Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Was Peter the first Pope?

Bottom line: Christ spoke Aramaic and nicknamed Simon "Kepha," ("Cephas") which means "Rock." Most of the New Testament was written in Greek (or translated into Greek, as is possible in the case of Matthew's Book), and Kepha was translated as "Petros" or "Petra" (depending on stylistic needs of the context), which both mean "Rock." In our English Bibles, "Petros" and "Petra" get translated into "Peter." 1 Peter IS "the Rock," the earthly head of Christ's Church as Christ Himself states in Matthew 16. This would be as if you and I, speaking English and discussing someone named Mary, were quoted by an Italian who wrote her name as "Maria," which a Frenchman translated as "Marie".

Many Protestants try to get around Matthew 16:15-19 by pointing to 1 Corinthians 10:3-5 "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." But this is something no Catholic would disagree with! Yes, the SPIRITUAL Rock, Christ, the High Priest and Head of the Church, authorized Peter to be the earthly Rock, His Vicar, of the Church -- the father of the New Covenant, just as God the Father made Abraham the earthly father of the Old Covenant (Isaiah 51:1-2) while remaining the ultimate, SPIRITUAL Father of that Covenant.

Some try to get around these verses in other imaginative ways, saying that Christ was talking only about Himself or only about Peter's faith, as below:

Matthew 16:15-19


He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Simon makes a profession of faith

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Jesus calls Simon blessed and Simon "bar-Jonah," which means "son of the Dove" (the Holy Spirit)

And I say also unto thee,

Jesus is talking to Simon

That thou art Peter (kepha, translated into Koine Greek as "petros" meaning "rock" and into English as "Peter"),

He is still talking to Simon and now renames him "Kepha," or "Rock." He said "thou art Rock," not "I am Rock" or "your faith is rock"

and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

According to some Protestants, after just calling Simon blessed and renaming him "Rock," Jesus is suddenly talking about another "rock" (Peter's faith, or Jesus Himself)

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Now they say He just as suddenly is talking to/about Peter again -- as He gives him the keys to Heaven!

But reading the verse honestly, especially in context and without anti-Roman prejudice, shows the above sort of rendering to be -- well, quite absurd. It's almost as though they would have it read, "Simon, you are blessed! Know what I'm going to do, you old son of the Holy Spirit you? I'm going to call you Kepha, which means "rock," which the Koine Greek translators of what I am saying will write as "petros," which 1,500 years from now people called "Protestants" will insist means "little pebble." The Protestants will have it right: calling you a little pebble is what I indeed mean 'cause that's all you are -- a tiny, insignificant stone. Kind of Me to point that out after your profession of faith, eh? And, hey, forget about My having just called you blessed and how an insult simply doesn't fit the context of what I've been saying. It's the schizophrenia acting up again. Speaking of which, and by the way, while you're here, take the keys to Heaven, please; I don't really mean anything by this gesture at all, I just thought it'd be a nice thing to do." Silliness!

Now obviously Christ re-named Simon "Peter" in response to Simon's confession of faith in Christ the Rock, the Foundation Stone, so the Protestant assertion that "the rock" was "Peter's faith" has some merit in a circuitous way (and you will read early Church Fathers speaking of the rock of Peter's confession), and of course, Cephas the rock derives his authority from and must never contradict the Rock Who is Christ; but in addition to the exegesis above, it simply can't be ignored that Peter was re-named Kepha (Rock!) and exercised authority among the apostles: he was always named first when the apostles were listed (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13) -- sometimes it was only "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32); he was the apostles' spokesman (Matthew 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:69, Acts 4:1-13, Acts 2:37-41, Acts 5:15); he exhorted the other bishops (1 Peter 5:1); he was there at the most important moments (Matthew 14:28-32, Matthew 17:24, Mark 10:28); he was the first to proclaim Christ's divinity (Matthew 16:16); he was the first to preach the Gospel after Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), thus starting the whole "Church era"; he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7); he had the revelation that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48); he alone was told by Christ after His resurrection to "Feed My lambs; feed My sheep" (John 21:15-17) and strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:31-32).

But where is the word "pope" in the Bible? Well, where is the word "father,"because that's what "Pope" means ("pope" means "papa") . But you won't find the English word "pope" there any more than you'd find the word "Trinity." The reality, though, is there, in Peter, from the very beginning. The ecclesiastical offices of Bishops (episkopos), elders (presbyteros, from which is derived the word "priest"), and deacons (diakonos) were already in place in the New Testament (Acts 20:28, Philippians 1:1, Acts 1:20, 20:28, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25, Acts 15:2-6, 21:18, Hebrews 11:2, 1 Peter 5:1, 1 Timothy 5:17). The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, is simply the successor of Peter, who was the first Bishop of Rome and head of the earthly Church.

Eusebius of Caesaria (A.D. 265-340) tells us in his "Church History" who succeeded him:

Ch. 2
"After the martyrdom of Paul and of Peter, Linus was the first to obtain the episcopate of the church at Rome. Paul mentions him, when writing to Timothy from Rome, in the salutation at the end of the epistle".

Ch. 13
"After [Emperor] Vespasian had reigned ten years Titus, his son, succeeded him. In the second year of his reign, Linus, who had been bishop of the church of Rome for twelve years [Note: it was actually 9 years], delivered his office to Anencletus. But Titus was succeeded by his brother Domitian after he had reigned two years and the same number of months."

Ch. 15
"In the twelfth year of the same reign Clement succeeded Anencletus after the latter had been bishop of the church of Rome for twelve years. The apostle in his Epistle to the Philippians informs us that this Clement was his fellow-worker. His words are as follows: 'With Clement and the rest of my fellow-laborers whose names are in the book of life.'"

And so forth (read what that 4th Pope, Clement, wrote about apostolic succession here). Does your faith community have a lineage like the one below?

St. Peter (32-67)
St. Linus (67-76)
St. Anacletus (76-88)
St. Clement I (88-97)
St. Evaristus (97-105)
St. Alexander I (105-115)
St. Sixtus I (115-125)
St. Telesphorus (125-136)
St. Hyginus (136-140)
St. Pius I (140-155)
St. Anicetus (155-166)
St. Soter (166-175)
St. Eleutherius (175-189)
St. Victor I (189-199)
St. Zephyrinus (199-217)
St. Callistus I (217-22)
St. Urban I (222-30)
St. Pontain (230-35)
St. Anterus (235-36)
St. Fabian (236-50)
St. Cornelius (251-53)
St. Lucius I (253-54)
St. Stephen I (254-257)
St. Sixtus II (257-258)
St. Dionysius (260-268)
St. Felix I (269-274)
St. Eutychian (275-283)
St. Caius (283-296)
St. Marcellinus (296-304)
St. Marcellus I (308-309)
St. Eusebius (309 or 310)
St. Miltiades (311-14)
St. Sylvester I (314-35)
St. Marcus (336)
St. Julius I (337-52)
Liberius (352-66)
St. Damasus I (366-83)
St. Siricius (384-99)
St. Anastasius I (399-401)
St. Innocent I (401-17)
St. Zosimus (417-18)
St. Boniface I (418-22)
St. Celestine I (422-32)
St. Sixtus III (432-40)
St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61)
St. Hilarius (461-68)
St. Simplicius (468-83)
St. Felix III (II) (483-92)
St. Gelasius I (492-96)
Anastasius II (496-98)
St. Symmachus (498-514)
St. Hormisdas (514-23)
St. John I (523-26)
St. Felix IV (III) (526-30)
Boniface II (530-32)
John II (533-35)
St. Agapetus I (535-36)
St. Silverius (536-37)
Vigilius (537-55)
Pelagius I (556-61)
John III (561-74)
Benedict I (575-79)
Pelagius II (579-90)
St. Gregory I (590-604)
Sabinian (604-606)
Boniface III (607)
St. Boniface IV (608-15)
St. Deusdedit (615-18)
Boniface V (619-25)
Honorius I (625-38)
Severinus (640)
John IV (640-42)
Theodore I (642-49)
St. Martin I (649-55)
St. Eugene I (655-57)
St. Vitalian (657-72)
Adeodatus (II) (672-76)
Donus (676-78)
St. Agatho (678-81)
St. Leo II (682-83)
St. Benedict II (684-85)
John V (685-86)
Conon (686-87)
St. Sergius I (687-701)
John VI (701-05)
John VII (705-07)
Sisinnius (708)
Constantine (708-15)
St. Gregory II (715-31)
St. Gregory III (731-41)
St. Zachary (741-52)
Stephen II (752) 3
Stephen III (752-57)
St. Paul I (757-67)
Stephen IV (767-72)
Adrian I (772-95)
St. Leo III (795-816)
Stephen V (816-17)
St. Paschal I (817-24)
Eugene II (824-27)
Valentine (827)
Gregory IV (827-44)
Sergius II (844-47)
St. Leo IV (847-55)
Benedict III (855-58)
St. Nicholas I (858-67)
Adrian II (867-72)
John VIII (872-82)
Marinus I (882-84)
St. Adrian III (884-85)
Stephen VI (885-91)
Formosus (891-96)
Boniface VI (896)
Stephen VII (896-97)
Romanus (897)
Theodore II (897)
John IX (898-900)
Benedict IV (900-03)
Leo V (903)

