Definition: The doctrine that the 12 apostles have successors to whom authority has been passed by divine appointment. In the Roman Catholic Church, the bishops as a group are said to be successors of the apostles, and the pope is claimed to be the successor of Peter. It is maintained that the Roman pontiffs come immediately after, occupy the position and perform the functions of Peter, to whom Christ is said to have given primacy of authority over the whole Church. Not a Bible teaching.
Was Peter the “rock” on which the church was built?
Matt. 16:18, JB: “I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.” (Notice in the context [vss. 13, 20] that the discussion centers on the identity of Jesus.)
Whom did the apostles Peter and Paul understand to be the “rock,” the “cornerstone”?
Acts 4:8-11, JB: “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed them, ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! . . . it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone [“cornerstone,” NAB].’”
1 Pet. 2:4-8, JB: “Set yourselves close to him [the Lord Jesus Christ] so that you too . . . may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down.”
Eph. 2:20, JB: “You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone.”
What was the belief of Augustine (who was viewed as a saint by the Catholic Church)?
“In this same period of my priesthood, I also wrote a book against a letter of Donatus . . . In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built.’ . . . But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter.”—The Fathers of the Church—Saint Augustine, the Retractations (Washington, D.C.; 1968), translated by Mary I. Bogan, Book I, p. 90.
Did the other apostles view Peter as having primacy among them?
Luke 22:24-26, JB: “A dispute arose also between them [the apostles] about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. This must not happen with you.’” (If Peter were the “rock,” would there have been any question as to which one of them “should be reckoned the greatest”?)
Since Jesus Christ, the head of the congregation, is alive, does he need successors?
Heb. 7:23-25, JB: “Then there used to be a great number of those other priests [in Israel], because death put an end to each one of them; but this one [Jesus Christ], because he remains for ever, can never lose his priesthood. It follows, then, that his power to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him.”
Rom. 6:9, JB: “Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again.”
Eph. 5:23, JB: “Christ is head of the Church.”
What were “the keys” entrusted to Peter?
Matt. 16:19, JB: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”
In Revelation, Jesus referred to a symbolic key used by himself to open up privileges and opportunities to humans
Rev. 3:7, 8, JB: “Here is the message of the holy and faithful one who has the key of David, so that when he opens, nobody can close, and when he closes, nobody can open: . . . I have opened in front of you a door that nobody will be able to close.”
Peter used “keys” entrusted to him to open up (to Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles) the opportunity to receive God’s spirit with a view to their entering the heavenly Kingdom
Acts 2:14-39, JB: “Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed them in a loud voice: ‘Men of Judaea, and all you who live in Jerusalem . . . God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’ Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’”
Acts 8:14-17, JB: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, and they went down there, and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet he had not come down on any of them: they had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 20 indicates that Peter was the one taking the lead on this occasion.)
Acts 10:24-48, JB: “They reached Caesarea the following day, and Cornelius [an uncircumcised Gentile] was waiting for them. . . . Peter addressed them . . . While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners.”
Did heaven wait on Peter to make decisions and then follow his lead?
Acts 2:4, 14, JB: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. . . . Then [after Christ, the head of the congregation, had stirred them up by means of the holy spirit] Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed them.” (See verse 33.)
Acts 10:19, 20, JB: “The Spirit had to tell him [Peter], ‘Some men have come to see you. Hurry down, and do not hesitate about going back with them [to the home of the Gentile Cornelius]; it was I who told them to come.’”
Compare Matthew 18:18, 19.
Is Peter the judge as to who is worthy to enter the Kingdom?
2 Tim. 4:1, JB: “Christ Jesus . . . is to be judge of the living and the dead.”
2 Tim. 4:8, JB: “All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord [Jesus Christ], the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.”
Was Peter in Rome?
Rome is referred to in nine verses of the Holy Scriptures; none of these say that Peter was there. First Peter 5:13 shows that he was in Babylon. Was this a cryptic reference to Rome? His being in Babylon was consistent with his assignment to preach to the Jews (as indicated at Galatians 2:9), since there was a large Jewish population in Babylon. The Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 15, col. 755), when discussing production of the Babylonian Talmud, refers to Judaism’s “great academies of Babylon” during the Common Era.
Has an unbroken line of successors been traced from Peter to modern-day popes?
Jesuit John McKenzie, when professor of theology at Notre Dame, wrote: “Historical evidence does not exist for the entire chain of succession of church authority.”—The Roman Catholic Church (New York, 1969), p. 4.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “ . . . the scarcity of documents leaves much that is obscure about the early development of the episcopate . . . ”—(1967), Vol. I, p. 696.
Claims of divine appointment mean nothing if those who make them are not obedient to God and Christ
Matt. 7:21-23, JB: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’ Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!”
See also Jeremiah 7:9-15.
Have the claimed successors to the apostles adhered to the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ and his apostles?
A Catholic Dictionary states: “The Roman Church is Apostolic, because her doctrine is the faith once revealed to the Apostles, which faith she guards and explains, without adding to it or taking from it.” (London, 1957, W. E. Addis and T. Arnold, p. 176) Do the facts agree?
Identity of God
“The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion.”—The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), Vol. XV, p. 47.
“Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies.”—The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1976), Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126.
“There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 295.
Celibacy of the clergy
Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Priestly Celibacy, 1967), endorsed celibacy as a requirement for the clergy, but he admitted that “the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles . . . does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers . . . Jesus Himself did not make it a prerequisite in His choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities.”—The Papal Encyclicals 1958-1981 (Falls Church, Va.; 1981), p. 204.
1 Cor. 9:5, NAB: “Do we not have the right to marry a believing woman like the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (“Cephas” is an Aramaic name given to Peter; see John 1:42. See also Mark 1:29-31, where reference is made to the mother-in-law of Simon, or Peter.)
1 Tim. 3:2, Dy: “It behoveth, therefore, a bishop to be . . . the husband of one wife [“married only once,” NAB].”
Before the Christian era, Buddhism required its priests and monks to be celibate. (History of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian Church, London, 1932, fourth ed., revised, Henry C. Lea, p. 6) Even earlier, the higher orders of the Babylonian priesthood were required to practice celibacy, according to The Two Babylons by A. Hislop.—(New York, 1943), p. 219.
1 Tim. 4:1-3, JB: “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listen to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from the devils; . . . they will say marriage is forbidden.”
Separateness from the world
Pope Paul VI, when addressing the United Nations in 1965, said: “The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace; We presume to present here, together with Our own, their tribute of honor and of hope.”—The Pope’s Visit (New York, 1965), Time-Life Special Report, p. 26.
John 15:19, JB: “[Jesus Christ said:] If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Jas. 4:4, JB: “Don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy?”
Resorting to weapons of war
Catholic historian E. I. Watkin writes: “Painful as the admission must be, we cannot in the interest of a false edification or dishonest loyalty deny or ignore the historical fact that Bishops have consistently supported all wars waged by the government of their country. I do not know in fact of a single instance in which a national hierarchy has condemned as unjust any war . . . Whatever the official theory, in practice ‘my country always right’ has been the maxim followed in wartime by Catholic Bishops.”—Morals and Missiles (London, 1959), edited by Charles S. Thompson, pp. 57, 58.
Matt. 26:52, JB: “Jesus then said, ‘Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”
1 John 3:10-12, JB: “In this way we distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil: anybody . . . not loving his brother is no child of God’s. . . . We are to love one another; not to be like Cain, who belonged to the Evil One and cut his brother’s throat.”
In the light of the foregoing, have those who claim to be successors to the apostles really taught and practiced what Christ and his apostles did?