While the word pope was never applied to Peter when he was living, the CONCEPT of Peter and his successors being the VICAR OR CHRIST (the visible representative of God on the earth) is believed by perhaps a billion Roman Catholics around the world. But well over a billion Christians whose authority is the Bible reject that idea. This is worth studying!
The primary scripture Roman Catholics give to prove this concept is Matthew 16:18. Let's look at it (King James Version):
"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."
First note that in the Greek language Peter is Petros, and rock is petra. The o denotes masculine; the a denotes feminine. Using the Catholic interpretation, this would be like someone saying, "You, my young boy, will be my star adult actress in the movie." Secondly, the word petra refers to a boulder but the word petros to a small stone. So while there was a play on words, there were two differences stated between Peter and the rock. Most Christians believe it was the confession of faith of Peter that was referred to by the word rock -- he had just identified Jesus as "the Christ, the son of the living God." This is a logical conclusion given the fact that we are saved by faith in Christ and thus become a part of the church Christ was going to build -- apart from such confessions of faith the church does not grow!
What other evidences point to this conclusion? First, (minor point) Peter was married - Matt. 8:14. One has to wonder why the Roman Catholic church does not follow the Biblical pattern, when even the supposedly lesser church leaders were to be the husband of one wife - Titus 1:6. Secondly, it was AFTER the above statement of Christ to Peter that he denied Christ 3 times, and RIGHT after that statement (Matt. 16:23) that Christ said to Peter "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." And in Acts 7:14 we find others sending Peter on a mission. He wasn't calling the shots. Luke 22:24 tells of a dispute as to who was the greatest among the disciples... and Jesus was present. If He was the first pope, why did this dispute arise, and why didn't Jesus clarify the situation? Also we read in Galatians 1:18 that Paul withstood Peter to his face because he was to be blamed for his actions relating to Jewish vs. Gentile Christians!
After the initial use of the keys (described below), a division of leadership responsibility is stated in Galatians 2:7, with Paul being sent to Gentiles and Peter to Jews. At the Acts 15 conference, while Peter spoke, the issues were resolved by comments from James (15:19) and the letters sent to the churches gave the decision as one that the whole group decided on (vs. 25) rather than a pronouncement from some earthly "head" of the church. In I Peter 5:1 Peter only identified himself as a fellow elder.
Also, when we study the New Testament regarding the passing on of AUTHORITY....we find that PAUL is the one doing this over and over again -- see Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5, and 2:15, II Tim. 1:6. I have not found a record of Peter doing this. So such a succession concept (if it did apply) could logically be traced back to Paul rather than or in addition to Peter.
It is flawed logic that says the church must have an EARTHLY head. Christ IS the head of the church (Eph. 4:15, and Peter himself acknowledged this in I Peter 2:3-8. See also I Cor. 3:11 And in Ephesians 2:19-20 it states that the foundation of the church is the apostles and prophets, and Christ is the chief cornerstone. There is no pope or vicar of Christ in this chain of command!
There was no hierachy with Peter at the top according to II Cor. 11:5 and 12:11 where Paul says he is on the same level as the chiefest of the apostles. In both cases, he speaks of apostles (plural), which means Peter was not seen as being above any other apostle.
In Acts 8:22 when Simon wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter did not say to ask HIM for forgiveness as the vicar of Christ (the one who was in Christ's place). Instead Peter told him to PRAY TO GOD for forgiveness.
And in Acts 10:26 when Cornelius bowed down to Peter, he said, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." Earlier God had told Cornelius ONLY Peter's name -- NO title was assigned to Peter!
While Roman Catholics are quick to point out the "binding and loosing" in Matt. 16, chapter 18 has the binding and loosing idea passed on to all the disciples (vs. 18). When we study the book of Acts to see how this special power was played out... we never see the terminology used as Roman Catholics feel their leaders can use it now (forgiving sins in the place of Christ). And the keys given to Peter? A key opens a door, and Peter was the one who preached 3 times in Acts, representatively INITIALLY opening the door of faith (and the new covenant) to the Jews (chapter 2), the half-Jews (chapter 8) and the Gentiles (chapter 13) .
