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Definition:   The authority of the successor to Peter over the universal Church. Primacy was first claimed by Stephen I, the Bishop of Rome from 254-257. Similar to the squabbling among Jesus’ disciples, there was much controversy within the institutional Church over who should be accorded first place. The eastern Churches were more important to the life of the church during the first few centuries. However, with Rome being the center of commerce and the traditional site of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the balance of power gradually shifted to the Bishop of Rome. Later forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals were used by later bishops to support the primacy of Rome.

Discussion: Peter was influential in the early Church. However, the chief spokesman was James, not Peter (Acts 15). There is no biblical support for a particular bishop having sole leadership rights in the Church. The pomp and majesty of the Bishop of Rome is in stark contrast to the role of bishops in the early church as described by Peter (1 Pet. 5:3). The history of the papacy – the murderous persecutions, the self-indulgent popes, the abominable doctrines, the greed, and the boastful claims – is proof that the primacy of the pope is illegitimate (Rev. 17:9). God will ultimately judge the papacy for its wickedness (Rev. 18:8).

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