Was Peter The Bishop of Rome?

 The Roman Catholic Church claims that it was founded upon Simon Peter, the Apostle, and that this Peter was the first Pope or "Father" of "Christianity". We offer evidence to challenge that claim.

Simon Peter

The claim of the Catholic Church, per Jerome circa 240 AD, is that Peter went to Rome in the second year of the reign of Claudius or about 42 A.D. Of course they say he was first bishop at Antioch, and then ministered in Pontus, Galatia, Asia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, before coming to Rome (to oppose Simon Magus), and was bishop of that church for 25 years, who was martyred by being crucified upside-down in the last year of Nero's reign (67 A.D.) and was buried on the Vatican hill. They say that Peter's entombed bones are under the high altar of "St. Peter's" church in Rome.

The Roman Catholic Church bases their position concerning Peter being the First Father or "cornerstone" of the church on these verses: Matthew 16:18 "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. 19 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."  

They seem to think that when Jesus said "upon this rock" that He meant on Peter. A quick trip back to the original Greek text on a couple of these words gives us a little more insight on what Jesus is saying here. Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (Greek is "Petros" or little, movable stone) , and upon this rock  (Greek word "Petra" or unmovable stone/rock -is Christ speaking of Himself.) I will build my church; and the gates of hell (Greek = "Hades" meaning "the grave") shall not prevail against it. 19 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." Peter is the little stone while Christ is the Rock, the difference is distinguished in the Greek wording. Christ had surnamed this Simon BarJona in John 1:42 "And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone." In this verse Christ had used the Aramaic form of the Greek Petros or Peter. Christ is clearly the subject of the latter half of the first verse (18)shown. It  is He who holds the keys to the gates of hell for it is only He who conquered death's hold by His resurrection. Revelation 1:18 "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. " Peter and the other disciples, inclusively, were given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and thusly are the subject of verse 19. They, like Christ, would not bind or loose anything contrary to God's holy spirit or His commandments.

Peter himself understood what Christ meant. He knew that Christ was the only foundation stone and that he himself, and the rest of God's Chosen Ones, were little building blocks upon that foundation. I Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. " Paul also said in agreement in I Corinthians 3:11 "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

These other scriptures back this up quite solidly. Isaiah 28:16 "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." Jesus Himself quoted this in Matthew 21:42" Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." And Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians 2:20 -"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

Was Peter ever the ruler of God's church? No, Christ is clearly the Head as we read in Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body". Was Peter ever the head of ANY church? Not as far as the scriptures tell us. Was Peter Ever in Rome? Again, this cannot be confirmed by the scriptures. The Roman so-called "Mother" Church believes Peter was bishop at Rome from 42 A.D. to 67 A.D. Let us look into the biblical history to see if this is true.

Paul was converted between 35-37 A.D. Paul states in Galatians 1:17 "Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days"  This takes us to approximately 40 A.D. and we still find Peter in Jerusalem.

Acts 9:32 "And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all (quarters), he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda." In Acts 9-11, we follow Peter as he made his missionary journey through the western part of Judea, to Lydda, to Joppa, to Caesarea, and back to Jerusalem . Then, in Acts 12, he is imprisoned under Herod Agrippa I and is freed by the angel of the Lord. Acts12:19 "And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode." According to the notable first century historian, Josephus, the death of Agrippa occurred in the fourth year of the reign of Claudius. This would be about 45 A.D., and do we find Peter in Rome yet? No, he is  still in Israel. Let us look at more evidence.

The apostle Paul, fourteen years after his first visit to Jerusalem, returns to visit Peter as told in the second chapter of Galatians. The first journey was 40 A.D and fourteen years later places the date around 54 A.D. Where is Simon Peter? Peter is still in Judea! Let us quote a book titled "The Papacy": "The Romanists affirm that Peter was Bishop of Rome during the twenty-five years that preceded his martyrdom. His residence in the capital began, according to them, in A.D. 43. He was marryred in A.D. 68. But on Paul's first visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 51, he found Peter there, when, according to the Romanist theory, he should have been in Rome. It appears also, from the 1st and 3rd chapters of Galatians, that from Paul's conversion till his second visit to Jerusalem, that is seventeen years, Peter had been ministering to the Jews, and as shewn in the text, he was not at Rome af the time of Paul's imprisonment and martyrdom" (The Papacy.- Dr. Wylie, p. 233).

See if you can fathom this one. The Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans about the year A.D. 60. In his epistle to those of the true church in Rome, Paul said in his salutation: Romans16:1 "I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. 13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. 16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. " It is inconceivable that Paul sends his regards to no less than twenty-six of the saints in Rome by name plus others and doesn't even mention Peter ... if Peter was in Rome. Notice also that the Church had met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila and not in a dedicated church or synagogue building. Paul offers salutations to everybody else in Rome ... yet he sends no greetings to Peter, who must have been the most prominent of all the saints at Rome, if he were then indeed Bishop of Rome? But He was not!

"What ground is there for believing that the Apostle Peter was ever the Bishop of Rome? The only ground is that the Roman Church asserts it. EVIDENCE there is absolutely none" ~The Bible or the Church?-quoting the late great lawyer -Sir Robert Anderson

Bear with the following short explanation as we tie a few facts together.

1.)Paul tells us explicitly that the church at Rome was a Gentile church. Romans 1:13"Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. "

2.)We discover through Paul's writings that Jews were exiled from Rome by the Emporer Claudius during much of the time that Peter was supposed to be bishop of Rome. Acts 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

3.)Galatians 2:7 "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas (Peter) , and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." At this conference at Jerusalem it was clearly and repeatedly established that Peter should go to the Jews  (or those of the circumcision) and Paul to the Gentiles (or the heathen...referring to other nations). There were few Jews in Rome per Claudius' command so Peter would have little reason to go there to preach the gospel!

Paul gives us a bit more insight in Romans 15:20: "Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand." Paul clearly did not want to build on another apostle's work. Paul wanted to bring the good news of Christ Jesus to those who had never heard of him. He could only do this in Rome if Peter was not already there for years as "bishop" of Rome. We also know that Paul's first Roman imprisonment sentence was somewhere around 58 A.D. to 64 A.D. The four gospel letters - Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. were written from his prison during these years. In these letters, as we read in Romans, Paul mentions several of his fellow Christians in Rome where he was locked up, but he never once refers to Simon Peter.

Paul was jailed again around 66-67 A.D and the Catholic Church imagines that Peter was with him. "But Nero, exasperated at seeing himself and the Romans set at nought, ordered St. Peter and St. Paul to be cast into the Mamertime Prison, on the Capitol. There they were kept in strict confinement for nine months. From that prison St. Paul wrote his second letter to St. Timothy, requesting him to come to Rome, to be witness of his martyrdom, which was at hand" (Catholic Belief, p. 311). It would not be very likely that Paul would have written to Timothy and not mention that Peter was a fellow prisoner! Before his martyrdom by Caesar Nero, Paul wrote his letter to Timothy. Again, Simon, who is called Peter, is not in Rome as Paul says that only Luke is there with him. II Timothy 4:11" Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." Do you read about Paul mentioning anything of Simon Peter? Neither do I. Did the Apostle Paul lie? No...the scriptures uphold that Peter was not in this Roman prison and it is very probable that he may never have been in Rome at all.

The facts have proved the truth out. Peter was not the bishop of Rome. The true Christian church at Rome was in someone's house. Peter was clearly not the "first Pope" over the Roman Catholic church.

by Kenneth M. Hoeck



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