Was the Apostle Peter really the first Pope?

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Answers to Bible Questions

Scriptures are from the KJV of the Bible

(Q)  Was the Apostle Peter really the first Pope?

(A)  There are several scriptures that have been quoted in the bible, serving as proof that Peter was given the authority to be the leader of the Catholic Church, by Jesus himself. The first scripture is from John 21: 15-17 which says, (Christ talking to Peter): “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”. According to the Catholic Church, this was the message that Jesus gave to Peter, giving him jurisdiction over all His sheep; sheep being the followers of His Church. Another message appears in the book of Mathew 16:17-20 which says, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The Catholic Church believes that these two scriptures have formed the basis that proves Saint Peter was indeed the first Pope of the Church.

So was Peter the first pope? The answer, according to “Scripture,” is a clear and emphatic “no.” Peter nowhere claims supremacy over the other apostles. Nowhere in his writings, 1 and 2 Peter, did the Apostle Peter claim any special role, authority, or power over the church. Nowhere in Scripture does Peter, or any other apostle, state that their apostolic authority would be passed on to successors. Yes, the Apostle Peter had a leadership role among the disciples. Yes, Peter played a crucial role in the early spread of the gospel Acts chapters 1-10. However, these truths about Peter in no way give support to the concept that Peter was the first pope, or that he was the “supreme leader” over the apostles, or that his authority would be passed on to the bishops of Rome. Peter himself points us all to the true Shepherd and Overseer of the church at that time, the Lord Jesus Christ 1 Peter 2:25.

If you were to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and stood by the papal altar looking up you would see Michelangelo’s magnificent dome. Looking at this dome you could not fail to note the bold inscription around the base which reads: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.”

The Papacy was born from the above words which were spoken by Christ Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19. From these words the Roman Catholic Church “assumes” the following points (1)Peter, as the rock upon whom the Church would be built, and was granted authoritative jurisdiction over all the followers of Christ Jesus; and (2) by what is known as “apostolic succession,” those who succeed Peter become the inheritors of this universal authority.

Was Peter really the “ROCK” Christ was referring to? Is the Catholic Church the one and only true Church as they “claim” to be? Let’s find out what the scriptures say about these things.

The Roman Church was first called “the Catholic Church” by Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred at Rome around 107 AD. The Catholic Church makes the “claim” that they are the only Church that can trace their history back to the time of Christ Himself. They have a detailed history of the Church starting with “Peter” all the way up to Pope Francis in our time today. However, this “claim” is based on the “assumption” that Peter was the first Pope. If he was then their claim will stand, but if it can be proved that the Apostle Peter was not the first pope, then the Roman Church doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Let’s look at the issue of “Peter” being the “rock” that Christ was going to build His Church on. The scriptures will plainly tell us who the real “ROCK” is. In the KJV of the Bible which I use, the word rock is used 132 times. The book of Psalms uses the work rock 26 times. Most of the time in the book of Psalms when it uses the word rock it is referring to God or Lord. A few times it refers to a physical rock. But let’s look at what most are referring to.

Psalms 18:2:  2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Psalms 18:31:  31 For who is God save (except) the LORD? or who is a rock save (except) our God?

The above two scriptures make it quite clear who the “ROCK” really is. Ps. 18: 31 above says there is no other “ROCK” besides the Lord our God. The Lord is the one and “only” ROCK. No man could ever be considered a “ROCK’ in the eyes of God.

Psalms 62:5-7:  5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. 7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Psalms 78:35:  35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

In the New Testament there is another scripture showing who the “ROCK” is, and it is plain for all to see that Christ is the real “ROCK,” I Corinthians 10:1-4:  1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Now so you don’t get confused, all of the scriptures I quoted about the “ROCK” are all referring to the same person, Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, so in the scriptures above when it refers to God, Lord or Christ, it’s referring to the same person of the Trinity, Christ Jesus.

Again referring back to our scripture in Matthew 16:18 which say’s: 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. For more proof that Christ was the “Rock” in this verse on which He was going to build His church, let’s see what the two words “Peter” and “rock” mean in   their original language. To find out I am going to use the following two resources:

First, The Interlinear Bible by Jay P. Green, Sr. which has this to say in the preface:Considering that the words of this Book are the ones that will judge every person who has lived in all the ages, then how important it must be that very words of God, and no other, shall be contained in a portable book, to be distributed far and wide, in a form and in a commonly understood language which can be easily and immediately taken into the heart and into the consciousness of all who have the privilege to read them. With these considerations in mind, and in holy fear inculcated by our God, we have sought to provide in The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible all the original God-breathed Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words. And after much prayer and laborious study, it was concluded that this could best be done by providing you with the two attested texts that alone have been uniquely preserved whole, and accepted in all generations, in all lands, by the vast majority of God’s people, as their ‘received texts.’ Other texts have been put forth from time to time, but none have been found true and powerful enough to displace these two texts: The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, and the Received Text of the New Testament.

