I. Principle Observation and Contention: The Roman Catholic Church considers Peter the “first Bishop” of Rome. They assume that Peter was given Primacy, a position above all others, making him the head of the church, or Pope. Thus they believe this gave Rome consequent oversight and jurisdiction of the universal church. This is why they speak of the Roman See, meaning that Rome was the seat of government for the Church. The following material shows that Peter was a leader, influential, and thus singled out on numerous occasions by Christ. But in none of these passages is there evidence that he was given a primacy of authority over other apostles, the church at Rome, and certainly not personally over the whole church.
1 In the scriptural text Jesus did address Peter personally more that any other single apostle, but these were most often confrontations with Peter which eventually effected a subsequent tempering of Peter and a mellowing of Peter’s assertive and impetuous spirit, making his natural abilities more useful to the Lord.
2. Examples of Peter’s impetuosity and Jesus’ molding remedial rebukes:
a. Transfiguration: Not knowing what to say, said: “Let us build....” Peter corrected.
b. Objected to Jesus’ order about fishing, relented, ashamed. Lk. 5:5, 8
c. “Thou art the Christ.... I know him not.” Later rejoiced to suffer (Acts 5:41)
d. “Though others offended, I will not, I will die.” Mk. 14:29, 31; Jesus: “You will deny.”
e. Peter took his sword, Jesus rebuked. Lk. 22:49ff; Mt. 26:52; Jn. 18:10
f. Jesus, “I will die.”Peter, “This shall never be.” Jesus: “Behind me Satan.” Mt. 16:21ff
g. Peter: What about John? Jesus: Mind your own business. Jn. 21:20 ff.
h. “When you are converted,” Lk. 22:32. “Feed my sheep. “Jn. 21:17
1) Not unique to Peter: Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-3; I Tim. 3:1-4
3. Leadership, yes. Authority over rest, and whole church? Nothing so indicated in all this.
4. Consequences of the Lord’s tempering.
a. Willingly took Paul’s rebuke: Gal. 2:11ff; Cited and Commended Paul. II Pet. 3:15
b. Would not be bowed down to: Acts 10:26
c. Real willingness to sacrifice and suffer without fear. Acts 5:41
d. Content as Witness, Leadership and Decision left to James and elders. Acts 15:19, 22
e. Changed nature seen in I Peter: Isaak Walton called it, “Affectionate, loving, lowly, humble.”
f. Conclusion: Peter’s Potential. A leader, conscious of self. After gaffs, enduring correction, tempered into humility, not exaltation. Sharp contrast to Papacy.
5. What was the “Rock” the church (universal) was built upon. Mt. 16:15ff
a. Jesus: “Who do you (plural) say that I am?” Any could have answered. Peter, typically.
b. In Greek, and Vulgate (Official Catholic Text), Peter and rock differentiated.
c. Not, upon “you” (masculine), but upon “this rock” (feminine), modifying the foundation upon which Jesus would build his church.
d. What is that foundation: Since the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and what was revealed to them all, Jesus would build his church upon them,
their having not the knowledge of flesh and blood, but the revelation given them.
e. The foundation of the church was not just one of them but all. Eph. 2:20.
f. Built upon Revelation and apostles’ use and declaration of it. Jerome and Augustine stated the rock was the divinity of Christ revealed.
II What Were The Keys?:
1. That which is bound and loosed. If we know what heaven has bound (required) and loosed (permitted) we have the keys to heaven. And all the apostles had that. Mt. 18:18.
a. e.g., “Woe unto you, ye lawyers, for you took away the key of knowledge, you entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering, you hindered (Luke11:52)
b. Knowing what heaven had bound (required) and loosed (permitted), one has the knowledge or “keys” to the kingdom.
c. This knowledge by which they bound and loosed, the keys, was given to all the apostles, not just Peter (Mt. 18:18; Jn. 16:13ff).
2. New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible, Confraternity Edition: “In heaven God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth” (footnote on Mt. 16:9).
a. Literal language of Holy Spirit contradicts: “...and whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose on the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens” (Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, Robert Young).“be bound, be loosed (perfect passive participles).
b. The apostles were to bind and loose what was revealed from heaven.
3. The Impartation of this knowledge at first revealed to the apostles, and their consequent usingthese keys to the kingdom of heaven is how the church was built upon the apostles, not just Peter. (Eph. 2:20).
4. Continuing not just in Peter’s word, but in the teaching and doctrine of the apostles is what constituted the original church (Acts. 2:42): About three thousand souls were added unto them, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine). It is what constitutes the church today. This apostolic word, containing all revealed truth (Jn. 16:13-15), is the rock upon Jesus built his church, not just Peter, but the work of all the apostles. (Eph. 2:20).
III Peter’s Subsequent Position
1. Paul certainly did not consider that Peter had primacy over him as he once withstood and corrected Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11ff), and specifically stated that he, Paul, was not “one whit” behind the chiefest apostles (II Cor. 11:5), nor behind any of them (II Cor. 12:11).
2. In Acts 6 it was the apostles, not Peter, who appointed the 7 deacons.
3. In the meeting at Jerusalem to correct the understanding of that church regarding gentile Christians, Peter was just one witness as to God’s work among the gentiles, along with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:4ff).
