Pope | Biographies of the Popes
The Pope (from Latin: papa; from Greek: πάππας (pappas), a child's word for father) is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (which is composed of the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the see of Rome). The office of the pope is known as the Papacy. His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is often called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" based upon the Church tradition that the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul were martyred in Rome. The pope is also head of state of Vatican City State, a sovereign city-state entirely enclaved within the city of Rome.
- The Pope
- Institution of a supreme head by Christ
- Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter in Matthew 16
- While speaking to Peter, Jesus says that he will build his Church upon this very rock
- The change of Peter’s name
- The keys of the kingdom
- The “keys of the kingdom” refers to Isaias 22 and the position of prime minister
- Jesus was clearly making St. Peter his prime minister
- Who is the rock of Matthew 16? it’s Peter
- Objection: Peter couldn’t be the rock because Jesus is the only foundation
- God calls Abraham the rock in the Old Testament!
- What about Petros vs. Petra in the greek?
- Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek, in which Peter’s name and rock are exactly the same
- Many Protestants admit that it’s obvious that Peter is the rock
- We know Jesus spoke in Aramaic because the Bible gives us some of his Aramaic words
- There is also strong evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek
- John 1:42 equates Peter’s name with the rock
- Considering the context, it would be absurd if Jesus were not saying that Peter is the rock
- The Fathers believed that Peter is the rock
- Objection: The rock is Peter’s faith, not Peter
Answer: The Fathers said that both Peter and his faith are the rock because Peter’s faith is inseparable from Peter himself
- Luke 22 teaches Papal Infallibility (the Infallibility of the office of the pope)
- Jesus entrusts all his sheep to Peter in John 21
- Jesus tells Peter to rule his sheep
- Peter is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament; the next closest Apostle is St. John, who is named just 29 times
- The language of the Bible repeatedly singles out Peter and sets him apart from the other Apostles
- Every list of the 12 Apostles has Peter first
- In Matthew’s list, Peter is not only mentioned first, but called “first” or “chief”
- John and Peter ran to the tomb of Jesus; John got there first, but waited for Peter to go in
- Peter takes the prime role in the replacement of Judas; the replacement of Judas shows Apostolic succession
- In Acts 2, we see St. Peter’s primacy as the Pope in his long speech to the Jews
- In Acts 4, Peter’s primacy as Pope is shown in his speech to the leadership of the Jews
- Peter is again singled out as the leader in Acts 5
- Peter gives out the punishment of the Church in the case of Ananias and Sapphira
- The first Gentile convert is told specifically to go to St. Peter, the head of the Church
- The vision that the old law’s restrictions against unclean foods is finished, which signified the end of the old law, is given to St. Peter, the head of the Church
- St. Peter clearly has the primacy at the council of Jerusalem
- The promulgation of the decision reached at the council of Jerusalem shows the power of the Church and of ecumenical councils
- Conclusion to biblical proof for the Papacy
- More evidence on the primacy of the Roman See
- St. Peter was Bishop of Rome
- Those who succeed Peter in Rome succeed him also in the supreme headship
- Sacrifice Quotes
- Beautiful Quotes
- Inspirational Bible Verses
- Favorite Bible Verses
- Miraculous Medal
(Ecclesiastical Latin papa from Greek papas, a variant of pappas father, in classical Latin pappas — Juvenal, "Satires" 6:633).
The title pope, once used with far greater latitude, is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome, who, in virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, is the chief pastor of the whole Church, the Vicar of Christ upon earth.
Besides the bishopric of the Roman Diocese, certain other dignities are held by the pope as well as the supreme and universal pastorate: he is Archbishop of the Roman Province, Primate of Italy and the adjacent islands, and sole Patriarch of the Western Church. The Church's doctrine as to the pope was authoritatively declared in the Vatican Council in the Constitution "Pastor Aeternus". The four chapters of that Constitution deal respectively with the office of Supreme Head conferred on St. Peter, the perpetuity of this office in the person of the Roman pontiff, the pope's jurisdiction over the faithful, and his supreme authority to define in all questions of faith and morals.
Jesus gives the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, and declares that whatsoever he binds on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever he looses upon earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Even though all 12 disciples are gathered together for this meeting, Jesus says these things only to St. Peter.
While speaking to Peter, Jesus says that he will build his Church upon this very rock
Jesus says: “thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” The Greek word for “this” – as in this rock – is the demonstrative pronoun taute. It means “this very” rock or “this same” rock. Taute is used when “it is desired to call attention with special emphasis to a designated object, whether in the physical vicinity of the speaker or the literary context of the writer” (H. E. Dana and J.R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 127). In the King James Version, taute is translated as “the same” in 1 Corinthians 7:20 and “this same” in 2 Corinthians 9:4.
Therefore, Jesus’ statement to Peter has this meaning: thou art Peter and upon THIS VERY ROCK I will build my Church. From the context given, “this rock” naturally refers to Peter. It just so happens that Jesus also changes his name from Simon to a name which means rock. (But we will see more on this point in a bit.)
Matthew 16:17-18 “… Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona… And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter…”
In the Old Testament a change of name denoted an appointment or a special calling or a change in status. In Genesis, we read the following about Abraham:
Genesis 17:5 “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”
God changed his name from Abram to Abraham because the new name denoted his special role as a LEADER of God’s people. Abraham was chosen to be the father of many nations. (He was also called “rock,” as we will show.) In Hebrew Abram signifies a high father, but Abraham signifies the father of the multitude.
