By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
I have encountered some small amount of persecution for attempting to show people the truth about the Roman Catholic Church and the pope. I have received statements from Catholics saying that my views are "inaccurate" and my articles are "garbage." To me, this simply shows unwillingness to research and risk coming to the same conclusions. Everything I will tell you in the following article can be verified by you independently if you will diligently pursue the truth with an open mind. If you are a seeker of truth, I believe you will be interested, shocked and surprised by the unsupportable assumptions made about the history of the papacy by its supporters.
Was Peter the first Pope?
The word "Pope" means "Father." To use the word "Father" as a title was forbidden by Jesus Christ, as were some of the practices that characterize the papacy. Matthew 23:5-12 says, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Peter would never have accepted the title "Father" or "Pope," because Peter believed in Jesus Christ and obeyed His words. I do not think that popes today necessarily recognize that this is disobedience, because like all Catholics, they are conditioned to believe that it is all right for tradition to override Scripture. But Christ�s view was, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3b). Both the behavior described here by Christ and the blasphemous title reflect the disobedience of those who have occupied the position of pope.
Was Peter the Bishop of Rome?
From the Bible, we can only be certain that Peter was centered in Jerusalem, visited Antioch, and wrote his first epistle from Babylon. There is of course a massive bank of Roman Catholic tradition that states Peter was in Rome, but none of it is Biblical. The Romanists make the assertion that Babylon is used as a code name for Rome in this epistle. Was it Rome, or was it really Babylon?
It doesn�t really make sense that Peter was in Rome. Paul was certainly in Rome. This fact is historically verified by the book of Acts, and it is also logical that Paul would be there as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter, on the other hand, was the apostle not to the Gentiles but to the Jews. Therefore, it is more likely that Peter was literally in Babylon on the Euphrates, which at the time was one of the chief seats of Jewish learning. It would have been the perfect place for labor among the Jews.
The Biblical record of the division of responsibilities between Peter and Paul is found in Galatians 2:7-9. "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, 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."
So, Peter had no Biblical reason to be in Rome; but he had every Biblical reason to end up in Babylon, since his assignment was to the Jews. Statements in 1 Peter further reflect Peter�s mission and location. In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter addresses his letter "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." So, Peter was writing to diaspora Jews (those Jews who had dispersed out of their homeland), and the arrangement of the provinces of Asia Minor is in the order one would see them from Babylon, not from Rome.
The Roman Catholics point to Clement, the bishop of Rome during Domitian�s persecution of the church in the 90�s, as providing the evidence that Peter was the bishop of Rome. However, the authorship of such writings is disputed. In Clement�s epistles to the Corinthians, Peter is never mentioned as having been connected in any way with Rome. Only in another work that is probably not Clement�s, the Recognitions, is Peter mentioned as having connection with Rome. Scripture tells us that Clement was an associate of Paul, not of Peter, in Philippians 4:3.
Jesus� own testimony is that Peter was unwillingly led to the place of his death. In John 21:18, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." John 21:19 assures us that Jesus was speaking of Peter�s death. If Peter died in Rome during Nero�s persecution, which is pretty much undisputed, then he was led there under guard as Jesus prophesied. He was not already there as their bishop. He was not taken there until he was old, according to Scripture.
Anyone who claims Peter even visited Rome as a free man does so without a shred of Biblical evidence or verifiable historic evidence. It is interesting that the Roman Catholic Church wishes to associate itself with Babylon in Peter�s epistles but wishes to distance themselves from Babylon in Revelation. Why would the Roman Church possibly want to rewrite the history of where Peter served? Only one reason: an attempt to deceptively apply Matthew 16:18 to itself.
So, What About Matthew 16:18?
Many proponents of Roman Catholicism like to run out Matthew 16:18 as a proof-text for their church. "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." We have already established the unlikelihood that Peter ever served as bishop of Rome. But it may surprise you to learn that the gates of hell have prevailed against the Roman Catholic Church on a number of occasions.
First, they lost the Crusades and the middle-east remained in the hands of the Muslims. One could I suppose argue that the Roman Catholic Church continued to exist, and therefore had not been "prevailed against," even though the word "prevail" simply means, "to be victorious over." The Muslims were victorious over the Roman Catholic Church.
The French government also prevailed over the Roman Catholic Church, and it ceased to exist for a period of 70 years. Boniface VIII asserted his supremacy over the French government. Planning to abduct Boniface, the French accidentally hurt him badly enough to kill him instead in 1303. A French pope was installed (Clement V) in 1305, and the seat of power was moved from Rome to Avignon, France in 1309. The only reason it does not continue as the Avignonian Catholic Church was through the diplomacy of Gregory XI, a French pope who negotiated the return of the papacy to Rome in 1378.
