Taylor Marshall’s “The Eternal City”

etern1I just finished Dr. Taylor Marshall’s book, The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity, and wow, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Marshall begins the book with an account of the moment he knew he had to become Catholic, while touring the catacombs under St. Peter’s and then attending a Mass with Pope Benedict himself. He was an Anglican priest at the time, but he and his wife both came to the realization that they were in schism from the Church Christ founded.

In the first chapter he explains that the prophet Daniel foretold that the Messiah would come during the Roman Empire, but that the Roman Empire would itself be handed over to the people of the Messiah, the Church.

He then unpacks the period in history from Daniel to Christ, giving a great historical and theological background of the Jews during this time, and in particular how the events described in 1 & 2 Maccabees fits into the story of the coming Messiah.

This prelude leads up to the Incarnation and birth of Christ, within the Roman Empire. Taylor argues convincingly for the traditional date of Christ’s birth on December 25th. Most of us have come to accept that Christ was born sometime between 6 B.C. and 2 B.C., but this is based on dating given by Josephus, who made many errors in his chronologies.

From the traditional date of the Nativity, it is possible to confirm that Christ was conceived on March 25, which is also the traditional date for His Crucifixion, as well as what some Church Fathers believed to be the date on which the universe began (March 25th). I don’t know for sure whether this is all true, but it is fascinating to consider that the traditional dates observed for these great Holy days correspond with the actual events.

Along the way, Taylor brings up so many neat facts and explanations that I couldn’t begin to mention even half of them. For instance, when speaking about the Wise Men, he writes:

The genealogies listed in Genesis…reveal that Noah’s son Shem fathered the people who would become the nations of the Middle East. This includes the Israelites, and for this reason they are called Semitic people–from the name Shem. Ham, the second son of Noah, become the father of the Canaanite, Egyptian, and African peoples. Noah’s third son Japheth fathered the people who eventually populated Europe.

I had always wondered why they were called Semites.

Taylor spends a chapter describing the events leading up to Christ’s Crucifixion, and how they also fulfill the Danielic prophecies. One neat factoid here: the word excruciating comes from the root word crux, for the terrible pain experienced by Christ on the Cross.

The book reaches its climax in the next chapters, where Taylor establishes that St. Peter founded the church in Rome and that he was crucified in Rome. This truth is often contentious, as Protestants rarely want to concede it. But the arguments and evidence for it are overwhelming, as they are found both in the Scriptures themselves as well as in secular historians and finally in a landslide of writings by the Church Fathers.  Sts. Peter and Paul both found martyrdom in Rome, and this was no coincidence, but had profound implications for the Church.

In the next chapter, Taylor offers further recent evidence: the discovery of St. Peter’s tomb under the high altar of St. Peter Basilica itself. His relics were always traditionally believed to be under there, but no one knew for sure until last century. He sketches out the history of the relics and why it is quite expected that they would end up where they did.

After St. Peter’s death, the next four popes all have strong testimony to their presence in Rome. Sts. Linus, Anacletus, and Clement were all ordained by St. Peter and became the next bishops, one after the other as each received the crown of martyrdom. St. Evaristus was the fifth bishop of Rome, and he too was martyred.

Taylor goes on to describe how the Roman Empire destroyed the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70 and how that fit in with the prophecies. Then he moves forward in history through the Roman persecutions of the early Christians, up through Constantine’s miraculous conversion in the fourth century, and the subsequent fulfillment of the prophecy that the Roman Empire would be handed over to the Church.

But isn’t all this perhaps coincidental? Is Rome now irrelevant? Does the Church still have to be centered there? Taylor responds:

Christ’s establishment of Rome as the perpetual Apostolic See is not intended as a legalistic mechanism to limit salvation throughout the earth. Moreover, it is certainly not meant to restrict grace.

Rather, Rome was established as the perpetual Apostolic See so that full communion might be achieved among Christians…

The Church is Roman, not because Catholics thought it would be a neat idea, but because God established the principle of unity there. He did so in the face of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, showing that all earthly power would fall before His divine power and wisdom.

Dr. Marshall boldly proclaims these truths and supports them with solid evidence and arguments. This book brings his series The Origins of Catholicism to a close. I am going to go back and read the previous two books in the series now that I have read this one. It is quick to read, wonderfully informative, and has an irenic tone. Highly recommended.

You can get the book from amazon here!

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17 Responses to Taylor Marshall’s “The Eternal City”

  1. Nick says:

    This makes me even more eager to get this book! It sounds great.

    Now if only the link would take me to the Amazon ordering page :-)

  2. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for this book review! I will definitely add this to my “to-read” list. I visited Rome in October and was overwhelmed by it all (in a good way!) so it will be nice to read this to put it all into perspective.

  3. Bob says:

    Devin,
    Your comment “The Church is Roman, not because Catholics thought it would be a neat idea, but because God established the principle of unity there.” is problematic. The Scripture tells us that unity is not based on a geographical location or on some bishop in Rome but on one principle:
    “4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
    5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
    Eph 4

    • Nick says:

      Bob,

      That’s a mini creedal statement. The meaning of “one faith” is precisely that of “one set of doctrine that all believe in,” which the Church authoritatively guards and teaches in it’s bishops, especially by the Pope.

      This is why if you keep reading you will see:
      “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”

      And if you turn the page back to Eph 2, you will read: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”

      • Bob says:

        Nick,
        In your quotes in Eph 2 did you notice anything about a papacy i.e. supreme bishop-leader of the church? Did it say anything about Rome?

        • I don’t see it in my Bible, Bob.

          • Bob says:

            Nor mine.
            So should we accept that “The Church is Roman, not because Catholics thought it would be a neat idea, but because God established the principle of unity there” when the Scripture never mentions such a thing?

            • Devin Rose says:

              The Bible also does not spell out what the liturgy (or if you will “worship service”) looked like.

              And even Protestants, ostensibly going off the Bible alone for their ecclesiology, come up with all manner of church government, from congregational to presbyteral to hierarchical (even calling them bishop/priest/deacon).

              Going off the Bible alone we shouldn’t accept any worship service or liturgy as legitimate, nor any church government. Because it is not explained well at all.

          • De Maria says:

            Did they take John 20:15-17 out of your Bible?

            John 21:15-17
            King James Version (KJV)
            15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

            16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

            17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

        • De Maria says:

          Nick,
          In your quotes in Eph 2 did you notice anything about a papacy i.e. supreme bishop-leader of the church?

          Its in Matt 16:18-19 and John 21:15-17.

          Matthew 16:18-19
          King James Version (KJV)
          18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

          19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

          John 21:15-17
          King James Version (KJV)
          15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

          16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

          17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

          Did it say anything about Rome?

          The Papacy is based upon Peter. The reason the Papacy is in Rome is because St. Peter went to Rome.

          What I don’t see is Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, nor the use of contraception permitted. And Jesus says that divorce and remarriage is adultery.

  4. Bob says:

    Devin,
    I agree the Bible is not an exhaustive manual on how worship is to be done. However, there is enough in it to tell us what is apostolic and what is not.
    The bible is clear what the structure of the church is i.e. leadership qualifications and roles.

    • De Maria says:

      Bob says:
      March 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm
      Devin,
      I agree the Bible is not an exhaustive manual on how worship is to be done. However, there is enough in it to tell us what is apostolic and what is not.

      Show me where Sola Scriptura is mentioned. Sola Fide. The use of contraceptives. Divorce and remarriage. Homosexual clergy. Female clergy.

      The bible is clear what the structure of the church is i.e. leadership qualifications and roles.

      Yeah, we are led by Jesus Christ. Single, unmarried and celibate. And we are instructed to follow His example.

  5. Bob says:

    De Maria,
    Lets take homosexuality. Where do the Scripture speak of homosexuality in an affirming, positive way?

    Jesus never mandated celibacy as a requirement to follow Him or for church leadership. Peter himself was married and yet he would be disqualified from being a pope today. Go figure.

    • De Maria says:

      De Maria,
      Lets take homosexuality. Where do the Scripture speak of homosexuality in an affirming, positive way?

      Then why do Protestants approve of homosexual clergy. Some have even been made Bishops. And they came about this teaching by Sola Scriptura.

      Jesus never mandated celibacy as a requirement to follow Him or for church leadership.

      True. But Jesus gave the Church the authority to make any decisions and assured that they would be ratified in heaven.

      Matthew 16:19
      King James Version (KJV)
      19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      Peter himself was married and yet he would be disqualified from being a pope today. Go figure.

      Don’t need to. I understand the Teaching very well. The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to Teach that a single man can focus upon doing the will of God better than a man who is married and must therefore be concerned first with the desires of his wife.

      The Catholic Church, exercising the authority which Jesus gave her, imposed this discipline which was prescribed by St. Paul.

      But you keep avoiding the Protestant errors. I also notice that you and Steve Martin, both believers in Sola Scriptura, yet he admits that Scripture teaches the Sacraments and the Real Presence. Yet, you don’t. Go figure.

      • Bob says:

        De Maria,
        Protestant churches that endorse homosexuality are wrong. There is no support for it in Scripture. Can you show how the doctrine of Sola Scriptura leads to the endorsement of homosexuality?

        There are many homosexual priests and bishops who are homosexual. ” Estimates in large populations range from 1% to 15%, with a mean of 4–5%.
        An interesting article can be found here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Roman_Catholic_priests
        If you look at the scandals in your church for the past 20 years or so you will find its done by homosexual priests.

        The binding and loosing in Matt 16:19 has to do with church discipline and the preaching of the gospel.

        When Paul speaks of being single it is in the context of marriage and not church leadership.

        Just because there are different opinions on the application of Sola Scriptura does not mean its false.

        Look at how many RC’s reject church teachings on a wide range of issues and that is with a supposedly an infallible pope and magesterium. Go figure.

        • De Maria says:

          De Maria,
          Protestant churches that endorse homosexuality are wrong. There is no support for it in Scripture. Can you show how the doctrine of Sola Scriptura leads to the endorsement of homosexuality?

          The doctrine of Sola Scriptura gives every Protestant free license to interpret Scripture anyway they want. You, for instance, claim that Scripture advocates contraception.

          Show me where Scripture says that contraception is permitted.

          There are many homosexual priests and bishops who are homosexual. ” Estimates in large populations range from 1% to 15%, with a mean of 4–5%.
          An interesting article can be found here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Roman_Catholic_priests

          Lies, damned lies and statistics. You can make statistics say anything you want. There is no proof to any of that.

          If you look at the scandals in your church for the past 20 years or so you will find its done by homosexual priests.

          Anybody committing homosexual acts does it AGAINST the Teaching of the Catholic Church. Not because of it. Whereas, Protestants advocate homosexuality, have printed a pro-homosexual Bible and have ordained practicing homosexuals knowing that they were practicing this abomination in God’s eyes.

          The binding and loosing in Matt 16:19 has to do

          With everything under the sun.

          with church discipline and the preaching of the gospel.

          Show me where it is restricted to anything at all. SHOW ME FROM SCRIPTURE.

          When Paul speaks of being single it is in the context of marriage and not church leadership.

          How can being single be in the context of marriage? Now you’re just stringing words together hoping that we will be too confused to respond.

          It is in the context of being more attentive to the Will of God!

          Just because there are different opinions on the application of Sola Scriptura does not mean its false.

          Yeah. It means that Sola Scriptura is false. God is not the author of confusion. But Satan is. And so is Sola Scriptura. Thus showing that they are related.

          Look at how many RC’s reject church teachings on a wide range of issues and that is with a supposedly an infallible pope and magesterium. Go figure.

          Look at how many rejected Jesus Christ:
          Matthew 10:
          King James Version (KJV)
          24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?