I have spent over a month analyzing the texts and traditions about Peter’s fate in Rome. At this point, I would reach the following tentative conclusions:
- Paul’s original agreement with the Jerusalem Pillars was that they would stick to the “circumcised” in Judea and the surrounding regions and Paul to the rest of the nations. A faction might have developed in Corinth claiming loyalty to Peter or to the Jerusalem Church without Peter having personally visited there and Paul shows no awareness of Peter reaching Rome in the personal greetings in Romans 16.
- Nevertheless, Peter could have changed his plans towards the end of his life and there seems to be a social memory that Peter died in Rome from the late first onward (1 Peter, 1 Clement, Ignatius). They are all vague about the circumstances of Peter’s ministry and death in the capital.
- The scribal addition of an epilogue to the first edition of the Gospel of John is the first indication of the belief that Peter underwent the same fate as his master in stretching out his arms. This eventually developed into the full legend of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion.
- The tales about Peter’s battle with Simon Magus in Rome may have been partially based on a misinterpreted statue and partially based on their earlier encounter in Samaria according to the book of Acts. It served a clear ideological purpose: the Roman churches had an orthodox pedigree going back to the Apostle Peter and the progenitor of all the “gnostic” heresies was soundly defeated.
Here is a link to all the main posts in the series and a scholarly bibliography.