The Papacy—Founded by Christ?
“BETWEEN Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, and our present pope, John Paul II, there stretches a long line of supreme pontiffs—more than 260, in fact.” So says Catholic friar Anthony Foy in The Southern Cross, a Catholic weekly for southern Africa. He continues: “It is to this unbroken line of popes that we can confidently point, when we are asked to prove that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ.”
Can it be confidently said that this long line of popes began with the apostle Peter? According to Catholic theology, four popes, Linus, Anacletus, Clement I, and Evaristus, are said to have succeeded Peter up to the year 100 C.E. The Bible does mention a Christian named Linus who lived in Rome. (2 Timothy 4:21) However, there is nothing to suggest that Linus, or anyone else, was a papal successor to Peter. The apostle John, who penned five books of the Bible in the last decade of the first century, made no reference to any of the above so-called successors of Peter. Indeed, if there was a successor to Peter, would not the logical choice have been John himself?
As to the claim that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, there is no proof that he even visited that city. In fact, Peter himself states that he wrote his first letter from Babylon. (1 Peter 5:13) The Catholic argument that Peter used “Babylon” as a cryptic reference to Rome is groundless. The real Babylon existed in Peter’s day. Furthermore, Babylon had a sizable Jewish community. Since Jesus assigned Peter to concentrate his preaching on the circumcised Jews, it is altogether reasonable to believe that Peter visited Babylon for this purpose.—Galatians 2:9.
Note, too, that Peter never referred to himself as anything more than one of Christ’s apostles. (2 Peter 1:1) Nowhere in the Bible is he addressed as “Holy Father,” “Supreme Pontiff,” or “Pope” (Latin, papa, an affectionate term for “Father”). Instead, he humbly adhered to Jesus’ words at Matthew 23:9, 10: “Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.” Peter did not accept veneration. When Roman centurion Cornelius “fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him . . . , Peter lifted him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’”—Acts 10:25, 26.
As to the 260 alleged popes, priest Foy admits: “A number have been unworthy of their high office.” In an attempt to justify this, the New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “What mattered for purposes of government was the office, and not the personal character of the individual pope. He may personally have been a saint, a mediocrity, or even a scoundrel.” But do you believe that Christ would use such men to represent him?
At any rate, the assertion that the papacy was founded by Jesus is simply not supported in the Bible. According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, even modern Catholic scholars concede that “there is no direct biblical proof that Jesus established the papacy as a permanent office within the church.”