Is Peter the first Pope of the Catholic Church?

Author: BibleAsk Team


The Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the rock upon whom their church was build and that he was given the keys to the kingdom. The church also claims that it can trace an unbroken line of popes back to St. Peter, citing this as evidence that it is the true church.

The catechism presents the papacy as a divinely appointed institution that presides over the life of the church and exercises its rule over God’s flock: “The Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (882).

The Catholic Church claims to base the doctrine of the supremacy of the pope on the following verse: “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. 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” (Matthew 16: 18,19).

The doctrine of the supremacy of pope as the successor of Peter is not Biblical. Let’s have a closer look at what the Bible teaches:

Who Is the Rock?

1- Peter, to whom these words were addressed, emphatically states by his teachings that the “rock” of which was spoken of referred to Jesus Christ (Acts 4:8-12; 1 Peter 2:4).

2-Jesus used the same figure of speech of a rock to refer to Himself (Matthew 21:42; Luke 20:17).

3-From very early times, the figure of rock was used by the Hebrew people as a specific term for God (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 18:2).

4-Paul affirms that Christ is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Corinthians 3:11).

5-It is the faith in Jesus that saves (John 1:12).

6-Had Christ made Peter chief among the disciples, they would not thereafter have been involved in repeated arguments about which of them “should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24, Matthew 18:1).

The Meaning of the Name Peter

The name Peter is derived from the Greek word “petros” – a “stone.”  The word “rock” is in Greek “petra” – large mass of rock. Obviously a “petros,” or small stone, would, make an impossible foundation for any structure, and Jesus in Matthew 16 affirms that nothing less than a “petra,” or “rock,” could suffice.

This fact is made even more sure by the words of Christ in Matthew 7:24, ”whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them“ is like “a wise man which built his house upon a rock [Gr. petra].” Any structure built upon Peter [Gr. pertos], a weak, erring human being, as the Gospel makes plain, has a foundation little better than shifting sand (Matthew 7:27). Christ is the Rock that that church is built on.

“The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against it”

Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 16:18).

Could Peter qualify to be the Rock? Let us look to Scripture:

1-The gates of Hell prevailed against Peter when He allowed Satan to speak through him (Matthew16:22). Then Jesus answered Peter saying “Get thee behind me, Satan thou art an offense unto me” (Matthew.16:23).

2- The gates of Hell prevailed again against Peter when he denied his Lord three times (John 18:25).

3-Peter was fallible, as Paul had to rebuke him for his error of not walking uprightly even after Peter repented from denying Christ (Galatians 2: 11-16).

Peter was an erring human. But the church of God was built on the faith in Christ that he expressed as seen in the following passage: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Therefore, by faith in God can the church prevail and triumph over all the powers of darkness.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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