The Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the first pope and that papal succession continued down through history to the present day. However, neither the Orthodox nor the Protestant churches recognize this.

So, what are the biblical arguments (Protestant or Orthodox) against the papacy and papal succession?

  • 3
    This essentially breaks down to: What is the biblical arguments for Protestantism/Sola Scriptura. This question may be too broad.
    – Richard
    Nov 29, 2011 at 14:54
  • 4
    The lack of a papacy doesn't seem to mandate Sola Scriptura. The Orthodox church likely looks to tradition as well, but with a papacy. I do think answers can be sufficiently focused.
    – Narnian
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:07
  • 8
    The lack of papacy does not mandate Sola Scriptura, but Sola Scriptura mandates the lack of papacy.
    – user971
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:27
  • Right, it's not a two-way street there. So, "What's the biblical basis for Sola Scriptura." will answer this question, but not necessarily the other way around.
    – Richard
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:38
  • 2
    @Richard However, there could be biblical arguments specifically against the notion of the papacy and Peter being the first pope. Those arguments are distinct from the ideas in favor of Sola Scriptura, although there are implications that are intertwined.
    – Narnian
    Nov 29, 2011 at 15:43

12 Answers 12


This is a broad question, but in many ways, it boils down to the antecedent of "this" in Matthew 16:18. After Peter tells Jesus, "You are the Christ," Jesus answers something like:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (English Standard Version)

The question is, what is this rock? Is it Peter or his confession?

Obviously, Protestants tend to favor the "confession" interpretation, and emphasize our equality before God.

  • 3
    Is this widely held? Because it seems plain to me that the rock is Peter, given the name Peter comes from the Greek word Petra which means "rock", and Jesus was using a bit of a play on words there. Nov 30, 2011 at 8:00
  • 2
    @sidran32 There's an article about that and the words that Jesus actually used when he said this: carm.org/is-peter-the-rock. Peter comes from the masculine "petros" and Jesus used the feminine "petra". "You are Petros and on this petra ..."
    – Shathur
    Nov 30, 2011 at 13:58
  • 4
    The Petros/petra argument doesn't hold, because Jesus spoke Aramaic and not Greek. In Aramaic, Jesus said "Cephas" which means "rock". Please see John 1:42. See also catholic.com/tracts/peter-the-rock "Petros" is a masculine rendering of the feminine "petra". May 27, 2012 at 17:52
  • 2
    @Shathur I would suggest that you should get your apologetics from people other than carm.org. Many of their arguments are, well, faulty. One argument they use is "Mary birthed siblings for Jesus because Psalm 69 says 'mother's sons'" while ignoring the fact that the psalm also talks about the guilt and folly of the psalmist... dubious. Jan 13, 2013 at 1:56
  • @LoveTheFaith Are you suggesting that the original New Testament autographs (inspired by God and written in Greek) are faulty in how they render Aramaic into Greek? Mar 29, 2020 at 12:18

This is a huge question. I am going to attempt to summarize this as succinctly as possible--distilled to a potent brew.

  • Sola Scriptura

    According to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, there is no higher authority than the Bible--not tradition, not other people's opinion or beliefs. Therefore, the pope, as simply a human, cannot stand up against the authority of the Bible, as God-breathed

    Sola Scriptura is supported by 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Cor. 2:13, Romans 3:2 (among others), which shows that the Bible was divinely inspired. Because of this, we can trust the Bible to be the absolute truth (above all human knowledge).

    Side note: Martin Luther wrote a simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it

  • Priesthood of All Believers

    The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers states that we are all priests and do not need to go to a human mediator in order to reach God.

    1 Timothy 2:5 shows that there is only one mediator between God and man. This shows us that we don't need priests (or bishops, archbishops, or popes) to intercede for us.

    Furthermore, Hebrews 4:14 (among others) shows that Jesus is our high priest. As such, we need no one else to offer prayers on behalf of the nation. The pope, by comparison, is attempting to act as High Priest, like the High Priest in Judaism--to go before God on behalf of all Christians.

Those are the two big ones I can think off of the top of my head. Obviously, each one of those goes much deeper than what I gave here. Also, there are probably more big ticket items and a bunch of smaller ones. But each of these has more support and many more arguments that can be used to dispute the papacy.

  • If I get around to it, I might try to summarize this section from Wikipedia as well, for the aspect of apostolic succession of the papacy.
    – Richard
    Nov 29, 2011 at 22:49
  • 2
    The argument from 1 Tim 2:5 is weak, because no Christian can say to another "I have no need of you" (1 Cor 12:21). Besides, Paul asks his fellow Christians to intercede for him (Eph 6:19) and James asks elders to be called to pray for the sick and the sick man's sins being forgiven through the prayers of the elders. (James 5:14-15) May 27, 2012 at 17:45
  • 2
    It should be noted that "priesthood of believers" is an equivocation. "Priest" as a Church office is etymologically (and historically, and spiritually) derived from the word, "presbyteros" (which is what priests are called in many Latin documents). "Presbyteros" means "elder." On the other hand "priesthood of believers" and "priest of the order of Melchizedek" is rendered with the word, "sacerdos" in Latin. (May the polyglots forgive this, but) the Pope is sacerdos, deaconai, presbyteros, episcopai (priest, deacon, elder, bishop). You and I are also sacerdos (priests). Jan 13, 2013 at 2:12
  • 3
    @LoveTheFaith Richard didn't say that Christians don't need other Christians - only that Christians do not need another high priest because we already have a high priest in Jesus. Your Ephesians reference is a non sequitur; Paul asks for people to pray for him. That does not mean that those people have the authority to set doctrine over the entire body of Christians around the world.
    – Jeff
    May 21, 2014 at 1:37

My answer on this would be to refer to Tertullian on the subject. Tertullian was, of course, a Catholic who lived in the time when the doctrine that the power of the keys is inherited by the bishops from Peter was being developed by certain bishops in North Africa. He objected strenuously to it, writing his treatise De Pudicitia (i.e. On Modesty) against it.

On Modesty, Chapter 21, from Claesson’s translation (which can be found at the page on De Pudicitia at tertullian.org):

If it is because Our Lord has said to St. Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church...and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" or "and whatsoever thou shalt bind or loose on earth, shall be bound and loosed in heaven," is it for this reason that you presume the power to bind and loose had transfered to you, i.e. to every church with some connection with St.Peter? But how is it possible that you are destroying, and altering the evident intention of Our Lord, who is giving this right alone to St.Peter and in person. "Upon thee" he says "I will build my church," and "I will give unto thee the keys" not unto the church, "and whatsoever thou shalt bind or thou shalt loose," not that which they shall bind nor they shall loose. For that we can learn even by the events. On him himself the church is erected, that is to say by him, he himself consecrated the keys of faith, because he said, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nasareth, a man approved of God among you" and what follows [i.e. his sermon in Acts 2]. He himself finally opened first of all the gate to the kingdom of Heaven in the baptism in Christ and by the baptism are loosened the sins, earlier bound and are bound those which never were loosened according to the true salvation...

The idea is clearly that the power of the keys was something to be used once, in opening the kingdom. And that Peter's sermon in Acts 2 was the turning of the keys. There Peter bound the sins of all who reject repentance and/or baptism, and loosed the sins of all who will repent and be baptized.

In this sense Peter's primacy was limited to being the one to open the kingdom, to first preach the terms of entry into the church, and not a primacy allowing him to make up doctrine.

Notice Tertullian's emphasis on the non-transferability of the power of the keys: it belonged to Peter alone and does not pass on to anyone else. There's certainly no intimation in scripture that the keys were something to be passed down to successors.

This sort of primacy also has nothing to do with being a "pope," a concept fund nowhere in scripture at all.

(I will add I originally posted this answer to What is the biblical basis for the argument against the Catholic teaching on the primacy of Peter? but moved it over here because the OP there believed it would fit better here.)

  • 1
    Better than most answers to this question, and a new take on this question for me. (I am Catholic; even though I disagree per doctrine, I really like this answer). Jan 19, 2017 at 16:53
  • This is an excellent answer. I would only add two things: 1) Peter was also directed by God to use the 'keys' to open the kingdom to the Gentiles in Acts chapter 10. So if Tertullian is correct, for Peter, the keys were single use for Jews and single use for Gentiles. 2) In Matthew 18 the exact same binding and loosing power conferred upon Peter by Jesus in Matthew 16 was conferred upon all the disciples. Mar 27, 2020 at 12:07

One of the greatest arguments against the primacy of Peter is the fact that the apostles had an argument among themselves as to which of them should be the greatest.

"Now there arose a dispute among them, which of them was reputed to be the greatest. But he said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is chief as the servant'."
Luke 22:24-26

The very fact that the apostles had an argument among themselves shows they did not understand that Peter was to be prince. Also, the occasion of the argument was the night of the betrayal--the last night of the Lord's earthly ministry--and yet the apostles still did not understand that Christ had given Peter a position of primacy.

The Lord settled the argument, not by stating that He had already made Peter head, but by declaring that the Gentiles have their heads, "But not so with you." Thus, Jesus very plainly taught that no one would occupy any such place as a Benefactor (or Pope) to exercise authority over the others.

  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Please see What this site is about and How this site is different to help you learn how the site works. I hope to see you post again soon. I also edited your post. Click edit to see the changes and the relevant note.
    – user3961
    Dec 7, 2014 at 21:50
  • Solidified by the fact that the 'conference of the keys" predates (by quite a bit) the argument between the disciples. Mar 27, 2020 at 22:05

One of the problems with Peter specifically being pope is that the scriptures say he was an apostle to the Jews (see Galatians 2:7). If anybody was going to be pope it would have been Paul (called to be an apostle to the gentiles). And for another thing Paul wrote more of the New Testament than any other author. To complicate things further it was Paul who rebuked Peter(see Galatians 2:11-14). And finally if there is any notion that Paul was somehow not operating in correct authority, Peter implies Paul's writings are scripture in 2 Peter 3:16

  • 2
    Paul rebuking Peter does not demonstrate that Peter was not Pope. It just shows that Popes are not infallible all the time and can make mistakes. Very relevant right now with Pope Francis and the dubia Feb 2, 2017 at 4:11
  • except for many times in history, no one can really disagree with the pope on doctrinal matters (or really anything) that are blatantly false or dangerous (Marian dogmas in particular) without being excommunicated such as that of the reformation. Had Paul not rebuked Peter and recorded it, Peter probably would've burried the altercation and potentially could have kept on teaching this false teaching he was teaching. Clearly there was no concept of Petrine primacy (nor papal infallibility, ex cathedra or not as it wasn't even defined)
    – Lenny
    Oct 21, 2022 at 2:32

What are the biblical arguments against the papacy and papal succession?

Peter, with a view to his immanent death, writes that his words will bring to remembrance not his successor.

2 Peter 1:13-15 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

Peter does not mention an enduring succession of popes who will be a source of authority for the people upon which they can rely.

2 Peter 3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

The ability to avoid the error of false teachers lies with each believer rather than the protection of a successive pope.

2 Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

The overseer (bishop) of souls is Jesus not a pope or priest.

1 Peter 2:24-25 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

The “keys" that Peter is given in Matthew 16 are not special powers of binding and loosening. Peter (and the other Apostles) are being given a special responsibility.

Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

A more accurate rendering of the Greek is;

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.

We have an example of this in Acts;

Acts 15:13-20 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Here James exercised the binding a loosening by placing on gentile believers no more of a burden than was given in Leviticus for the sojourner in Israel.

Peter towards the end of his life addresses “elders” regarding their responsibilities not a successor.

1 Peter 5:1-2 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

The role of a elder or teacher in the church was to help the Christian approximate Christ-likeness.

Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Instead we turned Christianity into a system of rules, rituals, and procedures. Corinth, Galatia, and some of the churches mentioned in Revelation were already going off track. God has preserved his word for us by which we can compare what is taught with that which is written.

Acts 17:10-11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.


When the first recorded controversy emerged in the early Church (i.e. circumcision) Peter was wrong. He was corrected by the Council of Jerusalem then. So we clearly see, that Pope cannot be infallible.

You can read about it in Acts 15 1-31 and it is also mentioned in Galatians 2, 11-14.

  • 2
    Hi, Zefciu. This is an interesting point, but would you mind to edit your answer and add a scriptural reference for those of us who don't know off the top of our heads where this controversy is recorded? (If you don't already have a preferred site, you can find multiple translations of the Bible online at biblegateway.com.)
    – Mason Wheeler
    May 27, 2012 at 13:18
  • 3
    While it may be true that Peter was wrong about circumcision, the idea of Papal infallibility is not that the Pope can never be wrong, it is something much more limited than that. Oct 12, 2015 at 23:42
  • What @JamesKingsbery said. Your example merely demonstrates that the Pope is not infallible in everything he says and does. It does not demonstrate that the Pope cannot be infallible some of the time. Your answer betrays an ignorance of the true nature of our Papal infallibility doctrine. It's worth reading up on Feb 2, 2017 at 4:13
  • under no circumstances, ex cathedra or not, can pope reach some form of infallibility
    – Lenny
    Oct 21, 2022 at 2:36

Biblical Argument against Papacy

Roman Catholicism teaches that Simon's role as 'Peter' was an office with successors.

It is totally impossible for Simon to have successors on his Peter-hood because his office as Peter is about the "building of the church" based on Matthew 16:18. If Simon has successors in his Peter-ship then it means that the church wasn't yet in existence. That's absurd.

This is a strong Biblical argument against papacy.

Biblical Argument Against Papal Succession

Roman Catholicism teaches that the bishop of Rome is the High Priest in the New Testament church.

There is no High Priest in the New Testament with successors. Jesus alone is the High Priest in the N.T. who does not need successors according to Hebrews 7:23-25:

Hebrews 7:23-28The Message (MSG)

23-25 Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them. 26-28 So now we have a high priest who perfectly fits our needs: completely holy, uncompromised by sin, with authority extending as high as God’s presence in heaven itself. Unlike the other high priests, he doesn’t have to offer sacrifices for his own sins every day before he can get around to us and our sins. He’s done it, once and for all: offered up himself as the sacrifice. The law appoints as high priests men who are never able to get the job done right. But this intervening command of God, which came later, appoints the Son, who is absolutely, eternally perfect.

This is a very strong Biblical argument against papal succession.

  • Roman Catholicism does not teach that the bishop of Rome is the High Priest in the New Testament church. You need to do more research and get your facts straight before making authoritative pronouncements regarding what some group that you don't belong to teaches. Your "biblical argument against Papacy" is also incoherent and not biblical in any way. Feb 2, 2017 at 4:18

OP: what are the biblical arguments (Protestant or Orthodox) against the papacy and papal succession?

The papacy is the idea of "the ecclesiastical system in which the pope as successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Jesus Christ governs the Catholic Church as its supreme head." -New Advent-

There are at least two biblical arguments against this idea that have yet to be mentioned in this thread, but let me summarize the two main arguments already mentioned.

The "on this rock I will build my church" in Matthew 16 must refer to Peter's confession, not to Peter himself. I will detail the reason for this shortly, but suffice to say here that Christ says Christ Himself will build His church, not Peter and certainly not his so-called successors.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mat. 16:18

The "priesthood of all believers" is also a strong argument against the papacy. To look further into this would require developing the finality of Christ's one sacrifice once.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; Heb. 10:12

But back to the two other arguments.


If Christ had actually conferred to Peter some so-called succession rights, then one would think Peter would know this. To a degree, he does. As Tertullian noted, Peter did exercise the keys by opening the kingdom doors to Jew and Gentile alike. As Christ said, the gates of hell will not prevail. It won't be because of men that this is true. Again as Christ said, Christ will build His church.

But did Peter confer something to Linus, the second Pope so-called? There is no record of this. Even the letter of Clement only mentions that he believes Peter died in Rome. There is no mention of something that supposedly is so important about some lineage of Popes. Besides, what we do have is Peter actually conferring Jesus' instructions to the elders of Asia Minor, not to the bishops in Rome.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, … 1 Peter 1:1

After addressing his letter to all, Peter then narrows the focus.

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 1 Peter 5:1

And then Peter gives the elders (plural, not just one, but many) the same instructions.

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 1 Peter 5:2

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. John 21:17

So, did Jesus give Peter a papal lineage? No, it was Peter's confession of faith, but even if you think Jesus did, Peter then gives it to the unknown elders in Asia Minor.


The first and last apostles to die were James and John, sons of Zebedee, sons of thunder. John writes a letter to Gaius called 3 John. In it he mentions a person, although some say it is a metaphor, a warning, called Diotrephes.

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 3 John 1:9

This is written circa 100ad. The word "preeminence" is just as it is translated.

Strong's Concordance philopróteuó: to strive to be first Original Word: φιλοπρωτεύω Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: philopróteuó Phonetic Spelling: (fil-op-rote-yoo'-o) Definition: to strive to be first Usage: I love the chief place, desire preeminence.

This is a person in the church who wants to be first, to be in charge, to lead all the others even to the point of rejecting apostolic authority. This, of course, is another argument already mentioned (scripture as the rule of faith; wherein the New Testament is written between the sons of thunder as the valid apostolic testimony).

Paul uses a similar word when describing Christ as having the preeminence.

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Col 1:18


The idea of a single individual or a lineage type of group having the preeminence is a very old idea, but one that is reserved for Christ alone who builds His church, not some one who loves to be first. John warns against a Diotrephes. Tertullian later picks up the same idea, rejecting it likewise, as usurping what belongs to Christ alone.

Moreover Peter, if he was given some authority with the keys, opened the kingdom to Jew and Gentile. The gates of hell will not prevail. Peter then gave that instruction to the elders in Asia Minor. Feed His sheep.


The argument against Papal Authority is found in the first evidence for Papal Authority: Matthew 16:13-18. The Catholic interpretation of this verse, as previously mentioned, states that Peter is the rock upon which the Christ will build His Church because "Peter" means rock. However, in the Greek, the words "Peter" and "rock" used in the passage are different words. Peter was translated from the word, "Petros," while "rock" was translated from the word, "Petra." Therefore, the Petra that Christ refers to is Petros's confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Now one could say that Peter was special because he got the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and because he was in Christ's inner circle with James and John (Matt. 17). However, this does not mean that he could pass his specialness from himself to another person, namely Clement of Rome. While there is historical evidence according to the Catholic faith that this took place, there is no scriptural evidence for it. Additionally, it does not seem that Peter functioned as Catholic popes function today, for he was not infallible and above reproach, as I understand Catholic popes are thought to be according to Catholicism. This is based on the event when Paul confronted Peter in Galatians 2:11-13 for not being consistent with his view on circumcision. In this instance, Paul exercised authority over Peter.

  • Welcome Bayoan, and thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Sep 4, 2015 at 16:18
  • Petros is the masculine form of the feminine word petra, nothing more. That variation, which is mandated by the fact Peter was a male, hardly seems to be a Biblical argument against the papacy.
    – ThaddeusB
    Sep 4, 2015 at 16:22
  • as mentioned elsewhere, the fact that Paul rebuked Peter in no way disproves papal infallibility. Peter was indeed infallible while he was Pope. There just aren't any scriptural examples of him exercising his authority ex cathedra. Feb 2, 2017 at 4:16

In simple English, the belief of papal succession includes with it the power of appointing all ‘true officers’ of the ‘true church’. In other words, in practice it is simply the Roman Catholic means of doctrinally excluding all other Christian churches. More to the point it makes any persons personal salvation outside her physical ordained network- 'doubtful to none'. 'Doubtful' if they are not properly introduced to Catholic authority, 'none' if they are and yet adamantly reject it, like most Protestant teachers and pastors.

Note: To post an answer that respects current Roman Catholic beliefs, I actually had to have something critical clarified in my own mind. I raised this post to really understand the ultimate impact of belief in papal succession: Do Catholics officially recognize Protestants as Christians?

I have not encountered ‘the’ biblical argument against papal succession but I have run across several versions. The points of argument that have made the biggest impact for me as a Protestant are:

  • There is no biblical argument for papal succession anywhere to be found in the Bible. Any attempts that Catholicism tries to make for an argument seems to be blatant dishonest use of the scripture.

  • The implication of papal succession is that by it, it denies faith in 'Christ alone' as sufficient for salvation. This is actually a rejection of Christ and his only catholic church invisible.

Often the biggest argument against something is that there is no supporting argument for it. The scripture gives tradition no real respect, for it affirms that it was by the tradition of the church that the Jews found reason to reject Christ. This argument, absence of teaching denies its truth, is only reasonable when the subject has significant impact on church life and would essentially imply God was irresponsible not to inform his children of such an essential matter through scripture. Scripture is what confirms if any tradition should be upheld or condemned. As papal succession is such an important doctrine, which the actual salvation of souls does depend, and which is possibly the most central teaching of Catholicism, has absolutely no mention of in the scripture, immediately points to its obvious and most critical error. It is from this ground that many Protestant theologians think of the Catholic external organization as a systematic form of an anti-Christ, if not the anti- Christ for its chief aim is at replacing Christ with a visible church and transferring the authority of Christ to the Pope.

This one point for most Protestants actually ends the investigation and is sufficient for its full dismissal with full prejudice. However, there are some further points that may be considered from the biblical context.

Leaving the obvious error of this teaching we turn to God's word for what is a Christian:

  • The single definition within the scripture that determines if a visible person should be considered part of the invisible church, is their sincere confession of faith in 'Christ alone' for the forgiveness of their sins. There visible membership to a church organization counts is merely dust on the scales.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13, ESV)

Under the error of papal succession the scripture is grossly and blasphemously perverted into saying, 'whoever believes in Christ...and [put your idol here]. The idol in this case is respect of the physical organization of the papacy. With the second idol, post initiation, as possibly the worship of Mary.

A man's own personal faith directly in Christ and not directly Christ’s ministers or institutions, is the basis of all genuine faith in God. Therefore faith in Christ has the implication of putting all believers under a duty of condemning anyone who preaches a different faith, that is 'faith AND' [put your idol here]. Even if it if an apostle, Pope, or even an angel of God:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9, ESV)

Therefore the authority of the Apostles was not physically held by them so that they could pass it on, rather their authority was in proclaiming Christ AND NOTHING. If they, Peter, Paul, or whoever no longer preached this, they were to be absolutely condemned.

The result with respect to papal succession was the reformation largely lead by Martin Luther. This is how the invisible church was restored to the authority of Christ under his word.

It is on the foundational doctrine of Christ, that he will build his church upon himself as the rock, not upon the pope and his pretenders, which Peter’s confession is to be understood. Peter's faith in Christ alone, just as any believers was a 'little rock' upon which all believers are built into the temple of God. This temple is built on this precise gospel teaching that was laid by the Apostles. It here that Protestants and Catholics divide as far as the east of from the west. Papal succession seizes on the potential confusion that the English translation of this Greek sentence and tries to create an idol out of Peter which will an anchor and protect all their pretended authority over every other Christian body of believers.

  • 1
    -1 for propagating so many misconceptions it's hard to mention them all in one comment. Catholics do not worship Mary or the Pope. We do not worship idols, we do not deny that salvation is through Christ alone, scripture does not condemn tradition etc etc Feb 2, 2017 at 4:25

Matthew 23:9: "And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."

Clearly that doesn't leave much room for a pope, which of course comes from the Italian word for father. Since the role of pope is thus ruled out, the question of succession of popes is not to be found in the Bible.

It is strange that the phrase is apostolic succession, when what is really meant is papal succession. Apostolic succession should simply mean that christian leaders raise leaders to replace them, with the numbers growing as the flock increases.

  • 5
    Do you call your own father "dad?" Do you call doctors "doctor" (it means teacher)? Do you address people as "Mister" (it means master)? Jan 13, 2013 at 1:59
  • 4
    But, even those aside, your quote has nothing to do with the question. It is speaking of the impropriety of a title and not about the succession itself. If the Pope's title were "king of the wicker people" that would have nothing to do with his place as holder of keys to the Kingdom of heaven nor his unique position of being able to open doors which none may close and close doors which none may open. Jan 13, 2013 at 2:02
  • 1
    Further, papal succession is a subset of apostolic succession (which refers to the fact that all bishops share in the role of teaching and propagating doctrine). Read up on the history of the bishopric and you will learn that. Jan 13, 2013 at 2:04
  • 5
    Even as a non-Catholic who things the papal succession is un-biblical, I would suggest that this is a weak argument and that this Scripture text is not directly related in a way that would make it a primary proof text.
    – Caleb
    Jan 13, 2013 at 8:13
  • 1
    You can read commentary by Calvin and others on this verse here: ccel.org/study/Matthew_23%3A9 . I agree with Calvin that one has to look at what Christ meant by this verse. The entire paragraph that Christ spoke was criticizing those who elevate themselves above other men. "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted." While it's great when popes are humble, very often they are not.
    – jcohen79
    Jan 13, 2013 at 8:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .