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"Just Another Expression of Christianity"?
"Blessed Be My Rock"
Edited and expanded extracts from the book
by Dusty Peterson & Elizabeth McDonald,
Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: World, (2003), Part Two, Chapter 7
Roman Catholicism: Index of Articles
Perhaps more so than any previous Roman Pope, John Paul II dedicated his pontificate to Mary. His oft-repeated prayer, totus tuus Maria, means 'I am completely yours Mary' . It was also his practice to consecrate each place visited to the 'Blessed Virgin'. In 1983, at Fatima, he consecrated the world to the 'Immaculate heart of Mary' . On 8th October 2000 he also consecrated the 'humanity of the New Millennium' to her. As we discuss in our article on Mary though, this 'Mary' is not the mother of Christ but a Babylonian 'goddess'. So, to whom did John Paul II actually 'consecrate' the world?...
In light of this Papal consecration of the world to 'Mary', and the fact that Rome expects her Pope to be at the head of any unified World Church - or indeed of a unified World Religion, the issue of the office of Pope is clearly of major spiritual importance.
Some of the titles claimed by the Roman Pope are 'the Vicar of Christ upon earth', 'Supreme Head', 'Sovereign Pontiff', and 'His Holiness'. These are all very grand titles, suggestive of a mighty and magnificent office - and that is indeed what we find in papal statements regarding the extent of Papal power. Pope Boniface VIII asserted that:
and Pope Innocent III said:
Rome's assertions go further still:
How do these and other 'papal' claims stand up to examination by the light of God's Word? And what are the implications?
It would probably be helpful to start this topic by examining Matthew 16:15-19 upon which the whole papal position depends, and then move on to examine what God's Word says about some of the other papal titles:
Rome claims that, by saying to Peter: "upon this rock I will build my church", the Lord Jesus made him both the head of the Church and its foundation. Furthermore, Catholicism teaches that Rome later became Peter's bishopric, so it follows that all subsequent bishops of Rome inherited this commission. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia:
Thus does Rome insist that Peter is the "rock" on which Christ's church will be built. However, even a cursory study of this passage shows that Rome's claims are problematic:
Firstly, Christ doesn't say "upon you I will build my church", so verse 18 is not as conclusive as Rome would wish. When Christ talks of "this rock", He is referring to the "it" of the previous verse where He says "flesh and blood hath not revealed it". What is this "it"? It is that He, the "Son of man", the man who was soon to be crucified, to die, and to rise again, is (as Peter had just testified) "the Christ, the Son of the living God". It is this central fact that was going to be the basic truth, the "rock", on which Christ's church was going to be built. This is a truth that God reveals to all believers (1 John 5:20). Peter was merely rewarded with a change of name that reflected the truth he had just uttered.
The previous point is heavily reinforced when we look at the word "rock" as it appears in Scripture. The word translated 'Peter' is 'Petros' (masculine) in Greek meaning 'pebble' or 'stone'; while the word translated 'rock' is 'petra' (feminine). Though the two sound similar, their meanings are quite different. Rome tries to argue that the Aramaic word is the same in both instances. But if that is the case, why is the same Greek word not used in both instances in the Bible? Rome is adamant that the Aramaic word for "Peter" (i.e. "Cephas") means "Rock", but God has already dealt with this misconception in John 1:42:
The Lord is making a play on words, as often happens in Scripture. He was not identifying, but contrasting, Peter with the immovable Rock - i.e. Himself. As the wise man built his house upon the solid rock, not the shifting sand of the foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27), so it would be folly to build the Christian Church on a pebble which is moveable and easily overturned - just as, in fact, Peter unfortunately proved to be so soon after this event (see Matthew 16:21-23). The Word of God makes it abundantly clear that Christ is the rock:
Note that the Hebrew name for "Jesus" is "Yeshua" meaning "salvation". There are numerous places in Scripture that speak of this "Rock of salvation" (e.g. Psalm 89:26, Psalm 95:1, and Isaiah 17:10), including:
While the true Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (i.e. the Bible), Peter was just one of many involved. The chief corner stone of the Church, and the foundation for the life of each believer, is the Lord Jesus Christ alone:
In fact, in his epistle, Peter himself reiterates this truth when he quotes God the Father proclaiming:
The wonderful revelation that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" was not limited to Peter alone, but is given by God's Holy Spirit to every person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ:
Certainly Peter became a very fine man of God, but he was only one of twelve founders of the Church, none of whom ever claimed that Peter was its head.
