My childhood with two types of fathers
As a Catholic I had two types of fathers. One was the biological kind, the one I called “Daddy.” The other one was the one I called Father for the first 35 years of my life – my Catholic priest. It seemed so natural and was a title of profound respect. It placed him on a pedestal of holiness. He was the one who said Mass, gave me Holy Communion, forgave my sins. It seemed totally proper to elevate him above others. To call the Pope “Holy Father” seemed even more proper; like every other Catholic I was to revere him. After all, weren’t the priests the representatives of Christ? Wasn’t the Pope the “Vicar of Christ?”
The questions begin
Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.(New International Version, Matthew 23-8-9)
However, this state of innocent acceptance changed one day after I was born-again and received Jesus into my heart. I began reading the Bible and came upon a verse that stopped me in my tracks. It centered on the fact that the word “Pope”comes from the Latin for “father.” In speaking to the crowds, Jesus said ” And call no man your Father “(Matthew 28:9)
… This does not, of course, forbid us to apply the term to our real father. Religion requires all proper honor to be shown to him, Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:1-3. But the word “father” also denotes “authority, eminence, superiority, a right to command, and a claim to particular respect.” In this sense it is used here. In this sense it belongs eminently to God, and it is not right to give it to people. Christian brethren are equal. Only God has supreme authority. He only has a right to give laws; to declare doctrines that shall bind the conscience; to punish disobedience…Christ taught them that the source of all life and truth was God, and they ought not to seek or receive a title which properly belongs to Him.( Barnes, Matthew 23)
In the forward of Crossing the Threshold of Hope (the autobiography of John Paul II), the editor, Vittorio Messori, states, “The leader of the Catholic Church is defined …as the Vicar of Christ…The Pope is considered the man on earth who represents the Son of God who “takes the place” of the Second Person of the omnipotent God of the Trinity…Catholics believe this and therefore call him “Holy Father” or “Your Holiness”.” (Paul, pp 3, 4).
Yet, having read Matthew 23: 8, how could I call any mortal man besides my biological father, “Father?” Even more, how could I call him or anyone else by titles meant only for my Heavenly Father? I realized more and more as time went on the significance of what Jesus was saying when He began the prayer “Our Father.” He was lovingly telling us that we have now entered into the same type of relationship with The Father, the One He called ABBA, as He has. This was a relationship of intimacy, nearness, heart to heart. This was His Daddy…and ours. This Father was not a mere mortal man. He was God Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Lord of All, King of Kings. He was the only One I was to call Holy Father.
What Do Catholics Believe About the Papacy
The basis for most of what Catholics believe about the papacy is found in their interpretation of Mt 16: 13-20, containing the verse “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church.” A careful examination will prove that the context of these verses is not about Peter but about the identity of Jesus. When Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”, Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replies that this revelation came from God.
The main thrust of these verses centers around Jesus, not Peter. Peter’s name in the Greek was Petros. If Jesus had meant the foundational rock that He was building His church upon to be Peter, Jesus would have said “ You are Peter (Petros) and upon this rock (Petros) I will build my church.” Simple, direct, easy to understand and consistent. But this is not what Jesus said. Instead, He said, “You are Petros and upon this petra I will build My church.” Petros, Peter’s name, means a small stone, a pebble. – hardly strong enough to build a mighty church upon. Petra – in referring to Jesus Himself – means bedrock, a strong foundation on which His Church could rightly and logically be built. Jesus is simply stating that Peter has had the revelation of Who Jesus is – He is the foundational rock upon which the church will be built. The word for bedrock is also found in Mt 7: 24,25 the foundation upon which a wise man builds his house.
Is the use of the word “petra” for God and not for a man consistent throughout the Bible? Yes, indeed.
- 1Sa 2: 2 Neither is there any rock like our God
- Ps 81: 31 And Who is a rock, save our God?
- Isa 44: 8 Is there any God beside Me or is there any other rock?
Additionally see Ps 28: 1; 31: 3,4; 61: 2,3; 62: 6,7; 71: 3; 94: 22; 95: 1;118: 22,23; Deut 32: 3,4 and 15,18; 2Sam 22: 2; Isa 28:16
Let’s look at the New Testament for further proof that the “petra” spoken of in Mt 16 is Jesus, not Peter. In 1 Cor 10:4 it states that the “rock (petra) was Christ.” In Romans 9: 33 Jesus is described as a “rock (petra) of offense.” Jesus is the bedrock, the foundation of our faith and the foundation upon which the church is built ( see also 1 Cor 3: 11; Eph 2: 20; Mt 21: 42; Acts 4: 11,12; Ro 9: 32,33)
Perhaps the most convincing proof of Jesus being the Rock of our salvation is found, fittingly enough, in 1Peter 2: 6-8 in which Peter himself describes Jesus as the “chief cornerstone.” It is also in 1Peter 5:4 that Peter describes Jesus, not himself, as “the chief shepherd” a term Popes have used to speak of themselves.Conversely, how then does Peter describe, not Jesus, but himself? 1Peter 5:1 states that Peter calls himself a “fellow elder,” not head of the church or Supreme Pontiff, simply an elder, one of a number of elders. Peter also recognizes no priestly class at all except (1Peter 2:9) “the royal priesthood” of which all believers are a part. (See also Rev 1: 5,6 “Jesus Christ…has made us kings and priests unto God.”). All these convincing statements from one – Peter – who Catholics call the first Pope.
Yet the most essential question in all this may be: does the Bible itself recognize Peter as the first Pope or any man as his successor? As usual, the only valid answer is Scripture:
…while Peter was central in the early spread of the gospel (part of the meaning behind Matthew 16:18-19), the teaching of Scripture, taken in context, nowhere declares that he was in authority over the other apostles, or over the church (having primacy). See Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Nor is it ever taught in Scripture that the bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, was to have primacy over the church. Scripture does not even explicitly record Peter even being in Rome. Rather there is only one reference in Scripture of Peter writing from “Babylon,” a name sometimes applied to Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Primarily upon this and the historical rise of the influence of the Bishop of Rome come the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of the primacy of the bishop of Rome. However, Scripture shows that Peter’s authority was shared by the other apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20), and the “loosing and binding” authority attributed to him was likewise shared by the local churches, not just their church leaders (see Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Titus 2:15; 3:10-11).
Also, nowhere does Scripture state that, in order to keep the church from error, the authority of the apostles was passed on to those they ordained (the idea behind apostolic succession). Apostolic succession is “read into” those verses that the Roman Catholic Church uses to support this doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:1; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). Paul does NOT call on believers in various churches to receive Titus, Timothy, and other church leaders based on their authority as bishops or their having apostolic authority, but rather based upon their being fellow laborers with him (1 Corinthians 16:10; 16:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23).(“Was Saint Peter the First Pope?” GotQuestions.org)
For centuries after Jesus Christians went through lengthy periods of religious persecution. Finally, a Roman emperor named Constantine one day contrived a way to end this turmoil. He combined Christianity and paganism, a technique known today as ecumenism:
In 313 A.D. freedom from persecution came unexpectedly under Constantine.
When he gave Christianity official status alongside paganism, Constantine, as Roman emperor and “Pontifex Maximus” over the pagan priesthood known as the Pontifical college, became the de facto head of the Christian College. As such he invented and took the title “Vicar of Christ.” Coming from the Latin vicarius, vicar means “in the place of.”
Constantine, not a genuine Christian, had no concerns for doctrines but only for religious unity in his empire. The original ecumenist, he convened the first Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D,, set the agenda and presided over it. (Dave Hunt, The Berean Call. Mystery Babylon, Part II)
Hence, Constantine became the first “Vicar of Christ” – a religious/political figure – just as the Pope holds the same office today. Both of them and all of those ruling in between allege themselves to be “in place of Christ.” This prompts a simple question: how does a mortal man take the place of the Son of God Who has an eternal priesthood?
21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever.’” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Hebrews 7:21-24
Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. There was never a first Pope. There was never again a need for anything resembling an Old Testament priesthood once Jesus paid the full price for our sins. One of the most life-changing events in my life as a former Catholic was the reading and studying of chapters 5 – 10 in the book of Hebrews. It struck a deathblow to all my previous Catholic misconceptions and opened my eyes to the truth. I had an earthly father and a Heavenly Father and no other. I am now obedient to Matthew 23: 8 – except for my daddy I call no one else on earth father.
Paul, John, et al. “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, pp. 3–4.
Barnes, Albert. “Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible”, Matthew 23 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-23.html. 1870.
” Was Saint Peter the first pope?” https://www.gotquestions.org/Peter-first-pope.html
I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: John Wilhelm, Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.