Bones of Contention: Have Paul’s Bones Been Discovered in Rome?

The fact that this “announcement” comes at the close of the Vatican’s “Year of St. Paul” is no coincidence. It has been deliberately timed for maximum effect. According to Jesuit priest and Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, Benedict’s announcement “provoked an understandable emotion in the Catholic world at the close of the Pauline year.” He said that this “great emotion” was analogous to the reaction surrounding “the major archaeological investigations that took place beneath St. Peter’s Basilica following the wishes of Pius XII, which confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that exactly beneath the central altar was the tomb of the Apostle Peter in the ancient Vatican necropolis.”iv Indeed, for the Vatican, the “discovery” of Paul’s tomb is second only to the “discovery” of Peter’s tomb; for Peter, according to Roman Catholic (but not biblical) theology, was the first pope, and Paul was (after Peter, according to Rome) the next greatest apostle of all. But in actual fact, this wily Jesuit priest was speaking with far more confidence about Peter’s tomb having been discovered beneath St. Peter’s Basilica than the evidence warrants. Far from being proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt” as the Jesuit claimed, there is no positive evidence that Peter is buried beneath the central altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. There is in fact no positive evidence that Peter was even ever in Rome, let alone martyred there.v The biblical evidence indicates that he was never there. Consider the following:

Peter was the apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:7,8); and as such he was ministering in Jerusalem at the very time when, according to Roman Catholic tradition, he was supposed to have been the bishop of Rome (Gal. 1:18; Gal. 2:1; Acts 10, 12, 15)! In addition, when Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, he sent greetings to over 25 Christians by name (Rom. 16) – yet he never once even mentioned Peter! What a glaring omission and slap in the face, if indeed Peter was bishop of Rome. But he was not, and that is why Paul did not mention him. He was not even there. When Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11) – Peter was not there in Rome with him, as the Papal system claims!

So what, precisely, lies beneath St. Peter’s Basilica?

Beneath the basilica, kept in transparent containers, were bones, which Rome fondly imagined were those of Peter. In 1939 the pope, Pius XII, ordered excavations to begin beneath the basilica. In December 1950 Pius announced that Peter’s tomb had been discovered far below the high altar. In 1951 the archaeological team declared in their report that Peter’s tomb had been found. They found that a tomb dedicated to Peter had been there since the first century – or so it was said (we are dealing with the headquarters of the Roman Catholic institution here, after all; truthfulness is not high on anyone’s priority). But it turned out that they had not found any ancient inscriptions containing the name “Peter”; nor did they find his bones!vi Even Pius XII admitted this. In his radio broadcast he said: “The tomb of the Prince of the Apostles has been found. Such is the final conclusion after all the labour and study of these years. A second question, subordinate to the first, refers to the relics of St. Peter. Have they been found? At the side of the tomb remains of human bones have been discovered. However, it is impossible to prove with certainty that they belong to the apostle.”vii

Impossible indeed: later extensive study of the bones revealed that they actually belonged to an older man, a younger man, a woman, a pig, a chicken, and a horse!viii

One member of the four-man archaeological team, a Jesuit priest named Antonio Ferrua, said in an article in a Rome paper on January 16, 1952, that a fragment of ancient wall plaster with the inscription, in Greek, “Petros eni” (“Peter is here inside”), had been found; however, the official report never mentioned this find. Ferrua apparently took the fragment to his room and kept it there, until Pius XII obliged him to restore the fragment to the Vatican office in charge of maintaining St. Peter’s Basilica, where, apparently, it is still kept. As to the precise meaning of the inscription, Ferrua himself admitted that the letters “en” and “i” are so far apart that they probably did not form part of the same word. He believed the inscription did not say “Peter is here”, but was rather a prayer to Peter!

But that was not all. The excavations had been carried out under the supervision of the administrator of St. Peter’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic monsignor named Ludwig Klaas. But as time went by he and the Jesuit archaeologists working under him increasingly did not see eye to eye; and he began to visit the site alone, when they were gone, guided by workmen who were sworn to secrecy. On one of these visits in 1942, he noticed that there was in fact a second tomb. It had been uncovered but not opened, so he ordered a workman to open it, and then he ordered the remains found in it to be removed and stored for safekeeping. Years later in the early 1950s these facts were discovered, by chance, by an epigraphist named Margherita Guarducci, who was studying the graffiti on the monument above the first tomb and who came upon the second tomb. Klaas had died by this time. And when a family friend of the Guarduccis became pope of Rome, taking the name of Paul VI, she informed him that she believed these remains from the second tomb were those of Peter. So the bones were brought from where Klaas had stored them, and tested; and based on these tests Guarducci was convinced that they were those of Peter.ix But what was her “proof”? Simply this: they were those of a male, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, of robust constitution, between 60 and 70 years old.x This was her proof? Nothing is proved by such “proof”, as no one knows how tall Peter was, or what his constitution was like. It is nothing but speculation. Literally hundreds of thousands of men who lived during that era would fit that description!