from attending the Council of Trent) in a pamphlet entitled Against the Roman Papacy Instituted by the Devil, Martin Luther revived this notion and began its popularisation. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, all the evidence had been gathered and scoured and the obvious conclusion could no longer be avoided. As the leading Protestant scholar von Harnack admitted in 1904: ‘To deny Peter’s coming to Rome was a great mistake, for it is as clear as daylight to every student of history who does not purposely wish to close his eyes.’ (Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius, I Band, Leipzig, p. 244, note.) An advertisement found at Pompeii for games to be held in the ampitheatre of the nearby town of Cumae tells us that ‘20 pairs of gladiators will compete among themselves on the Kalends of October, followed by 20 substitute pairs; then there will be some cruciarii, then battles with the beasts ...’. The sight of cruciarii was a part of the day’s entertainment! 5
According to St. John Chrysostom (In Heb., xxvi) in the 4th century only the tombs of four Apostles were known. Besides those of Saints Peter & Paul (in Rome) & John (at Ephesus) there was the tomb of St. Thomas at Edessa (to where his remains had been transported from where he had suffered martyrdom in India). From the time of St. Peter there began, and over the following centuries there grew, beneath the outskirts of the city of Rome, the maze of cemetery tunnels known today as the catacombs. (The oldest parts of the Catacomb of Priscilla are regarded by the archaeologists de Rossi, Marucchi, Lanciani and the best authorities as dating from the middle of the first century, i.e. from the time of St. Peter.) The galleries (c. 8’ high and 5’ wide of the known catacombs extend over 900 miles in length and give access to the tombs of c. 6 million early Christians buried there between the first and the fifth centuries. On their walls and mortuary slabs and in their chapels, as well as on their sarcophagi, we find proof of the antiquity of all the teachings of the Catholic Church: the presence and primacy of St. Peter, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, the veneration not only of the martyrs but also of our Lady, prayers for the dead, Purgatory etc. ‘There is no doubt that the likenesses of St. Peter and St. Paul have been carefully preserved in Rome ever since their lifetime, and that they were familiar to everyone, even to school-children. These portraits have come down to us by scores. They are painted in cubiculi of the Catacombs, engraved in gold in the so-called vetri cemeteriali, cast in bronze, hammered in silver or copper, and designed in mosaic. The type never varies. St. Peter’s face is full and strong, with short curly hair and beard, while St. Paul appears more wiry and thin, slightly bald, with a long pointed beard. The antiquity and genuineness of both types cannot be doubted.’ – Prof. Rodolfo Lanciani (Pagan and Christian Rome, McMillan, 1892) 7
Of course St. John himself did not think of this final material added to his Gospel as an extra chapter. The Scriptures were not divided into chapters until the 13 th century. Nor was its text numbered out into verses until the 16th century. 8
Impressive evidence of St. John’s leading influence in Rome is to be found in the Catacombs. Here the NT images which heavily predominate are not from the synoptics but from St. John’s Gospel: the Good Shepherd (commonly with the features of St. Peter), the Raising of Lazarus, the Miracle of Cana (although here the water pots are never six, as St. John so carefully records, but either three or seven. They obviously represent either the Seven Sacraments or else the three Sacraments - of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist - which, in the early centuries, were administered together on the night before Easter Sunday. They reminded the Christian viewer of how the same power which had turned water into wine at Cana gave the outer forms of the Sacraments their all-important spiritual powers of giving supernatural life and powers to souls. 11 Corbulo himself however was summoned in 67 to appear before Nero’s court at Corinth where he was promptly ordered to suicide. He complied immediately, merely
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...