Was Peter the first Pope?

This claim of the Roman Catholic Church is largely founded on their interpretation of the following passage where Jesus asks the disciples:

"Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?"  It is Peter who answers, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus then declares:

"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not declared it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  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.  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." (Matthew 16:13-19)

The Roman Catholic Church claims that Jesus was saying that he would found his church upon Peter, thus making him the first Pope.  Jesus was employing a figure of speech, a pun.  When he said, "Thou art Peter" he was making a play on the meaning of Peter's name - Peter, or "petros" in the Greek, means a small piece of stone or rock.  But when he said "And upon this rock I will build my church", he used another word, "petra", which means a massive lump of rock.

Jesus was referring to Peter's faith when he said "On this rock I will build my church" i.e. on Peter's declaration of his faith that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah or anointed one).

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)

Peter was not the first Pope. 

The following links (all to pages on this site) contain further information on this subject:

  • Matthew 16:13-19 mentions "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" being given to the disciples, not just Peter.
  • The history of the Roman Catholic Church is considered here in the context of Apostolic succession.

Our appeal is for everyone to read the Bible for themselves; it alone is able to make us wise unto salvation (Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 3:13-17).  Do not let any man, Pope or otherwise, dictate the way of salvation. Colossians 2:16-19 tells us who the Head of the church is - the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom, as head, all the body gains nourishment and grows.

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