'Replies from Roman Catholics'

Mike Martin - 4

17th February, 2003

(Continued from page 260)

Was Papal authority ever claimed by Peter?


Having read Rome's claims that Peter was the first bishop or pope in Rome - and that the later popes are his successors - we simply need to examine Peter's statements concerning his ministry.  Did he
just once claim to be a pope, or to have primacy over the other apostles?  Obviously we can simply read the two inspired epistles written by Peter's hand and safely and perfectly preserved in the New Testament.  This is how he states his position and gives clear instructions to others who are clearly in the identical position to perform their duties as he performs his:

'
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. ... The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:  Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock' (1 Peter 1v1; 5v1-3).

Peter refers to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ and as an elder (Greek: 
presbuteros) and makes absolutely no reference to the Papal system, to being pope (papa), or to any kind of 'sacrificing priesthood' of the Papal kind! He never claims to hold the highest place in the church and assumes no ecclesiastical superiority but, with profound humility, puts himself on a level with those whom he exhorts.  He exhorts the church to follow the example of Christ, not to be authoritarian, forbids the leaders to lord it over the people, or to work for money or to take money unjustly. He instructs willing and eager service by leaders - and that they are to make themselves examples for the people.

By contrast, Rome behaves extremely contrarily to these apostolic instructions.  The proud popes of history have never adopted such a role of humility!  As Rome attempted to hijack the Christian church, flooding the simplicity of its sacraments and spiritual power in pagan worldliness and extra-Biblical doctrines and rituals, the autocratic authority of the popes began to appear. As the Roman empire crumbled in the 4th Century the bishops of Rome stepped into Caesar's shoes, took his
pagan title of Pontifex Maximus (the supreme high priest of the pagan Roman religion), and sat down on Caesar's pagan throne encircled in the pagan emperor's garish trappings.  None of this has ever ended!

The title
Pontifex is defined in this way by The Standard International Encyclopedia:

'The title given by the ancient Romans to members of one of the two celebrated religious colleges. The chief of the order was called
Pontifex Maximus. The pontiffs had general control of the official religion, and their head was the highest religious authority in the state. ... Following Julius Caesar the emperor was the Pontifex Maximus. In the time of Theodosius [emperor, died 395 A.D.] the title became equivalent to Pope, now one of the titles of the head of the Roman Catholic Church.'

Peter, and all the apostles, refused to accept homage from men, such as on the occasion when Cornelius the Roman centurion fell down at his feet and would have worshipped him, but Peter protested quickly and said:  '
Stand up; I myself also am a man' (Acts 10v25, 26).  Yet the popes accept and demand such homage, so that the embarrassing spectacle of Roman Catholics, including their highest 'cardinals', prostrate themselves on the floor before a newly elected pope or when making ordination vows before him - and even kiss his foot.  Then there is  the blasphemous title of 'Holy Father' accepted by popes as their title as a matter of right.  Even cardinals, bishops, and priests set themselves apart from their congregations and 'Lord' it over the people - and also dare to claim this same title of 'Father'!

If Roman Catholics read the Bible carefully they would notice the obvious anomalies - such as the fact that Peter, supposed pope and 'supreme head of the church,' never made any kind of declaration of such matters in his general epistles.  Surely this is the obvious place where such authority would have been declared.  The long chain of Roman 'popes' have never been slow to make such claims for themselves, or to extend their authority as far as possible. 
But the true Peter of the Bible refers to himself only as an apostle (of which there were eleven others) and elder or presbyter, that is, simply as a minister of Christ.

Paul's attitude toward Peter?

What was Paul's attitude toward Peter?  Paul was called to be an apostle at a later time, after the church had been founded, yet Peter had nothing to do with that calling - as he surely would have had if he had been pope.  God clearly called and ordained Paul without consulting Peter, as He has always called and ordained his servants, whether as ministers or evangelists, without ever making any reference to the popes of Rome.  In terms of ministerial output, Paul exceeded the other apostles and had a deeper insight into the message of salvation and a larger revealed knowledge concerning the mysteries of life and death, especially in terms of the New Covenant and its relationship to the Law and Old Testament details.  Paul was inspired to write much more of the New Testament than Peter was called to pen.  Paul was called to write thirteen epistles containing 2,023 verses, while Peter's two epistles contain only 166 verses.  If we ascribe the Epistle to the Hebrews to Paul, as does the Roman Catholic Church (Confraternity Version, p. 397), he wrote an even larger proportion. Peter's epistles do not stand first among the epistles, but after those of Paul and, in fact, his second epistle was one of the last to be accepted by the church!  More miracles are recorded in Scripture as having been worked through Paul than through Peter and it would appear that he was used to establish more churches than Peter. Apart from the church at Rome which, on the available evidence was established by laymen, Paul was used by God to establish more prominent and permanent churches than was Peter.  The New Testament record even shows that Paul's influence in the church at Rome was much greater than that of Peter. Paul clearly mentions Peter more than once, but nowhere does he ever defer to Peter's authority, or acknowledge him as pope.

