Is Peter the head of the apostolic succession?

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The doctrine of apostolic succession is the belief that the twelve apostles passed on their authority to successors, who then passed the apostolic authority on to their successors and continuing throughout the ages to this day.

The Roman Catholic Church sees Peter as the leader of the apostles, with the greatest authority, and therefore his successors carry on the greatest authority. Apostolic succession, combined with Peter’s supremacy among the apostles, produces the belief that the Roman bishop is the supreme authority of the Catholic Church – the Pope.

But the Bible doesn’t present Peter as “supreme” over the other apostles. Paul rebuked Peter when Peter was following men’s traditions over the word of God: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;  for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as [Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14).

The book of Acts records the apostle Paul as also having prominent leadership role in the early church. As a matter of fact, among the apostles, it was James and not Peter who exercised administrative functions over the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13,19; 1:13; 12:17; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 2:9,12).

The concept of apostolic succession is never found in Scripture. What is found in Scripture is that a true church is not based on the apostolic succession but rather on following God’s Word.

And doctrinal differences are a result of some Christians refusing to agree with what the scripture says (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 17:10-12) – not a result of there being no “supreme authority” to interpret Scripture. If Scripture is studied in its entirety and in its proper context, the truth can be easily determined.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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