What are the origins of the title Pope, Pontiff and Pontifex Maximus?
It appears the first Pontifex Maximus originated back around 753 BC with the original Kings of Rome.
"The Pontifex Maximus (Latin, literally: “greatest bridge-maker”) was the high priest of the Ancient Roman College of Pontiffs (Collegium Pontificum). This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post. A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized until, beginning with Augustus, it was subsumed into the Imperial office. Its last use with reference to the emperors is in inscriptions of Gratian (reigned 375-383) who, however, then decided to omit the words “pontifex maximus” from his title.
Centuries later, after the word “pontifex” had become a term used for Christian bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, the title of “Pontifex Maximus” was applied within the Roman Catholic Church to the Pope as its chief bishop. It is not included in the Pope’s official titles, but appears on buildings, monuments and coins of popes of Renaissance and modern times."
“With the adoption of Christianity, the Roman emperors took it on themselves to issue decrees on matters regarding the Christian Church. Unlike the Pontifex Maximus, they did not themselves function as priests, but they acted practically as head of the official religion, a tradition that continued with the Byzantine emperors. In line with the theory of Moscow as the Third Rome, the Russian Tsars exercised supreme authority over the Russian Orthodox Church.”
How did this title come to be a part of the Catholic Church? How do Catholics tie in this ancient pagan title with the Jewish apostle Peter? Following the death of Christ and the 12 apostles, there were only bishops leading the church for centuries. Hundreds of years later the head bishop became known as Pope. Isn’t this a Roman tradition which isn’t Biblical? I would be interested in hearing what Catholics have to say regarding this.