Likewise, in Genesis 32:28, we read that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel in order to signify his special role or position. Therefore, in addition to the other important things that Jesus says to St. Peter in Matthew 16, the change of his name from Simon to Peter serves to confirm St. Peter’s special position and his new status.
No other apostle is given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 18:18, we read that all the Apostles are given the power to bind and to loose; but Peter alone is promised the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 16:19. This shows us that the power which is given to all the Apostles to bind and to loose in Matthew 18:18, must be exercised under the keys which are given alone to Peter. Peter has a unique position of authority in the Church.
The “keys of the kingdom” refers to Isaias 22 and the position of prime minister
Here’s what’s really interesting. Most people don’t know that this reference to the keys of the Kingdom in Matthew 16:19 (and to Peter’s binding and loosing with them) comes from Isaias chapter 22. Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16 are a reference to the function of the prime minister of the Kingdom in the Old Testament.
Isaias 22:22 “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
Notice that the language clearly parallels Matthew 16:19. In the Old Testament God established a covenant with David in order to establish a Kingdom. The Davidic Monarchy, the Kingdom of God on Earth, was meant to be a prototype of the Kingdom of God which Jesus Christ would establish. That’s why Jesus is called the son of David in the Gospels. It’s also why Matthew’s Gospel has kingdom as one of its primary themes. It’s also why Peter himself says in Acts 2:30 that Jesus sits upon David’s throne. Luke 1:32 says the following of Jesus: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father…”
Jesus sits upon the throne of David. But Jesus’ Kingdom is a spiritual one; His Kingdom is His Church. Jesus’ Kingdom not only fulfills, but surpasses the prototype, David’s Kingdom. The point here is that Jesus’ Kingdom is set up along similar lines.
Jesus was clearly making St. Peter his prime minister
In David’s Kingdom there was not only a king who ruled all the people, but the king had a royal cabinet. The king had royal ministers or chief officers. You see references to this royal cabinet (these chief officers or royal ministers of the king) in 2 Samuel 8 (2 Kings 8 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible). You also see a reference to them in 1 Kings 4 (3 Kings 4 in the Douay-Rheims) and in other places. In this royal cabinet, there was a minister of defense, ministers in commerce, provisions, etc.
However, of all the king’s ministers, there was one who stood out with authority above the rest. That was the prime minister, who was over the king’s house. That’s where the fascinating truth of Isaias 22 becomes relevant to Matthew 16.
In Isaias 22 we read that the prime minister HAD THE KEY to the house of David. Let me repeat that: the prime minister had the key to the house of David. This key represented the prime minister’s authority over the house of the king.
Isaias 22:20-22 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy [Shebna’s] robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
Notice that the prime minister had the key of the house of David. We also see that to him was committed “the government,” and that he would be “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
In Isaias 22 the prime minister of the Kingdom was a man named Shebna. Isaias 22:15 says Shebna was “over the house” – that is, he was over the house of the king. Then Shebna left the office of prime minister and was replaced by a man named Eliakim. Then we read that the key of the Kingdom, which Shebna had, was given to Eliakim by King Hezekiah (the successor of David who was reigning as the king at the time). King Hezekiah gave the key of the Kingdom to Eliakim because Eliakim succeeded Shebna in the office of prime minister.
Eliakim now had the key to the house of David. By the fact that he had the key, everyone would recognize Eliakim as the king’s prime minister.
Think about the striking similarity to Matthew 16. In Isaias 22:22, we see the clear reference to the key of the Kingdom being passed, just as Jesus gives the keys to St. Peter. In addition, the statement that with the key “he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” is strikingly similar to what Jesus says to St. Peter in Matthew 16:19, when He gives him the keys to His kingdom: “Whatsoever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you loose upon earth shall be loosed also in Heaven.” The significance of this should be very obvious.
Jesus sits upon the throne of David. So when Jesus comes to establish His kingdom (His Church), which is the fulfillment of the Kingdom of David, He likewise appoints His royal cabinet: His Apostles. But of those royal ministers (His Apostles), there is one prime minister who is over all the other ministers and all the members of the Kingdom. This prime minister is the one who will have the keys of His Kingdom and will be given the primacy in His Church to look after the affairs of His Kingdom.
When Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,” it would have been a clear indication to all informed Jews that Jesus was going to make St. Peter His prime minister. He was declaring that St. Peter would be the first pope – the president or governor of His Church. This is a powerful and irrefutable proof that Jesus was indeed saying that St. Peter would be the first pope in Matthew 16:18-19.
It really should be obvious that Peter is the one whom Jesus is describing as the rock. But Protestants raise all kinds of objections on this point.
Those who raise this objection fail to realize that the Bible speaks of all the Apostles as foundations.
Revelations 21:14 “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
Is there a contradiction between Rev. 21:14 and 1 Cor. 3:11? No, of course not. The fact that Christ is the only foundation, as 1 Cor. 3:11 teaches, simply means that everything comes from Christ. All true authority in the Church must come from Christ because the Church itself comes from Christ. Anything outside of Christ is a false foundation.
Peter’s authority comes precisely from Jesus Christ, as Matthew 16 shows. It’s quite obvious, therefore, that if Jesus is the one who established these things in Peter, then what set up in Peter is not a foundation other than of Christ. It’s the very foundation of Christ.
So, the fact that Christ is the foundation or the cornerstone, as we read in Ephesians 2:20, does not mean that Christ Himself could not or did not establish one apostle to have a perpetual office which would be the rock upon which the Church would be built. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. For example: Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14), but He also gives the responsibility of shepherding all His sheep to Peter, as we will see in John 21:15-17. Jesus is the one with the keys (Rev. 1:18; Rev. 3:7), but He gives His keys to Peter.
