Copyright 1994 - 2023 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
April 1, 2010
Last Updated :
April 1, 2010
NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.
False Roman Catholic Doctrines: The One True Faith? Was Peter The First Pope?, The "Acts Of Peter" And Peter's Crucifixion, Christ Died Once For All Men, "Acts Of Peter" A False Gospel, No Scriptural Evidence That Peter Ever Went To Rome, Fall Of Babylon, Did Peter Visit Babylon?, Paul Rebukes The Galatian Brethren, Become All Things To All Men In Order To Save Some Of Them, Paul Goes To Jerusalem, Peter Travels To Antioch, Paul Rebukes Peter, Paul Was Apostle To The Gentiles While Peter Was The Apostle To The Jews, Roman Catholic Church Did Not Exist During First Century, First Century Home Churches, True Christian Church Is Not A Physical Place Or Building, Spiritual Body Of Christ Is True Church And Household Of God, Jesus Chose Three Men To Lead His Church: Peter James & John, Origin And Meaning Of Apostle Peter's Aramaic Name: Cephas
Being as I live in an area of the world which is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, every now and then, I will engage in a conversation with a Roman Catholic. When this happens, invariably, the conversation will turn towards the erroneous Roman Catholic-held doctrines which boastfully claim, among other things, that the Roman Catholic Church is the Church which was established by Jesus Christ, that the Apostle Peter was the first pope of said Church, and that Roman Catholicism is -- according to Roman Catholic beliefs -- "the one true faith". In their quest to convince us non-Catholics of these misguided beliefs, they will point to a few Bible verses that are found in the New Testament. One of these Scriptures is Matthew 16:18, which reads as follows:
"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."
Matthew 16:18, KJV
The traditional Roman Catholic interpretation of this verse is that Christ is saying that the Apostle Peter is the rock; and that with this pronouncement, Jesus is also establishing Peter as the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church. But is this really what the Lord is telling us in that verse, or is it possible that common Roman Catholics have been purposely misled by their church's hierarchy in the Vatican?
Another verse of Scripture which was recently shared with me by a Roman Catholic is the following, written by the Apostle Paul:
"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
1 Timothy 3:15, KJV
According to the person who wrote to me, the previous verse proves that the Roman Catholic Church is the Church that was established by Christ, and that it is the Church to whom He gave authority in the world. If you were to ask any devoted Roman Catholic, they will indeed tell you, and quite proudly so, that the Roman Catholic Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth". Whenever the pontiff in Rome makes any kind of pronouncement, it is viewed by dedicated Roman Catholics as coming directly from the Mouth of God; after all, the pope is the "Vicar of Christ" -- or at least so they say. So again I ask: Is this truly what the previous verse means?
Hopefully, after you have read this series, and examined the Biblical evidence which I will be presenting in it, you will be able to arrive at your own informed, and Biblically-sound, conclusions.
Let's begin our examination with a look at the Apostle Peter. While I have already written an article about Peter entitled "Peter: Faith Tried In The Fire", let us just take a brief look at the manner of his death. The commonly-held belief is that after years of faithfully serving the Lord, the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down on a Roman cross outside of the city of Rome. While it appears later in other works, the original source of this questionable doctrine is the closing chapters of a non-Biblical apocryphal work known as the "Acts of Peter". I have a copy of it, and I have read it; and to be honest, like so many other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works that I have read, I seriously doubt that it is Divinely Inspired because some of its contents clearly contradicts the accepted Canon -- that is, the Bible -- and is quite strange.
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, consider that according to this manuscript, the reason why Peter was killed was because, as a result of his alleged evangelism in Rome, some of the Roman women were coming to the Christian faith, and no longer desiring to have sexual relations. In one case, there was a certain Roman prefect by the name of Agrippa who had four concubines. After hearing Peter preach, these four women wanted to remain chaste, and so they refused to engage in sex with Agrippa. Meanwhile, there was another Roman who was a friend of Caesar by the name of Albinus, who had a wife named Xanthippe. Similar to the four concubines, she too had heard Peter preach, and as a result, she no longer desired to have sexual relations with her husband. Enraged, Agrippa and Albinus conspired together to have Peter killed.
