Was Peter in Rome?
The supposition that Peter was in Rome is based on "She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son" (I Peter 5:13). Babylon is used as a representation of a city given over to sensuality and worldly pleasures (Isaiah 47:5-15). In the book of Revelation, the city of Roman is called Babylon (Revelation 17:3-6, 9, 15, 18). Thus, if Peter is using the same symbolism, he is forwarding greetings from the church located in Rome (the "she" who is elect together with other Christians) and from John Mark.
Other evidence is:
- Irenaeus, about 180 AD stated, "Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops" [Against Heresies]. It should be noted that Paul states that he did not found the church in Rome. The church in Rome existed before he first came to it (Romans 1).
- Tertullian, about 200 AD stated, "The church of Smyrna, for example, reports that Polycarp was placed there by John, the church of Rome that Clement was ordained by Peter" [The Demurrer Against the Heritics]. This is second-hand evidence.
- "Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way. What do we need to say concerning Paul, who preached the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and afterwards suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero? These facts are related by Origen in the third volume of his Commentary on Genesis" [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History].
- In citing Clement (about 300 A.D.), "The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it" [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History].
Some argue against this conclusion. There is no reason that Peter could not be speaking literally of Babylon in I Peter 5:13 and assume that a church existed there. Josephus does mention that were Jews in Babylon during this time period [Antiquities of the Jews, XV.II.2] and it makes sense that the apostle to the Jews would visit areas where the Jews had a strong presence. This does not eliminate that Peter could have been in Rome at another point in his life.
It does seem likely that Peter was in Rome and probably died there. This does not prove that he founded the church there or that he established a succession of bishops there that lead to the first pope.