patribus Apostolicis, QUOTES ST. PETER as saying: "Concerning the bishops [overseers] who have been ordained in our lifetime, we make known to you that they are these. Of Antioch, Eudoius, ordained by me, Peter. OF THE CHURCH OF ROME, LINUS, SON OF CLAUDIA, WAS FIRST ORDAINED BY PAUL, AND AFTER LINUS'S DEATH, CLEMENT (CLEMENS) THE SECOND, ORDAINED BY ME, PETER. -- Apostolic Constitutions, 1:46.
Did you catch that? "...AFTER Linus' death, Clement the second, ORDAINED BY ME, PETER." This means that Peter was STILL ALIVE AFTER THE DEATH OF LINUS; and since we have seen Linus was martyred in November and buried in December of 67, then we have NARROWED THE TIME-FRAME for Peter's execution down to between December of 67 and the suicide of Nero in June, 68!! A period of some SIX MONTHS!
Do any other sources back up this quote of Iltigius? In the Liber Pontificalis, the Catalogue Liberianus contains this supportive statement: "HE [PETER] CONSECRATED BLESSED CLEMENT AS BISHOP and committed to him the government of the see and all the church...after he [Peter] had thus disposed of affairs he received the crown of martyrdom...." This same Liberian Catalog even dates Clement's ordination -- "Clement succeeds Linus IN 67 A.D."!
Notice, now, what Clement himself says in his letter to James in Jerusalem:
But about that time, when he [Peter] was about to die, the brethren being assembled together, he [Peter] suddenly seized my hand, and rose up, and said in presence of the church: "...the day of my death is approaching, I lay hands upon this Clement as your bishop [overseer]; and to him I entrust my chair of discourse."....having thus spoken, he laid hands upon me in the presence of all....(Ante-Nicene Fathers, translated by Roberts & Donaldson. N.Y. 1926).
Tertullian (circa 218) says: "The church of Rome, in like manner, MAKES CLEMENT TO HAVE BEEN ORDAINED BY PETER" (De Praes. Haer. 32).
Pope Fabian (236-250), in his first epistle, states: "Whence also the blessed chief of the apostles, Peter, addressing the people at the ORDINATION OF CLEMENT, says this among other things...."
C. De Lisle Shortt sums it up:
...some...writers...agree in saying that the first bishop [overseer] of the see of Rome was Linus, and still more remarkable, certain writers represent Linus as being there during the apostle's [Peter's] lifetime. Others affirm that St. Paul ordained him. Others, again, state that St. Clement...was ordained by St. Peter. -- Who Was the First Bishop of Rome?, page 195.
Waiting For Nero's Return
Now that we have NARROWED THE TIME-FRAME for Peter's death down to a SIX-MONTH PERIOD, can we be even more concise?
As was the case in Paul's execution, the emperor Nero provides the KEY to dating Peter's death more accurately. Consider these facts: (1) Peter was still alive AFTER Linus' death in November, 67; (2) at this period of time, Nero was absent from Rome touring Greece; (3) tradition indicates NERO WAS PRESENT for Peter's crucifixion in the circus. We must conclude from these facts that Peter was put to death AFTER NERO RETURNED FROM GREECE.
See what Sholem Asch, in his comprehensive study of Peter, concludes:
His name [Peter] was not unknown to high Roman officials. Caesar [Nero] himself had issued a special order that he, the apostle to the Jews, should be taken....But at the time of Peter's arrest NERO WAS NOT AT ROME. He had gone to Athens to find a sympathetic audience for his poetical and musical compositions, AND THE OFFICIALS WERE WAITING FOR HIS RETURN BEFORE CARRYING OUT THE EXECUTION OF THE IMPORTANT PRISONER. Moreover, it was expected that there would be a repetition of the spectacle offered by Nero in the Vatican circus. -- The Apostles. N.Y. 1943.
Peter languished in the Mamertine prison for NINE LONG MONTHS -- awaiting the return of Nero to Rome. Tradition records that, not long before Nero's return, Peter escaped from the prison with the help of sympathetic guards, and was urged by YEHOVAH God's people in Rome to flee the city. As he was leaving the city, he met the Messiah coming down the road toward him. Peter said to him: "L'on ath azil?" -- "Where are you going?" And the Messiah answered, "Romah, l'hitlot sheinit." -- "To Rome, to be crucified again." With this Peter broke down: "S'lach li, adoni." -- "Lord, lord, forgive me, I pray you."
And Peter returned to the city.
It was during this escape from the Mamertine prison that Peter met with the Roman church and ordained Clement to take over from Linus.
William Cave records that "Nero, returning from Achaia [Greece], and entering Rome with a great deal of pomp and triumph resolved now that the apostle should fall as a victim and sacrifice to his cruelty and revenge."
