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The head of the Roman Catholic Church is called the Pope. He claims to be the successor of St Peter the apostle on whom Christ built the one true Church, the Roman Catholic Church. He goes as far as to claim to be infallible. There is no evidence that if Jesus made Peter the rock that he meant he was to be the head of the Church. There is nothing in the Bible about creating a central power or authority in the Church or a spiritual father for the whole Church. If there was always a pope in Rome, the problem is that other bishops were treated as popes too but only over their own diocese and the bishop of Rome was no exception. There was no functional pope as in teacher for the whole church and the one to be obeyed by the whole Church for centuries after Peter.
The first bishop of Rome to claim to be the successor of Peter and to be in his chair was Stephen I (254 to 257 AD). Firmilian recorded that in 257 AD. So it is hearsay. And especially since Firmilian didn't even live in Rome! At least Stephen did not claim to have a divine right to rule the Church in the way the current pope does.

Damasus in 370 AD proclaimed the" Apostolic chair" in which "the holy Apostle sitting, taught his successors how to guide the helm of the Church" (Ep ix ad Synod, Orient ap Theodoret V, 10). Damasus also states how "The first See is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church" and says how Rome received primacy not by the conciliar decisions of the other churches, but from the evangelic voice of the Lord, when He says, "Thou art Peter..." (Decree of Damasus 382).

Damasus was the first pope in the sense of claiming to be indispensible head of the Church and appointed by God so that he is no ordinary leader.

Catholic Doctrine says, “Peter was the first pope for Christ said he was Peter and on this rock on whom he would build his Church and the gates of hell would never prevail against it (meaning the Church being the last thing mentioned) (Matthew 16:18). See also Luke 22:32; John 21. Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven – symbols of authority – and told him that whatever he bound or unbound on earth would be bound or unbound in Heaven. Peter’s authority was to run and teach the Church. These promises were made to Peter alone at the time so they signify a special authority just for him. Like Peter, the pope, his successor, is the supreme head of the Church on earth – its chief shepherd and teacher and who takes the place of Christ on earth. The popes are the successors of Peter for the true Church needs a pope to mark it as the true religion and guide it – the early Church needed a pope so does the modern one. Commonsense shows the need for a pope”.

One good way to read what Jesus said is, "You are rock and on this rock I will build as in increase my church."  This makes Peter a missionary and indeed the first one and he stands out in the New Testament as missionary who effectively founds the Church by bringing in converts.

Had Jesus meant to make Peter a pope he would have said, “You are foundation and on this foundation I will build my Church.” Some Catholics object that Jesus calling Peter rock would be stronger than calling him a foundation for you build the foundation on the rock and it will stand forever. They say Peter then is the rock that the foundation stones will be laid on (page 105, The Church and Infallibility). This would tell you that if Jesus built the Church on Peter who as a man was a weak and changeable one who let Jesus down then he was mad. You can’t build a Church on a man. Most popes even if they have been infallible have not been rocks, some neglected to protect the faith by speaking out clearly, some were too fond of the sentences of excommunication and caused schism after schism, and others have been totally wrapped up in sex, money or power. The Church admits that many popes have harmed the Church. And they are rocks! How absurd. It is no wonder that many reason that even if Jesus said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” that “this rock” refers to Jesus himself. Jesus being God or the sinless Son of God, alone could be the rock. Jesus could have been speaking poetically. He would have assumed that we had the commonsense to realise that “this rock” is not Peter for it couldn’t be but Jesus himself or even the declaration of faith that Peter made that prompted Jesus to say this. Peter had declared, “You are the Messiah the Son of the Living God.” Some Catholics say that nowhere does the Bible say that the rock is not the foundation. A foundation is dug in the ground because the ground needs to be prepared to support a building which it can’t do without a foundation. The rock can be the same as the foundation when it is a flat rock so you can build on it with the right cement. It would be silly to try and put a foundation in a rock like that. But we know Peter was not a rock and no pope was a rock.
Rome speaks as if Peter couldn’t have been the rock of the Church without being the head! Peter could have been the chief asset of the early Church (Acts 1-4; Luke 22:32). The keys of the kingdom just symbolise the power he had to open Heaven to the world by his arresting and spirit-inspired preaching. Peter was the main man as regards organising and bringing converts in. Jesus gave him the power to bind and loose – make rules - for he was the only one who believed that he was the Son of God at the time, the first Christian (Matthew 16). The most likely understanding of the keys is that they represented opening up the mysteries of knowledge and faith to others. The Rabbis used the same device at the time (page 5, From Rome to Christ).
Peter being the rock would not mean he was the foundation. Paul wrote, "For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The power of the keys illustration comes from the Bible where Jesus tells Peter he will give him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven which power to open up Heaven by forgiving sins which Peter or the Pope gives to the bishops and priests. But Jesus said the Jewish leaders had these keys and they didn’t absolve sins so the keys do not refer to the power to pardon that the Pope has and gives to the Church. He told them they shut the kingdom of Heaven against their followers (Matthew 23:13) so he has the image of Heaven having a door or gate in his mind and a door or gate can only be shut properly with a key. Jesus told his hearers to enter through the narrow gate of Heaven and not to look for somebody with a key (Matthew 7:13). Most of these people would stay Jews so he was telling them they had to try and enter and not look for the man with the key or power to let them into Heaven. The keys then are just what Protestants take them to mean, the power to open Heaven by preaching the gospel of divine mercy. It is more an opportunity than a power. The key of the Catholic Church is literally a key to Heaven while the key Jesus means is just a metaphor. Absolution is not the key.

