Peter wasn't the first Pope (Revisited)

I recently was in discussion with someone who said “Yes Peter was in Rome” but there is no evidence that Peter was Bishop of Rome, hence not the Pope. So by showing him the following sources I hope to show that Peter was Bishop of Rome and hence the first Pope :slight_smile:

Thought it might be of use to anyone who has someone asking for the original sources so I thought I would post it here. So there we have it. Documents from the early Church citing Peter as Bishop of Rome.

“Victor . . . was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter”

(The Little Labyrinth [A.D. 211], as cited in Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History 5:28:3)

Which can be found here:

Go down to Chapter 28 verse 3.

“The apostle Peter… is sent to Rome, where he remains as a bishop of that city, preaching the gospel for twenty-five years”

(The Chronicle, Ad An. Dom. 42 [A.D. 303]). By Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea. A translation is here:

You want to go down to the 205th Olympiad and you will see the quote.

‘You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal [bishop] chair was given first to Peter’

(The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]) attributed too Optatus. You can find it here:

Click on book 2 and you will see it there.

There is a lot of evidence that Peter was Bishop of Rome, this site even provides a lot of tracts on the matter.

What we need in this dispute is evidence the other Bishops at the time regarded not only Peter as the head of the whole of the Church, but something that suggests that relative position to other Bishops was purposefully passed down. The problem with coming up with convincing arguments, is that Peter should always have been the head of the Church. Yet, the evidence in Scripture is that James brother of Jesus was the head of the Church in Jerusalem. The counter to that is that there were two offices: Apostle and Bishop, and that in the Papacy, in Rome, Peter combined these two. But it’s not a convincing line to a non-Catholic.

So the assertion is that only because Constantine conquered Rome, made Christianity the state religion, was the Bishop of Rome functionally the most powerful Bishop in the Church. What we need is something after the fall of Jerusalem and before Constantine that shows the other Bishops regarded the successor to Peter to be Head of the Church.

The answer is: we can’t prove it. It’s Tradition handed down from ancient times.

I dont quite understand the argument posed. To me the evidence in Scripture is that Peter was the head of Church. All those verses about Peter the rock, the Peter as shepherd when Jesus tells him feed my sheep, and when jesus prays specifically for Peter.

James may have been Bishop of Jerusalem but I didnt think he was the head of the Church?

Then in Acts 1:20 we see in the early Church that successors are immediately chosen for the apostles’ offices. Just as the Church replaced Judas, it also replaced Peter with a successor after Peter’s death. So if proving the office is passed on why wouldnt Peters office with his office head of the Church (symbolised by the keys) also be passed on?

Its not that who ever is the most ‘powerful’ Bishop of the Church leads it, its that who ever holds Peters office is the head of the Church, and Peters office was bishop of Rome.

I guess some would argue that the office was not passed on but there is no evidence to suggest otherwise?

The fall of Jerusalem occurred in 70AD and Constantine declared Christianity legal in 313AD then dont we see Pope Clement 3rd successor of Peter writing a letter to the Church of Corinthians in about 96AD telling them they essentially behaved badly for banding against their leaders. The letter makes no apology for intervening in what might be thought an internal affair of the congregation at Corinth. On the contrary, the writer apologizes for the delay in commenting, as if an earlier intervention might have been expected. They then write a letter back thanking Clement for his letter, and state that it is very important and it is read often. We also know that this letter was read by much of the Church. Is this the kind of information you were talking about?

Jesus didn’t say He was building His Church on the “Bishop of Rome”, or giving the keys to the “Bishop of Rome”. He said He was building His Church on Peter, and that He was giving the keys to Peter. And He said it to Peter before he had ever entered Rome. * (Peter was Pope before there was even a Church in Rome to be bishop of!!)*
It is the one appointed to succeed Peter (and his subsequent successors) who inherits the position of Pope.

I know that Peter’s successors have also held the position of Bishop of Rome, but the particular local ** (Rome) diocese **of which he is the bishop is secondary to the direct link of succession to Peter as head of the Universal/Catholic Church.

…what I’m left wondering is granting that Peter was historically the bishop of Rome (something I don’t believe), when did he reign? It seems silly to say he was in fact the bishop of Rome but we’re not sure when he reigned… Taken from the website you gave me

Take a look at the sources I referenced, which clearly show Peter was a Bishop of Rome.