Second, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, including the original Hebrew, Greek and English words.

I am doing this to help give credibility to these much debated words, (Peter and rock).

Now, according to Jay P. Greens Interlinear Bible the word “Peter” in Matthew 16:18 is # 4074 in Strong’s Dictionary and in the Greek the word for Peter is “Petros;” it means “a piece of rock.” The word “rock” in this verse is # 4073 and in the Greek the word is “Petra;” it means “a mass of rock.”

Notice that “Peter” and “rock” both mean rock in the Greek. One’s a small rock, and the other is a big massive “ROCK.” So what was Christ really saying in Matthew 16:18 ?  More literally the verse is saying, (Christ was looking at Peter and say’s) “You (Peter) are a piece of a rock, (Petros), but upon this “ROCK (Petra) a massive bolder of a rock,” I will build my Church. In other words Christ was telling “Peter,” you are a “small rock,” but on this massive “ROCK” (CHRIST REFERRING TO HIMSELF) I will build my Church. I don’t believe it can be made any clearer than this; Christ was the massive “ROCK” and “He” would be the one to build “HIS” CHURCH using the apostles at that time to go out and preach the gospel of the kingdom.

In I Corinthians 3:11 the Apostle Paul makes the statement that there is no one beside Christ Jesus who is able to lay the foundation of the Church: 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Here is a literal translation of this verse by Jay P. Green.  “For no one is able to lay any other foundation beside the “One” having been laid, who is Jesus Christ.”

There is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that Peter was ever at any time a pope.

As far as Peter being in Rome the Catholic Church admits that there are NO scriptures anywhere in the Bible to prove that he (Peter) was ever there in Rome. However, I believe the scriptures tell us that someone was in Rome and could have taken the position of a church leader during the time from 32AD-67AD. It was during this time frame that the Catholic Church has the Apostle Peter being the first Pope according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

I do not embrace the position that the “papacy” is built upon a “total” fabrication without any historical basis at all. Indeed “for sure,” somebody went to Rome. We know the Apostle Peter was not in Rome, so who was?

The two Simons mentioned in scripture:

Matthew 4:18:  18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

The other Simon bears the surname of Magus, it is not clear whether this was his real name or it was self-imposed. Magus means “worker of magic.” Some historians contend, quite convincingly, that “the great religious leader” who went to Rome was the “Simon Magnus” mentioned in Acts 8. There we are told about this charismatic personality:

Acts 8:9-11:  But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one, To whom they all  gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

This “Simon” was known as “Simon Magnus,” or “Simon the Great One.” Some historians contend that it was this same Simon who went to Rome and became famous, and extremely influential – even surpassing the popularity he enjoyed in Samaria. Justin Martyr (AD 110-165) spoke of this Simon of Samaria and what he told us is extremely interesting. He wrote:

” … After Christ’s ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were God: AND THEY WERE NOT ONLY NOT PERSECUTED BY YOU, (i.e., the Christians), but (you) even deemed them worthy of honors. There was a Samaritan, Simon … who in the reign of Claudius Caesar (approximately 42-45AD), and in your royal city of “Rome”, did mighty works of magic, by virtue of the art of the devil’s operating in him. He was considered a “god”, and as a god was honored by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the Tiber River, between the two bridges and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome: “SIMONI DEO SANCTO” “To Simon, the Holy God.” (The Ante – Nicene Fathers, Encyclopedia Britannica Press, 1950, Volume 1, 1st Apology of Justin, Chapter 26, Pg. 171)

The statue of Simon Magnus of which Justin Martyr spoke is no longer in (known) existence. But what can we conclude from such a strange statement? Such a statement, from such an ancient source as Justin Martyr, lends great credibility to the view that it was Simon Magnus (certainly NOT SIMON PETER), who left the scene in Acts 8 and journeyed on to Rome. Remember, that Simon Magnus became a professing Christian, and was baptized by Peter, but was later denounced by Peter. He was a magician and wanted to have the “power” to do all the miracles Simon Peter was doing. He offered money for this power. Remember the strong words of Simon Peter to Simon the Magician?

