Peter's Bones and Rome's Truth
Bart Brewer, an ex-Catholic priest and head of Mission to Catholics International, addressed the foolishness of the Catholic love of, and veneration for, bits and pieces of dead people in his autobiography:
Even Martin Luther wondered how there could be 26 apostles buried in Germany, when they were only twelve in the entire Bible. . . It is clear that most 'relics' are frauds.--Bart Brewer, Pilgrimage From Rome, (C) 1986 Bob Jones University Press , p. 126
Two of this century's popes have underscored the truth of Brewer's words in their "authentications' of Peter's tomb and bones.
In his Christmas radio message on December 23, 1950, Pope Pius XII announced that, confirmed by work and study, the actual tomb of "St. Peter" had been found. He went on to make a second revelatory statement:
A second question . . . concerns the relics of the saint: have they been found? . . . New investigations, most patient and accurate, were subsequently carried out with the results that we, comforted by the judgment of qualified, prudent and competent people, believe are positive. The relics of Saint Peter have been identified in a way we believe convincing.
Some 18 years later, another pope made a similar confirmation that the remains of Peter had been found and confirmed:
[W]e believe it our duty, in the present state of archaeological and scientific conclusions, to give you and the church this happy announcement, bound as we are to honor sacred relics, backed by a reliable proof of their authenticity… In the present case, we must be all the more eager and exultant when we are right in believing that the few but sacred mortal remains have been traced of the Prince of the Apostles, of Simon son of Jonah, of the fisher-man named Peter by Christ, of he [sic] who was chosen by the Lord to found His church and to whom He entrusted the keys of His kingdom … until His final glorious return.--Text of Announcement by Pope Paul VI Concerning the Relics, The New York Times, 27 June 1968
Now, just where was Peter buried? And what relics of his were found at the burial site? This is where things get rather interesting. With these announcements concerning Peter's bones, Rome has again shown her willingness to believe anything, make up anything, and just plain lie, in her wonderful march to perdition. The sadness of it is that she is dragging so many souls with her.
The high altar of St. Peter's Basilica is a magnificent work of religious architecture. Just 20 feet or so beneath the high altar, in the basement of the Basilica, one can view an ugly, graffiti-covered brick-and-plaster wall. Inside the wall, known as the Graffiti Wall, there is a rectangular cavity containing nineteen clear plastic boxes filled with old bones, some of which are claimed to be the mortal remains of St. Peter himself. A bronze gate, set at some distance from the wall, prevents visitors from getting too close. However, there is a opening in the wall, through which one can see two of the boxes and their bony contents.
Are the bones in these boxes, so carefully protected in the very bullseye of Catholic focus, those of Peter? Well, it seems that ten of the boxes hold the remains of domestic animals — goats, sheep, cows, swine, and a chicken.
In another of the boxes rest the mortal remains of a mouse. The other eight boxes hold human remains. There can be no doubt these are the remains of Peter, for an "infallible" pope has declared them to be such. Unfortunately, Pope Paul VI neglected to explain how Peter came to include the bones of a mouse and various farm animals in the inventory of his skeletal remains. Rather makes one curious as to what Peter really looked like in the flesh, doesn't it?
The most precious of Peter's bones found in the Graffiti Wall are the 29 fragments of the Apostle's skull. Note: the 29 pieces of Peter's skull found in the Grafitti Wall are not to be confused with Peter's other skull, which is stored in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran.
The Graffiti Wall bones of Peter and Peter's other skull are not the only true relics of the "Prince of the Apostles" found in and around the Vatican. In a page one article in the August 22, 1949 edition of the New York Times, Camille Cianfarra revealed that Vatican archeologists had discovered another of Peter's skeletons in the Red Wall, yards away from the place where the plastic boxes of Peter's bones are worshipped today.
Pope Pius XII is reported to have kept these bones in his private apartment for 14 years, during which time he had his personal physician, Dr. Galeazzi-Lisi, and several medical experts, examine them. The consensus of the authorities was that the bones were those of a powerfully built male who died in the seventh decade of his life. That just had to be Peter, didn't it?
Well . . . In 1956, the Vatican hired anthropologist Venerando Correnti to study the bones that Pius XII had certified had been found in the genuine tomb of Peter. It must be remembered that, when speaking ex cathedra in matters touching on faith and morals involving the whole church, the popes are infallible. And, certainly, the identification of the tomb and relics of Peter, of whom Pius XII was one of an unbroken line of successors, must touch on the faith of all the Catholic church. Wouldn't you think?
Anyway, Correnti and his team began their detailed study of the bones taken from the papal-certified "authentic tomb of St. Peter." It is pretty well accepted, at least in medical circles I should think, that human beings each have two fibula, one in each leg. Imagine Correnti's shock when he discovered a third fibula among the bones he was examining. How his consternation must have increased when he identified five tibias (Again, the normal human allotment is two tibias per person). What is more, one of the tibias was definitely that of a woman. Hmmmmm. Could there have been some things about Peter we have not been told?
The situation continued to deteriorate as Correnti's collaborator, Luigi Cardini positively identifed some half a hundred of the bones and fragments to have originally been used to hold up the skin of hogs, sheep, goats and a few chickens.
The bones found by the Red Wall, and certified by one of those "infallible" popes as having been found in the "true tomb of the Prince of the Apostles," were quietly stored away in some secret location. Unlike the bones found in the Graffiti Wall, they are not venerated.
You can read all about these bones and their story in Venerando Correnti's own words in \"Relazione dello studio compiuto su tre gruppi di resti scheletrici umani gia rinvenuti sotto la Confessione della basilica vaticana, in Le Reliquie di Pietro Sotto La Confessione della Basilica Vaticana, by Margherita Guarducci, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Rome, 1965, pp. 83-160.
Now, mixing the bones of barnyard animals with those of saints might be something of a problem for Catholic apologists. Sort of makes it difficult to prove that any of these bones really are those of historical Peter, the "Prince of the Apostles." And why would the bones of the most famous of all Catholics (Not that Peter ever was Catholic) have been stuck away inside an ugly old hollow wall instead of some fancy sarcophagus? Doesn't seem to match up with the RCC's own histories. In the 6th century, the Liber Pontificalis informed that the emperor Constantine built the basilica on the site of the former Temple of Apollo and enclosed Peter's remains in a five-foot-high cubical bronze structure. (Engelbert Kirschbaum, The Tombs of St Peter & St Paul, translated by John Murray, St. Martin's Press, N.Y., 1959, pp. 51, 219 n. 3)
In his 1968 pronouncement that the Graffiti Wall relics were authentic, Pope Paul VI quoted 4th century church historian Eusebius:
It is said that Paul was beheaded by him (Nero) and Peter crucified at Rome and the monuments inscribed with the names of Peter and Paul still testify to this and are still visited in the cemeteries of the city of Rome.--Text of Announcement by Pope Paul VI Concerning the Relics, The New York Times, June 27, 1968
Let's look a little more closely at what Eusebius wrote. The Bishop, a close confidant of the Emperor, wrote of cemeteries, not basilicas, as being the sites where the "monuments" of the apostles were located. That would place the remains outside the area of the Vatican archeological digs. In fact, when Eusebius wrote to Theophania in 333AD (well after the construction of the basilica was completed), he reported that the Romans had honored Peter "with a splendid sepulcher overlooking the city – a sepulcher to which come crowds from all over the Roman Empire as though drawn to a great sanctuary and temple of God." (Hugo Gressmann, Eusebius Werke, Dritter Bank, Zweiter Teil, Die Theophanie. Die Griechischen Bruchstucke und Ubersetzung der Syrischen Uberlieferung, 2nd Ed. by Adolf Laminski, Die Griechischen Christlichen Schrifsteller Der ersten Jahrhunderte, Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1992, p. 175)
Now just exactly where the Tropaion of Peter was located is sort of difficult to discover from Eusebius' account. The Latin version of what Gaius had written puts it on the Appian Way, a public road leading to the Vatican. The Greek version of the same account places the thing on the Vatican Hill itself. (Daniel Wm. O'Conner, Peter in Rome: The literary, Liturgical, and Archaeological Evidence, Columbia University Press, New York, 1969, pp. 95-96)
About all we can really be sure of, if we are to rely on Eusebius, is that whatever the Tropaion of Peter may have been, it for sure is not to be found under the high altar of St. Peter's.
In his 1968 announcement, Paul VI declared the Graffiti Wall site as not only being the tomb of Peter but as being the wonderful "Tropaion of Gaius" as well. In his Ecclesiastical History [II xxv 6-7], Eusebius wrote of an ecclesiastic named Gaius who, around the year 200AD, was quarreling over who had the best holy sites with a certain Proclus. "Gaius," Eusebius writes, "in a written dialog with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygians, says the following about the places where the sacred relics of the apostles mentioned [Peter and Paul] are deposited: 'But I can point out the tropaia of the apostles; for if you go to the Vatican or the Ostian way, you will find the tropaia of those who founded this church.'"
What are tropaia? Monuments? Graves? Tombs? Memorials? Relics? Despite the arguments of Catholic apologists, from the context of Gaius' argument with Proclus it is clear that tombs or graves can be ruled out as meanings of tropaia, The Red Wall structure cannot be a Tropaion of Gaius.
As I mentioned earlier, the Pope kept the discovery of the bones a secret for some years. In her New York Times article, Cianfarra explained why:
According to officials the reason for keeping the discovery secret is that the Pontiff, before making the announcement which, they said, will certainly be of tremendous interest for both Roman Catholics and non-Catholics, wants his archaeological experts to gather proofs so incontrovertible that no one will be able to challenge their authenticity. Accordingly, tests were said to have been made, the nature of which was not disclosed. (Text of Announcement by Pope Paul VI Concerning the Relics, The New York Times, 27 June 1968)
Notice how that works? From the statement, it is clear that the Pope was not so interested in discovering the truth concerning the bones, but in "gathering proofs" to support the conclusions he already had reached. That is the same process that Rome has always used when "interpreting" Scripture. They decide what they want the Word of God to say, then they set out to find the texts in the Bible that they can force to support that understanding. We see the same thing today in the utterances of RCC apologists.
Could the bones found in either of the "True" tombs of St. Peter actually be those of the Apostle? I suppose there is a remote possibility, but let us explore another avenue for a bit. When Constantine built the old St. Peter's Basilica, sometime around 320-325 AD, he had it constructed on the surface of a magnificent pagan cemetery. In the process, numerous tombs and mausolea were violated. This was no big deal because, as pontifex maximus of the Roman religion, Constantine could grant official pardons for this "violatio sepuchri." Though the builders likely tried to minimize the damage to existing graves, they surely did disturb the rest of some old bones. When this happened, they were careful to pile the bones neatly with sarcophagi. This latter was a practice dating from well before the time of Constantine, and clearly was being done at the time the Graffiti Wall was built beside the Red Wall. On the north side of the "Tomb of the Egyptians," one of many tombs discovered beneath the floor of St. Peter's, a chest was found filled with human bones, clearly the remains of earlier inhumations reburied when the tomb was built. (Jocelyn Toynbee and John Ward Perkins, The Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations, Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1956, p. 53)
What it all boils down to is that Pope Pius XII was wrong when he announced to the world that Peter's tomb had been found and when Pope Paul VI announced that the bones of Peter had been identified he also was wrong. In common with all the relics so dear to Roman Catholicism, their discovery and authentication is awash with evidence of superstition, ignorance, incompetence and just plain chicanery. If the Catholic faithful are told to believe that the bones authenticated by Paul VI as being those of Peter of the five legs, two heads and two genders, why shouldn't they believe that the 11th century skull in the Lateran also is his?
This fraud is nothing more, nor nothing less, than archeological eisegesis.
Leviticus 19:4, "Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God."
2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."