The Catholic Church Concocts History
“According to the view which prevailed, the Catholic Church of the new orthodoxy was the inheritor of the true tradition of the Apostles, an assertion which illustrates the power of a lie if it is a thumping big one.”
(Dr. Hugh Schonfield)
In the mid years of the second century the churches of the Mediterranean world were autonomous entities, with little doctrinal agreement. There were churches in Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt, Armenia, Rome and Syria with their own idiosyncratic interpretations of Christianity. We know most about Rome, but Alexandria, Ephesus, and Antioch all had larger Christian communities.
There was no universal canon to define doctrine other than the Old Testament. Each community wrote accounts affirming the correctness of their own beliefs. The churches of the biggest cities manufactured succession lists of their own bishoprics. These lists allegedly proved that each bishop had consecrated his successor, and each list went back to one of the apostles. For example, Paul had supposedly lived in Antioch, and John, it was said, had lived in Ephesus. Caesarea, near Jerusalem, was where “Philip the evangelist” had lived. Eusebius reproduced these lists; however, many of them are proven forgeries and the others are very dubious.
Rome was in competition with all these other places. Anicetus (156–166 CE) and subsequent Roman bishops must have been disappointed that they weren’t deemed the primary authority in the empire. Their problem was that no one had, as yet, manufactured Rome’s link with the original apostles of Yeshua. They needed their own apostle, and someone chose Peter.
I think Peter was an authoritative figure in the Nazarene movement, but content to be under the leadership of John the Baptist, then Yeshua, and later James. There is no good evidence he ever became a purveyor of Paul’s philosophy. He remained a strict Jew, a married travelling evangelist who adhered to the Torah.
That’s not how the Vatican portrays him. They claim he was a Christian and became the first bishop of Rome, the first pope, and that he lived in Rome for “a long period.” (Catholic Encyclopedia.) They say he “was recognized as the Prince of the Apostles and the first Supreme Pontiff; his See, Rome, has thus enjoyed the position of primacy over the entire Catholic Church” (Catholic Encyclopedia). They contend Peter was crucified in about 64 CE and buried on Vatican Hill and that they now have his bones (discussed in chapter 23.) They say that Peter’s authority has been passed on to all subsequent popes (the so-called “apostolic succession”), who represent the original church as established by Jesus. I think all of this is rank fiction.
To support this ‘thumping big lie’, (to quote Schonfield,) some “evidence” needed to be fabricated, preferably a ringing endorsement from Christ himself. I suspect an anonymous author inserted the following verses into the sixteenth chapter of Matthew:
“But you, he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living god.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven. Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ” (Matt. 16:15–20, NJB).
The same section from Mark’s gospel (which Matthew copied) does not contain this church/rock/key interpolation. I can’t prove this was an interpolation, yet it hardly sounds like something a first century Jewish Gaililean peasant would say. Many Protestant scholars go to great length trying to prove that the church fathers didn’t think Jesus wanted Peter to be pope (http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/mt16.html). I think it’s easier to just put the passage in perspective.
An abridged version of the same (probable) interpolation was added to John’s Gospel (this time moved forward to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry) and with subtle differences:
“And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone” (John 1:40–42, KJV). John’s Gospel says nothing about the founding of a church.
According to the Vatican, Peter, who I think must have died many years before this was written into Matthew’s gospel, thus became the successor, the boss, the man who stepped into Jesus’ shoes.
The Vatican considers the whole New Testament to be the inspired word of God. So if New Testament writings don’t support the Pope Peter story, they have some explaining to do.
Paul, who wrote in the 50s and early 60s, wrote nothing about Pope Peter. In Galatians 2:8, he wrote that God had made Peter an apostle to the Jews, not the Romans. Paul implied Peter was a hypocrite (Gal. 2:14), hardly something one casually writes about a pope. Paul sent his Epistle to the Romans in the year 58 CE, in which he greeted more than twenty people, but sent no greetings to Pope Peter. Paul went to Rome in 61 CE, and in 62–3 CE wrote to the Philippians, to the Colossians, the Ephesians, and to Philemon, yet failed to mention Pope Peter. Paul portrayed him as a vacillating middleman; he sometimes ate with gentiles, but when in the company of James’ other supporters he refused gentile fellowship. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians contained a list of Christ’s resurrection appearances, the first of which is to “Cephas” (Peter), so Paul credited him with some status. Paul wrote that James determined that Peter should act as a teacher, evangelizing to Jewish groups outside Jerusalem (Gal. 2:7). In another letter he mentioned that Peter regularly travelled, with his wife, to various parts of the Roman Empire (1 Cor. 9:5). So Paul portrayed Peter as a man of some importance, but with flaws, and one who played second fiddle to James.
