Before I examine the issue of Peter being the alleged ‘first pope,’ faithful students of Scripture and church history should be encouraged to ask why would a certain “ecclesiastical party” want anyone to give an affirmative yes to the question of Peter actually being in charge of the early church? If this can be substantiated and found in Scripture, then it might give some ‘credence’ to the pope of Rome and therefore ‘justify’ the dictatorial and tyrannical authority the popes have enjoyed for many centuries; even though it is extremely difficult to find early Christians even discussing the ‘primacy of Peter,’ let alone a so-calledunbroken ‘apostolic chain’ leading to today’s incumbent pope.
Interestingly, Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) rejected outright the title of ‘pope,’ but his successor Boniface II cherished it (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. II, p. 660).
Pope Damasus (366-384 AD) was the first to call himself pope (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. IV, p. 614).
The same encyclopaedia makes the non-biblical claim that the pope is “lord of heaven, earth, and hell” (Vol. VI, p. 48).
Rome also adheres to a strange eastern and mystical view which seems to border on the lines of reincarnation; for it states that Peter’s spirit somehow speaks through living popes; In fact it was Leo I (449 AD) who first introduced this ‘channelling’-like doctrine into the catholic church (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III, p. 744).
But before I move on to examine in more detail the banal claim of Peter being this mystical papal character, please see the following facts about some of Rome’s actual past popes:
Pope John X (914-928 AD)
John X was made archbishop when only five-years-old, then later rose to the position of pope (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. VIII, p. 425).
Pope John XI (931-936 AD)
John XI was the son of pope Sergius III, and his mother later ordained him pope for his 20th birthday (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. VIII, p. 426).
Pope John XVIII (1003 AD)
Another son of a priest (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol, VIII, p. 429).
Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492 AD)
Innocent VIII had at least 8 sons by his many mistresses (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. VIII, p. 19-20).
Pope Julius (1503-1513 AD)
Julius is known to have fathered at least 3 daughters (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. VIII, p. 562).
Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585 AD)
This chequered pope masterminded the Massacre of Bartholomew, yet he too enjoyed a sordid life, for he was the father of at least one known son (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. VII, p. 2-3).
It should also be pointed out that rich families were able to buy the office of the papacy, as this was a very common method of keeping this lavish and powerful position within some Roman families. Religion and reverence for God had nothing to do with it; it was simply a means of controlling a lucrative and influential office within the catholic church.
There were even times when several people claimed to be pope simultaneously. So, I do wonder how Rome can boast that they have a successive and uncontaminated chain going right back to Peter? I think they are deluding themselves!
Throughout the centuries Rome has also produced a multitude of murdering, mad, incestuous, homosexual, masonic, secret-agents, teenage and even female popes, not to mention three popes all in office at the same time.
Some popes killed one another; others were found dead in brothels; some were known to have raped children and then fled with Rome’s purse, only to return later and demand more money. There was even a time when an eleven-year-old child sat in ‘Peter’s Chair’ (Peter De Rosa, Vicars of Christ, p. 64-74).
“Pope Damasus, whose election to the pontificate was secured by a hundred and thirty-seven murders, authorises persecution of those who speak out against any of the holy canons and adds, ‘It is permitted neither to think nor to speak differently from the Roman church'” (Grattan Guinness, Romanism and the Reformation, p. 43).
If there’s one verse a catholic can normally cite right off the top of their head, it will nearly always be Matthew 16:18; and here it is from the catholic Douay-Rheims bible:
“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter [Petros]; and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Rome believes there are 1st century Aramaic and Hebrew manuscripts for the New Testament, even though none have ever been found because the New Testament was solely written in Greek. If this were true, however, then they are just as elusive as Iraq’s infamous ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ But to date, no credible scholar, whether religious or secular, has ever found a single fragment of any Aramaic or Hebrew manuscript for the New Testament. Some may also be interested to learn that the meaning of the Aramaic word for Peter (Cephas) is sand; certainly not the best foundation on which to build a church, or religious institution (Matt. 7:26-27).