Sergius III (904-11)
Anastasius III (911-13)
Lando (913-14)
John X (914-28)
Leo VI (928)
Stephen VIII (929-31)
John XI (931-35)
Leo VII (936-39)
Stephen IX (939-42)
Marinus II (942-46)
Agapetus II (946-55)
John XII (955-63)
Leo VIII (963-64)
Benedict V (964)

John XIII (965-72)
Benedict VI (973-74)
Benedict VII (974-83)
John XIV (983-84)
John XV (985-96)
Gregory V (996-99)
Sylvester II (999-1003)
John XVII (1003)
John XVIII (1003-09)
Sergius IV (1009-12)
Benedict VIII (1012-24)
John XIX (1024-32)
Benedict IX (1032-45)
Sylvester III (1045)
Benedict IX (1045)
Gregory VI (1045-46)
Clement II (1046-47)
Benedict IX (1047-48)
Damasus II (1048)
St. Leo IX (1049-54)
Victor II (1055-57)
Stephen X (1057-58)
Nicholas II (1058-61)
Alexander II (1061-73)
St. Gregory VII (1073-85)
Blessed Victor III (1086-87)
Blessed Urban II (1088-99)
Paschal II (1099-1118)
Gelasius II (1118-19)
Callistus II (1119-24)
Honorius II (1124-30)
Innocent II (1130-43)
Celestine II (1143-44)
Lucius II (1144-45)
Bl. Eugene III (1145-53)
Anastasius IV (1153-54)
Adrian IV (1154-59)
Alexander III (1159-81)
Lucius III (1181-85)
Urban III (1185-87)
Gregory VIII (1187)
Clement III (1187-91)
Celestine III (1191-98)
Innocent III (1198-1216)
Honorius III (1216-27)
Gregory IX (1227-41)
Celestine IV (1241)
Innocent IV (1243-54)
Alexander IV (1254-61)
Urban IV (1261-64)
Clement IV (1265-68)
Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)
Blessed Innocent V (1276)
Adrian V (1276)
John XXI (1276-77)
Nicholas III (1277-80)
Martin IV (1281-85)
Honorius IV (1285-87)
Nicholas IV (1288-92)
St. Celestine V (1294)
Boniface VIII (1294-1303)
Bl. Benedict XI (1303-04)
Clement V (1305-14)
John XXII (1316-34)
Benedict XII (1334-42)
Clement VI (1342-52)
Innocent VI (1352-62)
Blessed Urban V (1362-70)
Gregory XI (1370-78)
Urban VI (1378-89)
Boniface IX (1389-1404)
Innocent VII (1406-06)
Gregory XII (1406-15)
Martin V (1417-31)
Eugene IV (1431-47)
Nicholas V (1447-55)
Callistus III (1455-58)

Pius II (1458-64)
Paul II (1464-71)
Sixtus IV (1471-84)
Innocent VIII (1484-92)
Alexander VI (1492-1503)
Pius III (1503)
Julius II (1503-13)
Leo X (1513-21)
Adrian VI (1522-23)
Clement VII (1523-34)
Paul III (1534-49)
Julius III (1550-55)
Marcellus II (1555)
Paul IV (1555-59)
Pius IV (1559-65)
St. Pius V (1566-72)
Gregory XIII (1572-85)
Sixtus V (1585-90)
Urban VII (1590)
Gregory XIV (1590-91)
Innocent IX (1591)
Clement VIII (1592-1605)
Leo XI (1605)
Paul V (1605-21)
Gregory XV (1621-23)
Urban VIII (1623-44)
Innocent X (1644-55)
Alexander VII (1655-67)
Clement IX (1667-69)
Clement X (1670-76)
Bl. Innocent XI (1676-89)
Alexander VIII (1689-91)
Innocent XII (1691-1700)
Clement XI (1700-21)
Innocent XIII (1721-24)
Benedict XIII (1724-30)
Clement XII (1730-40)
Benedict XIV (1740-58)
Clement XIII (1758-69)
Clement XIV (1769-74)
Pius VI (1775-99)
Pius VII (1800-23)
Leo XII (1823-29)
Pius VIII (1829-30)
Gregory XVI (1831-46)
Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)
Leo XIII (1878-1903)
St. Pius X (1903-14)
Benedict XV (1914-22)
Pius XI (1922-39)
Pius XII (1939-58)
Blessed John XXIII (1958-63)
Paul VI (1963-78)
John Paul I (1978)
John Paul II (1978—2005)
Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
Francis - 2013 - ?)