So one doesnt have to be the Bishop of Rome to be Pope? Sorry it was my understanding that the Bishop of Rome was Pope, because Peter was bishop of Rome, and hence this is where his successors are found. So would that mean it is irrelevant whether or not Peter was even ever Bishop of Rome?

I have had too Catechise myself so Im not full bottle on some things so I am happy to learn otherwise :slight_smile:

I believe now one does have to be Bishop of Rome because the Church has officially made that a regulation. But, I think it is not an infallible “doctrine”, but is a regulation that could possibly be changed by the Pope and Magisterium.

I am going to hope that some others can jump in and give more of a history on when & if there was an official decree mandating that Peter’s successor also be the Bishop of Rome.
(We are on the road, and about to take off for 6 hours of driving - my husband is nudging me to wrap it up! Will be a couple of days before I get back home to my library. I always end up kicking myself when I go and get involved in a more technical thread when I am away from home. But some topics just end up hooking me. :slight_smile: )

You don’t have to be Bishop of Rome to become Pope, but by being elected Pope, you automatically become Bishop of Rome.

The second source is anachronistic since there wasn’t a monepiscopate in Rome until the 2nd century. [1] The point of the link was that the idea that Peter was bishop of Rome is quite problematic with regards to what the early Church claimed. The ECF’s couldn’t agree on whether there were several bishops reigning at the same time in Rome, whether Peter ordained successors before or after certain dates, whether he ordained anyone, how long he reigned etc. etc.

Epiphanius thought Peter and Paul both reigned as bishop of Rome:

“For the bishops of Rome were, first, Peter and Paul, the apostles themselves who were also bishops—then Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, a contemporary of Peter and Paul whom Paul mentions in the Epistle to the Romans.” The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis (Leiden: Brill, 1987), Book I, Section II, 27.6,2, p. 104).

The Liber Pontificalis says Peter reigned as bishop of Rome for 25 years:

“Blessed Peter, the Antiochene, son of John, of the province of Galilee and the town of Bethsaidia, brother of Andrew and chief of the Apostles, first occupied the seat of the bishop in Antiochia for 7 years. This Peter entered the city of Rome when Nero was Caesar and there occupied the seat of the bishop for 25 years, 1 month and 8 days.” - Liber Pontificalis, (New York: Columbia University, 1916), p. 4

The ECF’s aren’t reliable on this.


“In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. the tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e., government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in Rome in the mid-2nd cent.” - Kelly, Joseph F. The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1992. p. 6.

“As for Peter, we have no knowledge at all of when he came to Rome and what he did there before he was martyred. Certainly he was not the original missionary who brought Christianity to Rome (and therefore not the founder of the church of Rome in that sense). There is no serious proof that he was the bishop (or local ecclesiastical officer) of the Roman church --a claim not made till the third century. Most likely he did not spend any major time at Rome before 58 when Paul wrote to the Romans, and so it may have been only in the 60s and relatively shortly before his martyrdom that Peter came to the capital.” - Brown, Raymond Edward., and John P. Meier. Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity. New York: Paulist, 1983. p 98.

Mark Bonocore’s series “The Monarchial Episcopate” goes into whether Rome had a single bishop or a council of presbyters ruling this see: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

I don’t expect to be able to participate much more in this thread, but wanted to mention the above for everyone’s consideration.


I’ve read Bonocore’s thing on the monepiscopate before. I think the fact that Bonocore is trying to take on scholars because they’re apparently modernists…heretic horrible people etc. etc. is nuff said. Just read the articles for yourself…not only are the arguments malformed, ambiguous, question beggy etc. etc. but riddled with insults and pride. I found it a struggle to get through them to be honest.

The Catholic Encylopedia article on “The Pope” is informative.

The successors of Peter in the Primacy are the bishops of Rome. (de fide)

The more usual theological viewpoint is that it rests not on the historical fact that Peter worked and died as bishop of Rome, but on positive ordinance of Christ or that of the Holy Spirit - that it is therefore of Divine Origin.

St. Peter’s stay in Rome is indicated in I Peter 5;13: “The Church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you.”

All above taken from the Fundamentals of Catholic Doctrine by Ludwig Ott

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