It is strange that only a believer can be the rock the Church is built on in the Catholic sense and many popes were not believers. It tells us that there is something seriously wrong with the Catholic interpretation.

Greek Grammar shows that Jesus said, “I give you the keys of heaven BUT whatever you may bind on earth etc”. The but shows that the keys did not signify the same thing as the binding. Then he said, “Whatever you bind on earth has been or shall have been bound in Heaven and the same with what you loose” (page 11, Roman Catholicism, What is Final Authority? Harold J. Berry). The keys to Heaven may just mean that Jesus is promising him that he will be saved for they are different from the binding power. Notice that Peter is not given any power to bind or loose like the pope claims but is being COMMANDED to bind and loose what God has already bound and loosed in Heaven. There is no hint of the idea that Peter will only bind and loose what God binds and looses which implies that to obey Peter is not necessarily to obey God but God to obey him. Not one of the early fathers ever used this passage to prove anything resembling papal authority (page 12, Roman Catholicism).

Jesus would have meant that if Peter was the rock he would only be that as long as he stayed firm so it is a conditional role he gets. If Peter got a leadership role, Jesus fired him by calling him Satan telling him to get behind him. He meant he was being rejected totally and must even go out of sight. Jesus forgave him later though. This indicates the role whatever it was was conditional.

In Luke we read that Jesus said,

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."
Peter was not the rock then. Jesus was asking him to become the rock again. He was to be the motivator of the Church not its pope.

Ignoring the evidence about Peter, the pope claims that his office is unconditional for the Church needs him. So the papacy was not instituted by Jesus. Moreover, Peter might have been only the chief organiser of the Church meaning that if the pope is his successor, the pope like any organiser may be rebelled against and broken away from if he does not do his job. The pope sees no evidence for his infallibility and his kingship over the Church so he has stolen his position. He has stolen the place of Christ and is antichrist. Pope John Paul II claimed that the papacy never misleads the Church and yet he came out against the Bible teaching on the rightness of liberal capital punishment! To say as he did that capital punishment is evil for the person might be innocent however unlikely this seems, accuses Jesus of backing up an evil God who commanded these executions for apostasy, heresy and sexual sins. This is the man who insists that condoms must not be used even by a married man trying to avoid giving AIDS to his wife!
The Church says Peter was the rock the foundation of the Church and the Church was built on so it follows then that Peter and the pope his successor have to hold the Church together. The Roman Church has never said that the Roman Pontiff is infallible or acting without error when he excommunicates for history shows persons and groups being thrown out of the Church by one pope and this action being apologised for by another. If the pope were really the rock he wouldn’t be able to excommunicate unfairly. The concept of invalid excommunication doesn’t solve any problems for the pope and the Church are separating themselves from some person or group. There is still a split, casting-out, separation and division even if the decree is invalid. The decree might be invalid but it is still effective. If you give John a vodka but not knowing it is a synthetic copy of vodka you have given John an invalid vodka but it still makes him drunk and has consequences. It’s real in its effects.

