SOURCE: Vision Media

July 17, 2008 03:03 ET Examines the Pauline Year as It May Not Be Supported by Historical Evidence

Pope Benedict XVI Announces a Year-Long Celebration of the Apostle Paul's 2000th Birthday

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - July 17, 2008) - Two new articles from, Insights and New Horizons, discuss some of the events in the lives of the apostles Peter and Paul that illuminate the question, could Peter have founded the Roman church if he was never in Rome?

In his opening homily for the celebration, Pope Benedict welcomed representatives of the Orthodox Church, declaring that this commemoration would have an ecumenical focus.

In a further address on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, Benedict encouraged Christians to be missionaries spreading the Gospel, referring them back to a unity represented by the Apostle Peter, the "Rock" on which Jesus Christ built his Church.

In making these comments, the Pope was referring to the fact that the Catholic Church has long claimed its authority based on the assertion that the apostle Peter founded the church in Rome.

But some have questioned this assertion. Could Peter have founded the Roman church if he was never in Rome?

In "Was Peter Ever in Rome?"'s Peter Nathan examines the historical support for that teaching. It appears the physical evidence is scant and questionable. Nathan states that "it may therefore be more fruitful to leave archaeology aside and focus on the historical literature that is available to everyone to consider." Through careful analysis of Biblical and nonbiblical texts, Nathan addresses a variety of claims, showing that "the opinions expressed have depended on the confessional stance of the writer." He asserts that there is good cause to doubt that Peter ever visited Rome.

In the second article, Part 11 of his series on the apostles, David Hulme continues an account of the life of the apostle Paul. Focusing now on the stretch of time between Paul's first and second imprisonments in Rome, Hulme says that "what happened between these two periods in prison forms a very important, though little known, part of Paul's life." During this time, Paul visited several congregations, appointed leaders and gave final instructions for teaching the members their responsibilities toward God and each other.

Paul's instructions to his colleagues were also accompanied by warnings. Hulme notes that "by the 60s C.E. the teachings of the early Church were being subverted throughout the Roman world." Far from Pope Benedict's ecumenical emphasis of the Pauline Year, the apostle Paul repeatedly warned the congregations he cared for "to be on guard against encroaching heresies."

While well-intended religious events are held around the world to honor these well-loved apostles, it is worth considering that perhaps not every assumption underpinning these commemorations is accurate.

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