Matthew 16:18, Pope Peter

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.

//It’s surely not my intention to discredit the Catholic Church, but one of its teachings doesn’t quite jibe with the Bible. It’s this idea that Peter was the successor to Jesus, the leader of the new community of Christians. The first Pope.

This doctrine is founded primarily upon today’s verse, in which Jesus seems to designate Peter as the foundation for the new church. Never mind that this is only one interpretation of the verse (naming Peter as the rock in question). Never mind that the authenticity of the verse is disputed among scholars. Never mind that this is the only verse—not only in the Bible, but in any early historical document we’ve uncovered—which names Peter as the new boss.

The real problem is that there are many passages in the Bible citing somebody else as the head of the church. The real successor seems to be James, the brother of Jesus. Peter may have been bishop of Rome, a satellite Christian assembly in a faraway land, but James was awarded the position of bishop of Jerusalem, the central and authoritative assembly. Christianity, in every example you read during the life of Peter, was centered in Jerusalem, headed by James.

Paul writes that James, Peter, and John were the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9), but could it be that James, the first one mentioned—more than Peter, Paul, or John—as the true successor preserves the more authentic message of Jesus? Is the Epistle of James, with its doctrine of justification by works, the book we should really be reading?

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