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He [God] is the Rock, his work is perfect…”
Isaias 51:1-2 “… look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father…”
The Old Testament says look to the rock, look to Abraham. Abraham is described as the rock because he was the father of all the Israelites. Abraham’s name was changed from Abram to signify his role as rock and father of God’s people. Wouldn’t it be fitting, then, for Jesus to choose someone as the rock and father in the New Testament of the new Israel, the Church? Yes, and that’s why Simon’s name was changed to Petros, which means rock. In light of this evidence, it should be totally obvious to everyone that St. Peter is the rock. Nevertheless, let’s move to some other points.
What about Petros vs. Petra in the greek?
Protestants argue that Jesus couldn’t have been saying that Peter was the Rock because of the differences in the Greek words. They point out that in the original Greek of Matthew 16:18, Peter’s name is petros, which means small stone, while the word to denote rock is petra, which means large rock. The Greek says: “Thou art Peter (petros) and upon this very rock (petra) I will build my Church.” But this argument is refuted by the following points.
First, the words petros and petra had the same meaning (rock) in the Greek which was used at the time of Christ. In some much earlier ancient Greek poetry, petros meant “small stone” and petra “large rock”; but that slight distinction had already disappeared by the time Matthew’s Gospel was written in Greek. (On this point, see the quote from Protestant D.A. Carson on the next page.)
The minor distinction between petros and petra only exists in Attic Greek, not Koine Greek. The Gospel was written in Koine Greek, in which both petros and petra meant “rock.” Moreover, there was a word for stone which Jesus could have used. It is lithos. If Jesus wanted to call Peter a stone, but not the rock (petros), then He would have used lithos. But He did not. He used petros, which means rock. But if there is an equation between Peter and the rock, why, then, are two different Greek words used (petros and petra)? The answer is found in the very important fact that Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not in Greek.
Notice that in Aramaic the same word (kepha) is used in both places. There is absolutely no difference between the two. Jesus was equating Simon and the rock upon which the Church would be built. This is also captured in French translations of this passage, which say: “Tu es pierre, et sur cette pierre…”
The Protestant misunderstanding on this point comes in because when one translates the Aramaic which Jesus spoke into the Greek, the Aramaic word kepha becomes petra. Petra is the normal word for rock in Greek and it’s feminine. The fact that petra is feminine is no problem for the second part of the passage: upon this kepha (upon this rock); but petra obviously cannot be used for Peter’s new name because Peter is a man.
Thus, in the Greek, Peter’s name is simply changed to Petros, a synonym for petra, but one which has a masculine ending. That’s the only reason that there is any difference at all between the two words. There is no doubt that Jesus was declaring that Peter is the rock.
David Hill, Presbyterian minister and senior lecturer of biblical studies at the University of Sheffield, writes: “It is on Peter himself, the confessor of his Messiahship, that Jesus will build the Church… Attempts to interpret the ‘rock’ as something other than Peter in person (e.g. his faith, the truth revealed to him) are due to Protestant bias, and introduce to the statement a degree of subtlety which is highly unlikely.” (Quoted from The Gospel of Matthew, New Century Bible Commentary, p. 261.)
In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, a Protestant work edited by Protestants Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, there is an article by well-known Protestant Oscar Cullman. This is found in Vol. 6:108 of the Theological Dictionary. Cullman states:
“But what does Jesus mean when he says: ‘On this rock I will build my Church’? The idea of the reformers that he is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable in view of the probably different setting of the story. For there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of ‘thou art Rock’ and ‘on this rock I will build’ shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. He appoints Peter… to be the foundation of his ecclesia. To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected.”
Dr. John Broadus (1886), a Reformed Baptist Bible scholar, was forced to admit:
“As Peter means rock, the natural interpretation is that ‘upon this rock’ means upon thee. No other explanation would probably at the present day be attempted… But there is a play upon words, understand as you may. It is an even more far-fetched and harsh play upon words if we understand the rock to be Christ: and a very feeble and almost unmeaning play upon words if the rock is Peter’s confession… Let it be observed that Jesus could not here mean himself by the rock, consistently with the image, because he is the builder. To say, ‘I will build,’ would be a very confused image. The suggestion of some expositors that in saying ‘thou art Peter, and on this rock’ Jesus pointed at himself, involves an artificiality which to some minds is repulsive.” (John A. Broadus, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1886, p. 356.)
The Baptist D.A. Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, was also forced to acknowledge:
“Although it is true that petros and petra can mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (‘you are kepha’ and on this kepha’), since the word was used both for a name and for a rock… The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.” (Quoted in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8, p. 368.)
We know Jesus spoke in Aramaic because the Bible gives us some of his Aramaic words
Since the Aramaic is relevant to the aforementioned points about Peter being the rock, consider the evidence that Jesus did, in fact, speak in Aramaic. We know Jesus spoke in Aramaic, first of all, because the Gospels record some of the Aramaic words which He used. Consider Matthew 27:46, where Jesus says from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Those words are Aramaic; they’re not Greek; they mean, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Another example is John 19:13,17 “When Pilate… sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha… And he [Jesus] bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.”
Both Gabbatha and Golgotha are Aramaic words, providing more evidence that this was the language Jesus used. But St. John calls them Hebrew in the Bible because, as scholars explain, that “Hebrew,” as commonly used in the New Testament, refers to the Aramaic.
