Where is the Biblical Origin of the Catholic Teaching that Peter was the First Pope?

13 Feb 2014

Feb 13, 2014

According to my Protestant friend, there is no evidence in Scripture that Peter was the first Pope, and nowhere in his writings did Peter claim any special role, authority, or power over the church. Can you explain the biblical origin of the Catholic teaching that Peter was the first Pope?

I’m afraid your Protestant friend doesn’t know the Bible very well, as you can see explained in this series of quotes it is abundantly clear that Peter is singled out in the Bible as having a special role.

As this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia explains the Biblical evidence for Peter being head of the Church is very strong. It says:In Matthew 16:17-19, the office is solemnly promised to the Apostle. In response to his profession of faith in the Divine Nature of his Master, Christ thus addresses him:

Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

And I say to 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 to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter. . .” He further proceeds to recompense this confession of His Divinity by bestowing upon him a reward proper to himself:

Thou art Peter [Cepha, transliterated also Kipha] and upon this rock [Cepha] I will build my Church.

The word for Peter and for rock in the original Aramaic is one and the same; this renders it evident that the various attempts to explain the term “rock” as having reference not to Peter himself but to something else are misinterpretations. It is Peter who is the rock of the Church.”

This article goes into more detail on the words used by Jesus. The Church Fathers, it explains: “those Christians closest to the apostles in time, culture, and theological background, clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter, as the following passages show.” It then gives a series of quotes from the Fathers.

Then, this article has 50 quotes from the New Testament that point to the pre-eminent position of Peter among the apostles. As the author comments: “The biblical Petrine data is quite strong, and is inescapably compelling.”

This topic is one that has been very well-researched. One of the best books on it, if you want to go further into this is “Upon This Rock: St Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, ” by Stephen K. Ray, Ignatius Press.