"Catholic writers often speak of "the primacy of Peter" and "the primacy of the Pope." However, Col. 1:18, speaking of Christ, says, "And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy..." Thus, with reference to the authority in the church, the Lord Jesus Christ holds the primacy in all things. This leaves nothing for the Pope!" (by David Riggs, Roman Catholic Faith Examined, on-line)
How has the assumed concentration of authority played out? BADLY! See related article on Papalinfallibility
One significant final point: Please take off your RC-tinted glasses and read what I am saying with "innocence of the eye".
If Franklin Graham (Billy's son) changed the tactics on the next crusade (in your town) and after the invitation, herded all who didn't come forward (including your spouse) into an area and REQUIRED all to sign up as Protestant Christians...and gave cyanide-laced Koolaid to all who would not do so (including your spouse)... (Headline: 2519 dead!!!) would you still consider him to be a CHRISTIAN? I would not. I don't think you would either. He would be considered a hypocrite, a murderer, and the whole world would be aghast.
How is this different than what the Popes did for centuries? (the Inquisitions) It has been estimated that well over 5 million of my spiritual ancestors* (I'm Baptist) were martyred by Popes during the inquisitions(see The Trail of Blood, by J.M. Carroll, available to read on-line), with total deaths (Halley's Bible Handbook) of perhaps 50 million killed*, and some sources say more. Some of them were people who believed the Bible and loved the Lord...they just didn't want to buy into the RC system. Cuttingedge.org has details -- gruesome, revolting sick details -- about how the inquisitions were done. One pope just had thousands killed at a time, as the way to be sure to get all the hereticks.
Whether such actions are "Christian" is not up for interpretation as I John 3:15 tells us that "no murderer hath eternal life dwelling in him." The point is... not only were these past popes not "Vicars" (the representatives of God" on earth).... they were not even Christians! Paul was a murderer before coming to Christ, but repented of it. I know of no Pope that ever repented of his having authorized such murders. Think of it! They weren't even saved (children of God)! They may have FELT they were doing right... but you can't just pretend the 6th commandment is negotiable. So there goes the whole notion of "papal succession." From my viewpoint I'd say that what Roman Catholics have is a succession (at least historically) of hypocrites and mass murderers.
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HOW MANY were murdered?
*While no one knows the real number, and estimates vary from thousands to over 100 million, consider the following:
Dowling in his History of Romanism says
"From the birth of Popery in 606 to the present time, it is estimated by careful and credible historians, that more than fifty millions of the human family, have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy by popish persecutors, an average of more than forty thousand religious murders for every year of the existence of popery."
This is the number cited by John Dowling, who published the classic "History of Romanism" in 1847 (book VIII, chapter 1, footnote 1). Only seven years after its first printing, it could be said of Dowling’s book, "it has already obtained a circulation much more extensive than any other large volume ever published in America, upon the subject of which it treats; or perhaps in England, with the exception of Fox’s Book of Martyrs."
Clark’s Martyrology counts the number of Waldensian martyrs during the first half of the 13th century in France alone at two million. From A.D. 1160-1560 the Waldensians which dwelt in the Italian Alps were visited with 36 different fierce persecutions that spared neither age nor sex (Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, "Post-Apostolic Times - The Waldensians," 1890). They were almost completely destroyed as a people and most of their literary record was erased from the face of the earth. From the year 1540 to 1570 "it is proved by national authentic testimony, that nearly one million of Protestants were publicly put to death in various countries in Europe, besides all those who were privately destroyed, and of whom no human record exists" (J.P. Callender, Illustrations of Popery, 1838, p. 400)
The above is just a small sample of the info available.. Even if it was only 1 million people killed, it is still horrendous.
On March 12, 2000 Pope Paul publicly apologized for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples. He repeated a phrase from a 2000 document in which he first asked pardon "for errors committed in the service of truth through use of methods that had nothing to do with the Gospel" - shorthand for torture, summary trials, forced conversions and burnings at the stake. But in the letter, the Pope went further, saying the request for forgiveness was for "both the dramas connected to the Inquisition as well as for the wounds to the [collective] memory that followed".
If He recognized that THEY sinned, then we can rest assured that God was not in the inquisitions.
"No murderer hath eternal life dwelling in him." I John 3:15