There is also strong evidence that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek
There is strong evidence from the early Church fathers that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek. Eusebius, who is the historian of the early Church, the first one to write a history of the Church from the beginning to his own day in the 4th century, repeatedly stated that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, meaning Aramaic.
In Book 3, Chapter 3, of his Ecclesiastical history, Eusebius quotes Papias to state: “Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone translated it as he was able.” By the “Hebrew dialect” he means Aramaic.
In Book 6, Chapter 25, Eusebius quotes Origen to state: “The first [Gospel] is written according to Matthew… who having published it for Jewish converts, wrote it in the Hebrew.”
In Book 6, Chapter 25, Eusebius quotes the great early Church father St. Irenaeus to state: “Matthew, indeed, produced his gospel written among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel and founded the Church at Rome.”
As cited by Eusebius, St. Irenaeus not only says that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the Hebrew dialect (i.e., Aramaic), but also that Peter founded the Church at Rome – something many non-Catholics deny, even though the historical evidence that Peter was in Rome is irrefutable. “All the ancient traditions tell of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome, and not a single source places it elsewhere. Very few events of the apostolic Church are so well attested.”
Keep in mind that Eusebius, who cites Papias, Origen and Irenaeus to show that Matthew wrote in Aramaic, lived from approximately 260 to 340 A.D. and wrote the very first complete Church history. As if that were not sufficient to silence all objections in this regard, we actually have internal biblical evidence that Peter’s name in Greek, Petros, is equivalent to Petra, the rock upon which the Church is built. This internal evidence comes from John 1:42.
John 1:42 “Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter).” (New International Version)
In John 1:42, Peter’s new name is given in its Aramaic form: Cephas. Some may ask, “I thought Peter’s name was Kepha in Aramaic.” Yes, but in English versions of John 1:42, Cephas is simply the Anglicized version of the Aramaic Kepha. So John 1:42 says that Cephas is translated as Peter, the apostle’s name.
Cephas = Peter’s name (John 1:42).
We also know that Cephas would be translated as petra, the word for the rock (Mt. 16:18) upon which the Church is built.
Since Cephas = Peter’s new name (as John 1:42 says) and Cephas = petra, the word for rock, it is undeniable that Peter’s new name = petra, the rock.
Peter’s new name is equivalent to the rock. There’s no doubt about it.
The Primacy of Peter is a collection of essays by Eastern “Orthodox” scholars. The Eastern “Orthodox” are not Catholic and do not accept the Papacy. This work (The Primacy of Peter) was edited by the famous Eastern “Orthodox” scholar John Meyendorf. In this Eastern “Orthodox” work, it is repeatedly admitted that the Bible teaches that Peter is the rock:
“There is a formal and real identity between Peter and rock. Jesus will build the church upon Cephas.” (The Primacy of Peter, edited by John Meyendorf, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992, p. 48.)
“By confessing his faith in the divinity of the Savior, Peter became the Rock of the Church.” (The Primacy of Peter, p. 72.)
“The Apostle Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, and will remain the rock until the coming of the Lord.” (The Primacy of Peter, p. 122; also pp. 63-65; etc.)
Considering the context, it would be absurd if Jesus were not saying that Peter is the rock
Think for a moment how absurd it would be if Jesus were not saying that Peter is the rock. As we’ve just shown, Jesus pronounces Peter alone blessed.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona…” (Matthew 16:17)
Jesus changes only Peter’s name.
“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18)
Jesus gathers His disciples and gives the keys of the Kingdom to Peter alone. He then gives to Peter alone the power to bind and loose.
“And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…” (Matthew 16:19)
But when he’s talking about the rock, even though the statement is in the midst of all of these others to Peter alone, Protestants would have us believe that Jesus is not talking about Peter but about Himself or something else. It’s ridiculous. It’s obviously false that argumentation really shouldn’t be necessary.
Further, it should be pointed out that the reason that Jesus, while referring to Peter, says “upon this rock I will build my Church,” rather than upon you, is because while Peter is definitely the rock, the office He is establishing in Peter (the Papacy) will endure through the ages well after Peter is gone. It’s founded upon Peter, but will continue to exist after Peter is gone. It’s an institution in Peter, but will not be limited to Peter. He will have successors.
The Fathers believed that Peter is the rock
The early Church fathers, the prominent early Christian writers of the first centuries, recognized that Peter is the rock. There are many citations one could bring forward, but here are just a few.
Tertullian, On Monogamy, 213 A.D., refers to Peter and speaks of the Church, “built upon him…” (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1:381)
St. Cyril of Alexandria (370-444), who played a key role with the Council of Ephesus, stated in his Commentary on John: “He [Jesus] suffers him to be no longer called Simon… He changed his name into Peter, from the word petra (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church.”
St. Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.), Against Eunomians, 4: “Peter… who on account of the pre-eminence of his faith received upon himself the building of the Church.”
St. Gregory Nazienzen, great Eastern father (329-389 A.D.), Oration 26: “… of all the disciples of Christ, all of whom were great and deserving of the choice, one is called rock and entrusted with the foundations of the Church…”
St. John Chrysostom, great Eastern father and Bishop of Constantinople, Homily 3, De. Poenit. 4, 387 A.D. “Peter himself the head or crown of the Apostles… when I name Peter I name that unbroken rock, that firm foundation…”
One could also quote St. Ambrose, Jerome and many others, but the point should be clear.
