Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 13, 1950
NUMBER 48, PAGE 4-5b

The Pope's Claim To Authority - No. 3

W. Wallace Layton, Tucson, Arizona

The papal claim to authority, among other things, depends on the succession of the presumed prerogatives held by Peter. It has been demonstrated from both Biblical and historical grounds that the claims for Peter's primacy are completely without foundation. It is equally clear that there is a gap of some 500 years between Peter and the first of the Roman pontiffs.

The Roman Catholic church has no visible identity nor head prior to the sixth century. Since according to the Catholics themselves their claim for papal authority is dependent on an unbroken connection between the popes and Peter, if we can demonstrate that there was a period of 500 years between Peter and the first of the popes, that will be irrefutable proof (acceptable even to Catholics) that their church is entirely foreign to the church of the New Testament.

The Voice Of History

We turn to a Catholic historian, Mr. Lewis Ellis Du Pin, who, in writing of epochs in the third century observes:

"The bishops of great cities had their prerogatives in ordinances; and in civil affairs men generally had recourse to the civil metropolis. So likewise in ecclesiastical matters, they consulted with their bishops of the metropolitan city. The churches of the three principal cities of the world were looked upon as chief, and their bishops attributed great prerogatives to themselves. The church at Rome . . . was considered as first, and its bishops as first among all bishops of the world; yet they did not believe him infallible; and though they frequently consulted him, and his advice was of great consequence, yet they did not receive it blind-fold and implicitly, every bishop imagining himself to have a right to judge in ecclesiastical matters." (Du Pin, page 590)

The reader will observe that the Roman bishops "attributed to themselves great prerogatives," yet were "not considered infallible."

In the third century there was no trace of any ecclesiastical establishment, nor can there be found at this period the doctrines peculiar to the Romish church of later years and of today. But Du Pin continues:

"The clergy were not distinguished from others by any peculiar habits . . . they administered the sacraments gratis, and believed it to be an abominable crime to give or receive anything for a spiritual blessing . . . The clergy were prohibited to meddle with any civil and secular affair. They were extremely chaste and regular. It was lawful for priests to keep the wives they married before they were ordained." (page 590)

The Council Of Nice

So stood the matter at the close of the third century. The Council of Nice was convened in 325 A. D., and was the first general council ever to assemble (though the Catholic church calls the meeting of Acts 15 a council). Still, in their enumeration of councils, of which (they say) there were eighteen, the Council of Nice is regarded as the first.

At this council there were 318 bishops. The meeting was called by the Roman Emperor (Constantine) in order to settle certain discords in what was then called "the church". By the 6th canon of this council it appears that the idea of a pope, or supreme head, had not yet begun to be entertained. Here is the 6th canon:

"We ordain that the ancient custom shall be observed, which gives power to the bishop of Alexandria, over all the provinces of Egypt, Libya, and Pantapolis, because the Bishop of Rome has the like jurisdiction over all the suburicary regions . . . we would likewise have the rights and the privileges of the church at Antioch and the other churches preserved . . . ". Du Pin observes, "The canon being thus explained has no difficulty in it. It does not oppose the primacy of the church in Rome, but neither does it establish it." (Campbell-Purcell Debate, page 15)

It is not particularly germane to this subject that we discuss the intricacies that found the church in this century so far removed from the simplicity of the New Testament pattern. Suffice it to say that there developed five seats of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. These were the patriarchal Sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The bishop of each of these dioceses assumed a sort of primacy in his own territory, and because rivalries in jurisdiction arose frequently between them, the Council of Nice was called to determine the matter. It ruled that each bishop and each See should have identical power.

The Council Of Chalcedon

"This council, composed of 340 bishops, convened in the year 451 A. D., and gave the same power to the patriarch of Constantinople as to the patriarch of Rome, and thus made the supremacy of the one equal to the supremacy of the other. The 28th canon grants to the church of the city of Constantinople, which is called New Rome, the same privileges with Old Rome . . . It also adjudges to it, besides this, jurisdiction over the diocese of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, and over the churches which are out of the bounds of the Emperor, and a right to ordain metropolitans in the provinces of these dioceses." (Du Pin, page 678)

At this date (451 A. D.) it is seen then that the idea of a universal head of the church over the whole world is unknown and, in fact, denied by the evidence of the history of the times.

The first historical mention of a pope was in connection with the patriarch of Constantinople, not Rome. With reference to Gregory, Mr. Du Pin says, "He did often rigorously oppose the title of universal patriarch which the patriarchs of Constantinople assumed to themselves. Indeed, he called the title "proud, blasphemous, anti-Christian, diabolical," and said "the Bishops of Rome refused to take this title to themselves lest they seem to encroach upon the rights of other bishops." (Chap. 1)

In the year 586 A. D., John the Younger, Bishop of Constantinople, took upon himself the title of "Pope." Whereupon Gregory, the Bishop of Rome, wrote to the Roman Emperor, Mauritius, asking that he correct the abuse. He wrote, "St. Gregory does not only oppose this title in the patriarch of Constantinople, but maintains also . . . that the Bishop of Rome neither ought, nor can, assume it .. . the title of universal bishop is against the rules of the Gospel, and the appointments of the canons."

The Roman Catholic church encyclopedia lists Gregory as the 64th pope and universal head of the church. Yet the testimony of Gregory himself defeats their claim, and proves that he was not only not a pope himself, but that he regarded such a pontifical office as "anti-Christian and anti-scriptural"

The First Pope

Here is a brief note on the ushering in of the first pope of Rome: "Mauritius, the emperor, died at the hands of Phocas, a centurion of his own army. Mauritius favored the pretensions of the bishop of Constantinople and turned a deaf ear to the importunities of Gregory (bishop of Rome). Gregory rejoiced in the death of Mauritius, and hailed Phocas, the murderer, by consecrating him in the church at Constantinople. As a reward for his Gregorian favor, Phocas conferred upon Gregory's successor (Boniface III) the title of Universal Patriarch in the exact sense in which it had been repudiated by Gregory. (Note: Rome lists a pope between Gregory and Boniface, namely, Sabiniaus. He was, however, in fact a nuncio of Constantinople sent by Gregory.) Thus in the year 606 A. D., two years after the death of Gregory, the first pope was placed in the chair of Rome—the chair which Catholicism falsely claims was founded by Peter." (Campbell-Purcell Debate, page 35)


The following facts are, we believe, irrefutably true:

(1) Peter was neither the first head, nor any head, of any church on the earth.

(2) Peter was never regarded by himself or any other apostle as having primacy over the others.

(3) Peter was neither infallible, nor did he or any other apostle ever regard him so except when he spoke by inspiration of the Spirit.

(4) There is no Biblical or other historical evidence that Peter was ever at any time within the city of Rome; nor is there any evidence that he ever founded a church there or established a papal chair either there or anywhere else.

(5) The first 64 men listed by Rome as a succession of popes never made any such claim for themselves; nor were they in any sense ever regarded as Universal Patriarchs and heads of the church; on the contrary, both they and their associates repudiated such a pontifical office as anti-scriptural and anti-canon.

(6) Prior to the year 606 A. D. there never was a church in Rome regarded as "mother", nor a Bishop regarded as the head of the universal church..

Thus it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church is a product of apostasy, a corruption of truth, a cup of abominations, and a beast of perverted ingenuity. The pope's claim to authority rests upon crass assumption, a denial of the Bible, and other historic evidence, and a malicious falsifying of the testimony of the very men whom they claim were the popes during the first 500 years of the Christian era.

There has not been found a single representative of the Roman Catholic Church who will meet a gospel preacher in debate since Bishop Purcell was crushed with the foregoing irrefutable facts at the hands of Alexander Campbell.