The Bible indicates that Jesus appointed apostles to teach his gospel and so after his resurrection he appeared to one apostle first and that was Peter (1 Corinthians 15:4-5, Luke 24:34). Jesus gave Peter the task of confirming the brethren in the post-resurrection faith. All this suggests that Peter being the rock means only that Peter was to be the apostle who would see Jesus first and get the task of helping the Church believe. None of that makes him anything like a pope or head of the Church.  In fact we have not the slightest information about this vision!  For the Church all that mattered was Jesus appearing to Peter and Peter as Peter was so important that it did not matter if his account was looked after or not!

It is no exaggeration to assert that Matthew 16 is the basis of the Roman Catholic system. Yet for the first four hundred years (which were the most important years of the Church for they were the formation years and closer to the apostles who the Church says are the only sources of true doctrine) the Church never used this chapter as its basis or to justify the episcopate of Rome or the alleged infallibility of the Roman Church (page 15, Roman Catholic Objections Answered).
Here is the part of Matthew 16 that Roman Catholicism is built on:
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death [gates of hell in some versions] shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. From this the Church concludes that Peter was the first pope, the head of the Church and started off the succession of infallible popes with supreme powers of jurisdiction over the Church.
God revealed the truth about Jesus to Peter which was why Jesus said what he said to Peter. Jesus is saying that Peter was chosen by God not man. The idea of Peter having successors chosen by men, often disastrously if the papal reigns of Benedict IX and Alexander VI and Paul VI is anything to go by, is alien to the passage.
Peter alone is able to tell Jesus that he was the Messiah the Son of God. It seems the other apostles were evasive. Or that they didn’t think he was. Perhaps they did and were afraid to say it. The first reason is the right one for Jesus speaks later as if Peter alone had realised that he was the Christ.
Had Jesus intended to set up the papacy with its teaching and jurisdictional authority he would have said, “You are Light and this Light will be the foundation of my Church.” The teaching authority of the pope is his most important mandate. If Peter was this unique light he would automatically have jurisdiction to spread this light. (Jesus called Christians light of the world.) That is why the word Rock isn’t the best word. A rock could just be the person who does most of the work, the person who founds the Church, the first member of the Church, the person who teaches the best, the person who is most open to God. Jesus is the head of the Church in Catholic doctrine and the pope is just the human head of the Church. What then if Jesus was the founder of the Church and Peter being the first to believe and receive the real gift of faith was then to be reckoned the human founder? That would not make Peter a pope.

Jesus told Peter that God showed him that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus then told him he was the rock and on this rock Jesus would build his indestructible Church. He said he would give him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven so that whatever Peter binds on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever Peter looses on earth will be loosed in Heaven. It is important to remember that the foundation of the Church had already been laid in the ministry and person of Christ. So he could not have been creating a new foundation. Rock does not mean foundation and Jesus never said that he meant foundation here. What he could have meant was that because Peter was a true believer that Peter would be the first rock or stone put on the foundation and the rest of the Church would be built on that rock for that reason. Everybody in the Church then is a rock that the Church is built on but Peter was special for he was the first. Peter was the beginning of the Church founded by Jesus. Abraham was called the rock too because he was the forefather of God’s people and not because he claimed to be any kind of pope (Isaiah 26:4-5).
Also, if Peter had been made head of the Church he might only have been an administration head making the final decisions about what the Church will do but not claiming any special right to tell it what to believe. In this view, Protestants could regard the pope as lawful head of the Church but who is not entitled to obedience until he restores the true faith within the Catholic Church but they would need to show that Peter’s office was transmissible.
It is said that what Jesus told Peter was addressed to him as an individual and not as one of the apostles (page 5, The Petrine Claims of Rome). But Jesus could have meant you (Peter) are rock and on this rock (meaning the apostles) I will build my Church. Each of them is rock so they can be called rock individually or collectively. Evidence for this is in the fact that Jesus didn’t say, “You are Peter and on you I will build my Church.” The distinction between Peter and the rock indicates a denial that Peter alone is the rock.

