Peter - Was Peter the First Pope?
The Catholic Church uses three passages in Scripture to support their claim to the supremecy of the papacy of Rome. However, the verses in question do not actually give Peter an office as the supreme bishop, nor do they attest to any infallibility or the succession to the unmentioned office of the pope. They interpret these verses so that they will be in union with church teaching instead of getting church teaching from Scripture alone (See our page Catholic View of Scripture for further explanation). The Bible does not mention an office of the papacy and we will show, through Scripture, that Peter was not the first pope. Let us begin by briefly examining the most popular texts among the Catholic Church for supporting their claims of the supremecy of Peter.
John 21:15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Most biblical scholars agree that these passages were directed to Peter because he had denied the Lord three times after declaring that he would never fall away. Just as Peter denied the Lord three times, Jesus asked him three times, "do you love me?" There is nothing in this passage to suggest that Peter alone was commissioned to shephard the flock. It does not even imply that no one else should feed the sheep. This passage simply does nothing to set Peter apart as the cheif apostle. That doctrine is nowhere in the text.
Luke 22:31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
Again Peter is singled out here, not because he is being appointed the chief of apostles, but because of his denial of Christ. Christ knew Peter would deny him, but he also knew that he would turn back. Christ instructed Peter to strengthen his brothers once he had turned back. Every apostle strenghtened his brothers. Paul told the Romans he imparted gifts on them to make them strong (Rom 1:11). This again does not specify Peter as greater than any other apostle. Peter was spoken of in this passage because of his denial of Christ, not because of his supremecy.
Matt 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 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." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
This passage is the most prominent among Catholics for supporting thier belief that Peter was appointed the first Pope. Their interpretation implies that Peter is the rock upon which the church was built. This, however, does an injustice to the language of the passage. Peter is translated petros which is a stone, a piece of a rock. A petros is a detached stone that could be easily thrown. The word rock in this passage is petra which is an immovable rock, a sure foundation. Christ did not build his church upon an easily detachable stone which is what Peter's name means. He built the church on a sure foundation, which was Christ Himself. In fact, Peter reveals his fallibility immediately after Christ makes this declaration. Peter was seduced by Satan and rebuked by Christ just three verses later.
Matt 16:21-23 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
We do not deny that Peter was indeed a great apostle that played an important role in the Bible, but there is no evidence or any implication that Peter was given a role of divine leadership over everyone in the church. There is no Scriptural mention of or implication of the office a pope, the succession of it's powers, or the infallibility of any apostle. In fact there are several passages that disprove it's existance.
The early church did not understand Peter to have any power of authority over the other apostles. We see this best illustrated in Acts chapter 15. In this chapter we find a dispute because some people were teaching that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses. There are a few things in this passage we must notice. First we see that Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Acts 15:2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
The Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the Bishop of Rome and here they are meeting in Jerusalem. We also see that Paul and Barnabas went to discuss thier dispute with "the apostles and elders". They are not going to speak to Peter or ask solely his opinion or authority. It is apparant they felt they needed to address this question to all of the church leaders. Peter is present and does address the assembly.
Acts 15:7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them..."
But Peter's words were not presented as any more authoritative as any other. After Peter spoke, others also testified.
Acts 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
After everyone had spoken they finally decided on how to handle the dispute. However, it was James, not Peter who made the final decision and the elders, in agreement with James, did as he suggested.
Acts 15:13 When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 "'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' 18 that have been known for ages. 19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
It is James, not Peter who comes to a decision. While James does refer to Peter's testimony he validates that by revealing Peter's statement was in agreement with the prophets. He does not suggest that Peter's testimony should be accepted because of the authority of his office, nor does any other part of this proceeding make that assumption. It is obvious from this passage that Peter had no more authority than any other apostle or elder in the church. The decicision of this counsel was again carried out by the church as a whole, and no one bishop claimed or displayed any supremecy.
Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.
There are several other examples that prove Peter had no supremecy over the entire church. Paul specifically stated that Peter was sent, not to the entire church, but to the Jews, while he (Paul) was sent to the Gentiles.
Gal 2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul also shows us a side of Peter that contradicts any teaching of the infallibility of Peter. Paul opposed Peter when he was contradicting his own teaching and causing others to be led astray.
Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Peter himself never declared any supremecy over the other apostles. In fact, in his letters he addressed himself as an apostle, not the chief of apostles.
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
The gospels reveal to us that the apostles specifically asked Jesus who among them was the greatest. This reveals two things. First we see that the apostles had no understanding that Peter had already been made the chief apostle. Secondly, we find no evidence of Peter's appointment as leader of the church in Jesus' response.
Mark 9:33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
Peter is said to have been the bishop of Rome, but the Scriptures show that either Peter was never in Rome, or if he was he abandoned Paul. The Lord alone stood with Paul. Surely, if Peter were the pope of Rome he too would have stood with Paul, but he was never mentioned as having been there.
2 Tim 4:16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.
We also find other passages about Peter that contradict the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. The Chatholic Church's Code of Canon Law 1394 forbids the marriage of clergy. The Catholic Church does admit that Peter was indeed married (as the Scriptures below reveal). The church added the forbiddance of marriage and the vow to celibacy years after the Bible was completed. This is yet another example of how the Catholic Church allows her teachings to have precedence over the clear teaching and intent of Scripture. Peter (whom they claim was their first pope) was indeed married.
Matt 8:14 When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
1 Cor 9:5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?
Peter did not allow anyone to pay him reverence. When Cornelius bowed before him, Peter instructed him not to do such a thing.
Acts 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."
Peter did not have riches. The Catholic Church does. While it is the church and not the pope that owns the silver and gold, Peter in no way had any access nor any desire for such riches. No pope could in good conscience make this statement today.
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.
There are not any passages that support the Roman Catholic teaching of the supremecy of Rome, the divine leadership of Peter, the office of the papacy, the infallibility of it's head, or the succession of divine authority. That teaching does not exist in Scripture