This is an important matter to disect as this supposed “apostolic succession” is, according to the Roman Catholic Papacy, how she was ordained her power.
Basis of claim
This notion is based on two premises. Firstly, a certain interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19, namely that assumes Christ vested all spiritual and temporal power to Peter (solely) as the head of the church. And secondly that he (Peter) subsequently went to Rome and founded the Catholic Church there and appointed the next pope. As I will prove below Peter NEVER even went to Rome, but before we get to that, lets deal with the first premise regarding the interpretation of the scriptures.
An Accurate Interpretation
As with all scripture, it is impossible to come to the true intended meaning without considering the context of the whole. It’s common knowledge that the Bible has been one of the most abused sources of doctrine by cultists, dictators, false prophets etc. throughout the ages by twisting scriptures to suit their own evil agendas while ignoring other scriptures altogether which disprove their unsound doctrines. Ironically it was actually Peter who warned about this in one of his epistles (2 Peter 3:16). The scriptures also say that they have an intended specific meaning that can only be arrived at by the teaching of the abiding Holy Spirit (which is only available to individuals who have truly been born again from above), and aren’t open to allegorical or otherwise relative interpretations. (2 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:27, John 14:26, John 3:3)
Let’s start by reviewing the scriptures in question:
“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.”
So what is the accurate interpretation?
First of all, we know that the foundation of the Church of Christ does not rest on Peter alone, but all 12 disciples (apostles), the prophets, and all spirit-filled believers (Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14, 1 Peter 2:5). This is also confirmed as the “keys” of “Binding and loosing” were given to all the disciples and not just Peter (Matthew 18:1,18). Secondly we know that the “Rock”. “Chief cornerstone” and “foundation” is Christ himself (1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 3:11, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:6) and it was the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, that Christ was referring to as the rock upon which he’d build. He certainly wasn’t referring to Peter because the underlying Greek for ‘rock’ in that verse: ‘petra’ (Strongs G4073) is feminine. And it just so happens that the church is referred to as a woman and bride throughout the New Testament. Furthermore in Luke 22:24-34 when the apostles debated among themselves who was the greatest, not only did Christ not name Peter as such, he went on to say that Peter would deny him three times.
Peter Never Went to Rome
Not only is the basis of this claim totally unscriptural, it also falls apart on the fact that there is no historical evidence that Peter ever went to Rome. In fact when Apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome (book of Romans) he never mentions Peter, yet he names 27 others. Not only is there no reference to such a pilgrimage in the Bible (while Paul’s journey to Rome is elaborately detailed), nor any secular historical evidence, the tomb of Apostle Peter, with his name on an ossuary written in Aramaic was actually found in Jerusalem by Franciscan priests in 1953, of which a book has been written in the Italian tongue, titled “Gli Scavi del Dominus Flevit” by Bellarmino Bagatti and Józef Tadeusz Milik. Pictures and much more info at link to follow. http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/peters-jerusalem-tomb.htm
Call No Man Father
The words ‘pope’ and ‘papacy’ come from the Latin word ‘papa’ which are derived from the Greek word ‘papas’ meaning ‘father.’ Jesus Christ clearly stated “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) and therefore it may be deduced that only was Peter not the “first pope” but that all popes by their assumed title are antichrist.
What did the Great Expositors have to say about Matthew 16:18-19?
Matthew Henry: Peter, for himself and his brethren, said that they were assured of our Lord’s being the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. This showed that they believed Jesus to be more than man. Our Lord declared Peter to be blessed, as the teaching of God made him differ from his unbelieving countrymen. Christ added that he had named him Peter, in allusion to his stability or firmness in professing the truth. The word translated rock, is not the same word as Peter, but is of a similar meaning. Nothing can be more wrong than to suppose that Christ meant the person of Peter was the rock. Without doubt Christ himself is the Rock, the tried foundation of the church; and woe to him that attempts to lay any other! Peter’s confession is this rock as to doctrine. If Jesus be not the Christ, those that own him are not of the church, but deceivers and deceived. Our Lord next declared the authority with which Peter would be invested. He spoke in the name of his brethren, and this related to them as well as to him. They had no certain knowledge of the characters of men, and were liable to mistakes and sins in their own conduct; but they were kept from error in stating the way of acceptance and salvation, the rule of obedience, the believer’s character and experience, and the final doom of unbelievers and hypocrites. In such matters their decision was right, and it was confirmed in heaven. But all pretensions of any man, either to absolve or retain men’s sins, are blasphemous and absurd. None can forgive sins but God only. And this binding and loosing, in the common language of the Jews, signified to forbid and to allow, or to teach what is lawful or unlawful.
John Gill: And upon this rock will I build my church: by the church, is meant, not an edifice of wood, stones, &c. but an assembly, and congregation of men; and that not of any sort; not a disorderly, tumultuous assembly, in which sense this word is sometimes taken; nor does it design the faithful of a family, which is sometimes the import of it; nor a particular congregated church, but the elect of God, the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven; and especially such of them as were to be gathered in, and built on Christ, from among the Jews and Gentiles. The materials of this building are such, as are by nature no better, or more fit for it, than others: these stones originally lie in the same quarry with others; they are singled out, and separated from the rest, according to the sovereign will of God, by powerful and efficacious grace; and are broken and hewn by the Spirit of God, generally speaking, under the ministry of the word, and are, by him, made living stones; and being holy and spiritual persons, are built up a spiritual house: and these are the only persons which make up the true and invisible church of Christ in the issue, and are only fit to be members of the visible church….By the rock on which Christ builds his church, is meant, not the person of Peter; for Christ does not say, upon thee Peter, but upon this rock, referring to something distinct from him: for though his name signifies a rock, or stone, and there may be some allusion to it; and he is so called because of his trust and confidence in the Lord, on whom he was built; but not because he was the foundation on which any others, and especially the whole church, were built: it is true, he may be called the foundation, as the rest of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are, Ephesians 2:20 without any distinction from them, and preference to them; they and he agreeing in laying doctrinally and ministerially Christ Jesus as the foundation of faith and hope, but not in such sense as he is; neither he, nor they, are the foundation on which the church is built, which is Christ, and him only. Moreover, what is said to Peter in these, and the following words, is not said to him personally and separately from the rest of the apostles, but is designed for them, as well as him, as appears by comparing them with Matthew 18:18. As he spoke in the name of them all, to Christ; so Christ spake to him, including them all. Peter had no preeminence over the rest of the apostles, which he neither assumed, nor was it granted; nor would it ever have been connived at by Christ, who often showed his resentment at such a spirit and conduct, whenever there was any appearance of it in any of them; see Matthew 18:1 and though Peter, with James, and John, had some particular favours bestowed on him by Christ; as to be at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, and at the transfiguration of Christ on the mount, and with him in the garden; and he appeared to him alone after his resurrection, and before he was seen by the rest of the disciples; yet in some things he was inferior to them, being left to deny his Lord and master, they did not; and upon another account is called Satan by Christ, which they never were; not to mention other infirmities of his, which show he is not the rock: and, after all, what is this to the pope of Rome, who is no successor of Peter’s? Peter, as an apostle, had no successor in his office; nor was he bishop of Rome; nor has the pope of Rome either his office, or his doctrine: but here, by the rock, is meant, either the confession of faith made by Peter; not the act, nor form, but the matter of it, it containing the prime articles of Christianity, and which are as immoveable as a rock; or rather Christ himself, who points, as it were, with his finger to himself, and whom Peter had made such a glorious confession of; and who was prefigured by the rock the Israelites drank water out of in the wilderness
Links for Further Reading