Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom?

By COGwriter

For the purposes of this treatise, Catholics are defined as those supporting the Roman Catholic Church. While many of the writings cited will have an imprimatur of a Catholic Bishop or Cardinal, not all do (having an imprimatur or not having one is not proof that a writing is completely accepted or not accepted by the Vatican, though having one does show that a high level Catholic official approved the writing as Catholic). The terms Catholic, Holy See, and Roman Catholic may be used interchangeably here to refer to the church that now occupies Vatican City. The term Catholic is not intended to convey the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or other non-Roman Catholic churches, though in some early writings cited (prior to 200 A.D.) that term is not necessarily referring what is now considered to be the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church states that Jesus gave the authority and administration of the true Church to specifically and perhaps only to the Apostle Peter. Is this true?

This treatise will cite both Catholic and historical sources as well as the Bible (NKJV unless otherwise specified) to determine whether or not Peter was the rock who alone received the keys of the kingdom, and if they remain in Rome.

Some Catholic Positions

The following is a major view held by most Catholics:

The fact is indisputable: the Bishops of Rome took over Peter's Chair and Peter's office of continuing the work of Christ [Duchesne, "The Roman Church before Constantine", Catholic Univ. Bulletin (October, 1904) X, 429-450]. To be in continuity with the Church founded by Christ affiliation to the See of Peter is necessary, for, as a matter of history, there is no other Church linked to any other Apostle by an unbroken chain of successors (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Apostolic Succession. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Many of those statements simply are disputable, and will be addressed shortly.

However, the following Catholic statements about Peter are true:

Christ Himself unmistakably accords Peter a special precedence and the first place among the Apostles, and designates him for such on various occasions. Peter was one of the three Apostles (with James and John) who were with Christ on certain special occasions the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51); the Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:28), the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). On several occasions also Christ favoured him above all the others; He enters Peter's boat on Lake Genesareth to preach to the multitude on the shore (Luke 5:3); when He was miraculously walking upon the waters, He called Peter to come to Him across the lake (Matthew 14:28 sqq.); He sent him to the lake to catch the fish in whose mouth Peter found the stater to pay as tribute (Matthew 17:24 sqq.) (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Notice also the following (from http://vintage.aomin.org/Sermo131.html viewed 07/22/12):

Cyprian (and the North African church as a whole for the span of centuries) believed the "chair of Peter" referred to all bishops in all churches across the world. Cyprian, for example, claimed to sit upon the "cathedra Petri" as did all bishops. For example, he wrote in Epistle XXVI:

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honor of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: 'I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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 shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers (emphasis added).

This fact is recognized by Roman Catholic historians. Johannes Quasten, Catholic patristic scholar, commented, (Patrology, vol. 2, p. 375), "Thus he understands Matth. 16, 18 of the whole episcopate, the various members of which, attached to one another by the laws of charity and concord, thus render the Church universal a single body." And a little later Quasten cites the words of an African Synod, led by Cyprian, which said:

No one among us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or by tyranny and terror forces his colleagues to compulsory obedience, seeing that every bishop in the freedom of his liberty and power possesses the right to his own mind and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. We must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who singly and alone has power both to appoint us to the government of his Church and to judge our acts therein (CSEL 3, 1, 436).

Furthermore, the Roman and Orthodox Catholis saint and doctor John Chrysostom clearly stated that the Apostle John, who Jesus called a son of thunder (Mark 3:17) and the one who learned upon Jesus (John 21:20), had the keys himself:

For the son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism, who lay upon his Master's bosom with much confidence, this man comes forward to us now; not as an actor of a play, not hiding his head with a mask, (for he has another sort of words to speak,) nor mounting a platform, nor striking the stage with his foot, nor dressed out with apparel of gold, but he enters wearing a robe of inconceivable beauty. (John Chrysostom. Homily 1 on the Gospel of John, Preface, 2. Translated by Charles Marriott. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240101.htm>.)

Thus, the original Greco-Roman view did not have the Church of Rome above all other bishops.

Those who believe that Rome or one of the Orthodox sees have 'apostolic succession' should consider that history actually shows that the truest succession came through Asia Minor from the Apostle Peter to the Apostle John to Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna through to the Continuing Church of God in the 21st century--for details, please check out the article Apostolic Succession and/or the free online book Continuing History of the Church of God.

Scriptural Basis for the Catholic Position on the Keys

The current prevailing Catholic position seems to be primarily based on what this treatise expects to show is a misinterpretation of this passage in Matthew 16:16-19:

Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter [petros, meaning a stone in the Greek], and on this rock [petra, meaning massive rock in the Greek] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (All non-Catholic citations from the Bible will be from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated--Catholic writers most commonly quote from an English translation of the Latin Vulgate, which is itself a translation of the certain Hebrew and Greek texts, such as that produced by Rheims College in 1582).

Regarding that passage, one historian wrote:

Whatever else this passage may mean, it does not so much as hint that there was to be a series of successors to whom Peter was to have the authority to transmit the "power of the keys" (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper, San Francisco, 1975, pp. 112-113).

Yet, certain Catholics, in interpreting those verses, teach:

In especially solemn fashion Christ accentuated Peter's precedence among the Apostles, when, after Peter had recognized Him as the Messias, He promised that he would be head of His flock. Jesus was then dwelling with His Apostles in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, engaged on His work of salvation...By the word "rock" the Saviour cannot have meant Himself, but only Peter, as is so much more apparent in Aramaic in which the same word (Kipha) is used for "Peter" and "rock" (St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, as previously cited).

There are several problems with that Catholic interpretation. Perhaps the first (from a Roman Catholic perspective) is that it does not agree with the earliest traditions of the "Fathers" the Roman church. Notice the following:

Devout Catholic historian von Dollinger reminds us of the following facts:

Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter's successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these three texts, yet not one of them who commentaries we possess--Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas--has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter!

Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church as the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter's confession of faith in Christ; often both together (Cited in Hunt D. A Women Rides the Beast. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene (OR) p. 146).

Furthermore, it should be noted that according to the 20th century Franciscan scholar Jean Briand:

Judeo-Christians...put the key to heaven in the hands of Christ... Ap. 3,7 (Briand J. The Judeo-Christian Church of Nazareth.  Translated from the French by Mildred Duell. 1st edition, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 34)

Augustine and Who is the Rock?

The Catholic saint Augustine seemed to be confused on the subject of the whether Peter or Jesus was the Rock:

In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built.’... But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed… And so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven...’ But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable (Augustine, Retractations, 1:21 as cited in Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 302).

