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Roman Catholicism

By Loraine Boettner

[With added Emphasis and brackets]











1. The Roman Catholic Position

T HE CONTROVERSIAL passage in regard to Peter’s place in the Church is Matt. 16:13-19, which reads as follows:

“Now Jesus, having come into the district of Caesarea Philippi, began to ask his disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say the Son of Man is?’ But they said, ‘Some say, John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Confraternity Version).

To this passage, the Confraternity Version adds the following interpretation:

“The rock was Peter...The gates of hell: hostile, evil powers. Their aggressive force will struggle in vain against the Church. She shall never be overcome; she is indefectible. And since she has the office of teacher (cf. 28, 16-20), and since she would be overcome if error prevailed, she is infallible.

“Keys: a symbol of authority. Peter has the power to admit into the Church and to exclude therefrom. Nor is he merely the porter; he has complete power within the Church. ‘To bind and to loose’ seems to have been used by the Jews in the sense of to forbid or to permit; but the present context requires a more comprehensive meaning. In heaven, God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth in the name of Christ” (pp. 36-37).

And the late Cardinal Gibbons, a former archbishop of Baltimore and one of the most representative American Roman Catholics, in his widely read book, Faith of our Fathers, set forth the position of his church in these words:

“The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of His whole church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Consequently, to be true followers of Christ, all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor” (p. 95).

The whole structure of the Roman Church is built on the assumption that in Matt. 16:13-19, Christ appointed Peter the first pope and so established the papacy. Disprove the primacy of Peter, and the foundation of the papacy is destroyed. Destroy the papacy, and the whole Roman hierarchy topples with it. Their system of priesthood depends absolutely upon their claim that Peter was the first pope at Rome, and that they are his successors. We propose to show that Matt. 16:13-19 does not teach that Christ appointed Peter a pope; that the New Testament records, particularly Peter’s own writings, show that he never claimed authority over the other apostles or over the church; and that [high] authority was never accorded to him.

2. The “Rock”

“AND I SAY to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, Confraternity Version).

Romanists quote this verse with relish, and add their own interpretation to establish their claim for papal authority. But in Greek, the word Peter is Petros, a person, masculine, while the word “rock,” petra, is feminine and refers not to a person but to the DECLARATION OF CHRIST’S DEITY THAT PETER HAD JUST UTTERED—“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Using Peter’s name and making, as it were, a play upon words, Jesus said to Peter, “You are Petros, and upon this petra I will build my church.” The truth that Peter had just confessed was the foundation upon which Christ would build His church. He meant that Peter had seen the basic, essential truth concerning His person, the essential truth upon which the church would be founded, and that nothing would be able to overthrow that truth, not even all the forces of evil that might be arrayed against it. Peter was the first among the disciples to see our Lord as the Christ of God. Christ commended him for that spiritual insight, and said that His church would be founded upon that fact. And that, of course, was a far different thing from founding the church on Peter.

Had Christ intended to say that the Church would be founded on Peter, it would have been ridiculous for Him to have shifted to the feminine form of the word in the middle of the statement, saying, if we may translate literally and somewhat whimsically, “And I say unto thee, that thou art Mr. Rock, and upon this, the Miss Rock, I will build my church.” Clearly, it was upon the truth that Peter had expressed, the deity of Christ, and not upon weak, vacillating Peter, that the church would be founded. The Greek “petros” is commonly used of a small, movable stone, a mere pebble, as it were. But “petra” means an immovable foundation, in this instance, the basic truth that Peter had just confessed, the deity of Christ. And in fact, that is the point of conflict in the churches today between evangelicals on the one hand, and modernists or liberals on the other—whether the church is founded on a truly divine Christ—as revealed in a fully trustworthy Bible, or whether it is essentially a social service and moral welfare organization which recognizes Christ as an example, an outstandingly great and good man, but denies or ignores His deity.

The Bible tells us plainly, not that the church is built upon Peter, but that it is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). And again, “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). Without that foundation, the true Christian church could not exist.

