I have been recently contemplating the nature of the evidence concerning the claims of Rome, and asking myself this question: what is the linchpin of Romanist claims? Surely, it is the Petrine succession argument for the Popes. Without an ironshod succession from Peter to Benedict XVI, there is no sacramental magisterial authority at all. It does no good at this point to claim that the apostolic succession can be legitimated without the Papal succession, since the Papal succession is what legitimates all the rest of the succession down to the ordination of priests. If the Papal claims are void, then so are the ordinations that come from a false Papacy.
So, the question then becomes this: is it historically plausible to claim that Peter was the first bishop of Rome? We will be delving into this question in the next several posts, and asking the historical questions concerning it. The reason why this question is the easiest to probe is that there is one simple fact that comes into play here: if Romanists use tradition and the Magisterium to settle the question of the authority of tradition and the Magisterium, that is circular. There are many claims that the so-called individualist interpretations of Scripture by Protestants are circular. I would disagree, since the interpretations of the Reformers have a solid basis not only in Scripture itself, but also in the early church fathers. But that is a side point. The point I wish to make here is that this is a historical question, concerning the succession of the Papacy. Therefore, using the Papacy to legitimate the Papacy won’t work. There are a few typos in this article, but I suggest it as initial background reading for the exegetical questions concerning Matthew 16, as well as the historical arguments concerning whether Peter was ever bishop at Rome.
The main point I wish to raise here is the methodological one: on what basis do we evaluate the claims of the Papacy? Here, exegetical questions arise (especially the interpretations of the church fathers, which, as you will see by reading the article, are not in favor of the Romanist claims, as even Roman Catholics have admitted), as well as historical questions. On the historical rise of the Papacy, so far I haven’t found anything more eye-opening than Richard Bennett’s account (chapters 4-6). We will, of course, be examining Romanist accounts of the Papacy as well as Protestant ones.