Since Augustine was confused, it seems safe to conclude that the idea that Peter must be the Rock was not the universal position at least in the early fifth century.

Look at the Greek

The second (from a Roman position, but first from the Church of God position) is that the now generally held Roman Catholic position is without proper biblical support.

This seems to have been the position of Catholic "saint and doctor of the Church" Jerome:

Jerome…"The Church of the Roman city is not to be deemed one thing, and the church of the whole world another. Gaul, Britain, Africa, Persia, India, and all the barbarous nations adore one Christ: and observe one rule of faith. If you look for authority, the world is greater than a city, (Rome.) Wheresoever a bishop is, whether at Rome, or Constantinople, or Alexandria, or Tanais, he is of the same worth, (or authority) and the same priesthood." … To Evagr. Tom. ii. p. 512, Paris edit, of 1602.

St. Jerome…:— "Bishops should remember that they are greater than elders, (presbyters,) rather by custom, than by truth of the Lord's appointment: and that they ought to rule the church in common." On Titus Lib. i. cap 1. (As cited in Brownlee WC. Letters in the Roman Catholic controversy, 2nd edition. LETTER VIII. TO DRS. POWER AND VARELA, AND MR. LEVINS. Published by the author, 1834. Original from Harvard University, Digitized, Aug 26, 2008, p. 94)

Thus, apparently Jerome did not believe that Jesus made any particular promise to Peter that was to transfer to the Bishop of Rome and give supremacy.

Nearly all realize that the New Testament was written Greek and not Aramaic (now while it is possible that Matthew was first composed in Hebrew, the earliest extant versions are in Greek). If Christ actually spoke that statement in the Aramaic language, and He Himself meant that Peter was the rock, why would God have inspired Matthew to record two different words (one for Peter, petros, and the other for a massive rock, petra) in Greek? Matthew could have used the same word in Greek (or possibly Hebrew), but did not.

Also, John was inspired to write this, "Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone)" (John 1:42). Note that John uses the essentially Aramaic term Cephas yet translates it in Greek to mean a stone, since he wrote that the Greek word for stone [petros] and not a massive rock [petra]. Thus in two places Peter is mentioned regarding a rock and a stone, it is clear that Peter is not the rock.

The only other times that the New Testament states that anyone is the Rock (petra) is when the term is used about Christ Himself, "And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ" (I Corinthians 10:4).

The term petra is never used referring to Peter in the Greek. The term petra is always translated as 'rock' or 'Rock' in the New Testament (NKJV) and always either refers to some type of rock (normally some type of massive rock, e.g. Matthew 7:24-25) or Jesus Christ.

Here is something from the Greek Orthodox Church on this (and they tend to have a lot of scholars with knowledge of koine Greek):

...the Rock upon whom the Church is established is Christ.  When Christ says, “Thou art Peter,” He called him “PETROS,” which means “small stone.”  But when He says, “Upon this rock I will build my Church” the Greek term for rock is not Petros but “PETRA” which means “bedrock.”   This bedrock which the Church is built upon was always understood by the Greek Fathers and many Western Fathers to mean either Christ Himself, or the profession of faith in Christ’s Divinity (Maxwell J. The Dawn. A Publication of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America, October 1998).

The Catholic accepted Latin translation of John 1:42 is "Vulgate et adduxit eum ad Iesum intuitus autem eum Iesus dixit tu es Simon filius Iohanna tu vocaberis Cephas quod interpretatur Petrus."

Neither Cephas not Petrus are actual Latin words (they are the Latinized form of the words in Aramaic and Greek respectively). Yet even the Latin translation is acknowledging that Cephas (who is usually called Peter in the New Testament, as Peter is an Anglicized form of the word Petros) means petros (which is Latinized to Petrus).

Now here are more detailed definitions of petra and petros:

petra , Ion. and Ep. petrê , hê, A. rock; freq. of cliffs, ledges, etc. by the sea, lissê aipeia te eis hala petrê Od.3.293 , cf. 4.501, etc.; chôros leios petraôn free from rocks, of a beach, 5.443 ; p. êlibatos . . halos engus eousa Il.15.618 , etc.; choiras p. Pi.P.10.52; also, rocky peak or ridge, aigilips p. Il.9.15, etc.; êlibatos 16.35 , etc.; littas p. Corinn.Supp.1.30, cf.A.Supp.796 (lyr.); p. Lenkas, *'ôleniê, etc., Od.24.11, Il.11.757, etc.; p. sundromoi, Sumplêgades, Pi.P.4.209, E.Med.1264(lyr.); pros petrais hupsêlokrêmnois, of Caucasus, A.Pr.4, cf. 31, 56, al.; p. Delphis, p. dilophos, of Parnassus, S.OT464(lyr.), Ant.1126(lyr.); p. Kôrukis A.Eu.22 ; p. Kekropia, of the Acropolis, E.Ion936. 2. p. glaphurê a hollow rock, i.e. a cave, Il.2.88, cf. 4.107; speos koilêi hupo p. Hes. Th.301; distomos p. cave in the rock with a double entrance, S.Ph.16, cf. 937; katêrepheis autêi têi p. Pl.Criti.116b; p. antrôdês X.An.4.3.11 ; topos kuklôi petrais periechomenos IG42(1).122.21 (Epid.); heôs tês p. down to virgin rock, PCair.Zen.172.14 (iii B.C.), OGI672 (Egypt, i A. D.), cf. Ev.Matt.16.18. 3. mass of rock or boulder, Od.9.243, 484, Hes.Th.675 ; petras kulindomena phlox Pi.P.1.23 ; ekulindoun petras X.An.4.2.20 , cf. Plb.3.53.4. 4. stone as material, p. lartia, Têïa, SIG581.97 (Crete, iii/ii B. C.), 996.13 (Smyrna, i A. D.): distd. from petros (q. v.), which is v.l. in X.l.c.; petrai shd. be read in S.Ph.272 ; the distn. is minimized by Gal.12.194. II. prov., ouk apo druos oud' apo petrês, etc. (v. drus); as a symbol of firmness, ho d' estathê êüte p. empedon Od.17.463 ; of hard-heartedness, ek petras eirgasmenos A.Pr.244 ; halian p. ê kuma litais ôs hiketeuôn E.Andr. 537 (anap.); cf. petros 1.2 . (Written pe-te-ra in a text with musical accompaniment, Pae.Delph.5.) (This text is based on the following book(s): Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. ISBN: 0198642261)