On a bronze door of St. Peter's basilica, we find a scene executed by Antonio Averlino (1433-1495) showing the crucifixion of Peter BEFORE THE EYES OF NERO.
When did Nero return to Rome? According to Miriam T. Griffin, he was recalled to Rome by Helius in the winter of 67-68, and LEFT GREECE IN DECEMBER. (Nero: The End of a Dynasty).
We find in the Cambridge Ancient History that "about JANUARY 68 NERO RETURNED TO ITALY and for a moment succeeded in reviving the emotions of the mob by his presence." And how did he do that? BY PUTTING PETER TO DEATH IN HIS CIRCUS ON THE VATICAN!
Notice what Miriam Griffin says:
After landing at Puteoli, Nero celebrated his homecoming in FOUR PROCESSIONS, at Naples where he had first performed, at Antium where he was born, at Alba Longa where he had his favourite imperial residence, and FINALLY AT ROME. His entry into the capital was his last great show.
We next learn that Nero heard the news of Julius Vindex' uprising in Gaul on the ANNIVERSARY OF HIS MOTHER'S DEATH -- WHILE IN NAPLES! Historian B. H. Warmington notes that Nero did not stay long in Rome after his "triumphant" entry, and "was soon back in Naples, and it was there BETWEEN 19 AND 23 MARCH THAT HE HEARD OF THE REVOLT IN GAUL" (Nero: Reality and Legend, p. 158). It turns out that the anniversary of his mother's death was from March 19-23.
Nero arrived in Rome sometime in January or February and was back in Naples by March 19! WE HAVE NOW SQUEEZED THE TIME-FRAME DOWN TO TWO MONTHS!
SOMETIME, BETWEEN JANUARY AND MARCH OF 68 A.D., PETER WAS EXECUTED.
Nero's Last Days
An ancient Syriac document -- The Teaching of Simon Cephas in the City of Rome -- confirms that:
...at that very time [Peter's death], as if by a righteous judgment , NERO ABANDONED HIS EMPIRE AND FLED, and there was a cessation for a little while from the persecution which Nero Caesar had raised against them [the church]. -- The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. viii, p. 675.
A spurious work, known as The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, takes note of this period of time:
And know that Nero himself, AFTER THESE NOT MANY DAYS [AFTER PETER'S DEATH] WILL BE UTTERLY DESTROYED, and his kingdom shall be given to another [Galba]. AND AFTER THESE THINGS [PETER'S DEATH] THE PEOPLE REVOLTED AGAINST HIM; AND WHEN HE KNEW OF IT, HE FLED...
History records that after the revolt of Vindex things got progressively worse for Nero, with the Praetorian Guard defecting and then, finally, the Roman Senate. Nero decided to flee by sea to Egypt, but the tribunes and centurions either refused or showed great reluctance to accompany him. Accompanied by only a few freedmen, Nero fled to the house of one of them -- Phaon by name. Sabinus, accompanied by senators, went to the Praetorian Camp and, after informing the soldiers that Nero had fled and promising them a large sum of money for their allegiance, persuaded them to proclaim Galba as emperor. This was followed at once by decrees of the Senate declaring Nero a public enemy and Galba the new emperor.
When Nero heard of the Senate's decrees he finally managed, after some hours of anguish, to stab himself in the throat with the help of his freedman Epaphroditus -- just as soldiers sent to arrest him approached. With the famous last words, "What an artist perishes in me," Nero passed into history.
The Final Date
We have a period of time -- two months. Can we condense this even further? What about the EXACT DAY of Peter's crucifixion? Two possible dates have come down to us -- June 29 and February 22.
The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Peter and Paul on June 29, based on the tradition that BOTH apostles died at the same time. Author Barnes, in his book St. Peter in Rome, declares that "the date assigned for his [Peter's] martyrdom, as also for that of St. Paul, is 29th June, and the prevailing opinion is that the two apostles suffered, not only on the same day of the month, but in the same year." But we can CLEARLY SEE that this date cannot possibly fit into our chronological framework of TWO MONTHS! So, then, where did the tradition of a June 29 death for BOTH Peter and Paul come from?
Notice what Friedrich Gontard asserts:
The Roman Church celebrates the feast of SS. Peter and Paul on 29th June, a date BASED ON THE TRADITION OF THE YEAR 258. During the persecution under the emperor Valerian (253-260) Pope Sixtus II (257-258) is said to have transferred the bones of the two Apostles to an underground burial-place on the Via Appia, ad catacumbas. THE DAY OF THE TRANSFER IS GIVEN AS 29TH JUNE, and this is the day that is now celebrated, after gradually becoming accepted as the date of the martyrdom. -- The Chair of Peter: A History of the Papacy. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, N.Y. 1964, p. 63.
