Was Peter The First Pope?
The entire structure of Roman Catholicism is based on one proposition, viz., Jesus made the apostle Peter the visible head of the church on earth and the Catholic Popes are in direct succession to Peter. Catholicism may be the only religious group in the world whose existence depends upon such a proposition. An official statement of Catholicism reads, “The Catholic Church believes that St. Peter was the chief Apostle, exercising by Christ’s appointment the supreme power of governing His Church.” The Vatican Council says: ‘If anyone says that Christ the Lord did not constitute the Blessed Peter prince of all the Apostles and head of the whole church militant; or if he says that this primacy is one of mere honor and not of real jurisdiction received and immediately from our Lord Jesus, let him be anathema’.” (The Question Box, page 145).
The official Catholic view of the papacy is that Peter was Pope in Rome from A.D. 43 to A.D. 68, and as you just read, you are “anathema” if you don’t accept that. The Catholic Church has anathematized the entire first century church because Peter was neither the first Pope (which did not exist for at least five centuries) nor was he given any “primacy.” We may also add that Peter was never even in Rome, so far as the New Testament records are concerned. If anyone thinks to the contrary, produce the biblical evidence that Peter was in Rome — ever!
The best Catholic apologists can do is make Babylon equal Rome. Babylon is mentioned 12 times in the New Testament, most of which are historical references to the Babylonian captivity of the Old Testament. The remaining references are applied figuratively to the wicked powers graphically identified in the Book of Revelation as the harlot, possibly a figurative representation of the power of Rome. But the reference in 1 Peter 5:13, the main stay of Catholic scholars, does not necessarily mean that Babylon is Rome, nor that Peter was even in Babylon. He simply says, “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.” Older translations do have “the church that is in Babylon,” but you will notice that it is generally in italics, meaning that the original language was interpolated rather than translated.
Could not Peter have been conveying greetings from a female saint from literal Babylon just as well as conveying a greeting from the church in Rome? There were two Babylons. One was in Egypt; the other in Chaldea. John A. Bengel wrote, “At Babylon — This was the Chaldean Babylon which abounded in Jews. From Babylon the series of countries is enumerated: ch i.1, note.” (New Testament Word Studies, Volume II, page 758). Bengel’s note shows that the letter was sent to “strangers of the dispersion,” encompassing the lands of Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia. This should show that there is no reason compelling anyone to interpret Babylon as Rome. When Babylon is used as a figure for Rome, it pictures the ugliest of sinfulness among her citizens. The Catholic Church did not exist anywhere at the time Peter wrote this epistle from Babylon to scattered Christians.
Here are some pertinent facts relative to Peter.
1. He was in prison in Jerusalem (Acts 12) and this was the year A.D. 44. The
Catholic scholars say he began his rule as Pope over the church in A.D. 43.
2. Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome around A.D. 58. He mentioned
by name at least 27 people, but not Peter. Had Peter really been in Rome,
and really was the visible head of the Church, his name would have been
the first on Paul’s list — but it wasn’t. Peter was not there.
3. From Rome, Paul wrote several letters. Among them are Philemon,
Philippians, Ephesians and Colossians. Not one reference is ever made
to Peter, or to anything about Peter as head of the church. But he does
mention other saints who were with him. If Peter had really been there,
why do you suppose Paul would leave him out of his letters while
4. Paul wrote to Timothy around A.D. 70, possibly a little earlier and said
“only Luke is with me.” He continued saying that all men had forsaken
him (2 Tim. 4:11, 16). If Peter really was in Rome, he would be
included among those who abandoned Paul for fear of persecution.
Had Peter really been there he would have stayed by Paul — especially
if he was the head of the church. But, he simply wasn’t there, nor was
he head of anything.
5. There is no clear evidence that Peter meant Rome when he sent greetings
to others from a lady in Babylon.
One solid reason to know for sure that the Catholic Church is not the church Jesus built is that there is nothing peculiar to Catholicism that is approved in the New Testament. Just take a little test. See how many of the following items you can read about in the New Testament and that will settle it for you.
Roman Catholic, Pope, Cardinals, Patriarch (as ruling in the church), Primates, Archbishops, Archdeacons, Monks, Friars, Jesuits, Nuns, Image Worship, Relics venerated, Mary worshiped, auricular confession, Purgatory, Extreme Unction, Mass, Easter and Lent, Good Friday, Burning incense to remove evil spirits, sprinkling water on a baby (for baptism), Transubstantiation, and about a hundred more things.
Now take another little test — we will help you a little with the answers. Find:
Churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16)
Christ the only head of the church (I Cor. 3:9-11).
Elders, Deacons, Evangelists, and Saints (Phil. 1:1; Eph. 4:11).
Faith, Repentance, Confession and Baptism to be saved (Acts 16:31; Acts 17:30; Acts 22:16).
Singing praises to God (Eph. 5:19).
Heaven and Hell and nothing between (Luke 16:22-26).
If you take the test seriously you are forced to conclude that the Catholic Church is not the Lord’s church, and that Peter was never anything more than an apostle, just like the other eleven.
This little piece is not intended to ridicule Catholics -- simply to point out just a few things that need to be known. If you have questions about any of this, we would be glad to hear from you.
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