So according to the story, Peter is apprehended and led away to be crucified. Prior to actually being hung on the cross, Peter gives the gathered crowd a long, flowery speech. Then, while he is actually hanging on the cross upside down, Peter gives yet another speech before finally dying, which doesn't sound like anything that you will find him saying in the New Testament. The crucifixion was executed without the consent or knowledge of Nero. Upon learning of Peter's crucifixion, Nero becomes very angry with Agrippa because, according to the manuscript "he desired to punish him [Peter] more sorely and with greater torment, because Peter had made disciples of certain of them that served him, and had caused them to depart from him".
Now, if the previous paragraphs sound strange to you, allow me to share one more section of the "Acts Of Peter" with you. It states that initially, Peter was going to flee from Rome in order to save his life; however, before he could escape, "Jesus" appeared to him and told him to go back and get up on that cross:
----- Begin Quote -----
"And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus (or here)? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified. And Peter said unto him: Lord, art thou (being) crucified again? He said unto him: Yea, Peter, I am (being) crucified again. And Peter came to himself: and having beheld the Lord ascending up into heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing, and glorifying the Lord, for that he said: I am being crucified: the which was about to befall Peter."
----- End Quote -----
Now, tell me folks; do you honestly believe that any of the previous paragraphs that I just shared with you are inspired by God? Does it sound like the inspired Word of God that you are familiar with in the KJV? Are you able to recognize the glaring Scriptural contradiction that is found in that last paragraph alone? If not, let me give you a little help:
"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin ONCE: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God."
Romans 6:9-10, KJV
"But this man, [Jesus] because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did ONCE, when he offered up himself."
Hebrews 7:24-27, KJV
"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in ONCE into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
Hebrews 9:11-12, KJV
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself . . . So Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
Hebrews 9:24-26, 28 KJV
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE for all."
Hebrews 10:10, KJV
"For Christ also hath ONCE suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
1 Peter 3:18, KJV
As you can clearly see, the real Word of God, the inspired Word of God, tells us that Jesus died for our sins one time, and He is not going to do it again. Please notice the very last verse. Even the real Apostle Peter tells us this; yet in the "Acts Of Peter", we see another very strange-sounding "Peter", as well as another "Jesus" who appears to be willing to be crucified again. Thus, by studying the real Word of God, we can quickly determine that the "Acts Of Peter" is a false gospel which preaches another Jesus. Now consider the warning of the Apostle Paul:
"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him."
2 Corinthians 11:4, KJV
That word "bear" is derived from the Greek word "anechomai", which means to hold one's self erect and firm, to sustain, to bear, or to endure. So I believe that what Paul is saying there is that if someone should come to us preaching a false gospel and another Jesus, we should stand firm against them.
The reason why I shared the previous story with you from the "Acts Of Peter" is to emphasize a very important point, and that is this: As I briefly mentioned a moment ago, the "Acts Of Peter" is the oldest known manuscript where Peter's alleged crucifixion in Rome is recorded. At later dates, other writers also mentioned it, or referred to it, but this is believed to be the oldest source. That being the case, we must assume that this apocryphal work must be where the story originated. As I said, personally, I don't accept this as the inspired Word of God for a moment; and yet millions of Roman Catholics around the world, and even some non-Catholics, have bought into this story, and believe that it is true. Personally, I find this fact alarming, and it makes me wonder exactly how many other Roman Catholic doctrines find their origin in such uninspired strange and doubtful works. That is my point.
Based upon the following verses which can be found near the end of the Gospel of John, it appears that there may be some truth to the belief that Peter was crucified; but that this occurred in Rome, and in the manner described in the "Acts Of Peter" is questionable, because there is absolutely no record of it anywhere in the accepted Canon of the Scriptures:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me."
John 21:18-19, KJV
The act of the Apostle Peter stretching forth his hands, and being carried somewhere against his will, does suggest that Jesus may be saying that Peter would be crucified in his old age. However, it is precisely because of these verses, that I have a difficult time reconciling the Roman Catholic doctrine which claims that Peter went to Rome where he became the very first pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Are we to believe then that the Romans actually murdered their very first pope? Granted, murderous plots were a rather common occurrence in ancient Rome; nevertheless, in my view, something seems very wrong with this picture. Both accounts cannot be true. Either Peter died a martyr as a humble servant and an Apostle of the Lord, following Jesus' own example of self-sacrifice, or else he became the powerful, popular pope and bishop of Rome, of Roman Catholic myth. As Jesus stated in the Gospel of Luke:
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23-24, KJV
The Apostle Peter not only bore his symbolic cross in life, as is evidenced by the persecutions that he and his fellow Apostles endured in the Book of Acts, but apparently in death as well.
