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There is no trace of the view that Jesus made the pope the head of the Church through Peter among the Greek Fathers of the first six hundred years of the Church (page 91, Roman Catholic Claims). Peter being head of the Church and establishing the papacy at Rome are two new doctrines. The Church has no right to add them to the gospel.
It is thought that the popes or bishops of Rome were the successors of Peter.
The oldest list of the bishops of Rome, who were later designated as popes, hails from 170 AD. Suppose they really were popes. One would expect with all the divisions and heresies in the early Church for the list to have appeared sooner and to have been verified and clarified better when the pope was allegedly the centre of unity and the marker of the true faith and Church.

The Apostolic Constitutions which date from before 400 AD name Linus as the first Roman bishop. They say that Peter made Clement the second bishop following the death of Linus (page 451, Catholicism and Christianity). So Peter was not bishop of Rome. Eusebius in his Church History declared that Linus was the first bishop of Rome and transferred his position to Anacletus. The lists of the scholars who Catholics use to prove the Roman supremacy diverge widely. The papacy, described as the rock Jesus supposedly built his Church on, was not much of a rock when we cannot even verify the lists to everybody’s satisfaction (page 40, Treasures from God’s Storehouse).

Irenaeus wrote that Peter and Paul both created the Church in Rome and entrusted the episcopacy of Rome to Linus (page 449, Catholicism and Christianity). He did not use the word for passed on. And anyway, how could Paul have handed on the papacy with Peter unless both were bishops of Rome or they were apostles and not bishops at all?

Hegassippus was thought to have mentioned a list of bishops at Rome but this seems to be a gloss on the text with the word sojourn being mistaken for succession giving the impression that he thought there was a succession of bishops. The emendation solves the conflict with the context. If it is wrong then the first list of Roman bishops came from 154 AD and was still too late to deserve serious consideration (page 449, Catholicism and Christianity). Also when Hegassippus said that there was no list of the Roman Bishops until he made one it suggests that he invented it (page 76, A Handbook on the Papacy). The gullible Irenaeus and Epiphanius copied their list from him. But he admitted that he made this list to show that the teaching was the same down through the years and not to verify a papal succession.

The first time anybody thought there was a bishop at Rome who was in charge of the Church there was in 154 AD. Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna visited Bishop Anicetus (page 448). But there is no evidence that Anicetus represented Peter but he was probably the head of a college of bishops and priests (page 448).

Rifinus of Aquileia wrote that the episcopate of Rome was conferred on Linus when Peter was alive (Handbook to the Controversy, page 212). However, Pope Gregory the Great denied that Linus was a successor to Peter but to Paul when he declared that the episcopate of Rome is in succession to St Paul (ibid, page 213).  Gregory denied he should be given even an honorary title as Universal Bishop - or bishop over the Church. "You know it, my brother ; hath not the venerable Council of Chalcedon conferred the honorary title of Universal upon the bishops of this Apostolic See, whereof I am, by God's will, the servant? And yet none of us hath permitted this title to be given to him ; none hath assumed this bold title"  He said he wanted no, "special distinction".  Catholicism distorts this to mean that Gregory did not deny he was head bishop of the Church but denied that he should be the only real bishop!  That is nonsense for nobody expected or could expect him to run the whole Church in the stead of the existing bishops.

About 200 AD, Tertullian recorded that Clement was the first bishop of Rome and that Peter had ordained him. This contradicts Catholic doctrine (page 450, Catholicism and Christianity) which needs to say that Clement was Peter’s successor as bishop of Rome. To answer that Tertullian said that Pope Callistus was indeed the successor of Peter is irrelevant (page 450). He meant Callistus was a successor in some other sense.

