Posts Tagged rome

Visit to Rome: The Mamertine Prison

Simon Peter Sutherland at the Mamertine Prison, Rome © 2014

Simon Peter Sutherland at the Mamertine Prison, Rome © 2014

Visiting ancient Biblical sites in the Mediterranean is always an experience for me and is something I find second to none. Although I like some of the wonders of modernity, I regard our present world as unappealing, noisy and somewhat shallow. Because of that, I prefer history rather than the present

Last month, I travelled to Rome, the ancient and modern city known for being somewhat of an open air museum. Being a history fanatic myself and absolutely intrigued by the Bible, as always I was in inner rapture.

Forum, Rome © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Forum, Rome © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

During the afternoon of the first day I visited the ancient area of the Forum leading to a place known as “Mamertinum”or the Mamertine Prison. This ancient prison is within a stones throw of the ancient forum, a Comitium which once felt the feet of the Apostles Peter and Paul and also of Luke and of Aquila and Priscilla.

The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were probably written while Luke was in Rome. We also know that Luke was with Paul during his time in prison. This is understood from 2 Timothy 4: 11.

The Mamertine prison, known historically as the “Tullianum”, was probably constructed between 640-616 BC and was likely a cistern. The amazing thing for me was that scripture was written from this damp dark cell.

In 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain” this chain now resides at ‘St Paul outside the walls’ which was build on his ancient tomb. Writing from the Mamertine, in 2 Timothy 2: 7-9 Paul wrote: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.

On entry down the stairs to the upper level of the complex, I saw ancient Frescos. These can be found on the walls and show Christians depicted with the arms and hands held out. Over recent years Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that have connections to St Peter as early as 7th century. The evidence also suggesting the Mamertine was used as a Church by the 8th century.

The claim that St Peter was in Rome goes all the way back to the 1st century from his probable coded use of the word “Babylon” for Rome in 1 Peter 5: 13, 2 Peter 5: 13, and his crucifixion linked to John 21: 18 where Jesus foretold him of his future suffering. The claim of his crucifixion in Rome comes from the 1st or 2nd century “Acts of Peter” which we know was in circulation in the 2nd century. The “Acts of Peter” claims that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome at his own request. This claim is also affirmed by Clement between AD 80-98 in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5). An event which probably took place near where St Peter’s Basilica now stands around AD 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero.

Mamertine Prison © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Mamertine Prison © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

There was a time when condemned prisoners were held in this cell before execution. We know for certain that 2 Timothy was written from the Mamertine and it is possible that Philippians was also written here too. If Peter was in fact executed in Rome then he most certainly was held in the Mamertine, as a strong tradition affirms. If that be true which I think it is, 2 Peter may also have been written in this dungeon.

Other Biblical texts possibly written from the Mamertine or nearby, include Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians and possibly Galatians. It is one of the most outstanding thoughts and realities of life that the Truth of the Gospel is that suffering produces great things. Persecution never destroys the Church, on the contrary it enhances it. It is truly amazing to think that such a light as Scripture itself could come from such a dark damp cell. That such a light could truly shine from such a dark place.

I love this little prison.

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The Experience of Visiting Biblical Sites

Simon Peter Sutherland at Philippi, Macedonia

Simon Peter Sutherland at Philippi © 2003/2011

In 2003 I visited the ancient remains of Philippi in Macedonia with my wife. Travelling over from Thassos to Macedonia by ferry we landed at Neapolis (Acts 16: 11) now modern day Kavala and from there to ancient Philippi, to the Biblical sites such as the market place, as mentioned in Acts 16: 19 and the so-called prison, as mentioned in Acts 16: 24-31 and then onto the river which was just outside Philippi, where Paul baptized Lydia, as mentioned in Acts 16: 13-15.

The whole exprience astounded me and I could not but be amazed that I was actually standing in the places where the events I had read about for so many years actually took place. Places where our Sovereign Lord ordained these events to occur.

The fascination which had birthed within me when I first saw the great Arena in Ephesus on a documentary when I was a child, but I had a slight fear of flying which my wife overcame and so my ambition grew from desire to reality. The ambition within me grew and moved me so strongly that I followed our first journey to Macedonia with many more visits to sites connected with Acts of the Apostles. My wife and I would follow this journey in an adventure over the Mediterranean around Greece, and travels not only to Macedonia, Kavala and Philippi but to Ephesus and the events of Acts 19, and the ancient city to whom Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians and one of the seven Churches of Revelation. Then onto Malta to the sites where the events of Acts 27: 39 may have happened, and travels on foot to the sites where the events of Acts 28: 1-10 most likely took place. From then we journed also to Cyprus, and Kition in Larnaka, and then to Paphos and the events of Acts 13: 4-13.

Simon Peter Sutherland at the Tomb of St Lazarus, Cyprus

The Tomb of Lazarus, Larnaca © 2003/2011

After this glorious time my wife and I had with the Lord and His word, I became passionately drawn to the ancient reality of the original New Testament and its 1st century setting. I began to see how far Christianity had moved away from the authentic gospel and into tradition and doubted very much that Paul would be happy with modern Christianity. In 2005 my wife Jenny gave birth to our first son, Peter and in 2007 our second son Luke was born and as you can imagine, travelling became more difficult. Now that our children are growing and we can travel once more to the Biblical sites, soon we hope to begin our journeys again. This time, we hope to head to Jerusalem and more of Greece and Rome.

If you have never visited such ancient Biblical sites, then I would highly recomend it. Being amongst the ancient locations gives the believer such a more dynamic understanding of the scriptures and when you are there and reading the text, its like being within the pages.

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