Anyone carefully examining the evidence finds that the relationship between Paul and Peter was contrary to the picture Rome tries to paint.  Paul founded the church at Corinth but, when some in the fellowship rebelled against his authority - even to the extent of favouring Peter - he did not give even an inch on his own authority. In fact he vigorously defended his authority, declaring, 'Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord?' (I Corinthians 9v1), and again, 'For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles' (2 Corinthians 12v11).  The translation in the Confraternity Version reads: 'In no way have I fallen short of the most eminent apostles.'  He declared that he has been 'entrusted with the gospel of the un-circumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision' (Galatians 2v7).  He clearly and emphatically put himself on a level with all the other apostles and Peter is never, ever, elevated above Paul or any other apostle!  All of these verses clearly reveal that the apostles never held any views compatible with the idea of anyone being 'a pope' - then or ever!

Even more damning for the Vatican's case is the clear evidence that
Paul publicly rebuked Peter.  At Antioch Peter sided with the 'false brethren' (v4) in their Jewish legalism and 'drew back and separated himself' from the Gentiles.  He even caused Barnabas to be misled and, subsequently, Paul administered a severe rebuke so that we read:

'
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? (Galatians 2v11-14).

Further, he then had to remind Peter of the seriousness of the error that he had participated in:

' ...
a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ ... because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified' (v16).

So, to the further embarrassment of those who claim Peter was their (un-Scriptural) 'Holy Father,' we find Paul giving him a 'dressing down' before them all and clearly accusing him of not walking uprightly in the truth of the Gospel.  How could he do this to an 'infallible pope'?!  Would any Roman Catholic, trying to be true to all the Papal dogma, really accept that Paul, or maybe a contemporary cardinal, could dare to rebuke and instruct a 'pope' with such language!  Just who was Paul that he should rebuke the 'Vicar of Christ' for un-Christian conduct?  If Peter had really been the superior apostle in the way that the papacy claims it would have been Paul's duty - and the duty of the other apostles - to recognize him as such and to follow these teachings and practices he had approved and participated in at Antioch.  The evidence shows that the deceiving pope's of history have taught whatever they desired and foisted their errors upon their adherents so that their history is a massive confusion of contradictory 'revelations' - again proving that there is no 'papal' succession! Obviously, Paul never regarded Peter as infallible in faith and morals, or recognized any supremacy on his part.

Attitude of the other apostles toward Peter?

Paul and the other apostles were totally unaware of any appointment making Peter head of the church.  They never acknowledge his authority - and Peter never attempts to exercise authority over them.  Revealingly, the only instance in which another man was chosen to succeed an apostle is recorded in Acts 1v15-26.  Here we read that the choice was made, not by Peter but by popular choice on the part of the brethren who numbered about one hundred and twenty - and by the casting of lots.  Also notice that, on another occasion, Peter, together with John, was sent by the other apostles to preach the Gospel in Samaria (Acts 8v14). Imagine the contemporary 'pope' being sent by his cardinals or bishops on a mission?  Contemporary 'popes' also seldom preach, but issue statements, and address select audiences which come to them.  But they do not go out and preach the Gospel as Peter and the other apostles did.  The 'popes' are clearly un-Biblical and, unsurprisingly, therefore fail to follow Biblical principles.

