Of the numerous doctrines Roman Catholics must believe under pain of grievous sin, there are two upon which the entire religion is dependent for its continued existence. Without these two foundational doctrines, the Roman Catholic religion comes crashing down to the ground of irrelevancy. In my Catholic childhood, I learned these two doctrines before I could read or write. To the question, “Which is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ?” I learned as a little shaver to answer, “The Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ.” To the second question, “And upon what did Jesus found His Church?” my response was, “Jesus founded His Church on the rock of Peter who was the first pope.”
When the Lord Jesus saved me at the advanced age of 52, it became obvious very soon thereafter that there is something radically wrong with those two foundational doctrines.
And, since the first – the true Church claim – rests squarely on the allegation that Peter was ordained to be its first pope, it is quite appropriate to seek in the Scriptures proof that Jesus really did give Peter such an assignment. There, in the inerrant Word of God, we have every right to expect to find Peter’s appointment clearly set forth, established as a fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. What we do find, though, is what follows.
The English word, “pope,” comes from the Latin word, “papa,” which means “father.”
But our Lord told His disciples, (and us through them), “…call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9) This had to be meant in a spiritual sense since we all have earthly fathers, while our heavenly Father is a spirit to be worshiped in spirit and truth. (John 4:24) And based on this admonition from Jesus, there shouldn’t even be a Catholic priesthood much less a papacy, for all Catholic priests are addressed as, “Father.” More on that later.
On another occasion, when His Apostles were disputing about leadership matters, Our Lord called them together for a disclosure of His organizational plan. He said, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall NOT BE SO AMONG YOU: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25-27) From this, it is clear Jesus was strongly opposed to any “prince” or “princes” exercising dominion over His flock.
Historically, it was not until the 3rd century, nearly 200 years after our Lord’s return to His heavenly throne, that a bishop of Rome – one of hundreds of independent bishops existing at that time – cited Matthew 16:18 as evidence Peter had been appointed bishop of Rome and head of the Church. This was a brazen grab for power by Calixtus 1 whose interpretation of Matthew 16:18 contradicted that of the leading theologians of his day. That grab for power died an ignominious death when Tertullian, bishop of Carthage, and others, called Calixtus 1 a “usurper.” From our vantage point 2000 years later, it is unimpeachable proof that Rome lies when it claims the office of the papacy has been in existence from the time of Peter.
Remember, if you will, the episode at Caesarea Philippi. There, Jesus asked His Apostles, “Who do YE say that I am?” It was Peter who responded for the twelve with this statement of FACT: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then said our Lord, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 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.” (Matthew 16:17, 18) In English, Latin, Aramaic, and other languages the words Peter and rock are entirely different. Unfortunately for Roman Catholics whose beliefs rest heavily on the papacy, Greek is a far more precise language.
In Greek, Peter is petros, masculine gender, defined as a small rock, one that can be picked up and skipped across the surface of a pond. It is a derivative of the root word,
petra, feminine gender, defined as massive foundation rock. If we insert Greek definitions for petros and petra, what our Lord said in Matthew 16:18 reads like this: “Thou art Little Rock, and upon this Massive Foundation Rock I will build my Church.”
To the most respected theologians of the early Church, the Massive Foundation Rock of
Matthew 16:18 was not Peter, but Peter’s statement of FACT – “Thou art the Christ, (Jewish Messiah) the Son of the living God.” That Jesus was and is the Messiah promised in Genesis, that He was and is the Son of God incarnate, are, in fact, the very foundation of Christianity. And that is exactly what was taught in opposition to Calixtus 1 by Cyril, Hilary, Tertullian, Jerome, (producer of the Latin Vulgate Bible), Basil, Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and the much-honored Greek scholar, Chrysostom.
Unfortunately, what the most famous early believers taught is not always considered by the Vatican to be the “Sacred Tradition” on which doctrines are based. For example, the great Augustine, besides opposing Peter as the Church’s foundation rock, staunchly opposed the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception which budded in the 5th century. The equally influential Aquinas did the same 800 years later. Hence, as in the Immaculate Conception matter, the Vatican totally disregarded the early theologians’ teachings about Matthew 16:18, even though Christ – as recorded in John’s Gospel – had given Peter the same name of small rock or stone in Aramaic long before the events at Caesarea Philippi. “when Jesus beheld him, (Peter) he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (John 1:42) That Matthew 16:18 can in no way be interpreted as an appointment of Peter to be the first pope is even more evident when other Scriptures from both the Old and New Testament are considered.
Beginning in Exodus, the Old Testament is full of references to Jesus, the coming Messiah, as the foundation rock of saving faith. He it is who is symbolized by the rocks out of which came fresh water in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:10. Moses, in Deuteronomy 32:4, wrote, “He (Jesus) is the ROCK.” Rebuking the Nation of Israel in 32:18, he said, “Of the ROCK that begat thee thou art unmindful.” And in 32:31, he said, “…their (the enemy’s) rock is not as our ROCK.” In her prayer for a man child recorded in 1 Samuel 2:2, Hannah says, “…neither is there any ROCK like our God.” And David, just escaped from Saul, in 2 Samuel 22:2 gives credit for his safety this way: “The LORD is my ROCK, and my fortress, and my deliverer.”
Clear references to our Lord as the ROCK spoken of throughout the Scriptures, also are found in Psalms 18, 28, 31, 40, 42, 61, 62, 71, 78, 89, 92, 94, and 95. See also Isaiah 8:14, 17:10, and 51:1. In Hebrew, the word for rock is cela, and its definition is “crag, cliff, rock,” definitely not the kind of rock or stone one launches at a squirrel on the bird feeder.
In the New Testament, our Lord’s parable of the wise and foolish builders, recorded in Matthew 7 and Luke 6, leaves no doubt that Jesus, not Peter, is the foundation rock on which those who are wise establish their faith. Paul recognized Christ was the nation of Israel’s rock and the foundation of Christianity as well. “….(they, the Jews) did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual ROCK that followed them: and that ROCK was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4) Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 3:11, Paul made absolutely certain there would be no mistaking upon whom Christ’s Church was being built. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
The foregoing cited Scriptures not only don’t support Rome’s claim that Peter was ordained a pope, the first in the Vatican’s alleged unbroken chain of popes, they actually contradict the claim, and they contradict it most emphatically. Moreover, one comes up “empty” again when trying to find passages that show Peter and the other Apostles, Paul included, were clearly aware of Peter’s election to leadership by Jesus. Nor is it obvious from God’s Word that Peter spent enough time in Rome to have functioned as that city’s first bishop.
In his own first epistle, Peter acknowledges a title far different from bishop or pope. Says he, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an ELDER.” (1 Peter 5:1)
Then he says: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as BEING LORDS over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” From these words in particular, and from the general tenor of both his letters, one concludes that Peter had no idea he had been ordained the first pope of a Church that did not come into existence until the 5th century.
In the account of the Church’s first general council reported in Acts 15, it is James, the brother of Jesus, and not Peter, who provides the solution to the problem under discussion. (Cf. Acts 15:13-23.) Even before that council, Peter was not acting like the supreme leader of the flock. Rather than directing the actions of others, he was being directed, as the following attests. “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, THEY SENT unto them Peter and John.” (Acts 8:14) It was the same John, who, along with his brother James, had sought
from Jesus the promise of sitting one on His right hand, and one on His left in the coming kingdom. This, long after Matthew 16:18 had taken place, and a clear indication that the Apostles had no idea Peter had been ordained their leader.
There is additional biblical evidence refuting the Vatican’s alleged Petrine papacy to be found in Paul’s letter to the Roman Churches. At the end of that letter, he salutes 27 named individuals, none of whom is Peter. Why is that if Peter was bishop of Rome? Also, in Acts 23, Paul not knowing it was the High Priest he was addressing, called him a “whited wall.” (Acts 23:3) When informed that his epithet had been directed at the High Priest, Paul was instantly repentant. Said he, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” But in his
letter to the Galatian churches Paul is openly critical of Peter, saying, “when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (Acts 2:11) What Paul said directly to Peter in front of many witnesses was this: “…If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Acts 2:14) If Peter had been ordained bishop of Rome and head of the Church, Paul certainly would have been aware of the fact and would not have been openly critical of him in front of others.
Finally, still consulting the Scriptures, we learn that Paul, not Peter, received the Gospel directly from the lips of Jesus. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11,12) And in 2 Peter 3:16, we get the impression that at least some of what Christ had given to Paul was not known to Peter, for he says that in Paul’s letters “are some things hard to be understood.” Inevitably comes this question, if Jesus made Peter head of the Church, why was Paul the one chosen to receive the Gospel directly from our Lord?
The binding and loosing authority the Vatican claims exclusively for its popes was given
to all of the Apostles, not just Peter; (Matthew 18:18) and, in fact to all believers when
Jesus said, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven; For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18: 19,20)
When all of the Scriptures having to do with Peter’s alleged ordination as pope are reviewed it becomes manifestly clear that he was only one of twelve chosen men, who will sit on twelve thrones in the millennium, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). A bishop of Rome he was not. A pope he was not. And when historical facts are studied – as will be done in a separate article – they will positively confirm what has already been seen in the divine Scriptures.