Many experts affirm that Peter and Paul’s bones are in the Vatican.
Is that true? Let’s see…
Tertullian (c. 180 C.E.), writing in Latin, mentions the martyrdom of Peter and Paul under Nero in Rome.
Eusebius said in Ecclesiastical History 3.1 (325 C.E.) that Origen (230 C.E.), Bishop of Caesarea said: “Peter appears to have preached through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia, to the Jews that were scattered abroad; who also, finally coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way.” And Eusebius adds: “Thus Nero publicly announcing himself as the chief enemy of God, was led on in his fury to slaughter the apostles. Paul is therefore said to have been beheaded at Rome, and Peter to have been crucified under him. And this account is confirmed by the fact, that the names of Peter and Paul still remain in the cemeteries of that city even to this day” (Ecclesiastical History 2:25).
Origen make it known to us that their bodies were in the cemeteries of Rome. These ancient cemeteries were located outside the walls of Rome, because the law prohibited anyone to be buried inside the city. Those places were underground and were called Catacombs and had more than 350 miles of tunnels with niches or shelves were the bodies were wrapped in linen. The Via Apia, the largest road of its time was engineered in the 5th century B.C., was used for these cemeteries. The Catacombs of Rome were the burying place mainly for Christians but also for Jewish and Pagan people.
Irenaeus (189 A.D.), Bishop of Lyons, in Against Heresies,”But since it be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by point out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and faith which comes down to us after been announced to men by the Apostles“
Irenaeus is affirming that the Church of Rome was founded by Paul and Peter, and after successions of bishops became a great organization. Paul specifically told the Gentile Romans: “I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable” (Rom. 15:16) And “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation”(Rom. 15:20). Remember, he was one of two the founders of the Church of Rome according to Irenaeus. Meanwhile, Origen, as we have seen, said: that Peter was preaching “to the Jews that were scattered abroad”.
The remains of Peter and Paul, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, were removed secretly by night and hidden in the Catacombs of Saint Sebastiano in 258 AD (There are a lot of references to Paul and Peter in the walls of this catacombs) , and later they were returned to their original tombs after Valerian’s reign ended.
In “Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context” By J. Albert Harrill. Appendix 3, Page 175, comment 27, says:”A rival cult site for Paul’s “tomb” is the double memorial to both the Apostles Peter and Paul in the cemetery beneath the church of Saint Sebastian on the Appian Way” and also in his Comment 28 says: “The Latin Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, sixth century … also contains a legend that the Greek Christians attempted to steal the bodies of Paul and Peter away to the East but were intercepted by Roman Christians, who buried the bodies temporarily “in a place called the Catacombs” on the Appian Way and later translated the relics to their permanent locations on the Ostian Way (for Paul and the Vatican (for Peter)“. But as always over succeeding centuries the location of the graves in the Catacombs could have been forgotten, and then we asked ourselves, which bones are in the tombs of the Vatican?. Incredible, the responsibility for the Christian catacombs lies only with the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology (The Catholic Church).
Rabbi Yosef Ben Marques ©2014