But let us return, if we may, to Matthew 16. On the surface, it all appears to be rather simple. The Lord Jesus makes Peter the foundation on which He will build His church. But when one reads the whole Bible, problems soon arise. In this specific passage, the Greek word for Peter is Petros, meaning a small stone, whereas the Greek word for rock is petra, meaning a large stone.
Please also note that in John 1:42 Jesus calls Peter “a stone,” not “the stone.” The term “the stone” is exclusively given to Jesus by Peter in Acts 4:11, and not only does Peter twice call Jesus “the stone” or “the rock,” but Martha echoes almost the same words of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16) when she states, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27).
So, both Peter and Martha affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, meaning the Rock, the Messiah, the Saviour, and foundation of the Church of God.
It also appears that a careful play on words has just taken place. Jesus is not making Peter the church/rock, but rather He is the Rock Himself, with Peter being a small stone – one of many. Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus’ deity is what Jesus is recognising and commending him for, not his ‘outstanding’ character. We also learn that Jesus has to be the Rock when we read the following:
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built this house upon a rock (Christ): And the rain descended, and the floods came (picture of judgment), and the winds blew, and beat upon that house (see Heb. 3:6); and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Christ). And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand (‘Pope Peter’s church’): And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:24-27).
The apostle John, who outlived all the apostles, never once mentions ‘pope’ Peter’s death, burial or even alleged “succession.”
Early church leaders and individuals, such as Irenaeus, Polycarp, Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, Hilary and Ambrose, never acknowledged or even alluded to the possibility of ‘Peter the first pope’ (A Handbook On The Papacy, Bishop William Kerr, p. 48-49).
James and John were given special places of position with Jesus, yet Peter wasn’t consulted once, nor did Jesus ever refer them to him. We also read in John’s gospel, how certain Greeks went to Philip to have him introduce them to Jesus. Philip then went to Andrew (not Peter) to speak with Jesus. And at the end of this gospel, Jesus rebukes Peter again, but this time for asking what John’s future fate would be.
Quotes from church “fathers” and others
Origen: “But if you think that the whole Church was built by God upon Peter alone, what would you say about John, the son of thunder, or each of the apostles? Or shall we venture to say that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Peter but shall prevail against the other apostles and those that are perfect? Are not the words in question ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ and ‘upon this rock I will build my Church’ said in the case of all and each of them?” (Com. in Matt., xvi, 18 Migne, p. 13:1000).
Cyprian: “Certainly the rest of the apostles were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship of dignity and power” (De Unitate, 4).
Jerome: “But you say that the Church is founded upon Peter although the same thing is done in another place upon all the apostles, and all receive the kingdom of heaven, and the solidity of the Church is established equally upon all, nevertheless among the twelve one is therefore chosen that by the appointment of a head an occasion of dissension may be taken away” (Adv. Jovianum, 1:26 Migne P.L. 23:258).
Chrysostom: “This is, upon the rock of the confession.” Paul was equal in honour to Peter (Hom. Liv. in Matt. xvi. 2).
Cyril of Alexandria: “Calling, I suppose, nothing else the rock, in allusion to his name, but the immovable and firm faith of the disciple on which the Church of Christ is founded and established” (De SS. Trinitate, dial. iv P.G. 75:856).
St. Hilary: “Upon this rock of the confession is the building up of the Church…..This faith is the foundation of the Church” (De Trinitate vi, 36. P.L. 10:186-7).
Cyprian: “To all the apostles after His resurrection He gives equal power and says, ‘As the Father sent Me so I send you.” (De Unitate, 4).
Cyril would also say, much to the horror of today’s catholic apologists:
[“Peter and James”] were of equal rank with each other as apostles” (Ad. Nest, pg. 77:112).
[“Peter and Paul were”] the presidents of the churches” (Catech. vi, 15, pg. 33:561).
Chrysostom echoes Cyril and would give Paul the much-deserved credit that today’s catholic church denies him:
[“Paul was”] the teacher of the word, the planter of the Church. If therefore he receives a greater crown than the apostles and be greater then they, it is manifest that he shall enjoy the highest honour and pre-eminence” (Hom. viii, p. 48:772).
“Where Paul was, there also was Christ. He is the light of the Church, the foundation of the faith, the pillar and ground of the truth” (Hom I in Rom. xvi, p. 51:191).