petros , ho (in later Poets hê, AP7.274 (Honest.), 479 (Theodorid.)), A. stone (distd. from petra, q. v.); in Hom., used by warriors, lazeto petron marmaron okrioenta Il.16.734 ; balôn muloeideï petrôi 7.270 , cf. 20.288, E.Andr.1128 (never in Od.); edike petrôi Pi.O.10(11).72 ; agalm' Aïda xeston p. embalon sternôi Id.N.10.67 ; niphadi gongulôn petrôn A.Fr.199.7 ; ek cherôn petroisin êrassonto Id.Pers.460 ; leusthênai petrois S.OC435 ; petrous epekulindoun X.HG3.5.20 , etc.; en petroisi petron ektribôn, to produce fire, S.Ph.296; of a boulder forming a landmark, Id.OC1595; tond' anethêka p. aeiramenos IG42(1).125 (Epid., iii B. C.). 2. prov., panta kinêsai petron 'leave no stone unturned', E.Heracl.1002, cf. Pl.Lg.843a; of imperturbability, kai gar an petrou phusin su g' organeias S.OT334 , cf. E.Med.28. II. a kind of reed, Peripl.M.Rubr.65.--The usual Prose word is lithos. (ibid).

Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the meaning of the name Petra (when referring to the town) means a rock:

Petra Titular metropolitan see of Palæstina Tertia. Under the name of Sela (the rock) this region is described in Abdias (i, 3 sqq.)...It is also referred to in Isaias (xlii, 11), IV Kings (xiv, 7), and II Par. (xxv, 11)...Petra seems to have been a refuge whither in times of danger...the Rock was spoken of in 312 B.C. by Diodorus Siculus" (Vailhe' S. Transcribed by Mary Thomas. Petra. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The town of Petra was carved out of a massive rock. The term Sela, which the Catholic writer correctly translated as rock, is also so translated by by Biblesoft:

Cela` (seh'-lah)...Sela, the rock-city of Idumaea: KJV - rock, Sela (-h). (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

So petra means a massive rock, while petros refers to a stone or even a reed.

Now there is one place where the NKJV suggests that Jesus is another type of rock but again that is not from the Greek word petros, but this time is from the word akrogoniaios. In Ephesians 2:20 that term is translated as "chief cornerstone". A massive rock.

While many Catholic writers suggest that only Peter can be referred to in Matthew 16:18, this is not so. As mentioned before, the term rock in that verse is clearly referring to Christ as the word petra was chosen.

Would the Rock Be Called Satan?

There is one other point that many miss. Which is, AFTER, the 'rock statement' by Jesus, Jesus referred to Peter as Satan:

22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:22-23)

So consider that when Jesus spoke in Matthew 16:18, He was not then telling Peter, that Peter was the rock.

And while in Matthew 16:19, Jesus told Peter he would be given keys later, Jesus was speaking in the present tense in Matthew 16:18. There is no way that the then Rock would be quickly called Satan. Jesus, not Peter, was the rock in Matthew 16:18.

Other Scriptures: What Did Peter and Paul Teach?

The Hebrew scriptures declare that God is the Rock:

3 For I shall proclaim the name of Yahweh. Oh, tell the greatness of our God!

4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are equitable. A trustworthy God who does no wrong, he is the Honest, the Upright One!...

15 Jacob has eaten to his heart's content, Jeshurun, grown fat, has now lashed out. (You have grown fat, gross, bloated.) He has disowned the God who made him, and dishonoured the Rock, his salvation...

18 (You forget the Rock who fathered you, the God who made you, you no longer remember.) (Deuteronomy 32:3-4,15,18, New Jerusalem Bible)

47 Life to Yahweh! Blessed be my rock! Exalted be the God of my salvation, (2 Samuel 22:47, NJB)

So, from ancient times the Bible teaches that God is the Rock (there are many other passages in the Hebrew scriptures that teach this, the ones above are simply examples).

Even though many Romans act like Jesus made Peter the headstone in Matthew, they seem to ignore Peter's own writings on this matter which show that Jesus is the chief cornerstone and His followers are to come to Him as living stones--which Peter did NOT limit to himself:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
"Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." 
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
"The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," 
8 and
"A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." (1 Peter 2:4-8)

Futhermore, notice that Peter himself stated after the resurrection that it was Jesus who was the head stone, the only name wherein one can be saved by (Acts 4): 

8. Then Peter replenished with the holy Ghost, said to them, Ye princes of the people and Ancients:
9. If we this day be examined for a good deed upon an impotent man, in what he hath been made whole, 10. Be it known to you and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of JESUS CHRIST of Nazareth, whom you did crucify, whom God hath raised from the dead, in this same this man standeth before you whole. 11. This is the stone that was rejected of you the builders: which is made into the head of the corner. 12. And there is not salvation in any other. For neither is there any other name under heaven given to men, wherein we must be saved. 

This means that it is not true that salvation only comes through the Roman Catholic Church and that Peter understood that he was a much less significant stone than Christ. 

Also notice who Paul wrote was the head of the church:

(Ephesians 1:22). And he hath subdued all things under his feet: and hath made him head over all the CHURCH 

(Colossians 1:18). And he is the head of the body, the CHURCH, who is the beginning, first born of the dead: that he may be in all things holding the primacy: 

(I Corinthians 11). For other foundation no man can lay, beside that which is laid: which is Christ JESUS. 

This means that claims that salvation only comes through the Roman Catholic Church because it has Apostolic Succession from Peter is faulty as salvation only comes through Jesus. Perhaps it should be understood that we in the Philadelphia remnant of the COG acknowledge that Peter had a type of primacy while alive, but that his death location (even if it was Rome) would not necessarily confer a succession from that city (actually Jesus makes it clear that the same city for leadership throughout history would not be possible for the true church).

It should also be understood that Jesus referred to Himself as the chief cornerstone in the Gospels (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17), not Peter.

What About the Keys and Binding and Loosing?

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits:

It is comparatively seldom that the Fathers, when speaking of the power of the keys, make any reference to the supremacy of St. Peter" (Joyce G.H. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

This would suggest that most early Christian leaders did not accept that the keys were passed down through Peter and none of the other apostles.

Actually, some Catholic leaders, including those considered to be Catholic saints agree with the position this article has taken. Notice the following report:

St. Matt. xvi. 18: " Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against her." All depends on the meaning which the Church attaches to the word Rock. A genuine Catholic consults the Apostolic Tradition, as found in the Fathers of the Church. If the Fathers agree in their verdict, their voice is apparently the voice of the Church. But if it does not agree, the voice of the Fathers is only their personal and subjective opinion, and not the voice of the Church, and can never become such. Now, the French divine Launoy has taken the trouble to count the voices of the Fathers on this point, and finds that forty-four explain the " Rock " as " the belief in Christ's divinity," just confessed by Peter, or as " the person of Christ;" and only seventeen understand it of the person of Peter. Thus we are at liberty to explain the passage as we like. But however we may explain it, we are not warranted to make a dogma of our subjective interpretation. Every sincere Roman, who knows the first principles of the Catholic religion, must bend to these facts. But how the poor Romans are deceived and led astray by impertinent and unblushing liars, we see from Dr. Allioli's German Bible translation, approved by Pope Gregory XVI. The translator gives in a footnote the usual Roman interpretation, and adds : " So teach all tbe Holy Fathers " (!!!) (Overbeck JJ. Trübner, 1881 Original from Oxford University Digitized Aug 29, 2006, p. 20).

It needs to be understood that as far back as the second century, both Irenaeus and Tertullian taught that some version of "apostolic succession" occurred in areas other than Rome.

In addition, look at what the third century bishop of Carthage and martyr Cyprian wrote:

The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, "I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of {haydes} shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, "Feed my sheep." And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;" yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity (Cyprian of Carthage. Treatise 1, Chapter 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Cyprian clearly did not understand that all authority went to Peter and not the other apostles. And it is true that Peter was originally the predominant one--but upon his death, it would seem that one of the surviving apostles, like the Apostle John, and not a local elder such as Linus, would have held the highest amount of authority on earth (see also Apostolic Succession).

Now many other Catholics seem to ignore this interpretation and point to Matthew 16:18-19 as proof that the authority of the Church was given to just to Peter and his successors out of Rome. Let's repeat those verses here:

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Since the Bible teaches that the Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), are these verses specifically limited to Peter? And, anyway, who would his successor biblically be?

In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul makes clear that the Church was not just built on Peter but is built on the foundation of the apostles (plural) AND the prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and including all the members in the church as well:

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, In whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

This may also be telling us that just like Peter was a predominant apostle until his death that Ephesus itself would be the predominant church (until, as Revelation 2 shows, Smyrna gained predominance). Interestingly, Jesus commends the Church at Ephesus because, "you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2)--in other words, the Church at Ephesus had the ability to know who the true leaders of the Christian church actually were. This is never said about the Roman Church.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

The expression "power of the keys" is derived from Christ's words to St. Peter (in Matthew 16:19). The promise there made finds its explanation in Isaias 22, in which "the key of the house of David" is conferred upon Eliacim, the son of Helcias, as the symbol of plenary authority in the Kingdom of Juda. Christ by employing this expression clearly designed to signify his intention to confer on St. Peter the supreme authority over His Church" (Joyce G.H. Transcribed by Robert B. Olson. Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).

It should be noted that even some Catholic writers believed that the authority granted in Matthew 16:19 was not limited to Peter. For example:

St. Augustine in several passages declares that the authority to bind and loose was not a purely personal gift to St. Peter, but was conferred upon him as representing the Church (Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

And that, to a degree, is correct. If Christ only gave Peter, and not the other apostles, the power to bind and loose, He would not have said the following to all the disciples:

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:18-20).

Jesus was speaking to all of His disciples (those who became apostles) in the verses above, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matthew 18:1). This would have been the perfect opportunity for Christ to state Peter if he would be. Obviously, the disciples clearly did not understand that Peter was to be the greatest based on what Jesus taught in Matthew 16:18-19. Instead, after explaining how they needed to be humble, Jesus taught that they all had a type of binding and loosing authority in the church.

Many have misunderstood about the binding and loosening. The following explantion by Dr. Craig S. Keener in a book by Dr. William D. Mounce clarifies the original intent to the scriptures:

In some translations of Matthew 18:18, it sounds like Jesus promised his disciples that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. In other words, they had the power to bind and loose, and Heaven (i.e., God) would simply back up their decrees. But the matter is not quite so simple; the actions described in heaven are future perfect passives — which could be translated “will have already been bound in heaven ... will have already been loosed in heaven.” In other words, the heavenly decree confirming the earthly one is based on a prior verdict.

This is the language of the law court. Jewish legal issues were normally decided in Jesus’ day by elders in the synagogue community (later by rabbis). Many Jewish people believed that the authority of Heaven stood behind the earthly judges when they decided cases based on a correct understanding of God’s law. (This process came to be called “binding and loosing.”) Jesus’ contemporaries often envisioned God’s justice in terms of a heavenly court; by obeying God’s law, the earthly court simply ratified the decrees of the heavenly court. In Matthew 18:15-20, Christians who follow the careful procedures of verses 15-17 may be assured that they will act on the authority of God’s court when they decide cases. (Mounce WD. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Zondervan, 2003, p. 121)

No one has the power to eliminate the Ten Commandments, negate scripture, nor do anything contrary to the "word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, DRB) as "scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35, DRB). Since "God is a God not of disorder" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NJB), or as translated elsewhere as "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NKJV), God is not having His leaders going around Him to contradict Him.

Since the Roman Church now claims that the "power of the keys" is present in its entire priesthood (Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia), would it not make sense that the "power of the keys" would also be granted to the other Apostles that Christ personally ordained?

Furthermore, even into the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of churches of the Eastern Orthodox based in cities such as Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria who were founded by someone other than the Apostle Peter (which tradition states were founded by the Apostles Andrew, James, and the gospel-writer Mark, respectively).

It should also be noted that the "keys" mentioned in Matthew 16 had to do with the kingdom of heaven--this is something that, sadly, the Church of Rome does not understand. For details on that as well as the biblical understanding, check out the free online booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Interestingly, Jesus states this later about keys in Revelation 3:7-8:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door".

Hence it seems clear that since Christ Himself needed to open the door with the keys, that He still had them, and that all the keys were not exclusively passed successively through Peter.

It is of major interest to note that Eliakim (Eliacim from the Latin translation of the Hebrew), who was given the keys in Isaiah 22, is not of the highest prominence in the Bible (though he is mentioned in several places). Thus to say that this is what Christ meant to Peter, based at least partially on Isaiah 22:20-22 simply does not follow from the biblical facts.

Now, there is another scripture we should consider:

52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." (Luke 11:52)

Thus, Jesus was saying that some who claimed to be experts in religion took away the "key of knowledge"--this has happened to and within the Greco-Roman churches It has been the true Church of God that has stood for the knowledge of the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3; for detail, see Continuing History of the Church of God).

Forgiveness of Sins Was Mentioned to Many

Some (but not most Catholic scholars) have suggested that "the power of the keys" exclusively gave the Roman successors of Peter and their designees the power to forgive sins, but that is not what Jesus taught. Look at the following passage:

20 Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:20-23).

The above passage clearly shows that His disciples, and not just Peter, received the Holy Spirit with the related abilities regarding sins. This was in no possible way limited to Peter and not in any way limited to Rome and its descendants.

This passage in John 20 is sometimes misunderstood as far as the forgiving of sins, for more details on it, please see History of Auricular Confession and the 'Sacrament of Confession'.

Were the Keys Only For Rome?

While it is possible that Peter visited and even died in Rome, that of itself would not seem to be a reason for the city of Rome to have to be the place of the headquarters of the true church. There also is no known early document (one within 100 years of his death) that states that upon his death Peter bequeathed the cathedra (literally the "chair" indicating ecclesiastical authority) to anyone (recall also that Jesus Himself died in Jerusalem, and the importance of His death to the Church is more significant than that of Peter).

Please read the following from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar:

The conferral of the power of the keys of the kingdom surely suggests an imposing measure of authority, given the symbolism of the keys, but there is no explicit indication that the authority conferred was meant to be exercised over others, much less that it be absolutely monoarchical in kind...In Acts, in fact, Peter is shown consulting with other apostles and even being sent by them (8:14). He and John are portrayed as acting as a team (3:1-11; 4:1-22; 8:14). And Paul confronts Peter for his inconsistency and hypocrisy...Paul "opposed him to his face because he was clearly wrong" (Galatians 2:11; see also 12-14) (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 30-31).

Also, it was not until nearly two hundred years after he died that any Roman bishop ever claimed authority based upon Matthew 16. Notice:

(254-57)...Stephen I seems to have been the first pope to have appealed to the classic "you are Peter' text in Matthew's Gospel (16:18) as the basis for Roman primacy...Peter was not regarded as the first Bishop of Rome until the late second or early third century (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 27,28).

When Jesus discussed the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16) with Peter, this was in the Jerusalem area. When the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2, this was in the area of Jerusalem. Peter and the other apostles spent a great deal of time in Asia Minor.

Furthermore, Rome was a Gentile area, not full of circumcised Israelites. Who does the Bible teach had that responsibility? Look at what Paul wrote:

But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles) (Galatians 2:7-8).

Thus it does not appear that Peter was considered to be the bishop of Rome during Paul's lifetime (and they both died about the same time).

If Peter, and he alone, had the keys, the fact that, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia "Peter pursued his Apostolic labours in various districts of Asia Minor" shows that PETER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE BISHOP OF ROME FOR MUCH OF THE TIME THAT HE HAD THE KEYS! IT IS AN ABSOLUTE FACT THAT PETER WAS NOT THE BISHOP OF ROME BEGINNING WITH THE START OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH that began on the Pentecost after Jesus was resurrected (Acts 1-2), circa 30 A.D.. NOR COULD PETER HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN BISHOP OF ROME FOR MUCH OF THE THIRTY-PLUS YEARS AFTER THAT TIME AS HE TRAVELED WITHIN ASIA MINOR AND TO JERUSALEM REPEATEDLY. Rome is simply not close enough to Asia Minor or Jerusalem for Peter to have been based out of Rome. Thus Antioch or other regions within Asia Minor would seem to have been the main areas that Peter possibly could have had an episcopate.

Actually, the book of Galatians specifically mentions that Paul visited Peter on two occasions, and both of those were in Jerusalem and not Rome. Why? Because Rome was still not the headquarters of the Church at a very late time in Peter's life. This is clearly documented from the Bible:

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days (Gal atians1:15-18).

Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ (Galatians 1:21-22).

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me...and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles (Gal 2:1,9).

What does all that mean? Well, since according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, "St. Paul's conversion was not prior to 34, nor his escape from Damascus and his first visit to Jerusalem, to 37" (St. Paul. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911). Thus the earliest possible date for Paul to have made his second recorded visit with Peter was 54 A.D. (3 years plus 17 plus 34 A.D., and it may have been closer to 57 A.D.). And from there, Peter told Paul to go to the Gentiles again. Hence Peter could not have become the Apostle to the Gentiles in Rome until much later (if at all), thus the keys (if Peter alone had them) were not Roman keys!

Those "keys" were clearly in Jerusalem and Asia Minor for all (or nearly all) of Peter's life.

Origen and the Keys

Even in the late second/early third century Origen wrote:

But if you think the whole church to be built by God upon that one Peter only, what would you say of John the son of thunder or each of the Apostles? Are we to venture to say that the gates of Hades do not prevail against Peter by a special privilege, but prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? What is said surely belongs to each and all of them, since all are ‘Peter’ and the ‘Rock,’ and the church of God has been built upon them all, and against none who are such do the gates of Hades prevail. Is it to Peter alone that the Lord gives the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this privilege, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ is common to the others, so also are all the preceding words addressed as it were to Peter (Origen on Matthew XII, 10 as cited in eyendorff J. The Primacy of Peter: essays in ecclesiology and the early church St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992, p. 61).

Hence, the idea that the keys were not unique to Peter were known to others and is not a new concept.

Perhaps I should quote some of what a recent Roman pontiff stated about Origen:

In our meditations on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we will get to know one of the most outstanding. Origen of Alexandria is one of the key people for the development of Christian thought...He was a true teacher (Pope Benedict XVI. MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE WORLD OF CULTURE: ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI. Collège des Bernardins, Paris. Friday, 12 September 2008. © Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

So, if Origen is such a true teacher, those associated with Rome should recognize that the Bible is correct and that the "keys" were not given to Peter alone.

As mentioned previously, even into the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of the ordination and practices of the churches of the Eastern Orthodox based in cities such as Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church accepts the legitimacy of the Orthodox Church of Antioch--a church that claims that it too was founded by Peter. Hence, there seems to be a contradiction here as Rome tends to claim that Peter alone received the keys.

Was Peter Always Preeminent in Scripture?

Because Peter is mentioned first in a variety of lists in the New Testament, some associated with Rome have concluded that this is proof of his total supremacy over the other apostles.

However, there are two problems with this.

The first is that it is not true. And the second is that this is not how the New Testament shows how the others always treated Peter.

Notice some correct observations about the matter and the Gospel According to John from an Orthodox scholar:

the Gospel of John. As scholars now acknowledge, this gospel presents a different picture on several points. In chapter 2, it is Bartholomew, not Peter who makes the first confession of Jesus as Messiah. In chapter 19, Peter has to go through the beloved disciple to obtain the identity of the one who would betray. In chapter 20, the beloved disciple is the first one to understand and believe in the resurrection of Christ. Again, in chapter 21, that same disciple is the first who identifies the man on the shore as “the Lord.”

...if we are to understand that Peter had “chief authority among the brethren” (according to the Byzantine interpretation, with a derivative application to the episcopate), we have the question of John finding himself under the “chief authority” of the bishops of Rome. This is the Roman Catholic position if, as they contend, Peter’s successors are exclusively the bishops of that city. It is difficult to argue that the Gospel of John allows for such an interpretation. Clearly, the destiny of the beloved disciple is not Peter’s business or concern, much less that of any future bishop of anywhere (Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 272,273)

So, in John's account, Peter is not always first. Perhaps I should also add that often Peter and John are listed together in scripture in such a way as to suggest that John was the best trained to be the main successor of Peter. And the fact that John lived between 20-38 years after Peter died, suggests that perhaps that is what God had in mind.

Furthermore, to prove my second point, notice the following from the Apostle Paul:

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?..." (Galatians 2:11-14).

Hence, Paul did not consider that Peter had total authority over him or he would not have rebuked him.

When Was the Roman Bishop Ever Considered the Head of the Church?

As previously alluded to, the Orthodox Churches of Alexander, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem were also recognized by the Roman Church as legitimate. However, they never accepted the position that they were to be subservient to the Bishop of Rome.

The Petrine theory, that most Roman Catholics accept, holds that Peter’s successors are to decide doctrinal matters for the Church. Yet, at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., records show that the Roman bishop, Sylvester I, did not attend.

This was a significant doctrinal conference. And this shows that the Roman bishop exercised no primacy over when the date of Easter was set as a replacement for the biblical Passover, and when Sunday worship officially replaced the biblical seventh-day Sabbath. The Council of Nicaea was called and presided over not by a Roman bishop, but by the Emperor Constantine. As emperor, Constantine held the title of Pontifex Maximus in the pagan Roman religion. A title that later Roman bishops would later adopt.

Furthermore, notice this admission from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar:

Before the beginning of the second millennium and the pontificate of Gregory VII in particular (1073-85), popes functioned largely in the role of mediator. They did not claim for themselves the title of "Vicar of Christ". They did not appoint bishops. They did not govern the universal Church through the Roman Curia. They did not impose of enforce clerical celibacy. They did not write encyclicals or authorize catechisms for the whole Church. They did not retain for themselves alone the power of canonization. They did not even convene ecumenical councils as a rule--and certainly not the major doctrinal councils of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.19).

However later, some decided to make up evidence that Rome always had the authority. It is of interest to note that for about 600 years during the Middle Ages, certain Roman bishops pointed to the "Donation of Constantine" as evidence of their right to preside over all the other bishops, but the document according to Roman Catholic sources (i.e. (The Catholic Encyclopedia. Donation of Constantine) was later proven to be a fraud.

Where Does Wearing of Keys by a Pope From?

The Bible never records that anyone called of God carries keys for public display. Yet, the Roman Pontiff is sometimes seen as wearing two keys. Where does that come from?

There are a couple of theories. The first would seem to be based upon this information found in The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Maximus in a sermon on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (P.L., LVII, 403) says that to St. Peter was given the key of power (clavis potentioe), to St. Paul the key of knowledge (clavis scientioe) (Power of the Keys. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

However, since there is no passage in the Bible that mentions Paul getting any particular key, the idea that a pontiff should wear two keys because of Paul and Peter does not seem to be scripturally based.

In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop wrote:

The Pope now pretends to supremacy in the Church as the successor of Peter, to whom it is alleged that our Lord exclusively committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But here is the important fact that, till the Pope was invested with the title, which for a thousand years had had attached to it the power of the keys of Janus and Cybele*, no such claim to pre-eminence, or anything approaching to it, was ever publicly made on his part, on the ground of his being the possessor of the keys bestowed on Peter. Very early, indeed, did the bishops of Rome show a proud and ambitious spirit; but, for the first three centuries, their claim for superior honour was founded simply on the dignity of their see, as being that of the imperial city, the capital of the Roman world.

When, however, the seat of empire was removed to the East, and Constantinople threatened to eclipse Rome, some new ground for maintaining the dignity of the Bishop of Rome must be sought. That new ground was found when, about 378, the Pope fell heir to the keys that were the symbols of two well-known Pagan divinities at Rome. Janus bore a key, and Cybele bore a key; and these are the two keys that the Pope emblazons on his arms as the ensigna of his spiritual authority... Now, when he had come, in the estimation of the Pagans, to occupy the place of the representatives of Janus and Cybele, and therefore to be entitled to bear their keys, the Pope saw that if he could only get it believed among the Christians that Peter alone had the power of the keys, and that he was Peter's successor, then the sight of these keys would keep up the delusion, and thus, though the temporal dignity of Rome as a city should decay, his own dignity as the Bishop of Rome would be more firmly established than ever...

The keys that the Pope bore were the keys of a "Peter" well known to the Pagans initiated in the Chaldean Mysteries...The priest who explained the Mysteries...was "Peter"--i.e., "the interpreter"...Thus we may see how the keys of Janus and Cybele would come to be known as the keys of Peter the "interpreter" of the Mysteries...

The term Cardinal is derived from Cardo, a hinge. Janus, whose key the Pope bears, was the god of doors and hinges...

* It was only in the second century before the Christian era that the worship of Cybele under that name, was introduced to Rome; but the same goddess, under the name of Cardea, with the "power of the key," was worshipped in Rome, along with Janus, ages before.

(Hislop A. The Two Babylons. Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune (NJ) 1959; first published 1853; pp. 206-207,208,210).

Now while I do not claim to know the motivation of the bishops of Rome in or around 378, it is a fact that the pagan gods Janus "holds a key" (Lindemans M. Janus. Encyclopedia Mythica. created 1997; http://www.pantheon.org/articles/j/janus.html 11/20/05) and Cybele's "symbol is a key" (Cybele (Rhea) Polychrome's Pantheon. http://hunter.apana.org.au/~gallae/pantheon/myth/cybele.htm 11/20/05). I have also found independent citations that Janus was a god of doors and hinges and Cardea (who became Cybele) was called the hinges of the door (http://www.controverscial.com/Gods%20and%20Deities.htm 11/22/05).

Furthermore, The Catholic Encyclopedia confirms that the term Cardinal is derived from the Latin word for hinge as does a book sponsored by the Pontifical Administration:

It became the usual designation of every priest belonging to a central or episcopal church, an ecclesiastical cardo (Lat. for hinge)...(SÄGMÜLLER. J.B. Transcribed by WG Kofron. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

later called cardinals (hinges of the organization) (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, pp. 1,2).

Thus there certainly seem to be pre-Christian origins for many practices associated with the Roman Church.

Do Catholic Approved Writings Suggest that There Was Succession From An Apostle Other Than Peter?

Although some Catholics have taught, "as a matter of history, there is no other Church linked to any other Apostle by an unbroken chain of successors" (Apostolic Succession. The Catholic Encyclopedia), this is not quite accurate (the Orthodox Church, as one example, has a listing of bishops they claim from the Apostle Andrew to present, which this author has reviewed).

That Catholic position appears to be saying that since they claim an unbroken chain of successors from Peter, no other church could have any legitimate successor chain linked from another apostle. But is that what the Bible or all Catholic writings force us to conclude?

It should be noted that Christ told Peter that the gates of Haydes (the grave) would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). Obviously Peter died so that gates of the grave prevailed against him. Also, even a cursory listing of the Roman Bishops of Rome (the first 37 of which they call pope after the fact--none of the first 37 bishops of Rome referred to themselves with the terms pope or pontiff) shows that there are many gaps between the death of one and the selection of another (e.g. Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997). Hence what the true Catholic position appears to be is that the church itself will not die out (which is what Jesus taught) even if there is not always one universally recognized human leader of it on earth. And that is true.

Furthermore, Peter knew that he would be martyred and that he would most likely die before the Apostle John. Notice John 21:18-23:

18 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." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."

Perhaps, because of this, Peter when he was a bit older, began to share the leadership with the Apostle John. Even the Apostle Paul noticed that it was James the brother of Jesus, Peter, and John who seemed to be the pillars of the Church (Galatians 2:9) which was then still apparently headquartered in Jerusalem (and not Rome) (see verse 1).

Thus the clear line of succession and passing of the keys (if only Peter was given them) was from Peter, who turned them over to John, who turned them over (figuratively, through the scriptural practice of the laying on of hands, as there is record of actual keys being provided by Christ to Peter) to Polycarp and/or other leaders were the church was ran from. And at the time of John's death, he was in charge of the churches from Ephesus in Asia Minor.

Around 200 A.D., in his paper Liber de praescriptione haereticorum Tertullian (an acknowledged Catholic "early church father") addressed the idea of continuity of the Church when he wrote

The real question is, 'To whom does the Faith belong? Whose are the Scriptures? By whom, through whom, when and to whom has been handed down the discipline by which we are Christians? The answer is plain: Christ sent His apostles, who founded churches in each city, from which the others have borrowed the tradition of the Faith and the seed of doctrine and daily borrow in order to become churches; so that they also are Apostolic in that they are the offspring of the Apostolic churches. All are that one Church which the Apostles founded, so long as peace and intercommunion are observed [dum est illis communicatio pacis et appellatio fraternitatis et contesseratio hospitalitatis]. Therefore the testimony to the truth is this: We communicate with the apostolic Churches'. The heretics will reply that the Apostles did not know all the truth. Could anything be unknown to Peter, who was called the rock on which the Church was to be built? or to John, who lay on the Lord's breast?...Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this.

Nearly everything that Tertullian wrote above is absolutely correct (the point about Peter being the rock was addressed earlier). And what he seems to be saying is that the true Christian Church must be able to trace itself from the beliefs held by original Apostles, should have a successor chosen by one of those Apostles, and the only two groups that could possibly meet these criteria are the Smyrnaeans and the Romans. Since Smyrnaeans and the Romans had different doctrines at that time (the Smyrnaeans kept the Passover while the Romans kept Easter Sunday as one major historical example), then if Tertullian is correct here, it follows that only one of them could have been the true Christian Church during his time. (Please also see the article Apostolic Succession.)

And thus only one of them could be the correct church now (for further information on the history of the Church, please read the article Do the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Matter?).

The Bible and Certain Catholic Writings Support John as the Main Leader After Peter

At the time of Paul, Paul noted that it was "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9). Cephas is the Aramaic word for Peter. If Peter, and Peter alone, had the keys, then would not Paul have known this instead of saying that James, Peter, AND John seemed to be pillars? Once James and Peter were killed, this only left one pillar, the Apostle John. Does it not make sense that John would be the true successor to Peter?

It should be noted that Catholics consider that John was a highly important apostle. As Catholic authors have correctly written:

John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body. Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark, v, 37), of the Transfiguration (Matt., xvii, 1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matt., xxvi, 37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke, xxii, 8). At the Supper itself his place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John, xiii, 23, 25). According to the general interpretation John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest (John, xviii, 15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John, xix, 25-27). After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John, xx, 2-10). When later Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present who recognized his Master standing on the shore (John, xxi, 7). The Fourth Evangelist has shown us most clearly how close the relationship was in which he always stood to his Lord and Master by the title with which he is accustomed to indicate himself without giving his name: "the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church...The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John designates himself in the superscription of each by the name (ho presbyteros), "the ancient", "the old"...The Christian writers of the second and third centuries testify to us as a tradition universally recognized and doubted by no one that the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province...After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus it is no surprise that since John outlived Peter and all the other original apostles, that church succession would have essentially gone through him. After all JOHN WAS THE LAST OF THE ORIGINAL TWELVE APOSTLES! Also, notice above that even the Catholics admit that John guided the churches from Ephesus. It would seem illogical that since the Catholics claim to have had three-four 'bishops of Rome' (other than Peter) before John died (e.g. Lopes A. The Popes) that John, an original apostle, would be subservient to them.

This is especially true since none of those 3-4 'bishops of Rome' claim to have held the position of apostle--a bishop is essentially an elder who is a pastor or overseer (Acts 20:17 mentions elders & verse 28 calls those elders overseers, from the Greek word often translated as bishop). As the Bible shows, an apostle is the first and highest rank listed for the leadership of the church, "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles" (1 Corinthians 12:28). Note that in Ephesians 4:11-12, apostles are listed ahead of pastors, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ".

Also note that the Bible is clear about John and Peter having a leadership position, but that it makes no reference, directly nor indirectly, to any 'bishop of Rome'. Hence, it does not in any way suggest that any Roman bishop is the true successor of the leadership of the entire church.

The Bible shows that in the early church, Jerusalem was where its leadership was conferred on topics of importance (see Acts 15; Galatians 1:18; 2:1-9). Actually, three of the four times that the Bible shows that Paul conferred with Peter, it was in Jerusalem (ibid). And the fourth time was not in Rome, it was in Antioch (Galatians 2:11). It should be noted that even the Church of Rome teaches that Peter was the bishop (or overseer) of Antioch. Interestingly, when personally addressing the leadership for the Christians who lived in Rome, Paul never mentioned Peter, even though he listed at least 27 others (Romans 16). This is not proof that Peter was never possibly in Rome, but it does show that he was probably never there long enough to truly be the 'bishop of Rome'.

Perhaps, it should be pointed out that even the Church of Rome acknowledges:

...that Peter founded the Church of Antioch, indicates the fact that he laboured a long period there, and also perhaps that he dwelt there towards the end of his life...It is also probable that Peter pursued his Apostolic labours in various districts of Asia Minor for it can scarcely be supposed that the entire period between his liberation from prison and the Council of the Apostles was spent uninterruptedly in one city, whether Antioch, Rome, or elsewhere...Peter returned occasionally to the original Christian Church of Jerusalem...The recognition of Paul as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Gal., ii, 1-9) was entirely sincere" (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Gerard Haffner. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

This shows that the Church of Rome acknowledges that Peter labored in Asia minor and tended to return to Jerusalem. The Bible clearly shows that Peter came to Antioch as Paul wrote, "Peter had come to Antioch" (Galatians 2:11). Hence, the Catholics do not teach that Peter even spent much time in Rome.

It should be mentioned here that there is no early church writing that suggests that the Christians in Asia Minor accepted any authority from the early bishops of Rome. The Catholic Church does officially acknowledge this as well when it said this about the Roman Church:

Only in a few places, especially in the Orient, did she overstep its boundaries (Kirsch J. P. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Ecclesiastical History. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

By the Orient, the above means Asia Minor.

Furthermore, the leaders in Asia Minor, specifically Polycarp (around 150 A.D.) and those affiliated with Polycrates (around 197 A.D.) specifically refused to accept Roman ecclesiastical authority. This is well documented in Catholic approved sources (and many quotes are found in the articles What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History? and The Location of the Early Church).


It is of interest to note that John lists the church in Smyrna after the church in Ephesus (the church John led until his death) in Revelation 1:11 and 2. Furthermore, since Polycarp was a disciple of John, it is logical that the true church would be traced from the last apostolic head of the Ephesus church to the first apparent head of the Smyrna church (see also Revelation 2 which lists Smyrna church following Ephesus church).

Here is some of what the article titled Smyrna in the Catholic Encyclopedia states

Smyrna...Christianity was preached to the inhabitants at an early date. As early as the year 93, there existed a Christian community directed by a bishop for whom St. John in the Apocalypse (i, II; ii, 8-11) has only words of praise. There are extant two letters written early in the second century from Troas by St. Ignatius of Antioch to those of Smyrna and to Polycarp, their bishop. Through these letters and those of the Christians of Smyrna to the city of Philomelium, we know of two ladies of high rank who belonged to the Church of Smyrna. There were other Christians in the vicinity of the city and dependent on it to whom St. Polycarp wrote letters (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", V, xxiv). When Polycarp was martyred (23 February), the Church of Smyrna sent an encyclical concerning his death to the Church of Philomelium and others (Smyrna. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

Thus, it is clear that even Catholic writers acknowledge that early Smyrna was a true and important church of God (more information can be found in the article The Early Church: Another Look at Rome, Ephesus, & Smyrna).

Interestingly, in the second century, when the Smyrna church was becoming predominant, there were the writings of the so-called "apostolic fathers". These documents, which the Catholics essentially accept as authentic (though not canonical), never refer to any bishop of Rome, the keys, priestly garb, or similar things normally considered to be uniquely Roman Catholic. They do, however, frequently refer to Polycarp of Smyrna and others that knew (and respected) him in Asia Minor.

This should cause all Roman Catholics to consider: how come neither the Bible nor the writings of the "apostolic fathers", which are all the documents that the Catholic Church accepts as authentic prior to 170 A.D. NOT discuss exclusively Catholic traditions, but instead Polycarp? (To verify that statement, I read through the entire book by M. Holmes titled The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations from Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1999.) Then how did those uniquely Catholic traditions make there way into that Church?

It should be noted that from a biblical perspective it is important to note that Revelation 17:1-9 condemns the church that sits of seven mountains, which most (including Catholic writers) interpret to be the seven hills of Rome (Catholic writers also acknowledge that the term Babylon in the Book of Revelation means Rome).

Concluding Comments

So was Peter the Rock who alone received the keys of the kingdom?

By looking into the entire Bible, the answer to this question is no. Even Catholic writers have come to the same conclusion.

Looking at the Greek terms for stone and rock in Matthew 16:18, and comparing what was taught in the rest of the New Testament, and specifically in I Corinthians 10:4, shows that Jesus, not Peter, is the Rock. The Catholic renditions that appeal to the Aramaic are clearly not consistent with the original Greek on this subject.

In Ephesians 2:20 it is Jesus who is shown to be the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20 also shows that the foundation of the church is the historical leadership of the (writings of) the apostles and prophets, hence the church is built on Christ with the apostles AND prophets, not just Peter. And after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit (and related gifts) were given to the disciples (John 20:20-23), not just Peter.

Understanding about keys in Isaiah 22 and Revelation 3:7-8 shows that the quoted Catholic understanding of this cannot be exclusively scripturally based.

And since Jesus called Peter 'Satan' in Matthew 16:23, there is no way He called him the Rock in Matthew 16:18.

But even if Peter was somehow the Rock and he alone possessed the keys, there is no scriptural or early historical reason to accept that they were somehow transferred to someone in Rome instead of Asia Minor. (To learn more about Peter and where he may have been buried, please see the article The Apostle Peter).

The fact that the main portion of the true church shifted from Jerusalem and Ephesus in the first century to Smyrna in the second century, and not Rome, is also consistent with the biblical (Revelation 1:11;2) and historical record.

Noting that the 'binding and loosing' of Church authority was given to all those who became apostles in Matthew 18:18-20, shows that any Catholic position that Peter was the rock and given exclusive binding and loosing authority is inaccurate. It also shows that to accept the idea that John had (or later received) that authority is consistent with the biblical record. The simple fact is that the original teachings held by the original and true Christian Church were best pre severed in Ephesus and Smyrna, and not Rome, during the first and second centuries.

Thus, the true church (best represented by the Continuing Church of God) still has the right doctrines and thus the "keys to the kingdom."

More historical information is found in the articles Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Rome, Ephesus, and Smyrna and What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?

Also, there are booklets in multiple languages that may be helpful:

Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

Back to Church of God News

Back to COGwriter home page

Thiel B., Ph.D. Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006 COGwriter 2005 2006/2007/2009/2012/2013/ 2014/2015/20162017 1220