The evidence of the carefully recorded church council meeting in Jerusalem (
Acts 15) is another nail in the coffin of Papal claims, for it clearly reveals how the unity of the church was expressed in apostolic days - and how it utterly differs from the false machinations the 'popes' thought they could smuggle into the Christian church. We learn how disputes had arisen when certain men from Judaea came down to Antioch, in Syria, where Paul and Barnabas were working, and insisted that certain parts of the Jewish ritual must be observed.  If the present Roman Catholic papal hierarchy had been followed there would obviously have been absolutely no need for any council.  The church in Antioch would have written a letter to Peter, the supposed bishop of Rome, and he would have sent them an encyclical or 'papal bull' settling the matter.  Another fact is that, of all the churches, Antioch was the last that would have appealed to Jerusalem for, according to Roman Catholic legend, Peter was bishop in Antioch for seven years before transferring his see to Rome!  However, the facts show that no appeal was made to 'pope' Peter, but to a church council in Jerusalem.  And, damningly, James presided at that council, not Peter, and he announced the decision with the words:  'Wherefore my judgment is...' (v19)!  And we know James' judgment was accepted by the apostles and presbyters.  Although Peter was present, it was only after there had been 'much questioning' (v7) did he even so much as express an opinion and he never attempted to make any 'infallible papal' pronouncements, even though the subject under discussion was a vital matter of faith.  If there had ever been a place to begin teaching a 'doctrine of papal infallibility' it was here in Scripture and, particularly, at the council in Antioch!  Clearly it is not found here because the doctrine is palpably false.  The unity of the early church was clearly maintained by the decision of the ecumenical council which was presided over by James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, and not by any 'pope' Peter.  Furthermore, after that council Peter is never again mentioned in the book of Acts!

Another massive piece of evidence refuting the papal view of authority is the disciples dispute among themselves regarding which of them was to be 'the greatest.'  Jesus clearly rebuked them with the words:

'
If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all' (Mark 9v35).

We also have the evidence of the occasion when the mother of James and John came to Jesus with the request that her two sons should have the chief places in the kingdom, but He called the disciples to him and said:

'
Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you:  but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant:  even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many' (Matthew 20v25-28).

And again, on the night in which Christ was delivered up to die, they contended among themselves:

'
which of them was accounted to be greatest' (Luke 22v24).

In every instance Jesus taught them that they were not to seek to exercise lordship, but rather to strive to surpass each other in servant-hood! 
Notice that He never settled any dispute by telling them that Peter had some special position, or that he was the 'Prince of the Apostles'.  Even more obvious is the fact that the dispute would never have even begun if Peter had already been given the place of pre-eminence, as the Roman Church claims!

The Bible declares clearly that Christ alone is the Head of the church:

'
Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 3v11).

and the church is:

'
built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone' (Ephesians 2v20).

Paul also wrote that God:

'
gave him (Christ) to be head over all things to the church, which is his body' (Ephesians 1v22,23).
         
Besides the Lord Jesus Christ there can be no earthly foundation or head of the church.


Was Peter ever in Rome?

Roman Catholic tradition claims that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, his pontificate lasting twenty-five years, from 42 to 67 A. D. until he was martyred in Rome in 67 A. D. The Douay and Confraternity versions claim (without a shred of evidence in support) that he was in Rome before the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, and that he returned to Jerusalem for that council, after which he went to Antioch, and then returned to Rome. In the Confraternity Version we read:

'
After the resurrection the primacy was conferred upon him and immediately after the ascension he began to exercise it. After preaching in Jerusalem and Palestine he went to Rome, probably after his liberation from prison. Some years later he was in Jerusalem for the first church council, and shortly afterward at Antioch. In the year 67 he was martyred in Rome' (Introduction to the First Epistle of St. Peter).

Missing from these claims for Peter's alleged bishopric in Rome is the fact that the New Testament is completely silent about the matter!  Tellingly, the word Rome occurs only nine times in the Bible, and Peter is never once mentioned in connection with it.  Again, there is no allusion to Rome in either of his epistles while Paul's journey to that city is recorded in great detail (Acts 27 and 28). There is in fact no New Testament evidence, nor any historical proof of any kind, that Peter ever was in Rome and the whole papal claim rests on mere legend. The first twelve chapters of the book of Acts tell of Peter's ministry and travels in Palestine and Syria.  Obviously, if he had ever gone to Rome, the capital of the empire, it was important enough to be mentioned?  And, again, if Peter was really superior to Paul, why does he take such an obvious 'back-seat' to Paul who was even inspired to write that he was:

'the
least of the apostles not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God' (1 Corinthians 15v9

Another factor - not much is known about his later life, except that he travelled extensively, and that
on at least some of his missionary journeys he was accompanied by his wife - for Paul writes:

'
Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas' (I Corinthians 9v5).

