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Pope/Saint Peter and the origin of the office

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Saint Peter and the origin of the office

The dogmas and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church teach that the institution of the papacy was first mandated by interpretations of several Biblical passages, mainly Matthew 16:13–19:

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? ... And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Catholics believe that this passage shows Jesus establishing his church on the shoulders of Simon son of John (Peter). In the past, some authorities have held that that the "rock" Jesus referred to was Jesus himself or was Peter's faith.[1] The general scholarly consensus is that this account is authentic, and almost all current scholars agree with the straightforward interpretation that the "rock" Jesus refers to in this passage is Peter.[2]

The reference to the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" here is the basis for the symbolic keys often found in Catholic papal symbolism, such as in the Vatican Coat of Arms (see below).


  1. Daniel William O'Connor. "Saint Peter the Apostle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 27 Nov. 2009 [1].
  2. Such is "the consensus of the great majority of scholars today." "Saint Peter the Apostle." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 27 Nov. 2009 [2].

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