All the Gospels depict him as a frequently fallible character, not a charismatic leader. He didn’t always understand Jesus (John 13:7), and was hotheaded and impulsive, as when he allegedly cut off a servant’s ear at Jesus’ arrest (John 18:10). All four gospels have him deny an association with Jesus three times, which he later regrets.
Matthew’s “Peter /rock/ church” statement is not repeated in any of the other Gospels or Epistles. Nowhere in the Bible did the other apostles acknowledge Peter as leader.
In Luke, Jesus said he didn’t credit any individual apostle with any particular status:
“A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title benefactor. This must not happen with you. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves’” (Luke 22:24–26, NJB). The occasion of the argument was the night of the betrayal—the last night of Jesus’ life—and Jesus stated that no one was to be in charge.
Acts, which I think was written in the second century, and was supposed to document the definitive history of the early church, had not a single word about a bishop, pope or prince Peter. The author made it clear that James was in charge of Peter and didn’t mention that Peter ever went to Rome. Acts portrayed Peter as a Christian, a purveyor of Paul’s philosophy. He is said to have had a vision in which God instructed him to eat non-kosher meat, which in my opinion was an amateurish attempt to make him not observationally Jewish. He was depicted as decisive and a miracle worker, quite different to the equivocating man in the gospels. He delivered a significant sermon during Pentecost and took the lead in selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot. He was twice arraigned, with John, before the Sanhedrin, directly defied them, and escaped from their clutches with the help of an angel. He undertook missionary journeys to Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea (Acts 9:32–10:2), and was supposedly instrumental in the decision to evangelize the gentiles (Acts 10) at the Council of Jerusalem. About halfway through Acts, the author turned his attention away from Peter, and the Bible says nothing more about him. In my opinion this portrayal of Peter as a Christian is a fiction, written at least a hundred years after Peter passed on by someone promoting Christianity.
Nowhere in the epistles of Peter did the author, an early Christian writing in fluent Greek, claim any special role, authority, or power over a church, yet he signed himself as Peter.
Yeshua would never have dreamt of establishing a church of his own, because first-century Judaism was built around the Temple. The fact that a hierarchy of pagans in Rome used his name to decry Judaism and acquire power, money, and property would have been repugnant to him.
A Roman Pope Peter doesn’t fit with what we know about him. He was a Galilean fisherman who couldn’t speak Greek or Latin. It’s plainly ridiculous to imagine an uneducated Jewish peasant from the backwater of Galilee who hated the Romans setting up shop in the capital of the Roman Empire. He would’ve been like a fish out of water.
James, not Peter, was the undisputed leader of the Nazarenes until his death in 62 CE. This is confirmed in Paul’s writing (as discussed in chapter3) and in Acts, as well as many other non-biblical sources such as the writings of Josephus (who lived in Rome in the late first century), Jerome, and Eusebius. Peter was clearly subservient to him.
Peter wasn’t a descendent of David and not a relative of Yeshua or John the Baptist, so he didn’t have the proper pedigree for leadership. Between 62 CE and 135 CE, there was a succession of Jewish leaders of the Nazarenes who were all related to Yeshua and who ruled from Jerusalem, not Rome.
There’s no evidence of a Christian church in Rome in the decades after Jesus’ death. It was the Nazarenes, sent by James, who appeared there some time during the 40s CE. This was probably the community Paul attempted to introduce himself to in his letter to the Romans. In the unlikely event that Peter ever did go to Rome to visit them, he would have gone under James’ jurisdiction.
A Pope Peter contradicts what we know about the historical development of the church hierarchy. Early Christian congregations were led by elders (Greek: presbeteros), from which our modern words “presbyters” and “priests” are derived. As congregations grew larger, more presbyters were needed, and someone needed to control them. Bishops first appeared only around the end of the first century and later. As the records are so incomplete, it’s not clear who first acted as a bishop presiding over the diocese of Rome. It could have been Pius I (142 – 155 CE), Anicetus (156–166 CE), or Soter (166–174 CE), at least a century after Peter’s time.
The first explicit mentions of Peter ever having been in Rome only appeared after 170 CE, over one hundred years after he was supposed to have been there! The Catholic Encyclopedia states,
“We may conclude that Peter labored for a long period in Rome. This conclusion is confirmed by the unanimous voice of tradition which, as early as the second half of the second century, designates the Prince of the Apostles the founder of the Roman Church.” They state there is no documentary evidence that Peter worked in Rome until “as early as” at least one hundred years after his death!
This “unanimous voice of tradition” is never heard anywhere in the New Testament! How “unanimous” is it? St Ignatius of Antioch (35–110 CE), a church father, never stated that Peter was considered Rome’s first Christian leader. Polycarp (70–~155 CE), bishop of Smyrna (in modern Turkey), visited Rome. He is said by “tradition” to have known disciples of the original disciples of Jesus, yet he too failed to mention Prince Peter. Papias (70–163 CE), bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia (modern central Turkey), also fails to mention that Peter went to Rome. Clement, whom the Vatican claims was the fourth pope, says nothing in his letter about a Roman Prince Peter, nor does he mention that there was an established bishopric in Rome. He didn’t know he was a pope! Justin (100–165 CE), a key Catholic apologist, church father, and prolific author who lived in Rome in the mid-second century, never once even hints that Peter went to Rome, or that a papal position even existed. The “unanimous voice of tradition” is a fiction!
The Catholic Encyclopedia is basing its claim mainly on evidence from four authors—Dionysius of Corinth (who wrote in 165 CE–174 CE, as quoted by Eusebius), Clement of Alexandria (as quoted by Eusebius c. 190 CE), Irenaeus of Lyons (who wrote c. 177 CE), and Tertullian, who each state that Peter and Paul founded the Roman Church. These men wrote one to one and a half centuries after the probable time of Peter’s death. Their statements about Peter are only one or two lines in length. For example, Tertullian wrote:
“For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter” (Praescr. 1:22 [ANF 3:258]).
“By indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 3). Irenaeus was writing only a little over one hundred years after the “glorious” Peter and Paul allegedly founded the “very great and very ancient” church in Rome. He had to rely on “tradition” as a “matter of necessity” to explain the founding. He couldn’t name any genuine source for this so-called tradition, so he had to pretend there was one. Paul himself said nothing about founding a church in Rome in any of his letters and clearly tried to introduce himself to the already existing community in Rome in his letter to the Romans!
These men were fervent Christians and prolific writers. If they’d known some genuine facts about a Roman Pope Peter, they would surely have written more. They may not have even written what is claimed, because gross interpolations from men of the church were extremely common in the second, third, and fourth centuries. Eusebius is notorious for having been a dishonest historian. This means later claims of Peter’s sojourn in Rome are also almost worthless.
By the second half of the second century, Christianity, in various forms, was a small but empire-wide movement. The Roman Catholic Church felt threatened, particularly by Gnosticism and Marcionism, neither of which talked of bishop Peter. Other large cities in the empire with their own hierarchy and growing Christian populations also posed a threat to its authority, so they copied what most Christian communities in large cities did – contrived a list of bishops in an unbroken chain back to an apostle – Peter. His presence in Rome was a fabrication designed to give the Roman Catholic Church precedence, prestige, and authority.
Most of the earliest “bishops” listed by “tradition” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm) are no more than names. The only one who probably did exist in Rome was Clement I, who was a presbyter (not a bishop) from 91 CE to 101 CE. The Catholic Church lists him as the fourth bishop of Rome (despite the fact that Tertullian claimed he was ordained by Peter.) Who then, were the second and third “bishops” of Rome, Linus (67–79 CE) and Anacletus (79–92 CE)? History documents no details about these two, other than their names, because like Peter, their supposed role as “pope” was entirely fictional.
How long did “Bishop” Peter allegedly rule from Rome? We must move three hundred years forward to find out. St. Jerome (342–420 CE) wrote, without citing any evidence, that Peter ruled in Rome for twenty-five years. The Catholic Encyclopedia doesn’t advertise that Jerome wrote this in their carefully worded discussion about Pope Peter, (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm) presumably because it’s such a difficult claim to defend. It’s much easier to call Peter’s alleged Roman sojourn “a long period.” The encyclopedia doesn’t say for how long or give a start date for his papacy.
The early Catholics, having decided Prince Peter was a pope, then tried to further elevate his status. Versions of Mark’s gospel were in wide circulation and no one knew, or admitted they knew, who Mark was. This opened the door for the creation of another “tradition;” that Mark was the “companion of Peter.” Mark’s gospel became, effectively, “the gospel that Peter would have written.”
Peter was never a Christian, never a leader, never a bishop in Rome, and had no connection with Mark’s gospel. He remained true to his roots, a faithful Nazarene under the leadership of James. One of the world’s largest and wealthiest institutions, which has always claimed authority over the world’s Catholics, and sometimes the whole world, is founded on fraud. People deserve to know this.