Clement of Rome never referred to himself as a bishop in his letter to the Corinthians. So far from claiming to be a pope he never even put his name on the letter. He wrote his letter in the name of the Church at Rome and it was a disciplinary letter. Therefore one would expect Clement to have written it in his own authority as well as that of the Church or perhaps not mention the Church at all if he was anything like a pope. Ignatius wrote to the Romans and would have specifically addressed their bishop if he had been important and stressed their duty to obey that bishop as head of the Church but he doesn’t (page 446, Catholicism and Christianity).
Clement gave no hint that Peter was bishop of Rome.
Tertullian may have said that Pope Callistus was the successor to Peter but that does not prove that Peter was believed to have been the first bishop of Rome. If Peter had been the bishop of Antioch the bishop of Rome could be his successor as head of the Church. There is no law that says that Peter had to be bishop of Rome, or future bishops of Rome either, to be the heads of the Church. A bishop and a universal bishop who runs the Church are two different things. Peter could have been the bishop of Rome without being bishop of the whole Church. If Peter was bishop of Rome that would imply he was not a pope for he could have appointed a bishop of Rome and been bishop of the whole Church from Rome.

There is simply little point in relying on the testimony of people who were too long after the time of Peter to know what they were talking about.

Origen stated that the Church was built on all of the apostles and not on Peter alone. He asked that if the whole Church is built on Peter then what about the other apostles? (page 10, The Primitive Faith and Roman Catholic Developments).

In the fourth century, St Hippolytus denounced the bishop of Rome as a leader of heretics and with the Church being so confused in those days one would expect him to believe that the pope was right if the bishop was a Catholic style pope. The saint was the greatest theologian of that century.

St Athanasius was excommunicated by the bishop of Rome and he did not care much except to say the pope was weak. If the bishop of Rome was what Catholics say he was the saint would have been devastated.

The Sixth Council of Constantinople in 680, an infallible ecumenical council according to Rome, excommunicated the pope for heresy.

There is no evidence that Catholic style bishops with their unique superiority in supernatural power and authority existed in the first century. The evidence say that the Church was run by elders, who were sometimes called bishops or overseers or presbyters who were all equal and made decisions together. That is why you only read of deacons and bishops/presbyters in 1 Timothy 3 which was written close to the time Peter allegedly died. When the letter went to the trouble of saying how good deacons and bishops should be separately though it could have amalgamated them it shows that there were only the two levels. Peter was not bishop of Rome.

Catholics might start saying that “it does not matter who was the first bishop of Rome. Peter was the head and it was up to the Church to decide which Church leader would be his replacement even if his episcopate was not founded by Peter”.

Ronald Knox thought that nobody in the primitive Church said that Peter was the first Roman bishop simply because he was an apostle and was higher than a bishop but started the headship of the Church in Rome. So he was a bishop but not called one. Thus Linus, Peter’s successor, was the first technical bishop of Rome (Difficulties, page 125). But the pope is a bishop and yet higher than a bishop. Peter only wanted to be called an elder which was worse than being called a bishop. See First Peter.

Because Rome was the supreme capital in the world it had gained the primacy in the Church from the second century. Primacy is just a special honour such as being regarded as something to be united to in representation of the unity of the Church and is not the same as supremacy. Catholics tend not to understand this (page 4, The Primitive Faith and Roman Catholic Developments).

One would expect any man who thought himself to be the head of the Church to call himself Father. The word pope means father. But the first person to take the title pope was Bishop Alexander of Alexandria who played a large role in the Ecumenical Council of 325 AD (page 6, Roman Catholic Objections Answered).

It is impossible to see how Peter as a direct witness of the Lord could have a successor. The successor could not be a real one for he would not be an apostle like Peter. If Peter was a pope he was to be the only one. There was no way the early Church could have believed that Peter would have a successor. There is also the problem that since Peter would be an apostle his authority would be greater than any pope so how could he pass it on unless his successor had a vision of the resurrected Christ to make him an apostle as well? The Bible sees the apostles as foundations and implies there are to be no others. Where are the affidavits that Peter made Linus or whoever the head of the Church in his place? Their non-existence proves that the papacy is just a human institution for they are necessary. Linus would have ensured that they would have been preserved had he considered himself to be anything like a pope.