But Peter said unto him, ( Simon Magnus) Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Acts 8:20-23

When Simon Magnus went to Rome, he was able to “bewitch” some and “con” others, especially the Romans (because they were a poly-theistic culture), as he had deceived the Samaritans with his demonic powers. He soon rose to great prominence and established a mystical, Babylonian type of “Christianity,” Christendom. Remember, the New Testament record clearly establishes that Simon Peter did not, nor could not do this for he was not in Rome. In the light of these historical facts, and the witness of the Scripture about Simon Magnus being there, those two facts have influenced an ever growing number of historians who contend that it was Simon Magnus who was the one who went to Rome and established a pagan version of Christianity in first century Rome. This very different version of Christianity was popularized during the time of Constantine. In Galatians 3:1 look at what Paul says” 1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

In I Timothy 4:1-3 the Apostle Paul makes a statement about doctrines of devils: 1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  Can you think of any Church that forbids marriage and commanded their members not to eat meat on Friday??? I know I can and God through Paul calls this custom “DOCTRINES OF DEVILS.”

Another fact I want to bring out is that Peter and the Apostles were “only” sent to the Jewish nation of Israel as we see in Matthew 10:5-6: 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Also Matthew 15:22-24 is saying the same thing:  22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him saying send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

In Galatians 2:6-9 Peter and Paul shook hands on this important fact mentioned in the above paragraph,(Paul is the one talking here): 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me(Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. The circumcision refers to the Jewish nation  of Israel, and the uncircumcision refers to the New Church Christ started through Paul called the “Body of Christ.”

It’s important to understand that Peter and the Apostles were only sent to the Jewish nation of Israel, because the ministry and commission of the 12 Apostles was going to be temporarily stopped and set aside because of Israel’s unbelief. This means that” IF” Peter were a pope (which he was not) as the Catholic Church teaches, when Israel was set aside Peter and the Apostles ministry and commission were also set aside. Peter’s ministry was phased out and Christ started a new Church called “the Body of Christ” through the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul, Romans 11:13:  13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office, and 1Timothy 1:15-16:  15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in “me first” Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Romans 2:16  and again Paul is talking: 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. The gospel Christ gave to Peter and the Apostles was a different gospel than that given to Paul. The gospel given to the 12 Apostles was going to be temporarily set aside and has been for the last two thousand years now.

That kingdom Church that Peter was supposed to be Pope of was stopped and has been on hold for the last two thousand years. The “pope theory” that Peter was the first pope came crashing down at this point in time. There could not have been any more so called popes because Christ Himself set that Church aside and started the NEW CHURCH CALLED “THE BODY OF CHRIST” THROUGH THE APOSTLE PAUL.

It is of interest to note in Acts 8:1 that when the great persecution arose against the Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem the disciples were scattered, and according to Acts 11:19, they went out into the neighboring towns and cities and countries preaching to none but Jews only. But the very interesting point is that we learn in Acts 8:1, the twelve apostles remained in Jerusalem. Matthias had taken the place of Judas. Then another fact of interest and significance is recorded in Acts 7:55-56 the words of Stephen at the time he was addressing Israel in the city of Jerusalem: “But he being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus STANDING on the right hand of God. And he said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man STANDING on the right hand of God.”

So far as the Divine Record is concerned, this is the last message of its kind to the nation Israel in Jerusalem. Several years later the apostle Paul delivered a similar message in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. But this was outside of the land of the Jews. Paul had heard the voice of Jesus of Nazareth in his unique experience. In his message Paul said to those Jews, “It was necessary that the Word of God should FIRST have been spoken to you (Jews): but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, LO WE TURN TO THE GENTILES,” Acts 13:46. In passing, it is of interest to ask the question, why here, “TO THE JEW FIRST,” some twelve years after Jesus, Christ said to the Jews, “your house is left unto you desolate? “ But surely the words, “LO WE TURN TO THE GENTILES,” mark a radical change in God’s program. I am sure that we agree that the twelve apostles could not remain at Jerusalem and preach to Gentiles all over the world.

