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TANDING AT THE head of the Roman Catholic church is the pope of Rome. This man—according to Catholic doctrine—is the earthly head of the church and successor of the apostle Peter. According to this belief, Christ appointed Peter as the first pope, who in turn went to Rome and served in this capacity for twenty-five years. Beginning with Peter, the Catholic church claims a succession of popes which has continued to this day. This is a very important part of Roman Catholic doctrine. But do the scriptures teach that Christ ordained ONE man to be above all others in his church? Can we find any scriptural authority for the office of a pope, a supreme pontiff? Did the early Christians recognize Peter as such?

To the contrary, the scriptures clearly show there was to be an equality among the members of the church and that CHRIST "is the head of the church" (Eph.5:23), not the pope!

James and John once came to Jesus asking if one of them might sit on his right hand and the other on his left in the kingdom. (In Eastern kingdoms, the two principal ministers of state, ranking next in authority to the king, hold these positions.) If the Roman Catholic claim is true, it seems that Jesus would have explained that he had given the place on his right to Peter and did not intend to create any position on the left! But to the contrary, here was the answer of Jesus: "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise dominion upon them, but it shall not be so among you" (Mk. 10:35-43).

In this statement, Jesus plainly said that none of them was to be a ruler over the others. Instead, he taught an equality— clearly denying the principles that are involved in having a pope ruling over the church as the Bishop of bishops!

Jesus further taught the concept of equality by warning the disciples against using flattering titles such as "father" (the word "pope" means father), Rabbi, or Master. "For one is your Master, even Christ", he said, "and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:4-10). The idea that one of them was to be exalted to the position of pope is at utter variance with this passage.

But Roman Catholics are taught that Peter was given such a superior position that the entire church was built upon him! The verse that is used to support this claim is Matthew 16: 18: "And I say 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."

If we take this verse in its setting, however, we can see that the church was not built on Peter, but on CHRIST. In the verses just before, Jesus asked the disciples who men were saying that he was. Some said he was John the Baptist, some Elijah; others thought he was Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked: "But whom say ye that I am?" To this, Peter replied: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then it was that Jesus said, "Thou art Peter (petros—a stone, a rock), and upon this rock {petra—a mass of rock—the great foundation rock of truth that Peter had just expressed) I will build my church." The rock upon which the true church was to be built was connected with Peter's statement —"Thou art the Christ"—and so the true foundation upon which the church was built was Christ himself, not Peter.

Peter himself declared that Christ was the foundation rock (1 Peter 2:4-8). He spoke of Christ as "the stone which was set at naught of you builders...neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:11, 12). The church was built on Christ. He is the true foundation and there is no other foundation: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor.3:ll).

When Jesus spoke of building his church upon a rock, the disciples did not take this to mean he was exalting Peter to be their pope, for two chapters later they asked Jesus a question about who was the GREATEST (Matt. 18:1). If Jesus had taught that Peter was the one upon whom the church was to be built—if this verse proved that Peter was to be the pope—the disciples would have automatically known who was the greatest among them!

Actually, it was not until the time of Calixtus, who was bishop of Rome from 218 to 223, that Matthew 16:18 was used in an attempt to prove the church was built on Peter and that the bishop of Rome was his successor.

If we take a close look at Peter in the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that Peter was not a pope at all!

1. Peter was married. The fact that Peter was a married man does not harmonize with the Catholic position that a pope is to be unmarried. The Scriptures tell us that Peter's wife's mother was healed of a fever (Matt. 8:14). Of course there couldn't be a "Peter's wife's mother" if Peter didn't have a wife! Even years later Paul made a statement which shows that the apostles had wives—including Cephas (1 Cor. 9:5). Cephas was Peter's Aramaic name(John 1:42).

2. Peter would not allow men to bow down to him. When Peter came into his house, "Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself am a man" (Acts 10:25, 26). This was quite different from what a pope might have said, for men do bow before the pope.

3. Peter did not place tradition on a level with the word of God. To the contrary, Peter had little faith in "traditions from your fathers" (1 Peter 1:18). His sermon on the day of Pentecost was filled with the Word, not traditions of men. When the people asked what they should do to get right with God, Peter did not tell them to have a little water poured or sprinkled on them. Instead, he said: "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).

4. Peter was not a pope, for he wore no crown. Peter himself explained that when the chief shepherd shall appear, then shall we "receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4). Since Christ has not yet appeared again, the crown that the pope wears is not one bestowed upon him by Christ. In short, Peter never acted like a pope, never dressed like a pope, never spoke like a pope, never wrote like a pope, and people did not approach him as a pope!

In all probability, in the very early days of the church, Peter did take the most prominent position among the apostles. It was Peter who preached the first sermon after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and 3,000 were added to the Lord. Later, it was Peter who first took the gospel to the Gentiles. Whenever we find a list of the twelve apostles in the Bible, Peter's name is always mentioned first (Matt. 10:2; Mk. 3:16; Lk. 6:14; Acts 1:13). But none of this—not by any stretch of the imagination—would indicate that Peter was the pope or universal Bishop of bishops!

While Peter apparently did take the most outstanding role of the apostles at the very beginning, later, PAUL seems to have had the most outstanding ministry. As a writer of the New Testament, for example, Paul wrote 100 chapters with 2,325 verses, while Peter only wrote 8 chapters with 166 verses.

Paul spoke of Peter, James, and John as pillars in the Christian church (Gal. 2:9). Nevertheless, he could say, "In NOTHING am I behind the very chiefest apostles" (2 Cor. 12:11). But if Peter had been the supreme pontiff, the pope, then certainly Paul would have been somewhat behind him. In Galatians 2:11, we read that Paul gave a rebuke to Peter "because he was to be blamed", wording which seems strange if Peter was regarded as an "infallible" pope!

Paul was called "the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), whereas Peter's ministry was primarily to the Jews (Gal. 2:7-9). This fact—in itself—would seem sufficient to show Peter was not bishop of ROME, for Rome was a Gentile city (cf. Acts 18:2). All of this is indeed highly significant when we consider that the entire framework of Roman Catholicism is based on the claim that Peter was Rome's first bishop!

There is no proof, Biblically speaking, that Peter ever went near Rome! The New Testament tells us he went to Antioch, Samaria, Joppa, Caesarea, and other places, but not Rome! This is a strange omission, especially since Rome was considered the most important city in the world!

The Catholic Encyclopedia (article, "Peter") points out that a tradition appeared as early as the third century for the belief that Peter was bishop of Rome for twenty-five years —these years being (as Jerome believed) from 42 A. D. until

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