Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #163

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

For all of you in or around Birmingham, AL, we will be having a fantastic men’s conference on Monday, March 7, from 7:00 – 9:00 PM at St. Peter the Apostle parish. Speakers will be Jeff Cavins, Allen Hunt, and Patrick Lencioni. For more information, and to register, go to: www.thehighestcall.org.

Sorry for the delay in getting this newsletter out. I’ve been very busy the last several weeks with my job as Director of Evangelization and have fallen behind on my Bible Christian Society duties. But, I’ve caught up at the Diocese, so now it’s time for me to catch up at the Bible Christian Society and get behind again at the Diocese.

The next few weeks should see regular weekly editions of the newsletter coming your way. There will, of course, be more newsletters on this debate regarding Peter as the first Pope, but I’ll also be sending others out in between the debate newsletters.


Continuing the debate with Thomas Thrasher of the Campbellite Church of Christ on whether or not Peter was the first Pope.

His 2nd negative is first up and then my 3rd affirmative. To catch up, if necessary, on the previous rounds, simply go to the “Newsletter” page of our website (www.biblechristiansociety.com) and check out the last 3 issues.


Debate: Was Peter the First Pope?

Thomas Thrasher – 2nd Negative

I am delighted to continue this discussion of the proposition: “The apostle Peter was the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.” Commenting on my first speech, John said, “Essentially, the only ‘proof’ he offers, is his limited and very fallible interpretation of the Bible.” Actually, it is my calling attention to what the Scriptures teach that gives John problems.
John neglected to answer these questions: What Bible verse states that Peter was the first head of the church? Do you agree with everything written by ‘early Christian writers’? Did each of the four men you quoted write by inspiration, guided by the Holy Spirit as Bible writers were?

When John argued that Peter was pope because his name is mentioned first, I responded to his evidence by citing Bible passages (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; Galatians 2:9) in which Peter’s name was not first. John attempted to justify Peter’s not being mentioned first in Galatians 2:9, but he ignored my other evidence.
When John presented evidence that Peter was pope based upon his frequent mention, I responded, “Paul’s name is mentioned many more times than Peter’s after the beginning of the church on Pentecost.” John rejected this evidence that Paul became pope, saying that Paul was an “important leader in the early church.” Likewise, Peter’s frequent mention indicates he was an “important leader,” but not evidence he was pope!

John contended that the first half of Acts was “all about Peter.” I demonstrated this statement’s inaccuracy by providing evidence from other events in the first half of Acts. John rejected this evidence that the 1st half of Acts is not “all about Peter.” Isn’t it strange? Half of Acts is “all about Peter,” yet not once does it call Peter Bishop of Rome, pope, or head of the church? Evidence?

John claimed, “Christ being the head of the Church, however, in no way conflicts with the statement that Peter is also the head of the Church.” Yet, John never provided a verse confirming Peter was “head of the Church”!
My friend states: “In Galatians 1, Paul goes to Jerusalem to see who? Peter.” Of course, it does not say “because Peter was the pope”! In fact, Paul said, “They … who were of repute imparted nothing to me” (2:6)!
John asked, “How do you know who wrote the Gospel of Mark?” I don’t. All that really matters to me is that God is the source (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 3:3-5; 1 Corinthians 2:10). If God wanted us to know, He could have easily named the inspired writer (cf. Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1)!

In clarifying his position, John explained, “Peter assumed his role as the earthly head of the Church after the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.” He evidently thinks that occurred in AD 30. Questions: In what year did Peter become “Bishop of Rome”? What Scripture says that subsequent bishops of Rome would be Peter’s successors as head of the church?
In attempting to explain how Jesus could be Head of the church and Peter could also be head, John offered supposed parallels: “Matthew 23:9…we see that we ‘have one Father.’… Yet, the Bible also speaks of many fathers”; “Matthew 23:8 says we only have one teacher.… Yet, the Bible speaks of more than one teacher.” Obviously, when God the Father is said to be our Father, no other father occupies His position or shares His Fatherhood. He is one-of-a-kind! Likewise, when Jesus is called Master/Teacher, no other teacher occupies His position or is on a par with Him. No one is Father as God is, and no one is Master/Teacher as Jesus is!

John’s “parallels” are interesting. How did he know that others besides God were referred to by the term “father”? That’s in the Bible, of course. How did he know others besides Jesus were called teachers? That’s in the Bible. However, he cannot find where Peter was ever called “head of the church” in the Bible! Therefore, his parallels fail in the absence of Bible evidence!

John suggested another parallel: “The Bible says there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11).… Yet, the Bible tells us … the Church, is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets (Eph 2:20).” Are the apostles and prophets the foundation of the church in the same sense Jesus is? Definitely not! The “foundation” figures are being used in different ways. Clearly, the apostles and prophets are not the “foundation” in the same sense Jesus is, because when they are called the “foundation,” Jesus is called the “chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

Furthermore, the passage John cited actually undermines his position that the church was founded/built upon Peter. Ephesians 2:20 calls the “apostles [plural] and prophets [plural]” the foundation, not just Peter! Therefore, the church was not built on Peter, as my friend contended from Matthew 16:18. In whatever way Peter was part of the foundation, so were the other apostles and prophets!

My opponent says, “Jesus is the only Head of the Church,” [I agree!], then he adds, “But Peter, too, is head of the Church.” However, John once again fails to cite where God’s word says that! Suppose I alleged that Paul was the head of the church. Would John accept that without my giving Bible “evidence”?

John asks, “Does Mr. Thrasher not call his Scriptures, ‘the Bible?’ Yet, nowhere does that word appear in the Bible.” I am sure that my friend knows that “Bible” is simply a transliteration of the Greek word biblia (translated “books” in Revelation 20:12, KJV), as “baptize” is of baptizw. The singular form biblion is used to refer to God’s word (Luke 4:17-20; John 20:30; Hebrews 10:7), as is the form bibloV (Mark 12:26; Luke 3:4; 20:42; Acts 1:20; 7:42). Now, in what passage of Scripture is Peter called “head of the church” or “bishop of Rome”?

I asked John: “If Peter was ‘the first pope,’ what men (or women) succeeded Peter?” He responded, “I can give Mr. Thrasher the complete lists of popes from Peter down to the current pope. 2000 years of popes.” However, John’s list of the first 10 (alleged) popes is interesting. Note the following comparison of listings for the first five (alleged) popes and the observations that follow.

John’s Second Affirmative Article             
Peter   30 – 67

Linus 67-76

Anacletus 76-88

Clement I   88-97

Evaristus  97-105

Catholic Biblical Apologetics

Peter   42-67

Linus 67-79

Anacletus 79-92

Clement I   92-101

Evaristus  101-105

Original Catholic Encyclopedia

 Peter   33-67

Linus 67-76

Anacletus 76-88

Clement I   88-97

Evaristus  98-106

Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature

Peter  42-67

Linus 67-78

Cletus 78-90

Clement I   90-100

Anacletus  100-112

Britannica   Online Encyclopedia
Peter   ? – 64

Linus 67-76/79

Anacletus 76-88 or 79-91

Clement I   88-97 or 92-101

Evaristus  97-107

“Peter died in Rome and … his martyrdom came during the reign of Emperor Nero, probably in 64” (Catholic Encyclopedia). So how was he pope from 64-67?

“Imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa, he [Peter] was aided in an escape by an angel. He then resumed his apostolate in Jerusalem and his missionary efforts included travels to such cities of the pagan world as Antioch, Corinth, and eventually Rome” (Catholic Encyclopedia). Consequently, Peter did not arrive in Rome for several years after the church began. Therefore, he was not “bishop of Rome” (or pope) in AD 30, as John asserted.

“Ancient tradition assigns to the year 42 the first coming of St. Peter to Rome” (Catholic Encyclopedia). If Peter did not come to Rome until AD 42, then he was not Bishop of Rome (pope) from 30-41, contrary to John’s claim.
“As to the duration of his Apostolic activity in the Roman capital, the continuity or otherwise of his residence there, the details and success of his labors, and the chronology of his arrival and death, all these questions are uncertain” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia)

“Pope St. Linus … reigned about A.D. 64 or 67 to 76 or 79” (Catholic Encyclopedia). There appears to be some uncertainty about his reign.

“Ancient documents about his papacy have proven to be inaccurate or apocryphal” (New Catholic Dictionary).

“Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Ireneus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the ‘Catalogus Liberianus’, the ‘Carmen contra Marcionem’ and the ‘Liber Pontificalis’, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia).

“The chronology is, of course, in consequence of all this, very undetermined, but Duchesne, in his ‘Origines’, says ‘we are far from the day when the years, months, and days of the Pontifical Catalogue can be given with any guarantee of exactness. But is it necessary to be exact about popes of whom we know so little? … Anicetus reigned certainly in 154. That is all we can say with assurance about primitive pontifical chronology’” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia).

Clement I
“According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter …, and St. Jerome tells us that in his time ‘most of the Latins’ held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle…. St. Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion…The early evidence shows great variety.” (Original Catholic Encyclopedia)

“Little is known of his life” (New Catholic Dictionary).

“Date of birth unknown; died about 107.… The earliest historical sources offer no authentic data about him” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

“Little is known about his reign with certainty…. Evaristus reportedly followed Clement as the fourth successor of Saint Peter. However, contemporary scholars generally hold that a single bishop did not yet rule at Rome at this time, and the office of pope is therefore thought to be attributed to Evaristus and his colleagues retroactively by later writers” (New World Encyclopedia).

“In the article PAPACY we have referred to the uncertainty prevailing in regard to the first bishops of Rome. Roman Catholic writers themselves quite generally admit that the statements of ancient Church-writers on the subject are entirely irreconcilable, and that it is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty the order in which they followed each other, the years of their accession to the see of Rome, and the year of their death” (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, volume 8, page 409).

Many more issues could be raised about John’s listing, if space allowed. I may offer additional observations later.
My friend made several disparaging comments about what he calls the “Campbellite Church of Christ”; however, he later acknowledged, “But, I digress.” Since he admitted his remarks were a digression from the issue, I am reluctant to respond in this debate. However, if John really wants to discuss “Campbellism,” I will gladly debate that issue when this debate has concluded.

At the close of my first article I advanced the following argument, evidently overlooked by John. The primacy of Peter, his being the first pope and first head of the church were ideas unknown to the apostles themselves. Near the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry, “there arose also a dispute among them [the apostles], which of them was reputed to be the greatest” (Luke 22:24). The Lord could have ended that dispute quickly by telling them it was Peter; however, He didn’t. To the contrary, He taught them it was “not so” among them that one would “exercise authority” over the others (22:25-26). Indeed, if John’s contention is correct, Jesus missed a wonderful opportunity to identify Peter as the head of the church!


John Martignoni – 3rd Affirmative:

Mr. Thrasher states he is giving me “problems” by “calling attention to what the Scriptures teach.”  I actually have no problem with what the Scriptures teach.  I have a problem, though, with Mr. Thrasher’s private, fallible interpretation of what the Scriptures teach.  And, more importantly, I have a problem with Mr. Thrasher’s private, fallible interpretation of what the Scriptures don’t teach.  Most of his “scriptural” argument here is an argument from silence.  The summation of his “scriptural” argument for Peter not being the first head of the Church is:

1) Nowhere does the Bible specifically say that Peter was the first head of the Church, therefore, Peter was not the first head of the Church.  An argument from silence.

2) In Luke 22:24-26, the disciples argued as to which of them was the greatest, and Jesus could have said Peter was the greatest and settled the issue, but He didn’t. So Jesus “missed a wonderful opportunity to identify Peter as the head of the church!” Therefore, Peter is not the first head of the Church.  Another argument from silence.

That basically sums up his “scriptural” argument.  Addressing the former point, nowhere does the Bible use the term “preaching elder.” Yet, Pat Donahue, a member of Thrasher’s Campbellite Church of Christ, was introduced to me as a “preaching elder.”  Which I suppose means that there are non-preaching elders as well.  Mr. Thrasher, where does the Bible specifically identify the office of “preaching elder”?  Yet, you have them.

The Campbellite Church of Christ has regular church meetings on Wednesday night.  Nowhere in the Bible does it mention anything about church meetings on Wednesday night. Yet, you have them.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Go forth and limit the number of your children by using contraception.”  Yet, contraception is an acceptable practice in the Campbellite Church of Christ.

God commands that He be worshipped and praised, on earth, using musical instruments (Ps 33:2-3).  In Heaven, we see that musical instruments are involved in the worship and praise of God (Rev 5:8).  Yet, instruments are banned in the Campbellite churches.

The point being, Mr. Thrasher, that you have many beliefs and practices in your faith tradition that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible.  So, to argue from silence that Peter cannot be the first head of the Church because nowhere does the Bible specifically “call Peter Bishop of Rome, pope, or head of the church,” smacks of hypocrisy. 

Tell me where the Bible specifically mentions the offices of preaching and non-preaching elders, or that Christians should meet on Wednesday nights, or that Christians should use contraception, or that there is a prohibition against musical instruments in worship services, and I will concede your point.  But, if you can’t show me where those things are specifically stated in Scripture, then you will have conceded my point: that you believe in things that are not directly mentioned in Scripture and, therefore, this particular argument of yours regarding Peter is without merit.

On point two mentioned above, I would have to say that Mr. Thrasher is badly mistaken in claiming that “Jesus missed a wonderful opportunity to identify Peter as the head of the church!” This is one of those situations where one’s private, fallible interpretation of the Bible can get one in trouble.  Let’s look at Lk 22:24-26, but let’s also go a few verses farther and see if maybe Mr. Thrasher overlooked, or possibly intentionally ignored, a tiny little inconvenient detail. 

In Luke 22:24-26, the disciples are arguing amongst themselves as to who should be considered the greatest.  Mr. Thrasher seems to think that Jesus’ silence in not naming Peter as the greatest is scriptural evidence that Peter was not the first head of the Church.  Three things that Mr. Thrasher is either overlooking or intentionally ignoring:

1) Nowhere does it state that Peter was involved in this “dispute.”  He may have been, but the Bible does not specifically say he was. 

2) Jesus wasn’t about “greatness” as the world saw it and as the disciples saw it at the time. So why on earth would He say, “Peter is the greatest among you?”  Yet Mr. Thrasher claims Jesus’ not saying that is scriptural proof that Peter was not the first head of the Church. 

3) Jesus actually did settle their dispute as to which was the greatest among them. Mr. Thrasher, though, refuses to recognize what Scripture puts right in front of him.

There are several places in Scripture that mention how the disciples argued about who was the greatest and, when that happened, what did Jesus do?  He responded by talking about humility (e.g., Mt 18:4), not about greatness.  But, Jesus did indeed tell his disciples who the greatest among them was.  He said, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant,” (Mt 23:11).  It just so happens that one of the main titles of the Pope is: Servant of the Servants of God.  So, Jesus did indeed tell us, indirectly, who was “greatest” among them.

However, Jesus also tells us directly.  In that very passage cited by Mr. Thrasher as proof that Peter was not the head of the Apostles, we see that Jesus did the exact opposite of what Mr. Thrasher claims.  Jesus did indeed tell us that Peter was the greatest among them…if you read a few more verses.  Luke 22:24-26 is where the Apostles were arguing about who was greatest among them.  In verses 27-30, Jesus explains to them, again, that greatness consists in humility…in serving others…and that all of them will have a place at the table in His Kingdom, but then in verse 31, Jesus settles their argument.

Right after the Apostles are arguing about who is the greatest, who, and who alone, does Jesus turn to and what name alone does Jesus mention?  Simon Peter!  So, Jesus did not miss “a wonderful opportunity to identify Peter as the head of the Church,” as Mr. Thrasher claims.  Right there, Mr. Thrasher, in verse 31, Jesus settles the dispute.  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you [plural – the Apostles], that he might sift you [plural – the Apostles] like wheat, but I have prayed for you [singular – Peter] that your faith may not fail; and when you [singular – Peter] have turned again, strengthen your brethren”

Jesus turns to Peter and says that He, Jesus, has prayed for who?  All of the Apostles, since they are all equal?  No!  Jesus has prayed for Peter and for Peter’s faith not to fail.  Wow, Jesus missed a wonderful opportunity here to tell them that they were all equal.  Jesus prays for Peter so that Peter can strengthen the other Apostles.  I guess that means Bartholomew was the greatest among them?  Or James?  Or John?  Or Jude?  No!  Mr. Thrasher’s biased, and very fallible, interpretation of Scripture is on display here.  Jesus did not miss an opportunity to identify Peter as the head of the Apostles and thereby the head of the Church.  Jesus ends the dispute by singling out Peter.  By clearly identifying Simon Peter as having a special role among the Apostles. Never, after that instance, do the Apostles argue that topic again.