It is interesting to note the verse following: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21), which is precisely what Roman Catholics are being forced to make of their Pope:
The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven
So how are we to understand Christ's subsequent statement to Peter:
Surely this supports Rome's stance? Well, what are these keys, and are they only ever in the possession of one man? Are they, as Rome claims, keys of "legislative and judicial authority"? She says:
But keys do not necessarily mean authority; they are simply a means of access. (If a parent gives a child a key to the front door, it does not mean the parent is giving the child rulership over the house.) If we look up "key" in Scripture, we find that the "keys" in view are the truths about God and His Kingdom. Luke 11:52 explains:
So Christ is promising to teach Peter the knowledge required for Peter to be able to "enter in" to the Kingdom of Heaven. Below is the true background to Rome's interpretation...
Long before the Christian era began, the person who held the highest place in the pagan priesthood had the role of explaining the Mysteries to the initiated. In the Babylonian language (Chaldee), the title of this person was "Peter" meaning "the interpreter". He was the Grand Interpreter, which, when translated, is "Pet-Roma". Because of his role in unlocking the Mysteries, he was decorated with two keys...
Thus we already have a pagan "Peter" with keys (which explains why many pagan countries knew of the keys of "Peter-Roma" from antiquity). By renaming Simon, Christ was mocking this pagan religion and showing that anyone who comes to Christ in truth can have the keys of knowledge:
Note that Peter himself confirms this, especially in his second epistle (see 2 Peter 1:2-8).
Like the Babylonian god Janus, the Roman Pope is said to be the 'god of the hinge' who can open and close Heaven. (It is also worthy of note that the word 'Cardinal' means 'hinge'.) If we compare Isaiah 22:22 with Revelation 3:7 we see that it is Christ who is the way and Christ who is the door, not some mortal man. It is, therefore, Christ who holds the keys to heaven.
Binding and Loosing
So what about the final element of Matthew 16:19, where the Lord says:
Rome is forced to admit that this does not prove that Peer was given special powers because, just two chapters later, Christ makes the identical promise to all His other disciples (see Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23).
Rome believes the 'power of the keys' or the 'power to bind and loose' is actually the power to bind and loose souls in Heaven, although this is not stated in these verses. When considering this verse we need to remember that we cannot take God's place or tell Him what to do (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 24:1 etc), and that all Bible verses must be held in tension with all others - including ones like the following:
So what does the 'binding' passage mean? Plainly we need to look a little deeper. Careful observers will note that the Lord does not say the entity which is bound or loosed on earth "shall consequently be" bound/loosed in Heaven and, according to Greek scholars, the relevant words are in the passive voice of the future perfect tense , so any 'binding' or 'loosing' done by the apostles on earth could only be declaratory of what had already been bound or loosed in Heaven.
Christ's immediately preceding words about the "keys" of Heaven, and the preceding three verses of the Matthew 18 occurrence above (where a believer adamantly refuses to repent for a trespass, and must therefore be expelled from the Church), both strongly suggest another meaning for the 'binding' passage altogether...
That is, if we are adhering to God's instructions then we need not hesitate to carry out His ordinances - typically in relation to church discipline - physically, since such discipline "shall be" the case spiritually already. In the example above, God had already 'bound' the unrepentant trespasser's spirit from His presence, so believers could confidently do likewise on the earth .
Rome points to Peter's ministry as being unique and therefore indicative of a chief, or Pope-like, place within the church. While Peter had a distinguished place among the apostles, so did others. Besides, he and they completed their work and died. As with so many Roman Catholic terms, we won't find the phrase "Apostolic Succession" in Scripture.
Although there can still be apostles (in the sense of 'messengers of God') around today, we are taught that there were only twelve of the specially equipped and specially commissioned apostles who finished the Bible and founded the Church (Ephesians 2:20). That there are only twelve is proved by the fact that the twelve foundation stones of the "heavenly Jerusalem" are named after them (Revelation 21:14). In other words, even if one insists that Peter was a 'special' foundation stone, this is still a very long way from proving that the Bishop of Rome is the person meant to fulfil any such role.
But there are other serious problems with the idea that Peter was a Pope. Firstly, he was married (see Matthew 8:14) despite Rome's prohibition, made law in 386AD, of this state for her priests and Popes.
Indeed, we are warned in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 that "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats" - both of which Rome does - are indicative of "departure from the faith" and "giving heed to seducing spirits". It does not take much imagination to recognize the array of dreadful sins that are encouraged by "forbidding to marry" - especially forbidding someone in a position of authority, trust and power!