One of the entries in the Depositio Martyrum, which contains over fifty names of martyrs (all of whom suffered at Rome, with the exception of some six entries), reads as follows: "JUNE 29. Peter in the catacombs, and Paul on the Via Ostiensis in the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus (258)." Why, then, is this date of the transfer of the apostles' remains taken as the date of their martyrdom? Because the Roman Catholic Church -- during the time of Pope Gelasius -- DECREED the date of June 29 to be the day of Peter and Paul's death IN ORDER TO COUNTERACT OPINIONS TO THE CONTRARY!
Some early writers, however, among whom may be noted Prudentius and St. Augustine, say that St. Peter suffered exactly a year later than his fellow apostle....the explanation of the existence of this tradition [June 29] is given us by A COUNCIL AT ROME IN THE TIME OF GELASIUS [492-496], which asserted that the two apostles suffered at Rome AT THE SAME TIME, "uno tempore uno eodemque die," "and not otherwise as the HERETICS were wont to say." -- St. Peter in Rome, by Arthur Stapylton Barnes, p. 93).
The date of June 29 was DECREED by the Catholic
Church, just as other controversial issues were decided -- such as Easter,
If we go back to the Depositio Martyrum we find an entry for February 22: "The feast (natale) of the chair of Peter." (Martias natale Petri de cathedra). What does this refer to?
The meaning of "cathedra" in Latin is "chair." On occasion it may mean also "locale," or "center of operations." In the third century, however, when this festival was instituted, Latin had not yet been introduced generally into formal church usage. It is therefore necessary to remember that the Greek word for "cathedra" MAY SUGGEST A "PLACE OF REST." See what Toynbee says in her book Gnomon: " 'Natale' does not refer to a translation but to a BIRTHDAY IN A FUNERARY CHRISTIAN CONTEXT. IT CAN ALSO MEAN A 'HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY,' that is, MARTYRDOM OR POSSIBLY A BURIAL IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH." (1957, p. 266).
Author William O'Connor expresses the belief that "she (Toynbee) is now of the opinion that FEBRUARY 22 COMMEMORATES THE DATE OF THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF PETER AT THE VATICAN according to an alternate tradition that the deaths and burials of Peter and Paul took place on DIFFERENT DAYS AND DIFFERENT YEARS" (Peter in Rome, p. 49).
And does this fit within the TWO MONTH TIME-FRAME we arrived at? Indeed it does! The conclusion must be that FEBRUARY 22 IS, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THE DAY PETER DIED IN 68 A.D.!
The EARLIEST Roman notices fix the "cathedra Petri" on February 22; and in Gaul (France) the festival apparently had an exceptional importance. It is interesting to realize that the memory of Peter and his daughter Petronilla are very strong in France due to Peter's extended travels throughout this region.
This date was so important that in 450 the western emperor Valentinian III took special note of it:
In February 450 the western emperor Valentinian III, with his wife Eudoxia the daughter of the great Theodosius, and his mother Galla Placidia, paid one of his rare visits to Rome, and on the 22nd ("The anniversary of the chair of Peter" as we read in the Philocalian Calendar of the 4th century), after attending the vigil, and offering rich gifts, they all entered the basilica of St. Peter in full state, and Leo the Great (440-461) preached the sermon...(Rome of the Pilgrims and Martyrs).
So there we have it -- the only date that possibly fits all the criteria we have established is FEBRUARY 22, 68 A.D.
Putting It All Together
Paul arrived in Rome in the spring of 66 -- probably as soon as the sailing season began.
He appeared before Nero on his first defense (II Timothy 4:16-17), and after Nero left Rome for Greece on September 25, 66, he appeared before the "rulers" and was executed on January 25, 67 A.D.
He died and was buried alongside the Via Ostiensis.
All evidence points to Peter's arrival in 66, assuredly AFTER Paul had dispatched his letter (II Timothy), and probably before Paul's death in January. Following this, Peter preached in Rome for a few months until his arrest in May of 67, when he was incarcerated in the Mamertine prison for nine long months. Lactantius states that Peter preached "for a few months" in Rome, during which time he confronted Simon Magus again and saw this founder of the Roman Catholic Church plunge to his death in the winter of 67.
Just prior to Nero's return to Italy in January of 68, Peter, with the aid of his jailers, escaped from the dreaded Mamertine and met with the Church of YEHOVAH God in Rome. He ordained Clement overseer to replace Linus who was martyred in November of 67, and gave himself up to his captors after seeing a vision of the Messiah on the Via Appia.
Nero arrived back in Rome in late January or early February and put Peter to death on the cross in the Vatican Circus before the screaming Roman mob. Peter's body was taken down and buried by his brethren of the Church of YEHOVAH God. Shortly thereafter -- in March -- Nero was back in Naples.
With careful consideration of ALL the evidence -- historical, traditional and literary -- the CORRECT DATE for Peter's death has been uncovered -- FEBRUARY 22, 68 A.D.!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Taking the Lead in the Search for Truth!
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