[“Paul was”] the apostle of the world” (Hom. xxi in Ep. I ad Cor, p. 61:171).
[“Paul”] had the care not of one household but also of cities and of peoples and of nations and of the whole world” (Hom. xxv in Ep. Ii ad Cor, p. 61: 571).
[“Paul was”] the chief and leader of the choir of the saints” (Hom. xxxii in Rom. xvi, pg. 60:678).
Augustine would also add the following:
“When apostle is said, if it be not expressed what apostle, none is understood save Paul” (Contra duas Ep. Pelag., iii, 3. P. L. 44:589).
Here we have two Jesuits with their views on this. The first was Juan Maldonatus who said the following:
“There are among ancient authors some who interpret ‘on this rock,’ that ‘on this rock’ or ‘on this confession of faith in which thou hast called Me the Son of the living God,’ as Hilary, Gregory Nyseen, Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria. St. Augustine, going still further away from the true sense, interprets ‘on this rock’ that is ‘on myself Christ, because Christ was the rock.'” (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. ix, p. 567).
Now I turn to John McKenzie:
“The position of Peter in the apostolic group was one of pre-eminence; this is commonplace in Catholic theology, and it has within recent years been set forth very clearly by the Protestant scholar, Oscar Cullmann. It is also beyond dispute that to call Peter the “Pope” of the apostolic college is to imply a position of which the New Testament knows nothing. Here again, the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of Paul are our best witnesses; in these Peter appears as a leader, but not endowed with supreme jurisdiction. We cannot define the position of Peter exactly in any of the terms which we use, and the New Testament has left his position undefined in its own language. The thesis of the primacy is weakened if one attempts to find in Peter the jurisdiction which has long been exercised by the Roman Pontiff for some 1700 years. This is a long time, and it takes one back very near to the apostolic Church; but Peter lacks that position in the New Testament which he ought to have if he or anyone else thought of him as Pope” (The Power and the Wisdom: An Interpretation of the New Testament, 1965, p. 179-180).
With these rather interesting quotes from above, may I now cite one more interesting statement from Gregory I:
[“Paul”] obtained the principate of the whole church” (In 1 Reg., lib. iv, cv. 28. P. L. 79: 303).
“Pope Boniface VIII in his Bull Unam Sanctum cites John xxi. 17 as authorising his supremacy not only over the church but over kings” (Kerr, pg. 55).
To show that the ‘fathers’ were far from united on Peter’s ‘supremacy’ over the rest of the early church we discover, for example, that Irenaeus actually believed that Linus was, in fact, the first bishop of Rome. (Please examine 1 Tim. 3:1-7 to see what the term bishop in the Biblical sense of the word actually means).
Irenaeus’ view was the most popular one was subsequently ratified by the apostolic constitution in 270 AD (Peter De Rosa, Vicars of Christ).
Yet Chrysostom believed:
[“John”] is the pillar of the churches throughout the world, who hath the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Hom. I in Joan, pg. 59:480).
[“John and Peter received”] the charge of the world” (Hom. I in Joan, pg. 59:25).
So, for an overview of how the ‘fathers’ universally understood this doctrine to be, please see the following breakdown, taken again from Kerr:
44 believed it meant the faith Peter confessed
16 believed it referred to Christ Himself
8 felt it meant all the apostles
Kerr then goes on to quote catholic archbishop Kenrick:
“From this, it follows either that no argument at all, or a feeble one, can be drawn in proof of the primacy of Peter from the words on this rock will I build my church. If we ought to follow the greater number of the fathers on this question then certainly it is to be held that we should understand by the rock the faith professed by Peter and not Peter professing the faith” (p. 47-48).
If only more bishops in Rome were as honest as this, how different their church and the world would be!
The fable that Peter held the title of ‘the first pope’ with all its lavish sacraments and power has slowly and gradually been woven into Vatican history over the centuries, with few seriously examining this but most accepting it blindly, based solely on the ‘infallible’ tradition of the church of Rome.
I would also refer the reader to a verse that most catholic apologists conveniently miss when trying to propagate their false notion that Peter was in Rome with Paul:
“Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).