The Confraternity Version here reads 'sister' instead of 'wife', but the Greek word is
gune, wife, not adeiphe, sister and this, of course, blows the Rome doctrine of celibacy out of the water completely - so the papacy has to doctor the evidence in their usual crass manner!

Nothing is known about the origins of Christianity in Rome, as acknowledged even by some
Papal Roman Catholic historians.  But we do know that it was already a flourishing church when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in 58 A. D. and may have been founded by some of those who were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and heard Peter's inspired sermon, resulting in some 3,000 being converted, for Luke says that in that audience were 'sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes' (Acts 2v10).  This is the evidence, but Papal Rome relies on   nothing but unfounded tradition to support the claim that Peter founded the church in Rome and that he was its bishop for 25 years.  The facts show that the apostles did not settle in one place, as did the diocesan bishops of much later date, so it is quite incorrect to speak of Rome as the 'See of Peter,' or to speak of the popes occupying 'the chair' of St. Peter.

The legend of Peter's twenty-five year episcopate in Rome originated in the apocryphal stories of the heretical Ebionite group who rejected much of the supernatural content of the New Testament, and the account is discredited both by its origin and internal inconsistencies. The first reference that might be given any credence at all is found in the writings of Eusebius, and that reference is doubted even by some Roman Catholic writers. Eusebius wrote in Greek about the year 310 A.D., and his work was translated by Jerome. A seventeenth century historian, William Cave (1637-1713), chaplain to King Charles II, of England, in his work,
The Lives of the Apostles, wrote:

'
It cannot be denied that in St. Jerome's translation it is expressly said that he (Peter) continued twenty-five years as bishop in that city:  but then it is as evident that this was his own addition, who probably set things down as the report went in his time, no such thing being found in the Greek copy of Eusebius.'

No wonder papal archaeologists have made exhaustive searches down through the centuries to try and find some inscription in the Catacombs and other ruins in ancient Rome that would indicate that Peter at least visited Rome. But, apart from attempts to link bones of uncertain origin to Peter, the evidence plainly does not exist.  L. H. Lehmann, who studied for the priesthood at the University for the Propagation of the Faith, in Rome, reports a lecture by a noted Roman archaeologist, Professor Marucchi, in which he said that no shred of evidence that Peter had ever been in the Eternal City had ever been unearthed, and of another archaeologist, Di Rossi, who declared that for forty years his greatest ambition had been to unearth some inscription in Rome which would verify the papal claim that the apostle Peter was actually in Rome, but that he was forced to admit that he had given up hope of success in his search. He even had the assurance of attractive rewards from the church if he succeeded.  Clearly, his findings verify the New Testament accounts concerning the origin of the Christian church in Rome, but remain absolutely silent regarding the claims of the bishops of Rome to be the successors of the apostle Peter (cf., The Soul of a Priest, p. 10).

Does Papal Rome teach the same Gospel that Peter taught?


If Peter's bones were found in Rome, and identified beyond question, would that prove hugely significant?  Why doesn't Rome show as much concern for the gospel it teaches - and the fact that it does not teach the same Gospel that Peter taught?  How surely the Papal delusion reminds us of Jesus' words: 

'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness' (
Matthew 23v27)

The pursuit of 'beautiful appearance' and 'dead men's bones' is more important to Rome than  teaching the Gospel that Peter taught - the evangelical message of salvation by grace through faith.

Another question concerns Rome's continued emphasis on Peter's residence there when such a factor would only cause Antioch to outrank Rome, for tradition asserts that Peter resided in Rome but
Galatians 2v11 clearly informs us that 'Cephas came to Antioch' where Paul 'resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned'!

Rome definitely would not want the world to know that, during the time of the apostles and for generations later, the Eastern cities and the Eastern church had the greatest influence, and the Roman church was comparatively insignificant.  Thus the first councils were held in Eastern cities and were composed almost totally of Eastern bishops. Four of the patriarchs were Eastern - from Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria.  Rome did not genuinely gain ascendancy over these groups until centuries later, after the breakup of the Roman empire - thus proving again the fallacy of the 'primacy' of Peter and Rome!  The church in Jerusalem, where our Lord Jesus lived, taught, and was crucified, where Christianity was first preached by Peter and the other apostles, and from where Peter's great Pentecostal sermon was delivered, initiating the glad tidings of salvation which spread throughout the world, obviously had a far greater claim to supremacy than Rome. Rome's false claim to be the only true church was rejected by the  longer established and initially more influential Eastern churches long before the Reformation.  It has long been known that Rome seeks to establish a 'throne' from Jerusalem - even today they continue to try and gain influence with the nations battling for control of that area, making it clear that they recognize the impotence of their present claims.