In an effort to argue against the Papacy, some non-Catholics say that Jesus was referring to Peter’s faith (not Peter himself) as the rock upon which the Church would be built. They will even cite some selective passages from the early Church fathers in an attempt to prove this. For instance, they will cite this passage from St. Hilary of Poitiers.
St. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368), On the Trinity, 6, 37: “This faith is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of Hell cannot prevail against her.” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 9, p. 112.)
What they fail to tell you is that in the very same work, St. Hilary said that Peter was the foundation of the Church (On the Trinity, 6, 20).
St. Hilary of Poitiers (300-368), On the Trinity, 6, 20: “Blessed Simon, who after his confession on the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received they keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” (NPNF2, Vol. 9, p. 105.)
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew, 7, 6: “Peter believeth first, and is the prince of the apostleship.”
The fathers understood Peter’s faith to be inseparable from Peter himself and from the office which Jesus set up in him as prime minister of His Church. We also see this truth in Luke chapter 22.
Luke 22 teaches Papal Infallibility (the Infallibility of the office of the pope)
In Luke chapter 22, we find another very important, but often overlooked passage in the Bible which proves Catholic teaching on the Papacy.
Luke 22:24-32 “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve… And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
This passage is fascinating. It contains a number of important truths. First of all, there is a strife among the Apostles about who will be the greatest. Jesus explains that His Kingdom is not like that of the Gentiles. So Jesus is talking about how His Kingdom or Church is structured.
Jesus then says that Satan has desired to sift all the apostles in the plural, but that He has prayed for Peter [singular] that Peter’s faith fail not.
Luke 22:31-32 “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [plural], that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee [singular], that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
It’s important to note that when Jesus says “Satan hath desired to have you,” the “you” is in the plural. This is clear in the original Greek text, but not in the English. Satan desired to have all the Apostles, Jesus says; but He prayed for Simon Peter alone, that his faith fail not. Peter, the one who receives the keys of the Kingdom, also has an unfailing faith, according to the words of Jesus. Jesus says this only about Peter, clearly separating him from the rest.
The word “infallible” means cannot fail. Thus, we see, right in Luke 22, the roots of the Catholic teaching on the infallibility of the pope. This teaching on the infallibility of the pope does not mean that a true pope, as the successor of Peter, can never make a mistake. It does not mean that he cannot sin. What it means is that when a true pope teaches authoritatively on faith or morals to the entire Church (i.e., from the Chair of Peter), Jesus will not let that teaching fail. For if He did, then the Church would itself be led into error and fail. Vatican Council 1 (a dogmatic Catholic council) put it this way:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Session 4, Chap. 4, 1870 A.D. “So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair…”
It’s an unfailing faith of the Office of Prime Minister/Pope which has been established in Peter and will carry on through his successors in that office. Even in the very early Church, the fathers saw this passage in Luke 22 as another proof for the Papacy.
St. Ambrose (4th century), In Ps. 43, n. 40: “Peter, after having been tempted by the Devil, is set over the Church. The Lord… chose him as the pastor of the Lord’s flock. For to him He said, But thou when converted confirm thy brethren [Luke 22].”
John 21:15-17 “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
We see here, in John 21, that Jesus entrusts all of His sheep to St. Peter. The dogmatic First Vatican Council of the Catholic Church said that this moment in John 21, after the Resurrection of Jesus, was the moment that Jesus actually gave to St. Peter the keys and the authority over His church which He had promised him in Matthew 16.
It’s important to emphasize that this moment after the Resurrection, in John 21, was the point at which Jesus made St. Peter the first pope. This is significant because some non-Catholics bring up St. Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ in John 18:25 and following. When Peter denied Jesus Christ, it was before the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Jesus had not yet given St. Peter the authority as pope. The words in Mt. 16:18-20 promise the keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter. They promise that Jesus would build His Church upon Him and make him the prime minister of His Church, but that office was not conferred upon Peter until after the Resurrection, by these words in John 21:15-17. Therefore, St. Peter’s denial of Christ poses no problem at all for Catholic teaching on the papacy.
Further, the Catholic Church does not teach that a true pope cannot sin mortally or even lose his soul. It teaches that a true pope holds the position of supreme authority in the Church, and that when a true pope teaches in a building fashion to the universal Church, God will protect him from teaching error. The power is in the office itself, which is protected by Christ.
John 21:15-17 “He saith unto him, Feed my lambs… He saith unto him, Tend my sheep… Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
In John 21:15-17, Jesus tells Peter to Feed my lambs, Tend my sheep, Feed my sheep. Jesus clearly gives St. Peter authority over His flock, the members of His Church. Some may ask why Jesus says the first time, Feed my lambs, and the second and third times my sheep. The early Church fathers understood this reference to lambs and sheep to differentiate between younger and older members of the Church, or to distinguish between the faithful and the clergy. All of them are entrusted to St. Peter.
Now what’s particularly important is that when Jesus says Feed my lambs, Tend my sheep, Feed my sheep, the second command of the three is the word poimaine in Greek. Many bibles will translate all three the same way, as “feed”; but the second command is actually different from the first and third.
John 21:15-17 “He saith unto him, Feed [Boske] my lambs… He saith unto him, Tend [Poimaine] my sheep… Jesus saith unto him, Feed [Boske] my sheep.”
In the first and the third commands that Jesus gives to Peter about His flock, the word in the Greek is boske. Boske means to feed. But the word poimaine, the second command of Jesus to Peter about the flock, means to rule. It is also translated as tend. Hence, Jesus not only commissioned Peter to feed His Church, but to rule it. It’s fascinating that a form of the very same word poimaine, which Jesus uses about Peter’s authority over the flock in John 21:16, is also used in Revelation 2:27.