In Matthew 12:31-33 the Lord Jesus warned Israel, preaching to them concerning their “pardonable” sin against the Son of man, and their “unpardonable” sin against the Holy Spirit. In rejecting the testimony of Stephen, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, whom God sent down from heaven to witness to Israel that he had exalted Christ to be their Saviour, Israel was committing the unpardonable sin in Jerusalem. They continued to commit that same sin as the testimony was given outside of the land of the Jews. Acts 13:45-46;  Acts 18:5- 6 and Acts 28:25-28. Note the words in connection with each rejection, “Lo we turn unto the Gentiles,”From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles,”The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles.”

Israel committed the unpardonable sin, and God cast Israel away. There was a remnant according to the election of grace, Romans 11:6- 9. The rest were blinded. Israel stumbled and fell. Israel was cast away, and because of Israel’s unbelief, the Gentiles obtained mercy. When and because Israel fell, God sent the apostle of reconciliation with the message of reconciliation to the Gentiles, Romans 11:15 and 11:30. This is why II Corinthians 5:18- 21 is our commission today.

Why is it also that when the Apostle Paul actually writes to the Roman Church, he does not even mention Peter? Peter is supposed to have been in Rome around 42-67 A.D. If the book of Romans was written in 57 A.D., this means that Peter has already been in Rome for 15 years. Again, is it conceivable that the Apostle Paul would not mention Peter or the great office of papacy that he now occupies? This is impossible if indeed Peter is supposed to occupy the position of the vicar of Christ as the head of the Church. In Romans 16:1-16 Paul mentions 27 people by name—but he fails to mention Peter even once.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is writing from Rome in 67 A.D. He says that the time of his death is near (2 Tim. 4:6). Remember that according to Catholic tradition, Peter has already been in Rome for twenty-five years. But nothing that Paul does suggests Peter is even there. If Peter had been killed about 67 A.D., before Paul had written 2 Timothy, how could it be that Paul fails to mention Peter’s death? Why does he mention day-to-day details and instructions for individuals by name but fail to mention the death of the first pope who has ruled in Rome for twenty-five years (2Tim. 4:10-14, 19-21)? Paul goes on to say that Demas, loving this present world “has deserted me” and that “only Luke is with me” and that, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them” (2 Tim. 4:16).

If Peter has been in Rome for twenty-five years, why did not Peter ever come to Paul’s defense? Is this the exercise of papal authority and leadership?

If Peter was in Rome, then why do the scriptures refer to him as “the apostle to the Jews” and Paul as “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Gal 2:7-8), just the opposite one would expected.

The question of Peter being in Rome is very ambiguous, and therefore something one must be careful in assigning ‘doctrinal’ importance to – as in the case of the Roman Catholic belief that Peter was the first Pope, etc. The real question should not be so concerned with where Peter was when he wrote the epistles but, do we believe what Peter wrote?

WHERE DID PETER WRITE FROM?

The question of Peter being in Rome has been a source of debate for many years. There are two main theories concerning the location from which Peter wrote his first epistle. The controversy centers on the identity of “the church that is at Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13).

A Literal Babylon on the Euphrates River

This would seem to be the natural interpretation of the passage. Furthermore, the list of countries in 1 Peter 1:1 is from East to West, which suggests that the writer was in the East at the time of the writing.

  1. Vernon McGee writes: “There was at this time a large colony of Jews in ancient Babylon who had fled Rome due to severe persecution under Claudias and at the time of writing bloody Nero was on the Throne” (Through the Bible, p. 256).

In addition to this, the descendents of those Jews taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar were still living in and around Babylon.

Our position as Christians is simply that we believe the verbal inspiration of the Word of God. We hold that Peter wrote under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, and we believe every word he wrote was absolutely correct – infallible.

A few final points I would like to make in this article is the fact that God says NO MAN should be called “FATHER,” (with the exception of your real earthly father), Matthew 23:9-10:  9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. Do you know any Church who calls their leadership “father”???

For certain, the Roman Catholic Church has a list of 266 popes. The only problem is that the Apostle Peter was not one of them as they claim. There is no proof in the Bible to back up that claim. If Christ intended for the Apostle Peter to be such a leader, don’t you think HE, CHRIST would have made that fact very clear in the scriptures for such an important position??? Other things of great importance are made very clear by God in the scriptures if you really care and really want to understand and know them. The Roman Catholic Church only has their own Church history and their own traditions to back up  the claim that the Apostle Peter was a pope. Who will you trust and believe; the Roman Catholic Church or the “Word of God,” the only true source of spiritual knowledge and understanding. I know who I will put my trust and belief in, do you?

Colossians 2-8:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Maranatha (Lord Come)

John

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