The pope is the visible head of the Church which is why he is called the Vicar of Christ, the one who stands in the place of Christ. Peter was not head of the Church at that time or even a bishop for Jesus is the head of the Church as long as he is on earth and yet Jesus says you are Peter and on this rock etc. Peter was called Peter before the Church was built! So Peter does not mean rock though the Catholic Church says it does. Peter was not a pope from the time he was called Peter on for the Bible contradicts the view that he had any special authority from the time Jesus supposedly told him he was the rock he would later build on. The Catholic Church lies that Peter was to become the rock when Jesus returned to Heaven and that Matthew 16 means he will be the rock in future tense (page 51, Pope Fiction). Jesus was the visible head of the Church so Peter was not a pope. Jesus calling Peter rock did not mean Peter was a pope.
Peter wasn’t even a priest when Jesus called him the rock for the Church says that when Jesus told his apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in his memory he ordained them as the first priests. Curiously Jesus never laid hands to ordain and yet the Church today says nobody can ordain you a priest or bishop without laying on hands which is the essential part of the sacrament of ordination. The early Church laid hands afterwards but never said it was essential for ordination and the Bible never taught the need. So Peter was never a priest or a bishop and today Rome tells us that the pope must be the bishop of Rome or more correctly the bishop of Rome automatically becomes the pope and head of the Church.

However, the Catholic Church claims that Peter was a pope for he was the Rock the Church was built on and its boss and had the authority to bind and loose and to open and shut the gate of Heaven.

Suppose Catholicism is right about the pope being the head of the Church. It makes no sense to say that the person of the pope is head of the Church. Surely the office of the pope is head? The Church says that the pope must accept the irrevocable teaching given by previous popes and preserve Catholic faith and Catholic morals. Therefore the role of the pope matters and not the pope as a man. If Jesus said to Peter that he was Peter and on this rock he would build his Church he was speaking of Peter not as a man but as a believer. This is another way of proving that the text backs up the ancient argument that the rock was Peter's faith. To say you build the rock on Peter as believer is the same as saying that the faith is the real rock.
The first person who believes is the rock the Church is built on in the sense of being the first member and supporter. Without a first convert there is no Church to join. Being boss has nothing to do with it. Peter then had the keys to Heaven and the power to bind and loose for he became the Church without which Heaven cannot be reached.

Probability tells us to take the simplest meaning and this is the least Jesus could have meant. Reading the papacy into all that is exaggerating. Matthew 16 does not support the papacy.

If Peter was the rock of Catholic doctrine and the Church then to be a rock he had to sanction everything taught by other bishops before they could teach it for he is the rock chiefly for doctrinal reasons for the Church cannot exist without its doctrine being intact. So in reality and for simplicity, he should have written the sermons for them and instead of preaching the bishops merely read them out. The Catholics make the pope the rock but they do not really believe that he is the rock. For example, they say they have no problem with “caretaker popes” ones who do nothing but just fill the chair of Peter. How could such a pope be the rock in any sense? If the pope is the rock then he is the only real bishop in the Church and the other bishops are just assistants and puppets. Peter never did anything like this so he was not a pope. If he was the rock he was not the rock in the Catholic sense or anything close to it.

This tells us that it is most probable that the distinction between Peter as an individual and the Rock is there in Jesus’ words.

After Jesus said that Peter was Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, Jesus then told the apostles that he would be put to death and rise on the third day. Peter told him that this must not happen and Jesus called him Satan and told him he was into man’s thinking not God’s.