Rev. 2:27 “And he shall rule [poimanei] them with a rod of iron…”
That means that Peter not only has a primacy over Christ’s flock, but a primacy of jurisdiction to rule and govern the flock, contrary to what the Eastern “Orthodox” would say. The same word poimaine is used in Rev. 12:5 and elsewhere to indicate the power to rule.
Here’s what the great Eastern father of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, said about this passage in John 21.
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on John, 88, 1, 4th century: “Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ And why, having passed by the others, does He speak with Peter on these matters? He was the chosen one of the apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the leader of the band… the denial was done away, Jesus putteth into his hands the chief authority among the brethren; and He bringeth not forward the denial, nor reproacheth him with what had taken place, but saith, ‘If thou lovest Me, preside over thy brethren.’” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14:331)
Peter is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament; the next closest Apostle is St. John, who is named just 29 times
The prominence of Peter’s name in Scripture reveals that he held, by the institution of Christ, a unique position of authority among the Apostles. Peter is named well over 100 times in the New Testament. The next closest apostle is John, who is named just 29 times.
The language of the Bible repeatedly singles out Peter and sets him apart from the other Apostles
The way that Scripture uses Peter’s name is extremely telling. People should think about the significance of these examples. Notice how Peter is mentioned by name, while the other Apostles are repeatedly mentioned as those with Peter. This demonstrates that Scripture singles out St. Peter and sets him apart from the other Apostles.
Mark 16:7 “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee…”
Acts 2:37 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said…”
Mark 1:36 “And Simon [Peter] and they that were with him followed after him.”
Luke 8:45 “And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee…”
Luke 9:32 “But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep…”
Peter is clearly singled out as the leader of the Apostles. It’s significant that the New Testament writers singled out Peter in this way even though they wrote years after the Resurrection. This shows that Peter’s position of leadership still held its significance in the Church after the Resurrection.
Every list of the 12 Apostles has Peter first
Every list of the 12 Apostles in the New Testament has Peter’s name first and Judas’ name last. This is true even though the order of the other Apostles in between is not always exactly the same. You can see those lists in Matthew 10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:14 and Acts 1:13.
Matthew 10:2-4 “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”
Mark 3:14-19 “And he ordained twelve… And Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot…”
Luke 6:14-16 “Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.”
Matthew 10:2 “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first [protos], Simon, who is called Peter…”
The Greek word used in Matthew 10:2 (protos) means first or chief or principal. Since no other numbers are given in the list – and Peter was not the first one who followed Jesus (Andrew was) – this statement is clearly not meant to assign a number to Simon Peter. It is to indicate that he is the chief or leader or principal of the twelve. Matthew is literally saying: The Chief, Peter.
It’s also interesting to note that protos is used to mean “chief” in Matthew 20:27.
Matthew 20:27 “And whosoever will be chief [protos] among you, let him be your servant.”
The very same Gospel (Matthew) already told us that Peter is the chief among them (Matthew 10:2). The statement in Matthew 20:27, about who will be the chief among them, is therefore not some general instruction; but it is one that has a very specific and concrete application. The chief, Peter, must also act like a servant, discharging his position of leadership with humility. This verse is one reason why a pope (who is chief in the Church of Jesus) is called “servant of the servants of God” (servus servorum dei).
John and Peter ran to the tomb of Jesus; John got there first, but waited for Peter to go in
Here’s another point which is not necessarily as important as those which have already been covered, but it is interesting. In John 20 we read that both Peter and John ran to the sepulchre from which Jesus rose again. John outran Peter and got there first, but he didn’t go in. John stopped and waited for Peter to go in.
John 20:4-6 “So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet he went not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie…”
The fact that Jesus made St. Peter the first pope shows itself again and again after the Resurrection, in the acts of the early Church: the Acts of the Apostles.
Peter takes the prime role in the replacement of Judas; the replacement of Judas shows Apostolic succession
In Acts 1, we read about the decision to replace the deceased Judas with another apostle. Peter stands up in the midst of the rest, and directs the course of action to replace Judas.
Acts 1:15-20 “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity… For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”
This clearly demonstrates Peter’s position of authority as the first pope, but it also shows us apostolic succession. In other words, the positions of the Apostles (the bishops) continue on with replacements after these Apostles or first bishops died. Speaking of Judas’ office, Acts 1:20 says: let his bishoprick another take. The bishops were to be replaced down through history as the Church continued its mission; so that when St. Peter himself dies in Rome as its first bishop, his place as prime minister and leader of the Christian Church would be filled by another Bishop of Rome, the second pope. His name was Linus.
Acts 2:14 “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.”
Notice again the language, “Peter standing up with the eleven.” This was on the day of Pentecost, considered the birthday of the Church, when all the leaders of the Church were gathered. After he preached to the Jews, they asked the men (plural) what they should do. It was again Peter who answered for everyone:
Acts 2:37-47 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost… and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
We also see here that there is no salvation outside the Church led by St. Peter, the Catholic Church.
In Acts 4, Peter’s primacy as Pope is shown in his speech to the leadership of the Jews
At a gathering with the high priest, the question was posed to them: by what power have you done this? St. Peter again answered for the rest.
Acts 4:6-10,12 “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem… they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel… Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
If all the Apostles answered, as the verse says, then why would the scripture word it in this way, mentioning Peter by himself? It’s obviously because he was the leader of the Apostles, being the first pope.
