Was The Apostle Peter A Pope?
Bro. G-one T. Paisones
In this essay, we would like to outline some of the paramount attacks and criticisms of our Catholic doctrine regarding Petrine Primacy. We are also dealing here in answering those attacks and criticism, using primarily the Bible and the writing of the successors of the apostles (Church Fathers) as the tools in our apologetics discussion. We can see below the question/critics-and-answer format to give much evidence in justifying the Petrine Primacy base in the Bible and in the early Christian paradigms.
Please take note, that the protestant article will be labeled in red font; while our immediate and Biblical reply is in Green font.
In the books of men, the following titles are commonly used with reference to a man: “Pope,” “Holy Father,” “Vicar of Christ,” “Sovereign Pontiff.” All of these are titles that rightly belong only to the Lord Jesus Christ and to God the Father. There is not a single instance in the Scriptures where any of the above titles are applied to a man. The term, “Holy Father” is used only once in the entire Bible, and it is used by Jesus in addressing God the Father. (John 17:11)
The title “Pope” is from the Italian language “papa” and Greek word “papas” which means father. In Matt 16:18-19 Jesus gives Peter the keys of kingdom of heaven. Among all apostles; Peter is only the one who receive the keys and it is referred to Isaiah 22:22 in which Shebna the chief steward of the old Davidic kingdom pass his office to Eliakim. Those the Lord Almighty place in the shoulder of Eliakim the key of house of David. The Lord Almighty put the authority over Eliakim in which Eliakim opens the house of David that no-one can shut, and what Eliakim’s shut no-one can open.
God promise to establish the Davidic kingdom forever on earth (Psalm 89:3-4); those Saint Matthew clearly establishes the tie of David to Jesus (Matt 1:1). Saint Luke wrote in the gospel that angel Gabriel announces to Mary that her Son would be given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32). As Christ give alone to Peter the keys (Mat 16:19), Peter now become the father of God’s people or the church- it is referred to Eliakim which the Lord Almighty made him the father of Jerusalem (Isaiah 20:21). It is the reason why Catholics called the successor of Peter- Pope or Father based on the Bible.
Why we call our Pope “Holy” (Santo)? We call our pope as Holy because the meaning of this word is person separated or dedicated to God as indicated by our standard reference below:
SAINT-in a religious sense it means that which is separated or dedicated to God, and therefore remove from secular use. The word is applied to people, places, and things (e.g. the temples, vessels, garments, the city of Jerusalem, priest). In a personal sense it means holy. (NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible (The Zondervan Corporation-OMF Literature Phil.), Page 518)
Is Peter a priest? The answer is YES! And it can read in the Bible. The Pope’s title “Holy Father” is truly Biblical, even it does not explicitly appear in the Bible but we can understand it; through implicit manner of correct exegesis or interpretation of the Bible.
(For more information about calling our priest as “father” please click this link:
Among the above titles is the bold assertion that the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ.” A “vicar” is “One serving as a substitute or agent; one authorized to perform the functions of another in higher office.” (Webster). When one searches the Bible from cover to cover, he finds only one passage which gives an indication of a Vicar of Christ or God. It is 2 Thess. 2:3-4; it is worded as follows:
“Let no one deceive you in any way, for the day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and is exalted above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits in the temple of God and gives himself out as if he were God.”
Catholics believe that the Pope is not an absolute God (Tandaman sa Pagtuong Katoliko by Bro. Socrates Fernandez, Page 77). Therefore the assertion of our protestant brothers in 2 Thess. 2:3-4 could not apply to the Catholic Church.
We Call the Pope the “Vicar of Christ” because the Pope is the successor of Saint Peter the first Vicar of Christ. In establishing the Pope as Vicar of Christ; first we need to prove that Saint Peter was the (first) Vicar of Christ here on earth when Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Here are the arguments:
->Christ is the Shepherd of the Flock (John 10: 11-16)
->Christ commissioned Peter to Shepherd his sheep (John 21:15-17)
->This happened in the post-resurrection period (when Jesus Christ commission Peter to be His Vicar or He place Peter to be a Shepherd of His flock as He is)
->History attests that Saint Peter has successor (Church History by John Laux)
The teaching of the Catholic Church that the Pope is Vicar of Christ is truly Biblical.
The Catholics today speak of the Pope as vicar, taking the place of God (Christ Himself is God, Matt. 1:23; John 1:1), yet there is only one passage in the entire Bible which speaks of a man doing such and it calls him “the man of sin.”
Catholic speak that the Vicar-ship of the Pope is not to the extend that the Pope is equal to God, but Vicar-ship of His (Jesus Christ) works here on earth such as strengthen and establish his brethren; feeding the lambs and sheep; and shepherd the sheep or people of God according to the Bible.