If Matt. 16:18 had been intended to teach that the church is founded on Peter, it would have read something like this: “Thou art Peter, and upon you I will build my church;” or, “Thou art Peter, and upon you, the rock, I will build my church.” But that is not what Christ said. He made two completely distinct statements. He said, “Thou art Peter,” and, “Upon this rock (CHANGE OF GENDER, INDICATING CHANGE OF SUBJECT), I will build my church.”

The gates of hell were not to prevail against the church. But the gates of hell did prevail against Peter shortly afterward, as recorded in this same chapter, when he attempted to deny that Christ would be crucified, and almost immediately afterward, in the presence of the other disciples, received the stinging rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art a stumbling block unto me, for thou mindest not the things of God but the things of men” (v. 23)—surely strong words to use against one who had just been appointed pope!

Later, we read that Peter slept in Gethsemane, during Christ’s agony. His rash act in cutting off the servant’s ear drew Christ’s rebuke. He boasted that he was ready to die for his Master, but shortly afterward shamefully denied with oaths and curses that he even knew Him. And even after Pentecost, Peter still was subject to such serious error that his hypocrisy had to be rebuked by Paul, who says: “But when Cephas came to Antioch [at which time he was in full possession of his papal powers, according to Romanist doctrine], I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11). And yet Romanists allege that their pope, as Peter’s successor, is infallible in matters of faith and morals!

The Gospel written by Mark, who is described in early Christian literature as Peter’s close companion and understudy, does not even record the remark about the “rock” in reporting Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-30). No, Christ did not build His church upon a weak, sinful man. Rather, the essential deity of Christ, which was so forcefully set forth in Peter’s confession, was the foundation stone, the starting point, on which the church would be built.

That no superior standing was conferred upon Peter is clear from the later disputes among the disciples concerning who should be greatest among them. Had such rank already been given, Christ would simply have referred to His grant of power to Peter. Instead, we read:

“And they came to Capernaum: and when he was in the house he asked them, What were ye reasoning on the way? But they held their Peace: for they had disputed one with another on the way, who was the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:33-35).

And again:

“And there came near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory. And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John. And Jesus called them unto him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:35-44).

It is interesting to notice that some of the church fathers, Augustine and Jerome among them, gave the Protestant explanation of this verse, understanding the “rock” to mean not Peter, but CHRIST. Others, of course, gave the papal interpretation. But this shows that there was no “unanimous consent of the fathers,” as the Roman Church claims, on this subject.

Dr. Harris says concerning the reference to the “rock”:

“Mark’s Gospel is connected with Peter by all early Christian tradition, and it does not even include this word of Jesus to Peter. Likewise, in the Epistles of Peter, there is no such claim. In 1st Peter 2:6-8, Christ is called a rock and a chief cornerstone. But Peter here claims nothing for himself. Indeed, he is explicit in calling all believers living stones built up [into] a spiritual house with Christ as the head of the corner.

“Christ is repeatedly called a Rock. The background for this is that around thirty-four times in the Old Testament, God is called a Rock, or the Rock of Israel. It was a designation of God. In the Messianic passages, Isa. 8:14; Isa. 28:16; and Psa. 118:22, Christ is called a Rock or Stone upon which we should believe. These passages are quoted in the New Testament, and for that reason, Christ is called a Rock several times. It designates Him as divine. For that reason, every Jew, knowing the Old Testament, would refuse the designation to Peter or to anyone except insofar as we are children of Christ. He is the Rock. We are living stones built upon Him. Eph. 2:20 says this plainly. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Paul says of the Rock from which the Israelites drank that it typified Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). In the New Testament, there are twelve foundations and on them are the names of the twelve apostles; none of them are made pre-eminent” (The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, January, 1959.)