4. It was not he, but James who upon that and the prophecy of Amos, with the guidance of theHoly Spirit (Act 15:27), announced the verdict, and who with the elders and members sent a letter to the churches declaring the revelation and their compliant and corrected understanding.
5. In Peter’s epistles there is no hint of Primacy or exercise of such.
6. Paul wrote to Rome (ca. 56-58 A.D.) when Catholic sources say Peter was there. In Romans 16 Paul addresses 33 prominent Christians there, but does not mention Peter, indicating that Peter was not there, much less Bishop there, or Pope.
7. From Rome during his first imprisonment (62-64 A.D.) Paul wrote to the Colossians naming several Christians at Rome saying of his work there: “These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God” (Co. 4:7-17). Peter is not among them.
8. Writing to Timothy during his second imprisonment and shortly before his (and Peter’s supposed) death there in 68.A.D., Paul said of his companions: “Only Luke is with me.” He further said, “At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me” (II Tim. 4:16). If Peter was there, he did to Paul what he earlier had done regarding his denial of Christ. Better to conclude Peter was not “Bishop” of Rome. And early writings are mixed and not distinct in saying so, and even give contradictory accounts of bishops there.
9. There is no conclusive evidence that Peter was ever in Rome (A Handbook on the Papacy, William Shaw Kerr, pp. 67-78; Roman Catholicism, Loraine Boettner, pp.117-120).
1. Peter was prominent, but did not act like he had primacy.
2. No one else accorded him that.
3. The New Testament evidence is against Peter’s being in Rome when he was supposed to be Bishop there.
IV What Peter claimed
1. He identified himself as an apostle and elder, with fellow elders (I Pet. 5:1-2), not as Pope.
2. What is an elder? The term comes from “presbuteros” older. A plurality of these presbyters were appointed in every or each church (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:1; Acts 15:2).
3. What were elders? The elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:17) were told take care of and feed the flock (Acts 209:28). Likewise Peter told elders to “tend the flock” among them, not elsewhere,and with elders in each church the tending or seeing-over this did not extend beyond the flock where each group of elders functioned, that is, beyond the congregation where they were elders.
a. But again, the shepherds in the church were the elders.
b. These older men who were shepherds, were overseers (I Pet. 5:1-3), exercising oversight (episcopos, episcopee.) This is the term for bishop (I Tim. 3:2) . Thus the elders were shepherds (poimen, pastors), were overseers (episcopoi. bishops)
4. An Elder (presbuteros), Pastor (poimen), Bishop (episcopos), is an older man, who shepherds, and watches over the flock. These are different terms describing different aspects of the same function, a plurality appointed in each church. The was not such things as one Bishop.
5. In the new Testament no church had one bishop over its pastors and elders. Each church had a plurality of elders, bishops, pastors. Notice the church at Philippi was addressed as the saints at Philippi with the bishops and deacons (servants). That was the structure of each N.T. church;
thus autonomous. Not centrally governed except as they were subjected to Christ, the head.
a. Further, Bishops “must be” married, leading their houses and children well, noting that one who had not managed this was ill equipped to take care ofthe church of God.
b. This also shows it is not the church the bishop is married to, the members being his children. The bishop’s care of his wife, house, and children indicates ability to care forthe church. The house, wife and children, being one thing, the church another.
7. This is what Peter claimed for himself. He never spoke of himself as possessing Primacy, or asbeing THE Bishop of Rome, THE Shepherd, Pope, or Head, of the whole body.
V Nor Did Rome Have Organizational Authority and Power. Thus No Roman See
1. Tertullian said no church had power over any other church. (Kerr, loc.cit.)
2. In 1st seven ecumenical councils majority of representatives were Greek. Roman superiority not indicated:
General Council Year Place Greek Bishops Roman Bishops
1st A.D. 325 Nice 315 3
2nd 381 Constantinople 149 1
3rd 431 Ephesus 67 1
4th 451 Chalcedon 350 3
5th 553 Constantinople 164 6
6th 680 Constantinople 51 5
7th 787 Nice 370 7
Conclusion: Peter, though prominent, was not given any authoritarian position personally, nor given any authority not given to the other apostles. He was not given official primacy. Besides being an apostle he was an elder, a designation for the bishops (watchers-over) and pastors (shepherds) of the congregations, each congregation having a plurality (Acts 14:23, cf. Phil 1:1). It was as late as 150 A.D. when such as Polycarp championed the idea of splitting the function of elders and bishops, placing the latter over the former. This is not what existed in the scriptures and was obviously an innovation in the time and way it was introduced. As for the Roman See, based upon the supposition that Peter possessed Primacy and supposedly being Bishop there, the New Testament evidence is against Peter being there before his death in 68 A.D. Likewise historical notations from oblique statements from such as Clement of Rome, do not positively establish even Peter’s presence in Rome. The case for making Peter THE Bishop of Rome and thus Rome being the seat of the universal body of Christ is neither in the scriptures nor historically substantiated. Indeed, the message of the scriptures refutes it.