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Home : Faith/Spirituality : The Question Box
Did the apostle Peter ever visit Babylon?

Deacon Owen Cummings

Q — Nowhere in Paul’s Epistles nor in the Acts of the Apostles is there any claim that Peter was in Rome. But some like to point to 1 Peter 5:13 “Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark,” claiming that “Babylon” was a code name for Rome. But in Peter’s time, wasn’t Babylon on the Euphrates a major Jewish center? Wouldn’t that be a logical place for Peter to be?

A — You are right. Babylon was a major center of Jewish learning, producing the Babylonian Talmud about 500 AD, the most sacred source of Jewish learning after the Hebrew Scriptures/the Old Testament. There is not a single shred of evidence — and evidence, not speculation, is what historians work with — to suggest that St. Peter ever visited Babylon. Most scholars of early Christian origins acknowledge that “Babylon” is a cipher for the city of Rome or the Roman Empire, as you yourself note  — “a code name for Rome.”

It is true that St. Peter disappears after Acts 12, and exact and precisely verifiable information on the further course of his life is lacking. It is interesting to point out that at a time when Christians in different cities of the Empire were eager to claim an apostolic figure as belonging to them, no other church claimed Peter. Furthermore a letter written around 96 AD from the Roman church to the Corinthian church (1 Clement) speaks of Peter and Paul as “our apostles,” witnesses of the truth who, “having borne testimony before the rulers,” went to glory. If we then pass on to Ignatius of Antioch writing to the Christians in Rome around the year 107 AD, he says to them: “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did.” This statement seems to indicate that Ignatius believed that both Peter and Paul had been leaders of the Christian community in Rome. So, while it is true that there is no textual evidence in the New Testament for St. Peter’s being in Rome, the earliest traditions are very strong and compelling on this point.

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