Was Peter the first Pope? Please explain WELS' take on the Catholics' assertion that he is. Thank you!
There is no biblical or historical basis for the claim that Peter was the first pope. While the Roman Catholic Church might like to use Matthew 16:18 to support their belief that Peter was the first pope, those words say nothing of the sort.
We actually find a play on words in Matthew 16:18. Peter’s name in Greek is petros. It is a masculine noun. When Jesus said he was going to build his church “on this rock,” the word translated “rock” is petra, a feminine noun. Petros refers to a rock, while petra has in mind a rocky cliff or ledge. The Greek makes it clear that Jesus spoke of building his church not on a person, but on a rock-solid confession of him as the Son of God and the promised Savior.
In addition, Jesus did not tell Peter that only he was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). Jesus explained that all Christians possess the keys, the authority to forgive sins or retain sins (Matthew 18:15-20).