Another interesting and very significant, if not decisive, line of evidence in this respect is the fact that Paul was pre-eminently the apostle to the Gentiles, while Peter was pre-eminently the apostle to the Jews, this division of labour having been by divine appointment, for Paul writes (
Galatians 2v7-8) that he:

'
had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles ).'

Thus Paul's work was primarily among the Gentiles, while Peter's was primarily among the Jews. Peter ministered to the Jews who were in exile in Asia Minor, '
to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia' (1 Peter 1v1), and in his journeys he went as far east as Babylon, from which city his first epistle (and probably his second) was addressed to the Jewish Christians in Asia Minor - 'She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you' (1 Peter 5v13). As most of Paul's letters were addressed to churches he had evangelized, so Peter wrote to the Jewish brethren that he had evangelized, who were scattered through those provinces. While there is no Scriptural evidence at all that Peter went west to Rome, here is a plain statement of Scripture that he did go east to Babylon.  What good reason can Roman Catholics give for their refusal to accept Peter's words to that effect?

How does Rome try to evade this clear testimony and place Peter in Rome?  The Confraternity edition has an introductory note to
1 Peter which reads:  'The place of composition is given as 'Babylon' ... a cryptic designation of the city of Rome.'  Why would Rome accept this designation here when they have spent hundreds of years denying that the Church of Rome is the 'Whore of Babylon', a title given to her many years ago by orthodox Christian leaders in the groups Rome calls 'apostate' because they have seen through her deceptions and rightly recognise her abominations as described in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 17v5; 18v2)! 

The irony is that the Church of Rome is happy to believe that Babylon means Rome in
1 Peter because they can try and claim that Peter really was in Babylon (Rome!).  But they are actually embarrassingly inconsistent in their unwillingness to accept Babylon to mean Rome in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, which for the most part is written in figurative and symbolic language, while an epistle such as 1 Peter, which is written as a letter of instruction and accepted by theologians as an historical document, would clearly mean Babylon when Babylon is written!

To claim that Babylon was a common euphemism for Rome among Jewish writers seeking to avoid censorship or persecution leads onto other questions Papal theologians would wish to avoid!  For instance, when we read
1 Peter 5v13:

'She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.'

Can we state with certainty who or what is meant by '
She who is in Babylon, elect together with you'?  Some of the main interpretations are:  (1) The 'brotherhood' (2v17; 5v9) - in the Greek this abstract noun happens to be feminine. (2) Peter's wife - Papists would hate to consider this possibility! (3) Some locally prominent lady.

Peter alludes to the famous Babylon on the Euphrates, a part of that Eastern world where he lived and did his work, rather than Rome (with Babylon being utilized as a cryptic word, as Papal Rome now tries to argue).  Also note that it is highly unlikely that he would be referring to the military station by the same name on the Nile.  Evidence for this first position includes the following:  (1) There is no evidence that Rome was ever called Babylon until after the writing of the Book of Revelation in A.D. 90-96, many years after Peter's death, when Babylon
did become generally understood among Christians as referring to Rome (Revelation 16v19; 17v5; 18v2,10, 21). (2) Peter's method and manner of writing are not inspired to be apocalyptic. On the contrary, Peter's writings are consistent with the character described in Scripture - he is a man plain of speech, almost blunt, and does not interject mystical allusion into his personal and final salutation. (3) Babylon is no more cryptic than Pontus, Asia, or the other places mentioned when Peter says the elect in Babylon send greetings to the Jews of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. (4) Babylon, no longer a great world capital in the time of Peter, was still inhabited by a colony of people, mostly Jews, many of whom Peter befriended (his assigned ministry was to the Jews!) and won to Christ.  Note that the historian Josephus says that some 'gave Hyrcanus, the high priest, a habitation at Babylon, where there were Jews in great numbers' (Antiquities, Book XV, Christian. II, 2). (5) A study of the chronology of Peter's travels argues for Babylon to be the Babylon on the Euphrates. Such a study reveals these significant points:  (a) In A.D. 40, three years after Paul's conversion and subsequent travels into Arabia, Peter was still in Jerusalem. Around that time, he made his missionary journey through the western part of Judea to Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, and back to Jerusalem (Acts 9-11). (b) Imprisoned under Herod Agrippa I, he was miraculously delivered by the angel of the Lord (Acts 12). Peter was probably still in the vicinity of Palestine when Herod Agrippa I died (Acts 12v17, 20-23). The date, according to Josephus, was the fourth year of the reign of Claudius, ca. A.D. 45.  In A.D. 54, soon after Paul visited Peter again in Jerusalem (Galatians 2), Peter returned the visit by going to Antioch where Paul was working and where the famous confrontation between the two occurred (Galatians 2v11-14). (c) From A.D. 54 to ca. A.D. 60, Peter apparently made an extensive missionary journey (or journeys) throughout the Roman provinces of the East, taking his wife with him (1 Corinthians 9v5). During their travels in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, Peter and his wife remained in the Orient, never entering Rome.

What does Paul's Epistle to the Romans reveal?


The strongest reason of all for believing that Peter was never in Rome is found in Paul's epistle to the Romans. According to Roman Church tradition, Peter reigned as pope in Rome for 25 years, from 42 to 67 A. D. It is generally agreed that Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome was written in the year 58 A. D., at the very height of Peter's alleged episcopacy there. He did not address his letter to Peter, as he should have done if Peter was in Rome and the head of all the churches, but to the saints in the church in Rome. How strange for a missionary to write to a church and not even mention the pastor! That would be an inexcusable affront. What would we think of a minister today who would dare to write to a congregation in a distant city and, without mentioning their pastor, tell them that he was anxious to go there that he might have some fruit among them even as he has had in his own community (1v13), that he was anxious to instruct and strengthen them, and that he was anxious to preach the Gospel there where it had not been preached before? How would their pastor ('The Pope') feel to hear that he did not preach the gospel - and that such greetings had been sent to 27 of his most prominent members who were mentioned by name in the epistle (Chapter 16)? Would he stand for such ministerial ethics? And if he really was the most prominent minister in the land, as the alleged 'bishop of Rome', such an affront would be all the more inexcusable. This point alone ought to open the eyes of the most obdurate person blinded by the traditions of the Roman Church.

If Peter had been working in the church in Rome for some 16 years, why did Paul write to the people of the church in these words:  '
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established'? (1v11). Was that not a gratuitous insult to Peter and presumptuous of Paul to go over the head of the pope? And if Peter was there and had been there for 16 years, why was it necessary for Paul to go at all, especially since in his letter he says that he does not build on another's foundation:  'making it my aim so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation'? (15v20). This indicates clearly that Peter was not then in Rome, and that he had not been there, and Paul was actually writing this letter because no apostle had yet been in Rome to clarify the Gospel to them and to establish them in the faith. At the conclusion of this letter Paul sends greetings to the 27 people mentioned above, including some women; also to several groups. But, glaringly, he does not mention Peter in any capacity.

Had Peter been in Rome prior to, or at the time when Paul arrived there as a prisoner in 61 A. D., Paul could not have failed to have mentioned him, for in the epistles written from there during his imprisonment - Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon - he gives quite a complete list of his fellow-workers in Rome, and Peter's name is not among them. He spent two whole years there as a prisoner, and received all who came to visit him (Acts 28v30:  'And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him ...'), and would obviously have mentioned the great 'Pope' if he had even been there. Nor does he mention Peter in his second epistle to Timothy, which was written from Rome during his second imprisonment, in 67 A.D., the year that Peter is alleged to have suffered martyrdom in Rome, and shortly before his own death (2 Timothy 4v6-8). He says that all his friends have forsaken him, and that only Luke is with him (4v10-11). Where was Peter? If Peter was in Rome when Paul was there as a prisoner, he surely lacked Christian courtesy since he never called to offer aid!

All of this makes it quite certain that Peter never was in Rome at all.
Not one of the early church fathers gives any support to the belief that Peter was a bishop in Rome until Jerome in the fifth century and the only way he could have claimed this honestly would have been through written records from his predecessors. Du Pin, another Roman Papal Roman Catholic historian, acknowledges that 'the primacy of Peter is not recorded by the early Christian writers, Justin Martyr (139), Irenaeus (178), Clement of Alexandria (190), or others of the most ancient fathers.' The Roman Church thus builds her papal system, not on New Testament teaching, nor upon the facts of history, but only on unfounded traditions.