Any other Scripture verses that affirm this?  Well, there is the time Jesus appointed Peter to be shepherd of His flock (John 21:15-17).  Was any other Apostle told by Jesus to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and feed His sheep?  No!  Mr. Thrasher’s response to that Scripture verse, which clearly shows Jesus appointing Peter as shepherd of His flock, was to say, “Well, there are a couple of other places in Scripture where someone is told to feed the flock, does that mean they were the Pope?” In other words, his response was a non-response.  He never addressed John 21:15-17 directly.  If Jesus was not appointing Peter shepherd of His flock, then please, Mr. Thrasher, let us know what He was doing there?

As I showed previously, every time someone is told to feed the flock or the sheep, it is obvious that they have authority over that flock, as is the case with any local bishop.  In John 21, Jesus is telling Peter to tend and feed His sheep, which means Jesus is giving Peter authority over His flock – His entire flock. 

Want more? Another Scripture passage I’ve already mentioned – Matt 16:16-19.  Here Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Was any other Apostle given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Mr. Thrasher?  No.  So, will you admit that this was unique to Peter?

And, as I mentioned in my first affirmative, the language Jesus uses in Matt 16:16-19, is almost identical to the language used by God in Isaiah 22:19-22.  Mr. Thrasher has completely ignored that in his responses thus far. In Isaiah 22, the Prime Minister of the Davidic Kingdom, Shebna, is being told by God that his office will be filled by another, Eliakim.  And it is said that Shebna has authority over the household – the house of Judah…the house of David. How is this authority signified?  By the “key” of the house of David. 

In Mr. Thrasher’s private, fallible interpretation of Matt 16:19, Peter being given the keys to the kingdom “refers to Peter’s role in being the first to preach to the Jews (Acts 2) and to the Gentiles (Acts 10).”  Does Mr. Thrasher thereby wish to contend that Eliakim being given the key to the kingdom signifies that Eliakim will be the first to preach the Jews and the Gentiles?  I doubt it.  Which means Mr. Thrasher’s interpretation of Matt 16:19 is dubious, at best.  No, being given the keys to the kingdom signifies being given authority.  The authority of the king to act in the king’s stead.

What else does Isaiah 22 mention?  It speaks of opening and shutting (binding and loosing).  It also speaks of an “office” that is held by Shebna.  What office?  Well, Shebna was, again, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom. So, Isaiah uses the language of the keys, and opening and shutting, in connection with the highest office in the kingdom, after the king himself.  And Jesus uses this very same language when speaking to Peter.  This couldn’t possibly mean that there was any connection to Peter holding the highest office in the kingdom, after the King Himself, could it?  Anyone who cannot see the connection has scales on their eyes.

Finally, let’s look at the remarkable admission Mr. Thrasher made in response to my question about who wrote the Gospel of Mark.  He said he doesn’t know!!!  “All that matters to me is that God is the source,” and he cites 2 Tim 3:16-17, Eph 3:3-5, and 1 Cor 2:10 to prove that God is the source of the Gospel of Mark.  I’m confused by his references, though, as not a single one of them says anything about the Gospel of Mark, or its author.  Mr. Thrasher, if you don’t know who wrote it, how do you “God is the source?”  Explain.

His “scriptural” argument against Peter being the first head of the Church is that the Bible nowhere specifically states Peter was, “the Bishop of Rome, pope, or head of the church.” But, he believes Mark is inspired by God, yet nowhere does the Bible specifically say so.  How do you know it is, Mr. Thrasher?  Who told you if not the Bible? 

Give me book, chapter, and verse where the Bible states, “God is the source,” of the Gospel of Mark.  You can’t, so I ask you to concede that the argument regarding the Bible never saying, “Peter was the Pope,” is specious and concede that I have won that point.  If the Bible never specifically stating Peter was, “Bishop of Rome, pope, or head of the church,” proves in your mind that he was not, then the Bible never specifically stating that “God is the source of the Gospel of Mark,” proves that He was not.  

In Conclusion

I used up my 2000 word allotment, so I will respond to some of the other arguments he brought up, especially regarding the list of Popes, in the next issue.

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Apologetics for the Masses