Friday, May 14, 2010
When in Rome...
An objection was posed to a friend of mine recently: "Peter, your first "pope", was never in Rome!"
Aside from the fact that Peter was finally arrested and executed in Rome, you can respond to this one with common sense: Christians were being being persecuted and being hunted down, arrested and executed. Why on earth would you write about your Christian brothers being in the same town as you? Wouldn't that be leading the enemy right to your friends/loved ones? If Paul wrote, "Oh by the way, I'm in prison here in Rome but Peter's is staying at a brother's place a few blocks away from the forum..." and his letters fell into the hands of the persecutors, they'd learn of Peter's location and hunt him down! But Peter had a way of telling those he wrote letters to he WAS in Rome without actually saying he was in Rome: they used code words.
"Babylon" was such a code word for Rome, because in first century Israel, the Roman Empire drew parallels to the Babylonian Empire that had oppressed and enslaved the Jews centuries before. This is known as the "Babylonian captivity". So when Jews and the early Christians spoke of Babylon in the first century, they were referring to Rome since the actual city of Babylon had been destroyed (circa 689BC) and no longer existed. All that remains of the city is a mound.
What's the Biblical evidence for this? Peter WROTE from Rome!
"The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark." - 1 Peter 3:15
A church was already there, but it would not have been the church that you and I know today. As mentioned earlier: Christians were still being persecuted and all their worship was done "underground" and behind closed doors. This was in fact the case up until the year 313AD where Emperor Constantine executed the Edict of Milan which saw the prohibition on Christianity dropped.
Fundamentalists may reject the notion that "Babylon" was code for Rome, but then we'd have to ask them this: "Why would Peter say he was writing from a city that no longer existed?" and then refer them to the circumstances Christians were living in at the time and ask: "So why didn't Peter use the name of the city of Rome openly?"
Further reading: http://www.catholic.com/library/Was_Peter_in_Rome.asp