Peter gives out the punishment of the Church in the case of Ananias and Sapphira
In Acts 5, we read that two Christians, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a piece of land but by fraud kept back part of the money. It was St. Peter who pronounced upon them the stern judgment of God and the Church.
Acts 5:3-11 “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?... And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost… Then Peter said unto her [Sapphira], How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?... Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost… And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
The first Gentile convert is told specifically to go to St. Peter, the head of the Church
In Acts 10, we read about the first Gentile convert, Cornelius. People must keep in mind the significance of receiving Cornelius into the Church. Receiving the first Gentile convert was a monumental event which showed the universality of the one true Church. The fact that the angel tells Cornelius to go specifically to St. Peter, and that Peter will tell him what he must do, provides us with another illustration of the primacy of St. Peter as head of the Church.
Acts 10:4-6 “And when he looked on him, he [Cornelius] was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter… he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”
The vision that the old law’s restrictions against unclean foods is finished, which signified the end of the old law, is given to St. Peter, the head of the Church
In accordance with the angel’s instruction to the first gentile convert to go to St. Peter, it’s equally significant that St. Peter alone is given the vision about the end of the Old Law and its prescriptions.
Acts 10:9-13 “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”
It’s interesting that the vision is given to Peter three times. This corresponds with John 21:15-17, where three times Jesus indicates to Peter that all the members of His Church are entrusted to him: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. This corresponds to the three-fold office of St. Peter and all true popes: to teach and guard the true doctrine, to watch over the Church’s liturgy or worship, and to govern the Church by discipline.
St. Peter clearly has the primacy at the council of Jerusalem
In Acts 15, we read about the dissension concerning circumcision. Some were teaching that all Gentile converts to the Gospel had to undergo circumcision to be saved. After much disputing, Paul and Barnabas went to the Apostles at Jerusalem to consult about this question. The leaders of the Church held a council to discuss the issue. This council is sometimes called the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church.
Acts 15:7 “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.”
After much disputing, St. Peter rises up and delivers the first address to silence the argument and give the decision. That’s because he was the leader of the Church, the first pope. The Bible makes special mention of the fact that when Peter spoke and gave his decision, the multitude kept silence:
Acts 15:12 “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul…”
St. James spoke after Paul and Barnabas; for, as early Church historian Eusebius tells us, St. James was left to be the Bishop over the local church at Jerusalem.
Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
Notice that in Acts 15 the Apostles (led by St. Peter) reached a decision, after Jesus had left the earth, by their own authority which they had received from Christ. This process continued throughout the history of the true Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church. Since the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, as we read in 1 Tim. 3:15, its commands, precepts and decisions are binding, if confirmed by the authority of the supreme bishop, the pope; for he has the power to bind and loose from Christ. That’s why, after the Council of Jerusalem, Paul preached that people must follow these precepts:
Acts 15:41 “And he [Paul] went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, commanding them to keep the precepts of the apostles and the ancients.”
This verse is not complete in the Protestant Bible. The King James removed the part about keeping the precepts of the apostles and ancients because it shows the authority of the Church and an authority which must be heeded outside the Bible.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8, 110 A.D. “Apart from the bishop, let no one do anything that pertains to the Church. The only true Eucharist is the one performed by the bishop or by him whom the bishop has appointed. Wherever the bishop is, there must be the congregation, just as wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church.”
Conclusion to biblical proof for the Papacy
We’ve seen the undeniable evidence from the Bible that St. Peter was the first pope. We’ve seen evidence and proof from the words of Jesus, from all four Gospels, from the Acts of the Apostles, from the fathers, and more. It’s a fact of history that St. Peter died in Rome as its first bishop, and that he was succeeded by other popes down through history. They assumed the office of St. Peter as the leader and governor of Christ’s Kingdom (His Church), just like Eliakim succeeded to Shebna’s place of prime minister in the Kingdom of David.
We have shown in the last section that Christ conferred upon St. Peter the office of chief pastor, and that the permanence of that office is essential to the very being of the Church. It must now be established that it belongs of right to the Roman See. The proof will fall into two parts:
that St. Peter was Bishop of Rome, and
that those who succeed him in that see succeed him also in the supreme headship.
St. Peter was Bishop of Rome
It is no longer denied by any writer of weight that St. Peter visited Rome and suffered martyrdom there (Harnack, "Chronol.", I, 244, n. 2). Some, however, of those who admit that he taught and suffered in Rome, deny that he was ever bishop of the city (e.g. Lightfoot, "Clement of Rome", II, 501; Harnack, op. cit., I, 703). It is not, however, difficult to show that the fact of his bishopric is so well attested as to be historically certain. In considering this point, it will be well to begin with the third century, when references to it become frequent, and work backwards from this point.
In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian expressly terms the Roman See the Chair of St. Peter, saying that Cornelius has succeeded to "the place of Fabian which is the place of Peter" (Epistle 51:8; cf. 75:3).
Firmilian of Caesarea
Firmilian of Caesarea notices that Stephen claimed to decide the controversy regarding rebaptism on the ground that he held the succession from Peter (Cyprian, Epistle 75:17). He does not deny the claim: yet certainly, had he been able, he would have done so. Thus in 250 the Roman episcopate of Peter was admitted by those best able to know the truth, not merely at Rome but in the churches of Africa and of Asia Minor.