Secondly, there is no evidence that Peter was ever the Bishop of Rome - indeed there is no credible evidence that Peter even visited Rome .
We turn now to look at just a few of the Roman Pope's other titles to see whether they are corroborated by the Word of God:
Scripture states that there is only one head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no hint anywhere of the necessity for the Church to have an earthly or 'visible' head. (If the Pope of Rome really held such a powerful spiritual position, why does he need an earthly army of body-guards? See Psalm 118:6!) If the Pope is part of the Church then he is a part of Christ's body, and he is subject to Christ in exactly the same way that every other member of the body is (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
Father, Master, Vicar of Christ
The word 'pope' derives from 'papa' meaning 'Father', so we need to consider the following 'problem passage':
Whatever arguments people employ to justify ignoring this verse, Christ's words stand. He categorically commanded us not to look to any man as a spiritual Father but God Himself. Yet Rome does just this. Even if there were no other such passages, the above is sufficiently clear not to be misunderstood. But scriptures like Matthew 6:9, Romans 1:7, and 1 Thessalonians 3:13 are similarly unequivocal. Rome's rejection of this command to call no-one on earth 'father' in this religious sense is simply disobedience to the Lord God. It is no accident that, while Rome is happy to dedicate churches to Mary and various saints, God the Father is rarely given such an honour.
Likewise, consider this assertion of the 'Catholic Truth Society':
and that of Pope Gregory VII:
We are very definitely told in Matthew 23:10-12 that we have only one spiritual Master, the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Lord Jesus Christ is God:
Rome calls their Pope 'the Vicar of Christ' which means 'a substitute for' or 'in the place of' Christ . Truly, Roman Catholics have allowed Christ to be replaced by a mere man. Indeed, when they use the term 'Lord' they are seldom referring to the Lord Jesus, but to their Pope.
The only place in Scripture where anyone is said to be 'in the place of God' is in reference to the antiChrist:
'Pontiff' means 'bridge' or 'priest'. Other titles of this kind claimed by the Roman Pope are 'Sovereign Pontiff' meaning 'kingly' priest and 'Summus Pontifex' or 'Pontifex Maximus' meaning 'supreme' or 'high' priest.
It is an error running throughout Roman Catholicism that substantial elements of the symbolic (and/or prophetic) religious and political system which God ordained for Israel as recorded in the Old Testament still apply to His People in the post-resurrection Body of believers. The Word of God makes clear that the ceremonial law and these physical trappings were a refigure or "shadow" of heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5) and that they pointed to Christ (e.g. Romans 5:14, Hebrews 9:9-12 & 10:1). Jesus Christ was the "lamb" of God who was sacrificed on the "altar" of the Earth and is our great "High Priest":
Hence Christ said:
God's People no longer need a mortal High Priest; the position is already filled by our glorious, eternal Saviour.
Likewise, Rome claims that, because Israel had a mortal man as its King, then so should the Church. (Note, however, that Israel was severely chastised by the Lord for rejecting His reign over them by demanding a human king - see 1 Samuel 8.) Hence the Roman Pope is crowned as a monarch, making himself priest / king or high priest / emperor.
As we have seen, he is called the Sovereign Pontiff and, in keeping with this title, wears the papal tiara (a Jewel-encrusted triple crown) at various Catholic ceremonies. But the Early Church knew that, since Christ's death, it was wrong to perpetuate the physical pattern given to Israel ; these things don't appear at all under the "better" New Covenant. Indeed, it is only Christ who can hold these two great offices of High Priest and King and it would be to deny Christ to claim that there is another ruler over the Kingdom of God. It is Christ, the Son of King David, who is our promised King:
In contrast to the true Church, whose head is Christ Himself, the false Babylonian church has always had a mortal man 'at the top' ever since Nimrod's day. Amazingly, one of the titles of this position in the false church was "Pontifex Maximus" - precisely the title which the Pope claims for himself and which was taken from the Roman Emperors who preceded Constantine:
It is interesting to note that, just as the Pontiff today is happy to indulge any religion provided it acknowledges him as its head, so each Roman Emperor was happy to indulge any religion in his day that accepted him as its head. In both cases it denies Christ His rightful position. It can be seen, then, that Rome's claims above are completely mistaken, contradicting the explicit teachings (and warnings) of the Word of God.