It is quite clear from the above Scripture that Paul would not and did not visit a new or existing church to lay a foundation on, whenever an apostle or evangelist had been or was already there.
I would also point the reader to the 1 Peter 5:13, written around 66 AD:
“The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.”
(The catholic church likes to say that Babylon was the code name for Rome, yet when Bible believers point out to them that Babylon is found again in Rev. 17 – the whore of Rome – they quickly dismiss this by claiming it is ancient Rome. However, that won’t do! John the apostle, who had travelled far and wide with the gospel, looked at this beast shown to him by the angel in Revelation 17 with “great admiration.” Why would he have admired something that he had seen and experienced all of his life whilst living under Roman occupation)?
So, the reader is presented with three options:
- Did Peter die in Jerusalem?
- Did he die in Babylon?
- Or did he go to Rome and die there? (This third option, of course, being the most unlikely and difficult to prove as Scripture is silent on this).
Please also note that the ‘fathers,’ Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine never taught the keys given to Peter by the Lord in Matt. 16:19 would be successive. The early church understood this commission to be solely for Peter, and subsequently no transfer of power or authority was ever practised in the early church. However, when taking a broader look at Scripture, one should understand how all the disciples, but especially the apostle Paul, were also given the keys/authority to present the Kingdom of God to a lost world; and this commission has been given vicariously to all believers, as all believers are a royal priesthood, according to the apostles Peter and John, (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6).
So, to recap whom the Rock is: the foundation/church is Christ (Acts 4:11,12). He is also the Rock that Paul spoke about (1 Cor. 3:11; 10:4), and Peter later affirmed this himself (1 Pet. 2:6, 7). David trusted in the Rock (Ps. 18:2). Christ is the express image of God (Col. 1:15). There is only one God (Deut. 6:4). Christ affirms this (Mark 12:29). Christ states unequivocally that He is the Lord God (John 8:58), therefore David trusted in one God (Jesus Christ). Peter trusted in one God (Jesus Christ). Jesus Christ’s church is His body, and only those who are in Him, and have trusted in Him will be saved and forever kept saved (John 1:12; Eph. 4:30).
The reader may also be interested to know how Peter only wrote two epistles which contained 8 chapters and 166 verses. (Some catholic and protestant “scholars” even doubt he wrote 2 Peter). Yet Paul wrote 13 epistles, possibly 14 (that being Hebrews), and his chapters total 87, with 2,023 verses.
So, if Peter were the first pope, why is it that Paul dominates the New Testament with his writings? Why is it that James, the Lord’s half-brother, is mentioned before Peter in superiority in Galatians 2:9? Why did Paul have to rebuke Peter in front of the entire church? Why isn’t Peter the first to see the resurrected Christ? Why is it that he doesn’t close the church’s first meeting in Acts 15, but James does? What wasn’t he chosen to reveal the mystery of the rapture to the church? Why didn’t Jesus just allow Peter to travel the world and convert scores of Gentiles to faith in Him, instead of Paul?
Also, then we read through the book of Acts, we notice the following and important facts:
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the HolyGhost. (Acts 8:14,15).
Here the church sent Peter and John. Peter didn’t send himself:
“But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts9:27).
Again, the apostles are spoken of as a group of church leaders, not a church led by one man, i.e, ‘pope Peter:’
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3).
Interesting to note that James, the brother of John (they were also given new names by Jesus in Mark 3:17) was chosen to be killed before Peter. If Peter were the ‘pope’ and ‘supreme’ leader, then why not kill him first?
“But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed and went into another place” (Acts 12:17).
Upon Peter’s escape from prison, he calls for James and then the brethren to be made aware of his safety. James was clearly the main leader in the early church:
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they (the church) determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren” (Acts 15:1-2).
Here is the first church conference in Scripture, and we note how the church sent Paul and Barnabas on their way. They didn’t go up on their own authority. They were sent.
So, finally, may I leave the reader with these wise words from a former Jesuit priest, George Tyrrell:
“Sooner or later the historical lie of the Papacy must be realised by every educated Roman” (Life, Vol II, p. 383).
April 2004-June 2014
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