Promptly after accomplishing this lofty objective, Gregory XI died, and the Western Schism took place. Two different streams of popes emerged, the Roman line (Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII) and the Avignon line (Clement VII and Benedict XIII). Both Gregory XII and Benedict XIII were then deposed and a third claimant, Alexander V was put forward. Alexander V died and was succeeded by John XXIII. For a time, the Western Church had three popes simultaneously.
All three popes were then deposed and a new pope, Martin V, was elected on November 11, 1417 at the Council of Constance. There was a brief rumble later when Felix V was elected by the Council of Basel, but Felix abdicated in 1449.
As you can see, the continuity of so-called apostolic succession was definitely broken during the Western Schism, so any claims of a lineage back to Peter are purely fictional. This fiction is oft perpetuated on Catholic web sites where the date ranges on these popes have been altered to show consecutive rather than concurrent offices. However, you can easily research the accurate view of history from secular sources such as encyclopedias. Grolier�s article on the Western Schism for instance would be enlightening to you.
The fact that powers have prevailed over the Roman Catholic Church guarantees that it is not the church pointed to by Matthew 16:18.
Did Peter Appoint An Apostolic Successor?
The first person to refer to himself as pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church was a man named Siricius, who was the bishop of Rome from 384-398. The title was not used again until Leo I, who reigned over the Roman church from 440-461.
Originally, the pastors or elders of the Roman Church did not claim to have supremacy over one another. In fact, they were humble enough that their seven deacons ran things! Jerome wrote a polemic against this practice in the church of Rome (Letter 146: About Deacons). It should be noted that Roman Catholics correct Jerome by saying he never intended to imply that bishops and elders had the same rank, but it is precisely what Jerome�s letter actually says.
However, in time, human pride led to the establishment of the primacy of the bishop of Rome. The decision to assign the Roman bishop a higher place than other bishops came at the Council of Constantinople in 381, just before Siricius� declaration as pope, but this title and position evidently received opposition. The decision to have this bishop understood to be the "Director of All Christendom" was established in 445 by the Edict of Theodosius II. If this was the job of the bishop of Rome all along, why make an edict of it some 400 years after the fact?
The pope at this time was still under the authority of the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, and did not have authority independent of the state until Gregory I in 590. It was not until this time, at the earliest, that the office of pope began to reflect the form it has today. This office simply did not exist in the New Testament church.
If you are a seeking Catholic, you are now wondering whether to be angry with me and call the above work "inaccurate" without checking it out, or you want to know the truth. Everything I have told you can be verified with just a little work on your part, but unfortunately, it cannot be verified from Roman Catholic sources. If you wish to research this, you will have to rely on secular sources that you deem reliable.
I do not wish to insult you, but I would like to present to you a thought on the gospel in a way you may not have had it presented to you before.
Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." It is this falling short of the glory of God that keeps people out of heaven, and any sin at all makes us fall short of the glory of God, Who is sinless. The Roman Catholic Church, while having a system of "mortal" and "venial" sins, nevertheless through a twist in its theology recognizes this, and provides for methods of payment for sins. Extreme unction is to cleanse you of sins just before death so you will not have to endure purgatory for payment. In the funerals, prayers are given for the dead for the forgiveness of their sins to shorten their time in purgatory.
The surprise awaiting you is the fact that there is no means by which you could
pay for your own sin. Purgatory does not appear in Scripture, and neither does
Extreme Unction. Romans 3:24-25a continues, "Being justified freely by his
grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth
to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness
for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."
There are two very important things I want you to understand from this verse.
First is the reciprocal relationship between justification and faith. If we do
not have faith that we are justified, we do not have saving faith. So, if we are
looking for works to add to our justification, we have invalidated our faith,
because we have just demonstrated that we do not have faith that we are already
justified by the finished work of Jesus Christ.
The gospel, or good news, is simply this: That Jesus Christ has borne all payment for our sins, and this payment will be applied to our sins if we exercise faith in Him. We must turn to Jesus Christ, turning away from our works and our pitiable attempts to justify ourselves through churches, traditions, and sacraments, and trust Jesus Christ only for our salvation. This is what it means to "repent ye, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15b). To repent is not to do penance! It is to change our minds and turn to Jesus Christ, believing that He has fully paid the price for our sins and that we may through simple faith receive this blessing.
Do not accept any substitutes, or "vicars," for Christ. Now that you understand what repentance is, do it! For "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3b).
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WAS PETER THE FIRST POPE?