St. Peter was martyred in Rome in A.D. 67 by crucifixion, asking to be crucified upside-down 2 because he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same way as our Lord. His body was buried on Vatican Hill, at the present site of St. Peter's Basilica. You can read about his (and Paul's) martyrdom in Rome in Book II, Chapter 25 of "Church History" written by the above-mentioned Eusebius of Caesaria.

The evidence of post-New Testament Church history is just as convincing. Read what the early Eastern Church fathers wrote about Peter and his successors.

Update: August 19, 2022: From the article "Archaeologists at the Sea of Galilee Say They May Have Found the Real-Life Birthplace of St. Peter, First Pope of the Christian Church: Scholars have discovered an inscription that may mark the Church of the Apostles, said to be at St. Peter's birthplace in Bethsaida":

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered an ancient inscription dedicating a church to St. Peter—and there’s evidence that the place of worship may have been built on the site of the apostle’s birthplace.

Peter and two other apostles, Sts. Andrew and Philip, were born in Bethsaida, according to the Gospel of John. Archaeologists and Biblical scholars have long sought to find the ancient village, narrowing it down to three potential sites.

The El-Araj Expedition, led by the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeology and New York’s Nyack College, has been conducting excavations at one of the sites, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, since 2016. It’s found evidence of first-century Roman occupation of El-Araj, such as a bathhouse.

The latest discovery at the dig is a floral pattern mosaic at a church first found in 2019. It bears an inscription calling for the intercession of the “chief and commander of the heavenly apostles”—aka Peter.4

A single first century find that demonstrates the rightness of acceptng the Communion of Saints and that Peter was the first Pope. Think about it.

1 One Protestant argument revolves around the idea that there are two words for "Rock" in the Greek language: petra and petros, and that the former refers to a big boulder while the latter refers to a small pebble. They claim that because the Greek rendering of Matthew's Gospel uses the word "petros," that Jesus was playing down Peter's significance. Petros and petra meant exactly the same thing at the time Matthew was translated into or written in Greek, as Greek literature attests (lithos is the word for "little stone"). Petros was chosen because it's a masculine noun and Peter was a man. If you had High School French, here's an analogy for you: even if petros and petra had different meanings in the Koine Greek spoken at the time of Christ (which isn't so), the use of the masculine form, petros, by the Greek translator of Matthew would have made sense anyway. Say you were wanting to refer to a man metaphorically as "a portal" and were wanting to give him a nickname that reflected that. In French, you could call him "la porte," a feminine noun meaning door, or "le portail," a masculine noun meaning gate. It'd make sense to use the masculine noun even though "gate" is a smaller thing than "door." At any rate, "big rock" or "little rock," rock is rock and Christ said THOU art "Rock" -- and Jesus was not speaking Greek, but Aramaic and used the word "Kepha"; this is why Simon Peter is most often called "Cephas."

That Peter was originally named Kepha is clear when we see that that is the name used to refer to him in Corinthians and Galatians (see, for example, I Corinthians 1:11-13, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, 1 Corinthians 9:4-6, 1 Corinthians 15:4-6, Galatians 2:8-10, depending on Bible versions. Go to the Bible Gateway and search for "Cephas"). 

2 The inverted Latin Cross is known as "St. Peter's Cross." Sadly, some Satanists have co-opted it for their demonic rituals, have stolen it for their twisted use in the same way that the rainbow -- a sign of God's promise to Noah -- was stolen by the "gay pride" movement. Also sad is that some ignorant Protestants see the Pope standing in front of a Peter's Cross and then accuse the Holy Father of Satanism.

3 Because Stephen II was elected but never consecrated (he died 3 days after his election), he is often not counted in official lists of Popes. The Vatican's official list does not include him, listing the names of 265 Pontiffs

4 Source: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/archaeologists-discovered-birthplace-st-peter-2159490 Retrieved August 19, 2022

Relevant Scripture

Isaiah 22:20-25
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 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. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it. [Note: Eliacim was the steward of the House of David, a "type" -- a foreshadowing -- of Christ's Kingdom. Eliacim, therefore, is a foreshadowing of Christ's steward -- and to this steward was given the Keys. In Matthew 16, Jesus gave those Keys to Peter.]

Isaiah 51:1-2
Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to THE ROCK [Abraham] from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him.

Matthew 16:18-19
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That THOU art Peter, and upon this ROCK [Kepha, Cephas] I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto THEE the KEYS OF THE KINDGOM of heaven: and whatsoever THOU shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever THOU shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

John 1:42
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...

John 21:15-19
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."

Further Reading

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