Peter the first Pope?

Did your priest tell the congregation this morning that “Peter wasn’t the first pope”? It was almost predictable really.

Which got me thinking. Of course, he wasn’t the first pope. Of course the papacy per se came much later.

But he WAS the first “Peter”. That is, he was the first to exercise the Petrine ministry in the Church, which existed right from the time Jesus told him to feed his sheep and strengthen his brothers.

Since then, there have been 264 “Peters”. Since at least the late second century, these “Peters” have been known as the “pope”. They were all chief pastors (“bishops”) of the Church of Rome.

So, to say Peter was “not the first pope” is just being contentious. The real point is not that Peter was the first Pope, but that the Pope is the 264th Peter.

In case you are having trouble grasping the concept, it looks like this:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Peter the first Pope?

  1. Joshua says:

    Well, we at St John’s Pro-Cathedral have no idea why Peter should have come up, since today, the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, featured the pericope of the raising of only son of the widow of Naim, and a consequent sermon on death as the fate of all, and profitable thoughts thereon drawn from describing the traditional Latin funeral rites. (I will pop reflexions on all this on my own blog presently.)

    It is such a joy to be escaped from Boring Time, and not to have to care which wretched year of the Lectionary it is!

  2. Louise says:

    Because, of course, the lectionary is the worst bit about the OF, Joshua.

    Having said that, this morning’s homily was indeed Boring Time. Except when it was Irritating Time.

  3. Past Elder says:

    Catholic reaction:

    The Ordinary Form in toto is its own worst bit. But how typically post conciliar, to call something the ordinary form of a two thousand year old rite, when it was completely onknown until its invention 38 years ago let alone ordinary, and its form with ordos within ordos and options within a given ordo unknown too and now the ordinary along with an extraordinary form also a state of affairs completely unknown. Bogus from is misbegotten inception and completely foreign to the two thousand year unfolding of which it claims to be a part. Which leads to

    Christian reaction:

    In case you are having trouble grasping the concept, what that looks like is, a traditional representation of St Peter, a list as bogus as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion many of the names of which are there through a process no more spiritual than buying and selling barrels of oil, and a learned and very nice German man who would have made a great pastor had he not bought into this lie but unfortunately now appears in stylised garments derived from the Roman Empire at whose appearance St Peter would have wondered what pagan religion does this guy represent.

  4. Mike says:

    So what do you actually mean by saying that Peter wasn’t the first Pope – and then going straight on to say that people who say that are just being contentious?

    Are you just being contentious?

    Do you simply mean that they didn’t use the English word “Pope” or the Latin “Papa” or that they hadn’t built St Peter’s yet or invented enough sylisted garments to annoy Past Elder?

    In other words, if you wanted to say that the Papacy “per se” did date to Peter, what would you be looking for that you wouldn’t find?

  5. Schütz says:

    You got me there, Mike – condemned out of my own mouth.

    No, what I meant is that you can put a perfectly good historical argument which says that it is anachronistic to say that “Peter was the first Pope” since the “idea” of the papacy (as the Universal Primate and Patriarchal bishop of Rome) dates from slightly later than the apostolic era.

    What is contentious is to say in a sermon “Peter wasn’t the first pope” as if to imply that what we have come to call the papacy does not legitimately trace its authority back to the apostle Peter.

    The way you word your question to me is along the following lines: “Was Peter the first Pope?” We would then try to answer that question by looking for features in Peter’s ministry that we find in today’s papacy.

    However, the proper question is: “Is today’s papacy Petrine?” That question is answered by asking what there is in the ministry of the Pope today that we find already in Peter’s ministry.

    And I think you will agree that this is the better way to approach the relationship between Peter and the Papacy.

    My point is that the essential feature of what we have come to call “the papacy” is the “Petrine Ministry”. In other words, the popes receive their status and authority from the fact that they are successors of Peter, rather than Peter receiving his status and authority from the fact that he was the first in the line of bishops we have called “pope”.

    Does that make sense?

  6. Louise says:

    I would say that Peter was the first Pope and was even understood to be the Pope (except that the word “Pope” wasn’t used) – otherwise, why would St Paul make a point of arguing with St Peter about circumcision. He did so, because he knew where the authority lay.

  7. Louise says:

    I don’t mean to imply that the early Christians understood the papacy precisely as we do now, though.

  8. Fr John W Fenton says:

    Those of us under the Patriarch of Antioch like to remind folks that St Peter was first pope of Antioch before he was pope of Rome.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *