The Roman Church as Prophesied in the Old Testament

Did you know that the “Roman identity” of the New Testament Church was foretold in the Old Testament? If we understand the Jewish prophets, we will see that the Church of Jesus Christ would necessarily be “Roman.”


It relates to a vision found in the second chapter of Daniel. This chapter describes a dream of Nebuchadnezzar about an enormous statue composed of four different materials. First, the head was of gold. Second, the chest and arms were of silver. Third, the belly and thighs were of bronze. Fourth, the legs and feet were of iron and clay. According to the vision, a stone will be hewn from a mountain without human hands and cast into the statue. This small rock smashes against the statue’s iron and clay feet, which causes the entire statue to crumble. Then the small rock becomes a great mountain and fills the entire earth.

Daniel interpreted the dream in the following way. First, the golden head was Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire. Next, an inferior kingdom would then follow the Babylonian Empire, as silver is inferior to gold. Then, a third kingdom would arise inferior to the second kingdom, as bronze is inferior to silver. Lastly a fourth kingdom would arise that was different than the previous three. As for the small uncut rock cast down from Heaven, Daniel explains:

And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure (Dan 2:44-45).

The stone from Heaven in the days of the Fourth Kingdom signifies that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.”

Looking in back in time, we understand the prophecy as corresponding to the following historical chronology when heathen kingdoms ruled over the Jews:

  1. Babylonian Empire (ca. 587-539 B.C.)
  2. Medo-Persian Empire (ca. 539-331 B.C.)
  3. Greek Empire (ca. 331-168 B.C.)
  4. Roman Empire (ca. 63 B.C.-A.D. 70)

It was in fact in the days of the Fourth Kingdom, the Roman Empire that God established His Messianic Kingdom:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered (Lk 2:1-6).

It is also common knowledge that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. From a historical point of view we see that the Rock of Ages came crashing into the Roman Empire. The Kingdom of Christ began precisely when Daniel predicted—during the era of the Fourth Kingdom, the Kingdom of Rome.

It is important to note here that the Four Kingdoms of the Gentiles also began to anticipate a Messiah in their own way. Ezekiel and Daniel called King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon “the King of Kings” (Ezek 26:7; Daniel 2:37), a title given subsequently to Jesus Christ. Isaiah called King Cyrus of Persia “the Messiah” (Isaiah 45:1), a surprising use of the term for a Gentile king! Alexander the Great of Greece united the Mediterranean world, had himself proclaimed the “Son of God,” and died at the age of thirty-three. The Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV later ruled the Promised Land, desecrated the Temple, and in turn became a type of the False Messiah or Antichrist. But it was Rome that was the final “kingdom” and it was inherited by Christ and His saints.

As we see in Daniel 2, “[Rome’s] sovereignty shall be left to another people” and it would happen through the introduction of a stone or rock – a Petros or Peter!

The section above was an excerpt from The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholicism.  To learn more about the “Theology of Rome” or Romalogy, take a look at my book.

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  • Victor

    How do the toes of statue, partly of iron, partly of clay, fit in with the overall fulfillment of the prophecy? (Daniel 2:41-43) Why do we go into such depth and leave this aspect out when Daniel himself went into such detail?

    Protestants will immediately point out the inadequacy of the Catholic interpretation of Daniel 2 because this culminating aspect of the interpretation is usually left blank and untouched by Catholic commentators.

    Those who disbelieve Scripture will also say the same, because most scholars claim that Daniel was written much later and that the writer was speaking of the four kingdoms as being (1) Babylon, (2) Media, (3) Persia and (4) Greece, and that the mixture of iron and clay denoting the “mingling with the seed of man” fit better with the intermarriages between the Seleucids and Ptolomeans after the fall of Alexander (4th kingdom according to them).

    Sure, all that exciting correlation explained above is fine, but why haven’t I ever found a Catholic interpretation that goes into depth on the fulfillment of the toes which Daniel takes so much space to explain? I believe there is some explanation.

    • The incarnate Second Person of the Trinity identifies the Fourth Kingdom with Rome. It’s in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It’s also in Paul. John’s Revelation makes the same identity. That’s the Catholic tradition.

      I also think the “fourness” of the third beast best fits the Greek/Alexandrian identity.

      • Howard

        If you had just typed “Jesus Himself” instead of “the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity” you could have actually supplied a reference for the same amount of typing. That would have actually answered the question, instead of being mere bluster.

      • Ron Faithlikeachild Mitchell

        Sir the Holy apostle Peter was not known as petra nor Petros, but Cephas

        • But doesn’t he call himself “Petros” in 1 Peter.

          • Ron Faithlikeachild Mitchell

            No sir

          • In the original Greek “Petros” is everywhere. Which translation do you use?

          • Ron Faithlikeachild Mitchell

            I use the Latin Vulgate, Jesus called Peter Cephas,translated into english means rock, John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter. Et adduxit eum ad Jesum. Intuitus autem eum Jesus, dixit: Tu es Simon, filius Jona; tu vocaberis Cephas, quod interpretatur Petrus.

          • Please check the Vulgate at Matthew 16 and 1 Peter 1 where you will find “Petrus” which is transliterated from the Greek Petros.

          • Ron Faithlikeachild Mitchell

            seriously all I found brother anywhere close to petrus is this in 1 Peter 1

            Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect,
            Petrus Apostolus Jesu Christi, electis advenis dispersionis Ponti, Galatiae, Cappadociae, Asiae, et Bithyniae,and Matthew 16:16-17 Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

            Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi.

            [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.
            Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in caelis est.

    • Cody

      I went threw and read it again myself. And I don’t see what you concern is with more info not being spent on the toes. I think just a look at the history of the Roman Empire shows that at times it was very strong, and at times it was very brittle. History says that the Roman Empire was indeed divided as well.

      • Howard

        Are you talking about times before or after the Incarnation?

  • dmw

    First, the Aramaic and LXX versions of Daniel uses ‘eben and lithos, respectively, for “rock/stone,” not kepha and petra, which would point to Simon Peter.

    Second, are you not forgetting that the capital of the (Western) Roman Empire was moved from Rome to Milan in A.D. 286 and then from Milan to Ravenna in A.D. 402? That Constantine the Great dedicated “New Rome” (Byzantium/Constantinople) in A.D. 330? That the last Western Emperor, a usurper, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed in A.D. 476, while the Roman Empire continued as the “Byzantine” Empire until A.D. 1453?

    If you’re trying to argue that the sovereignty of the Roman Empire or the City of Rome itself was passed along to a new people or person, such as a the Bishop of Rome, you are playing fast and loose with history! I think your thesis implies that, since the Roman Empire continued as a Christian empire, then primacy falls to the Patriarch of Constantinople!

    • All this (your point on kepha and the Byzantines) is covered in the book. You can’t squeeze a book into a blog!

      Regarding lithos and eben. Does it really matter? A rock is a rock.

      Galatians shows that the honorific title of kepha was already strongly established early in the primitive church based on the words of Christ. The very fact that the early Christians felt okay with using petros in place of kepha shows that the idea of rock, not the actually term kepha is important.

      Christ’s use of Danielic imagery regarding the kingdom is definitely related to His Gospel and His office granted to Peter. Similarly Daniel uses different phraseology for “Son of Man” (as opposed to other Hebrew literature) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t connect the Danielic dots.

      • dmw

        It just seems that if the inspired authors were making the connection, there would be linguistic continuity between Daniel (eben/lithos) and the Gospels (kepha/petra).

        I’ve read your book. You unnecessarily denigrate the Christian East. You sling around “caesaropapism” and leave it at that. We can’t forget that the papacy was in the hands of the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, the Franks, etc. Let us not forget the jus exclusivae which was last employed in the election of 1903!

        I don’t think you want to concede that the Church does not refer to herself as “Roman.” According to Lumen gentium: “Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it. Between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources. For the members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the Churches the words of the Apostle hold good: According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (no. 13).

        • Christ was born under Rome and crucified under Rome. Even as far East as China (the Church of the East missionaries of the first millenium), Christianity there was called the “religion of Daqin” – 大秦 or Daqin being the Chinese word for “Rome.”

          The Nestorian Chinese Stele refers to Christianity as Dàqín Jǐngjiào which literally means “Roman Luminous Religion.”

          I don’t understand why *some* Eastern Catholics don’t embrace “being Roman.” Yes, they have their own languages, customs, liturgies, etc. This is wonderful and to be celebrated! I think it’s great.

          But “being Rome” is an identity – not a culture. Scottish or Polish Catholics have very little cultural overlap with Roman culture. But they are Roman.

          It seems that Maximus the Confessor was much more excited about “being Roman” than some Eastern Catholics today. I wish it weren’t the case.

          I bet if you went back in time and interviewed St John Chrysostom, he would have said, “Of course! I’m a Roman Christian.” All the Greeks prior to AD 1000 boasted that they were in fact “truly Roman.”

          • dmw

            Daqin referred not to ‘Rome’ but to the Roman Empire as known to the Chinese, namely, Syrian (i.e. Nestorian) Christian culture. [Interestingly, the Chinese considered Antioch to be the capital of Daqin.] This seems analogous to the Turkish invaders calling the conquered Byzantine Empire “rum.” Upon the fall of Constantinople, Mehmed II called him “Kayser-i Rum.” The Byzantine Empire never called itself Byzantine, of course, but Roman.

            Eastern Catholics/Orthodox are reluctant to call themselves “Roman” because, even if they are from patriarchates formerly within the Byzantine-Roman Empire, that is no longer the case.

            What about Syriac Christians, Thomas Christians, Tewahado Christians, Chaldeans, Armenians, Georgians? These were never part of the Roman Empire or under its sway!

            And, of course, all “Greeks” prior to AD 1000 called themselves ‘Roman,’ as ‘Greek’ was a pejorative!

            By the way, I just heard you’ll be at the ABS conference next summer at Franciscan University. Hope to see you there!

  • Victor

    ((( Alexander the Great of Greece united the Mediterranean world, had himself proclaimed the “Son of God,” and died at the age of thirty-three. )))
    I believe that there is so much that our Catholic Church has to explain and account for during our twenty first century and long story short, I joke around with sinner vic and allow him to have his skitso moments. In other words, I created him because of all the injustices that have been done to me and my family in the past. Truth be known, he doesn’t really exist and when he says that he owns about 95% of my kingdom, “I” mean my body, there’s no truth to “IT”. Longer story shorter, when I push him as to how he was created and/or made, he tells me that he was not made but begotten. My five per sent age cells of my “Jesus” could not wait to ask him who begot him and sinner vic quickly replied that Frank and Charlie, his god gets all the credit and those who want to know more, “I” mean those who want a sneak peak, simply need to read the booklet that “I” wrote in 2005. “IT” is about sinner vic using his imagination while travelling the universe in a spiritual bubble accompanied by a few friends of their time who are wanting to experience what all Saints, Martyrs and Angels cells of GOD (Good Old Dad) have experienced during the last five thousand years. Although they are not aware of it yet, they will some day during eternity be experiencing a kind of spiritual shadow walk a mile in Christian shoes hoping for some kind of work of Art, “I” mean Heart to be produced. “IT” has been said that atheist Faint of heart cells should avoid these trips at all cost unless their god is for real but then again, “I” ask, whose god is not real these days and…………………………………………………………………….and………………………………………………….. and…
    Go figure brothers and sisters in Christ these days?
    Keep UP the good words and works Doctor Marshall
    My best to you and yours

  • top8305

    Boy Doc Marshall, God Bless you for your forbearance of the hostility that some
    relate to your expositions and edifications, but mostly God Bless you and yours
    for your Ministry of Apologetics. May God’s Grace of the Gifts of the Holy
    Spirit continue to enable you to proclaim His Word in all Truth.

    The LORD bless you and keep you;
    the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
    the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
    Num 6:24-26

  • Micha Elyi

    The local Seventh-Day Adventists (aka judaizers) are fond of preaching from the Book of Daniel but I’ve never heard them mention Daniel 2:44-45 at all. Perhaps because that passage of Daniel blasts to pieces their anti-Catholic theology.

    • Becky

      I was raised SDA and am now Catholic, and you are very incorrect. Adventists believe those verses refer to Jesus’ second coming rather than the establishment of the Catholic Church.

      I disagree, obviously, but those are verses I knew well in my Adventist youth!

      • mike

        how did the devil manage to deceive you to become a RCC, i find that amazing.

        • Becky

          The Lord works in mysterious ways.

  • Mike

    Dan 2:43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle the
    seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as
    iron does not mix with clay.

    will mingle with the seed of men.
    the beginning of the First World War, Europe was ruled by a household
    of relatives. Queen Victoria was often called the “Grandmother of
    Europe” Christian X of Denmark had six children, three sons and
    three daughters. His eldest son succeeded his father on the throne of
    Denmark as Frederick V111. His eldest daughter married Edward, Prince
    of Wales, and became Queen Alexandra of England. His second son,
    Prince William, was elected King of Greece, and known as George V of
    Greece. His second daughter married Czar Alexander and became the
    Empress Dowager Dagmar of Russia. So we see that the Empress of
    Russia and Queen Alexandra of England were sisters. The eldest son of
    Queen Victoria became Edward VII of England. The eldest daughter,
    Princess Victoria, married Emperor Frederick of Germany and became
    the mother of Emperor William II. So the king of England and the
    Emperor of Germany were first cousins. The sister of Emperor William,
    Princess Sophia, married Constantine X of Greece. Therefore the Queen
    of Greece was also a first cousin of the king of England. Czar
    Nicholas II married Princess Alix of Germany, a first cousin of both
    King George V of England and Emperor William of Germany, being also a
    grandchild of Queen Victoria. Haakon VII of Norway married Princess
    Maude of England, a sister of George V. So the czarina of Russia, the
    Queen of Norway, and the Queen of Greece were all first cousins,
    being grandchildren of Queen Victoria, while the king of England and
    the Queen of Norway were brother and sister. So we might go on and
    on. The prophecy declared, ‘they shall mingle themselves with the
    seed of men.’ When World War One came it was really only a mighty
    family battle.

    WW1 takes place before the stone smashes the image. this totally rules out the stone being the RCC theory.

  • geekborj

    Another great post. I should buy that book of yours!

    I think that Catholics are Roman in so far as the Faith originated during the Roman Empire, not just because the Vicar of the King is in Rome literally. In any case, your blog reminds me of the insistence of St. Catherine of Sienna that the Pope during her time should go back to Rome.

    “A stone from Heaven” is appropriate for Simon the Cephas/Petros if we clearly see the action of Christ as action from Heaven. Indeed, the Foundation which was laid down, which no one can do, is laid down by the one — the Chief Cornerstone Himself — who is already laid by God the Father. (1 Cor 3:11, see parallel translations for confirmation). St. Peter is not cut by men but by Divine. Had the Church been built on St. Paul, we would doubt the origin of the Teachings. Truly, the wise is dumbfounded when God uses the weak to destroy the strong!

  • Victor

    So, is there any explanation on the fulfillment of the “mingling with the seed of man” which is part of the very climax of Daniel 2’s prophecy? If it is so striking, why doesn’t anyone take the time to go into this? This silence is a weak point in the proposed exegesis of Daniel 2.

    “And whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall be mingled indeed together with the seed of man, but they shall not stick fast one to another, as iron cannot be mixed with clay.” – Daniel 2:43