St Firmilian saw Pope Stephen as a schismatic and an apostate (page 109, A Handbook on the Papacy). This proves that he did not believe that Stephen was infallible or that God chooses the pope. He accused Stephen of not staying on the one foundation of the Church which was the rock. So he denied that the rock was the pope and the rock must have been something else for there can only be one pope at a time so he could hardly have meant that Stephen should stay on the rock of the pope when he was pope!
Jerome stated bluntly, “The episcopate at Rome has no more authority than any other episcopate” (Epistles cxlvi).

It is not surprising that the Church says that the papacy is necessary and that is proof enough that God created it even if no evidence for its functioning exists in the early days and many conservative Catholics admit there is no evidence (page 7, Church and Infallibility). If God went to the trouble of making a papacy then why didn't he give it more power? Most Catholics are not true Catholics and when one adds Orthodox and Protestants to their number it is clear that only a small minority properly and sincerely acknowledge the pope as head of the Church. The papacy has been a better source of division than unity.

Have we much evidence that people in the early Church interpreted “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” from Matthew 16 to make Peter a Catholic style pope?
The fact that Mark has a similar story to Matthew and nothing about the rock stuff suggests that Peter was not the head of the Church. You don’t omit stories like that. Plus Mark does all he can to portray Peter in a bad light - proving that the early Church claim that the gospel was based on Peter's teachings and reminiscences is false and that he didn't respect Peter. He certainly did not think Peter was anything like a pope! Luke wrote after Matthew and didn’t put in the rock material either. Nobody would repeat what others say and then leave out something so important – unless it wasn’t important. If it wasn’t important then Jesus did not make Peter a pope and the succeeding popes the head of the Church.
If the gospel of Mark came from Peter’s preaching as most Catholics believe then when the episode is in it but without the exaltation of Peter then this is a serious reason for asking if the words Matthew reported, “Thou art Peter etc” were said at all. It wouldn’t make any sense for Mark to leave that out if he was a disciple of Peter and it was true.

The disciples disputed among themselves about which of them was the greatest or the leader some time after Jesus called Simon Peter and referred to the rock he would build his Church on proving that they knew Jesus did not make Peter head of the Church or was not planning on it either. In Luke, this dispute started after the last supper long after the Thou art Peter incident (22:24). Jesus replies that instead of a having a ruler among them the one that wants to be the greatest should do the most serving and act like the youngest and needing the most advice from the others. He meant that they should all strive for that – no one in particular. There was to be no infallible pope or papal monarch. If you wanted to be the rock the church was built on you had to lay such notions aside and become it by your serving of others and humility not by papal election. You were to draw no attention to yourself by advertising your goodness but were to work in humility. If Peter had been the rock, the way is now open for a new one among the disciples. It would be the one who seemed to be the least and the one who wanted his virtue seen only by God not man. He was to be an invisible rock.
Peter in Acts 10 met a devout believer in God called Cornelius. Cornelius made reverence to Peter and Peter forbade it saying he was a mere man. Peter had to account for accepting Cornelius into the Church to the circumcised Christians. He pleaded his case instead of saying, "Jesus made me head of the Church thus what I did was right." See Acts 11. Peter was not a very good prophet never mind pope! He thought he was dreaming when it turned out an angel was helping him escape from prison! See Acts 12. Some rock! How could a man like that be trusted when he said he had visions of Jesus? He didn't know how to distinguish between dreams and fantasy and visions! How could Peter's faith make him a rock for it was nothing to write home about!
The Epistle of James which demands that everybody be treated as equals at meetings whether they are rich or poor indicates that there were to be no popes in the early Church. If the pope came to a meeting he would be given a comfortable chair even if it meant the poor person has to sit on the floor. That is the very thing that James condemns severely (2:1-4).