The chronological table for Peter's work is as follows:  Most Bible students agree that Paul's conversion occurred in the year 37 A.D. After that he went to Arabia (Galatians 1v17), and after three years went up to Jerusalem where he remained with Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1v18). That brings us to the year 40 A.D. Fourteen years later he again went to Jerusalem (Galatians 2v1), where he attended the Jerusalem council described in Acts 15, in which Peter also participated (v6). This conference dealt primarily with the problems which arose in connection with the presentation of the Gospel in Jewish and Gentile communities. Paul and Barnabas presented their case, and were authorized by the council to continue their ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 15v22-29); and this was quite clearly the occasion on which Paul was assigned to work primarily among the Gentiles while Peter was assigned to work primarily among the Jews (Galatians 2v7-8), since this same Jerusalem council is spoken of in the immediate context (Galatians 2v1-10). So this brings us to the year 54 A.D., and Peter is still in Syria, 12 years after the time that the Roman tradition says that he began his reign in Rome.

Sometime after the Jerusalem council Peter also came to Antioch, on which occasion it was necessary for Paul to reprimand him because of his conformity to Judaistic rituals (Galatians 2v11-21). And the same Roman tradition which says that Peter reigned in Rome also says that he governed the church in Antioch for 7 years before going to Rome. Hence we reach the year 61 A.D., with Peter still in Syria!

Another question that Rome hopes no one asks is:  how could Peter have gone to Rome, which was the very centre of the Gentile world? Would he defy the decision reached by all the apostles and brethren from the various churches who met in the famous first Christian council in Jerusalem? Clearly the Scriptural evidence is that Peter accepted that decision, and that his work was primarily among the Jews of the dispersion, first in Asia Minor, and later as far east as Babylon - that in fact his work took him in the opposite direction from that which Roman tradition assigns to him!

Another factor:  even if Peter had been the first bishop of Rome, that would not mean that the bishops who followed him would have had any of the special powers that he had as an apostle. The apostles had the power to work miracles and to write inspired Scripture.  Even if Peter had been granted special powers above those of the other apostles, and we have no evidence that he did, there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that those powers could have been transmitted to his successors.  In his second epistle he makes a reference to his approaching death (1v14), and surely that would have been the appropriate place to have said who his successor should be and what the method of choosing future bishops should be. But he gives no indication that he even thought of such things. Peter as an apostle had qualifications and gifts which the popes do not have and dare not claim. At a future date we will look at a later embarrassing attempt by a 'pope' to use the apostolic gifts that he thought he possessed! The facts clearly show that, with the passing of the apostles, their place as guides to the church was not taken by an infallible 'pope' but by the inspired and infallible Scriptures making up the New Testament which God had ensured were written and preserved by that time and through which God would speak to the church from that time until the end of the age.

Humble, spiritually-minded, Peter would not acknowledge as his successor the proud pontiff of Rome who appears in elaborate, heavily-jewelled crowns, fabulously expensive clothing, carried on the shoulders of the people, who stands before the high altar of worship surrounded by a Swiss military guard, and who receives such servile obedience from the people that he is in effect, if not in reality, worshipped by them.  Any dedicated Christian minister who teaches solely and accurately from the true Scriptures and serves his people faithfully and humbly is the true successor of Peter- and never the 'pope'!

Conclusion

Peter was a true disciple of Christ - imperfect, courageous and a faithful martyr of the early Christian church.  But we must be faithful to the Word of God (ref. Galatians 1v6-9; 2 Timothy 3v16 etc.) and expose the ridiculous claims that the Roman Church makes for its popes and hierarchy. Peter was never the 'Prince of the Apostles' but a faithful apostle who, as with the associated disciples, both men and women, turned from Judaism and became Christians -  followers of Christ. The cult of Roman Catholicism did not develop until centuries later and is another corruption of the true faith described in the Bible.

The doctrine of the primacy of Peter is just one of many errors that the Church of Rome has added to Christianity.  The whole papal system stands or falls on this false doctrine - but there is no evidence in the New Testament or reliable historical records to support the claim that Peter was 'a pope' in Rome, or that he was ever in Rome!

