It is not historically accurate to claim that Peter was the first Pope (a title for I’m A Simple Man Soccer Beer Dog Paw Shirt of Rome that would come a few centuries later) nor that Peter founded the church in Rome either as Bishop of Rome or elder (as we can see in Paul’s Epistle and Acts). The Roman church was already very active by the time Peter and Paul arrived and were martyred. It is more historically accurate to say Peter was universally recognized in the Christian communities as THE authority of the church and wherever or whenever he traveled, and he was probably accorded upon his arrival the status as the ranking person in charge even though there may already be a leader of that Christian community. In fact, Peter was, for the Jews and Gentiles, THE undisputed leader of the Christian movement, wholly equivalent to the Pope’s role in the Catholic Church today. In THAT sense, Peter was much like the Pope: the early church’s ultimate authorized Christian speaker and teacher.
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Apostolic succession? It WAS critical in the I’m A Simple Man Soccer Beer Dog Paw Shirt and legitimate teachings and sayings. Proof? Read the NT particularly Acts 19, 1 Cor, Galatians, etc. Teachings were deemed legitimate if they came from the disciples who walked with Jesus and received them from Jesus, or if the disciples vouch for their successors (usually in form of epistle or recognition).