Servant of the Servants of God
There is a tiny minority within the Roman Institution who yet claim that the Pope is just a figurehead, emphasizing that he is also called Servus servorum Dei (i.e. servant of the servants of God). However, that is certainly not consistent with the teaching given by Rome throughout her history, not does it reflect the way the Pope or the Roman Church actually acts. And however much recent Popes may appear to have been more open to compromise over the issue than their predecessors, the following is quite plain:
The "Gift of Authority"
A statement on the subject of the extent of papal power is contained in the third ARCIC (Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) document The Gift of Authority published in May 1999. The 'Gift' referred to in the document is the Pope and, in its introduction, the document declares:
It expands on this by saying:
But according to Article XXXVII of the Church of England (the prime historical reasons for which we identify here):
It seems clear that Rome is not going to change her mind about the papacy (as we see here, it is one of Rome's proudest boasts that she is semper aedem - i.e. always the same).
To conclude this article, let us consider the following from Alexander Hislop's incomparable study on the Roman Church:
How dangerous it is to put a man at the head, rather than our truly infallible Mediator, Shepherd and King the Lord Jesus Christ. Men can be deceived. And, if we build a man-made church hierarchy, all Satan needs to do is to take the leaders into error and the entirety of the obedient church would follow. Suffice it to say that the rock on which Roman Catholicism built is in the form of sand. As Deuteronomy 32:31 puts it:
 The full text of his prayer to Mary is: "I am completely yours, Mary, Mother of our Redeemer. Virgin Mother of God, loving virgin, Mother of the Saviour of the world. I am completely yours, Mary!"
 Pope Boniface VIII (1302). Endorsed by The New Catholic Encyclopedia, giving historical background to papal decree Unam Sanctam, quoted in William Webster, Saving Faith: How Does Rome Define It?, (Christian Resources Inc., 1995), pp21-22.
 Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), quoted in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, (Harvest House, 1994), p87. Innocent III also said that the “vicar of Jesus Christ” is “higher than man, who judges all and is judged by no-one…” [Sermon on the Consecration of a Pope, quoted in Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State 1050-1300 (Univ. of T. Press, 1988), p132].
 Vatican I, quoted in Webster, Saving Faith, pp24-25. Innocent III confirmed this, writing that Peter was given “not only the Universal church but the whole world to govern” [Letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople (1199), quoted in Brian Tierny, Crisis, p132].
 Walter M. Abbott, S.J., Gen. Ed., The Documents of Vatican II, (Geoffrey Chapman, 1966), The Church, point 22, p43.
 Dictatus Papae [Rules of the Pope] points 2,9,11,19. Drawn up by the papal government during the pontificate of Gregory VII (1073-1085), quoted in Perry, Peden and Von Laue, Sources of the Western Tradition, Second Edition, Vol 1: From Ancient Times to the Enlightenment, (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991), p237.
 La Civilta Cattolica (1867), quoted in Hunt, A Woman Rides The Beast, p88.
 E.g. see J.R. Mantey, Was Peter A Pope?, (Moody Press, 1949), pp56&70. See also J.R. Mantey, Distorted Translations in John 20:23, Matt. 16:18-19 + 18:8, Review and Exposition, 78 (1981), pp409-416. The phrase “thou shalt bind/loose” is in the ‘aorist subjunctive’ and so does not signify the time of the action but makes an assertion about which there is some doubt – an uncertainty which only arises because the action has not yet occurred. The words “shall be bound/loosed” are in the ‘perfect passive participle’ which represents an action completed in the past – albeit with continuing results. In other words, Heaven is not following earth; it is the other way around!
 A helpful treatment of this issue appears in Opal Reddin, Ed., Power Encounter – A Pentecostal Perspective (Central Bible College Press, 1999), pp217-223.
 The sole extant ‘evidence’ for this (a document called The Clementines) has been shown to be deliberately corrupted to include a reference to Peter being in Rome. See, for instance, Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, (Loizeaux Brothers, 2nd USA Edition, 1959), p208.
 A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, (Catholic Truth Society, imprimatur, 1971), p15.
 Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), quoted in Perry et al., Sources of the Western Tradition, p237.
 The concept of a human “vicar” really is dangerous. No man can be a substitute for Christ, yet this is what the term means.
 The Old Testament life of Israel is a physical picture of the spiritual principles behind the Church.
 Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962), p125.
 San Francisco Chronicle, 31:May:1995.
 Hislop, Two Babylons, pp211-212.