With the recent announcement of “Pope Benedict’s” resignation, a maxim came to my mind which states, “if you say something long enough, whether it’s true or not, people will believe it.” That maxim is nowhere better illustrated than when one affirms that the apostle Peter was the first Pope. It is assumed by millions of people that the office of “Pope,” functioning as the “Vicar of Christ” on earth, began with the apostle Peter and has continued all the way down to “Pope Benedict.”
However, for those who accept the Bible as the final authority in religion, the papacy of Peter is not proven by unsupported affirmations, even if it is advanced by millions of people. Whether the office of “Pope” is legitimate, whether Peter was or was not the first Pope, and whether “Pope Benedict” was a successor to this office must be answered by the Scriptures.
Consider the following questions:
- If Peter was the Pope, then why did he never claim to be the Pope? Peter did introduce himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1), but he never said he was the “Supreme Apostle” of Jesus Christ. Peter called himself a “fellow elder” in 1 Peter 5:1, but he never claimed to be the “Chief Shepherd.” Nowhere did Peter ever argue for supremacy or exalt himself above his fellow apostles and elders.
- If Peter was the Pope, then why did he not render the decision at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). Was it not James who said, “Therefore it is my judgment…” If Peter was the Pope, would he not have exerted himself to settle the dispute? Wouldn’t others have dismissed James’ advice to hear the “final word” by “Pope Peter?”
- If Peter was the Pope, then why was that not explained when the disciples were arguing about who was greatest in the kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28)? If Jesus’s statement in Matthew 16:18 meant that the church would be built upon Peter, then why would James and John be asking who was the greatest in the kingdom? And if for some reason they did not comprehend that Peter was given supremacy in Matthew 16:18, then why was it not explained to them at this later time?
- If Peter was the Pope, then why did Paul state that he was not inferior to Peter, James, and John (Galatians 2:6-9). If Peter was the Pope would Paul not have shown deference to him? Furthermore, if Peter was the Pope, would Paul have referred to him as a “pillar” in the church in the same way that James and John were “pillars,” making no distinctions?
Friends, the most compelling argument against the legitimacy of the office of a “Pope,” Peter being the first to hold that office, and “Pope Benedict” being a successor to Peter is that the Bible makes absolutely no reference at all to such an office. Where does the Bible ever speak of a “Pope?” Where does the Bible ever teach that Jesus would have a “vicar” on earth? Where does the Bible ever teach that anyone, saving for Jesus, Himself, is head of the church? Where are the qualifications for such an office listed? Where does the Bible ever elevate Peter above the other apostles? It does not.
The office of being a “Pope” is never mentioned, never described, and nowhere supported by the Word of God. Consequently, for those who strive to be governed by the Bible, the resignation of “Pope Benedict” is a step in the right direction, however finding a replacement to fill the vacancy left by his resignation is not.