The Developing Dogma of the Papacy

Contrary to the claims of Rome, the papal office did not originate with Peter and it was centuries after his death that the Bishop of Rome attempted to dominate the rest of the Church, and many centuries more passed before this claimed to primacy was generally accepted by the ignorant. Leo the Great's letter to Flavian in 449 A.D. was not accepted until the Council of Chalcedon had approved it:  '[Pope] Leo [I] himself acknowledged that his treatise could not become a rule of faith till it was confirmed by the bishops.'' There were eight councils of the Church before the schism in 1054 A.D. split it into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, when the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other.  These eight councils were not called by the Bishop of Rome, but by the emperor, who also put his stamp of approval upon their decrees.  Regarding 'papal authority', a Papal Roman Catholic historian reminds us:

Pope Pelagius (556-60) talks of heretics separating themselves from the Apostolic Sees, that is, Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria plus Constantinople. In all the early writings of the hierarchy there is no mention of a special role for the Bishop of Rome, nor yet the special name of 'Pope.'... Of the eighty or so heresies in the first six centuries, not one refers to the authority of the Bishop of Rome, not one is settled by the Bishop of Rome.... No one attacks the [supreme] authority of the Roman pontiff, because no one has heard of it.

The Easter Synod of 680 A.D. was called by Pope Agatha and was the first ecclesiastical body that asserted the primacy of Rome over the rest of the Church.  But this was not an ecumenical council of the entire Church, so its decision was not generally accepted, as
Papal Roman Catholic historian Peter de Rosa points out:

... not one of the early Fathers of the church saw in the Bible any reference to papal jurisdiction over the church. On the contrary, they take it for granted that bishops, especially metropolitans, have the full right to govern and administer their own territory without interference from anyone. The Eastern church never accepted papal supremacy; Rome's attempt to impose it led to the schism. ... one looks in vain in the first millennium for a single doctrine or piece of legislation imposed by Rome alone on the rest of the church. The only general laws came out of Councils such as Nicaea. In any case, how could the Bishop of Rome have exercised universal jurisdiction in those early centuries when there was no [Roman] Curia, when other bishops brooked no interference in their dioceses from anyone, when Rome issued no dispensations and demanded no tribute or taxation, when all bishops, not just the Bishop of Rome, had the power to bind and loose, when no bishop or church or individual was censured by Rome?

Further, for centuries, the Bishop of Rome was chosen by the local citizens - clergy and laity. If he had jurisdiction over the universal church, would not the rest of the world want a say in his appointment? When he was believed to have
[universal] supremacy the rest of the church did demand a say in his election. This came about only in the Middle Ages.'

(Continued on page 262)

Full Menu

Topics discussed on pages responding to Roman Catholics Section 1-7:

What does the history of the Bible reveal?

Does the Bible speak against the Catholic Church?

Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?

Catholics decided on the Old Testament Canon?

Catholic bishops decided canonicity of the New Testament?

When was the New Testament Canon Established?

The Sufficiency of Scripture

The Central Issue - A Clear Choice

What is the truth about Rome's treatment of the Bible?

The true history of Bible translation and circulation?

Infallible Popes?

Did Peter ever claim to be 'The Rock'?

'Binding and Loosing'

Was Papal authority ever claimed by Peter?

Paul's attitude toward Peter?

Attitude of the other apostles toward Peter?

Was Peter ever in Rome?

Does Papal Rome teach the same Gospel that Peter taught?

What does Paul's Epistle to the Romans reveal?

The Developing Dogma of the Papacy

Poverty of Christ to Regal Pontiff!

Papal Historical Revisionism hides the truth

Genuine Apostolic Succession?

How many 'popes' are missing?

Criminal behaviour from 'popes'?

'Popes' were chosen by prostitutes and 'Madams'?

'Popes' battled murderously for the throne?

Roman Pontiffs were - and are - heretics!

'Pope' John XXII exposed the scam

The Abomination of Papal Indulgences!

The Heretical Heritage

Popes who bowed to Emperors?

When is a 'Pope' not a 'Pope' but an 'anti-pope'?

Rome attempts to crush all truth?

Persecute heretics - i.e. anyone who dares oppose 'Popes'!

Papal Pretensions to Omnipotence

Denying History to Build a Lie

No Discussion Allowed

Licensing Dictatorial Powers

No Historical Support

A Tragic Farce

Results of Papal Tyranny?

Papal Pomp v Christ-like behaviour?

Did Luther teach that each individual can interpret Scripture as he 'sees fit'?

Luther and 'The Mass and the Ordination of Priests'?

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