As I've pointed out before, this Roman Catholic doctrine that claims that Peter went to Rome finds absolutely no support in the Scriptures. According to the Bible, all indications are that Peter's travels remained primarily within the borders of Israel. In fact, Peter -- together with the Apostles James and John -- guided the Early Christian Church from Jerusalem, and not from Rome. To my knowledge, there are only two places in the Scriptures which suggest that Peter ever physically left Israel. One of these is found at the very end of Peter's first Epistle where he writes:
"The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son."
1 Peter 5:13, KJV
The impression given here is that the Apostle Peter may have possibly made an apostolic visit to the Christian Church that had been established in the ancient city of Babylon. By this time, however, Babylon would have no longer been the grand metropolis that had been established by the Babylonian kings, and later by the Persians and Greeks as well. Accordingly, the Greek lexicon states the following concerning the demise of Babylon:
----- Begin Quote -----
Cyrus had formerly captured it, but Darius Hystaspis threw down its gates and walls, and Xerxes destroyed the temple of Belis. At length the city was reduced to almost solitude, the population having been drawn off by the neighbouring Seleucia, built on the Tigris by Seleucus Nicanor.
----- End Quote -----
As I explain in a number of other articles, the fall of the city of Babylon was a fulfillment of some of the prophecies of the ancient Israelite Prophets, and was due to the fact that the Babylonians, under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar, invaded, captured and destroyed Jerusalem. This included the complete destruction of the temple of Solomon, as well as the theft of all of the holy golden objects which had been in it.
Returning to the topic at hand, in their desperate attempt to prove that Peter went to the city of Rome where he allegedly became the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church, there are those Roman Catholics who claim that Peter's use of the name Babylon in the previous verse is a coded reference, and that in reality, he was writing from Rome. Again, allow me to make it clear that there is absolutely no Scriptural evidence to support this belief. The idea that Peter is referring to the city of Rome is speculation at best; and our Christian faith is not based on questionable conjectures and speculations; it is based on the actual record that we find in the Scriptures.
Another possibility is that Peter may not have been writing from Babylon. If we consider that Jerusalem was the spiritual and physical hub of the First Century Christian Church, and that communications, materials and Disciples flowed through it all the time, it may be that Peter was merely conveying a message from the Christian Church at Babylon, to the brethren he was addressing in his Epistle. While this is a personal speculation on my part, I do believe that it does have some merit. However, for me personally, the issue of where Peter was writing from is not really important. What is important, is the contents of his Epistle.
The second piece of Scriptural evidence which points to the Apostle Peter temporarily leaving Jerusalem is found in the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the brethren at Galatia. Galatia was a province of Asia Minor. The Apostle Paul himself was from Cilicia, which was another province of Asia Minor. In our modern day, Asia Minor is known as Turkey.
As I explain in other articles, in this Epistle, the Apostle Paul delivers a rather stern rebuke to the Christian brethren in Galatia, due to certain disturbing events which transpired after Paul had established a new Church there. These events centered around the fact that Paul had stirred up considerable controversy amongst the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem, due to the fact that as he traveled throughout that part of the Mediterranean region, he preached that circumcision was not necessary for Salvation. In contrast to the stern, Law-bound Jewish Disciples in Jerusalem, Paul was also considerably more liberal regarding what he ate, as well as more lax when it came to other Jewish customs. The reason why Paul adopted this evangelical approach, as he explains in his Epistles, was so that he could win more souls to Christ, as we see by these verses:
"For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
1 Corinthians 9:19-23, KJV
At any rate, in the first and second chapters of the Epistle, Paul briefly relates the story of his conversion, and how he was at first held at arms length by the leadership of the Early Church, which resided in Jerusalem. After three years, Paul finally went to Jerusalem, where he stayed with Peter for fifteen days. Paul then relates that at least fourteen years later, when the dispute regarding circumcision arose, he again went to Jerusalem in order to sort out the problem; at which time he states that James, Cephas and John -- who were viewed as the Elders in Jerusalem -- extended the hand of fellowship to Paul. Paul relates that it is sometime after these events that the Apostle Peter went to visit him in the city of Antioch, which was the capital of Syria, founded by Seleucus Nicanor -- one of Alexander the Great's four top generals -- in 300 B.C.