In the first quarter of the century (about 220) Tertullian (On Modesty 21) mentions Callistus's claim that Peter's power to forgive sins had descended in a special manner to him. Had the Roman Church been merely founded by Peter and not reckoned him as its first bishop, there could have been no ground for such a contention. Tertullian, like Firmilian, had every motive to deny the claim. Moreover, he had himself resided at Rome, and would have been well aware if the idea of a Roman episcopate of Peter had been, as is contended by its opponents, a novelty dating from the first years of the third century, supplanting the older tradition according to which Peter and Paul were co-founders, and Linus first bishop.
About the same period, Hippolytus (for Lightfoot is surely right in holding him to be the author of the first part of the "Liberian Catalogue" — "Clement of Rome", 1:259) reckons Peter in the list of Roman bishops.
We have moreover a poem, "Adversus Marcionem", written apparently at the same period, in which Peter is said to have passed on to Linus "the chair on which he himself had sat" (P.L., II 1077).
These witnesses bring us to the beginning of the third century. In the second century we cannot look for much evidence. With the exception of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement of Alexandria, all the writers whose works we possess are apologists against either Jews or pagans. In works of such a character there was no reason to refer to such a matter as Peter's Roman episcopate.
Irenaeus, however, supplies us with a cogent argument. In two passages (Against Heresies I.27.1 and III.4.3) he speaks of Hyginus as ninth Bishop of Rome, thus employing an enumeration which involves the inclusion of Peter as first bishop (Lightfoot was undoubtedly wrong in supposing that there was any doubt as to the correctness of the reading in the first of these passages. In III:4:3, the Latin version, it is true, gives "octavus"; but the Greek text as cited by Eusebius reads enatos. Irenaeus we know visited Rome in 177. At this date, scarcely more than a century after the death of St. Peter, he may well have come in contact with men whose fathers had themselves spoken to the Apostle. The tradition thus supported must be regarded as beyond all legitimate doubt. Lightfoot's suggestion (Clement 1:64), that it had its origin in the Clementine romance, has proved singularly unfortunate. For it is now recognized that this work belongs not to the second, but to the fourth century. Nor is there the slightest ground for the assertion that the language of Irenaeus, III:3:3, implies that Peter and Paul enjoyed a divided episcopate at Rome — an arrangement utterly unknown to the Church at any period. He does, it is true, speak of the two Apostles as together handing on the episcopate to Linus. But this expression is explained by the purpose of his argument, which is to vindicate against the Gnostics the validity of the doctrine taught in the Roman Church. Hence he is naturally led to lay stress on the fact that that Church inherited the teaching of both the great Apostles. Epiphanius ("Haer." 27:6) would indeed seem to suggest the divided episcopate; but he has apparently merely misunderstood the words of Irenaeus.
Those who succeed Peter in Rome succeed him also in the supreme headship
History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church. We shall here confine ourselves to the consideration of the evidence afforded by the first three centuries.
The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes. In his "Epistle to the Corinthians", written in 95 or 96, he bids them receive back the bishops whom a turbulent faction among them had expelled. "If any man", he says, "should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger" (Ep. 59). Moreover, he bids them "render obedience unto the things written by us through the Holy Spirit". The tone of authority which inspires the latter appears so clearly that Lightfoot did not hesitate to speak of it as "the first step towards papal domination" (Clement 1:70). Thus, at the very commencement of church history, before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such a fact admits of one explanation alone. It is that in the days when the Apostolic teaching was yet fresh in men's minds the universal Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome the office of supreme head.
St. Ignatius of Antioch
A few years later (about 107) St. Ignatius of Antioch, in the opening of his letter to the Roman Church, refers to its presiding over all other Churches. He addresses it as "presiding over the brotherhood of love [prokathemene tes agapes].” The expression, as Funk rightly notes, is grammatically incompatible with the translation advocated by some non-Catholic writers, "pre-eminent in works of love".
The same century gives us the witness of St. Irenaeus — a man who stands in the closest connection with the age of the Apostles, since he was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who had been appointed Bishop of Smyrna by St. John. In his work "Adversus Haereses" (III:3:2) he brings against the Gnostic sects of his day the argument that their doctrines have no support in the Apostolic tradition faithfully preserved by the Churches, which could trace the succession of their bishops back to the Twelve. He writes:
Because it would be too long in such a volume as this to enumerate the successions of all the churches, we point to the tradition of that very great and very ancient and universally known Church, which was founded and established at Rome, by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point I say, to the tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the succession of her bishops, and so we put to shame . . . all who assemble in unauthorized meetings. For with this Church, because of its superior authority, every Church must agree — that is the faithful everywhere — in communion with which Church the tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who are everywhere [Ad hanc enim eoclesiam propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est eos qui sunt undique fideles, in qua semper ab his qui sunt undique, conservata est ea quâ est ab apostolis traditio].
He then proceeds to enumerate the Roman succession from Linus to Eleutherius, the twelfth after the Apostles, who then occupied the see. Non-Catholic writers have sought to rob the passage of its importance by translating the word convenire "to resort to", and thus understanding it to mean no more than that the faithful from every side (undique) resorted to Rome, so that thus the stream of doctrine in that Church was kept immune from error. Such a rendering, however, is excluded by the construction of the argument, which is based entirely on the contention that the Roman doctrine is pure by reason of its derivation from the two great Apostolic founders of the Church, Sts. Peter and Paul. The frequent visits made to Rome by members of other Christian Churches could contribute nothing to this. On the other hand the traditional rendering is postulated by the context, and, though the object of innumerable attacks, none other possessing any real degree of probability has been suggested in its place (see Dom. J. Chapman in "Revue Benedictine", 1895, p. 48).