Benedict is a Pope No More



Benedict is a Pope No More

The Question of the Papacy and the Bible

Richard Hollerman

Benedict no longer is a pope, according to the news media. After eight years in this highest office of the Roman Catholic Church, he stepped down after expressing his inability to continue the work he was called upon to do.  The report has it this way:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI basked in an emotional send-off Wednesday from an estimated 150,000 people at his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square, recalling moments of “joy and light” during his papacy and also times of difficulty when “it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.”

The crowd, many toting banners saying “Grazie!” (“Thank you!”), jammed the piazza to bid Benedict farewell and hear his final speech as pontiff. In this appointment, which he has kept each week for eight years to teach the world about the Catholic faith, Benedict thanked his flock for respecting his retirement, which takes effect Thursday.

Benedict clearly enjoyed the occasion, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen children handed to him by his secretary. Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance — then gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech. ( latest-headlines-from -the-web/2013/02/27/ pope-presides-over- last-audience.)

People, both religious and irreligious, both Catholic and Protestant, seem to be enthralled in learning more about this person who has occupied the highest office of the Catholic Church.  Half of all professing “Christians” in the world looked to him as their spiritual leader and shepherd. Whatever he said was not only important but also law to the faithful.  (Granted, in our modern world, loyalty to the pope has diminished greatly.)

But as of today, Benedict is no longer the occupant of the papacy. It is now up to the Cardinals to elect another person to become the next pope.  Hundreds of millions of people will be praying and waiting with anticipation to discover who “God” wants to have as His next pope. (We use “pope” accommodatively here since Jesus forbids us to call any man on earth our spiritual “father,” Matthew 23:9).

Many would not even entertain a question that I must ask at this time. It is not only relevant, it is eternally relevant in light of the Roman Catholic promotion of the papacy. The question is this: Does God in any way condone the office of pope? Does He permit people to choose a pope and give total allegiance to him? Does history tell us that the office of the papacy even existed in the first century?  Let’s deal with these matters by making several points, based on the Bible and history.

    1.    God did not create the papacy. We search the New Testament in vain to find any hint of a pope. We look for any sign that Jesus created such an office, but there is no teaching at all on this matter. It is absent. If God did not give us the authority to have a pope, who is mere man to create such an office?

    2.    Peter was not a pope. Catholicism teaches that Christ made Peter the first pope (cf. Matthew 16:16-19), but this is mere supposition rather than clear fact. For many reasons Peter could not have been a pope.  Peter was married whereas the pope is forbidden to take a wife (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Peter was even publicly rebuked by Paul (Galatians 2:11-21), something that no modern Catholic would do to the reigning pope.


    3.    All of the apostles were in positions of authority rather than Peter or any other one.  All of the eleven apostles were given the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Matthias was later chosen, Acts 1:15-26).  Jesus said to all of the apostles, “You also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).  The body of Christ (the “church”) has been built “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20; cf. 3:5). Even the wall of the Heavenly City has “twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). In all of this, not one apostle stands out in being a pope with authority over the others.


    4.    There was no office of pope in the early body of Christ. In New Testament times, fully mature congregations of disciples were composed of elders, deacons (servants), teachers, and prophets (cf. Acts 11:22-26, 30; 13:1; 14:23; 15:22, 32; 20:17, 28; Ephesians 4:11; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-11; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-5). We should notice that the elder is the same as the overseer (KJV, bishop) and this is the same as the shepherd (KJV, pastor). (Notice especially Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; Titus 1:5-7.) There was no office or work of a “pope” or universal bishop in the days of the apostles, before apostasy lead the people of God astray.


    5.    The elder/shepherd/overseer was a position found in the plurality. In mature congregations, there was a plurality of men who occupied this particular work (notice Acts 11:30; 14:23; 20:17; James 5:14). Notice that each congregation had a plurality of elders and the elder or overseer was not over a plurality of congregations. This is an important point, one that many churches and denominations in our day flagrantly violate.


    6.    In early history, the position of overseer was corrupted. By the second century, the position was divided in two.  “Bishop” (overseer) was a position that was elevated over the other elders in the congregation. Soon, a Bishop was elevated further to have authority over a group of congregations or churches. In time, the bishop assumed authority over the churches in an entire district.  By the fifth or sixth century, one particular Bishop (the Bishop of Rome) was elevated to the highest position—that of being the “Universal Bishop” or Pope! All of this was not only absent in the first century, it was directly contradictory to Christ’s own words: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:25-27).


    7.    The pope could not meet the qualifications of being an overseer. Catholicism teaches that the pope is the universal Bishop of Christ. However, in the early body of Christ, the pope would not have been qualified to be a bishop/overseer at all!  An elder or overseer was chosen by an apostle or common Christians (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; cf. Acts 6:3-5). A man was not chosen for this position by a conclave of Cardinals from around the world! Furthermore, an overseer was required to be a married man with one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) and he had to have children who believe (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). In our day, a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, and especially a pope is forbidden to be married and have children. The pope simply could not meet the Biblical qualifications.

    8.    The pope lives in regal splendor.  Many sources of information will show photos of the pope’s riches and material splendor.  He is clothed in the finest of apparel and wears costly jewelry.  He lives as king in the Vatican.  Presidents and kings visit him and pay abject homage to him. Everyone considers it the highest of honor to have an audience with the pope at the Vatican.  How different from the lowly Son of God (Luke 9:58). How different from the early apostles (1 Corinthians 4:11). How different from the virtues the New Testament describes (James 2:5). How different from the attitude that Jesus said should characterize His people (Matthew 20:25-28).

    9.    The pope is obligated to teach many false doctrines and urge faithful Catholics to obey the unscriptural traditions of Catholicism. It is beyond the purview of this article to list all of the false teachings promulgated by Catholicism (see a sampling of these doctrines elsewhere on this website). But it is clear that a pope could not be faithful to God at the same time he is to be faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. There are numerous differences between the two.

Although the Catholic faithful in the world are looking with keen interest to the choice of the next pope and will be praying that God will use the Cardinals for this purpose, the lowly Christian, with Bible in hand, knows that the entire office of the papacy is unscriptural. It is not only unsupported by the Scriptures; it is utterly at variance with the Word of the living God. It is an abomination to the Lord of heaven to elevate a mere man to an unscriptural position, doing an unbiblical work, that involves unbiblical practices, that promotes anti-Scriptural doctrines, and that relies on human tradition for its support.

We may look with interest on who is chosen to occupy this position since the selection of a person may have much to do with various liberal tendencies in the Catholic Church (feminism, sexual immorality like sodomy, allowance of abortion, etc.).  But beyond all of this, the observer who relies on God’s inerrant, authoritative Word will know that no pope will meet with God’s approval. And this is what really counts!


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