The pagan origin of the pontiff: Why Saint Peter is not the first pope
The Western and Eastern Catholics
The word Catholic is Greek for “Katholou” which means “in the whole” or “in general.” It’s used traditionally to refer to Eastern and Western churches. As an archetype, it can apply to the following church movements:
- Roman Catholic Church (Western Catholics as we know them now)
- Eastern Catholic Church (Eastern Orthodox as we know them now)
- Protestant Church (A breakaway from Roman Catholicism during the church reformation in the 16th century)
- Christians or Believers: A general term used for protestants (Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.); reformed protestants (Calvinists in general); and non-denominational (Evangelical, Pentecostal, SDA, Mormons, etc.)
Background: Western and Eastern Roman Empire
The Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and Latin-speaking Western Catholics (in Rome) were one in development from 325 A.D. until they divided in 1054 A.D. Both Eastern Catholic and Western Catholic churches claim “apostolic tradition.”
After the fall of the “Western Roman Empire” in 395 A.D., the “Holy Catholic Church” became the new face of the fallen Roman empire.
The “Eastern New Roman Empire” (or Byzantine Empire) remained standing in Constantinople but fell eventually in 1453 A.D. and lost forever.
What was left of the pagan “Western Empire” were remnants taken over by the pontificate (Roman tradition under the guise of Christianity). Hence, the pagan origin of the papacy.
In contrast, the “Eastern Empire” ceased completely, but its religious tradition continues through the Eastern Orthodox Catholics.
Both Eastern Catholic and Western Catholic churches claim “apostolic tradition.”
First schism and the Council of Constantinople
The political and religious power of Rome bolstered after the first schism in 451 (Council of Chalcedon). Its papacy (bishopry) became influential because of its location and association with Roman emperors. They positioned themselves as superior to other bishopry.
After the first Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. (Christianity declared legal in Rome), the “See of Rome” was elevated.
First “Holy Roman Pope-Emperor”
By 800 A.D., Pope Leo III crowned as Charlemagne. He was given the title of “Holy Roman Emperor,” to the dismay of the Eastern Orthodox, who also claim apostolic succession.
The only proof the pope is the Vicar of Christ found in the catechism. Their Biblical evidence only from Matthew 16:15-18. The infallibility of Rome officially declared in the First Vatican Council of 1869-1870.
Roman Catholics misinterpret Matthew 16:15-18
- Peter’s role in the early mission was critical. In verses 15-16, Jesus commended Peter for saying “Christ, the Son of the living God.” In verse 13, the other disciples had less preferred answers.
- Jesus referred to Peter as Petras or “little rock.” Jesus is the “big rock” (Petros), the rock of all ages.
- In verse 17, Jesus referred to the church as “the body of Christ” that He will build (not Peter). “The church” comprised of all believers. (1 Cor. 12:27)
- Peter was given the “Keys of Heaven,” for his special role in “opening the doors” for the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentles (Acts 10), to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Peter never claimed preeminence among other apostles (1 Peter 5:1). There are no verses to support apostolic succession through Peter. [Blue Letter]
Apostolic succession is a Roman Catholic assumption
Apostolic succession claimed by the Papacy is an assumption based on Matthew 16 or the Petrine theory. Scriptures do not support apostolic succession. Delegating responsibilities is totally different. Tertullian called the Bishops “transmitters of the apostolic seed.”
Peter has no primacy over other apostles
- The keys given to Peter are the privileges of all believers. These keys represent the Gospel to open doors. (Read commentary on Matthew 16:15-18, why the pope is not the vicar of Christ)
- There are NO manuscripts that say Peter superior among the 12 apostles. In fact, Paul withstood Peter (also called Cephas, after Jesus gave the keys) to his face in Antioch. (Galatians 2:11–13)
- Apostle James was Jerusalem’s church de facto leader. He officiated and spoke for the first church council on record (Acts 15).
- Peter and Paul helped establish the church of Rome according to Greek Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons.
- Paul actively preached in Rome and stayed for two years to evangelize. (Acts 28:30)
The pagan origin of the Papacy
The Ancient Roman Republic was NOT Christian at the time of the College of Pontiff. In fact, Christianity banned, and Christians persecuted by the Roman Empire. The pontifices (council of priests) were in charge of civil law and the consecration of the pagan temples.
The Title “Pontifex Maximus“
The title Pontifex Maximus used by the Roman Emperor as “supreme (pagan) priests” was no longer used by the time of Emperor Theodosius I (379–395).
the “pope title” used 900 years after the apostles died.
Pontifex title associated with pagan supporters
In 382, Emperor Gratian, at the urging of Ambrose, formally renounced Pontifex Maximus’s title because it was associated with pagan supporters.
In 1500s, “Pontifex Maximus” became a regular title of honor for Popes during the renaissance.
- The Roman “high priest” was called Pontifex Maximus
- The origin of the Pontifical title of the Pope.
- The Pontifex is the supreme leader of the College of Pontiffs.
The College of Pontiff
The pontifices are the council of the Roman priesthood. The college, or “collegium, of the pontifices” or College of Pontiff, was charged with administering the “jus divinum.” Their main duty was to maintain the pax deorum or “peace of the gods.”
Julius Caesar, Augustus were Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the “supreme priest,” among other lower positions. Julius Caesar elected pontifex Maximus in 63 BCE. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus succeeded, then Emperor Augustus became responsible for the state cult.
The responsibilities of the pontifices, rooted in paganism
- The pontifices’ main task was to maintain the pax deorum, the ‘peace with the gods.’
- They gave advice to the magistrates, interpreted the omens, controlled the calendar.
- Consecration of all temples and other sacred places and objects dedicated to the gods.
- Regulation of the calendar both astronomically and application to the public life of the state.
- Administration of the law relating to burials and burying places and the Manes’ worship or dead ancestors.
- Supervision of all marriages, adoption, and testamentary succession.
- Care of the state archives and records of important events.
- Perfunctory prayers and rituals.
“See of Constantinople”
The “See of Constantinople” elevated to a jurisdictional prominence, not because of apostolic origin, but because of its political importance and influence of the Roman Emperors.
The First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. (the second ecumenical council of churches) held a significant influence on the elevation of the “Five Sees,” Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
Rise of a “Holy Pope”
In 395 AD, the pagan Roman Empire collapsed, and the popes took on the title of Pontifex Maximus (supreme priest). Thus began the rise of Roman Catholicism as we know it today.
The once glorious Rome wanted power and distinction, the reason they installed Pope Leo III in 800 AD as the “Holy Roman Emperor.” However, it was an insult to the Byzantine church.
The “Byzantine Empire” (in Constantinople, Turkey) was the last vestige of the collapsed Roman Empire. They still had a Roman Emperor. The Roman Catholics (in Rome, Italy) had Pope Leo III declared Holy Emperor.
Supreme Pontiff of the whole Roman Church
The official list of titles of the Pope in the Annuario Pontificio includes “Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis (Supreme Pontiff of the whole Church) as its fourth title, the first being “Bishop of Rome.”