And Dr. Henry M. Woods says:

“IF CHRIST HAD meant that Peter was to be the foundation, the natural form of statement would have been, ‘Thou art Peter, and on thee I will build my church’; but He does not say this, because Peter was not to be the rock on which the church was built. Note also that in the expression ‘on this rock,’ our Lord purposely uses a different Greek word, Petra, from that used for Peter, Petros. He did this to show that, not Peter, but the great truth which had just been revealed to him, viz., that our Lord was ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ was to be the church’s foundation. Built on the Christ, the everlasting Saviour, the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church. But built on the well-meaning but sinful Peter, the gates of hell would surely prevail; for a little later, our Lord had to severely rebuke Peter, calling him ‘Satan’” (Our Priceless Heritage, p. 40).

3. The “Keys”

“AND I WILL GIVE thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19, Confraternity Version).

Admittedly, this is a difficult verse to interpret, and numerous explanations have been given. It is important to notice, however, that the authority to bind and to loose was not given exclusively to Peter. In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, the same power is given to all of the disciples. There we read:

“At that hour the disciples came to Jesus...I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven” (vv. 1,18, Confraternity Version).

Consequently, Matt. 16:19 does not prove any superiority on Peter’s part. Even the scribes and Pharisees had this same power, for Jesus said to them: “But woe upon you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering in to enter” (Matt. 23:13). And on another occasion, He said: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (Matt. 23:2-4).

Here, the expression clearly means that the scribes and Pharisees, in that the Word of God was in their hands, thereby had the power in declaring that Word to the people—to open the kingdom of heaven to them—and in withholding that Word, they shut the kingdom of heaven against people. That was Moses’ function in giving the law. It was, there fore, a declaratory power, the authority to announce the terms on which God would grant salvation, not an absolute power to admit or to exclude from the kingdom of heaven. Only God can do that, and He never delegates that authority to men.

And in Luke 11:52, Jesus says: “Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” Here, the key of the knowledge of the way of salvation, by which entrance into the kingdom of heaven is obtained, was in the hands of the Pharisees in that they had the law of Moses in their possession, and were therefore the custodians of the Word of God. In that sense, they possessed the key to the kingdom. They took away that key in that they failed to proclaim the Word of God to the people. They were not entering into the kingdom of heaven themselves, and they were hindering those who wanted to enter.

Furthermore, we notice that in the words spoken to Peter, it was “things,” not “persons,” that were to be bound or loosed—“whatsoever,” not “whomsoever”—things such as the ceremonial laws and customs of the Old Testament dispensation were to be done away with, and new rituals and practices of the Gospel age were to be established.

Thus, the “keys” symbolize the authority to open, in this instance, to open the kingdom of heaven to men THROUGH THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL. What the disciples were commissioned to do, given the privilege of doing, was the opposite of that which the scribes and Pharisees were doing; that is, they were to facilitate the entrance of the people into the kingdom of heaven.

There was, of course, no physical seat which had been used by Moses and which now was being used by the scribes and Pharisees. But the scribes and Pharisees, who were in possession of the law of Moses, were giving precepts which in themselves were authoritative and good and which therefore were to be obeyed; but since they did not live up to those precepts, the people were not to follow their example.

It is clear that the keys were symbolical of authority, which here is specified as the power of binding and loosing; and it is also clear that the consequences of what the disciples did in this regard would go far beyond earth and would have their permanent results in heaven. They were in a real sense, building for eternity. In referring to the keys of the kingdom, Jesus was continuing the figure in which He had been comparing the kingdom of heaven to a house which He was about to build. It would be built upon a solid rock (Matt. 7:24). Entrance into that house was through the door of faith. This door was to be opened, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. And Peter, who had been the first of the disciples to comprehend the person of Christ in His true deity and to confess that deity before the other disciples, was commissioned to be the first to open that door.

In this sense, the keys were first given to him. To him was given the distinction and high honor among the apostles of being the first to open the door of faith to the Jewish world, which he did on the day of Pentecost when through his sermon some three thousand Jews were converted (Acts 2:14-42), and a short time later the distinction and high honor of opening the door of faith to the Gentile world, which he did in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48). And while the keys were in this respect first given to Peter, they were soon afterward also given to the other disciples as they too proclaimed the Gospel both to Jews and Gentiles. But while Peter was given the distinction and honor of being the first to open the kingdom to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles, he did not claim nor assume any other authority, and was in all other respects on precisely the same footing as were the other apostles.

Possession of the keys, therefore, did not mean that Peter had sovereignty within his own person, the authority to determine who should be admitted to heaven and who should be excluded—as the Roman Church now attempts to confer that authority on the pope and priests. Ultimate authority is in the hands of Christ alone—it is He “that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth” (Rev. 3:7). But it did mean that Peter, and later the other apostles, being in possession of the Gospel message, truly did open the door and present the opportunity to enter in as they proclaimed the message before the people. This same privilege of opening the door, or of closing the door of salvation to others is given to every Christian; for the command that Christ gave His church was to go and make disciples of all the nations. Thus, “the power of the keys” is a declarative power only.

IT CAN ALMOST BE SAID THAT THE ROMAN CATHOLICS BUILD THEIR CHURCH UPON THESE TWO VERSES WHICH SPEAK OF THE “ROCK” AND THE “KEYS.” They say that the power given to Peter was absolute, and that it was transferred by him to his successors, although they have to admit that there is not one verse in Scripture which teaches such a transfer. Under this “power of the keys,” the Roman Church claims that “In heaven God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth” (footnote, Confraternity Version, p. 37).

But, it is interesting to see how Peter himself understood this grant of power. In his exercise of the power of the keys he says: “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). And, at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius, he again gave a universal Gospel invitation: “To him [Christ] bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). So, in the preaching of Peter, as elsewhere in the New Testament, salvation is set forth as based on faith in Christ, and nowhere is obedience to Peter, or to the pope, or to any other man even hinted at.

Rome terribly abuses this “power of the keys” to insure obedience to her commands on the part of her church members and to instill in them a sense of fear and of constant dependence on the church for their salvation. This sense of fear and dependence, with constant references to “Mother Church,” goes far to explain the power that the Roman Church has over her members, even cowing them to the extent that they are afraid to read or to listen to anything contrary to what their church teaches. And since that teaching is drilled into them from childhood, the truly formidable power that the Roman Church exercises over the laity can be easily understood.

4. Papal Authority Not Claimed by Peter

THE ROMAN CHURCH claims that Peter was the first bishop or pope in Rome, and that the later popes are his successors. But, the best proof of a man’s position and authority is his own testimony. Does Peter claim to be a pope, or to have primacy over the other apostles? Fortunately, he wrote two epistles or letters which are found in the New Testament. There he gives his position and certain instructions as to how others in the same position are to perform their duties. We read:

“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; not yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock” (1Pe. 1:1; 1Pe. 5:1-3).

Here, Peter refers to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder (the word in the Greek is presbuteros), which of course has nothing to do with a sacrificing priesthood. He does not claim the highest place in the church as some would expect him to do, or as some would claim for him. He assumes no ecclesiastical superiority, but with profound humility puts himself on a level with those whom he exhorts. He makes it clear that the church must be democratic, not authoritarian. He forbids the leaders to lord it over the people, to work for money, or to take money unjustly. He says that they are to serve the people willingly, even eagerly, and that by their general lives they are to make themselves examples for the people.

But the fact is that the Church of Rome acts directly contrary to these instructions. Can anyone imagine the proud popes of later times adopting such a role of humility? It was several centuries later, when the church had lost much of its original simplicity and spiritual power, and had been submerged in a flood of worldliness, that the autocratic authority of the popes began to appear. After the fourth century, when the Roman empire had fallen, 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, sat down on Caesar’s throne, and wrapped themselves in Caesar’s gaudy trappings. And that role they have continued ever since.

In regard to the title Pontifex, the Standard International Encyclopedia says this was “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 A.D. 395], the title became equivalent to Pope, now one of the titles of the head of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Peter refused to accept homage from men—as when Cornelius the Roman centurion fell down at his feet and would have worshipped him, Peter protested quickly and said, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (Acts 10:25-26). Yet the popes accept the blasphemous title of “Holy Father” as theirs as a matter of right. AND HOW THE CARDINALS, BISHOPS, AND PRIESTS DO LIKE TO SET THEMSELVES APART FROM THE CONGREGATIONS AND TO LORD IT OVER THE PEOPLE!

Surely, if Peter had been a pope, “the supreme head of the church,” he would have declared that fact in his general epistles, for that was the place of all others to have asserted his authority. The popes have never been slow to make such claims for themselves, or to extend their authority as far as possible. But instead, Peter refers to himself only as an apostle (of which there were eleven others), and as an elder or presbyter, that is, simply as a minister of Christ.

5. Paul’s Attitude toward Peter

IT IS VERY INTERESTING to notice Paul’s attitude toward Peter. Paul was called to be an apostle at a later time, after church had been launched. Yet, Peter had nothing to do with that choice, as he surely would have had, if he had been pope. Instead, God called and ordained Paul without consulting Peter, as He has called and ordained many thousands of ministers and evangelists since then without reference to the popes of Rome. Paul was easily the greatest of the apostles, with a deeper insight into the way of salvation and a larger revealed knowledge concerning the mysteries of life and death. He wrote much more of the New Testament than did Peter. His thirteen epistles contain 2,023 verses, while Peter’s two epistles contain only 166 verses. And 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. Paul worked more recorded miracles than did Peter, and he seems to have established more churches than did Peter. Apart from the church at Rome, which we believe was established by laymen, Paul established more prominent and more permanent churches than did Peter. And, so far as the New Testament record goes, Paul’s influence in the church at Rome was much greater than was that of Peter. Paul mentions Peter more than once, but nowhere does he defer to Peter’s authority, or acknowledge him as pope.

Indeed, quite the contrary is the case. Paul had founded the church at Corinth, but when some there rebelled against his authority, even to the extent of favoring Peter, he does not give even an inch on his own authority. Instead, he vigorously defends his authority, declaring, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1), and again, “For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles” (2 Cor. 12:11), or, as translated in the Confraternity Version, “In no way have I fallen short of the most eminent apostles.” He declares that he has been “intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7). He, therefore, put himself on a level with all the other apostles. Certainly, those ideas were incompatible with any idea of a pope in Paul’s day.

But beyond all that, on one occasion, Paul publicly rebuked Peter. When Peter at Antioch sided with the “false brethren” (v. 4) in their Jewish legalism and “drew back and separated himself” from the Gentiles and was even the cause of Barnabas being misled, Paul administered a severe rebuke. 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?” (Gal. 2:11-14).

He then impressed upon Peter some good, sound, evangelical theology, declaring that:

“...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” (v. 16).

In other words, Paul gave the “Holy Father” a “dressing down” before them all, accusing him of not walking uprightly in the truth of the Gospel. SURELY, THAT WAS NO WAY TO TALK TO A POPE! Imagine anyone today, even a cardinal, taking it upon himself to rebuke and instruct a real pope with such language! Just who was Paul that he should rebuke the Vicar of Christ for unchristian conduct? If Peter was the chief, it was Paul’s duty and the duty of the other apostles to recognize him as such and to teach only what he approved. Obviously, Paul did not regard Peter as infallible in faith and morals, or recognize any supremacy on his part.

6. Attitude of the Other Apostles toward Peter

THE OTHER APOSTLES, AS WELL AS PAUL SEEM TOTALLY UNAWARE OF ANY APPOINTMENT THAT MADE PETER THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. NOWHERE DO THEY ACKNOWLEDGE HIS AUTHORITY. And nowhere does he attempt to exercise authority over them. The only instance in which another man was chosen to succeed an apostle is recorded in Acts 1:15-26, and there, the choice was made not by Peter but by popular choice on the part the brethren who numbered about one hundred and twenty, and by the casting of lots.

On another occasion, Peter together with John was sent by the apostles to preach the Gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:14). Imagine the pope today being sent by the cardinals or bishops on any such mission. It is well known that today the popes seldom, if ever, preach. They do issue statements, and they address select audiences which come to them, but they do not go out and preach the Gospel—as did Peter and the other apostles.

The important church council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) reveals quite clearly how the unity of the church was expressed in apostolic days. Differences 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. Had the present Roman Catholic theory of the papacy been followed, there would have been no need at all for a council. The church in Antioch would have written a letter to Peter, the bishop of Rome, and he would have sent them an encyclical or bull settling the matter. And of all the churches, the one at Antioch was the last that should have appealed to Jerusalem. For, according to Roman Catholic legend Peter was bishop in Antioch for seven years before transferring his see to Rome! But the appeal was made, not to Peter, but to a church council in Jerusalem. At that council, not Peter, but James, presided and announced the decision with the words, “Wherefore my judgment is...” (v. 19). And his judgment was accepted by the apostles and presbyters. Peter was present, but only after there had been “much questioning” (v. 7) did he even so much as express an opinion. He did not attempt to make any infallible pronouncements although the subject under discussion was a vital matter of faith. In any event, it is clear that the unity of the early church was maintained not by the voice of Peter, but by the decision of the ecumenical council which was presided over by James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Furthermore, after that council, Peter is never again mentioned in the book of Acts.

It is an old human failing for people to want to exercise authority over their fellow men. We are told that the disciples disputed among themselves which was to be accounted the greatest. Jesus rebuked them with the words: “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). On another occasion, 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” (Matt. 20:25-28). And even on the night in which Christ was delivered up to die, they contended among themselves “which of them was accounted to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). In each instance, Jesus taught them that they were not to seek to exercise lordship, but rather to excel in service. But in no instance did He settle the dispute by reminding them that Peter was the Prince of the Apostles. In fact, they could not have argued that question at all if Peter had already been given the place of preeminence—as the Roman Church holds.

Christ alone is the Head of the church. “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). The church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Paul says that God “gave him [Christ] to be head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). Besides Him, there can be no earthly foundation or head of the church. Only a monstrosity can have two heads for one body...


LET IT BE UNDERSTOOD that we do not seek to minimize or downgrade, but only to expose the preposterous claims that the Roman Church makes for its popes and hierarchy. PETER WAS A PRINCE OF GOD, BUT HE WAS NOT THE PRINCE OF THE APOSTLES. He, together with the other apostles, Mary, and the early Christians, turned from the religion in which they were born, Judaism, and became simple Christians, followers of Christ. Not one of them was a Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism did not develop until centuries later.

The doctrine of the primacy of Peter is just one more of the many ERRORS that the Church of Rome has added to the Christian religion. With the exposure of that fallacy, the foundation of the Roman Church is swept away. The whole papal system stands or falls depending on whether or not Peter was a pope in Rome, and neither the New Testament nor reliable historical records give any reason to believe that he ever held that position...


Catholic Concerns

Where does the Road to Rome Lead?

Mary Ann Collins

P ETER DID NOT describe himself as being a high and mighty Pope, with authority over the entire Church. Rather, he called himself “a servant” (2 Pet. 1:1). According to Strong’s Concordance, the word means, “a slave”. Peter also referred to himself as a fellow “elder” (1 Pet. 5:1).Rather than claiming special authority for himself, Peter said that all believers are a “royal priesthood.” He said, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, emphasis added)

In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John confirmed Peter’s statement that all true believers are priests. (Rev. 1:5-6; Rev. 5:9-10; Rev. 20:6) (Catholic Bibles refer to the Book of Revelation as “The Apocalypse.” )

Peter (supposedly the first Pope) prohibited the attitudes and practices that have been prevalent in the papacy. He said that leaders must not act like lords (people with rank, power, and special privileges), and they must not seek wealth (“filthy lucre”). Peter described himself as being an elder, like the other elders. He said,

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:1-3, emphasis added)

How does Peter, as portrayed in the Bible, compare with the Pope? Peter was a humble fisherman. The Pope is a monarch who sits on a throne. When he celebrates a Pontifical Mass, the Pope enters the sanctuary seated in a portable throne that is carried on the shoulders of uniformed men. As head of the Catholic Church, the Pope controls immense wealth, with widespread investments around the world. The wealth of the Vatican is amazing.

Catholic theologians claim that Jesus built the Roman Catholic Church on the Apostle Peter. They base this on Matt. 16:18, where Jesus told Peter: “And I say unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Does the rock on which the church is built represent Peter? Or does it represent Jesus Christ? Peter himself called Jesus the rock. He said,

“If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious.” (1 Pet. 2:3-4, emphasis added)

The Apostle Paul also called Jesus the Rock. He said,

“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; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:1-4, emphasis added)

William Webster compiled quotations from the writings of fifty Church fathers and theologians (from the third century to the eighth century) about the Rock of Matthew (16:18). They all said that the Rock was Jesus Christ—not Peter. They also said that the Church was built upon Peter’s confession of faith—“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), not on Peter (William Webster, "The Patristic Exegesis of the Rock of Matt. 16:18").

In Matt. 16:19, Jesus told Peter, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Was this giving special power and authority to Peter? Not at all, because two chapters later, Jesus gave the same authority to all of the apostles. He told all of them, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

He also gave all of the apostles the authority to remit sins. As we will see later, this remission of sins comes by “proclaiming forgiveness to those who believe in Christ.”

“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).

Dr. Joe Mizzi was a Roman Catholic before he converted and became an Evangelical Christian. He summarizes the situation as follows,

“While it is true that Christ did confer authority on Peter, it is also true that this authority was not unique to Peter, nor was it supreme over the other apostles and the entire church. The power of the keys was granted to the whole church to be exercised in the forgiveness of sins. The apostle Peter was the first to open the way of salvation by the preaching of the gospel, first to the Jews at Pentecost, and later on to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house. The church continues to exercise that authority through the gospel, proclaiming forgiveness to those who believe in Christ, and withholding forgiveness to unbelievers. The church is also duty bound to discipline obstinate sinful members; she also enjoys the happy privilege to restore penitents to full fellowship. Such was the interpretation of the power of the keys by the Church Fathers.” (Joe Mizzi, “The Power of the Keys.” )

According to Catholic doctrine, Peter was a Pope, which means that he had “supreme, full, immediate and universal” power and authority over the Church (Code of Canon Law, Canon 331, op. cit.). But did Peter act like he was in charge of the early Church? And does the Book of Acts show Peter as having outstanding prominence?...

In Gal. 2:11-15, Paul recounted how he publicly rebuked Peter, because Peter had become so intimidated by the Judaizers that he “walked not uprightly.” Evidently, Paul’s public correction of Peter did not cause a problem between them. Peter loved and respected Paul as a brother. He exhorted the Church to heed Paul’s wisdom. Peter said:

“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things…” (2 Pet. 3:15-16 a, emphasis added)

[Next] you will read about some popes. Please compare their behavior, attitude, and demeanor with that of Peter. If you were Peter, would you want to say that these men represent you?

Legends and Traditions

WHEN I WAS in school, I was taught that, as a boy, George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and confessed his transgression to his father saying, “I cannot tell a lie.”

Parson Weems’ biography of George Washington is the source of that story. According to modern historians, the cherry tree event never happened. I was quite surprised to hear that because I had never questioned the story.

Articles on the Internet say that Parson Weems created the cherry tree legend some time between 1800 and 1809. But perhaps Parson Weems wasn’t deliberately deceiving people. Perhaps he was simply passing on a story that he believed to be true. Either way, modern biographers of George Washington say that the cherry tree episode never really happened (“The Moral Washington: Construction of a Legend (1800-1920s)” (Accessed 10/7/08)


“Parson Weems,” Wikipedia. (Accessed 10/7/08).

If we hear a story repeated often enough, then we tend to believe it. The idea of questioning it becomes almost unthinkable—because the story is so familiar and so widely accepted.

I believe that something similar has happened with the Catholic Church’s stories about Peter. THESE TRADITIONS HAVE BEEN REPEATED SO OFTEN THAT MANY PEOPLE NEVER QUESTION THEM.


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