Did our protestant brothers agree that Christ commissioned Peter in strengthening and establishing his brethren; feeding the lambs and sheep; and shepherd the sheep or people of God according to the Bible?
Pope Benedict xvi
James Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic Archbishop said, “Jesus our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God.” (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 82) The apostle Paul said, “For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 3:11). There is no other foundation but Christ! Therefore, any church which does not recognize Christ alone as the foundation stone cannot be the church of Christ.
The meaning of “for other foundation no one can lay” is the churches which found only by (ordinary) human and it is not Christ’ founded church (Act 17:24 KJV “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands,”) – example of this man made church is the Protestant Churches which founded only by men any where in the world.
We had already established the meaning of 1 Cor. 3:11 “for other foundation no one can lay”. In the foundation of the true church; Peter, apostles, prophets and Jesus Christ-the spiritual rock (1 Cor. 10:4) the foundation of the church (1 Cor. 3:11) (Defense Catholic Truth by Bro. Socrates Fernandez, Page 59-60).Christ promise that He is with the church until the end of the world (Matt 28:19-20) and the gates of Hades (Death) shall not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18). Therefore Matt 16:18 and Eph 2:20 are not contradict to 1 Cor. 3:11.
Protestant Churches are not the true church because Christ’ said that He will establish a church (Matt 16:18); Christ had already finished founded His church when He still on earth (Matt 18:17), and He is with the church everyday until the end of the world (Matt 28:19-20) therefore from the time of Apostolic period until nowadays the true church continue to struggled and still exist- and this church is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church.
Therefore James Cardinal Gibbons is correct when he said in his book that “Jesus our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God.” The contention of Cardinal Gibbons above is base on the Bible and Patristic Writings.
Pope Innocent X
Catholic writers often speak of “the primacy of Peter” and “the primacy of the Pope.” However, Col. 1:18, speaking of Christ, says, “And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy…” Thus, with reference to the authority in the church, the Lord Jesus Christ holds the primacy in all things. This leaves nothing for the Pope!
Take note that the Bible used by our protestant brothers may be it is the Douay Rheims Bible, a Catholic Translation of the Bible. Catholic believes that Christ has the ultimate Primacy here on earth Col. 1:18 (DRB). But Christ commission Peter to shepherd his People (John 21:15-17). Therefore Christ made Peter the Bishop (or overseer) of all Bishop and all his people.
The doctrine of Catholic Church regarding the “Primacy of Peter and/or the Pope does not mean that the Pope (or Peter) is above all things making himself equal to God. The primacy of Pope to all Catholic bishops, priests, deacons and all members of Catholic Church are in the following conditions:
-as visible head of the church
-as Bishop of the Bishops
-in matters of (universal) church Governance
-as successor of Saint Peter
-In teaching (address to all people) regarding of Faith and Morals (when the Pope speaks EX-CATHEDRA).
Pope Pius X
Catholics claim that the Pope is the visible head of the church. Please notice the following from Catholic sources:
“The pope, therefore, as vicar of Christ, is the visible head of Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church, of which Christ Himself is the invisible head.” (Answer Wisely, by Martin J. Scott, p. 49).
“According to the will of Christ, all its members profess the same faith, have the same worship and Sacraments, and are united under the one and same visible head, the Pope.” (Father Smith Instructs Jackson, by John F. Noll and Lester J. Fallon, p. 42)
Catholic officials always use the word “visible” no doubt thinking that it removes the thought of the Pope standing in opposition to the headship of Christ, and removes the apparent problem of having a church with two heads. Nonetheless, the Scriptures nowhere teach the idea of a visible and invisible head. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:18; Emp. mine D.R.).
Catholics believe that Christ is the head of the Church (Eph 5:23 TNIV “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”) (The Documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Number 7- “The Head of this body is Christ.”)
After His Resurrection, our savior handed his works (as a shepherd) to Peter; as a shepherd in his people (Jn. 21:17), commissioning him and other apostles to propagate and govern her (cf. Mt. 28:18 ff.). Here, He firmly guide the church for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsist in the Catholic Church, which govern by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in union with that successor, although many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside of her visible structure. These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, posses an inner dynamism toward Catholic unity. (The Documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Number 8)
Please take note that our Protestant brother uses a Catholic Bible translation- the Douay Rheims Bible. Catholic believe that all authority in heaven and earth has given by God to his summoned people (Mat 28:18), and Christ give an authority to his disciples to preach the Good News (Mat 28:19), to make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:19), to teach them to obey everything had commanded by Him (Mat 28:20), to forgive the sins of anyone their sins are forgiven; and do not forgive them, they are not forgiven (John 20:23), and the authority of binding and loosing (Mat 18:18).
Among of the apostles, Peter had given by Christ a higher authority: Christ gives to Peter alone, the keys of kingdom of Heaven (Mat 16:19), Christ commission Peter to shepherd his People (John 21:15-17), and Christ appoint in strengthen and establish his brethren (Luke 22:32).
Luke 17:20-21 says, “And on being asked by the Pharisees, ‘When is the kingdom of God coming?’ he answered and said to them, The kingdom of God comes unawares. Neither will they say, ‘Behold, here it is,’ or ‘Behold, there it is.’ For behold the kingdom of God is within you.” The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and therefore needs only a spiritual head or king.
Eph. 5:23-25 shows that Christ is the only head of the church. “Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church, being himself savior of the body. But just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.” Consequently, the wife is subject to her husband as the church is to Christ. Just as the wife is subject to only one head–her husband, the church is subject to only one head–Christ. Just as the husband does not send a substitute to rule over his wife, Christ does not authorize a substitute to rule over His bride, the church.
Catholics often use the expression, “One fold and one shepherd” to sustain the doctrine of the papacy. (See Catholic Catechism For Adults, p. 59, q. 3). They teach that the “one shepherd” is the Pope and the “one fold” represents the Catholic Church. Hear what Jesus said about it:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14-16).
Jesus is that one good shepherd. If one can understand that one and one equals two, he can understand this. If one is subject to Christ as the one shepherd–that’s one. If one is subject to the Pope as the one Shepherd–that’s two!
Thank you for your contention above and because of your contention; it is easy in my task to prove that Christ is the spiritual head of the church and the Pope is the visible head of the church. I would agree with you that “Christ is the spiritual head” but I would not agree with you that “The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and therefore needs only a spiritual head or king.”
In my previous contention; I said that in the Bible; we must not limit our understanding in a term, phrase and sentence. Sometimes a term where used as a figurative sense (Biblical Expression) and many times as a literal sense.
The phrase “Kingdom of God” has different meaning in the Bible:
Kingdom of God- (Gr. Basileia tou theou). The word kingdom is capable of three different meanings:(1) the realm over which a monarch reigns, (2) the people over whom he or she reigns, and (3) the actual reign or rule it self. In English the third use of the word is archaic and so is not always given its rightful place in discussion of the term; but in Greek and Hebrew, this is the primary meaning. All three meanings are found in NT… 1. The kingdom of God is sometimes the people of the kingdom (Rev 1:6; 5:10)… 2. The kingdom of God is the realm in which God’s reign is experience… 3. The kingdom is also God’s reign or rule… NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible (The Zondervan Corporation-OMF Literature Phil., Page 333) <emphasis mine>
And the meaning of the church:
CHURCH- the English word derives from the Greek word kuriakos (belonging to the Lord), but it stands for another Greek word “ekklesia” (whence “ecclesiastical”), denoting an assembly… When we turn to Acts, the situation changes, the saving work has been fulfilled, and the NT church can thus have its birthday at Pentecost. The term is now used regularly to describe local groups of believers…It is a building of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone or foundation (Eph 2:20-22), the fellowship of saints or people of God (1 Peter 2:9), the bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-26), and the body of Christ, he being the head and Christians the members (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph 4:4, 12, 15-17).NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible (The Zondervan Corporation-OMF Literature Phil., Page 121) <emphasis mine>
The people of the kingdom of God are the church, which is the body of Christ. Therefore the people of the kingdom of God or the church are visible (a building).
We already establish that Peter commission by Christ to shepherd his people (John 21:15-17); hence making Peter the Bishop of the Bishops and the flock. Therefore Peter is the leader, superintendent and head of the church.
The meaning of word “Head” in the scripture:
HEAD-(Heb. Ro’sh, Gr. Kephalē). The OT uses ro’sh 592 times, translated “chief,” “leader,” “top,” “company,” “beginning,” “captain,” and “hair” but in most often “head,” sometimes used figuratively (e.g., Exod. 18:25; Josh 2:19; 1 Sam 28:2; 2 Sam 3:8; Job 10:15, 20:6). NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible (The Zondervan Corporation-OMF Literature Phil.), Page 242
And we can read in the Bible that peter is a leader, literally!!!
We have delineate the scriptural or biblical evidence of the uniqueness of apostle Peter compare to the other apostles, and these uniqueness (as the leader) are the solid foundation and scriptural proof that Peter is the first pope.