Jesus called Peter Satan. Now, suppose Jesus really told Peter he would be the infallible ruler of the Church or at least that the Church he would head would never be taken over by Satan. That would be a conditional promise. It would depend on Peter being true to God for Jesus would not appoint a tyrant. Jesus called Peter Satan and Paul said that Peter let the Church down and promoted error. It would not look like Peter really became the head for he consistently let Jesus down. He was not much of a rock. The Bible never praises Peter so we only know bad things about him and that is what we have to depend on. We have no evidence at all that Peter remained true and was able to become pope and Paul accused him of apostasy. When the fulfilment of the promise was never recorded or made clear in scripture or primitive tradition we must be expected to believe that Peter annulled the promise and proved unsuitable. But whatever, he was never a pope.
Jesus said that the gates of Hell will never win against the Church built on the rock. This is supposed to promise the Church that it will never lead people into errors that put them in Hell. What if the Church gets so much wrong that the people are left ignorant of truth and honesty that they can no longer sin seriously? It is Catholic doctrine that a person who murders and does not know it is wrong will not be held guilty of sin. Some say that Jesus was talking about the building of the Church and meant that Hell would never be able to prevent this construction. Some think that it was a prophecy about how the fate of Christianity depended on the outcome of the tremendous debate between Simon Magus and Peter that is "reported" in the Clementine Recognitions. Peter won the day and saved the Church from Simon Magus and his lies and heresies.
Some say that the promise meant that the real followers of Jesus comprise the Church and will never go to Hell. That is the Calvinist doctrine of once saved always saved. Or as parts of the Church do go to Hell it could be said to be a conditional promise. This interpretation fits the notion that right now nobody could be connected to Jesus but that could change say next year.
Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28). This text shows that perhaps the promise that the Church would never be overcome is hyperbolic? It is obvious that sheep do leave Jesus though he talks as if they do not. Is it poetic?

Jesus says he will build his Church and hell will never tear it down. It is better to see it as a promise that the establishment of the Church will take place and Hell cannot stop it. It is talking about the creation of the Church not the Church after it is created. So the Church could fail and cease to be Christian.

Peter seems to have functioned as the chief witness of the resurrection in the early Church. If that is so then he could have been that kind of rock. He was not the head of the Church and was not to have a successor as the rock. Peter would have been the best witness for Jesus being the Son of the Living God for he was the oldest witness.
Jesus making Peter the pope does not mean that we are bound to follow the pope now. If the pope is in charge of the Church and leads it astray then if a faction could prove that he was not doing his duty, it could elect another pope and why not? Jesus did make it clear as did the apostle Paul that even if the apostles taught evil that they were to be forsaken. Human authority even in the name of God does not come before God.

After his alleged resurrection Jesus is reported in the Gospel of Matthew to have said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). This is often read as saying that whatever role Peter was given it was not an authority one.
There is no evidence that the Bible considered Peter to be the earthly head of the Church or that the pope is Peter’s successor even if Jesus did. If Jesus made Peter a pope then how do we explain Jesus forbidding anybody to exercise religious authority and wanting an egalitarian religion? See Matthew 20. He rejected the pyramid system of authority.

Peter as Prophetic History of the Church

Is Peter a symbol of the Church?  The rock a building is on may be considered separate from the building.  Sometimes it and the building are the same. But typically we treat the building as the same as what is built on.

You are rock - the sign of the Church - and on this sign I will build my Church.  Christians say the Church is always being built.

Peter with his being the Church then being Satan and betraying Jesus could be a symbol of the Church with its turbulent future. 

Another metaphor

Why does Revelation call Perganum the seat of Satan?  The book says that Jerusalem is Sodom and speaks of the great whore in Rome.  It refutes the notion that Jerusalem or Rome is the centre of evil in the present tense.  Jerusalem is not the whore of Babylon that the book talks about for it would be named as the seat of Satan if it were.  It is hard to know why Perganum could be called seat of Satan and shows that statements such as Jesus calling Peter the rock are not to be taken too literally.  Peter being the seat of the Church is not literal.  Or you may say that rock does not mean he is the seat or throne or head of the Church.  If the whore is future Rome then it does not matter what "Thou art Peter" means for papal Rome is condemned.

Abraham was called rock in the book of Isaiah and he was not a pope or ruler but still an ordinary man. Anyway Jesus refuted any papal understanding of rock when he said call no man your father and pope means father.  Jesus meant you must look up to no man as having the word of God unless he can write scripture.  Otherwise read the word of God yourself.  Scripture is seen as what comes from God even though it comes from man too.

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 is unclear and despite the fact that its interpretation has been refuted time and time again speaks volumes.

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