Paul in Galatians 2 wrote that he challenged Peter for refusing to eat with Gentiles. The Jews did not eat with Gentiles and the early Church abandoned this bigotry as the faith was supposed to be for all nations. So Peter was doing something extremely serious. The Catholic Church says that the episode does not prove that popes can err in matters of faith and morals only that they can sin. They say Paul was not challenging Peter's doctrine but his lifestyle. But in fact, though it is true that the Church holds that popes can sin, it is not clear that it was just Peter's lifestyle that was the problem. A pope can use example to teach doctrine - it doesn't have to be verbally expressed. When Paul in that chapter referred to Peter as an alleged pillar of the Church there was more to it than a mere criticism of his lifestyle. And indeed Paul complains that Gentile believers were practically forced by Peter to discriminate against Gentiles and act like Jews implying that Peter must have taught that it was now Christian doctrine that Jewish racism be maintained. And in Paul's speech against Peter he never mentions Peter's sins but concentrates on doctrinal matters and on how the law of the Jews does not apply. It was a doctrinal problem.
If Peter had really been pope and the rock in the Catholic sense would Paul have publicly made a show of him and urged dissent from him in Galatians 2:11-14? The procedure with popes and kings is to have a word with them and try to win them over by peace and in private rather than just leap in and attack them. And especially when they are guilty of obvious stupidity - it is hard to believe that the Church would have taken what Peter did that seriously. Paul did not regard Peter as the focus of unity in the Church when he engineered a revolt against him. Catholics say that Peter did not err in doctrine but he did for the Jewish practice of not eating with Gentiles which Peter supported was a doctrinal issue and the pope teaches by action as much as by speech. If Pope Benedict XVI would never teach any heresy in speech but nods approvingly when some heretic speaks would that mean Benedict was not teaching heresy just because he didn’t open his mouth? So Paul opposed Peter in doctrine. Paul wrote that he saw that Peter was not being straight with the gospel (implying Peter spoke for heresy) and he told Peter in front of everybody that Peter was compelling Gentiles to live like Jews. Clearly then Peter was teaching heresy by speaking up for it and compelling people to become heretics.
Catholics argue that Paul wouldn't have mentioned the episode unless Peter was his superior and he was reprimanding him. They turn it into a proof that Peter was a pope or near-pope. But Paul said a few other things about Peter. And there is no hint anywhere in Paul's writings that he regarded Peter anything other than as an equal.
The Book of Revelation symbolises the apostles being the foundation of the Church as a whole by saying that there will be twelve foundations for the city of the saved and each foundation has the name of an apostle on it. If rock means foundation then there are twelve foundations and Peter was the first rock but not the superior one. Jesus made the others rocks later. Or you could say there is one rock if you group all the apostles together. Revelation means that they are the rocks by their testimony. Christ was the rock in the supreme sense and in the sense that he makes the Church and unites it. Jesus never indicated that if Peter was the rock he was to be the only rock!
Jesus said he would give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to Peter. Papias wrote that Peter opened the gates of Heaven in Rome by his preaching and his keys (page 33, Secrets of Romanism). The keys have to do with saving by his preaching of the gospel like any minister could save not ruling. This may have been written in 140 AD.
The fathers who did believe Peter was the rock did not all make it clear that they thought Peter was the head and boss of the Church. Any that did, gave no evidence that they had researched their statements thoroughly so they have no weight (page 51, St Peter and Rome).
Seventeen early Fathers, including Jerome and Augustine and Origen declared that Peter was the rock which we must remember is still not enough to prove that they believed in the papacy and if they had then they would have excommunicated those other fathers who denied the papacy. Later in life, Jerome stated clearly that the bishop of Rome has no more authority than any other bishop in the Church (page 5, The Primitive Faith and Roman Catholic Developments). He also stated that Christ was the rock and that apostles were each rocks too (page 10, The Primitive Faith and Roman Catholic Developments). So Peter was declared the rock for he was the only one who saw that Jesus was the Son of God and the other eleven became rocks later as soon as they exercised holy faith. The apostle John was as much a rock as Peter was. So Jesus did not mean to make Peter the only rock. A house can be built on several rocks. Later in life, Augustine apologised for his previous view that Peter was the rock and started saying that the rock was Jesus alone (page 10, The Primitive Faith and Roman Catholic Developments). Eight claimed that the rock was all the apostles and Peter had spoken for them and represented them making them all the rock. Jesus would then have meant: “Because you all agree that I am the Christ you are Peter the Rock because you are all one rock and on this rock I will build my Church”, or, “You Peter are called the rock because you represent the rock of the apostles, which is the apostles and yourself”. Even Pope Leo the Great believed that Peter’s faith was the rock. This position was the best supported. The Roman Catholic scholar Launoy found that seventeen claimed that Peter was the rock and forty-four claimed that it was Peter’s faith and eight thought it was the apostles including Peter so that is eighty-five testimonies against seventeen (page 4, The Petrine Claims of Rome). It is true that none of the early fathers gave any hint of believing in the papacy (page 348, Vicars of Christ).
The Peter thing is the bedrock of Catholicism and its strange doctrines and practices for they try to prove it to prove that the teaching authority of the Church is divine and legitimate. The Church does not have good enough evidence for such a serious claim. If the Peter rock theory is wrong then Protestantism is the only alternative. Rome has to decide if it is totally blasphemous and antichrist to put so much at stake over honouring a man. That puts the Church in excessive danger of apostasy or of having done so. Now, think. Only Matthew 16 seems to prove the papacy. That tells us that there is only one testimony, Matthew’s, if he means Jesus wanted a papacy. But the Bible says that religious doctrine regarding faith and morality are more important than people being unjustly punished by the law. The Bible says that at least two firsthand and reliable and independent witnesses are required before an accusation can be listened to. This means that Matthew 16 does not bear the authority of God if it institutes a papacy. It could be that the Bible teaches that only accounts that have the backing of at least one other testimony are divinely inspired for there is no point in God inspiring anything else. I don’t think this view can be accepted by believers for only one testimony, Isaiah’s, came for the prophecies in the book of that name and there are countless other examples of the rule being flouted and the result still being supposed to be the word of God. But at the same time the view is correct. The Bible does not want to be looked at as non-inspired when it is down to one witness accounts. The law of two witnesses could be telling us that whatever the right understanding of Matthew 16 is that it is not about the creation of a papacy for nothing else says that Peter was the head of the Church. It is either not about the papacy or the chapter has been changed and corrupted for it can’t be inspired. The same can be said about the likes of John 6 that is supposed to prove that Jesus turns communion bread and wine into his literal flesh and blood and the verse in John that seems to say Jesus gave the Church the power to forgive sins.
Jesus, as the Mormon Church has pointed out, says nothing at all about the Church built on the rock as being a Church on earth. The Mormons believe that Jesus when he said that the gates of Hell would never overcome his Church meant that even if the Church ceased to exist on earth it would exist in Heaven. Catholics assume that Jesus meant the Church would always exist on earth and be built on the rock of Peter and the papacy. Mormons say that Jesus spoke of the gates of Hell fighting his Church which means he was thinking primarily of the Church in the spirit world for Hell was part of the Spirit world. They say that Satan need not necessarily approve of every human effort to destroy the Church. They say there is no need to believe he is behind all such activity. They say Jesus mentioned only Hell fighting the Church and not people which implies he was not primarily thinking of the Church on earth. If so, then Peter was not the earthly rock that the Church was built on. Jesus talks about giving Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven - again seemingly thinking of the spirit world. The idea of Peter being pope in the spirit world is ridiculous.
If Peter was the head of the Church that means he was head apostle. An apostle was a missionary who saw the risen Jesus and Jesus supposedly appointed twelve official ones. Only a person who lived in the world at the time of Jesus and witnessed his miracles and his goodness could be an apostle. The Pope cannot be Peter’s successor for the Pope is not an apostle.
All the evidence is for the Catholic understanding of You are Peter and on this Rock I will build my Church as being a fraud. That the Church uses the verse to prove the papacy was created by Christ though it has been refuted time and time again speaks volumes.

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