It is during this visit by Peter that the situation explodes. Paul publicly rebukes Peter due to Peter's clear hypocrisy, and Paul's long-time traveling companion -- Barnabas -- ends up abandoning Paul over this same issue, as we see here:
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"
Galatians 2:11-14, KJV
It is interesting to note that Peter's first Epistle, where Babylon is mentioned, was in fact addressed to the Galatians, and other brethren who dwelt in the provinces of Asia Minor, as we see here:
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,"
1 Peter 1:1, KJV
As I said a moment ago, other than these two occurrences in the Scriptures, I am not aware of any other evidence in the New Testament which points to Peter having left Israel all that often, and most certainly never having gone to Rome in order to supposedly claim his title as the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, in my mind, I can't think of any reason for Peter to have done this. As I have already stated, and as you will see even more clearly in a moment, Jerusalem was both the physical and the spiritual hub of the First Century Christian Church. Finally, the Scriptures also emphasize that Peter was the Apostle to the Circumcision -- that is, the Apostle to the Jews -- while Paul was chosen by God as the Apostle to the Uncircumcision -- that is, to the heathen, or the Gentiles. It is for this reason that Paul was destined by God to eventually travel to Rome, where he would be a great witness, and ultimately surrender his life for the Lord, while Peter was not. For example, Paul writes:
"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."
Galatians 2:7-9, KJV
One other overwhelming fact which makes this Roman Catholic claim of Peter going to Rome to become the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church so baseless, and so ludicrous, is that the Roman Catholic Church did not even exist during the First Century. As I point out in articles such as "Where Are The First Century Churches?", a physical so-called "Christian" empire consisting of church buildings, grand cathedrals, and amassed power and wealth was totally nonexistent during the time of the first Apostles. Let us not forget that our faith was still young, weak and just beginning to get its bearings. It is so evident in the Bible that the First Century Apostles and Disciples met in the fields, as well as in the homes of people who had been won to the Christian faith. Home-based churches were the only ones in existence at the time. Equally important is the fact that the True Church is not a physical place or building; it is the Body of Believers who can meet and worship wherever and whenever it happens to be the most convenient. Consider these verses:
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 8:3, KJV
"Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."
Romans 16:5, KJV
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
1 Corinthians 16:19, KJV
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house."
Colossians 4:15, KJV
"And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:"
Philemon 1:2, KJV
"And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,"
Acts 20:20, KJV
In light of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church wasn't even in existence during the First Century, we must question how it is that certain Roman Catholics can point to a verse like 1 Timothy 3:15 -- which I shared earlier, and which was written during the latter half of the First Century -- and make the claim that it establishes the existence of, as well as the authority of, the Roman Catholic Church. It is simply impossible. You cannot attribute a verse to an entity which did not even exist at the time. So to reiterate a point, it is totally impossible for Peter to have been the pope of an entity which had not yet come into existence.
In examining a few other verses, we can also determine that in 1 Timothy 3:15, the phrase "house of God" is not referring to a physical building, church or worldly church hierarchy as some Roman Catholics believe; it is in fact referring to the spiritual Body of Christ, and its members, who make up the household, or family, of God. Again, consider the following verses:
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:5, KJV
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;"
Ephesians 2:19, KJV
But this is not the only problem with this claim of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also important to point out that in choosing the leadership of the Early Church who would carry on the work which He had begun, Jesus selected three men and not one -- Peter, James and John -- as we clearly see by the following verses:
"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,"
Matthew 17:1, KJV
"Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy."
Matthew 26:36-37, KJV
"And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James."
Mark 5:37, KJV
"And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them."
Mark 9:2, KJV
"And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;"
Mark 14:32-33, KJV
"And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden."
Luke 8:51, KJV
"And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."
Galatians 2:9, KJV
Please note that in that last verse, "Cephas" is the Aramaic name that Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter, as we see here:
"And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."
John 1:42, KJV
The Aramaic name "Cephas" is used to refer to Peter a total of six times in the New Testament. In addition to the above occurrence, the Apostle Paul uses it five times in two of his Epistles. While Cephas means "stone", and may possibly lead some of you to believe that it validates the Roman Catholic claim that Peter is the rock of whom Jesus was referring, as we continue our examination of the Scriptures, you will see that there is a substantial amount of Scriptural evidence which actually proves otherwise.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .